Jul 24

The Mets Add Conforto; Deal With Braves Pending

Michael Conforto was lifting weights when his minor league manager, Pedro Lopez, approached him with a cell phone to inform him of his promotion to the Mets. Now, comes the part of trying to withstand the temptation to lift the Mets.

Of course, that’s easier said then done, especially with the numbers screaming this is a team in desperate need of help. After Friday’s 7-2 loss to the Dodgers the Mets are losers of six of their last eight games. They have the worst team batting average in the majors at .233 and next to last in runs scored with 331.

Yes, the Mets are a team in need and along with the much-anticipated promotion of Conforto, they were on the verge of swinging a deal with Atlanta for third baseman Juan Uribe and left-handed hitting utility player Kelly Johnson.

Conforto, at least, seems to have his head screwed on straight regarding expectations.

“I haven’t played in big league games,’’ Conforto said. “So really there’s no way for me to really know if I’m ready.’’

Conforto is here because Michael Cuddyer was finally placed on the disabled list with a sore knee. That decision came at least three weeks too late by GM Sandy Alderson.

Alderson, as usual, spoke legalese when it came to talking about Conforto’s expectations, saying there was thought he would “super dramatically,’’ upgrade the Mets’ production. Conforto was hitless but drove in the Mets’ first run with a groundout.

Maybe Alderson was attempting to take the pressure off Conforto, but the game’s smartest general manager, according to his auto-biography, couched everything.

Alderson said the promotion might have occurred without Cuddyer’s injury, but since it was tied to a player going on the disabled list there was no guarantee how long he would stay up here. Alderson also said the promotion was no connection as to how active the Mets will be on the trade market.

By the end of the game, the Mets hadn’t announced the trade that would send pitching prospects Michael Gant and Rob Whalen to the Braves.

Figuring it does, the Mets could play Uribe at third, move Daniel Murphy back to second and Wilmer Flores back to shortstop. Of course, that means Ruben Tejada will likely return to the bench.

Johnson, who can also play both outfield positions as well as the infield, is hitting .275 with nine homers and 34 RBI, numbers which could arguably make him the Mets’ best hitter.

Do Conforto, Uribe and Johnson make the Mets decidedly better?

Not really.

Uribe, who is hitting .272 with eight homers and 23 RBI, this year with Atlanta and the Dodgers, and Johnson, bring with them batting averages that would put them at the top of Mets, but they are essentially complementary players. And, Conforto, whom Alderson didn’t want to bring up in the first place, remains a Double-A prospect.

You could say they make the Mets better because what has been here has been so bad.

That’s not really that comforting, is it?

Surely, there has to be more. There just has to be.

Jul 22

Tejada Shining At Most Important Time

In 2012, the Mets’ first year without Jose Reyes as their shortstop, they gambled on Ruben Tejada. Nobody thought Tejada could duplicate Reyes’ dynamic style of play, but if he would give them something offensively, with his defense they could live with him.

TEJADA: Coming through. (AP)

TEJADA: Coming through. (AP)

Tejada was superb that season hitting .289 with a .333 on-base percentage. In fact, the Mets thought so highly of Tejada, at that time manager Terry Collins believed he could be the leadoff hitter the team so desperately needed.

Sure, the window is small, but since reshuffling their infield by putting Tejada to short, Wilmer Flores to second and Daniel Murphy to third, Tejada has produced. Maybe he has produced to the point where Collins might revisit the leadoff hitter idea, which could move Curtis Granderson‘s bat to the middle of the order.

Tejada worked his at-bat in the ninth the way he played in 2012. Tejada had a superb eight-pitch at-bat against Tanner Roark by fouling off five pitches before a RBI single to right that extended his hitting streak to nine games.

Can this last? Tejada is hitting .333 since July 3 to raise his average from .236 to .254.

Again, Tejada’s window has been small, but for now at least shortstop doesn’t have the same sense of urgency, and last night he and the Mets were fun to watch.


Jul 18

Lagares Deal Not Panning Out

The Juan Lagares I saw last night couldn’t have been the same player the Mets signed to a five-year, $23-million contract. Could it be?

Two balls were hit over his head. There probably weren’t two balls hit over his head every two months last season. If that many. He’s not Paul Blair; he’s not good enough to play that shallow.

LAGARES: What happened? (AP)

LAGARES: What happened? (AP)

We know something is wrong with his arm. We’ve known that all year. He has no chance at getting a runner at home, and they routinely challenge him first-to-third and second-to-home.

However, it makes you wonder how badly his elbow impacts him at the plate. The Mets are saying it isn’t an issue. If it isn’t, then what is?

I can’t help but think being yanked from the leadoff spot must have some effect. After spending all spring training developing patience and an eye at the plate in the leadoff spot, he was dropped to sixth. There was some debate as to whom made the call, manager Terry Collins or GM Sandy Alderson, but we really know, don’t we? Lagares has hit everywhere south of fifth, including ninth behind the pitcher.

The Mets, at least publicly, hesitated moving Wilmer Flores off shortstop for feat of bruising his psyche. How come they didn’t show the same thought process with Lagares?

Surely, the game’s smartest general manager must have an explanation. Instead, he’s waiting for Lagares to kick into full gear, like he’s waiting for David Wright to return, like he’s waiting for Travis d’Arnaud to comeback, like he’s waiting for Michael Cuddyer to hit, like he’s waiting for the offense it pick up, like he’s waiting for Matt Harvey to pitch like an ace.

And waiting, and waiting, and eventually the trade deadline would have passed and another season would have faded away.


Jul 16

Dozen Questions Facing Mets In Second Half

The New York Mets vowed to be competitive this season, and when the second half begins tomorrow in St. Louis they still have a chance to play for October.

Seriously, it could happen depending how the following dozen questions are answered:

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

HARVEY: A lot expected of him. (AP)

1. Question: Will they get off to a hot start in the second half?

Answer: The Mets open the second half at St. Louis and Washington, and at home to Los Angeles. The combined record of those three teams is 155-111 (.583). They are five games over .500, and by August they could be making strides in either direction. How fast they get out of the gate will have Alderson thinking whether the Mets are in the hunt or are done for the year.

2. Question: Will GM Sandy Alderson do anything to bring in a veteran bat?

Answer: If Alderson believes the Mets are in it, what will he do? Alderson has repeatedly said the trade market is slim. We know the Mets won’t get Todd Frazier or Troy Tulowitzki. They simply don’t want to part with their young pitching; and in the case of Tulowitzki, they don’t want to take on salary; and with Frazier, they don’t want a rental. The Mets will probably, if they do anything at all, attempt to bolster their bench. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is on that bench, and who doesn’t believe Alderson isn’t thinking his three-homer game in the first-half finale has him thinking the Mets’ offensive problems could be over. Trust me, they are not.

3. Question: If Alderson gets frisky, who will get traded?

Answer: We know it won’t be Noah Syndergaard, whom teams covet. We also know Alderson wanted to deal Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon over the winter. We also know Daniel Murphy likely won’t be back next year, so in Alderson’s ideal world he’d want to get something for Murphy. However, with David Wright’s return iffy at best, the Mets need him to play third base. Niese and Bartolo could conceivably be traded, but not if the Mets are a contender.

4. Question: Who gets hurt?

Answer: It is anybody’s guess, and considering the Mets have already had over a dozen players this season on the disabled list and there’s no telling who might be next. Steven Matz will be out until probably September, and nobody knows when David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud will be activated from the disabled list.

5. Question: Will Matt Harvey pitch like an ace?

Answer: He hasn’t so far with an 8-6 first-half record. Attempts have been made to monitor his innings, but at this rate he’ll finish with over 200, which would make October dicey if they are lucky to get so far.

6. Question: What will become of the six-man rotation?

Answer: The Mets aren’t saying yet, which is par for the course considering they didn’t have a plan entering the season. Should the opt for the six-man rotation, the sixth starter will be either Logan Verrett or Dillon Gee.

7. Question: Will the young stud pitchers keep it up?

Answer: Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have been brilliant. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, deGrom, is an All-Star and Syndergaard is pitching as if he could be this year’s Rookie of Year.

8. Question: Will Lucas Duda awaken?

Answer: Two homers heading into the break were positive signs. However, he’s hit 12 overall and on pace for 22 homers and 69 RBI, which won’t get it done.

9. Question: Will Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson come close to expectations?

Answer: So far they haven’t with a combined 20 homers and 58 RBI. Either would be fortunate to have those numbers at the end of the year.

10. Question: Will Juan Lagares come close to playing up to his contract?

Answer: He’s hitting .256 with three homers and 25 RBI, and a paltry .284 on-base percentage. He has 60 strikeouts and only ten walks. He hasn’t been red hot in the field, either, with balls getting hit over his head that weren’t before, and not being able to throw consistently. So far, the first season of his four-year deal hasn’t been good.

11. Question: Will Wilmer Flores show enough at second base so that it will become his position?

Answer: The Mets didn’t want to go this route, but since they are in contention had no choice. He made some progress at shortstop, but not enough.

12. Question: Going under the assumption they won’t add a shortstop, how well will Ruben Tejada play?

Answer: He’s done all right defensively, but his offense remains weak with a .237 average and .316 on-base percentage. On a poor offensive team, he could be the weakest link.

Jun 12

June 12, Mets Lineup Against Atlanta

Here’s the Mets’ lineup against the Atlanta Braves tonight:

Curtis Granderson – RF

Juan Lagares – CF

Michael Cuddyer – 1B

Wilmer Flores – SS

John Mayberry Jr. – LF

Dilson Herrera – 2B

Eric Campbell – 3B

Anthony Recker – C

Bartolo Colon – RHP