Jan 21

Wright Remains Mets’ Most Overriding Issue

Yesterday I examined the top ten issues facing the Mets with spring training five weeks away. It isn’t hard for me to pick out the player shouldering the most pressure.

The bullpen is the positional area of most concern, but individually the player remains David Wright. Somehow, last year the Mets withstood playing without him for over four months, but several things combined to make that possible, notably the ineffective Washington Nationals and acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes.

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

WRIGHT: We want to see that smile again. (AP)

Will the Mets be as fortunate if Wright goes down this year?

Baseball-reference.com projects Wright to hit .275 in 2016 with nine homers and 37 RBI, which would be terrible news for the Mets. The scary part is based on Wright’s recent injury history I can envision that before I can him returning to 30-homer form.

Wright hasn’t hit 30 homers since 2008 and has only hit at least 20 twice since then. He has a combined 31 in his last three years, and only once since 2013 has he played in as many at 130 games. Including the 2009 season, he’s had as many as 500 at-bats only four times.

You can talk about OPS and WAR all you want, but all statistics are predicated on at-bats and Wright hasn’t had many in recent years. Look, readers of this blog know I am one of Wright’s biggest supporters, but I can’t ignore the facts he hasn’t been healthy lately.

He missed over four months last year with spinal stenosis, and that he even returned late in the season was remarkable. Considering the good feelings about his return, recovery and playing in the playoffs, it would be another devastating blow is he were to go down again.

The Mets did not add a right-handed hitting power bat during the winter, perhaps with the outside hope Wright would come back close to form. As of now, they won’t have Cespedes back and it could be a dangerous gamble if they are thinking they can make another at-the-wire trade.

Let’s face it, as long as Wright is here he’s the face of this franchise, but if he’s hurt again and doesn’t produce, that contract with five years and $87 million remaining will be an albatross.

Imagine how much better things will be if Wright plays in 130 games, hits at least 20 homers and drives in 80 runs. Could make for another fun year, and for me that’s why Wright is the Mets’ most overriding issue.

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Dec 07

Mets Face Competition For Zobrist

If the Mets really want Ben Zobrist, they might have to give in on that fourth year as there’s a growing line of suitors for the versatile infielder, who, by the way, is an accomplished hitter who can also play the outfielder.

The reported dollars start around $50 million and he’s looking for four years. The Mets want three, and in what should be regarded as bluffing more than anything else, say they could still re-sign Daniel Murphy.

Reports have the Giants having interest, but where he’ll play is the question. They could stick him in left, but their infield is set. I doubt he’ll want to go there just to be a role player, but if Zobrist wants to win the Giants will get his consideration.

The Mets will also get competition from the Washington Nationals, and Zobrist would bring some stability and professionalism to their dysfunctional clubhouse. I also don’t need to remind you the Nationals have deeper pockets than the Mets.

One report recently had the Dodgers showing interest, but they just signed Chase Utley. That signing should also preclude the Dodgers as a potential landing spot for Murphy.

The Yankees continually say they aren’t in the market for Zobrist, but I’ll never discount their propensity for bluffing.

Meanwhile, the Angels, White Sox, Indians and Orioles could all use a second baseman. Of the four, the Angels appear the most willing to write the big check.

ON DECK: Potential landing spots for Murphy.

 

Nov 20

Mets Should Pass On Desmond

Nobody can say what the Mets will do this winter, but this much is a certainty: Signing Ian Desmond in no way represents an upgrade by any stretch of the imagination. Desmond made $11 million last year for the Washington Nationals and will undoubtedly want more in the first of what will be a multi-year deal.

Only a fool would give in to Desmond’s demands.

DESMOND: Just say no. (Getty)

DESMOND: Just say no. (Getty)

The Mets seem determined to replace Wilmer Flores as their shortstop, and and there are reports they will not tender a contract to Ruben Tejada.

Desmond hit .233 last year with a .290 on-base percentage, and hit 19 homers with 62 RBI in 641 plate appearances. By comparison, Flores hit 16 homers with 59 RBI in 510 plate appearances. So, that means Desmond 131 more plate appearances to hit just three more homers with three more RBI.

And, he cost over $10 million for those three homers and three RBI. You can throw out any of the new wave statistics you want, but none of them translate in any way to making the Mets a better team.

Defensively, Desmond committed 27 errors in 670 chances, while Flores made 14 errors in 400 chances at shortstop and didn’t make an error in 153 chances at second base.

i don’t see how those numbers in any way determine an upgrade at shortstop.

Like I said, I don’t know what the Mets will do this winter, but I can without a doubt what they shouldn’t do, and that’s go after Desmond.

Nov 04

Mets Do Right By Collins

The Mets did right by manager Terry Collins, and more to the point they didn’t waste any time doing it. Less than 72 hours after their season ended – and by Collins’ admission on his bad decision – the Mets extended their 66-year-old manager for two years.

Accused of being tyrannical in his previous stops in Anaheim and Houston, Collins gave his players a lot of leeway. He said he “trusts my players,’’ and in the end that might have cost him when he went against his better judgment and allowed Matt Harvey to go out for the ninth inning in Game 5 of the World Series.

COLLINS: How much more champagne? (AP)

COLLINS: How much more champagne? (AP)

No need to remind you of what happened.

It is key the Mets acted quickly as to not let how the disappointing way the season ended to fester.

The Mets opened the year after six straight losing seasons, but Collins insisted during spring training they were good enough to compete – as is. Yes, the Washington Nationals had a bad year, but the Mets were 90-72 to give Collins a 394-416 record during his Mets’ tenure.

Want to bet that will be over .500 by the time he retires after the 2017 season?

“My job is to pretty much make sure the players are on board with everything we’re doing,’’ Collins said. “So, I think I’ve changed a lot there.’’

Collins was voted the NL Manager of the year by The Sporting News and is up for a similar honor by the official Baseball Writers Association of America award.

“I think it’s well deserved,’’ Wright said. “Credit should be given to TC and his coaching staff for aiding and preparing us for this success. This preparation started years ago, and I’m thrilled this coaching staff has helped lead us to a World Series appearance.’’

Collins’ coaching staff – hitting coach Kevin Long, pitching coach Dan Warthen, first base coach Tom Goodwin, third base coach Tim Teufel, bullpen coach Ricky Bones and bench coach Bob Geren – will be retained. However, Geren will interview for the Dodgers’ vacant managerial spot.

 

Oct 03

Scherzer’s Brilliance Overshadows Syndergaard And Harvey

Outstanding pitching was the story in the Mets’ doubleheader loss Saturday to the Nationals. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey were brilliant, but paled in comparison to Max Scherzer, who struck out 17 in no-hitting the Mets, 2-0, in the second game.

In doing so, he became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season, and first since Nolan Ryan in 1973.

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

“I felt great tonight,” Scherzer said. “I had command of all of my pitches. These things are special. To do it twice in one season, my gosh, it doesn’t seem possible.”

Scherzer lost his perfect game bid in the sixth on Yunel Escobar‘s throwing error. He struck out nine of the last 10 Mets, with the game ending on a pop-up by Curtis Granderson. He also lost a perfect game chance when he hit a batter in the eighth inning of his June 20 no-hitter over Pittsburgh.

“He made every pitch he had to make,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, whose team has lost five straight and scored only nine runs in that time. So weak has been the Mets’ offense that it has scored one run in the last 35 innings.

In being swept, and with the Dodgers beating San Diego, the Mets kicked away home field, and Game 1 will begin Friday in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw. Sunday’s starter, Jacob deGrom, will pitch Game 1 for the Mets.

With several key injuries and a struggling offense, the Mets have their issues entering the playoffs. Syndergaard is not among them. Overpowering isn’t an adequate enough description of what Syndergaard was to the Nationals. In the final start of his rookie season, Syndergaard gave up two hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts in getting a no-decision in the Mets’ 3-1 loss in the first game.

Earlier this year, there was concern about Syndergaard’s ability to win on the road, but seeing how he stuffed Cincinnati last weekend, that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

Another positive was Harvey, who gave up one run in six innings with 11 strikeouts in an impressive tune-up for the pivotal Game 3. Harvey finished the season with 189.1 innings, 9.1 more than the proposed hard cap.

The flip side is Steven Matz, the projected Game 4 starter, who took an injection for his sore back. Matz’s start this week in Philadelphia was scratched and it was hoped he would throw several innings this weekend.

Now the thinking is the Mets will send him to the Instructional League this week. The better thinking would be to hold him off the NLDS roster, knowing they could bring him back in the proceeding rounds. Why take the risk of a re-injury, especially with a five-game first round the Mets have depth in Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese? They would lose that advantage in a seven-game NLCS and World Series.

Actually, the best decision could be to shut him down for the year.

Matz isn’t the Mets’ only injury concern.

Utility infielder Juan Uribe has a slight cartilage tear in his chest and might not be ready for the first round. Uribe has been a spark on the field and calming influence in the clubhouse. His absence was felt in the second game when Kelly Johnson – who hasn’t played third for the Mets – committed an error in place of David Wright to set up the Nationals’ first run.

Yoenis Cespedes, who has two bruised fingers on his left hand after being hit by a pitch, returned and went 1-for-3 in the first game. Cespedes appeared in the ninth inning in the second game as a pinch hitter and was Scherzer’s 16th strikeout victim.

Infielder Wilmer Flores has been bothered by back spasms. He didn’t play in either game and has missed seven of the last nine games.

Collins is not happy with how the Mets are closing.

“We’ve got to get the edge back,” Collins said. “We got to get the focus back, the concentration back. Those are the things that when you clinch early, you can lose. And those are the things we’ve got to regain.”

How long their season lasts depends on it.