May 01

David Wright, Kirk Nieuwenhius Shine in April For Mets

April is in the books and the Mets are sitting well in the National League East at 13-10.  I am first to admit I never envisioned that record for the Mets a month into the season.

When the schedule came out, I penciled in seven or eight wins, tops. However, the Mets exceeded all expectations to make me wonder just how good a summer this could be.

WRIGHT: April Player of the Month

There’s been a lot to like, so let’s touch on some of April’s high points:

PLAYING THEM TIGHT: Including last night’s loss in Houston, the Mets are 8-2 in games decided by two runs or less. That is one of the best indicators a team is heading in the right direction. A team gives itself a chance to win when the score is close. There have been few games when you feel like turning off the TV in the early innings. The Mets are making you watch, and the record shows they have been worth the wait.

WINNING THE DIVISION: The Mets lost series to Washington and the Braves, the latter on the road. However, they swept the Braves and Marlins at home and won a series in Philadelphia. The NL East hasn’t been kind to the Mets in recent seasons, but they are standing up to their division rivals in the early going of 2012.

THE WRIGHT STUFF: Despite missing several games with a fractured pinkie, David Wright is back and stroking the ball with authority. Wright has hit in the clutch and posting good numbers. I’d like for him to hit with more power, but would take the average and RBI than have him slip into bad habits swinging deep. Wright is playing at a level where the contract extension should be a given.

THOLE TAKES A STEP: At the start of the season I wondered about Josh Thole, both offensively and defensively. He’s shown improvement in both areas and the staff likes throwing to him. The Mets’ catching will longer be a concern if Thole continues at this rate.

MURPHY TAKING TO SECOND: We all knew Daniel Murphy could hit, but just as important is his comfort level at second base. Last night he went into the hole and threw back to second for the force. Both catching the ball and throw have been problems. Murphy’s defense was a significant question now being answered in the positive.

TEJADA PLUGGED THE HOLE: We all wondered how Ruben Tejada would respond replacing Jose Reyes. Tejada’s glove was never in doubt, but he’s hit better than anticipated. Before it is over Reyes might have better numbers, but Tejada has not been the weak link.

HELLO NIEUWENHUIS: Andres Torres’ calf injury gave Kirk Nieuwenhuis an opportunity and it looks like one he won’t relinquish.  Nieuwenhuis plays an aggressive center field and is confident at the plate. There’s a lot to like, such as a swagger that says he belongs.

SANTANA IS BACK: Johan Santana’s recovery from shoulder surgery was one of the spring’s leading questions, and save one bad outing, he has been stellar. Wisely, the Mets have monitored his innings and will continue to do so. All they need is to score some runs for him.

ROTATION HAS BEEN GOOD: The Mets received a serious setback when they lost Mike Pelfrey to Tommy John surgery, but Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey have been solid. The Mets need more innings from their starters to stay out of the bullpen, but mostly the innings they’ve received from Niese, Dickey and Santana have been good. Much better than expected.

SURVIVING THE STORM: How the Mets respond from Pelfrey’s injury will dictate a lot about this season. They have been a resilient team and played through injuries to Wright, Jason Bay and Torres. They’ve also compiled a winning record despite little production from Ike Davis and an erratic bullpen. The pen has its positive moments, but there have also been several head-scratchers. Frank Francisco regressed after a fast start and now is nursing a hamstring problem.

I am picking Wright as my Player of the Month. Please check out the newest poll question and share your thoughts. Thanks.

ON DECK:  The newest poll.

Apr 07

Collins Does A Complete 180 On Tejada

It looks like the injury to Andres Torres has not only led to what will be the major league debut of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but has also prompted manager Terry Collins to do a complete 180 on how he intended to treat shortstop Ruben Tejada this season.

Going all the way back to a conference call Collins did with bloggers back on February 28th, the Mets manager was very firm on his stance that we would not use Ruben Tejada as the team’s leadoff hitter in 2012.

In response to a question by New York Baseball Digest’s Mike Silva, Collins told us:

“As far as leading off, the one thing this kid is facing right now is replacing Jose Reyes. That’s a huge thing to put on the shoulders of a 21-year-old baseball player. He’s got enough on his mind to replace Jose defensively, let alone to say, ‘you’ve got to get on, you’ve got to get into scoring position because you’re replacing Jose Reyes.’ That’s an awful lot to ask of that young man.”

Terry Collins echoed those exact sentiments later on when he was a guest of Mike Francesa on WFAN:

“No. I won’t put that king of pressure on that kid. He has more than enough on his plate as it is replacing Reyes at short. We need him to go out there and focus on being the best shortstop he can be. That’s his main focus this season and I won’t add to that.”

So here we are, just one game into the season, and Terry Collins has already scrapped the plan to let Tejada play the 2012 season without the added pressure of batting leadoff.

Tejada will now have the dual role of replacing Jose Reyes defensively in the field, and now offensively as the leadoff hitter of the New York Mets as well. Wow. He’ll be doing this under the gaze of tens of thousands of Mets fans who still resent the fact that Jose Reyes is no longer here, and under glaring spotlight of the New York media who will hound him at his locker at the first hint of trouble.

Ironically, I can’t really blame Collins here because Sandy Alderson gave him little choice. The depth on this team is going to be a huge problem all season long. One day in and already our sixth ranked prospect in the system will be debuting in center field today regardless of whether he is ready or not.

The choices at leadoff hitter beyond Andres Torres were who exactly?

David Wright? Daniel Murphy? Jason Bay?

There was no thought given to this situation after Reyes packed his bags for Miami, and even less thought was given when they traded another likely leadoff hitter in Angel Pagan. Torres was a terrible option to bat leadoff right from jump-street, and everybody knew it.

Anyway, the deed is done, the course has been charted and it’s full steam ahead with Nieuwenhuis in center field and Tejada batting leadoff.

All we can do now is hope for a successful outcome, but make no mistake that so far this season, Collins and Alderson are flying by the seats of their pants.

Mar 13

Pelfrey ripped again; Tejada injured.

Mike Pelfrey said he felt he was better today against the Cardinals than in his last start. Can you imagine what would have happened if he felt worse?

Pelfrey gave up four runs on six hits – including two homers – in 4 1/3 innings this afternoon. Once again, Pelfrey’s problem was a flat sinker. One of his problems last season was a lack of movement on his pitches, and movement is far more important than velocity.

Another down note was Ruben Tejada scratched with a groin injury. He’ll miss tomorrow’s game, also.

Terry Collins got testy after learning of Tejada’s injury. I brought this up yesterday and it is worthy of another mention … the Mets need to re-evaluate their off-season and pre-game conditioning and warm-up programs.

MLB.com reported 14 of 55 Mets have been on an injury report this spring, which is roughly 25 percent, an unusually high number.

 

Feb 21

Translating Terry Collins.

Manager Terry Collins conducted his first press conference of the spring this morning. He was upbeat and positive as expected, but made no brash projections, which was appreciated.

COLLINS: What is he saying?

However, like with all managers, there was a message beyond Collins’ words. What he said and what he meant are two different things.

Most managers take the one-game-at-a-time approach, but Collins did make the point of saying the team needed to get off to a fast start. He could have added that includes spring training, also.

Why is this important?

Continue reading

Feb 14

Not worried about Tejada.

One of the Mets’ many questions entering the season is whether Ruben Tejada will be able to replace Jose Reyes at shortstop.

TEJADA: It's his show now.

I’m not worried about the transition because frankly, few players are capable of replacing Reyes’ offensive production. Let’s assume right now he won’t post Reyes-like numbers. If Tejada can hit the .270 to .280 coach Chip Hale hopes for him, then I’ll be satisfied. I just don’t want Tejada to be overwhelmed or an easy out in the eighth spot in the order. If the latter is the case, the Mets would have almost certain back-to-back outs which would put a black hole in their line-up.

Tejada hit at times last season batting .284 with 36 RBI, but we’ll need to see how pitchers adjust now that they have a book on him. I’d sign up for another .284 right now.

Defensively, Tejada proved he could handle the position, so maybe that’s a wash. That’s also the most important part of his job.

The Mets have so many other issues to concern themselves with, that if shortstop is capably handled defensively, that’s a load off Terry Collins.

The Mets are a team in transition, not expected to contend. If things were different, they’d be worried about shortstop. Hell, if things were different, Reyes would be here.

For where this team is now, if Tejada can hold his own, that’s all you can ask.