Sep 13

Lagares Auditioning For Playoff Roster Spot

While it is clear Juan Lagares lost his center field job to Yoenis Cespedes, what is in question is a possible postseason roster spot, and he’s yelling: “Don’t forget about me.’’

Lagares, buried on the bench behind Cespedes and later Kirk Nieuwenhuis, personified what has been going on with the Mets lately.

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

These Mets refused to give the Braves that third strike or third out. Sunday’s game was lost – that is L O S T – when Lagares came to bat in the ninth.

He fell behind 1-and-2, fouled off a couple of pitches before lining a ball into the right-center gap Cameron Maybin couldn’t hold after a diving attempt.

Curtis Granderson, who has excelled leading off, drew his second walk of the game, 12th of the month and 83rd of the season. Then Daniel Murphy, who isn’t a power hitter, crushed a game-tying three-run homer.

The three runs the Mets scored in the tenth inning was a formality, and with it, the Mets had their 82nd victory for their first winning season in seven years.

The Mets are on an unconscious roll the past six weeks, or since the deal for Cespedes, and it would be easy for a young player such as Lagares to get down on himself.

Lagares is 5-for-9 this month, with three of those hits coming off the bench. He’s started only one game in September. Those are numbers manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson will need to evaluate when deciding the postseason roster.

We know the outfielders will include Cespedes, Granderson, Michael Conforto – there’s no way they can even think about not keeping him now – and Michael Cuddyer. If they want a fifth outfielder the candidates are Nieuwenhuis, Lagares and Eric Young.

Nieuwenhuis offers a left-handed bat off the bench and Young gives them speed and a stolen base threat. Lagares offers a right-handed bat – as does Cuddyer – and defense. But, they won’t take out Cespedes for defense in the playoffs.

Where does that leave Lagares? Today he demonstrated his head is still in the game. If not for the playoffs, then for next season.

Sep 12

Mets Should Ride And Not Rest Cespedes

It came as no surprise Yoenis Cespedes was in the Mets’ lineup tonight in Atlanta. And, to listen to manager Terry Collins, Cespedes will be in the lineup tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that …

Cespedes will play until he wants a day off, and why not? He’s 29 and firecracker hot with no signs of letting up. It should also come as no surprise Cespedes hit another home run, giving him 16 with the Mets. And, when he came to bat in the ninth with the bases loaded, another RBI that iced the Mets’ sixth straight victory was a formality.

CESPEDES: Does it again. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Does it again. (Getty)

With their lead over the Nationals having ballooned to 9.5, another soon to be a formality will be their first playoff appearance since 2006. Tonight they assured themselves of finishing .500 for the first time since 2008.

You wouldn’t be a Mets’ fan if you somehow were not worried Cespedes will eventually cool. Hopefully, that won’t happen until the season is over.

I wrote the other day I didn’t think the Mets would bring back Cespedes, but that’s strictly because of their track record with high-priced free agents. It’s not because I don’t want the Mets to sign him, but simply a gut feeling.

With every passing day, and each extra-base hit, his price keeps going up. Who knows how high it will go? Actually, on the radio today I heard he might pass the $240 million over ten years Robinson Cano got from Seattle. I wouldn’t give Cespedes either, as they’ll grow to regret it the last four or five years.

If Cespedes doesn’t want to rest, just ride him until the Mets clinch and then give him a day or two. That’s what Collins should be doing with everybody … keep the pressure on and go for the throat.

 

Sep 11

Don’t Figure Cespedes Returning

Count me among the group wanting the Mets to bring back Yoenis Cespedes, although I’m not confident in their ability to do so. They have the money, but I don’t see them going $150-million over seven, which would be the starting point.

The Mets won’t bring back Daniel Murphy or Bartolo Colon – which could come back to bite them – and Michael Cuddyer will be gone after next season and Curtis Granderson will be out after two more years.

CESPEDES: Want him back. (AP)

CESPEDES: Want him back. (AP)

I see the Mets making an offer, but not going all out. As good as Cespedes has been, I see the Mets falling short. Somehow, I see this going the way of Jose Reyes.

Another thing I don’t see is Cespedes winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award. As somebody who has voted for these awards, the thought process of most voters is to look at the entire body of work, and for Cespedes, that will be only two months in the National League.

Cespedes’ season has been terrific, but the award is for what he did in that league – hence, NL MVP. Bryce Harper, despite his team falling, still had the best season of anybody in the National League. Even Cespedes’ yearlong composite numbers for both leagues aren’t as good as Harper’s in the National League.

The Mets could have two postseason awards, and it’s not something anybody could have envisioned. GM Sandy Alderson for Executive of the Year and Terry Collins for Manager of the Year.

At one time I briefly thought Noah Syndergaard had a chance for Rookie of the Year, but that faded, and Michael Conforto, in case you’re wondering, hasn’t been around enough.

Of course, isn’t the important thing the World Series trophy? That’s the prize and it is within sight.

Sep 03

Injuries Might Give Conforto More Playing Time

When it comes to rookie outfielder Michael Conforto, the Mets plan to choose the path of least of resistance and will continue their platoon system in left field. But, these are the Mets, so expect obstacles.

“We’ve brought people in here that hit lefties, that have a career record of hitting lefties,” manager Terry Collins said. “And right now that’s what we’ve been doing, and I’m going to stay with it.”

One of those hitters is Michael Cuddyer, but with injuries to Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy, Collins might not execute this platoon plan as they want – and that’s not a bad thing if it gives more playing time to Conforto.

Conforto is on a hot streak going 20-for-50 (.400) with five doubles, four homers and nine RBI in his last 17 games. He is hitting .311 overall, and attributes his success to going to the opposite field.

Sure, Cuddyer is hitting well since coming off the disabled list and is in the first season of a two-year contract. The way he’s hitting he should be playing, but with Duda on the DL it should be at first. Murphy has been playing a lot of first lately, but he’s day-to-day with a strained quad, which should remove some of the obstacles.

Nobody knows how long Duda and Murphy will be sidelined, but this is a perfect opportunity to give Conforto major league at-bats, including against lefties.

As for Yoenis Cespedes, stick him center and leave him there. Juan Lagares hasn’t done anything to justify his multi-year contract, so keep him as late-inning defense.

Conforto will be the starting left fielder with Cuddyer coming off the bench. There’s no reason why the Mets can’t get a head start on things now.

 

 

Sep 01

Mets Should Skip Niese Before Syndergaard

It’s now three stinkers in a row for Jon Niese, and if Mets manager Terry Collins is considering skidding Noah Syndergaard this weekend, perhaps the smarter play would be to bypass the veteran left-hander instead.

NIESE: Next start should be skipped. (AP)

NIESE: Next start should be skipped. (AP)

Niese was rocked in his second straight start by the Phillies Tuesday night, giving up six runs on seven hits in five innings. Niese fell behind 6-0 before Yoenis Cespedes‘ two-run homer briefly made a game of it, but the night unraveled with an eight-run sixth against the Mets’ very suspect bullpen.

Collins is planning to skip Syndergaard in favor of Steven Matz this weekend in Miami in an effort to conserve his innings. However, Niese’s next start is scheduled for Monday in Washington against Max Scherzer.

Which game figures to have greater for the Mets, Saturday in Miami or Monday in Washington? While all games are important, playing the Nationals can be vital, especially if they have cut into the Mets’ lead. The Mets entered Tuesday night’s game with a 5.5-game lead on Washington with six games left between the two teams.

The math is self-explanatory.

Skipping Niese in a game in which he would face Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth is something worth considering. It might be enough to enable him to clear his head. As for Syndergaard, the Mets could conserve his innings in his next start.

However, for this weekend and Monday, it’s more important for the Mets to conserve their lead in the division than it is Syndergaard’s innings.