Apr 20

How Long Will Mets Play Reyes Charade?

Mets manager Terry Collins said Jose Reyes deserves the chance to turn things around, but that’s too simplistic an approach. In reality, Collins doesn’t have any choice for now but let Reyes try to flail his way out of this wretched slump to start the season.

Reyes refutes the notion he’s trying to do too much, which is often one of the first assumptions to explain a slump.

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

REYES: Not the same player. (AP)

“When you try to do too much, it’s tough. You have to slow down a little bit and try to let it go. I don’t feel like I am trying to do too much. I am just trying to play my game,” Reyes said.

“My game.”

What exactly does that mean? Is it the style Reyes should be playing, which is to utilize his speed by being patient at the plate and hit the ball on the ground? Or is it the style he insists on playing, which is to hit the ball in the air and not worry about drawing walks or cutting his strikeouts?

For all his speed, Reyes has never been the prototypical leadoff hitter. He has always struck out too much, doesn’t walk and insists on hitting the ball in the air. Through 15 games he has 15 strikeouts and six walks with zero stolen bases. He’s hitting .094 with a .186 on-base percentage and has been dropped to seventh in the order.

The bottom line is for all his supposed physical skills, if Reyes isn’t leading off then he might as well not be in the lineup.

Wilmer Flores can play third base as well as Reyes, if not better. But, he’s off to a slow start, also, at .171. However, Flores’ main problem is he doesn’t play enough because Collins is married to the right-lefty dynamic and won’t give him the regular opportunity to hit right-handed pitching. Again, Flores will never hit right-handed pitching unless he’s given the opportunity.

Reyes’ problems are more complex and I offer several contributory explanations.

First, his mechanics are way off. He’s lunging at pitches he should take and is trying to hit everything in the air. He’s always had that style, but at 33 it is catching up to him. However, ten years ago he could get away with it because the Mets gave him free reign to do what he wanted at the plate. They did so because he gave them enough so they would settle.

Reyes will never be the work-the-count, slap-hitter, get on base and steal his way to third type of player. Reyes always wanted to play like Rickey Henderson, but he was never as good.

Now, it’s too late to transform, and I don’t think he has the discipline to try.

Secondly, I believe this slow start is weighing on him and he is trying to do too much. Reyes will get his money – the Colorado Rockies are paying it – but he could be thinking if it doesn’t work with the Mets this could be his last chance and what else does he know besides baseball?

Could Reyes’ slow start be partially explained by him being away from camp for the World Baseball Classic? This was an important year for Reyes and he could have used the work a full spring training provides.

Finally, and this hasn’t been mentioned in the mainstream media as a cause, but his double life – a mistress with a child and ensuing court case – has to be an emotional burden. Couple that with his domestic abuse suspension and he has a lot of toxic baggage.

Most teams would run away from Reyes, but the Mets aren’t because it isn’t costing them any significant money and they are desperate because they are afraid to go with Flores as David Wright’s replacement.

The only question is how long are they willing to play this charade?

Apr 15

DeGrom Start Wasted; Let Second Guessing Begin

Sooner or later you had to wonder when the Mets’ overworked bullpen would betray them.

It happened tonight.

Fernando Salas, working for the eighth time in 12 games, surrendered eighth-inning, back-to-back homers to Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, to power the Marlins over the Mets, 5-4, and trash another superb start from Jacob deGrom.

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

DeGROM: Start gets wasted; generates debate. (AP)

Not only has Salas been overused, it must be remembered he arrived in spring training late because of a visa issue.

Salas retired his first two batters and then walked Miguel Rojas. When a reliever walks a hitter on four straight pitches, he needs to be pulled.

Yelich is already a slugging star, and the Mets had lefties Jerry Blevins and Sean Gilmartin manager Terry Collins could have gone to in that situation. Considering how much Salas has worked lately, why did Collins keep him in the game?

“I didn’t want to go with Blevins because he has pitched in five of the last six games,” Collins testily barked to reporters.

However, Gilmartin, who was brought up after the 16-inning game Thursday for the sole purpose of pitching late in a game, was fresh.

Salas fell behind 3-and-1 before grooving a pitch Yelich couldn’t help but crush. Over-managing and stubborn to the end, Collins let Salas face Stanton.

You knew that wasn’t going to end well.

Collins said he wanted Salas to face Stanton, but what does that say about his confidence in Addison Reed and Hansel Robles?

The second-guessing of Collins began before Salas entered the game. DeGrom got off to a rocky start, giving up back-to-back homers in the second to Justin Bour and Marcell Ozuna, then regrouped to retire the next 11 hitters. The Mets really needed deGrom’s effort considering how their bullpen has been taxed recently, including throwing 11.1 scoreless innings Thursday.

DeGrom gave up two runs on four hits and one walk and tied his career-high with 13 strikeouts in seven innings. He was on cruise control and had only thrown 97 pitches. He struck out his last four hitters.

“He was pitching great,” Collins said. “It’s easy to second-guess. We made a commitment to protect these guys. … If I let him stay in and he got hit you’d be asking me, `Why did I let him pitch?’ ”

That’s fair, but it comes with the territory with managing in the major leagues. DeGrom could have, but did not, throw his manager under the bus.

“Honestly, I didn’t know how many pitches I had,” deGrom said. “I thought I was out after that inning anyway.”

As far as stretching out his start, deGrom said: “The goal is to stay healthy. Salas had been doing a good job. I felt comfortable handing the ball over to the next guy.”

One of the beautiful aspects of baseball is it being ripe to second guess and discuss and debate strategy. Few basketball fans will second guess Gregg Popovich, but what baseball fan doesn’t feel comfortable scratching his head about the manager he follows?

CONFORTO DELIVERS: One of the hardest things in baseball to do is to pinch-hit, and it is even harder when all eyes are on you and you’re expected to produce in order to stay. Well, that’s exactly the case with the Mets’ Michael Conforto, who drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning.

Sure, Conforto wants to start, what young player doesn’t? But, when things haven’t gone his way, he’s stayed quiet and gone about his business. Overall, he’s hitting .400 with two homers and six RBI, including 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI as a pinch-hitter.

Neil Walker lead off the seventh with a bunt single to third against Marlins starter Adam Conley, and scored on a triple by Curtis Granderson, who scored on Conforto’s deep fly to center.

Asdrubal Cabrera homered with one out in the eighth against reliever Junichi Tazawa. It marked the 11th straight game in which they homered and gave them a major league-high 22.

LOVE THOSE BUNTS: The other night it was Jay Bruce laying one down towards third against the shift. Tonight it was Walker leading off the seventh with a bunt single. Last year Collins made a big deal out of calling his team a “home run hitting team,” and that they aren’t built to manufacture runs. This year, they lead the majors with 22 homers but have shown the ability to scratch out runs.

Walker also doubled in the Mets’ first run in the first.

EXTRA INNINGS: Lefty-hitters Bruce, Lucas Duda and Conforto did not start against Conley. … All players wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. Granderson wore special spikes for the occasion that he will auction and donate to the Jackie Robinson Foundation. … Wilmer Flores made a run-saving grab of a hard hit ball down the first base line by Stanton.

HARVEY STARTS SUNDAY: Matt Harvey (2-0, 2.92) goes Sunday for the Mets against RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 7.56). Harvey is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 17 career starts in April, easily his best numbers in any month.

 

Apr 14

Mets Try To Keep Rolling

Tonight is one of the few times I wish the Mets could use the designated hitter. Damn, after the last two games I’d love to see d’Arnaud starting, but not after catching 16 innings. He might even rest again tomorrow.

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Mets going for six straight. (AP)

The Mets will be seeking their sixth straight victory tonight in Miami behind their best pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, going against Edinson Volquez.

The Mets crushed four homers last night – d’Arnaud hit the game winner, plus two from Yoenis Cespedes and one from Wilmer Flores – but credit also needs to go to a bullpen that threw 11 scoreless innings.

The Mets have homered in nine straight games and lead the majors with 20, with Cespedes the individual leader with six.

While it is way too early to make projections, it isn’t too soon to make some assumptions about this team, especially after last night.

The Mets came in at 3:30 in the morning and their No. 5 starter was torched, several of their starters were sputtering, but they rallied from a four-run deficit and behind their power, d’Arnaud – who sparked the comeback with a bases-loaded triple – and their bullpen, the came up with a signature victory.

Much has been written about how this could be a make-or-break season for d’Arnaud, but the same can be said of reliever Hansel Robles, who pitched two scoreless innings in his fourth straight game.

They don’t win last night without Robles, or d’Arnaud, or Cespedes, or Michael Conforto, or several other guys.

That’s what being a team is all about.

Here’s tonight’s starting lineup:

Curtis Granderson, CF: Speculation is if the Mets keep Conforto, the player whose time will be reduced most will be Granderson. He is homerless with three RBI on the season.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS: Is batting .304 and taking an eight-game hitting streak into tonight’s game. Hit 23 homers last season.

Jay Bruce, RF: Moves up to third with Cespedes getting the night off. Bruce needed a good start and he’s getting one, hitting .300 with four homers and eight RBI.

Lucas Duda, 1B: He’s another who is having a good start, hitting .250 with three homers and six RBI. Has shown no signs of back injury that limited him last season.

Michael Conforto, LF: He finally gets a start. He needs at-bats. If Conforto is to stay up with the Mets, manager Terry Collins needs to come up with a rotation system, and that includes resting Cespedes in left.

Wilmer Flores, 2B: Starts tonight in place of Neil Walker. Is hitting better against right-handed pitching.

Jose Reyes, 3B: Is a career .323 hitter at Marlins Park. Got a hit last night as a pinch-hitter and batting just .079 on the season. Needs to wake up.

Noah Syndergaard, RP: Is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA lifetime against the Marlins. Perhaps as a tribute to Tony La Russa, Collins has him hitting eighth.

Rene Rivera, C: Gets the start for two reasons, 1) to put the brakes on the Marlins’ running game, and 2) because d’Arnaud caught 16 innings last night. Has thrown out two of three potential base stealers.

 

Apr 08

Reyes Sits Tonight

Five games into the season and Mets manager Terry Collins is juggling his lineup. Tonight, Collins sits third baseman Jose Reyes‘ 1-for-18 start.

Undoubtedly, Reyes endured longer dry spells, but he looked terrible Friday night. He’s looked horrible all season.

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

REYES: Sitting vs. Fish. (AP)

Even so, Reyes said it is premature for him to panicI don’t want to put pressure on myself going to the film like, ‘Oh, what am I doing wrong?’ ” Reyes told reporters. “Sometimes, you have to give credit to the pitcher. They’ve pitched me tough. Sooner or later it’s going to change.”

Curtis Granderson and Wilmer Flores will replace Reyes at the top of the order and third base, respectively. I have no problems with sitting Reyes tonight, but I’m not crazy about what Collins is considering next for Reyes.

Collins said he’s looking to spell another slumping Met, Granderson, in center field with Reyes. The issue is to get a right-handed bat in the lineup. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto – who had a pinch-hit single Friday –  has all of two at-bats. It was last April when Collins forecasted him as the Mets’ No. 3 hitter of the future and said he would hit against left-handed pitching.

Evidently, that’s not going to happen anytime soon, just as it appears Conforto won’t be playing in the near future. As I, and others feared, Conforto will languish on the bench until Juan Lagares is activated from the disabled list.

The Mets’ lack of a right-handed hitting outfielder smacks of two things: 1) Collins’ and GM Sandy Alderson’s marriage to the righty-lefty dynamics, and 2) Alderson’s inability to construct a team with a right-handed bat.

If Alderson had Babe Ruth he’d sit hit him against a lefty, and does this mean Lagares is the only acceptable right-handed outfield bat?

The bottom line: Conforto will never learn to hit lefty pitching until he gets the chance. You would think the game’s smartest general manager, would figure that out.

 

Apr 03

Game Wrap: Mets Blank Braves In Opener; Syndergaard Leaves With Blister

GAME #1

SCORE: @Mets 6, Braves 0

RECORD: 1-0

RISP: A season-long problem last season, the Mets went 2-for-6 Monday and stranded nine runners.

HOMERS: None.

SYNDERGAARD: Superb in Opener. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Superb in Opener. (AP)

ANALYSIS

Although Noah Syndergaard didn’t get the victory, he was the headliner in the Mets’ 6-0 Opening Day blanking of the Atlanta Braves today at Citi Field.

Syndergaard was superb and dominant, giving up five hits, no walks with seven strikeouts before leaving after six innings because of a blister on his right middle finger.

Syndergaard had moments of decision in the fourth and sixth innings. In the fourth, Freddie Freeman tripled with one out, but Syndergaard regrouped to strike out Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis. In the sixth, with one out and runners on the corners, he struck out Kemp and got Markakis on a liner to left.

“That to me was the difference in the game,” manager Terry Collins said. “When the great ones have runners in scoring position against them, they up their game.”

That defined Syndergaard, who was pushed back a day to have his next start flipped with Robert Gsellman.

“It’s a little blister,” Syndergaard said. “I’m not worried about it.”

Even so, Collins said it doesn’t hurt to start taking care of his pitchers from the beginning: “We preach protecting these guys, now we have to do something about it.’’

ON THE MOUND: Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to earn the victory. … Projected set-up reliever Fernando Salas worked the eighth. … Gsellman pitched the ninth. Speculation is because he’ll be moved up a day to replace Syndergaard

AT THE PLATE: Asdrubal Cabrera had three hits, including driving in the game-winner in the seventh. … The Mets broke the game open with six runs in the inning highlighted by five of their eight walks and Lucas Duda’s three-run double. … Jay Bruce walked three times including once with the bases loaded. … Syndergaard got a hit. … Wilmer Flores and Cabrera each stole bases.

IN THE FIELD: Superb pick and throw by Jose Reyes to nail Brandon Phillips leading off the seventh. … Bruce played Freeman’s triple in the fourth like he was a first baseman.

EXTRA INNINGS: With the victory, the Mets improved their Opening Day record to a major league best 36-20 (.643) R.A. Dickey, David Wright, Bartolo Colon and Jacob deGrom received the loudest cheers, with Colon probably getting the longest.

ON DECK: Colon vs. deGrom, Wednesday night at Citi Field in the second game of the season.