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.

 

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.