Aug 29

Upon Further Review: Lagares Blew Play

It is totally irrelevant, 100 percent, replays showed Blake Swihart’s drive off the wall that resulted in an inside-the-park home run would have been ruled a conventional homer had it been reviewed.

Also irrelevant, and unacceptable, is Juan Lagares’ explanation that he saw the ball go over the line.

“One hundred percent,’’ Lagares told reporters. “It hit over the line. That’s why the ball came back that hard.’’

LAGARES: Didn't make the play. (AP)

LAGARES: Didn’t make the play. (AP)

Yes, it did, but that doesn’t matter. More important were his actions during the play. I don’t want to say Lagares is lying, but I’m not buying what he said.

If Lagares really thought the ball struck over the line, then why did he run after it? Actually, he jogged after it, which is also not acceptable.

OK, Lagares misplayed the drive and indicates he’s continually plays too shallow. He won the Gold Glove last season, but he’s not good enough to play that shallow. He’s not Paul Blair, not Curt Flood, not Willie Mays, not Andruw Jones, and not Andrew McCutcheon. Not even close. A lot of balls have gone over his head this season. (Sorry for the side rant, but that has been building up for awhile.)

The only ones who handled the play properly were Swihart, who never stopped running; the umpires, who never gave the home run call because they didn’t see that; and Ruben Tejada, who ran into the outfield to get the ball.

“I thought it had gotten over because of the way it bounced back, but I just kept my head down running,’’ Swihart said. “I kind of watched the center fielder jogging after it, but I didn’t hear anything so I kept running.’’

Notice how Swihart said Lagares jogged after the ball. He kept running out the play; Lagares did not.

And, give left fielder Yoenis Cespedes a bag of popcorn for the way he watched the play. It hasn’t been the first time he hasn’t hustled.

Lagares needs to hustle after the ball because you never know until the umpires make the call. As a player, you never assume anything, out or safe, fair or foul, until the call is made.

Lagares’ judgment and Cespedes’ lack of hustle can’t be tolerated, not in spring training and especially not during a pennant race.

After the game, manager Terry Collins conceded Cespedes and right fielder Curtis Granderson didn’t do their jobs, saying: “Somebody’s got to back him up.’’

However, Collins was not quoted regarding Lagares’ part other than to say the ball went over the line. Here’s wrung him out in his office after the game. The Mets are in a race, so this stuff needs to be cleaned up now.

Last night doesn’t cut it in October.

Aug 27

Matz Should Be Lefty Bullpen Solution

I’m throwing this out there, but perhaps the Mets’ lefty bullpen void could be filled by Steven Matz. I know GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins rejected that notion in spring training, but that was a long time ago and now we’re looking at the Mets as serious playoff contenders with one severe weakness – lack of a lefty reliever.

Instead of diving into the six-man rotation when Matz returns, why not give that spot start to Logan Verrett or somebody else and use Matz as a situational lefty – one batter only – coming out of the pen? I wouldn’t mind seeing him come into face Bryce Harper or Mark Teixeira or Jason Heyward or any other lefty masher.

It is outside-the-box thinking, but that’s what the Mets need right now.

MATZ: Would be interesting pen option. (Getty)

MATZ: Would be interesting pen option. (Getty)

With the way Bartolo Colon pitched last night, and Verrett in Colorado, there’s not a sense of urgency to insert Matz into the rotation. Once the rosters are expanded Sept. 1, Matz will be included, but so should another minor league pitcher in case they want to sit Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. Who knows? Maybe they could even bring back Dillon Gee for an encore start.

Meanwhile, there’s a gaping hole in the bullpen, especially from the left side.

I get it, you don’t want to screw with Matz, but there’s nothing wrong with his arm. And, if the intent is to limit him to one key batter it shouldn’t be a problem. Say the Mets are playing the Nationals and it is the fifth inning. Collins can look up at that multi-million dollar scoreboard in Citi Field, or have one of his coaches tell him Harper is two innings away.

That’s when you get Matz to warm up so he’s not rushing. It could be like a normal between-starts bullpen session. And, if he doesn’t need to face Harper, then he sits back down. All he did was get a little exercise.

I know the Mets don’t want to do that, but it is something they should consider. Matz isn’t made of china or paper mache. This won’t kill him. A lot of major league starters have gone into the bullpen and done well. I know this is force feeding him into a new role, but damn it, the Mets are fighting for the playoffs and have a glaring need. It is a need they are unlikely to fill with a trade in the next four days.

If you look at the Mets’ rotation, should they make the playoffs they’ll carry four starters, and Matz won’t be one of them. The playoff rotation would include Harvey, Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese. Colon will undoubtedly be bumped. And, I don’t figure them using Matz out of the bullpen for the playoffs if they haven’t used him there in September.

So, what’s he going to get, one or two starts at the most in September? Maybe three? What good would that do?

He has the potential to help the Mets more out of the pen and that’s where he should go.

Aug 24

Optimal Time For Wright To Return

In some respect, it will be Opening Day II for the Mets with the return of David Wright tonight in Philadelphia. Only this time the Mets are 11 games over .500.

“For me it almost feels like Opening Day, where you have some butterflies, kind of nervous excitement,” Wright told reporters this afternoon.

The last time they had a record this good was Sept. 28, 2008 when they lost to the Marlins – and consequently the pennant – on the last day of the season for the second straight year and finished 89-73.

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

WRIGHT: Welcome back. (AP)

No, this wasn’t the Tom Glavine game, but Johan Santana pitched a 2-0 gem the previous day to give the Mets life. They were in first place as late as Sept. 19 and held a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10.

This was the last time the Mets were truly relevant in the concept of October baseball.

This is the optimum time for Wright to come back because how well they are playing with a five-game lead on Washington, and their rejuvenated offense has to alleviate the pressure he would normally face when coming off the disabled list.

If the Mets go on and in the words of Bob Murphy, “win the damn thing,’’ it will be because they played over .500 during his absence with four players – Daniel Murphy, Eric Campbell, Ruben Tejada and Juan Uribe – trying to take his place.

For the longest time the Mets weren’t hitting or winning on the road. They are doing both now. And, concurrently the Washington Nationals are floundering. However, five-game leads can quickly evaporate as the Mets learned in 2007 and 2008. Those were completely different teams then, deeper offensively but not with this pitching. That pitching provides optimism they won’t fade this time.

As September approaches, Wright will complement the offense and not be required to carry it on his shoulders. With less pressure, and manager Terry Collins knowing he can plug in Juan Uribe any time if he needs to rest him, the situation is such once Wright catches up to the speed of the major league game as opposed to the minors, he can resume raking.

And, the Mets can build on this lead.

Aug 16

Barring Collapse, Collins Deserves Multi-Year Extension

It was typical ManagerSpeak by Terry Collins when he recently told reporter he wasn’t thinking about his contract status.

Really? It’s only natural to wonder just little. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t. I don’t think Collins wants to go the Walter Alston route and sign 24 consecutive one-year contracts although the Mets would love that scenario.

COLLINS: What's he really thinking? (AP)

COLLINS: What’s he really thinking? (AP)

I’m telling you, I don’t think about it,’’ Collins said.

O.K, if you don’t, then allow me.

GM Sandy Alderson’s are to: 1) keep going year-to-year with Alderson, which is probably the Mets’ preference, but not to Collins’ liking, 2) cut Collins loose, which would be blatantly unfair, especially if the Mets make the playoffs, and 3) sign Collins to a multi-year extension, which is the fairest option of all, especially with a playoff appearance.

The last few years Collins was extended despite coming off losing seasons, but was given a pass because of injuries and management’s inability to acquire serious talent in the offseason. Other teams might not have given him that benefit of doubt and would have cut him loose.

Injuries have definitely affected the Mets this season – David Wright, Zack Wheeler and several relievers – and it wasn’t until recently that Alderson went into the trade market.

Should the Mets’ playoff ship be scuttled with September’s schedule – which isn’t brutally hard – then I can see Alderson getting a new manager.

But, starting over isn’t what this club needs. It requires consistency, and that’s keeping Collins and his staff. Being swept by the Pirates over the weekend at Citi Field should have no bearing on Collins stature. But, what it should do is serve as a reminder there are no givens. If nothing else, the Mets should be grateful the Nationals are in a horrific slide.

Should the Mets make the playoffs – and it doesn’t matter how – Collins should be rewarded with a multi-year extension. I’m thinking two years, or two plus an option.

Through injuries and a minimal influx of talent, Collins has the Mets playing exciting, competitive baseball. They will “play meaningful baseball in September.’’

That’s what we’ve always wanted and it looks as if it will happen. Collins is part of that and should be rewarded.

Aug 14

Wise Choice Is To Rest Duda For Pirates Series

Mets first baseman Lucas Duda will miss a fourth straight game tonight against Pittsburgh with a lumbar strain. Duda hit in the cage this afternoon and told reporters: “It feels better. I took some swings today and ran a bit. It’s moving in the right direction, that’s for sure.”

For now the plan is to rest tonight and Sunday against left-hander Jeff Locke. With the Mets off Monday, manager Terry Collins is looking at Tuesday against the Orioles. As of now, Saturday is a possibility, but the prudent decision should be to keep him out that game also for two reasons: 1) the extra day couldn’t hurt, and 2) if the Mets do decide on the DL they can back date his time.

Pittsburgh is an important series, but not as much as keeping Duda healthy. The Mets are playing well and have a 4.5-game lead on Washington. This is no time to be foolish with a key player.