Jul 19

Mets Top Five Second Half Questions

We know this is a lost season for the Mets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t face four significant questions in the second half. How they answer them could determine whether they will be competitive next year or five seasons from now:

SYNDERGAARD: Not going anywhere.  (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Not going anywhere. (SNY)

1. QUESTION: Who will run the show?

ANSWER: In the wake of GM Sandy Alderson’s absence, the trio of assistants John Ricco, Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi will do the daily lifting, but the major decisions will be made by COO Jeff Wilpon. It’s up to you to determine if that’s good or bad. If the Mets are to make an exhaustive GM search in the offseason, it would likely preclude any major trades between now and July 31. One assumption we can make is if the Mets go outside for a general manager it would stand to reason the new hire will want to name his own manager and Mickey Callaway will be let go.

2. QUESTION: What becomes of the Mets aces?

ANSWER: It’s not likely neither Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will be traded by the current GM trio. Those decisions aren’t made by out-going general managers. There’s been some talk of Zack Wheeler and/or Steven Matz being traded, but I don’t think that will happen, either. The Mets take their time building up to making major decisions, and if I’m Wilpon and know I’m going to name a new GM, then I want that hire to assess where the club is positioned in the short term. Personally, if the Mets get, and stay, healthy, I can see them improving in 2019, but I can’t see them competing. That’s just too big of a leap to make.

3. QUESTION: Who will be gone by the end of the month?

ANSWER: The two biggest reported names on the block are Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera. Closers are especially at a premium, so Familia might be the best move to make. Cabrera is having a solid season, and there are several teams needing a second/third baseman. With Dustin Pedroia injured, the Red Sox can use a second baseman. Wilmer Flores is being showcased, but tears alone won’t keep him in Queens this time. They could always trade Jay Bruce again, but he’s injured. I can also see they taking calls about Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. If they aren’t going to play him, then Dominic Smith has to either be traded or sent to the minors. Yoenis Cespedes has a no-trade clause, so he’s not going anywhere. Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins could also be dealt.

4. QUESTION: What’s going on with Cespedes?

ANSWER: He played nine innings at first base in a rehab game yesterday. First base is an intriguing because of his legs. Cespedes, 32, has been on the DL with a strained right hip flexor since May 16. He’s expected to be activated from the DL on Friday, but with Cespedes, you never know. With this being a lost season, the Mets might as well see what he can do at first base. Cespedes has been a dismal signing, and this is his chance to salvage his career in New York. The Mets are an organization void of young talent, but if Cespedes plays first for the rest of this season and next year, it could stunt the development of the franchise’s second-ranked prospect, Peter Alonso. Chances are we’ll see Alonso as a late-season call-up. Either way, it seems like the end of the line for Smith.

5. QUESTION: Will we see The Captain this year?

ANSWER: For a while, there was thought we might see David Wright before Cespedes. Wright has been throwing and taking batting practice, and there’s speculation he might return this season. Still, there’s no timetable for his return. If not, there’s always next spring training.

 

Jul 10

Leave Keith Alone

If you spent any time on the Internet today, then you know this season is over for the Mets. Instead of talking about trading Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, the buzz was Keith Hernandez’s refusal to sign an autograph last night after his clinic for T-ballers.

Nobody was even bitching about Yoenis Cespedes. It was all about Hernandez not signing for a kid.

HERNANDEZ: Give him a break. (FOX)

HERNANDEZ: Give him a break. (FOX)

Hernandez was on the clock last night. Hernandez giving batting tips was part of an in-game feature and after the inning, he had to get back to the booth.

It’s his job and Hernandez, who, I’ve seen is very willing to sign, but doesn’t like to be bothered when he’s working.

The Mets or SNY should have had guides down there to escort Hernandez to the agent and ward off fans. There should have been an announcement no autographs would be signed.

If Hernandez signed one, he had to sign two, then three, then four, then when does it end?

The kid, unlike many I’ve seen, wasn’t obnoxious, and neither was Hernandez when he refused. Getting an autograph at Citi Field isn’t easy to do as you’re muscling your way into the position with other fans and there’s a shortage of time.

It pays to be polite, say please and thank you. I’ve seen fans stand behind the dugout and scream, “Hey Jeter, come here and sign this.’’ I’ve seen others who weren’t as polite when the player ignored them.

Don’t forget, when players are taking batting practice, they are working. Respect that.

The best way to get an autograph is to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope along with your photo or baseball card.

I wouldn’t send baseballs, bats, T-shirts or anything other than a flat photo. And, don’t bother with a long letter as it won’t get read and will be trashed.

I’ve seen plenty of players sit in front of their lockers to sign photos and cards. Most of them take this seriously and will likely respond.

But, if you send more than one item to be signed you’ll likely be mistaken as a trader and be ignored. If you have two items, send two envelopes.

Keith is usually kind and accommodating. He was working last night, so give him a break.

Jun 15

Conforto Avoids Minor League Demotion; Hopes Swing Adjustment Works

The Mets are optimistic an adjustment Michael Conforto made to his swing after working with hitting coach Pat Roessler and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater might jumpstart his season to the point where it could prevent a trip to the minor leagues.

Specifically, Conforto has been swinging too early at pitches.

“We just sat down and said ‘What’s causing you to chase pitches? What’s causing you to not go the other way with power like you usually do?’ ” Conforto told reporters in Arizona.

“I hit a couple of balls the other way in the Subway Series and it didn’t feel like I had much behind it. Then you go back and look at video and see I am kind of an extension when hitting the ball the other way whereas last year I was kind of catching it in my swing and I was getting a little extra behind it.”

Conforto is hitting .088 for June (3-for-34), but homered Thursday at Arizona. His OPS is .689 this season compared to .999 at this time last season.

We must also remember Conforto is nine months removed from left shoulder surgery and didn’t have a normal spring training.

When told of his OPS last June 14, Conforto said he “absolutely” expects a return to that level before this season concludes.

The Mets’ season could already be lost, but Conforto still believes he can salvage his season personally.

“Getting on base and hitting for extra bases is something I think I am very good at and so far it hasn’t been there and I think that is my identity as a hitter and I think it’s going to get better,’’ Conforto said.

Conforto might have been demoted had Yoenis Cespedes not had a setback to his quad.

Jun 11

Timing Of Gonzalez Release Is Bizarre

Not that Adrian Gonzalez was going to turn their season around, but the timing of the Mets releasing the 36-year-old first baseman after Sunday night’s game – even with three strikeouts – seems a little odd.

For a team in desperate need of offense, why would you release a player who is third in RBI with 26, especially with the leader Asdrubal Cabrera leaving Sunday’s game with an apparent hamstring injury and the second-ranked player in Yoenis Cespedes suffering a setback in his rehab and is out indefinitely?

GONZALEZ: Gone already. (AP)

GONZALEZ: Gone already. (AP)

Bringing up Dominic Smith, who wasn’t impressive in his trial last season, doesn’t appear to be the answer, especially when the Mets are also throwing out the idea of trying Jay Bruce and Jose Bautista at first base.

Smith, who was injured and missed most of spring training because of a strained quad muscle, never had the opportunity to compete with Gonzalez and learn from the All-Star.

As is often the case with GM Sandy Alderson, the announcement was made after the media availability to Gonzalez was over and reporters didn’t have a chance to speak with him.

The Mets will also bring up Ty Kelly with Smith and for the second time in a month, catcher Jose Lobaton was designated for assignment.

As far as Cespedes goes, there’s no timetable for his return any longer. Cespedes played in a rehab game Friday with Double-A Binghamton without incident and sustained a setback Saturday. He’s now in Port St. Lucie working with the Mets’ rehabilitation staff.

“We had been excited about the prospect of getting him back in a few days,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “But we can’t let these injuries stop us from doing what we need to do. We have other Major League players who can step up and get the job done, and that’s what we need to do.

“As this continues to move forward, and it continues to drag on, there has to be a level of understanding that it’s maybe something you battle throughout the rest of your career.

“But I don’t think we’re at that point yet. The goal is still to get him to where he can be out there and feel normal.’’

Cespedes missed 81 games last season and has already missed 24 with more games coming off the schedule on a daily basis.

Jun 08

More Injuries Sack Mets Prior To Subway Series

The Mets received a triple dose of bad news prior to first pitch of their interleague series against the Yankees. Noah Syndergaard won’t start; Jeurys Familia went on the DL; and Yoenis Cespedes probably won’t play.

Syndergaard was scratched from Sunday’s start with swelling in his right index finger and will be replaced by Seth Lugo. Syndergaard last pitched May 25 at Milwaukee

Familia went on the DL with a sore right shoulder retroactive to June 7. Familia has 14 saves in 18 opportunities with a 2.48 ERA, but has been hit hard lately, giving up four runs in the past seven innings.

Jacob Rhame took Familia’s spot on the roster.

The news hits the Mets hard as it removes Lugo and Familia from the bullpen before they face a team that is raking, having won eight of its last ten games.

Assuming the Mets have a save opportunity, Robert Gsellman seems the likely candidate to replace Familia. Then, if the Mets need a couple of innings from a reliever, where will manager Mickey Callaway go without having Lugo available?

Presumably, Anthony Swarzak could take Lugo’s spot if the Mets need a couple of innings.

As far Cespedes is concerned, I didn’t expect him to be ready this weekend.

He’ll go a minor league rehab assignment tonight. He could rest Saturday and possibly play in another rehab game Sunday.