Aug 09

LaTroy Hawkins Better Closer Option Than Committee

Isn’t it always the way with the New York Mets? There’s positives brewing, but something always seems to get in the way, such as Bobby Parnell’s bulging disk.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

HAWKINS: Best option for closer.

Once pegged to lose 100 games, the Mets are talking about .500 and finishing in second place in the NL East, but gone is Parnell, probably for the year if surgery is required.

The Mets’ bullpen has been stellar since the beginning of July, but there’s only one real choice to replace Parnell and that would be 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins instead of going with a bullpen-by-committee, which rarely works and usually ends up using guys outside of their customary roles.

Hawkins saved the last two games of the Colorado series, and has 90 saves in his career. Not great over 19 years, but it is the best the Mets have going for them right now.

Hawkins struggled early in the season, but has been consistently effective. He has experience pitching in tight games, and Terry Collins has more trust in him than in Scott Atchison or Scott Rice or Pedro Feliciano.

Even at 40, Hawkins was throwing in the mid-90s against the Rockies. He can still bring it when he has to, and averages 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and only 1.6 walks per nine innings.

Perhaps Hawkins will eventually run on fumes, but if the Mets are cognizant about not getting him up constantly, and perhaps occasionally let their set-up reliever work into the ninth if there’s a three-run lead, it could preserve him.

Collins’ bullpen has been exceptional over the past month, but now he must make a significant choice: Does he go the committee route or give his trust to Hawkins?

The thought of saving Zack Wheeler’s innings by using him in relief is not a good idea as the change in routine creates the possibility of injury. And, please, nobody mention Frank Francisco. Please.

Hawkins has pitched well and is deserving of closing until he can’t it anymore.

I don’t think there’s any doubt Hawkins has to be the closer until Parnell returns, which as of now looks to be next spring.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 09

Mets Head West With Second Place On Their Minds

The New York Mets balked at trading Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd at the deadline, citing the desire to finish as strong as possible.

One Mets’ executive told me finishing at .500 would be defined as a successful season, one that began with many forecasting as many as 100 losses.

COLLINS and F. WILPON: Thinking about second.

COLLINS and F. WILPON: Thinking about second.

How close they come to reaching that objective will greatly be determined by this upcoming road trip.

After sweeping Colorado, the Mets begin a four-city, 11-game road trip starting tonight in Arizona. From there the Mets go to Los Angeles for a series against the Dodgers, then to San Diego and on their way home, stop in Minnesota for a make-up game layover against the Twins.

West Coast trips have often been killers to the Mets, and this one stands to be no different. There’s not an easy game on the schedule, then there’s that fun trip to Minnesota when then would be spent at the time.

“This might be, in my time here, the toughest road trip we’ve had to face,’’ manager Terry Collins said Thursday afternoon as his players packed to board a bus to the airport.

“You’ve got to face the two top teams in the National League West, who are playing very, very good, and we know San Diego has good pitching.’’

The Mets leapfrogged Philadelphia and are one game behind Washington for second place in the NL East. They are even in the loss column. Collins, who has made more than expected with little this year, has his eyes on second place, even if it doesn’t translate into the playoffs.

“I think it’d be huge,’’ Collins said. “I think it’d be an enormous lift not only for the team, because they certainly deserve everything they got, but the entire organization. Some of these young guys have come up and contributed to what we’re doing now. You got to keep battling. Right now we got 50 left. That’s still an uphill climb.’’

Sure it is, but it is better than the last three seasons when the Mets folded after the break. Finishing in second place – or at .500 – is a sign of significant progress, which will have the Mets head into winter with significantly fewer questions than in previous years.

Also, with the Mets saying they have the resources this winter, their situation might be more enticing to several free agents. You never know.

However, complicating their objective is possibly losing closer Parnell to season-ending surgery to repair a disk in his neck and David Wright on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. The Mets don’t expect Wright back during this trip.

Even so, there are no excuses. The Mets had to overcome injuries all season and must do it again as they attempt to play meaningful games in September.

Meaningful games in September? Who would have thought?

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 06

Mets Should Cut Ties With Valdespin

Talent usually warrants numerous chances, but will the New York Mets offer another to Jordany Valdespin in the wake of his 50-game suspension from the Biogenesis scandal?

Considering his other baggage, which ranges from a temper tantrum directed at Terry Collins when he was optioned to Triple-A; to being suspended from winter ball; to being photographed wearing a Marlins hat; to not hustling, and finally his look-at-me demeanor such as styling after a home run in a game seemingly decided, it’s likely we’ll never see him play for the Mets again.

VALDESPIN: Time to cut ties. (Wikipedia)

VALDESPIN: Time to cut ties. (Wikipedia)

Valdespin failed when given a chance to play second base, but has hit since his demotion. Yes, talent usually warrants another chance, but how real is the positive Valdespin displayed last year?

Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, for one, is curious. Valdespin recently homered off Clippard, and the pitcher is wondering if the Mets’ outfielder had help. You know, better baseball through chemistry.  Clippard did not hide his anger at Valdespin, telling The Washington Post: “You’re like, ‘Those guys are doing stuff that’s affecting my career and they’re not playing the game the right way.’ So that’s frustrating.

“I think anybody can relate to that. If they’re not doing things the right way, and they’re beating you, then it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. So that’s why this is so important. Because nobody – players, ownership – nobody wants to see guys cheat.’’

Valdespin was drilled after his home run styling, and who can blame Clippard if he throws high heat the next time they face each other.

The Mets have tired of Valdespin’s act, so if he were to be released would anybody be surprised? The Mets talk about changing their culture, and getting rid of Valdespin would be a step in the right direction. If he becomes a star elsewhere, so be it.

If Clippard is upset about being beaten by a tainted Valdespin, think for a moment a Mets’ prospect who might be overlooked in favor of this guy.

This is where the Players Association is finally getting it, and is showing support for the rank-and-file over the high-salaried cheaters. It is the Players Association’s obligation to protect the accused, as it is doing with Alex Rodriguez, but it is finally yielding to the low-salaried and low-profile players whose careers are threatened by cheaters.

And, Valdespin is one of them.

Valdespin’s representative offered a lame statement about him not appealing the 50-game suspension as to not be a distraction, but in reality if he was innocent of any wrong-doing wouldn’t he have appealed?

Because he didn’t, we can conclude two things: 1) Major League Baseball had serious proof against him, or 2) MLB was bluffing and Valdespin fell for it.

If you’re innocent, you appeal. Nonetheless, it is time for the Mets to sever their relationship with Valdespin, and the sooner the better.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 02

Using Zack Wheeler Out Of The Bullpen Is A Bad Idea

There are bad ideas and really bad ideas, and the New York Mets considering using Zack Wheeler out of the bullpen falls into the latter category.

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

WHEELER: Leave him alone. (AP)

Wheeler has thrown a combined 114.1 minors-and-majors innings this season with a cutoff number at 180. With the intent of limiting his innings, manager Terry Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen are mulling using Wheeler out of the bullpen.

This is a bad idea on so many levels, beginning with the up-and-down nature of a reliever. The Mets will say they will only use Wheeler at the start of an inning, but that’s no guarantee. It is still a change in routine and they must scrap this idea immediately.

The Mets’ goal of winning as many games as possible in the second half and limiting Wheeler and Matt Harvey aren’t mutually compatible. The best way to achieve their goal of making a .500 run is to not change their pitching, which has been good.

Pitchers are creatures of habit and Wheeler hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since 2010. For the past three years, he’s worked in the routine of a starter. Bouncing from starter to reliever in the middle of a season is never a good idea. The Mets should know that by now with Jenrry Mejia, who went from reliever to starter and ended up having Tommy John surgery.

A coincidence? Perhaps, but why take the chance? Considering how the Mets handled Wheeler with kid gloves, thrusting him into a new role is counter productive. It might be different if the Mets were in a pennant race, but they are not.

Figuring ten more starts they should simply cut Wheeler at six innings a game and do not deviate under any circumstances. That would give him 174.1 innings, just under the limit. This way, it keeps Wheeler in his normal routine and eliminate the different strain on his arm caused by working in relief. A starter has a set program, but a reliever does not.

San Francisco used Tim Lincecum out of the pen last year, but he’s a veteran more capable of making the adjustment than Wheeler.

Currently, the Mets are operating with a six-man rotation, which could go back to five once Jonathan Niese comes off the disabled list. The Mets have not said they’ll continue with six when Niese returns. Doing so might not be a bad idea because it would accomplish the dual  purposes of monitoring Wheeler and Harvey, not to mention protecting Niese.

If the Mets go down to five, it would give Wheeler and Harvey additional turns. In that case, they should be skipped or pushed back a turn, which is preferable to shaving innings piecemeal..

The Mets haven’t said whether they will have an innings limit on Wheeler and Harvey next season, but if they do, they should map out their plan from the beginning than doing so mid-stream.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 02

Mets Languish Behind Small Market Royals And Pirates

It wasn’t that long ago when New York Mets’ fans and media criticized the team’s lack of aggressiveness in the free-agent market with the smug comment: “This is New York, we’re not the Kansas City Royals or Pittsburgh Pirates.’’

The Pirates are in first place in the NL Central and might be the season’s best story, while the Royals take a nine-game hitting streak into this oddly-time interleague series – Kansas City’s first trip to Queens since 2002. If the Mets and Royals were in the same division, they would be 6.5 games better than the Mets. Meanwhile, the Pirates would have a 10.5-game lead on the Mets.

The Royals are doing it with great defense, timely hitting sprinkled in amongst a few stars.

Also interesting is left fielder Alex Gordon, who switched from third base and has won a couple of Gold Gloves. My first through was if Gordon can switch position and become solid player, if not a star, then what about Wilmer Flores?

Flores’ roots are at shortstop, a position requiring athletic ability. I don’t know where he fits in, but he hits too much to languish in the minor leagues. Omar Quintanilla has cooled and the organization is far from enamored with Ruben Tejada, so, what’s the harm in trying?

When a player switches positions, it is always easier to move from infield to outfield, than the other way around.

OFFENSE STAGNANT: The Mets limp home from their 3-5 trip no doubt aggravated it could have been 7-1 with some timely hitting – or any hitting at all, for that matter.

The Mets scored 11 against the Nationals in the first game of the trip, but only 15 over the next seven games. Four times they scored only one run or were shutout.

“We don’t drive runs in. There’s no secret,’’ Terry Collins said as the Mets packed up to return home. “If I knew what it was, we’d fix it. Guys don’t drive them in. We’re not driving them in. That’s pretty much the basic line.’’

Collins then went on to say something totally confusing, saying: “There’s nothing wrong with the approach. We’re just not taking good swings on the pitches we can hit.’’

Here’s a bulletin for Collins: They are missing those pitches because the approach is off, whether it be mechanical or mental. Something is not clicking.

It isn’t for Ike Davis, who only had five hits on the trip and stranded six runners Thursday. He’s hitting better than he was prior to going down to Las Vegas, but largely remains unproductive.

WRIGHT HAS TIGHT HAMMY: David Wright has been playing with tightness in his right hamstring. Collins said Wright understands himself better than anybody, but Collins needs to understand him, too.

Wright would try to play if he had an arrow shot through his thigh. This is a man who played nearly a month with a fracture in his lower back.

Wright said he can play, invoking the standard player cliché, that if this were the playoffs it wouldn’t be an issue. But, these aren’t the playoffs.

To risk losing Wright for several weeks or longer if he blows out his hamstring is just plan stupid. Sit him for a couple of games to be sure.

SIX-MAN ROTATION IN JEOPARDY: You knew the Mets weren’t going to go long with a six-man rotation cycle.

Jonathan Niese threw four shutout innings Thursday and said he needs on more start. When he’s ready they certainly won’t go to seven.

Carlos Torres is likely to move to the bullpen.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos