Mar 02

Mets Wrap: Hammered By Cardinals

The New York Mets dropped to 0-3 today in their exhibition schedule, losing 7-1 to the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.

The Mets, who have not played David Wright and Daniel Murphy so far, have been outscored 21-6 in the first three games.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who reportedly has the inside track for the fifth-starter role, gave up one run in two innings. Newly acquired reliever Jose Valverde also gave up a run. The bulk of the damage was in a four-run sixth against lefty reliever Jack Leathersich.

In addition:

* Curtis Granderson had one of the Mets’ four hits with a first-inning double.

* Wilmer Flores saw time at shortstop as Ruben Tejada was scratched because of a tight left hamstring.

* Here’s a shocker: ESPN reported the Yankees might have interest in former Met shortstop Jose Reyes to succeed Derek Jeter. Who didn’t see that one coming?

* St. Louis shortstop Jhonny Peralta said the Mets offered him two years. The Cardinals gave him four.

 

Feb 28

Does Sandy Alderson Really Believe 90 Wins Is Possible For Mets?

Does Sandy Alderson really believe the New York Mets are capable of winning 90 games this season?

Reportedly, that’s what Alderson told his staff in an internal meeting this week. He has not made such a decree to the media.

ALDERSON: What's he thinking?

ALDERSON: What’s he thinking?

Ninety wins last year would have tied the Mets with Cincinnati for the last wild-card spot. It would have put them in the playoffs in 2012; tied them with St. Louis for a wild card in 2011; tied them with Milwaukee for a wild card in 2008; and tied them for the NL East lead with Philadelphia in 2007.

That last season, you’ll recall the Mets coughed up a seven-game lead with 17 remaining, losing in the season finale to Miami at Shea Stadium.

David Wright doesn’t mind the projection.

“I love the fact that Sandy is confident in us,’’ Wright said. “I think 90 is challenging, it’s attainable and it’s a good starting point for us.

“You know, number goals, it’s tough to come out and say, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. We’re going to do that.’ But I think 90 is a good starting point for giving us something to shoot for and getting guys to understand that mediocrity is not going to be acceptable.’’

A lot of things must break right for the Mets to win 16 more games than last year, which is roughly a 20-percent improvement, despite the loss of Matt Harvey:

* They must remain injury free with their key players.

* Jonathon Niese, who already has a shoulder issue, must win a lot more games than the eight he did last year.

* Zack Wheeler must continue to develop.

* Dillon Gee can’t afford a drop for last season’s 199 innings.

* Bartolo Colon needs another solid year.

* There must be consistency from the fifth starter.

* There must be stability in the bullpen, beginning with Bobby Parnell’s recovery.

* It would be nice to see something from Travis d’Arnaud.

* Ike Davis needs to show he can play this game.

* There must be dramatic improvement at shortstop, whether from Ruben Tejada, or whomever they might bring in.

* Wright needs to re-establish himself as a dominant run producer, so .300, 30 and 100 has to happen.

* Curtis Granderson can’t afford to morph into another Jason Bay.

* All those homers Chris Young used to hit, well, he has to hit them again.

* There should be a breakout years from either Eric Young or Juan Lagares.

* They must have a winning record at home, in one-run games and within the division, all areas in which they struggled the past few years.

Ninety victories is a bold prediction. Meanwhile, I was thinking .500 – which is one more win a month –would be substantial improvement.

With all the variables listed above, I wonder what gives Alderson confidence to think 90 wins are possible. I also wonder what Terry Collins must think.

ON DECK: Mets Wrap.

 

Feb 27

The Mets’ Ambivalence Towards Ruben Tejada Opens Door For Flores

Of all the young New York Mets, the one I am most interested in seeing is Wilmer Flores, especially at shortstop. While Ruben Tejada is the starter by default, Flores has a legitimate shot with a strong spring to grab a job.

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

FLORES: Has opportunity to earn job (Getty)

As the Mets monitor Stephen Drew’s interest and Seattle for Nick Franklin’s availability, it is clear they aren’t sold on Tejada. That makes it no better time than now for Flores to surface.

As team officials continue to portray Tejada as the most likely starter on Opening Day, they acknowledge those two other possibilities and are showing a declining enthusiasm for the incumbent.

A hot spring from Flores could make things interesting if the Mets don’t make an acquisition, especially if he shows something defensively.

The rap on Flores is he doesn’t have the first-step quickness in moving laterally. He also doesn’t have a lot of speed, but shortstops don’t have to be fast. Flores attended the same Michigan fitness camp as Tejada and reports are he improved his straight-ahead speed and lateral quickness.

However, for the offensively-challenged Mets, Flores’ upside is greater than Tejada’s. Flores drove in 13 runs in 27 games last season, which projected over a 162-game schedule is 78 RBI. In contrast, Tejada’s 162-game average is a mere 40.

In addition, as a spray hitter, Tejada’s career on-base percentage is only .323 and his 162-game average is 87 strikeouts.

Flores played shortstop in the minors until 2011, but because of the range issue, the Mets started playing him at third, second and first. All this begs the question: With all the ways prospects are measured, couldn’t they have figured out his range limitations?

Flores’ value to the Mets would be to show something at shortstop, because he is a man without a position and despite his supposed offensive abilities, never hit more than 18 homers (2012) in the minors.

His best season was at Triple-A Las Vegas in 2013 when he hit .321 with a .357 on-base percentage, 15 homers and 86 RBI.

As the Mets consider Drew and Franklin – neither is imminent – this is the perfect time for Flores to make a statement.

Although Flores has experienced every position in the infield, shortstop is the one with the most potential for a breakthrough. Barring injuries, he won’t supplant David Wright at third or Daniel Murphy at second this year.

Who knows what could happen at first base? I floated the idea last year they might cut loose both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda and go with Flores at first base.

That’s not imminent, either.

 

Feb 25

Mets Still Unsettled At Shortstop; Not Thrilled With Ruben Tejada

It’s not hard to figure out the New York Mets aren’t thrilled with the prospect of entering the season with Ruben Tejada as their shortstop. Despite off-season assertions from GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins they would be happy with Tejada, there are events to the contrary.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

TEJADA: Still under fire.

Despite praise for Tejada’s participation in an off-season fitness camp in Michigan, there have been reports he’s not exactly buff. This can’t please Collins, who has already called out Tejada on his work ethic.

Perhaps, the most damning stories have been the reports from outside camp, beginning with the incessant drum beating to sign Stephen Drew coupled with Alderson’s reluctance to draw the line on the subject.

Either the Mets want Drew or they don’t. “Most unlikely [we will sign him],’’ as Alderson says, leaves open the door. That’s definitely not good news for Tejada and leaves the impression the Mets don’t know what they are doing.

For those scoring at home, Alderson entered the off-season with upgrading shortstop and first base as priorities and did neither. Funny, in the first week of full-squad workouts both are in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Next are reports the Mets are interested in Seattle’s Nick Franklin, which tells us Drew’s asking price remains high, and it goes beyond the compensatory draft pick as an obstacle.

Just as they were with Ike Davis, the Mets’ ambivalence in addressing possible Tejada replacements indicate there’s little desire to keep him if there’s an affordable alternative.

As for Drew, his agent Scott Boras, has him working out in a facility he set up outside of Miami. The sticking point is the compensatory draft pick and there have been reports Drew could stay out until after the June amateur draft when that condition is removed.

Hopefully, the Mets will have a shortstop they are happy with by then.

ON DECK:  Have to like what Buck Showalter did.

 

Feb 25

For Ike Davis, Motivation Should Come From Within, Not Yelling At Reporters

One of the more ridiculous things I’ve read in the wake of the Ike Davis-Mike Puma verbal spat is the notion this will motivate the underperforming first baseman. If that’s the case, the New York Mets have a greater problem than they thought.

That thinking is flawed on many levels. As a professional athlete, if Davis needs a confrontation with a reporter to fire him up, it says little about his mental constitution.

DAVIS: Needs to motivate from within (Getty)

DAVIS: Needs to motivate from within (Getty)

It says that constitution is weak.

A professional athlete should be motivated first by pride and a sense of accomplishment. These rank even ahead of money, as often times you’ll hear if a player is solely motivated by dollars his fire dies and the game becomes a grueling job.

The hottest fire is the desire to compete, and yelling at a reporter is misguided and wasted energy. If Davis need jousting with Puma to get him going then he’s in the wrong profession.

If you’ve seen Davis struggle you have to know his pride is wounded. That is where the rebuilding must originate. Arguing with a reporter does nothing to restore his pride, unless he thinks it makes him big in the eyes of his teammates. Even then, most were probably thinking to themselves, “please Ike, shut up.’’

Davis’ confidence is in tatters for the simple reason because what worked for him in high school, college and minor leagues abandoned him in the major leagues.

The competition level is much greater and Davis has not adjusted. Those few good moments he’s enjoyed in his MLB season were snuffed out by superior pitching and betting that he could play through injuries and he doesn’t know how to react.

One just does not restore confidence without a fundamental overhaul, which in Davis’ case is his basic Neanderthal approach to hitting of  “I see ball, I must crush it.’’

Davis labels himself as a “home run’’ hitter with the understanding “strikeouts will happen.’’

What Davis doesn’t understand is why strikeouts happen, which are because of both mechanical and mental flaws. The two become linked.

Davis wants to pull the ball and does use the whole field. Doing so leaves himself open to the mechanical issues of pulling his head off the pitch and opening up too quickly.

When that happens, there’s no way he can hit the outside pitch, especially if it is a breaking ball. He’s simply not in good hitting position.

Davis also has a terrible hitch and dramatically moves his hands before the pitch arrives, leaving him behind and slow in his swing.

The more he struggled with mechanics, the greater the frustration and the more he pressed. It grows into a vicious cycle.

If Davis said he was hurt last year I believe him, but what I don’t accept is the injury did not affect him. Being in pain makes it hard to swing the bat and slows everything.

And, hitting is about being quick. Be quick with your thinking and pitch recognition, with your hands, with your hips.

A slow hitter walks back to the dugout. And, yelling at a reporter does nothing to speed up your swing.

Mechanics are the issue and in Davis’ case they stem from a poor approach. That good stretch of at-bats he needs to get him going – as some said – will never come unless he changes his thinking.

Look, Davis said he wants to be with the Mets and I believe him. Yesterday probably hurt the chances of the Mets making a trade because the perception is Davis is a headache in the clubhouse.

And, in the parking lot.

That Davis continued with Puma in the parking lot shows he didn’t adjust to the incident from earlier in the morning. Much like he hasn’t adjusted to the down-and-away slider.

ON DECK: Ruben Tejada a question – again