Aug 20

DeGrom And Cespedes Demonstrate Leadership In Different Ways

As today’s game unraveled for the Mets in the seventh the topic of leadership was brought out by broadcasters Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez.

Cohen was right to call out Yoenis Cespedes’ lackadaisical approach on Christian Yelichs fly down the line in left. Hernandez was also right in saying Cespedes should have used two hands.

DE GROM: Words spoke louder than pitching. (AP)

       DE GROM: Words spoke louder than pitching. (AP)

Manager Terry Collins, of course, apologized for Cespedes, calling him “as a good a left fielder as there is in the game and he has a Gold Glove to show for it,’’ but the bottom line is if Cespedes hustled he wouldn’t have been put in the position where he had to reach for the ball.

Lack of hustle earlier played a role in the third when Dee Gordon’s shallow pop fly fell in front of Cespedes. Cohen called out Cespedes, saying he doesn’t dive or slide for balls, stemming from when he hurt his right hip in a mid-July game against Colorado.

What Cohen didn’t say is had Cespedes hustled against the Rockies he wouldn’t have had to make an awkward slide that injured his hip.

Cespedes recovered to get Adam Conley on a force play at second. Gordon, however, quickly stole second and scored on Yelich’s single off Wilmer Flores’ glove. Safe to say Conley, the pitcher, wouldn’t have done the same.

The topic turned to the lack of veteran leadership after Cespedes’ error in the seventh. While some players – like David Wright – develop into vocal leaders, I maintain ALL players have leadership potential regardless of their personalities.

Leadership comes from the basic concept of doing your job so your teammates know they can rely on you. That means knowing your responsibility on every play, whether at the plate or in the field. That means hustling on every play, not when the mood strikes. It means running out every grounder.

It means knowing your opponent. It wasn’t an error, but Amed Rosario can’t take his time throwing to first when Gordon is the runner. Leadership also comes from taking accountability, which is what Rosario did.

“I got a little overconfident on that play,’’ Rosario said, referring to his habit of double-pumping before throwing. “I take 100 percent (responsibility). I’m learning from every play. This will teach me not do that in the future.’’

Had Rosario made the play, the Mets could have intentionally walked Giancarlo Stanton. Instead, Jacob deGrom was forced to pitch to Stanton, who hit the first pitch for a three-run homer.

A lot was made about Rosario’s play, but deGrom wouldn’t pile on, despite being visibly frustrated and putting him arms up. One could understand if deGrom lost his concentration on the pitch to Stanton.

“I don’t think so,’’ deGrom said, then demonstrated what being a leader is all about when he pointed the finger at himself.

“I can’t show my emotions like that. He plays hard so I don’t think it will happen again. That’s on me, I made a bad pitch. I have to do a better job.’’

DeGrom did what leaders do, which is assume responsibility. He knows that as a pitcher, that regardless of what happens behind him, he’s still responsible for throwing the next pitch. He also recognized nothing can be gained by throwing a rookie under the bus.

DeGrom’s day was done after that pitch, but not the Mets’ poor play. The next batter, Yelich, lifted a lazy fly to left, and after Cespedes’ error, ended up on second where he scored on Marcell Ozunas single.

Cespedes drove in two runs with a homer and double, but gave them back with his poor hustle and defense.

There are 40 games remaining in this lost season and much is made about exposing the young players to how the game is played on the major league level. Today they learned a lesson about leadership from both deGrom and Cespedes.

From deGrom’s words after the game and Cespedes’ actions during it.

 

Aug 03

Rosario Should Be Hitting Leadoff

The early returns on Amed Rosario are good, giving us a positive glimpse into 2018. With the Mets looking toward next season, with his speed shouldn’t Rosario be leading off?

ROSARIO: Hit him leadoff. (AP)

ROSARIO: Hit him leadoff. (AP)

Rosario has proven he can field the position, and his speed gives him the range the Mets haven’t had since Jose Reyes ten years ago. In three games, he already has two triples, going into third standing up both times. Speed can’t be taught. While that’s been impressive, what I like most about him has been his hustle coming out of the box.

I hope that never goes away.

Rosario should bat first with Michael Conforto dropped to third, which is a prime run-producing spot in the order. That’s the way it will be next year, so why not do it now?

The Mets have him batting seventh to alleviate the pressure of leading off.  But, I want him to experience the pressure to see how he handles it. How he deals with the pressures of leading off is something the Mets need to learn. And, he needs to hit first to learn how to handle that spot in the order, which includes being selective, working the count, bunting and stealing.

That’s what they are doing with playing Conforto is playing center field, which is where he’ll play next year assuming Jay Bruce is brought back. Conforto – who is the Mets’ best fundamental hitter – should be hitting third, with Yoenis Cespedes clean-up and Bruce fifth.

Since the Mets are gearing up for 2018, that should also mean Hansel Robles shouldn’t see the ninth inning. Yesterday I wrote how manager Terry Collins should return if he wants. I also wrote my primary criticism of Collins has been how he handles the bullpen, and that was the case in today’s 5-4 loss to the Rockies, on a bases-loaded walk from Robles, his third walk of the inning. He also hit a batter.

Robles seemed to injure his groin in the eighth, but he threw a couple of warm-ups and stayed in to strike out Trevor Story.

Collins had other options besides Robles, who never should have come out for the ninth, and definitely should have been pulled after he hit Jonathan Lucroy with a pitch leading off.

Robles has been a weak link for much of the season, and we won’t see him in the ninth next year, so why did we have to see him today?

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Aug 02

Mets Wrap: Rosario’s Misplay In Ninth Spoils Debut

All eyes were on Amed Rosario, whose Major League debut had mixed reviews tonight in Denver. The future of the Mets singled in four at-bats, but the game came down to his misplay of DJ LeMahieu’s hard grounder.

With Charlie Blackmon on first, LeMahieu grounded a ball to shortstop. Rosario took a quick step toward the bag, then broke back to his right. The ball deflected off his glove, but the Rockies had two runners on with no outs, and Nolan Arenado followed with a single to center to give Colorado a 5-4 victory.

ROSARIO and WALKER: Veteran schools rookie. (SNY)

ROSARIO and WALKER: Veteran schools rookie. (SNY)

Manager Terry Collins refused to throw Rosario under the bus, saying he didn’t know who was supposed to cover the bag, that Rosario and second baseman Neil Walker would decide before the pitch who was to cover the base.

However, basic fundamentals with a right-handed hitter at the plate dictate the second baseman cover the bag, but the only problem was Walker wasn’t close to the base.

After the game, both Walker and Jay Bruce met with Rosario to tell him to shake it off.

“It really means a lot,’’ Rosario said through a translator. “I’ve already shaken it off. I’ll come in tomorrow with a fresh mindset.’’

Collins said Rosario handled himself well the entire game, and didn’t hang his head.

“If you get caught, you get caught,’’ Collins said. “He’ll be fine. He shouldn’t be upset about not making the play. I thought he handled himself well. He’ll be fine.’’

Rosario collected his first major league hit in the eighth, just beating shortstop Trevor Story‘s throw wide of first. The play could’ve been scored an error, as a good throw would have gotten Rosario.

BRUCE KEEPS SLUGGING: They say there wasn’t a market for corner outfielders, but do you mean to say there wasn’t one AL contender that couldn’t have used Bruce as a DH?

Bruce hit his 28th homer tonight to temporarily give the Mets a 4-3 lead in the eighth. Don’t forget the home team gets to bat, too, and against that bullpen.

“Jay Bruce is a good player,’’ Collins said. “He comes to play every day. People just don’t give him enough credit.’’

GM Sandy Alderson is still trying to make a waiver deal for Bruce, but if the Mets are to contend as he hopes next season they’ll need to replace his power.

Bruce also had a RBI double.

MATZ LOSES IT QUICKLY: Steven Matz flirted with a no-hitter through four innings, pitched shutout ball after five, but four batters into the sixth was out of the game and losing after giving up a three-run homer to Arenado.

Matz said he threw the ball better tonight, but fell back into some bad habits in the sixth.

 

Aug 01

Today’s Question: Will Matz Snap Out Of It?

While all eyes will be on Amed Rosario tonight – and rightfully so – don’t forget to sneak a peak at Steven Matz. The Mets say they are a little concerned with Matz, who has a staggering 14.18 ERA over his last four starts and hasn’t worked longer than five innings in any of them. He’s 0-3 with a no-decision in that span. Can he snap out of it tonight against the powerful Rockies in their launching pad of a stadium in Coors Field.

There are a half-dozen other teams Matz would rather face, and in just as many ballparks.

MATZ:  Something isn't right. (AP)

MATZ: Something isn’t right. (AP)

Matz pitched most of last season with a bone spur in his left elbow, and after four months went on the DL for the rest of the year with shoulder tightness, presumably from altering his mechanics as compensation. He spent the first two months of this year on the disabled list with elbow inflammation.

It’s highly plausible the Mets pushed him last season or this year and he aggravated something. Perhaps he hit a wall and has a dead arm. That seems likely because manager Terry Collins said there’s no movement on his fastball. Matz is throwing hard, but of the three velocity isn’t as important and location and movement. Instead of sinking or tailing away, Matz’s pitches stay over the middle of the plate, making it easier for them to be hit – or crushed.

“You look at a lot of the replays of the hits, they were center-cut,” Collins said. “We have to get the ball off the middle of the plate.’’

Matz said if feels good, but didn’t we hear the same refrain from Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard or Zack Wheeler?

Should Matz get shelled tonight, it would be easy to blame Coors Field and the Rockies. It would also be foolish.

Jul 27

Interest In Mets’ Assets As Trade Deadline Nears

Once again, the Mets haven’t been able to trade Jay Bruce, and that could turn out to be a good thing. Bruce’s year suggest he could bring a lot in return, and even he said the “Mets would be crazy,’’ not to trade him. That could help the Mets in the long run if they are able to re-sign him in the offseason.

Reportedly, Colorado had interest in both him and Addison Reed, but they likely won’t move on the latter after acquiring All-Star closer Pat Neshek from the Phillies for three prospects.

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

BRUCE: Little interest. (AP)

Perhaps the Rockies won’t be able to meet whatever the Mets are asking for after what they paid in prospects for Neshek. The Mets say they believe they will be able to compete next season, so that means they prefer players who are major league ready. However, the Rockies, who would be in the wild-card if the season ended today, won’t want to weaken their current 25-man roster by trading multiple players for Bruce.

From his perspective, Bruce, who has 25 homers, knows he could be an asset to a team, and recently told Newsday, “I feel like this is the most consistent I’ve been, which is huge. I pride myself on playing every single day, preparing, being ready to go, being the guy you can count on to post, and being a quality piece to a winning team. Individually this year, so far I’ve done that.’’

Bruce, a free agent this offseason, will make $5 million over the balance of this year. That, plus a player, could make for an expensive rental. It also must be remembered that Bruce’s production must be replaced if the Mets are to be competitive in 2018.

Whether the money goes to Bruce or his replacement, it should cost more than the $13 million he is getting this year.

Not surprisingly, Reed has drawn the most interest as closers always generate a premium. The Mets have also received calls about Reed from Milwaukee, the Dodgers and Boston.

Reed will also be a free agent this winter, and with how well he’s replaced Jeurys Familia, will likely command a contract in excess of the $7.75 million he’s making this year. The Mets are hoping Familia, who is making $7.425 million this offseason, will rebound from surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder, and won’t want to spend over a combined $15 million for the back end of their bullpen.

Of course, if they expect to contend, they’ll need to replace Reed, and there’s no guarantee Familia will return to his 40-save form.

In addition to Reed, Boston inquired into Asdrubal Cabrera, because they are unsold on 20-year-old prospect Rafael Devers at third base. T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores are also on Boston’s radar.

Also, calling the Mets are the Chicago Cubs, who are asking about Seth Lugo and catcher Rene Rivera.

Lugo is 5-2 with a 4.10 ERA in eight starts, with the last three being defined as quality starts [at least three runs in six innings or more]. Lugo came up in the second half last year to help the Mets get into the playoffs.

He entered spring training this season as depth for the Mets’ “young and vaunted rotation,’’ but started the year on the disabled list after being injured in the World Baseball Classic.

However, considering Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman currently on the disabled list, and Steven Matz pitching poorly, the Mets shouldn’t be all that eager to deal Lugo.

The Cubs’ interest in Rivera stems from cutting ties with Miguel Montero in early July.

There has been no reported no to little interest in first baseman Lucas Duda, outfielder Curtis Granderson and infielder Jose Reyes.

The Mets hope things could change between now and Monday.