Oct 06

Leadoff Hitter Remains A Nagging Question

Of all the Mets’ off-season questions, the matter of their leadoff hitter is one of the most intriguing. That is especially if their intent is to fill it from within.

With no budding Lou Brock or Rickey Henderson in their farm system, their best hope is on their current 40-man roster. I say that because there’s no real answer in the free-agent market and they are reluctant to trade their young pitching.

The primary in-house candidates are Eric Young, Juan Lagares, Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. All have something they could bring to the table, but all have issues to the negative.

Young, Lagares and Nieuwenhuis have speed, but also rather low on-base percentages and a penchant for striking out too much.

Of the group, Murphy is the best hitter, but for a relatively weak lineup he’s better suited for a run-producing slot in the middle of the order. Also, Murphy’s on-base percentage, at .332, isn’t as lofty as one might think.

If Murphy is still here – a substantial question – he should be hitting between second and sixth.

As for Young, there’s an excellent chance it will be a moot point and not be brought back.

Last winter, manager Terry Collins toyed with the idea of experimenting with Tejada. The catch here is Tejada needs a position to play and that means starting ahead of Wilmer Flores, which isn’t a given.

Mets’ 11 different leadoff hitters ranked last in the majors with a .235 average and paltry a .308 on-base percentage. If they want to change that, they’ll have to hope for a breakout season from the names suggested or be willing to spend.

Sep 22

Mets Enter Final Week Looking For Strong Finishing Kick

It’s all about creating a good last impression for the New York Mets.

With six games remaining in what turned out to be an unusual season, there’s not enough time for a player to change the impressions of manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson.

COLLINS: Still looking.

COLLINS: Still looking.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s something they can’t learn – and it begins with attitude. Anybody can play hard when the team is winning, but there’s something to be said for playing hard through the grind.

It sounds like a cliché, but I believe it. Vince Lombardi said: “Winning isn’t a sometime thing, it’s an all the time thing. You don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.’’

Collins buys into that thinking, and wants to see it from his players.

“Well, we’ve got some young guys,’’ Collins told reporters during the Atlanta series. “If they pack it in, you won’t see them again. That’s why it’s nice this time of year to bring those young guys up, because they add a lot of energy to the team.

“And our veteran guys, they’re great guys. There’s never been a question of how hard they’re going to play. We’ll finish it up. We’ll finish it up strong.’’

Wilmer Flores, Ruben Tejada, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker and Travis d’Arnaud are among that group of young players figuring into the Mets’ plans. For the most part, the Mets run out ground balls and pop-ups.

To see them dog it this week would be a disappointment, especially since there are jobs to be won next season, namely shortstop – although it is believed it is Flores’ to lose – left field and in the bullpen.

Personal, statistical goals could be reached this week, such as Daniel Murphy hitting .300, Lucas Duda getting 30 homers, Jenrry Mejia reaching 30 saves and Bartolo Colon pitching 200 innings.

Collectively, they are four games under .500 and a half-game behind Atlanta for second. The last time they did either was in 2008. Both are possible, but to finish at .500 they must run the table, which includes sweeping the Nationals in a three-game series at Washington.

Stranger things have happened.

There’s playing out the string and going through the motions, and there is a strong finishing kick. It is always better to go into winter on a positive note than to limp home.

Sep 17

Collins Blowing Smoke; It’s Flores’ Job To Lose

Terry Collins insists shortstop will be wide open next spring, but what else can he say?

Even after Wilmer Flores homered twice and drove in six runs Tuesday night in a 9-1 rout of the Marlins, and has driven in 10 runs over the last four games, Collins is dancing the politically correct line.

He has to.

FLORES: Should get job. (Getty)

FLORES: Should get job. (Getty)

He can’t give the job to Flores outright, because it will hurt whatever trade value Ruben Tejada might have left. Plus, Flores hasn’t exactly done it all year. What if he regresses?

Flores always had a greater offensive potential than Tejada, with the latter having the better of it defensively. However, one of the biggest surprises this summer has been Flores’ play at shortstop. He doesn’t have great range – that can be made up by better positioning, which he’ll learn – but seems to make most of the plays.

My feeling is Flores would help win more games with his bat than Tejada will with his glove.

Collins has to blow a little smoke because that’s what managers do, but bet on Flores getting the job next year.

Mar 24

Flores Optioned To Minors

Wilmer Flores has been optioned to minor league camp and will begin the season with Triple-A Las Vegas along with Matt den DekkerKirk Nieuwenhuis and Zach Lutz.

The Mets will use Flores at shortstop and second base with Las Vegas to continue to gauge his worthiness, writes Adam Rubin.

“I feel good,” Flores said after receiving the news. “I did a great job. I’ll just wait for the opportunity to come again.”

Ruben Tejada is your starting shortstop.

Mar 17

D’Backs To Go With Owings At Short

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Jim Bowden of ESPN is hearing that Chris Owings will be the everyday shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet, Bowden reports they are going to start him over Didi Gregorius because of his bat.

As a result, Gregorius should now be a good trade piece for the D’Backs at some point this summer and Bowden expects Owings will be a Rookie of the Year candidate.

John Sickels profiled Owings a couple of months ago and said he was supposed to open 2013 at Double-A, but after a solid spring training, the D’Backs sent him to Triple-A Reno.

He responded with a .330/.359/.482 line, with 31 doubles, 12 homers, 22 walks, 99 strikeouts in 546 at-bats. He also set a career high with 20 stolen bases, and was named to the All Star Futures Game roster.

The 21-year old phenom was named the Topps 2013 Pacific Coast League Player of the Year and will be looking to impress again this season with his team who are not exactly seen as potential contenders for the title.

There has been a some buzz about the Mets monitoring the shortstop situation in Arizona in the past two weeks, but neither team has confirmed any interest in making a deal.

Sandy Alderson continues to hold firm on his position that there will not be any changes at shortstop between now and opening day.

Additionally, two other team sources told the NY Post that despite his spring performance, Ruben Tejada will be the shortstop and “he’ll be fine.”