Jun 27

Mets Must Give Us Reason To Care

Sometimes listening to Terry Collins makes me want to scream. I know I’ve written that before, but Collins keeps making “I want to throw my shoe at the TV” type of comments. The Mets’ manager said several things over the weekend in preparation for tonight’s game in Washington that were simply puzzling. He means well, but it becoming clearer with each press briefing he can’t think on his feet.

First, after Jacob deGrom‘s start – his tenth straight without a win – Collins said he was looking forward to coming out of the break so he could set up his rotation. Well, what about setting things up now for the next two weeks, which includes seven games in two series against the Nationals. three with the Marlins and four against the Cubs?

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

COLLINS: Facing toughest stretch of season. (AP)

I would begin by skipping Noah Syndergaard tonight in Washington because of his second complaint of soreness in his right elbow. Would I sacrifice a game in Washington to preserve Syndergaard for the second half? Damn straight I would.

After Monday’s butt whiping, the Mets are now four games behind the Nationals – who won’t have Stephen Strasburg for either series – because Washington’s seven-game losing streak kept them in the race. If the Nationals had any killer instinct they could be up by eight games or more with a chance to put away the Mets. Who knows, maybe they were waiting for the Mets to come to town to do it.

Collins told reporters Sunday in Atlanta in preparation for the Nationals series: “The worst-case scenario is: Go to the break no worse than we are sitting right now. Right after the Nats we’ve got the Cubs – arguably the best team in baseball right now. We’ve got to be ready. We’ve got to get the `A’ game going and maintain it. Right after them you’ve got the Marlins, who are playing very, very well right now. And then back come the Nationals again. I think the next 14 days are very, very important to us.”

Good for Collins; he can read a schedule. But, with |these games so important, why send the message of mediocrity? We watched the Mets pull things together and get to the World Series last year. Now their manager is talking about treading water until the break. At least that’s the perception.

Standing pat in the standings for the next two weeks and at the trade deadline aren’t acceptable for a World Series team. I don’t want Collins to panic, but a sense of urgency would be nice. The disadvantage of getting to the World Series is the expectation to go every year. That’s pressure, but also why they play.

We’ll watch Syndergaard tonight with crossed fingers and the hope we won’t get Antonio Bastardo. I don’t trust the bullpen now, with even Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia giving me pause. The offense is beyond awful. No homers, no wins. Manufacturing runs and playing fundamental baseball seem beyond their comprehension. There were more than a few times in June when they didn’t hustle.

As far as their `A’ game, we haven’t seen it since the end of April. Nothing has been reported as to what Collins has said to his team behind closed doors. Evidently he hasn’t read the riot act or we would have heard about it. Somebody always talks.

Yes, there are injuries, but championship caliber teams overcome them. Otherwise, they are just excuses. There were holes in the batting order even before David Wright and Lucas Duda were hurt and Michael Conforto was sent down. Hopefully, there will be more stability when Jose Reyes is activated and Curtis Granderson can hit lower in the order. But, whether Granderson bats first, second, third or fourth, will it really matter if he doesn’t hit?

The remaining two weeks could determine whether Citi Field experiences October. You and I both know the Mets won’t run the table from until the All-Star break, but I want more than 7-7, for which Collins – at least publicly – seems willing to settle.

I want a sense of urgency. I want hustle and heaven forbid, their hitters to manufacture runs. I know Collins cares, but dammit, show some fire. Kick your players in the ass, because they need it. And, that includes Yoenis Cespedes. If your “star” can get away dogging it, it’s a license for everybody else to drop it down a gear.

Playing .500 for the next two weeks or the rest of the summer isn’t acceptable. It’s like going to school hoping for a `C’ grade. It’s average, which is the worst of the best or best of the worst. Being average gives us little reason to care.

Damn, I want to care about this team again.

Jun 06

Figuring A Busy And Critical Offseason For Mets

Whatever happens with David Wright this summer, we know the Mets must make a decision on his future and formulate a plan for 2017 should something sideline him for a third straight year.

Wright won’t be their only decision and GM Sandy Alderson figures to be busy:

CESPEDES: Can see him opting out. (AP)

CESPEDES: Can see him opting out. (AP)

CATCHER: Rene Rivera is their best defensive option, but neither he nor Kevin Plawecki has produced with the bat. For that matter, neither has Travis d’Arnaud. That is when he’s able to play.

FIRST BASE: If the Mets decide first base is Wright’s eventual landing spot, what becomes of Lucas Duda? He’s still at least a month away from coming off the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back and assuming he returns nobody knows what they’ll get from him. He’s arbitration eligible so the Mets might not make an offer as it is doubtful they’ll want him as a backup.

SECOND BASE: Base on how he’s performed, it should be a no-brainer to bring back Neil Walker. But, will they look at him the way they did Daniel Murphy? How much are they willing to pay and for how long? The extra year is always an obstacle. If Walker hits 30 homers, don’t count on the Mets matching his price and he could make a killing this winter.

THIRD BASE: There is nobody among us who doesn’t want to see Wright return to his All-Star form. His on-base percentage and homers were reasonable when he was playing, but his strikeouts and RBI were telling negative stats and he wasn’t good defensively. We shall see if Wilmer Flores is the answer, but it has only been three games. If he fizzles this position must be addressed.

If Fores does well, that will increase the pressure to do something with Wright, who is clearly having problems fielding the position. They can’t trade him, but they could move him to a different position. Or, and this is delicate, they could talk about buying him out.

Everything has to be on the table with him.

OUTFIELD: Despite his slump, I’m not worried about Michael Conforto, but is left his best position? Their ideal defensive outfield has Yoenis Cespedes in left and Juan Lagares in center, so could Conforto play right? If not this year, then perhaps they could test him there in the Arizona Fall League or send him to play winter ball. Curtis Granderson isn’t having a good year and is under contract for one more season.

Considering how he’s playing, Cespedes is sure to opt out after this year to test the market. Why wouldn’t he? If Cespedes bolted that would solve the problem of moving Conforto and they might extend Granderson if he finishes strong.

Frankly, I was surprised to see what the Mets gave Cespedes, but the opt-out clause could make that chump change. Do you see the Mets re-working his contract to give him extra years and money that could surpass $100 million? Not me.

There are a lot of dominos in the outfield.

BULLPEN: Their least agita-inducing reliever is Addison Reed. They might need to make a decision on either him or Jeurys Familia as the closer. Either way, is there really a reliable arm in that bullpen? It was superb in April, but there have been visible cracks since. I’m not yet willing to make the comparison of Familia to Armando Benitez, but my confidence level is being tested.

I would have loved a 7-8-9 bullpen like the Yankees, but the Mets don’t have the reliable arms, largely because they can’t depend on Hansel Robles.

ROTATION: I know many of you won’t like this, but after Sunday’s game in Miami – and if he really has turned the corner – perhaps they should seriously consider trading Matt Harvey this winter. His salary is reasonable and if healthy he should bring something back in a trade. I still think he will walk after the 2018 season and leave the Mets with only a draft pick.

Trading Harvey, coupled with the monetary savings if Cespedes left, could fill several voids.

If they went long-term on a pitcher, I would go after Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz ahead of Harvey. I believe they’ll cost less in the long run and won’t create as many headaches. Can they keep all three? Who knows, but if they signed them it would be for less than if they waited for their free-agent years. Pay more now to avoid arbitration and use the savings to plug holes.

Health is always a risk in signing a pitcher long-term, but if they continue to pitch to expectations, there is no question they will cost a lot more when they become free agents. Pay more now to avoid arbitration and use the savings to plug holes.

As much as people like to say, Bartolo Colon can’t pitch forever. What happens with him is largely contingent on Zack Wheeler, and there’s no guarantee what they get from him when he returns – if he returns – after the All-Star break. The longer Wheeler stays down, the less chance they have to move Colon at the deadline.

If you realistically scanned their 25-man roster, you can make a case for only Asdrubal Cabrera, Conforto, Granderson, Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz and Familia returning for 2017. Who can’t see them low-balling Walker, Cespedes, Reed or Duda?

There were high hopes for the Mets entering the season and they will make the playoffs if they began today. However, injuries are starting to cripple them and their depth is thin. They have little to trade in their minor league system outside of Wheeler – whose health raised a red flag for prospective buyers – and with the combination of health, salary and poor production, they have nothing to trade from the major league roster.

It’s a beautiful day today and I don’t want to rain on your picnic, but even with their young core of arms, the Mets’ window of winning could be rapidly closing. If you thought Alderson did magic last year at the trade deadline, he’ll have to do even more this July.

ON DECK: Pirates Series Borders On Critical

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Apr 08

My Favorite Opening Day Memories

Major League Baseball always talks about the need to market itself, especially to the younger generation. A national Opening Day could be a good first step. A good second step would be for school districts around the country to shut it down for a day when their hometown team plays its home opener.

I don’t know how to go about it, but if I had a son or daughter I would take them out of school to go to Opening Day. That’s what my late father did on April 7, 1970, when he took my brother and I out of school for the day to watch the Indians on Opening Day against Baltimore.

Dave McNally against Sam McDowell. Damn, that was a good matchup.

Despite his note, the school did not approve, but he took us out anyway. His reason was we would take more from being at that game with him than anything we would have learned that day in class.

He was right. Baseball was very big in our home, and it still is in our family. That’s how you cultivate the fans of tomorrow.

Looking back, he was right, and it is one of my fondest memories of him.

My dad got it 46 years ago. I wonder how many fathers around the country will it today and take their kids to Citi Field.

My other favorite Opening Day memory was last year. I had been hurt the year before and spent nearly seven months in a hospital and didn’t go to the park for an Opening Day for the first time since 1988. I remember watching on TV from the hospital and promised myself I would go the next year.

Which, I did. There was a sense of accomplishment I will always remember.

I’ve watched on television Opening Days since 1966, but the memories of plays are scattered. Both those two memories were personal and that’s why I remember them vividly. To me, baseball’s Opening Days are about being personal, about who you watched them with and the circumstances in your life at the time.

So, what about you? What are your favorite Opening Day memories?

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Nov 02

Collins Falls On Sword For Harvey

There are plenty of fingers to he pointed in defeat, but the only thing I can blame Terry Collins for was not following his gut. He wanted to pull Matt Harvey; he wanted to give the ball to his snake bit closer Jeurys Familia with a clean inning.

“No way,’’ Harvey screamed at the manager who tried to protect him all year. And in defeat, Collins trusted him again.

“He said, `I want this game. I want it bad,’ ’’ Collins said. “I let my heart get in the way of my gut. … It was inexcusable.’’

HARVEY: ``No way.'' Yes, way. (Getty)

HARVEY: “No way.” Yes, way. (Getty)

If Collins stayed with his gut and the Mets bullpen blew it, he would have been vilified. If Collins pulled Harvey after the walk and the bullpen blew it then, he would have been roasted for that.

“If you’re going to send him out there for one hitter, you shouldn’t sent him out there at all,’’ Collins said.

But, it wasn’t just that decision. The Mets’ defense played poorly; the bullpen was always on shaky ground; and the offense, well, it didn’t exist. Four hits tonight were not going to get it done.

Collins accepted responsibility, but there were others to share blame.

In the end, nobody expected the Mets to get this far, and I’m talking about more than reaching the World Series. Entering the season, the goal was to get to .500. They lapped that expectation.

As the Royals celebrated in the middle of the infield and Citi Field grew quiet, the TV cameras focused on David Wright, who stared blankly to the field.

All I could think about was how empty he felt, and I hoped he would feel that way for a long time as it is a feeling to build on.

 

Jun 21

Happy Fathers Day My Friends

To those in my blogging family, I wish you all a very happy Father’s Day. You have the greatest job in the world and I hope for you all the best on this day and every day.

I was up late last night, tossing and turning and clicked on the television for a little company. I was not about to see a replay of the Mets lose again to Atlanta. I stumbled upon a channel and watched a couple of classic Westerns: The Rifleman and Bonanza. The common thread for these programs was a single man raising a family on his own in the harshness of the Old West.

Ben Cartwright had it better as a wealthy rancher with three strapping sons on the Ponderosa. It was a little more stressful on The Rifleman, where Lucas McCain lived with his young son on a small ranch in rural Kansas.

These programs were broadcast in the last 1950s and early 1960s, and our country’s culture has considerably changed since, including, unfortunately, the devaluation of the American male and father, in particular, by Hollywood.

There are countless stories about single mothers and that’s all good. There are also stories of little Susie having two mothers and not needing a father figure in her life. Fine, that’s the way Hollywood wants it, but Hollywood is not my moral compass.

Men in TV and movies are often portrayed as bumbling buffoons and idiots with no value to society outside of being a punchline. Archie Bunker was written as a bigot, but was a man who left high school to support his family, then went off to war, and finally settled down to raise a family of his own.

He didn’t like or respect his son-in-law, a prototypical liberal who valued everybody and everything except those holding traditional values. Yet, his daughter loved him so Archie let him stay under his roof and helped him through school. And, Archie held a job on the loading dock at the warehouse and then drove a cab to support his family.

Why? Because that’s what fathers did.

I grew up siding with Michael politically, but as I got older developed a respect and admiration for what Archie stood for. Despite Archie’s political and ethnic resentments, he was far more a man than Michael could ever hope to be.

My father was nondescript in a lot of ways in the sense of today’s media, but was a good and decent man who loved and provided for his family. He took me to countless games, including out of school to see the Indians on Opening Day. He took me to a Browns playoff game where we had standing room only tickets and stood in freezing weather. I got my love of baseball from him and he was my Little League coach.

I was pretty good in Little League, but in a testament to his sense of fair play, I didn’t always get to play the entire game, or even start them all, because his rule was everybody got to play.

He did countless things for his family for which I will always remain grateful. He wasn’t a fan of the Rolling Stones, but once took me to see a midnight movie of a Stones concert. How great is that?

I remember him trying in vain to teach me algebra and geometry, and later having “the talk.” As fathers and sons often do, we clashed, but could always talk about baseball and World War II history. When he died, I hope he knew I respected and loved him.

There are a lot of friends in my life who are fathers, including my brother, who is a great dad. I always wonder what kind of father I would have been, and because it is something that will never happen for me, it is a regret.

So Cheers to those in my world who are fathers. You are very lucky.