Aug 11

Three Mets’ Storylines: Is Collins Rant Too Late?

The closed-door meeting following a press conference rant is the last act of a desperate manager and what we got from Mets manager Terry Collins.

Collins has tinkered and tweaked for months – today he wrote his 89th different lineup – but nothing has worked. A few days ago he challenged his team to loosen up and have fun.

How did they respond?

COLLINS: Loses it. (SNY)

COLLINS: Loses it. (SNY)

In the never-ending search for absolutes, today’s 9-0 humiliating loss to the Diamondbacks was unquestionably the Mets’ worst game of the season. Incidentally, that’s the same score given when a team forfeits a game; when it quits.

In the past, Collins criticized his pitching, his hitting, and his defense. He has gotten specific like not hitting with RISP and pitchers not holding runners. What he hasn’t done was criticize his players’ effort – until now.

Noah Syndergaard, who greatly contributed to the loss by emotionally unraveling on the mound, called it a “nice team meeting,” but it was far from that as Collins gave his team the message all players need to hear.

“For those who don’t want to get after it, I will find somebody else who does,” Collins said. “In Las Vegas there a whole clubhouse who wants to be here.”

Too often this year we’ve heard about injuries, about how this team doesn’t know how to manufacture runs, about the need to hit in the clutch, about a lot of things.

What we haven’t often heard is about the need to play the game the right way and being accountable. Collins isn’t stupid, he knows his job is on the line so it is only fitting he let his players and coaches know their employment is also temporary.

“I’m the manager here,” said Collins, whose rant immediately went into crescendo mode. “It starts with me. I don’t care who is not here. There are no excuses. These are major league players. The names on the back and front of their uniforms say they are major league players.

“You have a responsibility to the fans to grind it out.”

The player Collins pointed out as an example was Neil Walker, who kept working at-bats and eventually raised his average 30 points after a 2-for-32 slide. Collins mentioned how Walker was at second base on a fly ball he hit and didn’t peel off halfway to first.

There is a right and wrong way to play this game and for much of the season, the Mets have played the game the wrong way.

“Some guys are having a bad time, but you can’t say `whoa is me’ at this level,” Collins said. “Everybody is humbled. Those who get their way out of it stay in this game. I want the ones who stay.

“There has to be a passion. People pay to see us play and deserve our best effort. You play the game correctly. … Starting tomorrow we’ll get after it.”

Maybe the Mets will come out with passion tomorrow against the Padres, but a lack of fire doesn’t fully explain how this team plays. The attention to fundamentals isn’t there. Collins is right; there’s a right way to play this game and the Mets just don’t do it.

Part of that is on him and the coaches. It’s also on GM Sandy Alderson for how he put this team together.

It goes a lot deeper than running out a fly ball and getting after it tomorrow might be too late.

Collins dressing down his team was the main storyline of the day and perhaps the season. The other key storylines were the unraveling of Syndergaard and the math that defines what the Mets are up against.

SYNDERGAARD LOSES IT: Do you remember when Syndergaard challenged the Royals during the World Series?

Just as the Royals ran on him, so did the Diamondbacks, who stole four more bases today and 13 for the series.

Again his pitch count was way too high (91) for the innings (five) he gave the Mets. We can talk about location and too many foul balls, but more alarming was how he unraveled emotionally during Arizona’s three-run fourth inning.

Syndergaard was animated after balls that dropped and went through his infield. He let his emotions get the best of him and acted like a Little Leaguer.

Syndergaard said, “all of us are feeling the pressure,” and he was aggravated because “I’m aware mentally of what I’m doing wrong and keep doing it.”

THE SCARY MATH: The Mets also have to be mentally aware of the math.

They fell to .500 today at 57-57. Syndergaard said he never thought the Mets would be .500 again after their hot April.

They finished April 15-7, but have gone 42-50 since. In many circles, it is believed 87 wins could get a team the wild card. For that to happen, the Mets would have to go 30-18 in the 48 remaining games.

Starting tomorrow?

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Aug 05

Three Mets’ Storylines: What’s Wrong With Syndergaard?

Noah Syndergaard only gave up four runs tonight, and it is an oversimplification to say the problem is the Mets didn’t score for him. But, something just isn’t right.

The issue isn’t him not being able to throw hard. He still throws very hard, but velocity isn’t the most variable for a pitcher. A successful pitcher needs movement, location and velocity, with speed being the third most important. You can even drop that to fourth if you want to include having a variety of secondary pitches.

SYNDERGAARD: Off his game. (AP)

               SYNDERGAARD: Off his game. (AP)

While throwing in the high 90s and even touching triple digits in the Mets’ 4-3 loss at Detroit, Syndergaard, as he has been for much of the season – or at least since the issue of his bone spur surfaced – is far from pitch efficient.

Syndergaard threw 112 pitches, but only worked six innings. It was the fourth straight game in which he threw over 100 pitches yet didn’t go past the sixth. He hasn’t gone seven innings since July 3; of his 21 starts, he’s gone seven or more innings just eight times.

I don’t care Syndergaard is throwing a lot of pitches; I care he’s not efficient or effective with them. I care he seems to be running in place.

“It has been a battle,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He’s had to work very hard. You have to learn how to pitch at this level and through tough times.”

While much is made of Syndergaard’s overpowering stuff, he’s only had four double-digit strikeout games with his last being June 15 against Pittsburgh nine starts ago.

We’ve been hearing a lot of the high number of foul balls off him (26 tonight), which comes from not being able to put away hitters. His curveball didn’t surface until the fifth inning. Until then, it was mostly straight fastballs – mostly to the outside against right-handed pitchers.

“I’m thinking right now I’m trying to be too fine with my pitches,” Syndergaard said. “It’s like I’m throwing darts out there. It’s frustrating because the past month I feel that I have the stuff to dominate, but it hasn’t been clicking.”

Do you remember when Syndergaard went high and tight during the World Series? Then he challenged the Royals saying they could find him 60 feet, six inches from the plate.

Collins insists Syndergaard still has swagger, but you rarely see him work the inner half of the plate. You don’t see that biting slider. You don’t see him effectively holding runners (Ian Kinsler singled, stole his way to third and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s single in the first). You don’t see a lot of the things that earned him a comic book hero nickname.

The problem isn’t 100 percent the bone spur because of the velocity, but it makes you wonder if the pain prevents him from being what he needs to be, and what he has been.

Syndergaard is still a young stud, but he’s not as polished as Justin Verlander was last night and has been for years. Hope Syndergaard was taking notes.

Syndergaard was the night’s biggest storyline. The others were the non-existent offense and Collins’ lineup.

THE SILENT BATS: A positive is the Mets only left three runners on base. The flip side is they barely sniffed Verlander.

Mets hitters only had five hits and one walk and struck out 12 times. Kelly Johnson hit a two-run homer in the fourth and the Mets scratched out a cosmetic run in the ninth.

THE LINEUP: I haven’t agreed with Collins on a lot of things lately, including last night’s lineup. Your best power hitter – Yoenis Cespedes – is out for at least two weeks, so one would think Curtis Granderson would be dropped down to the middle of the order.

Alejandro De Aza played center, which I liked, but where was Michael Conforto? Collins made a big deal of saying he would play center. And, if Conforto isn’t playing, why is he here?

Arguably the hottest Mets’ hitter in July was Wilmer Flores, but he sat again.

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Apr 03

Mets Wrap: New Year, Same Old Story With Royals

GAME #1: Royals 4, Mets 3, at Kansas City.  Record: 0-1.

SUMMARY: We’ve seen this before from the Mets against Kansas City, and it didn’t look any better on Opening Day. The Royals took a 4-0 lead keyed by an unearned run in the first against Matt Harvey created when Yoenis Cespedes dropped an easy fly ball hit by Mike Moustakas. A passed ball, a walk and a hit and the Mets were again looking up at the Royals. The Mets scored three in the eighth on Lucas Duda‘s two-run single and Neil Walker‘s RBI forceout. The Mets had a chance to tie in the ninth, but David Wright took a called third strike and Cespedes struck out swinging to end the game.

CAN’T TOUCH VOLQUEZ: Royals starter Edinson Volquez limited the Mets two a pair of hits and three walks in six scoreless innings.

HARVEY NOT SO SHARP: Matt Harvey said his mechanics were off and it showed as he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in 5.2 innings in his first career Opening Day start. The damage against Harvey could have been worse had Harvey not gotten three double plays.

CESPEDES’ GLOVE A FACTOR: This is what you get from Cespedes. He’s lax at times. Moustakas hit a routine fly and had he bothered to use two hands.

CONFORTO COMFY AT PLATE: Actually, Michael Conforto was more than comfortable as he reached base in all four at-bats with a double, single and two walks.

THE GOOD: In addition to Conforto, Juan Lagares made a strong throw to third base showing his arm is better. … Duda went to the opposite field on his two-run hit. … Curtis Granderson singled after a tough at-bat in the ninth. … Bartolo Colon and Jerry Blevins out of the pen.

THE BAD: Wright was hitless in four at-bats. … Cespedes in left. It was Cespedes’ first error in left in 156.2 innings. … Travis d’Arnaud‘s passed ball set up the Royals’ first run.

QUOTEBOOK:  “I felt all right. There were times I felt fine. Other times I couldn’t find my rhythm.” – Matt Harvey.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Mets fell to 35-20 in franchise history in openers (a MLB-best .636 winning percentage).

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets are off Monday and will face the Royals Tuesday afternoon with Noah Syndergaard going against former Met Chris Young.

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Apr 03

Mets Today: Another Season Upon Us

I have a lot planned on the blog for later the Mets’ Opening Day roster, with a brief scouting report on every player.

Coming up is the Mets’ Opening Day roster, with a brief scouting report on every player. I’ll also have tonight’s lineups; a capsule on Mets starter Matt Harvey; Over/Under Numbers on the most intriguing stats for the Mets this year; and, why it’s a good thing the Mets will have to look at the dual championship ceremonies by the Royals.

I also plan on a Mets’ notebook and, of course, tonight’s game.

ON DECK:  Mets’ Opening Day roster.

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Feb 07

Looking At Mets’ Early Schedule

Since the Super Bowl is considered a national holiday, I’ve always considered it the end of the winter holiday season, and consequently “baseball season” begins tomorrow. So, I figure this is a good time to fast-forward to the Mets’ April schedule.

I’ll bitch about this later, but the first game of the season shouldn’t be interleague. However, if it is going to be that way, then why not make the first series be against the World Series opponents? I mean, if MLB is hell bent on interleague play, then this should be a new Opening Day tradition. It won’t be because the schedule is released before the end of the World Series.

OK, there are two games against the Royals on the road, followed by three-game series at home against the Phillies and Marlins.

That’s followed by three games at Cleveland – the Indians have one of the best rotations in the sport – and three more against at Philly and Atlanta.

The Mets end April with three games with Cincinnati and two with the Giants, who also have one of the game’s best rotations.

A key last year was the Mets’ fast start, highlighted by the long winning streak that put them 10 games over .500 to give them a solid buffer to help hold of the Nationals later in the summer. The Mets need to do the same this year as they have a considerably tougher May schedule with a game against San Francisco, seven against the Dodgers and six against Washington.

That’s 14 games against playoff caliber teams.

As for the Super Bowl, I am pulling for the Broncos.