Dec 28

Top Six Mets’ Storylines For 2016

The season didn’t turn out the way for the Mets the way many hoped. Too many injuries and too few hits with runners in scoring position will do that to a team. There were numerous storylines from this summer, but I’ve narrowed it down to five. I’m sure you have others, but these are mine:

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

Mets lose wild-card heartbreaker: San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard were brilliant in one of the most well-pitched games in Wild-Card history. Syndergaard threw seven scoreless and Bumgarner went nine in the Giants’ 3-0 victory won by Conor Gillaspie three-run homer in the ninth.

The loss prevented a playoff rematch between the Mets and Cubs, and of course, kept them from returning to the World Series.

Injuries derail rotation: The highly-anticipated return of Zack Wheeler to the rotation in July and switch of Bartolo Colon to the bullpen never materialized. One by one they went down until three more went down with surgery: Matt Harvey (shoulder), Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz (elbows).

Syndergaard was also hindered with an elbow spur. Injuries always produce opportunities, and this time Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman took advantage.

Piazza enters Hall of Fame: Catcher Mike Piazza was clearly the summer’s feel-good moment with his induction into the Hall of Fame. While there have been many players with links to the Mets that are in Cooperstown, Piazza and Tom Seaver are the only ones who went in as Mets.

Wright’s back limits him to 38 games: For the second straight summer, David Wright’s injured back scuttled his season that put his career in jeopardy.

Wright is progressing on schedule, but we’ll not know about him until spring training.

Cespedes and Walker power offense: Bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and signing Neil Walker were the Mets’ two biggest off-season moves last winter, and together they combined for over 50 homers.

The Mets will bring both back for next year (Cespedes is signed for four years), which just about completes their off-season shopping.

Mets trade for Bruce: With injuries sapping the Mets’ offense – including those to Cespedes and Walker – GM Sandy Alderson pulled the trigger and traded for Reds outfielder Jay Bruce.

Bruce struggled for most of the second half, but finished with a strong ten-day to close the season. Alderson made a big thing of having Bruce as insurance if they couldn’t bring back Cespedes, and if they could they would deal him.

Well, they signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million package, then turned around to find no interest in Bruce and might not be able to deal him until spring training, if at all.

Nov 18

Cespedes Market Might Not Be So Hot

The reported market is six teams, including the Mets, interested in Yoenis Cespedes. However, the interest could be described as “luke warm,” which might have prompted his text to the GM Sandy Alderson indicating his desire to return.

Reportedly, Cespedes wants $150 million over five years, while the Mets are saying $100 million over four years. That’s a significant gap, but those are reported figures not confirmed by the Mets or Cespedes’ representatives.

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

CESPEDES: Desperate? (AP)

It’s interesting the text – reported by multiple outlets – came from the player and not his agent. It also came after Alderson told WOR the Mets could have interest in Jose Bautista, Dexter Fowler and Steve Pearce, all of whom would cost significantly less.

Could it be there’s a growing sense of urgency on Cespedes’ part? Kind of like the teenage girl asking over and over again if the guy in her geometry class really likes her.

“I think we’ve said as an organization that we’d like to have him back,” Alderson said. “Free agency provides its own sort of intrigue, so we’ll see where things take us. … I think we’re gonna have to wait a while to see how this turns out. I think he wants to be back.”

However, Alderson also said he doesn’t want this to drag on into January as it did last winter.

The initial market for Cespedes was reported as the Mets, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox, along with the Yankees.

After trading Brian McCann to Houston, the Yankees have more room for Cespedes.

“I’m sure we’ll talk again,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told The New York Times. “Now that we have more flexibility, it gives us more choices.”

However, the Yankees have been linked to the Angels in a possible trade for AL MVP Mike Trout, and it has been widely speculated they could make a run at the Nationals’ Bryce Harper in a couple of years.

It seems doubtful if they really wanted either of those players they would inflame their payroll now with Cespedes.

As for the Giants’ interest, they are already embroiled in long-term deals with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzjia, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

If the Giants were to add a bat, it would likely be one of a lower profile are the reports from San Francisco.

And, the White Sox’s first priority is finding a market for stud pitcher Chris Sale, which presumably would include a power hitter.

Cespedes is aware of this, or at least should be. He has to be wondering it the market for him is all that big and really isn’t six teams.

Given that, the Mets seem to have the leverage and would be wise to press Cespedes to make his demands soon and get back to him with their best, and final, offer.

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Nov 05

Cespedes To Opt Out Today

By midnight today, Yoenis Cespedes will tell the Mets he is opting out of his contract to pursue the riches of free agency.

The Mets have expected him to leave since they gave him the opt-out clause after one season of a three-year, $75-million contract. In reality, they never him to come back after he was close to signing a five-year, $110-million deal with Washington.

CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

    CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

Somehow, Cespedes eschewed that contract for the Mets. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the World Series experience.

I’ve written several times how the Mets would be better off letting Cespedes go and spend the money elsewhere. I know that it is an unpopular position because we’re supposed to be enamored with Cespedes’ power, but frankly, he’s too high-maintenance for the money.

I’m annoyed he hustles when the mood strikes; that he played golf when he should have been rehabbing his quad; and he couldn’t play centerfield, which pretty much ended Michael Conforto’s play in left field.

If he comes back and has to play left, it stunts Conforto’s development. I certainly don’t want the Mets to fool around with Conforto at first base just to placate Cespedes.

The Mets will make a qualifying offer, which Cespedes will reject to accept a $100-million package with somebody else.

There are a handful of teams Cespedes where could land, but remember the Nationals were the only team to make an offer last year.

The Nationals could go after Cespedes again, which would entail Bryce Harper moving to center and Jayson Werth going to right. An outfield of Cespedes, Harper and Werth could be imposing.

San Francisco, which needs offense and with left fielder Angel Pagan to become a free agent, could be a player. Another possibility is Toronto, which might lose Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, will certainly have the money.

Another option could be the Yankees. They have long-term outfield commitments to Jacoby Ellsbury and Bret Gardner, but with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez gone, they have a designated-hitter opening.

Conventional wisdom has Cespedes seeking a five-year contract, but last year’s leg problems must concern the Mets, and a DH position has to be appealing to him.

Sep 28

Believe Mets Will Stand In The End

REMEMBER HIM?

                                         REMEMBER HIM?

Greetings Mets fans. As a tribute to my good friend, Joe DeCaro, I am truly Metsmerized today.

My background as a beat reporter make me jaded to some. That’s all right, I can live with that label. As a beat writer for over 20 years, I consistently question things, as that is my training and lifelong habits are hard to break.

I see things more skeptically than most, but this morning, with just four games to go, I can now envision the light at the end of the tunnel known as the 2016 season. The oncoming light isn’t of a train, but one flashing orange and blue, or if you prefer, blue and orange.

The wild-card race remains tight with the Mets holding a half-game lead on San Francisco and full game over the Cardinals.

All three won Tuesday night, and perhaps as an omen this will be decided Sunday, if not beyond, all three scored 12 runs. You can cue up Twilight Zone music.

However, I believe the Mets will be in the wild-card game. They have overcome so much and gone too far to trip at the finish line.

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Sep 27

Good Postseason Signs For Mets In Rout

The Marlins would have been hard-pressed to continue to ride the emotional wave from Monday’s ceremonies and victory over the Mets following the tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

That would be hard to do when you run into the kind of pitching they faced against Noah Syndergaard. It also didn’t hurt their offense resurfaced with a pair of two-run homers from Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes in Tuesday’s 19-hit, 12-1 mauling of the Marlins.

SYNDERGAARD: Good sign. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good sign. (AP)

It was the first time since Bruce was acquired that he and Cespedes homered in the same game.

As the Mets look ahead to a possible postseason appearance, they took numerous positives from the game.

The most important, of course, was Syndergaard, whose last start was scratched because of a strep throat. Syndergaard last pitched, Aug. 19 in a loss to Atlanta, gave up a run on five hits with eight strikeouts.

“It was huge,” Syndergaard said about getting back into a groove. “I tried to keep each pitch simple. I felt I could locate my sinker on both sides of the plate.”

It was a smart move by manager Terry Collins to pull him when he did after 93 pitches. Syndergaard is next in line to pitch Sunday in Philadelphia. If the Mets don’t need that game, Collins will undoubtedly hold him back to start the wild-card play-in game, Wednesday, perhaps against San Francisco.

Maybe in a match-up against Madison Bumgarner at Citi Field? Or, perhaps in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright?

If there’s a three-way tie, it is presumed Syndergaard would start Sunday, which would probably leave the start to Seth Lugo.

There aren’t any questions about Syndergaard’s health or endurance, which considering the announcement earlier in the day that Steven Matz will have elbow surgery and be lost for the year.

If the Mets are to go anywhere in the playoffs, a lot will fall on Syndergaard.

After Syndergaard, the other key storylines were Bruce and Lucas Duda and the lengthening of the Mets’ batting order.

Bruce, who has started three straight games, has five hits in that span, including two homers. His two-run homer in the second put the Mets ahead for good.

After a dreadful slump sent him to the bench and raised questions about his spot on the playoff roster and even if the Mets would bring him back for 2017.

“It’s been very encouraging,” Collins said of Bruce’s resurgence. “If he’s back, we’re going to have a different line-up.”

Bruce said the slump was a difficult stretch, but he never lost faith of his talent.

“I feel comfortable at the plate,” Bruce said. “I just kept preparing and kept working. I just focus on preparing and always think today is the day I’ll come out of it.”

Curtis Granderson, who drove in three runs on two hits, is now entrenched in the clean-up spot with Bruce hitting fifth.

Duda drove in three runs on two hits and again played the field. At first, the Mets thought Duda would only be used as a pinch-hitter. That notion could be gone now, which could make it a Duda (two hits and two walks) vs. James Loney battle for a playoff roster spot.

“It’s definitely tough,” Duda said of his return from back surgery. “The more I play the more comfortable I get. It’s a work in progress. From rehabbing to here is a pretty big jump. The speed of the game, both offensively and defensively, is faster.”

While these were positive signs as the Mets gear for the playoffs, one negative is Wilmer Flores’ wrist, which could sideline him for the rest of the regular season and put his spot on a playoff roster in jeopardy.

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