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

Jul 31

Mets Stand Pat At Trade Deadline

The trade deadline passed and as expected the New York Mets did not make a move. In previous seasons when one wondered about the futures of Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright for economic reasons, this time they opted not to be sellers.

With nearly $50 million coming off the books next year because of contracts to Johan Santana and Jason Bay, the Mets say they will be active in the winter, mostly in the free-agent market, but for now want to make the most of this season.

Projected to lose as many as 100 games in some circles, the Mets have their eyes on second place in the NL East and a .500 record. It is not out of line. This was exactly the right thing the Mets did.

“We’re trying to win games here,’’ Terry Collins told reporters in Miami. “We’re not just throwing the season away.’’

The Mets’ inactivity must be interpreted in the positive because their message is they believe they have a competitive core, and the pieces everybody wants from them – notably Bobby Parnell and Marlon Byrd – have greater value in Flushing. If the Mets really believe they can be competitive next season they will need a closer, and Byrd is a positive influence on the field and in the clubhouse. All winning teams need players like him.

Since nearly player goes on waivers during the season to gauge trade interest, it is possible something could happen in August, but for now GM Sandy Alderson’s intent is to see how good this team can be over 162 games, and from there, better formulate his shopping needs.

Pitching is always a need and they now have a positive in Jenrry Mejia, tonight’s starter in Miami, who is coming off a solid, seven-shutout inning performance in Washington last Friday.

Mejia has struggled with injuries over the past three seasons, including undergoing Tommy John surgery. It is not unreasonable to speculate Mejia’s injuries were caused by the Mets bouncing him from the rotation to the bullpen back into the rotation. This was precipitated by then manager Jerry Manuel’s insistence in bringing him north out of spring training in 2010 to work out of the pen.

Only Mejia rarely pitched and when he did was usually ineffective. He was optioned to Triple-A, where he started and eventually injured his elbow.

Mejia starts tonight and if he does well will stay in the Mets’ six-man rotation.

With Jeremy Hefner ineffective over his last three starts and Jon Niese recovering from a slight rotator cuff, there’s potential for things to get dicey in the rotation, making it imperative for Mejia to produce.

Here’s the Mets’ lineup behind Mejia tonight:

Eric Young, LF

Daniel Murphy, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Marlon Byrd, RF

Ike Davis, 1B

John Buck, C

Juan Lagares, CF

Omar Quintanilla, SS

Jenrry Mejia, RHP

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

Jul 27

Mets Opt To Protect Matt Harvey And Zack Wheeler With Six Man Rotation

How long the New York Mets’ six-man rotation will last nobody is willing to say. It could be until Jeremy Hefner is beaten for a third straight start or if Jenrry Mejia’s game Friday was a fluke.

The driving force for the decision is to space out the starts of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler with the intent of letting them pitch out the remainder of the season. Nobody wants to pull the plug in mid-September, especially if the Mets are making a run at .500, and shaving an inning or two off each start is not the best avenue, either.

For the remainder of this season, at least, the objective if is protect Harvey and Wheeler, and with the playoffs seemingly out of the picture, there’s nothing wrong with the concept, because everybody else is also getting more rest.

There have been teams in recent years to go to six starters, but only once or twice through the rotation, and usually because of a double header. As a matter or course for a season, I can’t recall it ever happening. I do remember four-man rotations. Too bad those are a thing of the past.

It is estimated each has about 75 innings left in their seasons.

Dillon Gee started Saturday and gave up three homers early in the game; Carlos Torres goes Sunday, followed by Hefner, Wheeler, Mejia and Harvey in Miami.

This all began with the decision to cap Harvey prior to the break. Harvey has had blister problems and slightly tweaked his back earlier they year, but his arm has been sound and the Mets want to keep it that way.

“Right now, if you pencil it out all the way through, Matt has about 10 more [starts],’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters Saturday in Washington. “So we should be able to spread those innings out to let him go out to pitch and be OK.’’

Collins wouldn’t say how long the Mets will stick with six, but said how well the team is playing could be a determining factor. The Mets were seven games under .500 after Friday’s double-header split. Currently, they are 11 games behind for the second wild card.

Another factor is Jon Niese’s rehab from a shoulder injury. Once he’s ready somebody will be out a job, likely Mejia unless he keeps throwing seven scoreless each time out.

The flip side of going with an extra starter is going with one less player off the bench. Of course, those numbers will change if the Mets make it until the September 1 call-ups.

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

Jul 25

Mets’ Young Shows Compassion To Hudson

In an era of self-absorption and chest thumping by players in all sports, despite the painful events as the igniter, class and respect was on display Wednesday night by the New York Mets and Atlanta, with Braves pitcher Tim Hudson on the giving and receiving ends.

YOUNG and HUDSON

                                                                             YOUNG and HUDSON

By know, you’ve probably all seen the gruesome replay of the Mets’ Eric Young stepping on and fracturing Hudson’s ankle. He’ll undergo surgery in Atlanta and could be lost for the year.

What you might not have seen was Young checking on David Wright after the Mets’ third baseman’s bat snapped and cracked him on the back of the head.

The gesture did not go unnoticed in the Mets’ dugout. “The first guy when the bat broke and hit David, Tim’s standing right there to make sure he’s OK. That’s the kind of guy he is,’’ Terry Collins said.

When you extend class and courtesy, it comes back to you, and Hudson felt the warmth from the Citi Field crowd, but also compassion from Wright and Young, who both stayed by Hudson as paramedics treated him on the field.

“It sucks,’’ a saddened Wright told reporters. “I’ve gotten a chance to be around Tim at All-Star games and playing against him for so long. He’s one of the good guys in the game and to see him go down like that and know something was wrong, it’s tough to watch.’’

Outside of Hudson, the only person who felt worse was Young, who knew he got Hudson’s ankle and none of the base. Young immediately sprinted to Hudson and bent over to pat him on the back.

Young stayed with Hudson throughout the time he was being treated, and shook his hand as he was carted off the field, perhaps for the last time this season.

“You never want to injure anybody,’’ Young said told reporters after the game. “I knew I didn’t get any of the base. I know I got all of his foot. … I pretty much knew it was probably broke right as I did it. That’s why I sprinted right back to him and try to console him as much as I could and apologize.”

Covering first base is a dangerous play for a pitcher because his eyes are on the ball and not the runner or the base. The pitcher winds up “feeling’’ for the base with his foot, and Hudson’s was squarely on the middle. There was no place else for Young to run.

Young said Hudson told him an apology wasn’t necessary as they shook hands on the field. Hudson repeated those words to Young when the Mets’ outfielder checked on him in the Braves’ clubhouse.

“I obviously wasn’t trying to hurt him on the play,’’ Young said. “He just told me to keep my head up and keep playing the game the hard way, the right way. He said there was nothing I can do about it.

“That made me feel somewhat better, but still bummed that he’s going to be out for a while. I just hope he has a speedy recovery.’’

Everybody does.

Jul 23

Bobby Parnell Laments Luck; Doesn’t Take Responsibility

The New York Mets gift-wrapped a game last night to Atlanta. However, there’s nothing to like after hearing Bobby Parnell, who did more dancing than pitching after blowing his fifth save opportunity.

The Mets don’t want to deal Parnell because they believe he’s their closer of the future. His 18 saves is a good indicator, but he’s not immune from some head scratching and wonder.

PARNELL: Spits the bit. (AP)

PARNELL: Spits the bit. (AP)

Yes, Parnell was victimized by a hit against the shift, a bloop and a passed ball, but the bottom line is the closer must overcome and pitch out of trouble, whether it is somebody else’s or his.

Mariano Rivera didn’t become the greatest closer in history by whining about bad luck as Parnell did.

“I didn’t feel like I gave up any hard-hit balls,’’ Parnell told reporters last night. “They just, unfortunately, got through. I wouldn’t have done anything different, I don’t think.

“I didn’t walk anybody. I didn’t give up free bases. I attacked the zone. Unfortunately it just wasn’t my day.’’

Really? You wouldn’t have done anything differently? You were happy with the placement of the pitch John Buck couldn’t handle? You were happy with the grooved pitch to Reed Johnson that produced the go-ahead run? Seriously, you attacked the zone?

Let’s first look at the passed ball. Parnell said he thought he saw a fastball sign, but Buck called for a curveball. It’s the ninth inning, so you must be sure. That’s not bad luck, that’s not taking care of business.

“We don’t know who was right and who was wrong,” Parnell said. “We’re not going to worry about it, and get them tomorrow.’’

It’s not that simple. It is the pitcher who decides what, when and where’s he’s going to throw a pitch. If the pitcher doesn’t like what is called, or is uncertain, then he doesn’t throw the pitch. It is that simple. What Parnell did was surrender control of the situation.

There are times saying “get them tomorrow,’’ doesn’t cut it and last night was one of them. While it remains possible there was legitimate miscommunication, it is Parnell’s job to get the next hitters out, which he did not.

Somehow, Parnell must find a way to get the outs he needed, as Dillon Gee did in a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh.

Parnell has made significant improvement, but remains a project. His .097 WHIP is a career best, as is his 2.0 walks per nine innings average. His 6.8 hits per nine innings are his best since 2008.

However, his 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings is his lowest since 2009, which leads to the suggestion when Parnell needs a strikeout, as he did last night, he’s unable to get it despite still throwing in the mid-to-high 90s.

Terry Collins defended not playing the infield in against Chris Johnson, who hit a game-tying RBI grounder to shortstop, when what Parnell desperately needed was the strikeout.

Unlike Rivera, whose cutter might be baseball’s most devastating pitch, Parnell’s money pitch is still the fastball, which is reliant on movement, location and velocity – in that order – to be effective.

Parnell’s wasn’t working, which made throwing the knuckle-curve difficult.

It is about execution. Luck is irrelevant. Great closers understand the difference.

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