Jun 04

David Wright Personifies Slumping Mets’ Offense

We’ve seen this before from David Wright, a hot start cools and descends into a frigid abyss where he’s consumed by mechanical flaws borne out of a major psychological problem – the need to carry the Mets on his shoulders.

We can’t blame it on the pressures of being captain, as he’s fallen into this trap before, notably last season said manager Terry Collins, whose lineup includes as many as six starters hitting below .240. Teams can’t win with such limited production, and Wright can’t catch the free-falling Mets, who come into Washington tonight ten games under .500 and 11 ½ games behind the first place Braves.

WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

       WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

“He did it in the second half of last year, too,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were crushed in a three-game series in Florida. “When things started to go bad last year, he took it upon himself to be the guy to get us out of it.’’

The slide begins with a gradual expansion of the strike zone; the balls Wright once resisted off the plate he’s now chasing. The walks decline; the strikeouts increase. His average plummets.

Instead of driving the ball to center and right field, Wright falls into the habit of trying to pull, with the results often pop-ups and weak ground balls. His swing is now long and slow instead of short and quick. The more he tries to break out of it the more suffocating becomes the slump. There is such a thing as pressing and that’s what’s happening to Wright the past two weeks with a .163 average, .241 on-base percentage with one homer and two RBI.

Wright alluded to his problems after the Yankees series when he said: “I’m maybe trying to do a little too much and trying to make things happen. … I can’t be going up there and getting myself out or swinging at pitcher’s pitches early in the count.’’

However, that’s what he’s doing and it defines the futility and anguish of a slump. Wright hasn’t yet reached Ike Davis proportions, but is headed in that direction.

On some teams, a slumping player can be camouflaged, or at least protected, if others in the lineup are hitting. However, Daniel Murphy is the only one and he doesn’t do it with power. Considering his track record, Davis’ homer Sunday must be looked at as an aberration and not a sign of a breakout. Lucas Duda has 10 homers, but only 20 RBI, which the more you think about it is hard to believe. It’s almost unfathomable.

Collectively, the Mets are averaging less than four runs a game and hold the major league’s worst team average at .227. Their hitters are averaging under ten strikeouts a game.

At one time, you might have been able to say, “where would they be without Wright?’’

Well, they have him and only three teams in the major leagues hold a worse record than the 22-32 Mets. There are a lot of numbers that define how poorly they are playing, but what I find most discouraging is the Marlins have won just 16 games this year, with six coming against the Mets.

You’re tempted to think it can’t get much worse than this, but you realize as a Met fan, it can.

ON DECK: Looking at Washington series.

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May 31

Terry Collins Threw His Team Under The Bus

There are times I don’t get Terry Collins, for example his admission his clubhouse was beginning to lose hope.

“Due to what we’ve gone through in the last three weeks, the hardest thing I’ve done is try to keep these guys positive,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday night’s win over the Yankees. “That’s the biggest part of this job. It wasn’t about changing stances or shuffling bullpens. It was about trying to keep the guys in the clubhouse positive.’’

COLLINS: Questioned his team's character.

COLLINS: Questioned his team’s character.

I understand where he’s coming from, as certainly that was everybody’s impression.

While I applaud his candor, but I don’t understand why he would go in that direction. One of the first things a manager is graded on is his ability to have his players go to the mat for him. Basically, Collins admitted he was losing his team.

Terry Francona admitted that in Boston and is now managing the Indians.

Even if it were true, never admit it because that’s ammunition to be used against you. Never admit it, because once it is out there the perception won’t go away and will surface during the next losing streak. Never admit it, because it is a sign of weakness.

Collins then threw his players under the bus. Whether he meant to or not, he did because it opens the door for finger-pointing. Who quit?

“Look, you’ve got to work your way out of it. Everybody goes through some bad times. You’ve got to work your way out of it,’’ Collins said.

With that, he should have stopped, but like the guy in the seat next to you on a plane, he wouldn’t shut up.

“That was the hardest part of this, because you could sense there was tremendous frustration,’’ he continued. “Guys were down. You heard some of those guys that I had been with for three years now start to say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t do it anymore.’ You can’t listen to that, because it’s a long, hard season.’’

OK, who said that? Who was on the verge of quitting? Did anybody dog it? If David Wright is the captain of this team, shouldn’t have he done something?

And, if you’re a player in that clubhouse, you have to wonder: Is he talking about me?

Basically, Collins left it up to the media to find and expose those who were giving up or were pressing. Collins is telling us his team is not of strong character or will.

Then came the threat of demotions for Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada. The appearance is he used the minor leagues as a punishment. Was this a threat to just Davis and Tejada or a message to everybody?

If it was intended for everybody, then it shouldn’t have come in late May, but during spring training. Collins should have said: “This team will hustle. This team will play fundamental baseball. This team will concentrate. This team will not draw undue attention to itself.’’

Simple messages, all, which should come with a simple qualifier: Do these things or we’ll get somebody who can.

I don’t like that Davis is stubborn about his hitting approach and the concept of going to the minor leagues to improve. I don’t like Jordany Valdespin’s attitude and me-first nature. And, I thought Collin McHugh’s tweet the other night was amateurish and out-of-line.

McHugh tweeted: “You can call us the NYC Sanitation Dept. because we just SWEPT the Yankees from Queens to the Bronx.’’

Is he serious? Let McHugh do something, maybe win a few games before he trashes an opposition that with the exception of this week and a few other times, has pretty much had its way with the Mets.

A tweet like that shows Collins doesn’t have control over his clubhouse. An admission there were players thinking, “I can’t do this anymore,’’ suggests the same.

The Mets have won five straight and head to Miami this weekend to play a team they should beat. But, what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse last night in the Bronx is something that would have stayed in a smart clubhouse. It is something that makes you wonder whether their mind is able to focus enough to continue this run.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum and the lineups.

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

 

 

May 30

Mets Wrap, May 30: Dillon Gee Makes Rotation Statement

Pitching with his spot in the rotation on the line, Dillon Gee was magnificent as he struck out 12 and retired the last 15 hitters to carry the Mets to a 3-1 victory Thursday night over the Yankees. With the win, the Mets won consecutive two-game series and five straight games overall. After being 12 games under .500, the Mets are now 22-29.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

ON THE MOUND: Gee gave up one run on four hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Gee limited the Yankees to a Robinson Cano homer in the third. Gee struck out the final five hitters he faced. … Scott Rice recorded two outs in the eighth and Bobby Parnell shut down the Yankees in the ninth for his ninth save.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets managed just four hits, the most important being Marlon Byrd’s two-run homer in the second. John Buck drove in the Mets’ third run with an infield single in the eighth. … The Mets were 1-for-9 with RISP.

THEY SAID IT: “I’m not stupid,’’ – Gee when asked if he recognized the situation in the Mets’ rotation.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20: Consecutive Yankees retired to end the game.

METS MATTERS: Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will have his broken left foot re-examined Friday. The projection for d’Arnaud is now as a September call-up, which would preclude trading Buck to a contender. … Terry Collins said Omar Quintanilla, if he’s playing well, could remain the shortstop when Ruben Tejada comes off the disabled list. … Jon Niese was scratched from Saturday’s start with tendinitis in his left shoulder. He will be replaced by Collin McHugh. … Reliever Scott Atchison, on the disabled list with numbness in his right fingers, could have elbow surgery to remove a bone spur.

ON DECK: The Mets start a three-game series beginning Friday in Miami. Shaun Marcum starts Friday.

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

May 29

After The Bad And Ugly, Mets Show Us The Good

Nobody knows what will happen from here, but the New York Mets have given us a show the past three nights. They have given us a respite of thrills with three straight comeback victories in what has been a lifeless spring.

DUDA; Joyous moment.

                           DUDA: Joyous moment.

Let’s not be foolish enough to think the Mets will suddenly turn it on, reel off a 20-of-24 tear and cruise into the All-Star break as a contender. We can’t think that way because there still exist numerous holes and they’ve toyed with our emotions too many times for us to buy into it again.

They are my high school girlfriend, the ultimate tease.

However, the beauty of sports is its power to generate dreams and hope, and that forces us to ask this question about the past three nights: Why can’t they play like this all the time?

Even David Wright wonders from time to time.

“To win the last couple of games the way we have – coming back from behind – I think it gives everybody a little bit of confidence moving forward, especially against one of the upper-tier teams and against the best closer to ever do it. It means a lot,” said Wright, who for the second straight game drove in the tying run in the late innings.

Wright, the best the Mets have to offer, is having a superb season with a realistic chance to start an All-Star Game in his home park.

Although, Tuesday night had its blemishes, Matt Harvey – with Dwight Gooden looking on – gave us a juxtaposition of the Mets’ past and future, and a pretty damned good view of the present.

Harvey made one give-me-that-back pitch to Lyle Overbay, otherwise he could have pitched a shutout. He was that good; good enough for us to imagine him joining Wright in the All-Star Game.

Even so, Harvey was on the hook for his first loss when the Mets came to bat against Mariano Rivera in the ninth. Normally, Rivera might throw, say, nine pitches in a one-two-three night.

Rivera threw nine last night, but it was a double by Daniel Murphy, who again played a huge role, game-tying single by Wright, who advanced to second on an error by Brett Gardner, and scored on a broken bat single by Lucas Duda.

Terry Collins has preached aggressive base running, which is a way for an undermanned team to gain an edge. Wright hustled into scoring position on the error and pushed the envelope on Duda’s hit. Too many runners might have held up and waited for the ball to drop, but Wright got a tremendous jump.

Funny thing, as Wright slid home and Duda waived his teammates onto the field, I couldn’t help but think that would have been Ike Davis’ spot in the order. But, that’s a negative thought, and last night, the past three nights, are to be savored.

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

 

May 25

Ike Davis Needs The Minor Leagues Now

The Mets said they need more time to get an understanding of what’s going on with Ike Davis in order to make a decision on what to do with him

From Sandy Alderson on down these are professional baseball people with decades of experience. How can they not know Davis isn’t giving them anything; that he’s in a horrendous slump with shattered confidence?

DAVIS: One of four walks back to the dugout.

DAVIS: One of four walks back to the dugout.

Manager Terry Collins doesn’t know how much longer the Mets can live with Davis’ non-production, especially since they are getting little elsewhere.

“I know it’s wearing on him,’’ Collins told reporters Friday night. “I talk to these guys every day. I know it’s wearing on him.’’

It’s not as Davis isn’t working hard. Perhaps too hard.

“He took batting practice when they stopped the game.’’ Collins said. “He got in the cage. So I know it’s wearing on him. These players get to the big leagues because they’re very talented guys. They haven’t had to deal with much failure in their whole lives. When you deal with what he’s going through right now, it’s pretty hard to take it, because you’ve never been there before.’’

Davis said he needs to figure it out on this level and won’t get anything out of playing in the minor leagues. This is his primary problem. Like an alcoholic won’t get better until he admits to a problem, Davis won’t improve until he admits he needs reconstructive hitting surgery.

Major League pitchers, even mediocre ones, smell a hitter’s weaknesses and Davis has plenty. He’s vulnerable to fastballs high and breaking pitches low and away, meaning unless Davis gets a grooved fastball down the middle he’s not going to do anything. He didn’t get anything Friday night, striking out all four times. It was his third four-strikeout game this season, and has fallen to .143 in a 1-for-42 slide.

Slumps such Davis’ can make or break a player. Mickey Mantle slumped early in his career and considered quitting before his father lectured him. Mantle figured it out in the minor leagues and developed into one of the game’s greatest players.

Davis is on pace to strike out 195 times, but give the Mets only 15 homers, and worse, just 33 RBI. He already has 53 strikeouts compared to a combined 37 hits and walks. In just 1,318 career at-bats in 382 games, he has a staggering 363 strikeouts.

By contrast, Joe DiMaggio is known for his 56-game hitting streak, but nearly almost impressive in his 13-year career are just 369 strikeouts with 361 home runs.

Yes, the game has changed since DiMaggio’s time. There’s no longer a stigma to striking out, but it is as if Davis doesn’t care. Here is where he and other players today are simply wrong in their approach and aren’t being trained properly in developing a sound hitting plan. Despite today’s huge individual contracts, this remains a team sport. Strikeouts are a wasted at bat, where so many potential things can happen – including more hits, homers and RBI – when a ball is put into play.

I don’t care if it is Zach Lutz, or Josh Satin, who is not on the 40-man roster, or Wilmer Flores, who is no getting a start at first base at Triple-A Las Vegas, but somebody has to play first base for the Mets until Davis gets his head, and swing, straight.

This is long overdue, as the right time was over a month ago.