May 31

Mets Must Do More To Stay Relevant

Shaun Marcum is pitching to extend the Mets’ winning streak to six games tonight in Miami. The Mets surprised some people this week, perhaps even the Phillies and Nationals, whom they trail by one and two games, respectively, in the lost column.

The Mets have three with the Marlins before heading to Washington. It sure would add some spice to the spring if the Mets were to close the gap on the Nationals before getting to DC.

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP_

PARNELL: Leads recent bullpen surge. (AP)

They obviously became relevant to the Yankees this week, but there are several things that must happen for that relevance to carry over to the National League East.

It begins with pitching, and the Mets have been superb in not giving up a walk for three straight games. That’s something they hadn’t done since 1994, and almost incomprehensible.

The time is rapidly approaching when Zack Wheeler could be ready, but they should ride Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee – both coming off strong starts – for as long as they can. Marcum will stay in the rotation by virtue of making $4 million this year.

Mets starters are on a roll with a 2.91 ERA in over their last nine starts. The bullpen is also producing, giving up just two runs in its last 13.2 innings. The Mets bullpen has seven victories, but that can be misleading as it indicates blown saves by the middle-inning pitchers and entering the game with the starter either tied or behind.

Should the pitching continue the Mets could find themselves in an interesting summer. Stranger things have happened.

The Mets’ offense collapsed in the second half last year, and save David Wright and Daniel Murphy, there’s been little consistent production.

That must change, and fast.

Marlon Byrd came through Thursday night and Lucas Duda the night before, but more is needed from Duda and Ike Davis.

How bad has Davis been? Consider this, he has 13 RBI for the season. In contrast, Cubs pitchers have 19 in May.

Davis is batting eighth tonight and those whispers of going back to the minors are getting louder. As long as the Mets are winning, Davis is likely to stay. But, eventually he needs to get this straightened out.

Here’s tonight’s lineup against Miami starter Jacob Turner:

Omar Quintanilla, SS: The eighth Met to hit in the leadoff spot.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Has hit safely in 14 of his last 18 games, including nine doubles, two homers and 10 RBI.

David Wright, 3B: Hitting just .189  (7-37) in his last ten games.

Lucas Duda, LF: Has hit in 11 of last 13 games (.308), including game-ending run Tuesday against Mariano Rivera.

John Buck, C: Hitting .350 (14-40) with RISP.

Rick Ankiel, CF: Has two homers and seven RBI in 15 games with Mets.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Has 14 RBI in 19 games in May.

Ike Davis, 1B: Hitting .141 on the road with no homers.

Shaun Marcum, RHP: Coming off 12-strikeout performance in no-decision against Braves.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 31

Terry Collins Threw His Team Under The Bus

There are times I don’t get Terry Collins, for example his admission his clubhouse was beginning to lose hope.

“Due to what we’ve gone through in the last three weeks, the hardest thing I’ve done is try to keep these guys positive,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday night’s win over the Yankees. “That’s the biggest part of this job. It wasn’t about changing stances or shuffling bullpens. It was about trying to keep the guys in the clubhouse positive.’’

COLLINS: Questioned his team's character.

COLLINS: Questioned his team’s character.

I understand where he’s coming from, as certainly that was everybody’s impression.

While I applaud his candor, but I don’t understand why he would go in that direction. One of the first things a manager is graded on is his ability to have his players go to the mat for him. Basically, Collins admitted he was losing his team.

Terry Francona admitted that in Boston and is now managing the Indians.

Even if it were true, never admit it because that’s ammunition to be used against you. Never admit it, because once it is out there the perception won’t go away and will surface during the next losing streak. Never admit it, because it is a sign of weakness.

Collins then threw his players under the bus. Whether he meant to or not, he did because it opens the door for finger-pointing. Who quit?

“Look, you’ve got to work your way out of it. Everybody goes through some bad times. You’ve got to work your way out of it,’’ Collins said.

With that, he should have stopped, but like the guy in the seat next to you on a plane, he wouldn’t shut up.

“That was the hardest part of this, because you could sense there was tremendous frustration,’’ he continued. “Guys were down. You heard some of those guys that I had been with for three years now start to say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t do it anymore.’ You can’t listen to that, because it’s a long, hard season.’’

OK, who said that? Who was on the verge of quitting? Did anybody dog it? If David Wright is the captain of this team, shouldn’t have he done something?

And, if you’re a player in that clubhouse, you have to wonder: Is he talking about me?

Basically, Collins left it up to the media to find and expose those who were giving up or were pressing. Collins is telling us his team is not of strong character or will.

Then came the threat of demotions for Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada. The appearance is he used the minor leagues as a punishment. Was this a threat to just Davis and Tejada or a message to everybody?

If it was intended for everybody, then it shouldn’t have come in late May, but during spring training. Collins should have said: “This team will hustle. This team will play fundamental baseball. This team will concentrate. This team will not draw undue attention to itself.’’

Simple messages, all, which should come with a simple qualifier: Do these things or we’ll get somebody who can.

I don’t like that Davis is stubborn about his hitting approach and the concept of going to the minor leagues to improve. I don’t like Jordany Valdespin’s attitude and me-first nature. And, I thought Collin McHugh’s tweet the other night was amateurish and out-of-line.

McHugh tweeted: “You can call us the NYC Sanitation Dept. because we just SWEPT the Yankees from Queens to the Bronx.’’

Is he serious? Let McHugh do something, maybe win a few games before he trashes an opposition that with the exception of this week and a few other times, has pretty much had its way with the Mets.

A tweet like that shows Collins doesn’t have control over his clubhouse. An admission there were players thinking, “I can’t do this anymore,’’ suggests the same.

The Mets have won five straight and head to Miami this weekend to play a team they should beat. But, what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse last night in the Bronx is something that would have stayed in a smart clubhouse. It is something that makes you wonder whether their mind is able to focus enough to continue this run.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum and the lineups.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

 

May 30

Mets Wrap, May 30: Dillon Gee Makes Rotation Statement

Pitching with his spot in the rotation on the line, Dillon Gee was magnificent as he struck out 12 and retired the last 15 hitters to carry the Mets to a 3-1 victory Thursday night over the Yankees. With the win, the Mets won consecutive two-game series and five straight games overall. After being 12 games under .500, the Mets are now 22-29.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

ON THE MOUND: Gee gave up one run on four hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Gee limited the Yankees to a Robinson Cano homer in the third. Gee struck out the final five hitters he faced. … Scott Rice recorded two outs in the eighth and Bobby Parnell shut down the Yankees in the ninth for his ninth save.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets managed just four hits, the most important being Marlon Byrd’s two-run homer in the second. John Buck drove in the Mets’ third run with an infield single in the eighth. … The Mets were 1-for-9 with RISP.

THEY SAID IT: “I’m not stupid,’’ – Gee when asked if he recognized the situation in the Mets’ rotation.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20: Consecutive Yankees retired to end the game.

METS MATTERS: Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will have his broken left foot re-examined Friday. The projection for d’Arnaud is now as a September call-up, which would preclude trading Buck to a contender. … Terry Collins said Omar Quintanilla, if he’s playing well, could remain the shortstop when Ruben Tejada comes off the disabled list. … Jon Niese was scratched from Saturday’s start with tendinitis in his left shoulder. He will be replaced by Collin McHugh. … Reliever Scott Atchison, on the disabled list with numbness in his right fingers, could have elbow surgery to remove a bone spur.

ON DECK: The Mets start a three-game series beginning Friday in Miami. Shaun Marcum starts Friday.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 30

Ruben Tejada Issue Solves Itself

It appears the Ruben Tejada problem has taken care of itself.

On the day after hearing a wake-up ultimatum or risk being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas, Tejada strained his right quadriceps going after a ball he had no chance of catching in Wednesday night’s victory over the Yankees.

TEJADA: A head-scratching player.

TEJADA: A head-scratching player.

That left the Mets with the easy option of placing Tejada on the disabled list, where he could stay for two weeks. Once Tejada begins a rehab assignment, the Mets will have 20 days in which to activate him. That’s nearly five Tejada-free weeks.

Tejada ran a long way for the ball – one of the few bursts of hustle we’ve seen from him – but to risk injury in a blowout game was senseless. Even worse, was he nearly took out left fielder Mike Baxter in a sliding attempt at the ball.

It was the latest in a series of head-scratching plays from Tejada, who had a brain cramp in the sixth when he looked the runner back to third despite a big lead and didn’t get the runner at first.

It’s one thing to make a physical error, of which he’s had many, but shortstop is a thinking position and he gives the Mets nothing when his mind is elsewhere. In some ways, his wandering mind reminds me of Angel Pagan.

Tejada first tested Terry Collins’ patience when he didn’t report early to spring training in 2012. Collins reasoned with Tejada to replace Jose Reyes, the new shortstop would want to get a head start.

Collins was clearly annoyed that Tejada wasn’t in good shape, but had few options. Tejada made things easier for himself with a solid offensive season, but defense – supposedly his strong suit – was erratic.

Tejada opened the season with a handful of errors in the first two weeks and has been shaky since. At the plate, he couldn’t break the habit of hitting the ball in the air, which makes him an easy out.

Tejada has not been able to seize the leadoff spot, and when he does get on there are times he looks clueless on the bases, such as when he was picked off second Tuesday night.

The Mets won Tuesday giving Tejada another day, but even without the injury, his play Wednesday warranted a demotion.

The Mets are expected to promote Omar Quintanilla today. Quintanilla was a last-day cut in spring training when the Mets opted to keep Kirk Nieuwenhuis as an extra outfielder. To make room on the 40-man roster, they could move Frank Francisco to the 60-day disabled list.

The Mets won despite Tejada in large part because of Jeremy Hefner’s strong start. Hefner has pitched well, but in bad luck lately. He’s pitched well enough to stay in the rotation, but the Mets must make a move when Zack Wheeler is ready.

One demotion possibility is tonight’s starter, Dillon Gee (2-6, 6.34 ERA). If not him, then perhaps Collin McHugh would go. The underperforming Shaun Marcum isn’t leaving because he’s getting $4 million this year.

After the Pittsburgh series, I wrote how the following two weeks could define their season. It didn’t look good in St. Louis and when they were swept by Cincinnati.

However, they have sparked interest with this four-game winning streak, and with two series coming up against Miami, they could see relevance again.

ON DECK: Dillon Gee pitching for his job.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 26

From One Miserable Week To Another For Mets

It was a rough week for your Mets and the upcoming week doesn’t figure to get any easier.

Whatever good feelings developed at Wrigley Field quickly evaporated when they returned home to be swept by Cincinnati. They followed that with losing their first two against the Braves, with once again Dillon Gee running into that one buzz saw inning that shredded him. They conclude their series at Citi Field with Atlanta today behind 0-5 Shaun Marcum on the mound.

No, he’s not one to inspire Matt Harvey-like confidence.

If there was a Game of the Week, it was Harvey’s no-decision Wednesday, in which they took him off the hook to keep him unbeaten.

The Met most in focus this week was Ike Davis, whose .148 average has him on the verge of being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas since before the Pittsburgh series. Davis can’t hit the high heat or low-and-slow breaking pitches. He’s lost at the plate and carried his funk out to the field.

Pitchers on this level give no quarter, and despite Davis’ proclamation he needs to learn to hit on this level, it is obvious this isn’t the place, not with quality arms against him and the cascading boos. That the Mets have waited this long is indication of their thin minor league system and lack of faith in those players down below.

The Mets escape the National League this week for the Subway Series, this time under the new format of two games each in Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are always a formidable obstacle for the Mets, but despite a bulk of their multi-million dollar talent on the disabled list, the Yankees are sizzling. It is sobering the Yankees’ minor leaguers and retreads are better than the Mets’ starters.

Jon Niese and Harvey start Monday and Tuesday, respectively, at Citi Field, where tickets – and plenty of them – are available. They can also be had at Yankee Stadium, an indication the interleague gimmick is cooling.

Interleague play has never appealed to me, but since it isn’t going away, this is a better Mets-Yankees format. Have the games dominate the week and be done with them. Four games are right while six is too many.

Everywhere he goes in his farewell tour Future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera visits with a selected group of fans and honored by the opposition. When the Yankees were in Cleveland, the home of Rock ‘n Roll, the Indians presented him a framed gold record of “Enter Sandman’’ his take-the-mound music as a gift. The Mets presented Chipper Jones with artwork of Shea Stadium.

The Mets will honor Rivera on Tuesday.

Noted for breaking bats with his fierce cutter, one of the best gift ideas I heard speculated was to presented him an autographed cracked bat from the opposition. It is such a novel idea.

I hope he gets one from David Wright. It is piling on, but I can’t help it, he won’t get one from Davis as that would mean making contact.

Yes, yes, that’s cruel. However, there is an element of truth to it, right?

The week ends in Miami for a series against the anonymous Marlins, whose lone reason for watching, Giancarlo Stanton, was injured when the teams last played.

Niese and Harvey are scheduled to go Saturday and Sunday.

Then comes June, but the good news is they can’t swoon any more than they already have.

Can they?