Aug 10

Alderson Quits On Mets For This Year And Next

By the time Ryder Ryan reaches the major leagues – if he even plays for the Mets – Jay Bruce might be in the final year of his contract with the Indians, or any number of teams. The Mets will not be one of them.

Who knows? Bruce might be retired by the time Ryan pitches at Citi Field. Is that Sandy Alderson’s idea of being competitive in 2018: To trade their best offensive player for a player who isn’t even one of the Indians’ top 30 prospects?

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

BRUCE: Escapes the lunacy. (AP)

There are so many layers to this deal, including the inevitable conclusion the Mets don’t want to trade with the Yankees, who reportedly offered two prospects, but weren’t given a call back from Alderson, who continually thinks he’s the smartest man in the room, despite a track record that suggests otherwise.

Bruce was prepared for the trade, telling the Mets website: “The long and short of it is I was prepared. I knew something could happen, and happen fast. I really enjoyed my time in New York, but I’m excited to jump right into a pennant race.”

The kicker?

Of course, it is money. The Indians will pick up the balance of Bruce’s 2017 salary, around $4 million, while the Yankees, who traditionally throw money around, reportedly only wanted to assume $1 million of Bruce’s contract.

Reportedly, Alderson didn’t even extend Yankees GM Brian Cashman the courtesy of a “give me your final offer,’’ phone call. It’s even more baffling considering the Mets agreed to the two Yankees prospects.

Ryder, by the way, has a 4.79 ERA in 33 relief appearances in Single-A.

So, in exchange for Bruce, Lucas Duda and Addison Reed, the Mets received five relief prospects, none of whom can be labeled “can’t miss blue chippers.’’ They also acquired the unimpressive AJ Ramos in a separate deal with the Marlins.

It must also be pointed out the Mets save around $11 million, which only reinforces the notion this was merely a salary dump and they are trying to build on the cheap. In the interim, the Mets are still trying to dump Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. Apparently, all offers will be considered.

Apparently, all offers will be considered.

I loved the Bruce trade last summer and never bought into the notion he couldn’t play in New York, which is really an overrated mind thing. Often the issue is raised by self-important media commentators.

If you play hard, don’t whine, are stand-up in the clubhouse, and produce without making excuses, anybody can play in New York. The fans, media and team executives simply want players to be productive at their jobs. Bruce was that in his last two weeks last summer and he’s been a rock this year, leading the team in homers (29) and RBI (75), playing right field and first base.

He did everything manager Terry Collins wanted, and his value to the Mets was underscored when after Amed Rosario botched a play that cost them a win he was counseling the rookie after the final out.

No excuses. A solid professional. And a proven, lefty power hitter. Don’t you think the Mets might need those qualities next season if they are as close to contending that they claim?

Bruce, Reed or Duda might play deep into October, possibly at the expense of the Yankees. Does skunking the Yankees qualify as a successful season for Alderson and the Mets? It sure seems so. Then again, they save around  $11 million, which is really what this is all about.

So, what have the Mets accomplished toward next season? After all, they say this is tinkering and not a rebuild.

In trading Reed they lost their capable – and underpaid in relation to the position – closer in the hope Jeurys Familia will recover from surgery to get his job back, this despite monumental postseason collapses in each of the past two seasons.

Trading Bruce probably enables them to bring up first base prospect Dominic Smith, but that should have been done weeks ago.

Trading Bruce also enables them to move Michael Conforto to right field, but that leaves a hole in center. The Mets aren’t sold on Juan Lagares, whom they signed to a four-year contract, yet won’t let play. It dosn’t help he’s been injured in each of the last two years. Another great Alderson decision.

Perhaps that leaves an opportunity for Brandon Nimmo. But, do you think Nimmo or Smith – perhaps combined – will give the Mets the production Bruce did? Both are unknowns.

If nothing else, extending Bruce a one-year qualifying offer, would net them a compensatory draft pick which will be higher rated than Ryder. I don’t know if Bruce would have accepted the offer or would have been willing to sign a long-term deal. If I were him, and seeing how Alderson was so foolishly open in trying to trade him, I wouldn’t trust him.

But, did Alderson even try?

Bruce is 30 years and has proven he can produce in New York, offers protection to Yoenis Cespedes and has five good years left, barring injury. How much would it cost to keep Bruce? Perhaps $80 million over four years is my guess. But, if Alderson thinks he can get a comparable bat and clubhouse presence for less, he’s mistaken.

So, instead of having a lefty power hitter in the fold, add that to Alderson’s offseason wish list.

Of course, Alderson says it will be better when all those young arms – which are another year older – return from the disabled list.

We’re still waiting on Matt Harvey to repeat his 2013 form. Noah Syndergaards lat injury is a concern. He admits he’s willing to adjust his offseason conditioning program, which is a plus but guarantees nothing.  Zack Wheeler showed some promise after sitting out two years. He’s back on the disabled list. Like Harvey and Syndergaard, the Mets are hoping he can make a few starts in September.

Once again, the Mets are hoping for the injured to bounce back. Speaking of hope, they are still wondering about Steven Matz, but have little left for Rafael Montero.

Overall, this vaunted rotation has yet to complete a five-game cycle together, and none of those arms has won 15 games. But there’s hope, isn’t there? Hope is the card Alderson wants to play, probably on orders from above.

The 2017 Mets entered the season as World Series favorites in some circles and will finish as a dumpster fire. The 2018 Mets, assuming no significant acquisitions are made, have numerous significant questions with few answers in sight.

Thanks Sandy. Thanks Fred. Thanks Jeff.

 

Jul 13

What Went Wrong For Mets In First Half

When a team is eight games below .500 and 12 games behind, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The following didn’t perform to expectations in the first half:

Noah Syndergaard: Reportedly showed up to spring training muscle-bound by 17 pounds because he erroneously believed it would help him last longer in games. The watershed moment for the Mets in the first half was when Syndergaard refused to take an MRI and subsequently partially tore his lat muscle pitching against Washington in late April. He has been on the disabled list since and is still at least two weeks from throwing. Reportedly, pitching coach Dan Warthen is considering initially using him in relief.

SYNDERGAARD: Downfall started with his injury. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Downfall started with his injury. (AP)

Matt Harvey: Went on the DL with a stress injury to his scapula. Could this be because he was overthrowing trying to build up his velocity? In spring training Warthen estimated Harvey wouldn’t be at full strength until late May or early June. Given that, he shouldn’t have been on the Opening Day roster. Harvey wasn’t pitching well, evidenced by a 5.25 ERA when he went on the DL. Compounding Harvey’s poor season was when he was suspended for a game because of an unexcused absence from a game prior to a start in May.

Yoenis Cespedes: He missed six weeks with a hamstring injury, likely caused by the Mets not initially putting him on the DL. He’s back but entered the All-Star break with no extrra-base hits in 11 straight games. Manager Terry Collins said Cespedes was playing at 75 percent.

Jose Reyes: Was hitting under .200 for much of the first half, but raised his average to .215 over the last three weeks. Reyes’ game is based on speed, but he lost his job based on a .284 on-base percentage. He has little trade value and certainly won’t be re-signed.

Asdrubal Cabrera: Has twice been on the disabled list. His range is reduced which prompted his move from shortstop to second base. He has been hitting better since demanding to be traded. Both him and Reyes will be expendable once Amed Rosario is brought up.

The bullpen: Where to begin? Familia’s suspension didn’t help. Then he had a blood clot in his shoulder that required surgery. There’s no timetable for his return, but if the Mets believe they’ll make a run they can’t afford to mess with Addison Reed in the closer role. … Fernando Salas, Neil Ramirez and Josh Edgin haven’t done the job. … Paul Sewald has run hot-and-cold.

Sandy Alderson: Is largely responsible for the decline in the pitching. He never constructed a productive bullpen, which was essential considering five starters were coming off surgery and would pitch deep into games.  Alderson also made mistakes with Syndergaard and Harvey. He should have insisted Syndergaard take the MRI and told him he wouldn’t pitch until he had done so. Regarding Harvey, when Warthen said it would take a couple of months before he was full strength, Alderson never should have had him on the Opening Day roster. … Alderson also made a mistake by not putting Cespedes on the DL when he was initially injured.

May 17

Alderson Must Take Responsibility Of Mets’ Pitching Collapse

Going against Zack Greinke, it was expected the Mets’ losing streak would reach six, and this morning the fingers would start being pointed.

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

ALDERSON: Faces a lot of questions. (AP)

What didn’t happen in the Mets’ 5-4 loss to Arizona was another bullpen meltdown. If you want to call it a moral victory, go for it. I looked for moral victories in the standings and the only thing I could were the regular ones, which have them six games under .500 and nine games behind Washington.

But, wasn’t this team supposed to be a World Series contender if not win the whole thing? They sure were, because many; including GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets possessed the game’s best pitching.

I never bought into that because it simply wasn’t true. How could it be if the vaunted five of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler had never started a complete cycle in the rotation?

How could it be if there isn’t a 20-game winner among the group?

How could it be if they only have two with at least 30 victories (deGrom 32-23) and Harvey (31-31), with Syndergaard (24-18), Wheeler (20-18) and Matz (13-8) to follow? That’s not greatness, that’s potential.

How could it be, if four entered the season coming off significant surgery, and a fifth – Syndergaard – currently on the 60-day DL?

Wishful thinking is nice to have, but building on it is like a house of cards, capable of collapsing at the slightest nudge or breeze.

The Mets tried to build a group of back-ups, but Seth Lugo is on the DL, Robert Gsellman needs be optioned or sent to the bullpen to work on his mechanic, and Rafael Montero can’t find the plate.

New acquisition Tommy Milone was passable tonight, but you don’t win on passable. The best thing Milone did was work into the sixth, which was followed by Paul Sewald (1.1 innings), Fernando Salas (0.2 innings) and Jerry Blevins (0.1) not allowing a run.

The pen worked just 2.1 innings, but most nights it goes three or four, if not longer.

When fingers are pointed, they are initially directed at manager Terry Collins, but that’s too easy. It’s also too easy to blame pitching coach Dan Warthen. In finding out who is responsible for the Mets’ pitching problems, we must look at the nature of the injuries, and who acquiesced in the handling of Harvey and Syndergaard.

That would be general manager Sandy Alderson.

 

Mar 08

Syndergaard’s Command Off; Bruce Homers In Win

They might have tuned in to see Tim Tebow, but the Mets most worth watching were Noah Syndergaard and Jay Bruce.

Making his second start of the spring, the Mets’ Opening Day starter again had command issues despite throwing 2.1 innings. Throwing mostly fastballs and change-ups, Syndergaard threw 47 pitches to get those seven outs – six pitches per out – which isn’t going to get it done on most days in the regular season.

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

BRUCE: Has big day. (AP)

Meanwhile, Bruce, the player Sandy Alderson most wants to trade, had a big day with a two-run homer, RBI double and run-saving diving catch in right field in Wednesday’s 8-7 victory over Boston.

Syndergaard didn’t give up any runs, but that wasn’t the story.

“I threw about 85 percent,” Syndergaard said. “I pulled it back a bit to work on my mechanics. I wanted to close my shoulder on my way to the plate.”

In the regular season, Syndergaard’s pitch count put him on pace to throw 4.2 innings, which is not what he has in mind.

Syndergaard said he gained 17 pounds of muscle in the offseason – disputed by manager Terry Collins – for the purpose of being strong enough to work longer in games. However, what Syndergaard doesn’t realize is what kept him from going deeper into games isn’t a matter of losing strength, but losing command and running up his pitch count.

Syndergaard touched 100 mph. several times and threw mostly in the high 90s – frankly, I don’t see where he dialed it back – but pitching isn’t about velocity. A pitcher relies on location, movement of his pitches and velocity, with velocity the least important.

METS NOVELTY: With the Mets sending a large contingent to the World Baseball Classic and playing a split-squad game, they were in need of bodies and that opened the way for Tebow’s chance to play – as a designated hitter.

Tebow struck out in his first at-bat on four pitches, grounded into a double play in his second to drive in a run and produce a standing ovation, and was hit by a pitch in his third.

Feb 02

Mets’ D’Arnaud Down To Last Chance

One Met I’m hopeful for this season is catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who has to know he might be down to his last chance at becoming a starter. He hasn’t come close to reaching his potential – both at the plate and behind it – since coming over in the trade (along with Noah Syndergaard) that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto.

D'ARNAUD:  Needs good year. (ESPN)

D’ARNAUD: Needs good year. (ESPN)

He has scary power when he connects – wasn’t he the guy who dented the home run apple? – but has been largely been inconsistent. But, I’m liking what I’m reading in The New York Post from Port St. Lucie.

D’Arnaud, who avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal for $1.875 million, has been working hard with new coach Glenn Sherlock, and has come away with a new stance. Last year d’Arnaud wrapped the bat around his head which resulted in a longer and slower swing.

That’s gone now and the bat is on his shoulder pointing straight behind him instead of pointing at the pitcher. Sherlock is also working with d’Arnaud on quickening his throws to second base. Both are essential improvements for d’Arnaud, who hit only four homers with 15 RBI and threw out only 22 percent of potential baserunners.

“He was a huge help,” d’Arnaud told The New York Post about Sherlock. “For the team to bring him in shows they have my back and they want me to get better. So, it’s cool that he’s here.”

General manager Sandy Alderson said in addition to a shoulder injury, d’Arnaud’s confidence at the plate as impacted by his defensive problems:  “I just think there was a general loss of confidence that was reflected in his offense. It was reflected in his defense. I think that’s something that can be restored.”

Most importantly, d’Arnaud says he feels strong, which is important since injuries have limited to 250 games over the past three years. The Mets always believed keeping d’Arnaud on the field has always been the key to his production.

While the early reports have been encouraging, it’s still only February and d’Arnaud’s new stance and revised throwing mechanics haven’t been tested in a game.

The Mets have so many issues and questions going into spring training and d’Arnaud is certainly one of the most important. The Mets still have confidence in d’Arnaud – at least they have more in him than Kevin Plawecki – but after three years of little production, both parties have to realize this might be d’Arnaud’s last chance.