It’s Not Early, It’s A Blown Opportunity

The calendar still reads April, but the games count just the same as the ones in September. Through the first 19 games of the season, the Mets sport a record of just 8-11 and while the season certainly isn’t over, the team has already failed to capitalize on what was a golden opportunity to take the reigns of the division in the early going and dictate the tempo going forward.

In a strange bit of scheduling, the first 32 games on the Mets’ calendar this season are all played against their division rivals within the NL East. A strong start would have gone a long way to building a cushion at the top of the standings or, at the very least, fatten up on wins against the lesser competition of the Braves and Phillies.

When you come into a season with the expectation of being a World Series contender, you have to beat the bad teams. When those teams play within your division, it gives you an even better chance to distance yourself from the pack that inevitably gathers and scavenges around the Wild Card spots because of the extra intra-divisional games provided by the unbalanced schedule.

Even taking to current rash of injuries into account, we’ve seen very quickly that what was supposed to be the “deepest roster” Terry Collins has had since managing the team is already as thin as a wet paper towel. And not even one of those nice Bounty paper towels.

With Jay Bruce already pressed into duty at first base due to injuries to Lucas Duda and Wilmer Flores, the Mets are forced to keep underperformers Curtis Granderson (of the .145/.205/.254 line) and Jose Reyes (.104/.189/.134) in a lineup that is as desperate for warm bodies as it is for baserunners. Despite a performance in 2016 that featured a reliance on the long ball and routinely fell into slumps and cold streaks, the Mets did nothing to improve the lineup at the major league level and simply brought back an entire roster of players who were with the organization already and depended (hoped…prayed?) they’d all stay healthy.

Since that has already shown to be a pipe dream, the Mets are stuck in an already unenviable position of already hoping for players to get healthy, others to return to form and yet another group to hurry up and take the next step in their development. Despite all that, the biggest deficiency they have isn’t even on the 25 man roster, it’s the man who wears number 10 on the bench: manager Terry Collins.

Look. Terry Collins is one of those baseball-lifer guys you hear all about and respect and knowledge and blah blah blah. Fuck. That. Terry Collins is a half-witted hack and I don’t care how well him and David Wright get along because this is the same guy who has half his bullpen on pace for 200 appearances each in a 162 game season IN FUCKING APRIL!

He sits there after every game talking about how he has to protect the 4 guys in the rotation (I haven’t gotten the feeling that he gives a shit about Gazelle-Man yet), but has no problem making Jerry Blevins throw 2 innings a day. I’m sure he even called down to have Blevins warm up yesterday even though the game was rained out.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Collins sucks. He’s always sucked. Don’t start with that World Series run in 2015. If you paid attention you saw how lucky he was to ride a historic stretch from Yoenis Cespedes down the stretch, then to jump on the Daniel Murphy historic stretch in the postseason before was given enough rope to hang himself in the World Series. Am I saying the Mets would have beaten the Royals with a different manager? Not for sure, but would they have had a better shot with somebody different on the bench? Abso-fucking-lutely.

This idiot gave an already cold-bodied Michael Cuddyer three at-bats in Game 1 when, in all actuality, Cuddyer had absolutely no business even being on the postseason roster at that point. He’s the guy who had Jeurys Familia come into Game 3 to protect a goddamn six-run lead despite having pitched everyday for the previous three months. The same guy who gift-wrapped Game 4 by not pulling Matz after 5 innings and then wasting both of his long relievers in the sixth because Terry Collins has a script of what relievers get to pitch what innings and he’ll be goddamned if he ever alters his script.

I’ve said in the past that the Mets making that run to the Series was great and awful all at the same time. As a fan, all I want is for my team to win a World Series and they got close, but when they didn’t win, it ensured that Collins wasn’t going anywhere because you know a manager isn’t getting fired after an appearance in the Series.

I watch a lot of baseball, but obviously more Mets than anything else. It’s hard to think that there would be another manager in the Major Leagues right now that would be strategically worse than Terry Collins. He constantly refuses to give playing time to younger guys whether it be out of deference for veterans or just plain, old stubbornness. We’ve seen it with Wilmer Flores (who is still only 25 despite the feeling that he’s been a bench player on the big club for the past decade) and now we’ve seen it with Michael Conforto who has been good in the time he’s been given this season despite Collins’ insistence on continuing to run with Granderson because there’s a track record there.

Again, with the injuries that have befallen the team, there aren’t a lot of options to do otherwise right now, but there has never been any creativity or solid decision-making when it comes to filling out a lineup or managing an entire rotation during the Collins regime.

With the amount of free agents the Mets will have following this season and the question marks they will leave in the roster moving forward, the window for success for this team could be closing a lot faster than any of us want to believe. It would certainly behoove the team to find somebody better equipped at holding it open rather than forcing it shut.

It’s only been 19 games thus far, but to be three games under .500 at this point is certainly a failure in a season that was filled with great expectations. Even with the injuries, the team simply has to be better and has to capitalize on games against “second-division teams” as Keith Hernandez likes to say. Without doing so, it could get late awfully early this season.

E-Mail: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

Twitter: @MaximusSexPower

Podcast! Awards! Postseason! Mets!

Greetings! You may or may not be aware that I do a weekly pop culture podcast (The Car JoeMez Podcast) which is a lot of fun to do, but following the Mets’ Wild Card loss to the Giants, we recorded a special baseball only episode where I speak about my IBWAA awards ballot, postseason predictions and I even examine what the future could bring for the Mets’ roster. Oh, I shit on Terry Collins too. You know how I do. Anyway, I hope you’ll give it a listen and if you like, maybe check out some of the other episodes.

Collins Puts Mets At Strategic Disadvantage

You can say that Terry Collins has players wanting to play for him. You’d be right. You’d can also say that with the sheer quantity of impact injuries the team has suffered that them even being in this spot tonight is incredibly unlikely. You’d also be right about that.

One thing you cannot say, however, is that having Terry Collins calling the shots on your bench – in what is assumed to be a pitcher’s duel tonight in the NL Wild Card game – inspires much confidence in a late-game situation where he would need to outmanage Bruce Bochy.

Collins rode a historic hot streak by Yoenis Cespedes to get into the postseason and then hopped back on the horse to ride Daniel Murphy’s historic hot streak to get into the World Series where he was completely exposed as a dumpster fire of a tactician who trusted history over current results (Michael Cuddyer), was unable to identify when a pitcher in a big spot was gassed (Steven Matz) and was unable to deviate from the script he had written for himself in regards to managing a bullpen that led to him using his closer in less than optimal situations which led to two “blown saves”.

Add that to everything we’ve seen this year. Wilmer Flores is unavailable for the remainder of the season because of an injury sustained in a home-plate collision because Terry Collins admitted he forgot to pinch run for him. The decision early in the season to destroy Jim Henderson. Also, he’s been a mad man using every single player available to him since rosters expanded in September and, should tonight’s game be close in the late innings, I’d be shocked if he’s able to use ONLY 25 players.

The Mets are only carrying 9 pitchers tonight which – in theory – is plenty for one game and maximizes your bench options. But with the way Collins has grown accustomed to playing musical match-ups over the past month, I genuinely have to question if Collins will have the foresight not to burn through all his players and put himself at a disadvantage should the game go into extra innings like last night’s AL Wild Card game.

One thing I can promise is that Collins is no Showalter and won’t be questioned for NOT using a certain player. In a perfect world, the Mets jump on Madison Bumgarner early and take the game out of Collins’ hands. But should Noah Syndergaard give up a couple of early runs and Collins has his hand forced, this could be an ugly game for the blue and orange.

Playoffs?! Are Mets Playoff Bound? Would That Even Be Enough?

I try to have realistic expectations when it comes to the Mets and, a lot of times, those come off as rather negative, but – when it comes down to it – we all want the same thing: for the Mets to win the World Series.

Coming into the 2016 season, I said how strange it felt to actually have genuine expectations for this ballclub. As Met fans, we’ve basically gotten used to being out of things before the trade deadline, but still seem to enjoy the few bright spots whether that be an overperforming fan favorite (see: Dickey, R.A, 2012) or a singular moment of awesomeness (Santana, Johan, also 2012). There are times when the team is bad, but there’s still enough to have fun while taking in the day-to-day grind of the season.

There’s been plenty of years where I’ve gone to a ton of games during lost seasons and found ways to still maximize the fun value whether that be through cheap tickets, short lines for bathrooms and concessions or not having to wait to get out of the parking lot. That kind of stuff matters to a ballpark experience.

This year was different, though. Coming off a surprise World Series appearance last year, I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the same seats at the same prices anymore. I knew I’d have to wait a bit longer than usual to get a steak sandwich. More importantly, I knew I had a team on the field that wasn’t building for the future, but meant to contend right now.

To be honest, the fact that the Mets are only 6 games out in the NL East right now despite all of the injuries they’ve suffered in the lineup is an accomplishment in itself. The team has looked so inept offensively at times that you have to wonder just how much of a catastrophe this season would have been had the front office followed the original blueprint and not resigned Yoenis Cespedes.

But let’s not play the “what-if” game right now. Let’s take a genuine look at what we have as we start the second half tonight in Philadelphia. Can this team make the playoffs? Is making the playoffs enough to fulfill the preseason expectations? Can Daniel Murphy just leave us alone? Let’s examine.

IMG_2488

Is there enough pitching to hold this together?

This is the most important question and the answer isn’t as simple as it was even a month ago. Matt Harvey hasn’t been the Matt Harvey we thought we were getting and will now miss the remainder of the season due to surgery. For now, at least, he’ll be replaced in the rotation by Logan Verrett who has basically been your typical 6th starter/swingman out of the bullpen. Key thing to remember here is that while Harvey has a lot of name value, the performance that needs to be replaced wasn’t Cy Young level so Verrett should – hopefully – be able to give you what you were getting out of Harvey before the injury.

A bigger problem is the setbacks in the rehab of Zack Wheeler. Originally expected to be returning to the rotation around now, Wheeler has continually suffered what the team has classified as “minor” setbacks and hasn’t even thrown off a mound as of yet. That is not good. At this point, it’s basically unreasonable to expect any kind of significant contribution from Wheeler in 2016.

Which brings us to Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz who both have bone spurs in their elbows which doesn’t even include Thor’s recent “dead arm” issue. If one or both of them decides that the pain from the spur is just too much and decides to have surgery to remove it, this team is dead in the water as there just isn’t the depth in the system that there used to be because of promotions, trades and Rafael Montero completely forgetting how to pitch. Bartolo Colon was brought back this season to give the team a bridge in the rotation until Wheeler would come back at which point he’d move into the pen and provide depth. He’s been terrific and the Mets have needed it as their best-laid plans have caught fire.

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Why didn’t they re-sign Daniel Murphy?

Look, Murph was here for a long time and was a nice player, but aside from two weeks in October, he never looked like the player he has apparently become. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and the Mets desperately needed to upgrade defensively after they were absolutely exposed in the World Series against the Royals. Allowing Murph to leave gave them the chance to add a comparable offensive player in Neil Walker who was a definite improvement with the glove while also being able to add a first-round sandwich pick in the draft after giving Daniel the qualifying offer. With Dilson Herrera waiting in Las Vegas to take over 2B in Queens, the ability to use Walker as a one year stopgap and get back another compensation draft pick when he leaves as a free agent after this year was a smart tactical decision by the front office. Sure, it stings that Murphy has had a great year and has hit something like 43 homers against just the Mets so far, but sometimes these things happen. I’m not rooting against Murph. For a team that lacks positive moments in their history, Murph provided us with one of the all-time great postseason runs – not just in Mets history – but in all of baseball. We should always be grateful for that.

reyes

Is Jose Reyes the biggest addition we’ll see for this lineup?

From how it sounds…probably. But is this enough? I wasn’t enamored with the idea of signing Jose. As much as I was a fan during his first go-round in Queens, the combination of declining skills and him grabbing his wife by the throat and slamming her into a door didn’t exactly put him at the top of my list. But he’s here. He’s shown obvious signs of rust which is to be expected since he hasn’t seen major league action since last October, but, aside from that, there does appear to be something left in the tank. He’s obviously motivated to reclaim his career and – even if he isn’t as fast as he used to be – he’s still a net positive on the basepaths (as long as he can get on base with any consistency) because the Mets – as a team – may have the least footspeed of any team ever. This team is strictly station to station which limits the things you can do offensively if you can’t steal a base or go first to third on a single to right or even score from second on a base hit. This team needs to be able to generate more runs so Reyes could be valuable if he finds even some of what made him special way back when.

The lineup will still need another addition, but it’s doubtful it will come from outside the organization in another Cespedes-type acquisition like last year. Lucas Duda seems no closer to returning than he did when he first went out and the team may have to rely on Walker, Curtis Granderson to provide bigger second halves to go along with the return of Michael Conforto once he returns to the big club from a stint in Triple-A. Before going down, Conforto looked absolutely overmatched and was an automatic out. Hopefully, he comes back in a similar fashion that d’Arnaud did when he was demoted a few years back with a renewed approach and clear head.

collins

Is Terry Collins the right guy to be leading this team?

I hate Terry. It’s no secret. I can’t kill him too much this season because of all the injuries, but do I have faith that Terry Collins will be to outmaneuver anybody come crunch time? No. Not in the least. Unfortunately, barring an unforseen and atypical ballsy move by Alderson, Collins is here to stay.

Mets

Is this a playoff caliber team? Is just making the playoffs enough?

Can this team as currently constructed make the playoffs? Tough question. I’d lean toward yes, they can, but it’s far from a sure thing. The Marlins have been surprising and while the Pirates haven’t played as well as you may have expected, there’s still plenty of time for them to get hot. The Dodgers currently hold the first Wild Card spot, but if Clayton Kershaw’s back injury is anything longer-term than thought, they are in real trouble with a thin rotation.

The Mets had huge expectations coming into the year with a maturing pitching staff that was considered the best in the game and a solid lineup that Collins never figured out how to work before everybody dropped like flies anyway. I am not confident that the Mets will catch the Nationals. It wouldn’t be absurd if they did, but this is not the Nationals of last year. They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder and are taking extra enjoyment each time they can humble the Mets, especially when Murphy is the one leading the way.

The Mets will have to slide in as a Wild Card where they have as good a shot as anybody as long as they don’t lose any of the other pitchers. But would that be enough to satisfy preseason expectations?

Honestly? Yeah. To me, yes. The Mets – in their history – have only qualified for the postseason in consecutive years one time (1999-2000). That’s it. We’ve sat through such consistency of losing that our great teams are standalone years as opposed to transcendent eras of winning. This team has enough pieces in place where this can be a sustained run of competitiveness and – with the amount of teams that now qualify for the postseason – should be playing meaningful September and October baseball for the foreseeable future.

Only eight teams (the two that lose the Wild Card game really don’t count) in the majors make the playoffs. It’s an accomplishment to get there after such a long season and should be respected and appreciated as such. As a Mets fan, you’ve learned to deal with extended periods of losing baseball while keeping the optimism high that the future holds better days. Well, that future is here. This team may not be blowing teams out of the water like the 86 or 06 teams did, but they’re a far cry from being “the worst team money can buy” of the early 90s.

Yes, missed opportunity to score a run from third with less than two out is going to frustrate you, but sometimes you have to take a step back and remember, “Hey…we went to the World Series last year.” I know I do. It actually happened. I have a cap and jersey that actually say “World Series” on it. Enjoy the good times, friends. Because, as we’ve seen, they can be fleeting and then you’ll be left wishing you enjoyed them more as they were happening.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or via e-mail: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

 

Collins Again Inept On National Stage

After an abomination of tactical performance in the World Series, Terry Collins was rewarded with managing the National League All-Stars in last night’s game in San Diego.

I’ve gone into enough detail in the past on my feelings on the deficiencies of Collins. He was supposed to be the guy to just steward a ship of kids until they were ready for a real manager. He’s proven time and again that he’s not the guy to guide this team to the next level and last year’s ride into the World Series was more in spite of him than because of him.

But last night should have been too easy to screw up.

And it would have been, too…for everybody except Terry Collins.

The Mets are a franchise with very little in terms of positive history. So when there’s an opportunity to add something fun to the ledger for both the team and the fans it has to be capitalized upon.

While the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals were once again stealing the headlines, Clueless Collins did his best to hide his players, his team and leave his fanbase frustrated and disappointed by not inserting either of the available Mets players (Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia) into last night’s All-Star game.

Collins apparently had his script for if/when to use both players, but – shockingly – the game didn’t play out like the one he had written on paper and what should have been a proud moment for Familia to participate in his first and Colon in probably his last All-Star event instead ended with a lot of angry people turning off TVs in New York after being unable to cheeer for their own players.

Look, I get it: The All-Star Game is a pretty pointless exhibition and at least nobody on the Mets had an arm amputated during the 7th inning stretch. But this was supposed to be a moment for the Mets to once again take another step as one of the better franchises in the league in front of a national audience. It was supposed to be a moment for fans to be excited to cheer on THEIR All-Stars from THEIR defending National League champions.

Instead, it became a giant “fuck you” from Tone-Deaf Terry to his fanbase. Collins is a baseball lifer and this blatant exhibition of ignorance from the man is abhorrent. The reports from the Mets’ beat writers after the game had both Familia and Noah Syndergaard both unwilling to give interviews and apparently the mood amongst the players was rather dour.

It would take the Mets to fuck up such an easy opportunity to do something easy and great for the franchise and fanbase. Thanks to Terrible Terry they were able to not only do it, but do it spectacularly.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or email: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

Game 8: Logan Becomes Weapon-X,Terry Collins is Still a Moron

Welcome, everybody, to another Mets recap of the game you read about on 25 other sites first. For that reason – and also because there’s no sense in going into a full blown book report on a very uninspiring game – let’s break down the highlights into list fashion and then I’ll expand upon some things that stuck out.

  • Logan Verrett started in place of Jacob deGrom (who still hasn’t been put on the DL or the Paternity list which means the Mets are, essentially, playing down a man) and was excellent throwing six innings of shutout ball. Verrett has been pretty good when thrown into that spot starter role and it’s great that we were able to get him back from the Rangers last season after losing him in the Rule V Draft.
  • Terry Collins is a bumbling fool who is trying to destroy shoulders and elbows with no regard for humanity. He is the Son of Sam-equivalent for relief pitchers.
  • The Mets again did basically nothing on offense. But they were tremendous at finding not-fun and non-exciting ways of leaving runners in scoring position when they got them there.
  • Last week, Jim Henderson looked like he may have been a shrewd under-the-radar bullpen signing. Yesterday, he looked like his arm was going to fall off.
  • Jeurys Familia pitched in his third straight game, but to make matters even better, was asked to get a five-out save. No big deal.
  • Kevin Plawecki drove in both Mets runs with a late-inning single that felt as if it was never going to happen. Runs are good.

OK, so there we have it and you’re all caught up. But let’s talk Terry Collins. Colactus, The Devourer of Teams. Anybody that knows me knows just how much I disdain Terry Collins. I firmly believe that the team achieved what they did last season in spite of him as opposed to because of him.

He’s shown no ability to manage a bullpen. He’s consistently failed at further developing young position players at the big league level (the pitchers don’t count, that’s all Dan Warthen), he’s been too reliant upon preferred veterans when there’s clearly better options and he’s so stuck to a “script” of how he thinks he should manage a game that he has no ability to adapt and make in-game adjustments to his strategy.

Need examples? How about giving a washed-up Michael Cuddyer three at-bats in game one of the World Series instead of the much more productive Juan Uribe? Or trying to push Steven Matz through a sixth inning in Game Four when he clearly was losing his command through the fifth? And then burning through his two long relievers in Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon to bail out Matz of that same sixth inning so he could go to the storyboarded Addison Reed/Tyler Clippard/Jeurys Familia frame that he had mapped out which saw Clippard unable to find the strike zone and Familia put in a horrible position with men on base in the 8th to try to hold everything together.

Terry Collins’ ideas are held together with bubblegum and hope. And just like Roddy Piper, he’s all outta bubblegum.

After using the past few post-game press conferences telling the fanbase not to worry and to hold off on loading the moving truck to Panic City, Collins himself became the mayor of said city using his bullpen in a way that was both irresponsible and shameful.

After getting six shutout innings out of spot-starter Logan Verrett, Collins elected to bring in reliever Jim Henderson. Before making the Mets out of spring training, Henderson had not pitched in the majors since early in the 2014 season because of shoulder problems. He had been great through his first couple of appearances this season, but the night before had thrown a career-high 34 pitches to get through just one-third of an inning (mostly due to a 16 pitch at-bat to Dee Gordon). Seeing as how this was a day game after a night game and considering Henderson’s injury history, this is absolutely the type of game he should have been sitting out of.

The bullpen has been taxed heavily lately due to Steven Matz’s abysmal outing on Monday, but the Mets had called up Rafael Montero to supply depth to said relief corps. Collins decided against using Montero in what was, at the time, a scoreless game. If it’s a matter of trust (fuck you, Billy Joel) then perhaps Montero shouldn’t have been the man brought in from Las Vegas and the Mets could have gone the Sean Gilmartin route instead.

Henderson’s first pitch was a fastball that clocked in at 89 MPH, far short of the 95 MPH he had been averaging. After a hit and two walks, he was mercifully removed and Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins got the team out of a bases loaded, no out jam without sacrificing a run.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Collins, intent on setting fire to every reliever in his path called upon Jeurys Familia to record a five-out save in his third consecutive day of pitching. Familia had been a godsend for the Mets last year after inheriting the closer role once Jenrry Mejia failed the first of his 46 drug tests and was dominant. Gary Cohen and Ron Darling in the broadcast booth kept hammering home the point that Familia only gets stronger as he gets more work which pretty much goes against everything we’ve been told about arms, shoulders and elbows over the last few years.

The Mets can simply not afford to lose their closer because an inept manager panicked and felt the need to show fans they “mean business here.”

Thankfully, the team has today off for travel as they head to Cleveland for a weekend interleague match-up with the Indians. To be honest, I’m over the whole novelty of interleague play (which I’ll probably address in a future post), but the one thing I do enjoy is that it gives me a chance to visit a new stadium to see my team instead of watching two teams I otherwise don’t care about.

As long as I’m able to get on my flight tonight, I’ll be there tomorrow for my first visit to Progressive Field which will become my 15th ballpark. Pics and stories to come.

Thanks for reading. Bye, love you, mean it.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com

 

Game 7: Thor Can’t Defend Midgard Alone

Noah Syndergaard is really good at baseball. We can agree on that, right? The rest of the Mets right now, however, are not on the same level of performance.

The team dropped their fourth straight last night – this one by the score of 2-1 to the Miami Marlins – and wasted an absolutely scintillating performance from the 23 year-old fireballer in the process. Thor went 7 innings, allowing just one run and striking out 12 Marlin hitters in the process.

Syndergaard was on fire right out of the gate, sporting his trademark high 90s fastball and his array of low to mid 90s breaking and offspeed stuff. Two starts into the season and you can already see the dramatic improvements he’s made since last season. He hasn’t sacrificed velocity, but has refined his complimentary pitches which include a 95 MPH slider that is just absolutely unreal. It’s even more impressive when you realize that Thor didn’t really have a slider at all last season.

He was dominant, but got into trouble in the 4th inning thanks to our old friend, BABIP. If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re my mom and don’t have a clue as to what BABIP is. It stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play and is exactly what it says it is. Obviously, you have a better chance of getting a hit if you actually make contact and the Marlins did exactly that. They hit nothing solid off Syndergaard, but a couple of soft grounders JUST out of the reach of infielders and a lobbed dinker into right field led to a run that would be the only one Noah would surrender.

Unfortunately – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – the Mets weren’t able to do anything with the bats despite having Miami starter, Jose Fernandez, in plenty of trouble early in the game.

They got on the board early with a run-scoring single from Lucas Duda, but ran themselves out of a potentially big inning when Duda was thrown out at second trying to stretch said single after a bobble in right field by Giancarlo Stanton. They followed up the first inning by loading the bases in the second, but David Wright hit a routine fly ball to Stanton ending the threat.

Fernandez then settled in and retired ten in a row before being removed after 5 innings and 90 pitches by manager, Don Mattingly, as he is still in the early stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery and isn’t being overextended especially on a particularly chilly evening in Queens.

Bottom line, the Mets haven’t been good. You can say it’s early and you can say the schedule was odd, but at some point, you can’t just keep making excuses. The Royals (the same Royals that beat us in the World Series last November) had the same schedule to start their season and they’re 5-2. Every day that goes by means we’re one more day removed from it being early. Seven games turns into 15 in the blink of an eye. And before you know it, 15 turns into 50 games. They need to get their shit together and quickly.

Remember, we’re not just competing against the Nationals here. In a short, postseason series or even a one-game Wild Card play-in, the Mets have a great chance because of the pitching staff they’ve assembled, but first, they have to get there. They currently have the second-worst record in the National League and, though I obviously expect that to change, we’re looking at an expected seven teams (Mets, Nats, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Giants) competing for five playoff spots. That doesn’t even include any kind of Cinderella team or a better than expected season from a team like the DBacks that could throw even more chaos into a race.

The point of this? While it may not yet be time to jump off a bridge, this is not something you want to see for very much longer. After the getaway game with Miami this afternoon, the team heads out on a 9 game road trip. They cannot still be playing this brand of baseball by the time they return home.

It’s not like it’s one player’s fault either. The offensive ineptitude is a complete team effort as there hasn’t been anybody in the lineup that has established anything resembling and consistency through the first 10 days.

If you’ve read my stuff back into last season, you know my feelings on Terry Collins. I don’t like him. Players have to play, but it’s his job to put those players in the best situation to succeed. I don’t believe for one second that he does that and can point to numerous examples (in just the World Series alone [and no, I actually give him the benefit of the doubt on the Harvey call in game 5; he was screwed no matter what he decided]) where he’s made very questionable tactical decision that have cost runs, innings or games.

While I’m not going to kill Terry quite yet, I do question the lineup he’s rolling out everyday right now. It comes off awkward and inefficient to me. Right now, this is what TC seems to be attached to:

  1. Granderson (L)
  2. Wright (R)
  3. Cespedes (R)
  4. Duda (L)
  5. Walker (S)
  6. Conforto (L)
  7. Cabrera (S)
  8. d’Arnaud (R)

I’m not a fan of that construction. Neil Walker is not a prototypical run-producer and seems out of place in the five-hole. By the same token, Travis d’Arnaud has shown an ability for power and potential and we all came into this season expecting him to take the next step in his growth by becoming the impact bat he’s been projected to become for years.Burying him in the 8th spot in front of the pitcher isn’t doing anybody any favors right now especially when there’s nobody on base in front of him. If I had my way, I’d roll out the following:

  1. Granderson (L)
  2. Wright (R)
  3. Conforto (L)
  4. Cespedes (R)
  5. Duda (L)
  6. d’Arnaud (R)
  7. Walker (S)
  8. Cabrera (S)

You’ll notice that the first thing I did was go lefty-righty-lefty-righty the whole way through. I don’t swear by that manipulation, but I do think it’s appropriate for the talent we have available.

I assume that most people would question my usage of Michael Conforto in the three-hole most. He’s young and while he LOOKS like a future star, he doesn’t have the track record to back it up yet. It’s a fair point, but Conforto has a good understanding of the strike zone, handles the bat well and does have pop. Plus, hitting in front of Cespedes should give him an opportunity to see more fastballs with men on base. I don’t think of Conforto as a 30 homer guy, but a consistent 15-20 is a very real possibility and with his gap-power could become a 100 RBI guy in the mold of – wait for it – Keith Hernandez. Keith was an MVP and a case can be made that he should be a Hall of Famer and I’m not saying Conforto is a future that, but their swings and ability to split gaps with some pop seem comparable.

I also like Walker and Cabrera near the bottom. Both are consistent, professional hitters. At this point, you’re not projecting anything with either of them. You’re getting what’s on the back of their baseball cards. They’re steady. Walker’s talents are put to better use in the 7 where he’s not expected to be an RBI man. Asdrubal Cabrera can be useful in a few spots (I wouldn’t hesitate him to use him at 2 depending on other players’ days off and such), but in the 8, he rounds out what looks to be a balanced lineup that takes advantage of the talent at hand.

We have a few hours to go before the getaway game with Miami. Hopefully, we’ll pick one up before hitting the road.

Also, the NHL Playoffs start tonight: LET’S GO PENS!

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com

 

Doubting Collins: WS Appearance Doesn’t Make Terry Infallible

Mets manager, Terry Collins, is a baseball lifer currently enjoying the magic carpet ride that has led him to his first World Series in over 40 years of being involved in the game. You have to respect that. The man put in his time, worked and finally got to the granddaddy of ’em all. That’s a feel-good story.

He’s also done it with a group of players that – up until the July 31st trade deadline – most outsiders would have pegged as a second division team who were only in the playoff hunt due to an even better than expected starting rotation and the underperformance of other teams like the heavily-favored Washington Nationals and the expected-to-be-not-even-remotely-as-shitty-as-they-were Miami Marlins.

Although Collins got some reinforcements at the deadline, he still had to push some of the right buttons to keep the team afloat until that point and to keep them in the right direction heading down the stretch and into the postseason. Most would say he’s done a damn fine job of leading the team with some publications even anointing him their NL Manager of the Year.

I’ve had problems with Collins all season, however. Actually, even longer than that. Those can all be found and outlined in prior writings over at DOINow.com (which is now pretty exclusively a New York Rangers blog forcing the creating of this wonderful web home you’re currently reading), but all of Terry’s deficiencies were on full display last night in the most important game of his career.

For starters, his starting lineup left a lot to be desired. Collins chose to start utility-man Kelly Johnson, in the DH spot in lieu of rookie, Michael Conforto. Conforto did get the start in left field which meant that Yoenis Cespedes would play center and the best defender on the team, Juan Lagares, was relegated to the bench in a ballpark that plays big against a team that is known for putting the ball in play.

We can argue about how good or bad a defender Conforto is, but the fact of the matter is that he’s on this team for his bat and the Mets are better defensively with Lagares in center and Cespedes in left. It was a no-brainer that the manager chose to pass on and it blew up in his face on the very first pitch when Alcides Escobar hit what should have been a routine fly ball that Cespedes and Conforto both laid off and turned into a game-opening inside-the-park home run. It’s a play easily made by Lagares who has terrific range and is not shy about taking charge and calling of his other fielders when he knows he has a play.

Lagares did end up getting into the game after the Mets had gone up 3-1 and had a fine game offensively with a couple hits, a stolen base and being single-handedly responsible for the Mets fourth run that put them in a position to win the game in regulation.

But that wouldn’t be Collins’ only miscue. Throughout his tenure with the team, he’s shown a favoring hand to his veterans. He’s done this at the expense of developing young players and at the expense of playing better players. Last night was hopefully the last we see in this series of Michael Cuddyer.

Cuddyer has had an incredibly solid major-league career that could have been even better if not for a series of long injuries causing him to miss extensive periods of time, but at this point in his career, it’s hard justifying his spot on the World Series roster.

He looks old, slow and broken. In game one of the NLDS against the Dodgers, he misplayed two fly balls into hits for LA that cost Jacob deGrom somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 extra pitches in the game. In addition to his lack of mobility in the field, his bat speed has completely gone the way of that ET Atari game that ended up buried in a New Mexico landfill.

With Juan Uribe returning to the roster, the Mets elected to remove Matt Reynolds who had replaced Ruben Tejada after the collision with Chase Utley in the NLDS. Reynolds has yet to get any time in a Major League game, but he is a legitimate shortstop and would have been the replacement should anything happen to Wilmer Flores or for late-inning defensive replacements.

After watching Cuddyer strike out three times in embarrassing fashion, you have to wonder about how smart it was to leave your only real backup shortstop option at home while “Cadaver” continues to bury himself.

Which brings us back to Uribe. If he’s healthy, he needs to be here and on this roster and plugged in when needed. He’s got energy, he’s a proven winner and things seem to happen around him. Which is why you have to question why it wasn’t Uribe used in that spot instead of Cuddyer last night. Cuddyer has not looked like anything more than washed-up in months now. Is Uribe not fully healthy? Because if not, Reynolds should still have been here. But if he is, then he’s the one who should have been getting those at-bats against lefty, Danny Duffy.

Even so, with both Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the roster, the need for Cuddyer is non-existent. The need for a late-inning defensive replacement at shortstop against a Kansas City team that is proficient at putting the ball in play should have taken precedence over a show of respect to an aging veteran who offers nothing to the team at this point.

Did either of these moves win or lose the game? On the singular level, we don’t know. And we never will. But this is far from the time to be giving pity at-bats to someone who doesn’t deserve them.

In 1986, Boston Red Sox manager, John McNamara, replaced his aging first-baseman all season late in the game to insert Dave Stapleton a solid backup who provided added mobility and defensive skill at that point. In game six of the World Series, McNamara went away from what had worked all season because he wanted his veteran first-baseman to be able to celebrate on the field when the Sox clinched the Series title. Bill Buckner did indeed get to stay on the field, but he’s still waiting to celebrate that championship.

The Mets haven’t face a team as complete as this Royals team during the postseason and the manager and coaching staff need to realize that they have to be able to catch and run and hit instead of relying on the starters to strike out a dozen a game and waiting for Daniel Murphy to hit a home run.

The game had changed, but for Terry Collins, the gameplan remained very much the same in game one and it may have cost him a run or two. And that run or two may have been the game.

At the end of the day, players need to play and Collins didn’t make Familia’s pitch to Alex Gordon come in fat and flat, nor did he tell Matt Harvey to blow a two-run lead in the sixth, but in what is now a short season, you have to maximize your earnings when the opportunities arise and Collins failed to do so in the opener.