Jul 24

The Mets Add Conforto; Deal With Braves Pending

Michael Conforto was lifting weights when his minor league manager, Pedro Lopez, approached him with a cell phone to inform him of his promotion to the Mets. Now, comes the part of trying to withstand the temptation to lift the Mets.

Of course, that’s easier said then done, especially with the numbers screaming this is a team in desperate need of help. After Friday’s 7-2 loss to the Dodgers the Mets are losers of six of their last eight games. They have the worst team batting average in the majors at .233 and next to last in runs scored with 331.

Yes, the Mets are a team in need and along with the much-anticipated promotion of Conforto, they were on the verge of swinging a deal with Atlanta for third baseman Juan Uribe and left-handed hitting utility player Kelly Johnson.

Conforto, at least, seems to have his head screwed on straight regarding expectations.

“I haven’t played in big league games,’’ Conforto said. “So really there’s no way for me to really know if I’m ready.’’

Conforto is here because Michael Cuddyer was finally placed on the disabled list with a sore knee. That decision came at least three weeks too late by GM Sandy Alderson.

Alderson, as usual, spoke legalese when it came to talking about Conforto’s expectations, saying there was thought he would “super dramatically,’’ upgrade the Mets’ production. Conforto was hitless but drove in the Mets’ first run with a groundout.

Maybe Alderson was attempting to take the pressure off Conforto, but the game’s smartest general manager, according to his auto-biography, couched everything.

Alderson said the promotion might have occurred without Cuddyer’s injury, but since it was tied to a player going on the disabled list there was no guarantee how long he would stay up here. Alderson also said the promotion was no connection as to how active the Mets will be on the trade market.

By the end of the game, the Mets hadn’t announced the trade that would send pitching prospects Michael Gant and Rob Whalen to the Braves.

Figuring it does, the Mets could play Uribe at third, move Daniel Murphy back to second and Wilmer Flores back to shortstop. Of course, that means Ruben Tejada will likely return to the bench.

Johnson, who can also play both outfield positions as well as the infield, is hitting .275 with nine homers and 34 RBI, numbers which could arguably make him the Mets’ best hitter.

Do Conforto, Uribe and Johnson make the Mets decidedly better?

Not really.

Uribe, who is hitting .272 with eight homers and 23 RBI, this year with Atlanta and the Dodgers, and Johnson, bring with them batting averages that would put them at the top of Mets, but they are essentially complementary players. And, Conforto, whom Alderson didn’t want to bring up in the first place, remains a Double-A prospect.

You could say they make the Mets better because what has been here has been so bad.

That’s not really that comforting, is it?

Surely, there has to be more. There just has to be.

Jul 23

Mets’ Lineup, July 23, Dodgers

Here’s the Mets’ starting lineup tonight against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw.

Curtis Granderson – RF

Ruben Tejada – SS

Wilmer Flores – 2B

John Mayberry Jr. – LF

Eric Campbell – 3B

Lucas Duda – 1B

Juan Lagares – CF

Anthony Recker – C

Bartolo Colon – RHP

 COMMENTS: John Mayberry Jr., he of the .170 batting average is hitting clean-up says it all for the Mets. … But, in case you wanted more: 1) if Tejada is batting second he might as well hit leadoff and have Granderson dropped in the order; 2) four starters are hitting .255 or lower, while another three are hitting below .200.

By the way, just wondering, but if an average is below .200 can you really call it “hitting?”

Jul 22

Tejada Shining At Most Important Time

In 2012, the Mets’ first year without Jose Reyes as their shortstop, they gambled on Ruben Tejada. Nobody thought Tejada could duplicate Reyes’ dynamic style of play, but if he would give them something offensively, with his defense they could live with him.

TEJADA: Coming through. (AP)

TEJADA: Coming through. (AP)

Tejada was superb that season hitting .289 with a .333 on-base percentage. In fact, the Mets thought so highly of Tejada, at that time manager Terry Collins believed he could be the leadoff hitter the team so desperately needed.

Sure, the window is small, but since reshuffling their infield by putting Tejada to short, Wilmer Flores to second and Daniel Murphy to third, Tejada has produced. Maybe he has produced to the point where Collins might revisit the leadoff hitter idea, which could move Curtis Granderson‘s bat to the middle of the order.

Tejada worked his at-bat in the ninth the way he played in 2012. Tejada had a superb eight-pitch at-bat against Tanner Roark by fouling off five pitches before a RBI single to right that extended his hitting streak to nine games.

Can this last? Tejada is hitting .333 since July 3 to raise his average from .236 to .254.

Again, Tejada’s window has been small, but for now at least shortstop doesn’t have the same sense of urgency, and last night he and the Mets were fun to watch.

 

Jun 25

Collins Must Manage From His Gut Even If Alderson Doesn’t Like It

All the goodwill the Mets fostered during their 11-game winning streak is gone, vanished like a possible Jacob deGrom victory because of a faulty bullpen and no hitting. It faded along with the Mets’ eight-game lead over the Nationals, which is now a 3.5-game deficit.

Sure, the Mets could regroup but what are their chances, but what are the odds?

COLLINS: Where's that smile now? (Mets)

COLLINS: Where’s that smile now? (Mets)

The way I see it, manager Terry Collins is on his own; a life raft in rough waters. Ownership did nothing over the winter to bring in the offensive talent needed, and he’s received no help from GM Sandy Alderson, whose contribution was Michael Cuddyer.

Collins, because of his contract situation, is a lame duck and managing for his job. Because Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – ripped him in a book, it is clear he doesn’t have any support.

That says it in spades, as if Alderson’s failure to build a quality bullpen and procure the needed hitting to sustain the young starting pitching wasn’t enough.

It is clear the Mets aren’t playing with fire anymore, and part of that is because Collins isn’t showing any himself. It appears he’s been beaten down and frustrated by a front office and ownership that isn’t supportive.

Collins is a long-time baseball man. He knows the right thing to do. He has no control over injuries, but does have over the talent he sends out every night. He also has control in the dugout after the first pitch. Collins must be aggressive and manage the Mets like this is his last chance, because he’s gone after this year. Deep down he has to know that.

I want to see him go out kicking and not meekly collecting a paycheck. Here’s what he needs to do to give the Mets their best chance of winning:

Goodbye pitch counts: Since it is clear there was no plan to begin with, let’s cut the crap. Matt Harvey has twice been pulled late with a 1-0 lead and went on to lose. That’s happened to deGrom once. Give those horses the extra inning.

Curtis Granderson: He’s finally showing some pop, so drop him in the order. Third, fourth, fifth, I don’t care. He’s being wasted hitting leadoff. I advocated this after seeing the Opening Day lineup. It worked for a while, but is failing now.

The answer? I don’t know. I wanted Juan Lagares, but his on-base percentage is dreadful. There is no real solution, but since he’s in the line-up I’m inclined to go with Ruben Tejada, who has decent speed, but I confess is too streaky.

Speaking of Granderson, the best outfield alignment is him in left field and Cuddyer in right. Why that wasn’t done in the first place is ridiculous.

The infield: Eventually we would get to this, but the best solution defensively is to move Wilmer Flores to third base and Tejada to shortstop. The Mets don’t want to because they are afraid of how Flores might react mentally.

If Flores’ ego is that fragile to where he couldn’t handle a switch then maybe he’s not tough enough to play in the major leagues. When Daniel Murphy returns move him to third and Flores to second.

What about David Wright, you ask? The Mets are foolish if they even think he’ll be back anytime soon, and if he does if he’ll play to any resemblance of his former self. It is more and more looking as if the issue of what to do with Wright will be addressed next spring – with another manager.

These are some of the things Collins can do with the 25 players he currently has on his roster. Since he’s not getting any help, he has to go down showing the same fight he wants from his team.

And, if Alderson doesn’t like it, then tell the game’s smartest general manager to fire him, because what the hell, it will happen soon enough.

Jun 23

Niese Betrayed By Hitters And Defense

Just when you think you never want to see Jon Niese on the mound again for the Mets, he goes out and pitches a decent game. It was a game he could have won if the Mets had any kind of offense. Then again, Milwaukee had its chances to blow it open, but to his credit Niese kept the Mets in the game.

In six innings Niese gave up two runs on eight hits and three walks. By today’s lax standards it was considered a “quality start.’’ Eleven base runners in six innings are not particularly good. Neither are the 99 pitches he threw.

However, what I took from Niese’s effort in tonight’s 3-2 loss at Milwaukee was how he minimized the damage. It isn’t something we’ve seen often this season.

Something we have seen often is the Mets’ woeful offense. They scored just two runs and had no hits after the third inning. Also, throw in a dozen strikeouts. There was also a costly defensive breakdown in Michael Cuddyer’s run-producing error in the seventh. And, Ruben Tejada misplayed another bunt while playing third base that cost the Mets a run.

The Mets have scored eight runs in their last six games, all losses.

The loss was the Mets’ 17th of the season by a margin of two runs or less and dropped them to .500 at 36-36. Now, all fruits from their 11-game winning streak are gone.

Damn, they are frustrating.