Feb 22

Wright’s Comeback Is Key Met Issue; Acknowledges He Must Adjust

Numerous times I’ve said the most pressing issue with the Mets is David Wright’s health – regardless of what happens with Matt Harvey.

Wright is entering the third season of an eight-year, $138-million, an award for being the face of the franchise and the promise of what he could bring to the Mets through the 2020 season. When Wright is whole, the Mets have a chance of being the same.

WRIGHT: Change in the air. (AP)

WRIGHT: Change in the air. (AP)

He had a decent 2013 season hitting .307, but injuries limited him to 112 games. A shoulder injury cut last year short and held him to eight homers and only 63 RBI. He hasn’t hit at least 25 homers with 100 RBI since 2010, and that’s the basis for him being the key issue – if he doesn’t start post real All-Star numbers then the contract becomes a burden and consequently a distraction.

That’s why what he told reporters Sunday was important. He acknowledged the need to slow it down from time to time. Only twice in the last five years has he played as many as 155 games, and even that might be too much.

“I think it is probably to the point where I have to be a little more realistic that it’s probably not in my best interest or the team’s best interest to go out there and play 162 games,’’ Wright said. “I think a good off day here and there probably can be beneficial for both me and the team.’’

But, that’s up to Terry Collins. If he left it up to Wright, he’d play. Collins must be disciplined enough to have a plan with Wright and stick to it. Usually, that means resting him the day before an off day. That’s a two-day rest.

Wright also acknowledged he must modify his game, meaning being more selective and concentrate on driving the ball in the gaps and not worrying about pulling.

“I remember our first year in Citi Field [in 2009], I think I hit 10 [homers] and I felt like I had a very productive season – and it was because of driving runs in, scoring runs,’’ Wright told reporters today in Port St. Lucie. “I don’t judge a season by how many home runs I hit. It’s more being productive, more being a middle-of-the-order-type hitter, where I’m driving in runs, scoring runs.

“The thing that bothered me last year wasn’t the lack of home runs. It was more that I just didn’t feel like I was the hitter I’m capable of being.’’

At 32, Wright’s best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be good ones ahead of him. After all, he has six more years, and with the Mets thinking playoffs, they can’t afford Wright being a shell of what he has been. He’s at the stage of his career when he knows he has to adjust. Professional hitters are able to do that – which is what he acknowledged this afternoon.

Wright has always been a pro, and I wouldn’t expect anything less of him now.

 

Feb 21

Collins Says Mets Capable Of Playoffs

Is it genuine optimism for the New York Mets or simply unfounded wishful thinking? In the past two days, both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins alluded to the playoffs. No guarantees, and with the qualifier, “capable of” if they execute. Hell, anybody could have told you that.

“Now we’ve just got to go play,’’ Collins told reporters Saturday in Port St. Lucie. “It’s all about execution. As we’ve seen in the past, there are teams that were world champs and the next year they’re in last place. And there are teams that were in last place that the next year they’re in the playoffs.

“If we play up to expectations and what we think are the caliber of players we have, we’ll be playing in October.’’

Collins’ thinking is based on the potential of the Mets’ pitching; the additions of Michael Cuddyer in right field and John Mayberry for the bench; and healthy returns of David Wright and Matt Harvey.

There are other issues: Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler must progress; the bullpen is seemingly sound, even without Bobby Parnell available at the start of the season; the leadoff spot is unsettled between Juan Lagares and Curtis Granderson; Wilmer Flores is an unproven commodity at shortstop.

Harvey is a huge key, and Alderson acknowledged there’s nothing concrete about his innings ceiling. It was initially reported Harvey would probably miss the start of the season, but likely pitch the home opener. Collins said today Harvey would start one of the season’s first five games.

I prefer something more definitive, but it is early. Things change.

“We’ve been sitting around for four years asking everybody to be patient and even the players,” Collins said. “Well, it’s time.’’

A lot has to happen if the Mets are to reach the playoffs, let alone have their first winning season after six straight losing summers.

Sure, there’s reason to be hopeful, but the playoffs? Well, I’ve heard this before from the Mets so I’m not swallowing this hook, line and sinker.

October baseball? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Feb 18

No Reason For Mets To Rush Parnell

There have been reports Bobby Parnell will regain his closer role when he’s activated from the disabled list roughly a month into the season. Parnell told reporters today in Port St. Lucie, “the ultimate goal when I go up there is to close.’’

PARNELL:  Treat with kid gloves. (AP)

PARNELL: Treat with kid gloves. (AP)

Although manager Terry Collins previously indicated that possibility, Parnell said he’s been promised nothing, which is the right way to go because there are too many unanswered questions.

What if Jenrry Mejia is pitching lights out at the time and the Mets are playing well? It would be foolish for Collins to disrupt the chemistry his team is building. It’s counter-productive for Collins to promise something he’d later reverse track on.

Many managers don’t like to commit to anything unless they absolutely must and there’s no reason for Collins to play his hand now. Collins has fallen into that trap before and must avoid it this time.

Parnell demonstrated promise at closing in 2013 with 22 saves, a 2.16 ERA and 1.000 WHIP. Mejia converted 28 save opportunities last year, but with a 3.65 ERA and less than impressive 1.484 WHIP. What was promising was his 98-41 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

If Mejia stumbles in April, the Mets can go with Jeurys Familia or Vic Black. The Mets enter spring training with potentially their best bullpen in three years, especially if all four are on their games.

And, if Mejia, Familia and Black pitch well in April, there’s no point to rush back Parnell, especially when we don’t know how long it will take for him to work himself into pitching shape. Parnell wanting to be out there is not a good enough reason. Neither is his $3.7-million salary.

“Obviously I want to be there at the beginning of the year, but more importantly, I want to be there at the end of the year,’’ Parnell said. “If they feel like missing the beginning of the year is going to help me be there at the end, and be solid at the end, and help with the playoff push, then I’m all aboard on that.’’

This is something that doesn’t need to be decided until late April or early May. Anything before that is premature.

Feb 11

Suggested Mets’ Batting Order

Spring training is for a lot of things, but I thought I’d save Terry Collins time and suggest a batting order for him. Several slots will automatically fall into place, but where Collins will do his most head scratching will be over the leadoff position.

Juan Lagares, CF: He has the speed and at the end of last season proved he could steal a base. However, he needs to get on base to utilize that speed which is why he must cut his strikeouts and raise his on-base percentage.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Willing to take a pitch, which should help Lagares. Was the Mets’ best hitter last season and his ability to drive the ball in the gap could give the Mets an early first-inning lead.

David Wright, 3B: Theoretically, third is where the best hitter should be, which is the combination of power and average. Injuries sapped Wright’s production the past few years and the Mets are hoping for a bounce back season. If he has one it will solve a lot of problems.

Lucas Duda, 1B: Gave the Mets 30 homers last year and they aren’t expecting anything less. When he gets hot he should offer Wright protection. Still strikes out too many times, but is showing improved plate discipline.

Michael Cuddyer, RF: He should hit here to separate the left-handed hitters. How sweet would it be if he returned to the form where he lead the National League in hitting.

Curtis Granderson, LF: Even with the fences moved in, nobody expects him to hit 40 homers again. But, 30 should be reasonable along with a boatload of doubles in the gap. If Lagares falters, Granderson could get another look at leadoff, but he strikes out too much to excel there in the long haul.

Travis d’Arnaud, C: Another right-handed hitter to give the order balance. Showed glimpses of power, but if he masters things behind the plate the Mets will take what they can get from him offensively.

Wilmer Flores, SS: He’ll have enough pressure as it is, so dropping him to eighth to see what he can do is the best option. Hitting here ahead of |the pitcher should help improve his plate discipline. There’s nothing wrong with a walk to clear the pitcher’s spot.

Pitcher: Unless you’re in Tony La Russa’s world, pitchers bat ninth.

Things will vary according to injuries, days off and slumps. But, this offers a balanced order with the hitters providing the most protection for each other. That is, if they are hitting.

Feb 05

Alderson Addresses Season Ticket Holders

I like that Mets GM Sandy Alderson held court with season ticket holders at Citi Field. The following are some of the tidbits from his meeting:

ALDERSON: Talks to ticket holders. (AP)

ALDERSON: Talks to ticket holders. (AP)

* Alderson said expectations are high and would be disappointed if the team did not make the playoffs. Earlier this week, Alderson said he believed the Mets had potential to be a 90-win team, which would be an increase of ten victories.

However, Alderson did not specify what improvements the Mets made to justify that jump other than the healthy returns of Matt Harvey and David Wright.

* He said the Mets could hold Harvey out from Opening Day and instead save him for the home opener, but manager Terry Collins eluded to that several weeks ago. In addition, there has been doubt as to whether Harvey will be ready for the start of the season. This will be determined in spring training.

* Regarding the shortstop, Alderson said the Mets considered at least eight shortstops in the offseason, but all had flaws that didn’t warrant ditching Wilmer Flores.

Alderson said the Mets won’t sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada, citing financial restraints.

* Alderson said Noah Syndergaard isn’t about to be traded, and neither are any of the other starting pitchers, saying he’s not going to deal just to make a trade.

Finally, Alderson wants to be judged on what the Mets do on the field this year instead of what he did in the off-season.

That won’t be a problem.