Oct 22

Breaking News: Mets To Name Callaway As Manager

Multiple reports are saying the Mets have named Mickey Callaway, the pitching coach of the Indians since 2013 as their new manager, beating out a huge pool of candidates.

Kevin Long, Manny Acta, Bob Geren, Robin Ventura, Joe McEwing and Alex Cora were reportedly among those GM Sandy Alderson was considering.

Callaway will replace Terry Collins, who was forced out and took a position in the team’s front office after a disastrous, injury-filled 70-92 record this season.

Like everybody else considered, Callaway represents a gamble as it remains to be seen whether Alderson reached out and got the Mets a nugget or whether he was seduced by a hot “flavor of the month.”

Callaway, 42, built the Indians’ pitching staff into one of the best as they led the majors in ERA (3.30) and strikeouts (1,614), shutouts (19), complete games (7) and finished third with an opponents’ batting average of just .236. But, don’t forget, he’s not bringing Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer or Carlos Carrasco with him.

Among Callaway’s first priorities is getting, and keeping, the Mets’ young pitchers healthy as the Mets’ season imploded with injuries to Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler.

 

 

 

Sep 26

No Meaningful Change With Alderson In Charge

Another day, another article in The New York Post about who might manage the Mets next season. There’s a growing list of candidates now up to five whom might replace Terry Collins next year. So far, The Post is reporting the candidates are Robin Ventura, Alex Cora, current hitting coach Kevin Long, Bob Geren and Chip Hale.

ALDERSON: No meaningful change with him in control. (AP)

ALDERSON: No meaningful change with him in control. (AP)

The report says GM Sandy Alderson could make the decision to replace Collins on Monday. If Collins falls on his sword and says he’s retiring, it would save the Mets from the awkward position of having to announce the second-winningest manager in franchise history is being fired.

It would be just like Collins to be the good soldier and spare Fred Wilpon and Alderson that embarrassment. Personally, if I’m Collins, after Sunday’s game I would say I want to continue managing the Mets. Yes, put the onus on Alderson, who has gone out of his way to undermine and humiliate Collins.

Yes, Collins should make it hard on Alderson, who, in his autobiography went out of his way to criticize his manager, who has been nothing if not loyal.

The frequent criticism of Collins has been his game management, which includes the use of the bullpen, something Alderson hasn’t improved since he was hired after the 2010 season.

Game management has to include an explanation, and the most prevalent are Collins’ options on his roster.

It really doesn’t matter who is hired to manage the Mets in 2018 and beyond, because no effective change can be made in the club’s direction as long as Alderson remains general manager, because under him are the decisions on how much to spend and on what players.

We must always remember Alderson wasn’t hired to build the Mets into a contender, but to cut payroll and save the Wilpons money. He did that this season when he gutted the team in July and August, essentially leaving them to rebuild this winter.

Alderson bullied Collins on not only building the 25-man roster, but in constructing the batting order.

Alderson is big on analytics, which means he doesn’t respect old school thinking, for example, the need for speed and defense. Alderson’s tact is contradictory, for example, he places an emphasis on on-base percentage but devalues hitters taking walks.

There’s nothing wrong with some of the new-age statistics, but not at the total expense of the old-world numbers.

It is interesting to read about the Mets’ managerial candidates and wonder how the team will play next season, but you must remember there will be no meaningful change until Alderson is replaced, and Fred Wilpon won’t make that move.

Apr 22

Mets Wrap: Harvey Not Sharp, But Wins

The answer was an empathic NO, Matt Harvey did not find it. Regardless of how Friday night’s game would turn out, the main storyline for the Mets was going to be Harvey, and whether he could avoid hitting the wall that marked his three losses to start the season.

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

HARVEY: Still searching for answers. (Getty)

Harvey was far from sharp, but came away with his first victory, 6-3, over the Braves, whom you must remember aren’t the Braves of old who routinely tormented the Mets.

Harvey, backed by a pair of Curtis Granderson home runs, struggled but pitched well enough to temporarily take the collective fingers off the Mets’ off the panic button. Even so, Harvey was pushed and despite winning the Mets know it can’t keep going on like this for the pitcher who craves the moniker of “ace.”

Manager Terry Collins finally admitted Harvey’s light spring training workload, compounded by a bladder infection, has been a strong contributor to his career-high four-game losing streak (dating back to last year).

Harvey gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts in five arduous innings in which he threw 101 pitches. For that many pitches, the Mets would want at least another two innings from Harvey. His primary problem was not keeping the ball down and his slider didn’t have the bite he must have to succeed.

Staked to a 4-0 lead in the second on Granderson’s grand slam homer, Harvey labored through a 33-pitch bottom of the inning to give back two of the runs.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #15   Record: 8-7    Streak: W 1

 SUMMARY: Granderson’s two homers and five RBI carried Harvey to his first victory in a performance that can kindly be called “not a gem.”

 KEY MOMENT: Granderson’s slam.

 THUMBS UP: Yoenis Cespedes threw a runner out at the plate to end the fifth. … His RBI double in the seventh marked his seventh straight game with an extra-base hit. … Strong showings by relievers Antonio Bastardo and Addison Reed.

THUMBS DOWN: Harvey’s short start forced the Mets bullpen to log four more innings. … David Wright struck out two more times and already has 21. … Juan Lagares was doubled off second in the ninth when another run would have helped. … Jeurys Familia got the save, but wasn’t sharp. … Cespedes aggravated his leg injury on the double.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Jacob deGrom threw a successful bullpen session in Port St. Lucie Fla. He will rejoin the team Saturday and start Sunday. Collins said deGrom could be limited to 85 pitches. DeGrom last pitched April 8 and has been away from the team when his son, Jaxon, was born with medical complications. … Collins was a passenger in a taxi involved in a minor traffic accident Thursday. There were no injuries. … Pitching coach Dan Warthen is away from the team for his mother’s funeral. … The Braves haven’t announced Sunday’s starter. … The game was delayed by rain in the bottom of the eighth inning.

QUOTEBOOK: “Matt can be a little aloof at times.” – Keith Hernandez on Harvey after the pitcher seemingly walked away from a conversation between innings with catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

 BY THE NUMBERS: 4: Granderson became the fourth player to hit grand slams for both the Mets and Yankees, joining Robin Ventura, Darryl Strawberry and Carlos Beltran.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (1-1, 7.27 ERA) attempts an encore of last Sunday’s gem in Cleveland. He’ll go against Jhoulys Chacin (0-0, 2.38).

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Nov 05

Lagares Wins Gold Glove Award

If Juan Lagares were as good with his bat as his glove, he would be a star. No, make that a superstar.

LAGARES: Gold Glove winner. (AP)

LAGARES: Gold Glove winner. (AP)

Seriously, he’s that good, and it became official around baseball last night when he won the Gold Glove Award, presumably the first of many.

“I’m very happy and excited,’’ Lagares told ESPN. “It’s a very special honor to win a Gold Glove for the Mets. I’m proud to win one this early in my career.’’

He’s the Mets’ third Gold Glove center fielder, joining Carlos Beltran and Tommie Agee, and the first to win the award since Beltran and third baseman David Wright in 2008.

He’s got a way to go to break the franchise record of six by Keith Hernandez. Other Mets to win are Ron Darling, Rey Ordonez, Bud Harrelson, Doug Flynn and Robin Ventura.

Among the “new’’ statistics, runs-saved is one of the most important for a defender, perhaps the most important. In that category, Lagares was second among outfielders with 28, impressive considering the leader, Atlanta’s Jason Heyward, played in 372 more innings and saved only four more.

Although he improved at the plate, the Mets still want him to improve his on-base percentage and cut down on strikeouts, and if he does so he could be a proficient leadoff hitter.

He’s got the defense down, said manager Terry Collins in a statement released by the team: “It’s to the point that I’m shocked when Juan doesn’t catch every ball hit to the outfield. He makes everything look so easy. After some of his catches, I would turn to my coaching staff and say ‘How did he do that?’ ’’

The answer is talent.

Championship caliber teams are built up the middle, and the Mets are on their way with Travis d’Arnaud behind the plate, their young pitching staff and Lagares. The double-play combination is a work in progress.

Lagares is one of two Mets finalists for regular season awards. The other is pitcher Jacob deGrom for Rookie of the Year.

Those awards will be announced next week.

 ON DECK: Mets’ 2015 uniforms.

Oct 17

Ventura’s Grand Slam Single Endures

One of the players I most enjoyed covering was Robin Ventura for those two years he played for the Yankees. In a clubhouse full of stars and egos, Ventura was a voice of calm, reason and humorous relief.

I enjoyed stopping by his locker to shoot the breeze for a minute or two, talking about things other than baseball. Very smart, clever and possessing an insight on numerous issues. When there was the inevitable blow up or moment of absurdity, Ventura was always there to put it into perspective with a quip as short and hard-hitting as his swing.

VENTURA: A Mets' Magic Moment.

VENTURA: A Mets’ Magic Moment.

Once I asked him about his fight with Nolan Ryan, and his response was he knew he had made a mistake halfway out to the mound, but couldn’t turn around. You’ll even notice in the video he slowed down.

Was it an embarrassing moment? Yes, but years later he handled it with humor. He even joined with Ryan to autograph photos of the brawl.

When I covered the Orioles and he was with the White Sox, I’d make time to go over to his clubhouse for a few moments. He was accessible to anybody who would take the time to ask a question.

Ventura loved his time with Mets which included the 2000 NL Championship and of course the World Series loss to the Yankees.

“It was a great time,” said Ventura, who played for the Mets from 1999-2001. “We enjoyed it as a family just being there. The Mets were very good to me. There’s part of it going back, seeing a lot of faces that you’re friends with and happy to see.”

His signature moment as a Met will always be the Grand Slam Single that happened 15 years ago today. It’s a great memory and one that still gives many Mets fans goosebumps.

That night is one of the greatest team displays of enthusiasm outside of winning a championship I have ever seen. That, and the Piazza post 9-11 homer. Both were amazing to watch.

Ventura wasn’t a five-tool player, but was consistent and clutch. With a runner in scoring position you wanted him at the plate because he’d usually make contact.

Ventura was a .267 lifetime hitter and only once hit over .300, that being .301 in 1999, his first season with the Mets. Considering his 66-game hitting streak in college, I always wondered if he thought he should have hit for a higher average. He also hit 32 homers with a career-high 120 RBI in his first year with the Mets.

What the Mets wouldn’t give for a player with that production now.

Ventura had three solid years with the Mets, who, during that span had arguably one of the best defensive infields in history. Few balls got by Ventura, Rey OrdonezEdgardo Alfonzo and John Olerud.

Both Olerud and Ventura would later play for the Yankees. When they left the Yankees, I always believed I’d see both of them again managing in a major league dugout. I’m still waiting on Olerud.