Aug 26

Why Can’t Collins And Alderson Get Together On A DeGrom Plan?

Why does it take so long for the Mets to make even the simplest decisions? The latest is whether to rest Jacob deGrom after he was roughed up Wednesday night in St. Louis.

“To me, it looks like he’s getting run down,” manager Terry Collins said after deGrom was hammered for the second straight start. In his last two games deGrom has given up a combined 13 runs on 25 hits in 9.2 innings.

DE GROM: Needs rest. (AP)

DE GROM: Needs rest. (AP)

The Cardinals got him for five runs on 12 hits in 4.2 innings. The start before that the Giants hit him for eight runs on 13 hits in five innings.

Collins suggested deGrom could be tired after the Giants’ game, and several times this season attributed the stamina of his starters to their 2015 workload. That was eight days ago, and according to Collins in today’s press briefing, he still hasn’t spoken with GM Sandy Alderson about resting deGrom, which suggests two things.

The first is Collins doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally decide how to use his pitchers. Does he really need Alderson’s permission to push deGrom back a few days or even skip a turn? Do you think Joe Torre needed to talk with Brian Cashman before resting Andy Pettitte?

The second is there’s a lack of communication between Collins and Alderson, which represents a disconnect between the two I’ve suggested several times already this season.

In the two days since deGrom was ripped, couldn’t Collins have picked up the phone to call Alderson to tell him what he was thinking? Or, after reading Collins’ thoughts the next day, couldn’t Alderson have phoned his manager?

Why must there need to be a face-to-face meeting?

If Collins believes deGrom needs to miss a turn, then just do it and stop making this a daily soap opera. How hard can that be?

If Collins tells Alderson “we need to skip deGrom,” then it’s up to the general manager to provide the manager a starter.

The Mets took nearly a month before deciding to put Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list? They took several weeks before putting Steven Matz on the disabled list? They’ve also dragged their feet on Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto and a handful of other issues.

There are 35 games remaining in a season that his slipping away. Sure, you hate to lose a deGrom start, but it’s preferable to miss one now than risk getting him hurt and missing several.

It’s not all that hard. Just make a decision.

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Aug 24

Microcosm Of Mets’ Season Seen In This Series

The essence of the 2016 Mets could be seen in the first two games of this Cardinals series. On Tuesday the Mets produced one of the gutsiest performances of this season when starter Jon Niese left with a knee injury after getting just one out forcing the bullpen to work 8.2 innings.

After the game manager Terry Collins said how impressed he was with rookie Robert Gsellman. Great defense, timely hitting and superior relief pitching; it was the ultimate formula and something we haven’t often seen.

DE GROM: Off again. (AP)

DE GROM: Off again. (AP)

Unquestionably, the victory was one of the Mets’ most inspirational, and one they could build on. After all, it was their third straight victory, something they hadn’t done since before the All-Star break.

However, instead of building off that with Jacob deGrom, their best pitcher, the Mets responded with another egg in an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals.

It didn’t get off to a good start when Matt Carpenter lead off the St. Louis first with a homer off deGrom, one of five runs and 12 hits he gave up in his second straight bad start.

Offensively, the Mets had just four hits as they fell back to .500 and 4.5 games behind the Cardinals for the second wild-card berth.

Not only did they show no signs of life and have to be concerned with deGrom – who has given up 13 runs on 25 hits in his last two starts – but Jay Bruce left the game in the second inning with a cramp in his right calf. In addition to Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes still looks gimpy.

It is widely considered 87 victories could be enough for the wild card, but for that to happen, the Mets must go 24-12 in their remaining 36 games.

The math says it is possible. Logic says it is not.

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Aug 21

Is There Connection Between Elbow And Shoulder For Matz?

In ascertaining Steven Matz’s shoulder issue, perhaps the Mets should revisit their earlier proclamation the left-hander’s bone spur injury was simply a matter of pain tolerance, as suggested by both GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins.

On June 28 – nearly two months ago – I wrote that was nonsense. Everybody knows, and I should lump Alderson into that group, any injury with a pitcher should be considered more serious than it is and, injuries/hurts leads to overcompensation with another part of the body.

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

MATZ: Is there connection between elbow and shoulder? (AP)

I undoubtedly admire Matz’s warrior spirit, but let’s face it, this is his first full season in the major leagues and he doesn’t have the resume to call his own shots. He wants to pitch, I get that, but like most young players he doesn’t have the smarts or backbone to tell his real feelings to Collins or management.

As baseball lifers, both Collins and Alderson should realize what was going on with Matz and protect him.

This is what Alderson said in late June: “At this point, it’s a function of whether he can tolerate the discomfort while continuing to pitch. What we will do is monitor that level of discomfort.”

I take two things from that statement. The first is, and I said it at the time, Alderson’s comment was garbage, that pain tolerance is simply a misguided assumption. You can’t assume anything with an injury. Can’t be done.

The second is if Matz’s shoulder is now an issue their level of monitoring leaves a lot to be desired.

Look, I can’t say with 100 percent certainty there is a connection between the elbow and the shoulder, but the flip side Alderson can’t say with 100 percent absoluteness it isn’t.

I believe, and this comes from years of following the Mets, they too frequently play fast and loose with injuries.

The Mets’ first course of action with injuries should always be caution. They weren’t with Matz and the same it appears is happening with Noah Syndergaard. They weren’t with Matt Harvey.

Matz will travel to New York Monday to be examined by team doctors, something that should have been done as soon as he was scratched from his last start.

Nobody knows what the doctors will find with Matz, but the Mets’ appropriate response should be getting him better and stronger, not seeing if he can throw five innings next weekend against the Phillies.

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Aug 17

Why Push It With Wheeler?

Sure, I would have liked to have seen Zack Wheeler this season, but he’s been diagnosed with a mild flexor strain and will be shut down for at least two weeks. That shoves his return to the first week of September when the original projection was the start of July.

After a couple of weeks of rehab, there will be only two weeks left in the season. If the Mets are still in the race then, would they really want to force him in a game? That doesn’t seem smart. It’s not as if adding Wheeler will put them over the top.

If they want to bring him up to be around the team and rehab in front of manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen, that’s fine, but anything else is pushing the envelope.

Let him rehab and get stronger, then start over next spring.

Should be simple, actually.

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Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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