Aug 24

Optimal Time For Wright To Return

In some respect, it will be Opening Day II for the Mets with the return of David Wright tonight in Philadelphia. Only this time the Mets are 11 games over .500.

“For me it almost feels like Opening Day, where you have some butterflies, kind of nervous excitement,” Wright told reporters this afternoon.

The last time they had a record this good was Sept. 28, 2008 when they lost to the Marlins – and consequently the pennant – on the last day of the season for the second straight year and finished 89-73.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

No, this wasn’t the Tom Glavine game, but Johan Santana pitched a 2-0 gem the previous day to give the Mets life. They were in first place as late as Sept. 19 and held a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10.

This was the last time the Mets were truly relevant in the concept of October baseball.

This is the optimum time for Wright to come back because how well they are playing with a five-game lead on Washington, and their rejuvenated offense has to alleviate the pressure he would normally face when coming off the disabled list.

If the Mets go on and in the words of Bob Murphy, “win the damn thing,’’ it will be because they played over .500 during his absence with four players – Daniel Murphy, Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada and Juan Uribe – trying to take his place.

For the longest time the Mets weren’t hitting or winning on the road. They are doing both now. And, concurrently the Washington Nationals are floundering. However, five-game leads can quickly evaporate as the Mets learned in 2007 and 2008. Those were completely different teams then, deeper offensively but not with this pitching. That pitching provides optimism they won’t fade this time.

As September approaches, Wright will complement the offense and not be required to carry it on his shoulders. With less pressure, and manager Terry Collins knowing he can plug in Juan Uribe any time if he needs to rest him, the situation is such once Wright catches up to the speed of the major league game as opposed to the minors, he can resume raking.

And, the Mets can build on this lead.

Aug 16

Barring Collapse, Collins Deserves Multi-Year Extension

It was typical ManagerSpeak by Terry Collins when he recently told reporter he wasn’t thinking about his contract status.

Really? It’s only natural to wonder just little. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t. I don’t think Collins wants to go the Walter Alston route and sign 24 consecutive one-year contracts although the Mets would love that scenario.

COLLINS: What's he really thinking? (AP)

COLLINS: What’s he really thinking? (AP)

I’m telling you, I don’t think about it,’’ Collins said.

O.K, if you don’t, then allow me.

GM Sandy Alderson’s are to: 1) keep going year-to-year with Alderson, which is probably the Mets’ preference, but not to Collins’ liking, 2) cut Collins loose, which would be blatantly unfair, especially if the Mets make the playoffs, and 3) sign Collins to a multi-year extension, which is the fairest option of all, especially with a playoff appearance.

The last few years Collins was extended despite coming off losing seasons, but was given a pass because of injuries and management’s inability to acquire serious talent in the offseason. Other teams might not have given him that benefit of doubt and would have cut him loose.

Injuries have definitely affected the Mets this season – David Wright, Zack Wheeler and several relievers – and it wasn’t until recently that Alderson went into the trade market.

Should the Mets’ playoff ship be scuttled with September’s schedule – which isn’t brutally hard – then I can see Alderson getting a new manager.

But, starting over isn’t what this club needs. It requires consistency, and that’s keeping Collins and his staff. Being swept by the Pirates over the weekend at Citi Field should have no bearing on Collins stature. But, what it should do is serve as a reminder there are no givens. If nothing else, the Mets should be grateful the Nationals are in a horrific slide.

Should the Mets make the playoffs – and it doesn’t matter how – Collins should be rewarded with a multi-year extension. I’m thinking two years, or two plus an option.

Through injuries and a minimal influx of talent, Collins has the Mets playing exciting, competitive baseball. They will “play meaningful baseball in September.’’

That’s what we’ve always wanted and it looks as if it will happen. Collins is part of that and should be rewarded.

Aug 14

Wise Choice Is To Rest Duda For Pirates Series

Mets first baseman Lucas Duda will miss a fourth straight game tonight against Pittsburgh with a lumbar strain. Duda hit in the cage this afternoon and told reporters: “It feels better. I took some swings today and ran a bit. It’s moving in the right direction, that’s for sure.”

For now the plan is to rest tonight and Sunday against left-hander Jeff Locke. With the Mets off Monday, manager Terry Collins is looking at Tuesday against the Orioles. As of now, Saturday is a possibility, but the prudent decision should be to keep him out that game also for two reasons: 1) the extra day couldn’t hurt, and 2) if the Mets do decide on the DL they can back date his time.

Pittsburgh is an important series, but not as much as keeping Duda healthy. The Mets are playing well and have a 4.5-game lead on Washington. This is no time to be foolish with a key player.


Aug 13

Mets Need To Be Smart With Duda

That the Mets are playing well gives them some leeway when it comes to dealing with Lucas Duda’s sore back. That they aren’t running away with the division means they must be concerned. The 3.5-game lead the Mets had heading into today’s game could vanish in less than a week.

DUDA: Be smart with him. (AP)

DUDA: Be smart with him. (AP)

What the Mets can’t afford is to wait until the rosters expand Sept. 1 before deciding temporarily shutting down Duda. As much as manager Terry Collins wants Duda in the lineup this weekend against Pittsburgh, it is more important to play this thing smart.

Duda was given some medication and there’s a 24-hour window before the Mets know if it will take effect.

“The trainers and doctors feel that in another 24 hours they’ll have a better determination of if it’s going to work and how he’s going to feel,’’ Collins told reporters.

“He doesn’t feel much better today than he did yesterday. The one thing I’m not going to do is aggravate it to the point where it bothers his swing.’’

Somehow, the Mets have survived playing shorthanded this summer, but can’t keep defying the odds. If Duda is unable to play Friday against the Pirates, the prudent decision might be to shut him down on the disabled list so he’ll be available for the stretch drive.

The Mets haven’t always handled injuries wisely and forcing Duda when he’s not ready and possibly further injuring himself to where they won’t have him at the most important part of what is becoming a magical season would be foolish.


Aug 10

Cuddyer Back With A Lot To Give

Michael Cuddyer was signed to be a significant offensive piece for the Mets, but as often is the case in the twisting and winding turns of a baseball season, things changed. Cuddyer now finds himself as a role player.

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

CUDDYER: Back from DL. (Getty)

A former All-Star and batting champion is hanging on to his career, but still has value. There could be times between now and October when lightning strikes his bat. Times when he’ll make a veteran play that means the difference between a win and loss.

While his playing times will come in drips and drabs, what defines him most – that he’s a good teammate – is what will be on display. He might pull aside a slumping player to give him a tip on that night’s pitcher. Or to calm him down, as was the case on the botched Wilmer Flores trade.

Pennants are won on talent, but what Cuddyer can offer is invaluable. There have been few playoff teams that don’t have a settling, veteran influence. To accept a change of roles with grace and class is something that can’t adequately be measured. It might turn out to be his biggest contribution to the Mets.

Make no mistake, his two-year, $21-million contract is why he’s still here, otherwise he could have been cast aside. That’s often the case with 36-year-old, non-hitting players with aching knees. He’s hitting .250 with eight homers and a .303 on-base percentage, not good in manager Terry Collins’ “hit or sit,’’ edict. Of course, it should have been that way all along, but for the longest time nobody – major league or minor league levels – was hitting.

Cuddyer’s injury opened the way for Michael Conforto, and he’s not going back down. To make room for Cuddyer, Eric Campbell – no surprise there – was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Conforto represents the Mets’ future, and because of their pitching that has been fast-tracked. Cuddyer is a veteran presence essential for a young, contending team, but his days as a starter are over, and to his credit he readily accepts his role.

“I just want to win,’’ Cuddyer said. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what’s in it for me. I want to win baseball games. Whatever the manager feels like is the best lineup to put out there, I’m all for it.’’

Cuddyer started the season in left field, but that position now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes. Cuddyer will give an occasional breather to Curtis Granderson in right field and Lucas Duda at first base.

But, no matter what he does on the field, he won’t get rattled, and as the Mets drive down the stretch, they need to see what Cuddyer still brings to the table.