Sep 13

Is Mets’ Terry Collins Sending The Right Message?

New York Mets manager Terry Collins has recently been speaking with a sense of urgency we haven’t heard regularly this season.

With the Mets in the midst of losing 10 of their last 12 games, it can be hard to ascertain whether Collins’ intent is to spark his team with the allure of 2014 jobs or deflect attention of another lost season from himself.

Several times this summer I advocated an extension for Collins, and still believe so. However, recent comments come across as him throwing his young team and hitting coach Dave Hudgens under the bus, something a manager can’t do if he doesn’t want to lose his team.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

COLLINS: Sending wrong message.

Collins’ latest buzzword is “adjustments,’’ and that’s a direct reflection on Hudgens’ ability to teach.

“You’ve got to make adjustments,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were shut out for the second time in the series. “You can’t keep thinking you’re going to get balls to pull, or try to go up there and pull every pitch. … [You have to] realize what the opposing pitcher is doing to get you out, and try to come up with a plan to make an adjustment at the plate and put the bat on the ball.’’

That’s either saying his hitters are clueless or haven’t been taught properly by Hudgens. There didn’t appear that much angst with Ike Davis earlier this season, although there was some noise about Lucas Duda taking too much and Ruben Tejada hitting the ball too much in the air.

The Mets’ stated offensive approach coming out of spring training was to be patient, work the count and swing at your pitch. There’s been a disconnect in there somewhere.

“I know they’re young. That’s all part of it,’’ Collins said. “We want to see some guys get better. And part of that getting better is being able to gather yourself on the side, and get in the batter’s box, and put a good at-bat on.’’

Collins said there are jobs to be had and it isn’t hard to figure where he’s talking about: first base is between Davis and Duda; shortstop is open; and there’s room in the outfield.

“You’d think some of these guys would grab the opportunity that’s in front of them because of the injury issues on our club to say, `Here’s my chance to show I’m a major league player,’ ’’ Collins said. “And we’re not seeing it. We’re not seeing it at this moment, I can tell you.’’

Collectively, Collins said the Mets are starting to feel sorry for themselves.

“And I will not stand for that. Not in this clubhouse, not in this league,’’ Collins said. “You don’t feel sorry for yourself in this league. Nobody feels sorry for you in the game. Our guys in that room, because a lot of them are young, they better learn that lesson real fast. Because if they’re going to play here, they better learn how to bounce back.’’

That aspect of the game is mental and psychological, and a large part of that development falls on Collins. Part of his job when it comes to rookies and younger players is to put them in position to succeed and give positive reinforcement, but that doesn’t always happen here.

Players have played multiple positions, and some in which they are uncomfortable. These guys are smart enough to know their futures are on the line. They don’t have to be reminded of it. There’s enough pressure in this sport without the manager adding more.

There’s a fine line behind telling players the importance of a situation and crushing their confidence, and Collins has danced on it.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong and the problem is the players just aren’t good enough to begin with. If that’s the case, threatening them to get better isn’t going to work.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 12

Mets Wrap: Classless Frank Francisco Needs To Go

The New York Mets brought back Frank Francisco from oblivion this season because their bullpen was depleted, but also in the off chance somebody might be desperate enough to trade for him.

After his despicable display this afternoon at Citi Field, any team wanting him would not only be desperate, but stupid as well.

WERTH: Gets drilled by Francisco. (Getty)

WERTH: Gets drilled by Francisco. (Getty)

With the game in the balance in the eighth inning and behind 3-0 in the count, Francisco drilled Jayson Werth in the back after giving up back-to-back doubles to Denard Span and Ryan Zimmerman. It was obvious; Francisco was in trouble and wanted his pound of flesh.

Of course, Francisco later said it was unintentional and he was “obviously all over the place,’’ but the Nationals weren’t buying. Players know, and Werth took out Ruben Tejada with an aggressive slide that could have broken the shortstop’s ankle.

Werth, obviously, was sending his own message. The retiring Davey Johnson, who likely managed his last game in New York, told reporters after the 7-2 victory, “it’s a good thing we don’t play them again.’’

There’s no misunderstanding what that meant.

Teams remember, and Terry Collins should have done something to diffuse the situation – and perhaps any future clash – by immediately pulling Francisco. In doing so, Collins would have been telling the Nationals, “I understand Francisco is an idiot and I’m getting him out of here.’’

It should have been his last pitch with the Mets. Clearly, nobody would want Francisco now, and if Collins is about sending messages to his rookies about playing the game the right way, this would have been the perfect opportunity.

The Mets were upset with Francisco’s work ethic in his rehab, and this bush league act should not be tolerated, not if the Mets want to be considered a classy organization. It was a thuggish act by Francisco with no place in the game. I don’t care if they owe him money, get him out of here.

The Mets have lost 10 of their last 12 games, and what was once a chance at respectability is now an attempt to avoid 90 defeats. Today was their 81st loss. They are now a season-low 17 games below .500 with 17 remaining to play.

If there was a positive today, it was Aaron Harang’s quality start of giving up three runs in six innings. All three runs came on solo homers, but he walked one and struck out ten. However, those strikeouts will be enough to get Harang another start and perhaps an invitation to spring training.

Meanwhile, who knows who’ll be dumb enough to extend such an invitation to Francisco?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 12

Where Is Mets’ Opening Day Lineup?

All teams evolve throughout a season, but the New York Mets’ transformation in 2013 has been staggering, with only second baseman Daniel Murphy and shortstop Ruben Tejada were in last night’s lineup at those positions. Lucas Duda started, but at a different position.

Here’s what has happened to the 2013 lineup in comparison to the team the Mets ran out there in Wednesday night’s 3-0 loss to Washington. Three starters plus the pitcher remain on the team; three were traded; and two are on the disabled list.

Colin Cowgill, CF: Was going to start after beating out Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker’s injury.  Cowgill was the starter for roughly a week after he was demoted and eventually traded. Den Dekker started last night, but Juan Lagares could eventually win the role next year if he’s more consistent offensively.

Daniel Murphy, 2B: Started, but hit third last night. He’s been all over the top of the order. A slump followed a hot start, but he’s back up to .282. The Mets, however, aren’t enamored by his .316 on-base percentage.

David Wright, 3B: Entered the season after a contract extension and being named captain. He’s lived up to all that but is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. Wright vows he’ll return.

Ike Davis, 1B: Slumped horribly before being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. Eventually wound up hitting .204 with nine homers. There was considerable speculation the Mets would not tender him a contract, but he’ll get another chance to next season.

Marlon Byrd, RF: Signed for depth, but wound up leading the team in homers and could be its MVP. Eventually traded to Pittsburgh, where he could see the playoffs. Good for him. Lagares was in right last night, and could stay there if den Dekker develops consistency at the plate.

Lucas Duda, 1B: This guy just can’t play the outfield. Has improved his plate presence as evidenced by a .353 on-base percentage, but has not produced for power. Will compete with Davis for the first base job next spring. Eric Young was acquired at mid-season and became the Mets’ tenth, and final, leadoff hitter. But, for all his speed, he must do better than a .318 on-base percentage.

John Buck, C: Carried the Mets offensively in April before tailing. However, he was consistent all year behind the plate and has to get some credit for the development of Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. His status was doomed with the promotion of Travis d’Arnaud, who has struggled at .152. Traded along with Byrd to Pittsburgh.

Ruben Tejada, SS: Played brutally in the beginning before going on the DL. Omar Quintanilla more than adequately filled the void. Tejada is back, but the Mets openly question his work ethic and commitment. He has a lot to prove, and trading for a veteran in the winter isn’t out of the question.

Jon Niese, LHP: Was the de facto ace and Opening Day starter because of the season-ending shoulder injury of Johan Santana. Niese developed shoulder problems after back-to-back cold weather starts in Minnesota and Colorado. As Niese labored and eventually went on the disabled list. Niese could end up being the Opening Day starter in 2014 with Harvey’s injury.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 11

Mets Wrap: Zack Wheeler Shows Mettle In Defeat

The New York Mets believe Zack Wheeler will be an anchor in their rotation for a long time to come. He took the loss against Washington Wednesday night, but showed more than enough of the right stuff to say this is going to be a stud pitcher to build around.

Easily, the most important thing Wheeler demonstrated was poise under pressure. He pitched out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the first; escaped a runner on second and one-out threat in the fourth; and got out of a runners on the corners with two outs problem in the seventh.

WHEELER: Dealing big time. (AP)

WHEELER: Dealing big time. (AP)

It was great to see Wheeler challenge hitters with his fastball, especially inside. And the control issues he had earlier, well, just one walk.

“This guy competes on the mound,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “With his stuff, in first inning, he did a great job getting out of that jam. I’m impressed with the way Zack Wheeler has pitched.’’

Wheeler made one bad pitch, that being a slider left over the plate Ryan Zimmerman crushed for a homer in the sixth. It was the first homer he gave up in 36 innings, remarkable for a rookie.

Vic Black, who could get a look at the closer role in spring training if Bobby Parnell hasn’t recovered from neck surgery, gave up two runs in the eighth to make it the 3-0 final.

Offensively, the Mets managed three hits as they were shut out for the second time in this series. With the loss the Mets fell a season-low 16 games below .500. It wasn’t too long ago .500 and catching the Nationals for second-place wasn’t an unrealistic goal.

Oh, by the way, with the loss the Mets were mathematically eliminated, crushing news, I know, to those who kept on dreaming.

Once again the Mets are in full swoon mode, especially offensively, in the second half. They have lost three straight, five of their last six games, and are 2-8 so far this month.

Including the Nationals Thursday, the Mets have just four games against winning teams (three with Cincinnati) the rest of the season.

Collins didn’t say the word, but he might as well called his offense clueless.

“You have to figure out what the opposing pitcher is doing to get you out,’’ Collins said. “And you have to make adjustments.’’

Clearly, the Mets aren’t making those adjustments.

Newly-acquired Aaron Harang will start for the Mets Thursday afternoon in an effort to avoid the sweep.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 10

Mets Wrap: Dillon Gee Hammered; Some Positive 2014 Signs

In watching the New York Mets Tuesday night what struck me most wasn’t how much the Nationals torched Dillon Gee, but all the empty seats. All that green, along with the upcoming promotion for knit caps screams winter is coming.

Gee wasn’t himself with his command – especially the version who seemingly owned the Nationals – and dug himself into an immediate hole the Mets’ lackluster offense couldn’t overcome.

GEE: After Jayson Werth homer.

GEE: After Jayson Werth homer.

The Mets were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven in the 6-3 loss. The Mets obviously had enough offense to threaten, but it was the same old story of not getting the clutch hit.

Offensively, the Mets have been aggressive on the bases, so it is hard to question the decision for Matt den Dekker and Eric Young to run only to have them cut down.

“We haven’t been hitting the ball out of the park lately,’’ was manager Terry Collins rationale for the attempted steals.

Even if David Wright and Ike Davis – the Mets’ power entering the season – were in the line-up it is a good thing to see them run. They’ve been doing it all season, and manufacturing runs is a must in any lineup.

On the plus side, Vic Black had a perfect inning out of the bullpen. The Mets need to take a long look him in the wake of Bobby Parnell undergoing neck surgery earlier in the day. Understandably, the Mets did not release a timetable for Parnell, but as with Matt Harvey, they have to assume they won’t have him, at least in the first part of the season.

On a down note, the Mets lost Justin Turner indefinitely with a strained hamstring.

Although they didn’t produce, I liked the combination of Young and Juan Lagares at the top of the order. When you have a weak offense, bunching speed at 1-2 is the way to go.

The Mets opened the season with questions from left-to-right in the outfield, but it isn’t hard to envision Young-den Dekker-Lagares next season.

Den Dekker contributed a two-run single going to the opposite field, which is a good sign. Collins said he’ll eventually hit for power, and there’s no question about his defense. Lagares also plays a strong center field, but has a right fielder’s arm.

The Mets say they want to add a power-hitting outfielder, but considering the loss of Harvey and indefinite loss of Parnell, adding pitching is the priority.

If the Mets can’t add a power bat in the outfield, they have to concentrate on pitching and defense – and hoping for the best from David Wright and Ike Davis.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos