Sep 30

Mets Extend Collins; 2014 Season Has Begun

The New York Mets’ offseason began this afternoon at Citi Field with the expected announcement of Terry Collins’ contract extended for two years plus an option.

General manager Sandy Alderson there were three criteria for the extension:

* That the team hustled for Collins even during the lean times. “The club played hard for Terry and I think that was evident for everyone to see,’’ Alderson said.

* That he overcame a lot in terms of injuries and trades, and the young players generally improved. “He has helped out younger players get better,’’ Alderson said. “He’s a great motivator.’’

* That although the record wasn’t acceptable, the team showed improvement and played .500 over the last 100 games.

Alderson, Collins, COO Jeff Wilpon and the other members of the front office and coaching staff, will fly to Port St. Lucie today and begin organizational meetings to evaluate available free agents and trade options; player evaluations; and determining a budget.

“We have in mind what we can spend,’’ Wilpon said.

Alderson named Matt Harvey’s injury as the greatest disappointment, but also named the regression of Ike Davis and Ruben Tejada, and inability to build a solid bullpen.

Both Collins and Alderson cited the club’s losing record at home, with the former saying the club’s offensive approach was a significant factor.

“We can’t lead the National League in strikeouts if we’re not going to hit with power,’’ Collins said. “Our approach with two strikes has to get better.’’

The Mets’ holes include the rotation, where Alderson named Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee as the only givens; first base, which for now has Ike Davis and Lucas Duda as the primary candidates; shortstop, where Tejada struggled, was injured and went on the disabled list, and then after an extended period in the minor leagues, returned and broke his leg; and the adding a significant bat in the outfield.

As Collins, Alderson and Wilpon spoke to the media, the grounds crew was working on the field, which looked in pristine, almost Opening Day, condition.

“I’m honored to be able to continue what we started,’’ Collins said about the future, which included Opening Day 2014. “The nucleus of young talent in our organization really came to the forefront this year. There is no doubt in my mind that we are headed in the right direction. The won-lost record is not what any of us wanted and that’s what we have to change, beginning in 2014.’’

And, 2014, has already begun.

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Sep 27

Mets Wrap: Pitching Should Be Mets’ Offseason Priority

By definition, Carlos Torres gave the New York Mets a quality start tonight – three runs in six innings – which is usually good enough to win most starts.

However, the Mets aren’t scoring much these days, and didn’t again tonight in a second straight 4-2 loss to Milwaukee, a team they should beat.

Terry Collins started his 128th different batting order out of 160 games tonight, which is as telling a stat as there is to define the 2013 Mets. Most of that is attributable to injuries and poor performance – notably Ike Davis – but indicates a lack of offensive consistency and depth

TORRES: Could get spring training invite.

TORRES: Could get spring training invite..

The popular belief is the Mets need to upgrade their offense, which is true, but is it really their top priority?

Factoring having David Wright for a full season; improvement that comes from experience with Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker; having Eric Young for a full season; developing a consistent batting order; and, of course, the annual hope of whether Davis or Lucas Duda will find it, the Mets’ offense should be better in 2014.

Adding a bat is important, but is it imperative?

As is usually the case, pitching should be their primary concern, especially considering general manager Sandy Alderson has just three starters heading into spring training: Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler, the latter who was scratched from his final start with shoulder soreness.

Torres’ start tonight underscores the Mets’ need to add pitching. Theoretically, if the Mets pitch well their offense should improve enough to manufacture enough runs to be competitive.

The odds are long the Mets will have Matt Harvey for 2014, so they have two slots to fill in the rotation.

Torres has been valuable out of the bullpen in long relief and as a spot starter. He’s pitched well enough to get a spring training invite. What he did tonight is what the Mets need in a fifth starter, but he might be more valuable in long relief.

Saturday’s starter, Aaron Harang, should also be invited to spring training. I had my doubts, but Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched well recently and would likely also be invited to spring training.

Prior to the game Collins said he doesn’t anticipate Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard cracking the rotation coming out of spring training, which means adding a veteran arm, especially one who has a taste of playing on a winning team, should be their priority.

When Citi Field opened, the Mets said they would build around pitching, speed and defense. Power is great, but it isn’t essential in building a winner. The Mets should emphasize that mentality in constructing their 2014 team.

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Sep 24

Are Mets Making A Medical Mistake With Zack Wheeler?

When it comes to injuries, will the New York Mets ever learn? Zack Wheeler has been shut down for the season after complaining of shoulder stiffness last weekend in Philadelphia.

Smart move.

However, Wheeler was examined only by an on-call doctor at the park in Philly, and as of now hasn’t been examined by Mets’ doctors. So far, no MRI.

After what happened with Matt Harvey, who is facing Tommy John surgery after a sore forearm was neglected, one would think the Mets would take a cue.

Usually, teams give their players physicals after the season, along with conditioning and rehab programs. Hopefully, Wheeler will get a full exam, including a MRI.

Personally, I believe all pitchers should receive a MRI after each season just to check the wear-and-tear on the arm.

Who knows if such a step were taken that the Mets might have known about Jeremy Hefner, who had Tommy John surgery.

The Mets were careless with Harvey, and the pitcher didn’t help himself by pitching with discomfort. They were also reckless with Jenrry Mejia, and let him pitch with bone spurs, even though they had him scheduled for surgery in the offseason.

I certainly hope Wheeler was paying attention this summer.

The Mets’ medical practices have long been criticized, and rightfully so. When Sandy Alderson was hired CEO Jeff Wilpon said there would be a new culture, and that included a change in the handling of injured players.

The route from when the injury occurred to how it was initially handled – first by the trainers and then the medical staff – and rehab after surgery would all be examined.

It has mostly been the same old story.

Now, after Harvey, we learn Wheeler’s sore shoulder was examined not by a Mets’ doctor, but an on-call physician at the park in Philadelphia.

And, instead of going back to New York for a MRI, he was allowed to dress up as a bride in the team’s annual rookie hazing.

Memo to Wheeler: You’re in the major leagues and have a sore shoulder. The honeymoon is over.

If the Mets won’t do it for you, then get your own MRI. It’s your future. Take care of it.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 24

Mets Wrap: Aaron Harang And David Aardsma Show Something For 2014

It was fun to watch the New York Mets play a meaningful September game. Maybe next year they’ll be in one for their own benefit.

Manager Terry Collins said prior to the game the Mets could benefit just by playing a team with something on the line.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

HARANG: Pitching for 2014.

“It will be an education for our young players,’’ Collins said of this series with the Cincinnati Reds. “It will be fun to watch. We’ll see how we react. The pressure is on them. We’ll see how our guys measure up.’’

They measured up well in tonight’s 3-2 10-inning loss at Cincinnati, with a couple of nuggets worthy of a look.

The first was Aaron Harang, who gave up two runs in six innings. By definition, that was a quality start, but there was nothing good about the six walks.

However, what Harang demonstrated was an ability to work out of trouble, which is something to look for in a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.

Harang should be invited to spring training to compete for a spot in the rotation.

Assuming Matt Harvey won’t be ready for the start of spring training, the Mets have three starters in Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. That leaves Harang competing for the fourth spot with the fifth spot wide open.

Should Harvey be ready, Harang would be competing for the fifth spot. Harvey opted to rehab his elbow and eschew surgery for now. Part of that rehab could be to test the elbow in the Arizona Fall League, as it would enable him to throw at game speed.

The Fall League is advantageous to the Mets in finding out about Harvey. Throwing on flat ground or in the bullpen does not test the elbow as facing hitters. Of course, Harvey won’t pitch in Arizona if he feels any discomfort in his elbow.

Something else to consider as they prepare their offseason moves is reliever David Aardsma, who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.

The Mets, as in what has been a winter tradition in the past four years, will be attempting to build a bullpen. Aardsma has been effective in stretches this season, and tonight was another example.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Sep 22

Mets Wrap: Whether They Finish Third Or Fourth, Mets Have Plenty Of Questions

In the grand scheme, we won’t know for years to what degree finishing third or fourth will impact the New York Mets in regards to their draft position and subsequent pick. Will finishing third give them a lesser pick and deprive them of selecting the next Derek Jeter?

Nobody can project with any accuracy baseball draft picks. Even No. 1s have been busts. And, David Wright is right in his line of reasoning it really doesn’t matter where you finish if there are no playoffs?

COLLINS: One of many questions. (AP)

COLLINS: One of many questions. (AP)

However, considering the expectations, the abundance of injuries, and dreadful second-half offense which led from a slide of seven games under .500 to their current position of 13 under, finishing strong the last week, and in third, couldn’t hurt in laying the groundwork for next year.

However, whether it is third or fourth, it will not reduce the number of issues for the 2014 Mets. Sweeping the Phillies this weekend might give them a feel-good confidence heading into the offseason, but does not eliminate their immediate off-season issues:

1) How long will they string Terry Collins along, or will they do the right thing and make an announcement the day after the season finale, or that Sunday?

2) The Mets have been saying for years this is the offseason they will spend, if so, how much?

Will Matt Harvey opt for surgery or go into the season riding a gamble?

Regardless of Harvey’s decision, will the Mets add a veteran starter, because as of now they have just three plus Aaron Harang?

Is there something to worry about after Zack Wheeler was shut down for the year after tightness in his shoulder following Saturday’s start?

GM Sandy Alderson has been trying to build a bullpen for three years. Will this be a fourth?

Will they cut ties with Ike Davis or extend this torturous experiment into next spring?

Should they pass on tendering Davis a contract for 2014, how confident are they in Lucas Duda or do they need to add a first baseman?

Are they confident of Bobby Parnell’s recovery from surgery, or will they feel the need to add a closer?

Will they decide to see what they have in Ruben Tejada in spring training or add a shortstop?

Is their outfield plan to platoon Matt den Dekker and Juan Lagares in center field or have them both play in the outfield?

What is their satisfaction level with Eric Young, knowing if they replace him it will be in left field and as a leadoff hitter?

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos