Jan 29

Woods’ Failure Brings To Mind Wright

Watching Tiger Woods fail to make the cut this weekend at Torrey Pines, I couldn’t help but think about David Wright’s comeback from his back issues and wonder what he’ll give the Mets this summer.

Perhaps, based on his importance to the franchise and salary, he should be given the latitude to call his own shots regarding his playing time (in the short term) and the issue of retirement (in the long term). However, in retrospect, it doesn’t matter because those things are to be determined by the stability and pain level in his back.

WRIGHT: Facing a tough year. (AP)

WRIGHT: Facing a tough year. (AP)

If he hurts, he doesn’t play; if he’s pain-free, he’ll be in there.

Of course, manager Terry Collins can’t afford to push the envelope, but must be prudent in structuring Wright’s playing time and such matters of days off and rest against certain pitchers.

However, there are a couple of things I’ve wondered about lately concerning Wright.

First, were the Mets ever serious about playing Wright at first base? I’m guessing not because there’s still a lot of crouching at first. Since the Mets don’t play in the American League where they could use the DH, probably the only other position he might be moved to is left field, where the stress on his back might be less. Then again, there would be questions about his arm strength and at age 34 and position change would be difficult.

One thing I am curious about is how much he’s considering altering his hitting style. Will he concentrate more on going to right field and less on pulling the ball to left, which creates more torque in his lower back?

Also, will he consider going to a lighter bat and concentrate on being more of a contact hitter. This would likely entail hitting second or perhaps seventh or eighth in the order.

I’m betting Wright will make the right decision because he’s always been about doing what is best for the team.

Jan 18

Could Conforto Open Season In Minors?

It was last April when manager Terry Collins said Michael Conforto was the Mets’ No. 3 hitter for the future. A year later, don’t be surprised if he opened the season with the Mets’ Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.

I don’t like the idea, but considering the Mets’ muddled outfield situation, it isn’t farfetched, especially if they can’t trade Jay Bruce. If Bruce stays, he’ll play right with Curtis Granderson in center and Yoenis Cespedes in left.

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

CONFORTO: Could he open season in minors? (Getty)

Juan Lagares must stay to give Granderson rest in center field. Either Lagares or Granderson could give Cespedes rest if he needs a day off. Currently, the Mets aren’t ready to say they trust Conforto in center field.

If the Mets can’t trade Bruce, he must stay and play or totally lose his trade value. The Mets wouldn’t want to pay him $13 million to sit.

The Mets’ potential trade market for Bruce was dramatically sliced within the past week when Baltimore traded for Seth Smith; Toronto re-signed Jose Bautista and Philadelphia signed Michael Saunders.

Personally, I’ve always been in Conforto’s camp and opposed the Cespedes signing in part because I felt it would stunt Conforto’s growth. If the Mets kept Conforto as one of their five outfielders, he’d struggle for at-bats and playing time, notably from Lagares and Bruce.

One possibility is to keep Brandon Nimmo over Conforto, but again they’ll face the issue of one of their prime outfield prospects struggling for at-bats.

Jan 04

Wondering How Mets Will Use Flores

One Met I am curious to see how manager Terry Collins uses this year is Wilmer Flores. Collins has always run hot-and-cold with his usage of Flores, which probably stems from GM Sandy Alderson’s public knocks of the player he unsuccessfully tried to trade in 2015.

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

FLORES: Needs to play. (AP)

Frankly, Flores has never gotten an opportunity to play full time, and it won’t come this year. However, there is a way to get at least 500 at-bats and not greatly infringe on the playing time of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright/Jose Reyes.

The solution is simple and stems from Flores’ best attribute – other than hitting against left-handed pitching – and that’s his versatility.

He would play first one day, second the next, shortstop the third game and third base the fourth.

Doing this requires discipline on Collins’ part, a trait he has not exhibited. If Collins were to pull this off it will accomplish the following: 1) give Flores more and consistent at-bats, and 2) provide rest for the Mets’ older and injury-prone infield.

It will be well worth it to give Walker and Wright regimented rest, and it wouldn’t hurt for Cabrera and Duda, either.

The bottom line is the projected 2017 Mets’ infield could be gone after this season and they must find out what Flores can do.

Dec 13

Wright Deserves Opportunity To Call Future

Last year at this time, Mets GM Sandy Alderson projected 130 games for third baseman David Wright. Prior to the Winter Meetings, Alderson again said Wright was his third baseman, but failed to put a number on the games he thought he might play.

WRIGHT: What's he thinking? (AP)

WRIGHT: What’s he thinking? (AP)

That’s just as well considering Wright played 37 games last year and 38 in 2015. Wright has been seeing his doctor in California and receiving treatment. The Mets are saying he should be ready by Opening Day. Let’s hope so, but there are no guarantees. None. There never is when it comes to health.

Of course, I want him to return full strength, but we must realistically accept that might not happen and simply hope for the best. He deserves the opportunity of testing his back and drawing his own conclusions.

I don’t know what will happen, but believe Wright has been too good a player, and too good an ambassador to the Mets and the sport not to get the chance to call the shots on his future. Of course, he’ll get plenty of advice from his doctors; his wife, Molly; and the Mets from the Wilpons to Alderson and maybe manager Terry Collins. He might even call some of this former and current teammates to find out what they are thinking.

He’ll get plenty of advice from the press but none from me because I’m in the camp believing he accomplished enough to be given the chance to plot out his departure from the game on his own terms.

Wright, who’ll be 34 one week from today, has already earned $125 million in his 12-year career, and since he’s not reckless with his behavior, the presumption is he has enough to live on comfortably if not lavishly for the rest of his life. He’s signed through 2020 and will make $67 million through then.

The only thing Wright wants from the game is the game itself. It’s not about money, but determining his future and continuing to compete. I believe when Wright gets to spring training he’ll know enough about how he feels and what he can do. I can’t imagine he’ll force the Mets to put him on the Opening Day roster if he’s not physically able.

Unlike last season, the Mets are hedging their bets by holding onto Wilmer Flores and extending Jose Reyes. It would be terrific to trade for Todd Frazier. No trades are imminent on anything involving the Mets, but maybe something could happen in July. Hopefully, the season progresses to where they are in it by then and the trade deadline is meaningful.

Wright pressed the envelope with his health in the past, but the thinking is he learned and if he can’t play he’ll come to that conclusion gracefully. Numbers never meant anything to him, so I can’t imagine he’ll hang on to pad his stats.

Behind the scenes, I’m sure the Mets are talking to Wright about what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling, but so far there hasn’t been any pushing and that’s a good thing. He deserves to do this without any pressure from them.

The only pressure he’s getting is coming from within and that’s more than enough.

Dec 07

Wheeler To The Pen Has To Be For Right Reasons

The first thing I thought of after hearing the Mets were considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen was “don’t let this turn out to be another Jenrry Mejia.”

You’ll recall the Mets bounced Mejia from the rotation to the bullpen, without leaving him long enough to grasp either role. Consequently, Mejia’s trade value deteriorated and he eventually injured his arm. He appeared to get it together as a closer until he screwed up his career by violating MLB’s PED policy.

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

WHEELER: A new role? (Getty)

Wheeler in the pen is an intriguing idea, but it has to be done for the right reasons. If it is because they are apparently deep with young starters and woefully thin in the pen, made more so with the anticipated suspension of closer Jeurys Familia, then I can see that logic. If it is because Wheeler only has two really good pitches, then that’s a justifiable reason, also.

However, if the reasoning is what manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings, which is to shave innings off Wheeler’s total before he moves into the rotation later in the year, then that’s not good enough. It’s not good at all.

Wheeler said all the right things today at Citi Field during a coat drive.

“I’ve started my whole life, and obviously, I’d like to do that,” Wheeler told reporters. “But they’re looking out for me, innings-wise and stuff like that. I’ve been out for two years, so … whatever’s best for my health is what’s fine with me and the plan going forward.”

The Mets wouldn’t be looking after Wheeler if they bounced him around. If they are serious about the bullpen, they have to go all in. That means use him there in spring training and stay with it the entire season.

GM Sandy Alderson said this is currently in the bounce-it-off-the-wall phase.

“There’s no reason for us to say, `Well, he’s got to be a starter,’ ” Alderson told reporters. “Now, he may feel that way himself. But, it may be that coming back after two years you have to be careful. You might not be able to pitch him back-to-back [days]. It might have to be two innings at a time. But, I don’t see any reason to just eliminate that possibility.”

Wheeler hasn’t pitched in two seasons, so the Mets don’t know what to make of him physically. As a starter, he’ll have a more consistent schedule and workload, so that’s a plus.

There are too many variables that tax a pitcher’s arm coming out of the pen, especially if that’s a new role for him. That makes it risky.

Pitchers have made the transition from starter to reliever and been successful. I’m not saying the Mets would be making a mistake. The mistake would come if they waffled and changed course, especially without knowing his condition.