Nov 03

Will This Be Nieuwenhuis’ Last Chance?

Will it ever happen for Kirk Nieuwenhuis?

He’s had several chances in each of the last three years, but nothing more than 91 games or 314 plate appearances, which both came in 2012. Last year it was 61 and 130.

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

NIEUWENHUIS: Last chance?

He’s never gone into the season as “the guy.’’ At 27, will he get the opportunity this year? As of now, the outfield consists of Curtis Granderson, Gold Glove candidate Juan Lagares and a left fielder to be named later.

The left fielder could be Nieuwenhuis, or Matt den Dekker or could come in a trade. He likely won’t be a free agent. Many consider den Dekker having the inside track.

Nieuwenhuis has speed and a good glove. He’s shown glimpses of what could be, but too often he fizzles and the window closes.

What he needs is the chance to stay in the line-up after the fizzle. That’s the only way the Mets will learn if they have something.

Sandy Alderson once told me the two things working against Nieuwenhuis is his on-base percentage (.315 for his career) and high propensity for striking out (169 in a career 552 plate appearances). He runs well enough to be a leadoff hitter, but doesn’t reach base enough.

Nieuwenhuis has a career 169-to-53 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, which won’t cut it as a full time player on the major league level.

He’s at the age where he won’t get many more chances. For him to start he’ll have to beat out den Dekker in spring training.

If not, it will be another year as a role player and possibly his last chance.

 

Oct 15

Will Another $10 Million In Payroll Make Much Difference?

As it usually is this time of year, the issue is money, specifically how much are the Mets willing to spend.

The days of $140 million payrolls for them are long since gone. It was around $83 last season and ESPN’s Adam Rubin said they might go as high as $93 million. I trust Rubin’s reporting. As far as I am concerned, he’s the best reporter on the Mets’ beat.

searchIt’s not how much you spend, but how it is supposed to be spent. Therein lies the problem, in that none of us know what GM Sandy Alderson is capable of doing with a lot of money.

He was hired to cut payroll, not add to it and dip into the free-agent market. Assuming a $10 bump in payroll, most will go to raises and arbitration cases. Another $10 million won’t substantially improve the Mets, who have questions at shortstop, left field and maintenance of their bullpen.

This also doesn’t account for on-the-fly patching, which could not only be at catcher – where Travis d’Arnaud is no sure thing – but any position.

The Mets’ problems have been identified, but another $10 million won’t make much difference. Not if they want to be competitive.

Sep 15

Harvey Throws Simulated Game; Mets To Be Commended For Handling Difficult Injury

It wasn’t what he had in mind, but Matt Harvey did get on Citi Field’s mound in 2014.

Several times during the season Harvey chirped about wanting to return in September, and the Mets are to be commended for not giving in to his ardent posturing.

For a team hurting at the gate and playing better than expected, it could have been tempting to acquiesce to Harvey, who made things difficult for the organization, beginning with initially not wanting surgery.

HARVEY: See you in the spring. (MLB)

HARVEY: See you in the spring. (MLB)

Not only did Harvey challenge the Mets’ timetable, but also where he’d rehab. Even so, the Mets realized Harvey’s potential and didn’t cave.

Harvey consistently touched the radar gun at 95 mph., in a simulated game this afternoon. It marked the first time he was clocked since last October’s Tommy John surgery. GM Sandy Alderson said Harvey’s workload in spring training would be like any other starter.

“Everything we were trying to accomplish this season has been accomplished,’’ Alderson told reporters today. “From our standpoint, we want to make sure he was physically back to a level that would ensure he wasn’t behind in spring training.

“And then, secondly, he needed to be back to a state mentally where he felt comfortable going into next season and the uncertainty has been eliminated. We feel we’re at that point.’’

Alderson expressed no regret to how the team handled Harvey’s rehab.

“He hasn’t thrown against hitters,’’ Alderson said. “He hasn’t thrown in games. But, given the schedule and the natural healing process and everything else, we felt this was the right place for him to stop and rest and pick it up next season.’’

Because of the potential for strain on the elbow, the only pitch Harvey did not throw today was his slider. Alderson admitted there’s a strong chance Harvey will be on a strict innings count in 2015, the year the Mets have pointed to when they’ll swim in competitive waters.

The Mets have frequently been criticized for their handling of injuries, but not this time.

Sep 10

Don’t Buy Into Thinking Wright Injury Could Pave Way For Murphy Trade

My first question stemming from the Mets’ shutting down David Wright for the remainder of the season is: What took them so long, especially considering his propensity for playing through pain and injury?

Seriously, Wright has had a sore left shoulder for weeks. He’s played through worse. Last night, Sandy Alderson said Wright “did what captains do,’’ and he “preserved.’’

MURPHY: Think he's staying. (AP)

MURPHY: Bet on him staying. (AP)

But, could the Mets have been more proactive? It’s easy to say so, but as unlikely as it seemed, the wildcard was still possible, they hadn’t had a winning season since 2008, so their thinking was to go with their best shot, that being Wright.

I won’t bury the Mets for sticking with Wright, but analyze where they are headed without him for the remainder of this season and the future, which some suggest are linked.

It has already been decided Daniel Murphy will replace Wright at third and Dilson Herrera coming off the bench and back to second. In theory, the Mets would be showcasing Murphy for a possible trade this winter.

What’s not to like about Murphy in the eyes of another team? He’s an All-Star; he’s worked hard to become an above average second-baseman; his natural position is third; he doesn’t make a lot of money; and he never stops hustling.

The problem other teams see in him is the same the Mets do, and that’s he doesn’t hit for power, especially at an infield corner position. Nine homers this year and 48 in just less than 3,000 career at-bats won’t have a contender drooling.

The Mets covet a power hitter, and Murphy won’t get them one by himself. The only way Murphy nets the Mets a slugger – especially a corner outfielder – is if he’s packaged with one of the young pitchers they covet.

Bottom line, unless the Mets ease up on their young pitching, I don’t see Murphy going anywhere this winter. That’s because they want to keep their pitching more than they desire a power hitter.

 

Feb 28

Does Sandy Alderson Really Believe 90 Wins Is Possible For Mets?

Does Sandy Alderson really believe the New York Mets are capable of winning 90 games this season?

Reportedly, that’s what Alderson told his staff in an internal meeting this week. He has not made such a decree to the media.

ALDERSON: What's he thinking?

ALDERSON: What’s he thinking?

Ninety wins last year would have tied the Mets with Cincinnati for the last wild-card spot. It would have put them in the playoffs in 2012; tied them with St. Louis for a wild card in 2011; tied them with Milwaukee for a wild card in 2008; and tied them for the NL East lead with Philadelphia in 2007.

That last season, you’ll recall the Mets coughed up a seven-game lead with 17 remaining, losing in the season finale to Miami at Shea Stadium.

David Wright doesn’t mind the projection.

“I love the fact that Sandy is confident in us,’’ Wright said. “I think 90 is challenging, it’s attainable and it’s a good starting point for us.

“You know, number goals, it’s tough to come out and say, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. We’re going to do that.’ But I think 90 is a good starting point for giving us something to shoot for and getting guys to understand that mediocrity is not going to be acceptable.’’

A lot of things must break right for the Mets to win 16 more games than last year, which is roughly a 20-percent improvement, despite the loss of Matt Harvey:

* They must remain injury free with their key players.

* Jonathon Niese, who already has a shoulder issue, must win a lot more games than the eight he did last year.

* Zack Wheeler must continue to develop.

* Dillon Gee can’t afford a drop for last season’s 199 innings.

* Bartolo Colon needs another solid year.

* There must be consistency from the fifth starter.

* There must be stability in the bullpen, beginning with Bobby Parnell’s recovery.

* It would be nice to see something from Travis d’Arnaud.

* Ike Davis needs to show he can play this game.

* There must be dramatic improvement at shortstop, whether from Ruben Tejada, or whomever they might bring in.

* Wright needs to re-establish himself as a dominant run producer, so .300, 30 and 100 has to happen.

* Curtis Granderson can’t afford to morph into another Jason Bay.

* All those homers Chris Young used to hit, well, he has to hit them again.

* There should be a breakout years from either Eric Young or Juan Lagares.

* They must have a winning record at home, in one-run games and within the division, all areas in which they struggled the past few years.

Ninety victories is a bold prediction. Meanwhile, I was thinking .500 – which is one more win a month –would be substantial improvement.

With all the variables listed above, I wonder what gives Alderson confidence to think 90 wins are possible. I also wonder what Terry Collins must think.

ON DECK: Mets Wrap.