May 24

Mets Road Gets Rougher With Braves Coming In

The Atlanta Braves don’t have Chipper Jones anymore, but still represent the yardstick in which the Mets like to measure themselves.

There is no longer a rivalry for National League East supremacy, and what there once was had been dominated by the Braves. Kenny Rogers’ wildness and Armando Benitez ensured trumped Robin Ventura’s grand slam single.

DAVIS: Still here.

DAVIS: Still here.

Arguably, the Mets’ greatest moment in the rivalry – outside winning the 1969 NLCS – was Mike Piazza’s thunderbolt after September 11.

The Braves, who paid no attention to preseason speculation of Washington running away with the division and going straight to the World Series, are in first place, 4 ½ games ahead of the Nationals and 10 up on the Mets.

Atlanta is in for the start of a three-game series tonight, and it will be odd not to have Jones around to boo. Even so, the Braves might be the best run team in the National League and they have the same blueprint.

Gone are Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, but this weekend the Mets skip Tim Hudson, but get Kris Medlen (1-5), Mike Minor (5-2) and Julio Teheran (3-1). If they get through them, the Braves (2.79) have the third-ranked bullpen behind San Francisco and Pittsburgh, and might have the league’s premier closer in Craig Kimbrel.

The Braves have always been about fundamentals, pitching and power, and this season is no different with Justin Upton (14 homers), B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward, an outfield the Mets could only dream about.

Evan Gattis (10 homers) has more than capably handled the plate while Brian McCann has been on the disabled list.

Meanwhile, the Mets have been listless offensively, scoring more than four runs only once since beating the Braves, 7-5, on May 3. Their hitters are striking out roughly ten times a game and it is only a matter of time before Ike Davis (.147 and on a 1-for-38 slide) is shipped out to the minors.

The Mets, losers of 10 of their last 12 games, have Jeremy Hefner, Dillon Gee and Shaun Marcum, who are a combined 2-15 going for them. Hefner and Marcum comprise 40 percent of the rotation and have no victories.

Once 10-9, the Mets are 17-27 and in a free fall towards irrelevance. Prior to the Pirates series, when the Mets were 13-17, I wrote where the next two weeks could define their season and that is coming to fruition.

The Mets lost three of four to Pittsburgh and St. Louis in consecutive series, won two or three in Chicago, and swept in a three-game series at home by Cincinnati.

After the Braves come four straight with the Yankees, before closing the month at Miami.

June doesn’t get easier as the Mets have six games against the Nationals, three with St. Louis, five in Atlanta (includes a make-up game), three in Philadelphia, two in Chicago against the White Sox, and they fly to Colorado for a one-game make-up on an off-day.

By the time they conclude a nine-game road trip leading into the All-Star break, there is a very realistic chance the Mets could be 20 games under .500 if not 20 games out of first place.

The Mets’ long summer is getting longer and we’re not even through with May.

May 23

Where’s The Accountability With The Mets?

Matt Harvey has it. So does David Wright. Ike Davis tried to show it Wednesday, but only had warning track power.

It is accountability, which is the backbone to admit screwing up. We certainly didn’t see any the past few days from the Knicks, so let’s turn to the Mets. After losing Thursday to the Reds, Harvey was front-and-center about his performance and threw high-heat at himself.

ALDERSON: Who is to blame?

ALDERSON: Who is to blame?

“It was a tough day – whether it was the changeup I couldn’t necessarily throw for a strike when I wanted to – and everything just crept over the middle,’’ Harvey told reporters at Citi Field. “It was one of those days. I didn’t execute. I didn’t do a good job. I’ve got to be a lot better than that. Nine hits is unacceptable for me. Obviously I wasn’t happy giving up any runs. We needed a big win, and I wasn’t able to do that.’’

What a reporter wants is for a player to be stand-up, to answer questions when the heat is on. Davis tried, although sometimes it seemed as if the listener would get frequent miles for following along with the answer.

I’ve never been enamored with Davis’ approach to hitting and explanations of his approach and thought process. This time, I didn’t care for his defensive explanation, although I appreciated the effort.

With runners on the corners in the ninth inning, Brandon Phillips dribbled a ball down the first base line. Davis, who misplayed a similar ball in the seventh that allowed a run to score, seemed confused on how to play the ball.

“I couldn’t get the guy at home,’’ Davis said. “[Shin-Soo] Choo runs really fast. And it was really slow to my backhand side. I was trying to get off the bag to get in the hole because it was a right-handed hitter.

“They usually don’t hit it down the line like that. The second bounce … I thought it bounced foul. In my head, I can’t turn two. I can’t catch it, touch the bag and then throw it to second and get the guy out, because then it’s a tag play and the guy [Choo] scores anyway.

“So, in my head, when I thought I saw it bounce foul, I pulled my glove back, because then we’d be 0-2 on Phillips [if it were foul] and the run wouldn’t score. That was my thought process on that. I still can’t tell if it was foul or fair on replays. But I definitely did think it bounced foul right before I got it. He made the call fair.’’

With no interpreters in the Mets’ clubhouse, let me attempt to boil it down: Davis said he couldn’t get the runner at home or get the 3-6-3 double-play, so he thought his best play was for the ball to go foul.

Only, Davis couldn’t tell if it was fair or foul. Given that, Davis’ mistake was letting the ball go and hoping for the right call. As a hitter, Davis wouldn’t stay at the plate and wait for the call, but run the ball out. So, why didn’t he do the same on defense? Why would he let the ball go on such a close play and hope for the best?

Maybe he wasn’t asked, but even so, he should have known what to do and admit the mistake of giving up on the play. What we got was a roundabout analysis that sounds like an excuse. Just catch the damn ball. If it is fair and a run scores, so be. Letting it go by opened the door for three to come in.

And, let’s cue the violins when he said, “everything that could go wrong for me now is going wrong.’’

Terry Collins is in a rough place, between telling the truth and not throwing his players under the bus. But, when his team is already ten games under .500, I’d like to see him go to the whip a little more. Didn’t he also promise a culture change and emphasis on fundamentals?

Where’s the fundamentals when all but two players in the normal starting lineup are on pace to strike out over 100 times? Where’s the emphasis on getting a good pitch to hit?

Two walks is a stretch in saying Davis is showing come-out-of-it signs. And, I don’t buy Collins saying Davis is not taking his offense to the field. His fielding has been miserable lately, so how could his offense not be a connection?

Collins didn’t get on Jon Niese for letting the first inning get away from him Tuesday. Nobody on and nobody out and he walks three and let three runs in. That’s inexcusable on any level.

Collins wasn’t forceful on getting on Jordany Valdespin last week when he should have been in full rip mode. And, I would have liked for him to get on Shaun Marcum more for not coming to camp in good condition. He did the previous spring with Ruben Tejada.

However, in fairness to Collins, it is hard to come down on a player if he doesn’t get the backing of the front office. Sandy Alderson, who over the weekend said the minor leagues wasn’t imminent for Davis, echoed that Tuesday, saying: “ … at this point we’re going to live with Ike for a little longer.’’

When Alderson came on the job, he promised a change in culture and stressed accountability. Immediately, we knew he was talking about Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo and both would be gone the following spring. Alderson also knew Jason Bay‘s lack of production after three years shouldn’t net him a fourth. Bay was a good guy, yes, but wasn’t hitting.

So, why be hesitant with Davis, especially if he’s considered a building block?

Alderson speaks like a lawyer with the way he dances around questions. All, I want to hear is: “I didn’t do a good job of putting together the bullpen,’’ and “I didn’t do a good job putting together the outfield,’’ and, “I should have handled things differently with Johan Santana this spring,’’ and, “If I stocked the farm system better, maybe I’d have more options to replace Davis.’’

And. ownership should show more accountability, if for nothing else, letting the Ponzi scandal distract the Mets and influence their off-season moves the past two years. Not to mention, signing off on contracts given to Perez and Bay.

And, don’t deny it hasn’t.

Be accountable. We deserve that much.

May 19

Mets Wrap, May 19: Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares Power Victory

Juan Lagares and Daniel Murphy homered to pick up Dillon Gee, and the bullpen came up with a superb effort with four perfect innings to give the Mets a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs Sunday at Wrigley Field. The victory gave the Mets their first series victory since they beat Washington, April 19-21, at Citi Field.

RECORD: 17-24, 4th NL East

ON THE MOUND: Dillon Gee gave up three runs on eight hits in five innings for the no-decision. … Scott Rice was superb in relief retiring six straight hitters. … The Mets also received a strong one-out showing from Greg Burke and Bobby Parnell worked the ninth for his sixth save. … The Mets’ bullpen retired 12 straight hitters.

AT THE PLATE: Inserted in the leadoff spot, Murphy hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth. … Lagares hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the seventh. He had two hits in the game. … The Mets had six hits in the game and struck out seven times.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15-for-29: Murphy’s hot streak.

THEY SAID IT: “Everything comes to a head at some point.’’ – GM Sandy Alderson when asked if there was a limit to Ike Davis’ slump after saying sending him so

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum is scheduled to open the Mets’ three-game series against Cincinnati, beginning Monday at Citi Field.

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

May 15

Mets Wrap: Losing Streak Reaches Six Straight

The Mets received a strong outing from Shaun Marcum and Rick Ankiel hit a two-run homer, but that was the extent of the highlights as the Cardinals scored the game-winning run in the seventh inning on Scott Rice’s run-producing wild pitch in the 4-2 loss. John Buck was doubled off second base and was caught stealing, and David Wright dropped the ball attempting to tag John Jay, who eventually scored. The Mets dropped to 14-23 with their sixth straight loss.

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ANKIEL: Homered to tie game. (AP)

ON THE MOUND: Marcum had his best moment with the Mets, giving up three runs on five hits in 6.2 innings. Marcum walked one, but as fate would have it for the Mets, Daniel Descalso came around to score the go-ahead run on Rice’s wild pitch.

AT THE PLATE: Ankiel had two hits, including a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh. … Seven more strikeouts by Mets hitters, including three by Wright. … Ike Davis and Lucas Duda are hitting .164 and .205, respectively.

METS MATTERS: Zack Wheeler took a cortisone injection to his right shoulder and will resume throwing in 48 hours. He will miss at least one start.

THEY SAID IT: “Oh boy,’’ sighed Keith Hernandez when Cardinals went ahead in seventh on run-scoring wild pitch from Scott Rice.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5: Number of Mets in tonight’s lineup hitting less than .240.

ON DECK: Jon Niese (2-4) tries to win for the first time in six starts Thursday afternoon against Adam Wainwright.

Your comments are always welcome and I will attempt to answer them.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 15

Where Would This Team Be Without Harvey? You Don’t Want To Know…

matt harvey

Where would this team be without Matt Harvey?

Is it safe to say that as of this moment, the only proven and legit core player under the age of 30 this team has is The Dark Knight of Gotham?

I like Jon Niese a lot, but is he a core player? Or just an number three pitcher who plays the role of an ace on a very bad team?

pitching

I quickly threw some numbers into a spreadsheet and I can’t believe how appalling the numbers are once you take Harvey out of the equation.

Two of our top three starters have ERA’s of 5.93 for Jon Niese and 6.13 for Dillon Gee. Our number four starter, Jeremy Hefner has got them both beat with a 4.28 ERA. You may recall me saying back in January that he would be a sleeper and best choice for fifth starter?

Then you have the pitcher who was supposed to help replace R.A. Dickey‘s innings in Shaun Marcum. The Mets gave marcum a guaranteed $4 million dollars and in return he’s already missed one month and since his debut is averaging 4.1 innings in three starts and has a team worst 8.31 ERA.

Mets pitchers are now officially the worst in the National League and second worst in the Major Leagues. And that’s with Matt Harvey who is in the top five in over a half dozen pitching categories.

That’s kind of embarrassing, wouldn’t you say?

Gee has been the latest starter to deliver an abysmal performance after allowing six runs and nine hits against the Cardinals last night in 4.0 innings.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t even know what to say, really. I didn’t feel all that bad tonight”, said Gee after the game. “Physically I feel great. There’s nothing going on there. I don’t know. I’m kind of lost.”

You don’t say?

Gee and Co. is partly why the Mets bullpen has been as abysmal as it has. They are burning through arms at an unprecedented rate. Six weeks in and already eight transactions related to the bullpen alone. And it’s not as if it was a great bullpen to begin with. It was put together with sticks and Krazy Glue.

So while everyone is piling on when it comes to the Mets offense, the truth of the matter is that this team is quite atrocious on all fronts. Take a look at the evidence:

METS PITCHING RANKINGS

Screenshot_15

METS HITTING RANKINGS

Screenshot_16

That stinks to high heaven. It’s a shock to the system to even look at those awful, awful numbers.

I can tell you right now that Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud alone are not going to fix that. In fact I think it’s a sin that those two are being setup for a unfair amount of undue pressure, as if trying to stick in the majors wasn’t already challenging enough.

On Wednesday, Sandy Alderson seemed concerned that Wheeler is being looked upon as some sort of savior and he admitted to Mike Francesa that he wasn’t. But the fact that both he and d’Arnaud will be walking into this disaster is going to be something to behold and I don’t mean that in a good way. I wonder how they will handle it, and God forbid if they don’t produce immediate results and hit the ground running.

The other day on Twitter I tossed out the suggestion of just letting both of them stay at Triple-A and don’t bring them up unless this team turns it around. Losing is contagious. I know you all know that. If this is what those two kids are going to walk into, I’d rather wait and call them up in September.

At least in September they can come up without the pressure of having to carry a team that was poorly constructed. It’s bad enough that Matt Harvey has had to deal with this. I totally feel sorry for that kid. On any other team, but the Mets, Harvey would probably be 8-0 right now.

I don’t know if this is rock bottom, but heaven help us if it isn’t and it continues to get worse.