Mar 27

Seven Things For The Mets To Make The Playoffs

Can the Mets reach the playoffs? It would take at least 86 victories, which is 16 more than last season, and that’s a reach. I don’t think it will happen, but stranger things have happened with the Mets. If it does happen, the  Mets need the following seven things fall into place:

DE GROM: One of the few answers. (AP)

           DE GROM: One of the few answers. (AP)

No injuries: They are due for a healthy season, beginning with their rotation. They already had a few this spring, and Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are coming off surgery. They have to be incredibly lucky from here on out.

As far as their position players are concerned, they need Michael Conforto (shoulder) and Yoenis Cespedes (shoulder and hamstrings) to return and have monster seasons. Conforto will miss the first month, so that’s at least 100 at-bats they’ll miss.

Who will fill that void?

Rotation lives up to the hype: Zack Wheeler will open the season in the minors and Jason Vargas on the disabled list. Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom will have to win at least 17 games each, and Harvey has to win at least 15.

Relievers must fill their roles: Manager Mickey Callaway hinted at a closer-by-committee format, but Jeurys Familia will get the first chance to close.

Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo will combine for the Andrew Miller role (once the latter is replaced in the rotation by either Vargas or Wheeler). That’s something new with Callaway and it is a gamble that must work.

The older guys’ encore: Specifically, that would be Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Reyes and Jay Bruce. Frazier and Bruce must have big seasons, defined as at least 20 homers and 80 RBI.

The young guys can’t be intimidated: Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares will get at-bats in April with Conforto injured. Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith – when he comes up – are offensive liabilities. That has to change.

Win the East: When the Mets reached the World Series in 2015, they did so in large part by Washington getting off to a miserable start and the Mets beating up on the Nationals and Braves. That has to happen again.

Sandy Alderson must not blink at the deadline: In 2015, when the Carlos Gomez trade fell through he immediately went after Cespedes. If the Mets are close at the end of July, Alderson can’t be afraid to pull the trigger.

Mar 25

High Marks For Callaway In First Spring

There’s nothing Mickey Callaway will learn by Thursday he already doesn’t know by now about his Mets. He had to know when he took the job that the Mets were lacking, and with his first spring training nearly under his belt, that’s still the case.

We won’t know about Callaway’s managerial acumen until the games count, and, of course, this spring training doesn’t mean anything. It was a learning experience for Callaway, his team, and for all followers of the Mets.

I don’t what kind of manager Callaway will become, but the first impression has been a good one. Callaway has only one real decision, and that’s a short-term one in how to divide the time in center between Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares until Michael Conforto returns.

Other than that, Callaway doesn’t have many critical decisions to make before the Cardinals come to town. What I like so far is how he’s handled what decisions he’s made so far:

Opening Day starter: When Jacob deGrom came down with a sore back and making as the Opening Day starter would be a stretch, Callaway named Noah Syndergaard and it took the pressure off everybody. Callaway let deGrom get ready at his own pace and didn’t rush him to get ready, which was contrary to what Sandy Alderson did last spring.

Harvey: Callaway has refrained from making any bold projections on any expectations, something that hasn’t always been the case. All Callaway has said about Harvey is that he just wants him to be as good as he can be. It’s pretty vague, but is better than saying he can win 17 games. Just let him pitch then watch him hit the free agent market.

First base: This figures to be a mess with Dominic Smith hurting and Adrian Gonzalez not hitting. Callaway has said Wilmer Flores will get more at-bats – but we’ve heard that before – and made no predictions about Smith.

Injuries: It hasn’t been an injury-free spring for the Mets, but he’s made no promises about Yoenis Cespedes or Jeurys Familia and Conforto other than to say he’ll miss the first month of the season. When it would have been tempting to push Conforto the first-year manager – and yes, Alderson, also – opted for patience.

A lot of managers coming into a high-profile job such as the Mets might be inclined to make promises and bold predictions. We’ve heard them from Jerry Manuel and Terry Collins but so far we haven’t heard any from Callaway.

So far, so good, regardless of what their spring training record was.

Oct 24

Callaway’s Things To Do List

Mickey Callaway was probably working on “Things To Do’’ list the moment he talked to Sandy Alderson on the phone asking his interest in managing the Mets. Odds are, he went over the list during the interview.

Here’s what I’m guessing is on that list:

Meet with Alderson: Callaway and Alderson will meet to discuss among other things: what went wrong in 2017 for the Mets; issues Alderson must be consulted on; the coaching staff; injuries; pitching issues; preliminary roster evaluation; and spring training.

Coaching staff: Everybody wants to know who Callaway will choose to be pitching coach. Much was made about collaboration at yesterday’s introductory press conference. Will Callaway have free reign? Not on all matters, but it’s doubtful Alderson will bully him on that choice. If Callaway has a name in mind, I’m guessing Alderson won’t stand in his way.

Callaway hopes to develop his coaching staff the same way Terry Francona did in Cleveland.

“[Francona] empowered me to do everything I could to make us the most successful staff we could be,’’ Callaway said. “I realized very quickly that I’m not just a pitching coach, I have to manage all these people and their personalities. I know there’s a process for that.’’

Odds are hitting coach Kevin Long won’t be back. He’ll interview to replace Dusty Baker in Washington, where he’ll undoubtedly get a hearty endorsement from Daniel Murphy.

Since this is Callaway’s first managerial assignment – and let’s hope it lasts for a decade or more – he’ll need a strong bench coach, one not to be afraid to voice his opinion and be a yes man.

Talk with the players: Callaway said at least a half-dozen times he plans to tell the players he cares about them. Presumably, that will include talking with Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes about their off-season workout programs that resulted in season-ending injuries.

Callaway and his pitching coach will undoubtedly spend a lot of time talking with the staff. He’ll ask pointed questions trying to ascertain the cause of the injuries. For Syndergaard that would mean his off-season weight training and for Matt Harvey that would mean being rushed back.

Evaluate the roster: He and Alderson will evaluate the current roster as to ascertain holes and needs. Considering the pitching injuries, that would likely include adding a starter and another reliever.

Among the first things they’ll have to determine is the likelihood of Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Cespedes and Michael Conforto will be ready for spring training.

Preliminary decisions could also be made on Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Find another Miller: Unfortunately, they won’t get the real Andrew Miller, but Callaway will look at his relievers in the hope finding the Mets’ best facsimile. That might also include considering starters Harvey, Wheeler, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for that role.

Baseball has changed and that includes bullpen roles. Francona and Callaway were on the cutting edge with how they used Miller so you’ll have to presume he’ll bring that role to New York.

Defining an offensive philosophy: Alderson loves Sabermetrics, which emphasize home runs at the cost of strikeouts.

Cleveland’s offense incorporated power with situational hitting, a high on-base percentage and speed. I hope Callaway brings some of that to the Mets.

Living solely on power hasn’t gotten it done for the Mets.

 

Sep 23

What Did We Learn Tonight From Mets?

So, what did we learn tonight about the Mets’ great experiment involving Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey?

As you know, Syndergaard came off the disabled list to start, but only pitch one inning while Harvey continued his rehab in relief.

What we learned is very little has changed:

About Syndergaard: Not a damned thing. Seriously, how could we with only five pitches thrown? This had to be another Sandy Alderson decision. The deciding factor in limiting a pitcher’s workload is innings and not pitches. What can you learn with five pitches? I understand Harvey warmed up, but what would have been the harm of another ten minutes?

What tonight meant was Syndergaard is likely to get another start next weekend in Philadelphia. Maybe they’ll go with the innings in that one.

About Harvey: He gave up three runs on four pitches in four innings. The first two were scoreless, which would have been encouraging if the bullpen was his destiny, something that should be considered.

Harvey gave up two homers and has given up 20 homers in 88.2 innings.

“It’s frustrating to struggle and not know why,’’ Harvey said.

We know why … he’s just not good these days.

The Mets’ bullpen: The Mets used NINE pitchers tonight. Jeurys Familia pitched again and was very effective, but should have gone out for the tenth inning.

Lefty Josh Smoker was also effective and I liked that manager Terry Collins let him pitch to a right-handed hitter.

Daniel Murphy rocked again: Murphy hit his ninth homer off Mets’ pitching, including the game-winner in the tenth inning. He also doubled.

The defense of Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario: Smith saved Rosario a throwing error, something he’s already done for the Mets and Las Vegas. Rosario continues to pump his glove before throwing, something that already cost the Mets since he was brought up from the minors. He’s been told about his throwing already since his promotion. Makes me wonder why he wasn’t told while at Las Vegas.

 

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.