Jun 04

David Wright Personifies Slumping Mets’ Offense

We’ve seen this before from David Wright, a hot start cools and descends into a frigid abyss where he’s consumed by mechanical flaws borne out of a major psychological problem – the need to carry the Mets on his shoulders.

We can’t blame it on the pressures of being captain, as he’s fallen into this trap before, notably last season said manager Terry Collins, whose lineup includes as many as six starters hitting below .240. Teams can’t win with such limited production, and Wright can’t catch the free-falling Mets, who come into Washington tonight ten games under .500 and 11 ½ games behind the first place Braves.

WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

       WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

“He did it in the second half of last year, too,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were crushed in a three-game series in Florida. “When things started to go bad last year, he took it upon himself to be the guy to get us out of it.’’

The slide begins with a gradual expansion of the strike zone; the balls Wright once resisted off the plate he’s now chasing. The walks decline; the strikeouts increase. His average plummets.

Instead of driving the ball to center and right field, Wright falls into the habit of trying to pull, with the results often pop-ups and weak ground balls. His swing is now long and slow instead of short and quick. The more he tries to break out of it the more suffocating becomes the slump. There is such a thing as pressing and that’s what’s happening to Wright the past two weeks with a .163 average, .241 on-base percentage with one homer and two RBI.

Wright alluded to his problems after the Yankees series when he said: “I’m maybe trying to do a little too much and trying to make things happen. … I can’t be going up there and getting myself out or swinging at pitcher’s pitches early in the count.’’

However, that’s what he’s doing and it defines the futility and anguish of a slump. Wright hasn’t yet reached Ike Davis proportions, but is headed in that direction.

On some teams, a slumping player can be camouflaged, or at least protected, if others in the lineup are hitting. However, Daniel Murphy is the only one and he doesn’t do it with power. Considering his track record, Davis’ homer Sunday must be looked at as an aberration and not a sign of a breakout. Lucas Duda has 10 homers, but only 20 RBI, which the more you think about it is hard to believe. It’s almost unfathomable.

Collectively, the Mets are averaging less than four runs a game and hold the major league’s worst team average at .227. Their hitters are averaging under ten strikeouts a game.

At one time, you might have been able to say, “where would they be without Wright?’’

Well, they have him and only three teams in the major leagues hold a worse record than the 22-32 Mets. There are a lot of numbers that define how poorly they are playing, but what I find most discouraging is the Marlins have won just 16 games this year, with six coming against the Mets.

You’re tempted to think it can’t get much worse than this, but you realize as a Met fan, it can.

ON DECK: Looking at Washington series.

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Jun 03

Reflections Of A Lost Weekend For Mets In Miami

In the back of our collective minds, after winning four straight from the Yankees, who wasn’t surprised to see the Mets get beat up in Miami?

I thought they’d get a better showing from Matt Harvey, but other than that, nothing shocking really. Harvey was off his game, but had a chance to win if not for the bullpen, which reverted to pre-Yankees form. The offense continues to sputter.

 

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

Scott Rice was due for a stinker, which makes me wonder why Terry Collins would let him stay in to give up FOUR walks. Once a reliever gives up two walk, plus a hit, it is time to pull the plug. What was Collins waiting for?

Harvey’s no-decisions are starting to pile up which is a two-fold reflection on the bullpen and offense. I realize the Mets’ offense has been sucking wind lately, but friend Michael Baron put it in perspective: In 27 games in May, the Mets scored a mere 88 runs with a .222 batting average and .286 on-base percentage. That was second worse in the majors for the month.

It all can’t be pinned on Ike Davis, although he does get a large share of the blame. Speaking of Davis, he had two hits, including a home run Sunday. Please, under no circumstances, should the Mets consider hitting him higher than seventh. Let him stay there for a while until he shows real breakout signs. One game is not enough to assume anything about Davis. Certainly, he proved that after his RBI hit against the Yankees and two-homer game against the Dodgers.

Davis is not high on my Mets Concern Meter because frankly, he’s hit rock bottom. There’s no place to go but up, or Triple-A Vegas for him. I suppose I should forget about the minors because if the Mets haven’t done it by now they probably won’t ever.

On another sad offense note, Lucas Duda homered, giving him ten and 20 RBI on the season. In contrast, the Orioles’ Chris Davis hit his 20th homer Sunday. By the way, he has 52 RBI to go along with them. Duda’s HR-RBI is laughable. It shows pitchers are working around him with runners on base.

One of the biggest issues swirling around the Mets is who should go to make room for Zack Wheeler. The Mets are delaying Wheeler’s promotion for Super Two reasons, which is fine by me.

But, is he ready? Is he dominating on the Triple-A level to warrant the jump? I’m not sure, regardless of what Wally Backman might say. One thing I am sure of is Wheeler won’t make much of a difference as far as this year is concerned. Bringing up Wheeler won’t change all that is hurting this club. How will he help the bullpen? How will he help the outfield? How will he help the offense?

As far as who should go, the speculation is between Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee, with Shaun Marcum being excluded from the conversation because he’s a veteran making $4 million.

So?

The Mets must realize they aren’t going to be a contender this season, so what they should be doing is shopping Marcum to see what they can get. It won’t be a lot, but Marcum is gone after this year so why not? He’s had moments where he pitched well, Friday night for example before one bad inning.

The Mets are off today, which has an old joke resurfacing about what are their best days. They are in Washington tomorrow to start a series that lost a lot of edge with the Mets getting trounced. The Nationals aren’t playing well now and will be without Bryce Harper and possibly Stephen Strasburg.

 

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May 31

Terry Collins Threw His Team Under The Bus

There are times I don’t get Terry Collins, for example his admission his clubhouse was beginning to lose hope.

“Due to what we’ve gone through in the last three weeks, the hardest thing I’ve done is try to keep these guys positive,’’ Collins told reporters after Thursday night’s win over the Yankees. “That’s the biggest part of this job. It wasn’t about changing stances or shuffling bullpens. It was about trying to keep the guys in the clubhouse positive.’’

COLLINS: Questioned his team's character.

COLLINS: Questioned his team’s character.

I understand where he’s coming from, as certainly that was everybody’s impression.

While I applaud his candor, but I don’t understand why he would go in that direction. One of the first things a manager is graded on is his ability to have his players go to the mat for him. Basically, Collins admitted he was losing his team.

Terry Francona admitted that in Boston and is now managing the Indians.

Even if it were true, never admit it because that’s ammunition to be used against you. Never admit it, because once it is out there the perception won’t go away and will surface during the next losing streak. Never admit it, because it is a sign of weakness.

Collins then threw his players under the bus. Whether he meant to or not, he did because it opens the door for finger-pointing. Who quit?

“Look, you’ve got to work your way out of it. Everybody goes through some bad times. You’ve got to work your way out of it,’’ Collins said.

With that, he should have stopped, but like the guy in the seat next to you on a plane, he wouldn’t shut up.

“That was the hardest part of this, because you could sense there was tremendous frustration,’’ he continued. “Guys were down. You heard some of those guys that I had been with for three years now start to say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this. I can’t do it anymore.’ You can’t listen to that, because it’s a long, hard season.’’

OK, who said that? Who was on the verge of quitting? Did anybody dog it? If David Wright is the captain of this team, shouldn’t have he done something?

And, if you’re a player in that clubhouse, you have to wonder: Is he talking about me?

Basically, Collins left it up to the media to find and expose those who were giving up or were pressing. Collins is telling us his team is not of strong character or will.

Then came the threat of demotions for Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada. The appearance is he used the minor leagues as a punishment. Was this a threat to just Davis and Tejada or a message to everybody?

If it was intended for everybody, then it shouldn’t have come in late May, but during spring training. Collins should have said: “This team will hustle. This team will play fundamental baseball. This team will concentrate. This team will not draw undue attention to itself.’’

Simple messages, all, which should come with a simple qualifier: Do these things or we’ll get somebody who can.

I don’t like that Davis is stubborn about his hitting approach and the concept of going to the minor leagues to improve. I don’t like Jordany Valdespin’s attitude and me-first nature. And, I thought Collin McHugh’s tweet the other night was amateurish and out-of-line.

McHugh tweeted: “You can call us the NYC Sanitation Dept. because we just SWEPT the Yankees from Queens to the Bronx.’’

Is he serious? Let McHugh do something, maybe win a few games before he trashes an opposition that with the exception of this week and a few other times, has pretty much had its way with the Mets.

A tweet like that shows Collins doesn’t have control over his clubhouse. An admission there were players thinking, “I can’t do this anymore,’’ suggests the same.

The Mets have won five straight and head to Miami this weekend to play a team they should beat. But, what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse last night in the Bronx is something that would have stayed in a smart clubhouse. It is something that makes you wonder whether their mind is able to focus enough to continue this run.

ON DECK: Shaun Marcum and the lineups.

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May 31

Too Much Made Of Jeff Wilpon’s Comments

I could not help but laugh over the flap made over Jeff Wilpon’s comments Tuesday during the Mets’ gift presentation to retiring Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera.

In giving Rivera a fire hose nozzle and fire call box symbolic of being the history’s greatest closer, Wilpon said: “I wish we could see you in the World Series, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen this year.’’

WILPON: No harm, no foul.

WILPON: No harm, no foul.

The perception is Wilpon has already given up on the season. Of course, the Mets could make a historic run, but does anybody really believe that is possible? I don’t, and neither should anybody with half a brain, or someone with any knowledge of baseball.

Go ahead, save that paragraph and give it to me if the Mets are in the World Series. Wilpon wasn’t trashing his own team and it slays me to have read otherwise this week.

From the media, it was somebody reaching for a headline. And, from the talk-radio crowd, just the same old provincial drivel from those who believe in a conspiracy against the Mets. Sure, it would be great to see October baseball again, but it won’t happen for the Mets this year.

If you’ve been paying attention, don’t count on the Mets reaching contender status for two or three more seasons. They simply have too many holes and weaknesses.

Then there is the issue whether the Mets are able to use Wilpon’s words as motivation. Collins told ESPN.com prior to Thursday’s game such external motivation was overrated.

“You’d have to take a poll in there [of] how many guys read that stuff,’’ Collins said. “If that motivated them, we’ll be blasting them again tonight.’’

True enough.

These guys are professionals and if they are reliant on quotes such as Wilpon’s or bulletin board material they are in trouble. Occasionally that stuff works, but not on a consistent basis, and not enough to carry a mediocre-to-weak team over the course of a season.

The flipside of Wilpon’s comments is if he said something like, “we’ll see you in the World Series,’’ he would have been roasted for being cocky, with his words held against him when it didn’t happen.

Collins, whose job is of lame duck status, certainly isn’t stupid enough to rally his team around his boss’ comments. And, Wilpon definitely would not attempt to rattle the collective cages of his players by slighting them.

Sometimes, too much is made of nothing, and this is one of those times.

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May 30

Mets Wrap, May 30: Dillon Gee Makes Rotation Statement

Pitching with his spot in the rotation on the line, Dillon Gee was magnificent as he struck out 12 and retired the last 15 hitters to carry the Mets to a 3-1 victory Thursday night over the Yankees. With the win, the Mets won consecutive two-game series and five straight games overall. After being 12 games under .500, the Mets are now 22-29.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

GEE: Makes rotation statement.

ON THE MOUND: Gee gave up one run on four hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts. Gee limited the Yankees to a Robinson Cano homer in the third. Gee struck out the final five hitters he faced. … Scott Rice recorded two outs in the eighth and Bobby Parnell shut down the Yankees in the ninth for his ninth save.

AT THE PLATE: The Mets managed just four hits, the most important being Marlon Byrd’s two-run homer in the second. John Buck drove in the Mets’ third run with an infield single in the eighth. … The Mets were 1-for-9 with RISP.

THEY SAID IT: “I’m not stupid,’’ – Gee when asked if he recognized the situation in the Mets’ rotation.

BY THE NUMBERS: 20: Consecutive Yankees retired to end the game.

METS MATTERS: Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud will have his broken left foot re-examined Friday. The projection for d’Arnaud is now as a September call-up, which would preclude trading Buck to a contender. … Terry Collins said Omar Quintanilla, if he’s playing well, could remain the shortstop when Ruben Tejada comes off the disabled list. … Jon Niese was scratched from Saturday’s start with tendinitis in his left shoulder. He will be replaced by Collin McHugh. … Reliever Scott Atchison, on the disabled list with numbness in his right fingers, could have elbow surgery to remove a bone spur.

ON DECK: The Mets start a three-game series beginning Friday in Miami. Shaun Marcum starts Friday.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos