Terry Collins is not helping his cause by calling out the fans. The Mets are off to an awful start and Collins is sitting in a lame duck coaching position. I don’t want to put the entire blame on the shoulders of Collins because frankly, this just isn’t a good team and wasn’t expected to be one.
More and more I feel that Terry has reached his boiling point as it has to be frustrating realizing that he simply cannot win with this team. The Mets keep finding ways to lose and the players are not even playing up to the little expectations they had. It is a pretty safe assumption to make that Collins will be the fall guy, right or wrong, at year’s end.
He has never had a chance to coach a competitive team with the Mets but he has also been unable to get the most out of what he has had to work with. I think overall the fan base has been kind to Collins, hoping he is given a chance to continue to coach this team as they rebuild. But his recent remarks have surely lost him supporters now. This is what he said after being asked once again about the situation involving Jordanny Valdespin and his support, or lack of, by Collins and his teammates:
“I don’t answer to fans,” said Collins, “They don’t play this game. They have no idea what goes on. They have no idea what goes on in there. They have absolutely no idea what it means to be a professional teammate at this level.”
You have to realize how angry and disappointed Mets fans have been for the last several years now. The last thing we need to be hearing is that our own manager is calling us out now. As if we weren’t dealing with enough having to watch this pathetic early season performance, now we have to the managers telling us we don’t understand the game.
Personally, I don’t take his remarks to heart. I realize he was probably caught up in the moment and his frustration got the best of him, but it is never okay to question the intelligence of your fan base. When the team is playing as poorly as they are you have to realize these type of stories simply don’t go away. Even if this wasn’t what he truly meant by his comments, it won’t matter, the damage is done already and many won’t buy into any apology Collins and the Mets come up with.
A crucial part to being a manager in New York is the ability to handle the media. I would say Collins has fared well in this department, never really making headlines for the wrong reasons. We have all heard of Collins history with Houston and Anaheim, where he was known to lose his cool from time to time. For the most part he seems to have put that behind him and has controlled himself with the Mets, but these latest comments sound like something from his past.
He will not be brought back next season because of the results on the field, that’s for sure, and without any real support from the fan base to go with it, it could very well just be Terry’s time to go.
Coming into this season, The biggest question the Mets were facing was who is going to play in the outfield? So far, it has been a revolving door of 6 outfielders. It has not been a huge spot of weakness so far, but I wouldn’t say it is the teams strength at the same time. Terry Collins has been able to piece things together early on, but sooner or later, more established playing time should be set.
Although I like the idea of open competition, keeping these players on their toes knowing someone is waiting in the wings to take their job at any moment. But these guys need to play on more of an every day basis to get into a grove with one another and see what their full potential truly is. It is still early in the season, but I think we have an idea at the very least of what these places can bring to the table.
So far, only Lucas Duda has been a given in the outfield. He has been a mainstay in left field and he is off to a good start. He has shown signs of why the front office loves his bat, along with driving fans nuts at the same time. Duda, is batting .273 with five home runs and eight RBI on the season. The thing that has people most impressed? His OBP of .475, thanks mostly to his 15 walks. I realize the Mets offensive strategy is to be patient and work the count, but there are times when Duda seems to take that thought process too far. Too many times this season I have seen him put himself in a hole, taking two quick strikes or go down looking at strike three. He is off to a good start and I appreciate his commitment to the team’s strategy, but I think if he jumps at good pitches he sees earlier in the at-bat, he will do more damage at the plate. His OBP is great, it really is, but with him batting 5/6 in the line up, we need him driving in runs, not looking to work the count.
Center field, has had a mix of Collin Cowgill, Jordanny Valdepsin and on occasion, Kirk Nieuwenheis out there. Cowgill, was the teams opening day starter, but that doesn’t mean much. He is hitting just .200 on the year with two home runs and eight RBI. The most alarming stat early on is his .200 OBP, he has yet to draw a walk this season. He is a hard nose player, always giving it the maximum effort each and every time he steps onto the field, with that being said, I think he is better suited to be a back-up/defensive replacement on this team. His swing is too long for my liking, he seems to attempt to hit for power rather than to get on-base, which would be okay, if he weren’t batting lead off. I envision Collins starting to limit Cowgills starts, using him against lefty’s and coming in to play defensive late in games.
Valdespin, is the player who can really run with this position. He is capable of being a dynamic player, he has the ability to hit the ball to all fields and with power. He possesses speed on the base paths, which is something this roster lacks. The one downside, his lack of experience in the outfield. Although he has held his own so far, he still seems to take awkward paths to the ball, this is something he will only learn by playing more. With the current state of this team, I think it is time to let him playing on more of a regular day basis, he will certainly make his mistakes, but that is part of the process. He is the player best suited to bat lead-off for this team.
Nieunwenhis, may very well of won this job out of spring training, had he not been injured. That set-back has really cost him and he seems to be the odd man out in Terry Collins rotation. He has only 16 at-bats on the season with two hits. He might very well be the best defensive player on this roster, as he has been used mostly as a late inning replacement. But there are still questions surrounded his offensive skills. He has shown he is capable of providing some pop in his bat and can hit the ball to all fields, but he strikes out entirely too much. There are rumors that he may be sent down to Triple-A soon, this would probably be the best thing to do with him. This will allow him to play everyday and get more at-bats. I wouldn’t give up on Nieunwenhis just yet, if he can work out the kinks in his swing, he is capable to doing a lot of things on the field that could garner him more playing time in the near future if others begin to struggle.
Right field, has been a mix and match of Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter. Byrd, is the lone veteran with extensive major league experience in this group. He is attempting to revive his career with the Mets and has been performed okay early on. So far, he has seen the majority of the playing time in right field, batting .259 with 10 RBI. Baxter, has been used as a pitch hitter, along with some starts to give Byrd a day off. He is batting .240, but has a .375 OBP, which is something the Mets have taken note off, his ability to get on base is his biggest strength. It’s time we see just what kind of player Baxter can be, we know he can be a great pitch hitter and occasional start. What we don’t know is if he is capable of playing everyday.
It’s early, but the outfield has been alright so far. I’m looking forward to seeing if Lucas Duda can sustain his early success and be the offensive player many believe he is capable of being. Valdespin, is the biggest wild card on this Mets roster. I would love to see him become the much-needed spark plug this team needs. Right field is where I would most like to see a platoon, I believe that will be the case as the season moves along.
With opening day only 4 days away I would like to take a moment to discuss what I feel are the keys to the Mets having a successful, or at least productive, 2013 season. I am not naive fan, I like to think of myself as a realist, I do not see this roster winning a championship this season. At the same time I see no reason why they cannot be a fun group to watch showing signs of promise for the very near future.
There are 3 keys that I feel are necessary for the Mets to have a successful season:
1) The Outfield
This might be the biggest question mark heading into the 2013 season. ESPN, as they so kindly put it, said they are “likely not the worst ever.” As of today the Mets look to be heading into the season with Lucas Duda in left field, Marlon Byrd in right field and a platoon situation of Colin Cowgill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis in center field. These aren’t exactly the most exciting names in the world, but this is the hand fans have been dealt and the front office seems to be more than willing to put them out there.
Lucas Duda is a power hitting outfielder that the Mets have been high on since his late season surge in the 2011 season. Many people, myself included, thought 2012 was going to be a breakout season for Duda. But that didn’t exactly happen; he struggled early and often batting only .239 with 15 homeruns and 57 RBI. Not exactly the production the Mets were looking for. He has looked better at the plate so far this spring and if he provides the power numbers that they believe he is capable of, he can be the difference in giving the Mets a formidable lineup.
The centerfield position is going to be an interesting one to watch this season. With Mets not possessing one standout player in center, it likely means we are looking at a platoon to start the season off. Both Colin Cowgill and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are tough, gritty players, who are going to play hard, which is why I have been rooting for both of these guys. Nieuwenhuis gave the Mets a spark last season when he was first called up and showed promise of becoming the center fielder of the future. But as pitchers adjusted to him he quickly began to struggle at the plate, so much that he was sent down to triple A. He then injured himself and missed the remainder of the 2012 season on the DL. If he can return to his early season form, don’t be surprised to see him become the full time center fielder. He plays a very solid center field and can do a lot of different things with the bat.
Cowgill came over in an off season in a trade with the Oakland Athletics. From what I have seen of him he certainly plays the game hard, very rarely will you see him with a clean jersey at the end of a game. He has shown that he can play the outfield at a respectable level and has hit the ball quite well this spring. My concern with him is I don’t know if any of his tools are at an above average level to make him an everyday player. He does make up for what he lacks with hustle and a high baseball IQ which could quickly make him a fan favorite. I think he may be best left as a platoon player for this team, getting the occasional start in center, filling in as a late inning defensively replacement along with pitch hitting/running.
It has become very clear that Marlon Byrd will be the starting right fielder for this team. He has gotten the majority of the playing time out there and has produced very nicely all spring long. Byrd is coming off a difficult season; his production dropped and he later served a suspension for failing a PED drug test. I must say I am quite hesitant to root for anyone that has ever failed one of these tests, as they are each responsible for ruining the reputation and integrity of the game. With that being said, The Mets have given him his second chance and he has taken full advantage of it. They are hoping he can return to his all star form and all signs point to this being a comeback season for Marlon.
Two names to keep a look out for in the outfield are Jordany Valdespin and Matt Den Dekker. Valdespin has been on fire most of the spring, but the Mets seem unsure as to where play him. Although he has little experience in the outfield they have gotten him some playing time out there and he seems to have held his own defensively. It will ultimately be his bat that will get him playing time if any of the starters don’t produce. Den Dekker was fighting for a roster spot in center field before breaking his wrist just a few days ago. He has proven to be a tremendously defender and if he can improve on his offense he can earn a spot on this team.
2) Starting Pitching
The one thing that has been consistently proven throughout time, is that pitching wins baseball games more than anything else. With the news breaking today that Johan Santana will in all likely hood require surgery to miss the entire 2013 season the emergence of their young starters has become even more important. This has been something the organization has really been focusing on, trying to develop a young core of starting pitchers to build around. Although some of that core has yet to arrive, there are some exciting arms already in the staff.
Matt Harvey might be the player fans are most excited to watch to start off the season, and for good reason. He became the talk of the rotation from the moment he made his debut last year. Harvey has the size, ability and attitude that everyone wants to see in a front line starter. This season everyone is hopefully that he can continue to progress into a potential ace of the staff. With a fastball in the high 90’s and a plus curve ball, he will make every fifth day a must watch when he takes the mound. What impresses me the most about him is his desire to become the leader of the staff, someone the others can look up to, I would love to see him become the anchor of this staff for years to come.
Jonathon Niese has steadily improved each year in the big leagues. Last year was a big step forward as he was able to finish the season strong compared to the previous seasons when he withered away by September. This could be a sign that Niese is ready to hit his prime. The only question I really have with him is his peak as a top of the rotation or in the middle? For this season’s sake, I hope he takes the next step to win 15+ which would put him in line as a very solid #2 of a staff.
Dillon Gee was off to a nice 2012 season before an injury cut it short and ended his year. Gee is a nice change of pace pitcher as he mixes his pitches and location up very well. I don’t think Gee has that high of a ceiling, but with a solid young staff forming, he could benefit very well throwing in the 4-5 slot. Jeremy Hefner will be filling in the spot behind Gee in the rotation. I view Hefner as more of a long reliever/spot starter, but due to injuries he will get his shot in the rotation early on. He is still young and I would love to see him prove me wrong but I see him falling out of this slot as the staff gets healthy and younger stars begin to emerge.
The overall health Shawn Marcum will be crucial to the Mets going forward. With Santana out for the season, the Mets cannot afford to take another hit to the rotation for any extended period of time. I thought the Marcum signing was the best move they made this off season, signing only a one year deal with the numbers he has produced when healthy, I felt he can be a great addition. However his health already seems to be an issue before we even get the season underway. This is not a good sign, we have seen this all too often with the Mets the last few seasons. I foresee Marcum having an up and down season with the club. Solid starts for a few weeks at a time followed by stints on the DL, repeat, throughout the year. That’s just how I see his season playing at.
3) Zack Wheeler and Travis d’Arnaud
These are the two names we will be talking about until May 1st or whenever the day they are called up turns out to be. These two players are going to be the most interesting to watch this season and you can argue the performance of these two will be the ultimate difference between the future looking bright or bleak for this franchise.
Travis d’Arnaud was acquired in the off-season from the Blue Jays in a trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto. Although Dickey was coming off of a Cy Young season and was a fan favorite, he was up there in age and that ball could stop knuckling any day now. I was a big fan of his and always enjoyed watching him pitch but I felt this was the right move to make. D’Arnaud could potentially give them a difference behind that we haven’t seen since Mike Piazza. I’m not saying he will become the next Piazza, but as long as he is being compared to him rather than Todd Pratt, that’s a start. He looks to have a very good bat from what I saw of him this spring. What impressed me most was his ability to go the other way with the ball and hit for power into the right center gap. To me that is always the difference between an average and a good hitter, the ability to hit the ball all around the field is a great sign at a young age.
Zach Wheeler was sent to us in the Carlos Beltran trade two years ago. From the moment he was traded to the Mets there has been a buzz surrounding this kid as the future the ace of the Mets. I have only seen him pitch a few times in the minors last season but I have not seen anything that tells me otherwise. He had a little set back this spring with a minor injury that prevented him from have any major league starts. I have seen interviews with Wheeler and I love the confidence he possesses in himself, he has a bit of that cocky confidence that a lot of great athletes have which I think is a great sign. I don’t think it will be long till we are looking at a 1, 1A situation made up Wheeler and Harvey.
I am torn with these two players being sent down to start the season in the minors because of financial situations. The fan part of me, wants to see these two up right now, but the logical side of me, understands what the Mets are doing. I realize this is for the best to keep them under our control for as long as possible. Whenever the date comes that these two arrive, all eyes will be on them. These two could provide an early/mid season spark to make them competitive or at the very least exciting to watch. Fans will be eager to watch these two make progress this season in hopes of them joining David Wright, Ike Davis, Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese as the core of this team.
This could be an exciting 2013 season for the Mets as they look to turn the corner and once again become a relevant franchise. This season could turn out being similar to the 1984 season when we look back on it. Similar to how the past young talent began to take shape and gain experience before ultimately winning a title in 1986. If the right progress is made with their young stars they could be just a few key moves away from being a real contender again.