Oct 31

Four Items On Van Wagenen’s Plate

New general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said there are 11 parts to his plans to remaking the Mets. He wouldn’t elaborate what they were, but it is believed he touched on one when he said he wanted Mickey Callaway to return as manager.

I’m speculating the following four are on his list:

Increase the Payroll: They should come in no higher than $160 million. Given the money they’ll save with David Wright’s retirement ($15 million for this summer) and what insurance will pick up with Yoenis Cespedes not likely to return before July, offset by raises earmarked for Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo and what the Mets might do in upgrading their bullpen, don’t expect them to splurge on free agents Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.

The Mets are expected to bring back second baseman Jeff McNeil to a raise and need to bring in a center fielder, a catcher and perhaps a first baseman, not to mention a significant reliever. Whether that reliever is top shelf or middle tier, it will cost.

Keep the Rotation Intact: The Mets entertained trading all of their starters last season, and are expected to keep them all this winter. DeGrom and Syndergaard will get hefty raises. Since they aren’t anticipated to do a bullpen game for the fifth slot, they’ll need a fifth starter. Is it Seth Lugo, Jason Vargas or Robert Gsellman, or somebody from the minors?

Van Wagenen will confer with Callaway, John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi this week to get a handle on the rotation. The rotation is potentially the team’s strength and the first four must be kept, but it will increase payroll.

Improving the Lineup: Don’t expect the Mets to dive deep into the free-agent or trade markets despite the optimism Van Wagenen and COO Jeff Wilpon portrayed. The Mets must upgrade at catcher and I don’t see them tendering a contract to Travis d’Arnaud. First base is a concern and decisions must be made on Peter Alonso or Dominic Smith, or will Van Wagenen fool around with Jay Bruce, Wilmer Flores or Todd Frazier? If the Mets are serious about winning now they must improve catcher and first base. They could have traded for Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona, but that boat sailed when they picked up his option yesterday. The radio call-in shows in New York were filled with callers chiming for Machado, but that would be a horrible mistake.

I was against signing Cespedes because the money would have been better spent on filling the numerous holes the Mets have and still do. Considering Machado is reportedly due twice as much as Cespedes, think of all the improvements the Mets could make.

Upgrade the Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Joe Kelly are the most enticing names in the market. Of course, all will want long-term, expensive contracts. Former GM Sandy Alderson failed to build a bullpen and consistently used the scrap-heap approach. Van Wagenen has to sign a name reliever, and that discounts the possibility of a reunion with Jeurys Familia. Rookies Tyler Bashlor and Drew Smith, and Lugo or Gsellman all pitched well last season at times.

They need to sign one of the four because they desperately need a closer. Bringing back Familia would be a step back. The Mets have plenty of inexperienced hard-throwing relievers, who didn’t distinguish themselves last summer. They have a half-dozen hard-throwers but need at least two or three to show something during spring training.

These four items say the Mets aren’t ready to win now. And, there are at least seven more issues to go.

 

Jun 01

Mets Lose Another; Callaway Calls Team Meeting

Mets manager Mickey Callaway said he didn’t believe in team meetings, but called one after Friday’s sloppy 7-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs to fall under .500 for the first time this season.

The headline was the bullpen that gave up five runs and allowed two inherited runners to score, but Callaway said the Mets haven’t been giving themselves a chance to win.

“We’re not snake bitten,’’ an excited Callaway said. “We’re not playing the game the right way. It’s a big snowball effect when you’re not playing the game the right way.’’

It was long overdue. Callaway has been even-keel, and his message was short and sweet.

“He said, `Keep your head up and come in here and do the right thing,’’ said Jay Bruce. “No one cares if you have injuries, you have to play the game the right way, do the little things and expect to come in here and win.’’

Callaway mentioned outfielders Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo overthrowing the cut-off man; failure to taking the extra base and advance runners, and pitchers issuing leadoff walks.

“He’s right,” Conforto said. “It’s something I’ve been working on. I just didn’t do it. This is something I can control. … This is a wake-up call that we needed. … It’s not about bad luck. It’s about playing better baseball.”

After starting the season at 11-1, the Mets are now 27-28, and losers of seven of their last ten games. They are 12-15 at Citi Field, and lucky to be one game under .500 considering they have a minus-23 run differential overall.

BRUCE HURTING:: Another day, another Met is hurting. Bruce left tonight’s game with tightness in his lower back. Bruce is also slowed with plantar fasciitis, and you have to wonder whether that brought on the sore back.

Bruce said he felt something prior to the game, but was unable to play through it.

The Mets already have outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares on the disabled list, so it would hurt to lose Bruce, but if he’s hurting he’s not doing them any good and should go on the DL. Bruce is hitting .228 with three homers and 15 RBI.

Callaway said Bruce should be available for Saturday.

The Mets added Jose Bautista, who has played well, and Nimmo is making the most of his opportunity. His OPS is over 1.000, and he hit a two-run homer in tonight’s 7-4 loss.

ROTATION WOES: Noah Syndergaard remains on the DL with a strained ligament in his right index finger and his not expected to be activated prior to next weekend’s series against the Yankees.

Zack Wheeler started tonight and pitched well, giving up just two runs [inherited runners that the bullpen allowed to score].

Jacob deGrom will start Saturday and Steven Matz Sunday.

Either Seth Lugo or Jason Vargas will start Tuesday against Baltimore. Whoever doesn’t start Tuesday – or Wheeler – could start Wednesday.

GSELLMAN SITS: Once again the Mets bullpen imploded, and surprisingly Robert Gsellman wasn’t used considering he didn’t pitch Thursday. Callaway said Gsellman, who had been pitching a lot lately, was scheduled to be off.

EXTRA INNINGS: Kevin Plawecki will start at first base Saturday. … Callaway is hoping for Todd Frazier and/or Cespedes to come off the disabled list for the Yankees series. … Jose Lobaton was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas, giving the Mets three catchers. That’s not a lot of flexibility for an already weak and thin bench. … Reliever Anthony Swarzak is expected to be recalled Tuesday.

May 30

They Are The Mets, So Things Can Always Get Worse

They are the Mets, so when it comes to injuries, of course, things can get worse. Expect it. The team that began the season boasting about its pitching depth is now scrounging for healthy arms. Forget productive arms for now, the Mets just need somebody to get the ball across the plate.

Strikes would be nice, but manager Mickey Callaway will take what he can get for now.

MATZ: Will he go on the DL? (AP)

MATZ: Will he go on the DL? (AP)

On Tuesday, Noah Syndergaard went on the disabled list with a strained ligament in his right index finger. Later that day, Steven Matz left at the start of the fourth inning with a bone bruise to his left middle finger.

This came after he doubled in the top of the inning.

X-Rays were negative, but an MRI today could determine if he joins Syndergaard on the DL.

“When I was standing on second base [the finger] was starting to throb a little bit out there,’’ Matz said after the Mets lost 7-6 loss in Atlanta. “I threw a couple of [warmup] pitches and felt it.”

Matz said the pain in the knuckle.

Jason Vargas will start in place of Syndergaard tonight, and Seth Lugo will get the start Thursday against the Cubs at Citi Field.

Currently, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Vargas are the only projected starters still in the rotation. Vargas, who will start on three-days rest, is pitching as if he were injured with a 1-3 record and 10.62 ERA in five starts.

“He won’t be that limited,” Callaway said. “We will really just have to see how he does and gets through the game fatigue-wise.”

Injuries helped derail the Mets last season, and are threatening to do so again this year. The Mets were fortunate to have deGrom miss only one start because of a hyperextended elbow. Not so lucky are Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, Wilmer Flores, Anthony Swarzak, Juan Lagares, AJ Ramos, Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud.

Asdrubal Cabrera is also playing with a sore knee.

May 09

Mets Bat Out Of Order; Lose Again

If what happened to the Mets today in Cincinnati isn’t hitting rock bottom, well, it should be. It doesn’t get much worse than a major league team batting order, which is what occurred in the first inning of today’s 2-1 loss in ten innings to the Reds.

The lineup card coach given the umpires prior to the game by coach Ruben Amaro Jr., has Asdrubal Cabrera second and Wilmer Flores third, which was different than the one publicly. That one had Flores second and Cabrera third, which is how they appeared at the plate when Cabrera blooped a two-out double to left with Jay Bruce coming up.

After the double, Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman, informed the umpires of the discrepancy and Bruce was called out.

This should be double-checked by the bench coach, Gary Disarcina, but Callaway wouldn’t throw his coach under the bus.

“I’m responsible for that,’’ Callaway said. “It probably cost us the game.’’

Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t, but stuff like this shouldn’t happen.

However, to Callaway’s credit, he got in front of it and accepted full responsibility. Rather than make excuses or blame somebody else, Callaway held himself accountable.

I’m sure nobody is happy with what’s going on with the Mets these days, but how Callaway took the blame is something that shouldn’t get lost on his team.

Wheeler Clicks With Mesoraco: Zack Wheeler and newly-acquired catcher Devin Mesoraco are off to a good start in their working relationship. With Mesoraco, who was acquired Monday for Matt Harvey, behind the plate today, Wheeler was sharp in a loss to Cincinnati.

Wheeler retired 12 straight Reds from the second through fifth innings but unraveled in the sixth. Even so, after giving up an RBI single to Joey Votto, Wheeler got out of a bases-loaded jam with only that one run given up.

Wheeler gave up one run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts in six innings in his best outing since giving up one run in seven innings, April 11, at Miami.

“I felt good,’’ Wheeler said. “I was able to hit my spots today. I did feel like I was moving a little bit quicker. I felt comfortable with him behind the plate. We were both on the same page.’’

Callaway Not Giving Up On Hitters: The Mets had a chance to win today not because of their offense, but because of Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo pitching picked them up today.

“Our hitters will come around,” Callaway said. “We did and dig and dig, but sometimes you don’t have an answer. We’ll figure it out.”

With the exception of Cabrera’s .319 average, no Mets starter was hitting higher than Brandon Nimmo’s .255 today. Even so, Callaway is trying to be positive.

“If I were to get angry and yell at people it wouldn’t be productive,’’ Callaway said. “I think the guys have been going about things the right way and we haven’t been winning.’’

Extra Innings: Yoenis Cespedes didn’t start, but grounded out batting for Seth Lugo in the tenth. … The Mets are off tomorrow, then start a three-game series in Philadelphia. The Mets are 40-17 in their last 57 games in Philly, and have outscored the Phillies 307-186 in that span.

Apr 27

Fast Start Has Saved Mets

We always knew this day would come, Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who was hired in large part for his optimism, will now be forced to put into practice. Once 11-1, the Mets limp into San Diego tonight with a 15-8 record, having lost their last three series and their closer Jeurys Familia having blown three of his last five save opportunities.

Still, Callaway doesn’t appear flustered.

MATZ: Struggling.. (AP)

                             MATZ: Struggling. (AP)

“It would be frustrating if we weren’t where we’re at in the standings,” Callaway said after Thursday’s 4-3 extra-innings loss in St. Louis. “We’re still in a pretty good spot. What has happened the last week, or week and a half or whatever is not going to continue to happen. It’s just not going to happen.”

Keep a good thought, Mickey.

On a positive note, the best way to stop a fall is with your best pitcher and that’s Jacob deGrom.

On the flip side, the Mets are developing a staggering list of negatives, primarily with their pitching, considered to be their team strength entering the season.

Matt Harvey, 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA, is already out of the rotation, and Steven Matz (1-2, 4.98) and Zack Wheeler (1-1, 4.24) haven’t pitched well enough to stay in.

Closer Familia is floundering and AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins have done nothing worthy of replacing him.

Should the Mets opt to promote Robert Gsellman and/or Seth Lugo from the bullpen to the rotation, that would consequently weaken the pen.

Offensively, the Mets are down to their third and fourth catchers and combined they are hitting less than .125.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .203. Yoenis Cespedes hit a 463-foot homer in St. Louis and is on pace to hit 34 homers. Big deal, he’s also on pace to strikeout 277 times. Not even his projected 155 RBI can make up for that many wasted at-bats.