New York Mets: Shin-Soo Choo
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesRain in Baltimore on Thursday means Yu Darvish now faces the Mets in Friday's series opener at Citi Field.
Friday: LHP Jonathon Niese (5-4, 2.88) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (8-4, 2.42), 7:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: RHP Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.88) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (5-5, 5.71), 7:15 p.m. ET
Sunday: RHP Zack Wheeler (3-8, 4.25) vs. RHP Nick Tepesch* (3-3, 3.65), 1:10 p.m. ET
* officially TBA
Rangers short hops
• With rain delaying the start by 56 minutes and threatening to interrupt Thursday’s Rangers series finale in Baltimore, manager Ron Washington decided to delay Yu Darvish’s scheduled start until Friday, pushing him into the Mets series. There never was a stoppage once the game began at Camden Yards.
Darvish, 27, has an MLB-best 11.04 strikeouts per nine innings. He ranks third in the American League in ERA at 2.42, trailing only the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (2.10) and Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka (2.27). Darvish snapped a two-start losing streak by tossing eight scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
• Texas leads the majors in uses of the DL (20) and current players on the DL (14). The absences include Prince Fielder (herniated disk), Mitch Moreland (ankle), Derek Holland (knee surgery), Jurickson Profar (shoulder), Geovany Soto (knee), Alexi Ogando (elbow), Tanner Scheppers (elbow) and Engel Beltre (fractured tibia).
Fielder, who had season-ending surgery for the neck issue on May 27, had been acquired during the offseason from the Detroit Tigers with $30 million for Ian Kinsler. Texas reportedly will recoup 50 percent of Fielder’s salary via an insurance policy that carried over from the Tigers, after a 90-day deductible period.
Soto, who underwent surgery, is due to begin a rehab assignment shortly. Beltre, an outfielder, has started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Round Rock.
• With Fielder and Moreland out, Carlos Pena has taken over at first base. He is hitless in his last 18 at-bats and 3-for-33 since joining the club. Pena, 36, originally signed a minor-league contract on June 17. He had been idle since being released by the Los Angeles Angels from spring training on March 23.
• The Rangers have lost five straight and 14 of 17. They have lost nine straight road games, their longest skid away from Arlington since 2005, when Buck Showalter managed the club during a nine-game road skid. They are 11 games under .500 for the first time since finishing the 2007 season at 75-87.
• Shin-Soo Choo signed a seven-year, $130 million deal with Texas on Dec. 13. He is hitting .254 with eight homers and 30 RBIs and has a .374 on-base percentage. Choo returned to the leadoff spot last Friday after two weeks in the No. 3 hole.
• The Rangers designated left-hander Joe Saunders (0-5, 6.13 ERA) for assignment on Tuesday. Miles Mikolas, who had been acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in December, stepped into the rotation.
• Mikolas’ promotion and insertion into the rotation pushed scheduled Wednesday starter Nick Tepesch into the Mets series … at least originally. Tepesch was due to start Friday, but has been dropped in place of Darvish. He now is the most likely candidate to start Sunday, in what is currently listed as TBA, unless he is needed in long relief before then. Tepesch has a 1.93 ERA over his past three starts. The Rangers will keep Colby Lewis on Saturday, as originally planned.
• The Rangers’ 4.62 ERA is the highest in the American League. They nonetheless have an AL-best 14 shutouts. They became the first AL team to reach that shutout total within 80 games since the 1968 Cleveland Indians, five years before the designated hitter came into effect.
• Closer Joakim Soria has allowed runs in consecutive appearances for the first time this season. He still has 17 strikeouts and one walk in his past 10 appearances. Former All-Star closer Neftali Feliz is currently pitching in Triple-A as he enters the final stages of a return from Tommy John surgery.
• Before a 3-for-4 performance Thursday at Baltimore, shortstop Elvis Andrus has been hitless in his last 10 at-bats and 5-for-his-last-30.
• Left fielder Michael Choice is hitless in his last 14 at-bats and 5-for-his-last-66.
• Catcher Robinson Chirinos has caught an MLB-high 19 would-be base stealers.
• Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller is due interview with the San Diego Padres regarding their vacant GM position.
Getty ImagesThe Mets face Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon this weekend at Citi Field.
Friday: RHP Jenrry Mejia (0-0, -.--) vs. RHP Mike Leake (0-0, -.--), 7:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: RHP Dillon Gee (0-0, 5.40) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (0-1, 1.29), 1:10 p.m. ET
Sunday: LHP Jonathon Niese (0-0, -.--) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (0-0, -.--), 1:10 p.m. ET
Reds short hops
• Cincinnati opened the season with an MLB-high eight players on the disabled list. The most gruesome injury occurred to flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, who was struck by a line drive off the bat of Kansas City’s Salvador Perez on March 19. Chapman suffered eye and nose fractures and also a mild concussion. He had a plate and screws inserted to stabilize the bones near his left eye.
• Alfredo Simon, who has 19 career saves, steps into the rotation as the fifth starter until Latos returns. Latos tossed four innings for Double-A Pensacola in a rehab start Thursday.
• Bryan Price, 51, is the first-year manager of the Reds. He served the previous four seasons as the team’s pitching coach under Dusty Baker.
• J.J. Hoover may take the lead in a closer-by-committee scenario until Broxton and then Chapman returns. Broxton may be back within a week. Hoover’s co-closers for now include Logan Ondrusek, Manny Parra and Sam LeCure. Hoover had 23 straight scoreless appearances last summer, a franchise record for a right-hander.
• Mike Leake, still 26 year old, already has made five Opening Day rosters with the Reds. His 57 hits are the most by any MLB pitcher since his 2010 debut.
• Cincinnati opened its season by failing to score in its first 17 innings, until Chris Heisey’s walk-off single against St. Louis’ Carlos Martinez won Game 2 of the season, 1-0. Heisey had six spring-training homers, tied for the MLB lead.
• Speedster Billy Hamilton is hitless in 12 at-bats with six strikeouts to open the season. Four of the Ks came on Opening Day. He has been caught stealing only once in his big-league career -- by the Mets’ Juan Centeno last season. Hamilton is handling center field (and playing shallow to take advantage of his speed) with Shin-Soo Choo’s defection to the Texas Rangers on a seven-year, $130 million deal.
• First baseman Joey Votto, the 2010 NL MVP, notched his 1,000th career hit Wednesday.
• Toms River/Rutgers product Todd Frazier had his fourth career multihomer game Thursday.
• Johnny Cueto, who made his third straight Opening Day start, was a tough-luck loser against St. Louis. He surrendered a solo homer to Yadier Molina while allowing only two other hits and a walk in seven innings in the Reds’ 1-0 loss to Adam Wainwright. Cueto made only 11 starts last season because of three disabled-list trips.
• Cincinnati experienced a combined 6 hours, 22 minutes of rain delays on Wednesday and Thursday.
• Left fielder Ryan Ludwick had a better Opening Day this season than a year ago, even though he went 0-for-4. In the 2013 opener, Ludwick tore the labrum in his right shoulder on a headfirst slide into third base. He required surgery and did not return until Aug. 12.
• Catcher Brayan Pena, who played with the Detroit Tigers in 2013, signed a two-year, $2.275 million contract in November. Incumbent catcher Ryan Hanigan was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in December.
• Right-hander Homer Bailey signed a six-year, $105 million extension with the Reds on Feb. 19. He went 11-12 with a 3.49 ERA in 32 starts last season and would have been eligible for free agency next winter.
1. Shin-Soo Choo, OF A few weeks ago, Matt Meyers laid out an articulate case for why not to sign Choo. Here's the argument for signing him: The Mets had a .236/.306/.366 slashline (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) against right-handed pitching. Those ranked 28th, 24th and 28th in the majors respectively. But for one exception (2011), Choo has been a ferocious hitter against right-handers. His slashline against them over the last five seasons is .311/.416/.521 with a large chunk of that coming in Cleveland (as opposed to hitter-favorable Cincinnati).
A typical team will get about 70 percent of its plate appearances against righties (as the Mets did in 2013). The Mets need to improve their performance against that 70 percent. Choo would do that in a big way.
2. Stephen Drew, SS Drew is the best shortstop in this free-agent market, one that does not contain a lot of offensive-minded players at the position. Drew is a two-to-three Wins Above Replacement player (when healthy) at a position in which the Mets are just trying to get back to neutral. He too plays a role in solving the struggles against right-handers, brings an adequate glove, and has shown a willingness to work a walk that would fit well within this team's plan.
3. Carlos Beltran, RF We're not saying this is likely, because it isn't, but of all the players in free agency, Beltran would fit the Mets idea of following the "Red Sox model" best -- a well-experienced player with a history of quality production who would be gettable on a short-term deal. Granted this is not the Beltran of 2006 to 2008, but it's a player who looks like he still has 130 to 140 games left in the tank for the next couple of seasons.
4. Curtis Granderson, OF What you're buying in Granderson is a seven-year track record from 2006 to 2012 rather than the one hindered by injuries and limited to 61 games last season. It would be foolish to think that Granderson could replicate the 40-homer seasons (2011 and 2012) from Yankee Stadium's bandbox ballpark in Citi Field, but 25 homers over 500 at-bats seems realistic given his pre-Yankee history.
5. Marlon Byrd, OF This might be the most tepid endorsement of Byrd that you'll read. There are two reasons for a lack of enthusiasm. 1) His success rate when hitting a ground ball was extraordinarily high, particularly given his history, and a return to his usual rate could mean about a 20-point dip in batting average. 2) Byrd is one of a number of Mets with ugly Citi Field numbers -- a .249/.297/.415 slashline last season and only seven home runs in Flushing. His monster home runs may have made it look like he relished hitting in Citi Field. He didn't.
That said, Byrd is a good defender and he's well liked by Mets management. And he can hit, though to what degree 2012 is repeatable, we don't know.
The key to understand with Byrd is this: In an ideal world, he's the second-best bat the team adds this winter. If he's the best, that would be a reason to be nervous about the Mets 2014 hopes.
6. Nelson Cruz, RF Cruz strikes us as Byrd like with comparable strikeout/walk numbers and little more power, though how much of that power was enhanced by PEDS is a good subject for discussion.
The risk with Cruz is that the expectation in getting him would be that he'd be a 30-homer guy. But given the difficulties of right-handers hitting for power in Citi Field (see our Marlon Byrd note), we'd take the under. We put Byrd ahead of Cruz because Byrd is more of a known player at this point and a better defender.
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS We stacked the two Biogenesis players together, as the concerns with Peralta would be similar to those of Cruz: Can he replicate his past performance without PEDs? That said, there is a big drop-off after Peralta on the shortstop market (the next-best option might be Nick Punto).
If you're wondering why we rated Drew ahead of Peralta, there are a few reasons:
a) Drew's left-handed bat is needed more than Peralta's right-handed bat.
b) Drew rates better defensively.
c) Though Peralta hits more homers, Drew offsets that with an advantage by hitting doubles and triples.
d) Drew rates slightly better as a baserunner.
8. Bronson Arroyo, RHP Despite an astronomical home-run rate, Arroyo is a survivor and a winner, mainly because he doesn't walk anyone (1.5 per 9 innings over the last two seasons). And his high-3s ERA should come down a bit given 15 to 18 starts at Citi Field instead of Great American Ball Park. He's pitched 199 innings or more nine years running, so any health concerns are minimized, and he pitched in Boston, so New York wouldn't scare him. The worry spot would be his age (36), which would likely limit how many years the Mets would offer him.
9. David Murphy, OF Murphy looms as a potential free-agent bargain. He hit only .220 with 13 home runs in 142 games with the Rangers last season, but that belies his .283/.346/.449, track record of the previous five seasons. If Murphy can fix what troubled him, he'd provide value as an outfielder in either left or right. He's one with a good glove and decent speed who can play either corner outfield spot, either as an everyday guy or in a platoon.
10. J.P. Howell, LHP The Mets left-handed specialists are currently Josh Edgin and Scott Rice and this free-agent class provides room for an upgrade. Howell is the best of a lot that includes Javier Lopez, Boone Logan and Scott Downs because he can get right-handed hitters out with a reasonable amount of success as well.
And the apple of the Big Apple’s eye appears to be Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds right fielder who was second in the NL in on-base percentage. Choo is a fine player, and I can see why he will generate interest as a free agent, but when I look at Choo I see the next version of Jason Bay -- a 31-year-old outfielder with severe flaws coming of a year he is unlikely to replicate.
The biggest problem with free agents -- particularly those coming off of great years -- is that it’s easy to assume that their most recent season is their true level of performance when it’s most likely not. The Mets can look at Choo’s .285/.423/.462 line and think he will repeat that for a few years, but what if his future performance is more in line with his 2011 performance: .283/.373/.441? Or even worse, 2010: .259/.344/.390.
Considering Choo’s age, he’s much more likely to get worse than better. That would be palatable if he was starting from the level of a superstar, where he would hit the “very good” and “good” levels on his way down. But when you’re starting from “very good,” your decline phase gets ugly a lot quicker. (See "Bay, Jason".)
Another other issue for Choo is that he’s useless against left-handed pitching, hitting .215/.347/.265 versus southpaws this season, not far off his career marks. While that OBP is respectable, it’s fueled by 13 hit-by-pitches. That’s actually a repeatable “skill,” but it also makes him more of an injury risk. Also, that slugging is putrid, so you can forget about extra-base hits against southpaws. You want to pay eight figures per year for that?
“But he kills righties,” you might be thinking, and that’s true. The problem is that his weakness can be exploited by lefty relievers late in games, so it’s easy to imagine a situation when the Mets are actually playing meaningful September games and their second-best hitter can be neutralized by the Luis Avilans of the world.
Furthermore, Great American Ballpark is a great place for left-handed hitters, with a home run factor of 126 for lefties in 2012. (In other words, lefties hit 26 percent more homers there than at an average park.) Citi Field had a home run factor of 92 for lefties that year, which means lefties homered 8 percent less frequently than at the average park. This plays out in Choo’s numbers, as he has a .948 OPS at home and .823 mark on the road. It’s worth remembering that Bay signed with the Mets after playing in Fenway Park, a perfect spot for right-handed power hitters. Citi Field, not so much.
Choo would be leaving an environment perfectly suited to highlight his strengths and going to one that is almost certain to diminish them. Factor in his age and his impotence against lefties, and that’s the recipe for a free-agent disaster.
The Mets are in good position to sign Choo because they have a protected draft pick. Therefore, they don’t have to give up their first-rounder to sign him, which makes him, or any high-profile free agent for that matter, a lot more attractive.
He’d almost certainly be an upgrade over what the Mets have, but with all due respect to Andrew Brown and Lucas Duda, that’s faint praise. And when you consider that Hunter Pence just got a $90 million contract from the Giants without even testing the free-agent market, it’s probably going to take more than that to sign Choo.
If the Mets end up giving Choo the $100-plus million it will likely take to sign him, I have a feeling their front office and fans are going to be severely disappointed. I know Mets fans are tired of waiting, but free agency is not a quick fix, and Choo is by no means the cure for what ails New York.
To think that the team is going to land anyone with a nine-figure salary is a longshot (no matter what Sandy Alderson says), so cross Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury off any wish-lists.
Logic would also dictate that pitchers for whom the market might provide a four-year commitment comparable to the one Edwin Jackson got last winter (four years, $52 million) are not what this front office is looking for, so scratch off Matt Garza and Ricky Nolasco (and probably Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum and Ervin Santana). We also left out a few pitchers with strong preferences for specific teams or markets-- A.J. Burnett (Pirates), Dan Haren (West Coast), Tim Hudson (Braves) and Hiroki Kuroda (Yankees/Japan).
But there are players who would be good fits for this team, which most likely will be shopping for multiple outfielders, a shortstop, both starting pitchers and relievers, and maybe a backup catcher.
What is below is a list arranged alphabetically, rather than by rank, of 20 targets that we deemed realistic based on educated guesses and available information. When the World Series concludes, these players will be on the market for the Mets to pursue.
Here are five questions that must be resolved:
1. Who gets dealt?
Something figures to give at first base between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, but that is not the most intriguing trade chip the Mets possess. Team insiders say the Mets also will listen on Daniel Murphy.
How would the Mets adjust to trading Murphy? Fans may clamor for Wilmer Flores to take over at second base, but the early insider speculation is that Eric Young Jr. most likely would handle the position.
While not labeling it a mistake to let Jose Reyes walk given the contract he received from the Miami Marlins, Mets execs recognize they have lacked a speed element since his departure. At least, they lacked a speed element until Young arrived in a June 18 trade with the Colorado Rockies for Collin McHugh.
So absent another leadoff hitter and deficient in speed throughout the lineup, Young likely is a starter somewhere on the Mets next season -- even though he may be best-suited on a top team as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
As for Duda or Davis, there are strong internal preferences about which first baseman to retain. An ESPNNewYork.com survey found seven of nine scouts preferred Duda.
But the Mets’ approach is expected to be to solicit offers on Davis and Duda and see which commands the more generous offer relative to his internal value.
While it seems likely one departs, Duda does have a minor league option remaining. So there is a scenario in which both return and Duda opens the season at Las Vegas while the Mets see whether Davis again starts the season slowly.
Regardless, there seems to be no consideration to nontendering Davis in December, despite his $3.125 million salary in 2013.
2. What’s the 2014 payroll?
Money always seems to be the question with the Mets.
And brace yourself: The payroll likely will go down from its 2013 level of roughly $95 million.
Mets insiders suggest they have more than adequate flexibility to be aggressive in free agency if they choose. But, they add, it would not be “sane” after getting out from under albatross contracts to reinvest all that money in one offseason and likely get saddled with a new crop of bad contracts down the road.
Coming off the books:
• Johan Santana, $31 million (including a $5.5 million buyout)
• Jason Bay, $21 million (albeit $15 million deferred as much as two years)
• Frank Francisco, $6.5 million
• John Buck, $6 million (less what the Pittsburgh Pirates picked up for September)
• Shaun Marcum, $5 million-plus (including incentives)
That’s roughly $70 million right there.
David Wright’s contract calls for a $9 million raise, and Jonathon Niese gets a $2 million raise. A handful of other players eligible for arbitration will have salary increases too.
But there is little chance those raises, plus external additions, match the amount coming off the books.
So figure the Mets’ payroll to go modestly down in 2014, even with several external additions.
3. Will the Mets sign a top-tier free agent?
As it turns out, the Mets will have a top-10 draft pick -- meaning they will not need to forfeit their first-round selection if they sign a premium free agent such as Shin-Soo Choo.
The Mets, according to an insider, also do not intend to offer more than a Michael Bourn-type contract for Choo, which means four guaranteed years. Their reasoning: Choo is not an exceptional fielder. And his power potential is not equivalent to outfielders who have received megadeals, such as Jayson Werth (seven years, $126 million in December 2010).
So if Scott Boras can do better -- and the bet is he can, especially with Hunter Pence getting five years and $90 million to stay with the San Francisco Giants -- Choo likely is headed elsewhere.
Look for the Mets to adopt the Boston Red Sox's model from last offseason, which means spending money on five or six middle-tier free agents.
Last offseason, Boston signed:
• Shane Victorino, three years, $39 million
• Ryan Dempster, two years, $26.5 million
• Jonny Gomes, two years, $10 million
• Stephen Drew, one year, $9.5 million
• David Ross, two years, $6.2 million
• Mike Napoli, one year, $5 million
• Koji Uehara, one year, $4.25 million.
They also acquired Joel Hanrahan in a trade.
4. Will Harvey need surgery?
The Mets and Matt Harvey clearly are on different pages about the need for Tommy John surgery.
The Mets’ press release at the time of Harvey’s announcement that he would attempt rehab and a throwing program for six to eight weeks clearly implied Harvey needed to disprove the need for surgery with that two-month program.
So the Mets likely need to obtain one veteran starting pitcher as a hedge against Harvey missing next season. If Harvey ends up OK, that starter could compete with youngsters such as Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
The question becomes: Will the acquisition be at the Bronson Arroyo-type price? Or at the Daisuke Matsuzaka/Aaron Harang level?
(If Harvey commits to surgery within a couple of months, the Mets likely would need to be more aggressive.)
One reunion ESPNNewYork.com hears is unlikely to occur: the Mets and Scott Kazmir.
Right-hander Cory Mazzoni -- a Double-A starter this season -- could compete for a bullpen spot out of spring training but is not in the rotation consideration right now. Double-A closer Jeff Walters may be a relief factor too.
Down the road, watch for right-hander Gabriel Ynoa -- a 17-game winner at low-Class A Savannah this season -- to rise quickly through the system and threaten to crack the big league rotation.
5. Who mans shortstop?
It might be easier to answer the question: Who doesn’t man shortstop?
It remains unclear whether the Mets will go outside the organization, although that would seem the better course.
Team insiders believe that if the Mets can get above-average production from the corner outfielders they add this winter, then maybe they can go with a defensive-oriented shortstop.
The organization consensus is Omar Quintanilla cannot hit enough to be an every-day guy. And team brass believes Wilfredo Tovar needs more time in the minors for seasoning, despite the positive start to his major league career.
Terry Collins recently described the shortstop job as Ruben Tejada’s to lose among internal candidates. But that was the manager going rogue and not the organizational view.
So Tejada’s days with the Mets, at least in the majors, may be numbered.
The Mets do not view Tejada as a backup middle-infielder candidate. That is Justin Turner’s job in all likelihood in 2014.
So it likely is starter or bust for Tejada. And he is going to have to bust it to get into shape after his fractured leg heals to prove he merits the job.
FIRST PITCH: We already have noted that whether the Mets finish with a protected or unprotected draft pick appears largely immaterial. That is because, with the exception of Shin-Soo Choo, team insiders suggest the club does not intend to pursue the free agents with draft-pick compensation attached anyway.
But let’s go through the daily projection anyway of where the Mets would pick if the season ended now …
With two games to go in the season, the Mets (73-87) are in a three-way tie with the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays for the ninth-worst record in MLB.
The tiebreaker is the 2012 winning percentage.
So the order would be No. 9 Toronto (.451), No. 10 Mets (.457), No. 11 Toronto (for not signing last year’s 10th pick), then No. 12 Milwaukee (.512).
There are only two other teams outside the top 10 within two games of the Mets in the standings -- and neither can displace the Mets from the top 10.
The San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres each are 75-85. But both had better winning percentages than the Mets in 2012. So even if the Mets win their final two games and one of those teams loses both, the Mets would get the tiebreaker.
So from a Mets perspective, it boils down to this: Only the Brewers can bump the Mets from a protected pick.
And the only way that can happen is if the Mets win the final two games in the head-to-head matchup, since a split and tie in the standings means the Mets select first.
“I’m not trying to lose games, I can honestly tell you that,” Collins said pregame Friday. “I’m trying to win baseball games. I don’t care what time of the year it is. We’re trying to teach people how to win here, because we plan on winning down the road.”
In Game No. 161 today, Aaron Harang (5-12, 5.57 ERA) opposes rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson at 4:10 p.m. at Citi Field. Nelson, who has tossed five scoreless relief innings since a call-up, makes his first major league start.
By the way, MLB Trade Rumors identifies the free-agent outfielders likely to receive qualifying offers (one year at somewhere about $14 million) as Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence and Curtis Granderson.
Saturday’s news reports:
Terry Collins said pregame that he believed when Wright gets to retirement age, the captain will be viewed by Mets fans just as Mariano Rivera is viewed in the Bronx.
“I think when David Wright’s days are done here, he’ll be thought of in that light,” Collins said. “He’ll hold every record there is in this organization. He’ll have every offensive record there is. And I know one of the things you’ve heard and mentioned so many times [during the Yankee Stadium ceremony] was Mariano Rivera off the field, how he is in the clubhouse, how he is in real life. This guy is the same way.’’
Read more in the Daily News, Record and Times.
• Sandy Alderson, appearing for three half-innings on SNY’s game telecast Friday, offered only limited insight into the offseason plans.
The GM did say Travis d’Arnaud’s injury track record likely would prompt him to seek a bona fide alternative who could handle the majority of the duty if the rookie became injured.
Alderson also indicated that right now he can only count on three starting pitchers next season: Jonathon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. (A team official said Matt Harvey, rules-wise, would be permitted to test his elbow in the Arizona Fall League. That’s because Harvey has less than two years of service time and missed time due to injury.)
• The Mets handed out their Sterling Awards to top minor league performers before Friday’s game.
First baseman Allan Dykstra and catcher Kevin Plawecki were named co-players of the year. Right-hander Gabriel Ynoa was named pitcher of the year.
The individual level award winners: Rafael Montero (Las Vegas), Noah Syndergaard and Jeff Walters (Binghamton), Dustin Lawley (St. Lucie), Jayce Boyd (Savannah), Rob Whalen (Kingsport), Robert Gsellman (Brooklyn), Dominic Smith (Gulf Coast League), and John Mora and Jose Medina (Dominican Summer League).
Boyd did not attend the ceremony. He recently underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He had been limited to DH rather than first base after June 28 because the shoulder/neck issue prevented him from throwing.
Read a write-up on the 2013 first-round pick Smith here and on Syndergaard here.
Read more in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Star-Ledger and Record.
• Carlos Torres allowed two first-inning homers and Daniel Murphy was thrown out trying to score from third base on a would-be wild pitch with the bases loaded in the sixth as the Mets lost to the Brewers, 4-2, Friday. Murphy said he made the mistake of initially being indecisive and should have aborted the attempt. Torres curiously threw a ball into the upper deck at the end of one half-inning on the mound. He said postgame he does it all the time, having not had a seat close to the field when he was a fan.
Read game recaps in the Post and MLB.com.
• Read more on the draft-pick issue from Jorge Castillo in the Star-Ledger.
• Mike Petriello writes about closer candidate Vic Black at fangraphs.com.
• From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report believes Collins should be more tactful in answering sensitive questions.
BIRTHDAYS: Former reliever Mike DeJean turns 43.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Which Sterling Award winner will have the best major league career?
Words can't describe how blessed and thankful I am for the NYM for making these past 2 days a truly amazing experience! Still in awe of it— Rob Whalen (@RobWhalen38) September 28, 2013
FIRST PITCH: Such a big deal has been made about the Mets’ draft position, and specifically whether the organization’s pick will be “protected.”
Well, it turns out, it is unlikely to matter.
The lone exception is Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
And the Mets (73-86) are not believed to be willing to give more than a Michael Bourn-type contract -- four years.
So if agent Scott Boras can get a longer deal for the 31-year-old Choo out of the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati or another suitor -- and he likely can -- Choo figures to wind up somewhere other than Queens in 2014.
For the record: The Mets’ loss Thursday now has them in the 12th slot in the draft. The top 10 picks are protected. Four teams have a 72-87 record, so the final order can substantially change by the end of the season.
Carlos Torres (4-5, 3.36 ERA) opposes Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo (11-10, 4.23) at 7:10 tonight at Citi Field.
Friday’s news reports:
• David Wright was drilled in the helmet by an 86 mph changeup from Johnny Hellweg and departed Thursday’s game in the third inning, but the captain subsequently passed a concussion test. Read more in the Post, Times, Newsday, Star-Ledger, Record and MLB.com.
• Before the game, Wright had said he is “all in for this organization” in terms of believing their plan for success. Read more in the Daily News and Star-Ledger.
• Dillon Gee fell one inning shy of 200 for the season as the Mets lost to the Brewers, 4-2. Read more in the Post.
• Eric Young Jr. pulled even with Milwaukee’s Jean Segura for the NL stolen-base lead.
• After uncertainty about whether Daisuke Matsuzaka might instead start the season finale, Jonathon Niese said he will take the ball on the final day.
• Seven of nine scouts surveyed told ESPNNewYork.com that if they were the Mets, they would want Lucas Duda over Ike Davis as their 2014 first baseman.
• Matt Harvey’s jersey was the No. 2 seller in MLB during the second half of the season, trailing only Mariano Rivera’s No. 42. Wright checked in at 13th in MLB, one slot behind Derek Jeter. See the full top 20 here.
• Tim Rohan in the Times writes about the Mets’ fantasy football league, which has 23 participants and 12 teams.
• Seventeen-year-old Amed Rosario, who signed with the Mets for $1.75 million last year, was named the Appalachian League’s top prospect by Baseball America. 2013 first-round Dominic Smith was named the fourth-best prospect in the Gulf Coast League. Smith will be among the prospects at Citi Field today as the Mets present their annual Sterling Awards to the top performers at each level of the minor-league system.
• Cesar Puello completed a 50-game suspension related to Biogenesis and PEDs and was returned to the 40-man roster. The Mets shifted Harvey to the 60-day DL to open the roster spot.
• Juan Lagares became a father on Thursday with the birth of Juan Lagares Jr. in New York.
• GQ ranked the Mets as the 12th-worst franchise of all time.
• Commissioner Bud Selig, 79, announced his intention to retire on Jan. 24, 2015.
• Ex-Mets Carlos Gomez served a one-game suspension Thursday, writes the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing believes this is the time of year when you throw out "The Book" and cut individual players' quests some slack. … John Delcos at Mets Report applauds Sandy Alderson prioritizing finishing strong over draft-pick position.
BIRTHDAYS: Jon Rauch turns 35. … Jason Phillips, who became a bullpen catcher for the Seattle Mariners after his playing career, is 37.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Do you believe the Mets should go beyond four years for Shin-Soo Choo?
I'm walking to help the fight against breast cancer. No one thinks I'll make the 5 miles. Help support the cause: http://t.co/JumR8AIsjo— Jay Horwitz (@Jay_HorwitzPR) September 26, 2013
An improbable shutout
The Mets defeated the Reds 1-0 in the series finale, the first time they beat the Reds 1-0 since April 12, 1985, a game in which Gary Carter homered and Pete Rose had two hits.
It is the second time the Mets won 1-0 in Cincinnati. The other was an amazing game in 1965 in which the Mets were no-hit for 10 innings by Jim Maloney (who struck out 18) before Johnny Lewis hit a homer to win the game in the 11th inning.
This marked the first time the Mets had any sort of shutout win in Cincinnati since beating the Reds 5-0 in the one-game playoff for the wild-card spot in 1999.
Murphy’s streak continues
Daniel Murphy extended his streak of consecutive successful steal attempts to 20 in Wednesday’s win. He became the third Mets player to have a single-season streak of 20 in a row, joining Howard Johnson (26 in 1989) and Kevin McReynolds, who was 21-for-21 in 1988.
Murphy entered the season with 19 steals in 30 attempts in his career.
Murphy got a steal in a game that Billy Hamilton did not. Hamilton was caught stealing for the first time by Juan Centeno after being successful on his first 13 steal attempts.
Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched his best game with the Mets, 7 2/3 scoreless innings. It was the first time Matsuzaka pitched at least 7 2/3 scoreless innings since April 23, 2011, when he pitched eight one-hit innings against the Angels.
Matsuzaka had a pair of 1-0 wins in 2007, but hadn’t had one since until Wednesday.
Black’s first save
Vic Black earned his first career save in the second game of the series. He became the 128th pitcher to earn a save for the Mets since the save rule became official in 1969.
Juan and done
Juan Lagares threw out Shin-Soo Choo trying to score in the second game of this series. It was Lagares’ 13th assist of the season, a Mets record for rookie outfielders, breaking the mark of 12, previously set by Tsuyoshi Shinjo in 2001.
Choo had a nice series against a team that will likely try to sign him this offseason. Choo was 5-for-12 with two walks, a double, a triple and the walk-off hit in the series opener. Choo entered the series hitting .201 against left-handed pitching, but was 4-for-6 against lefties in this matchup.
FIRST PITCH: The Mets have all but knocked the Cincinnati Reds into the wild-card game. The Amazin’s also may have helped ensure the Pittsburgh Pirates host their first postseason game since 1992.
Rookie Michael Wacha came within one out of a no-hitter as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals, 2-0, Tuesday night. Meanwhile, the Pirates beat the Chicago Cubs, 8-2.
That leaves the NL Central standings with four games remaining as:
St. Louis, 93-65, --
Pittsburgh, 91-67, 2 GB
Cincinnati 90-68, 3 GB
If the Pirates and Reds end up tied, the better head-to-head record would host the wild-card game. The season series is tied, 8-8, entering the final weekend -- when those teams play head to head in Cincy for three games.
The Mets, meanwhile, have won four of five on their final road trip entering today’s 12:35 p.m. series finale.
If the season ended right now, the Mets (72-85) would pick 10th in the draft, but that is tenuous. The Amazin’s have the same record as the San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies and Toronto Blue Jays.
Ties are resolved by going back to 2012 winning percentage, with the poorer record picking first.
So the order would be No. 9 Toronto (.451 winning percentage in 2012), No. 10 Mets (.457), No. 11 Philadelphia (.500) and No. 12 San Francisco (.580).
That is not entirely accurate, either, though.
Because the Jays failed to sign the No. 10 overall pick a year ago, they get an extra pick at No. 11 pick this year. So the actual order right now is No. 9 Toronto, No. 10 Mets, No. 11 Toronto, No. 12 Philadelphia, No. 13 San Francisco.
The top 10 picks in the draft are protected -- even if the team signs a premium free agent who has received a qualifying offer from his former club.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-3, 5.52), in what should be his final Mets start, now opposes Mat Latos (14-6, 3.23) this afternoon.
The Reds moved up Latos a day so he can line up to pitch in Tuesday’s wild-card game on an extra day of rest. Latos just told the Cincinnati Enquirer he has been pitching with an abdominal strain for three months.
The Mets are 40-40 on the road entering their final game away from Citi Field.
Wednesday’s news reports:
• Daniel Murphy produced a three-run homer in a four-run second inning against Mike Leake and the Mets beat the Reds, 4-2, Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Jonathon Niese allowed two runs in seven innings to even his record at 8-8.
Terry Collins indicated it remained undetermined whether Niese would start Sunday’s season finale against the Milwaukee Brewers or call it a season, but the southpaw indicated he wanted to make that start.
Vic Black, who may be the primary setup man to Bobby Parnell next season, or the closer if Parnell has a slow recovery from herniated disk surgery, earned his first major league save. Collins described himself on Tuesday as “worried” about Parnell.
Juan Lagares recorded his 13th outfield assist, passing Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s 2001 total for the franchise rookie record.
Read recaps in the Post, Daily News, Times, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday and MLB.com.
• Mike Puma in the Post suggests the Mets will pursue right-hander Bronson Arroyo this offseason in free agency.
“There’s going to be some ballclubs, maybe like the Mets, that have that nice mix of young arms, but need somebody to kind of anchor a rotation with 200 innings, so it’s going to be a very interesting offseason for me,” Arroyo told Puma.
Sandy Alderson has given conflicting statements on how aggressively he will pursue a pricy starting pitcher.
• Jordany Valdespin has completed his 50-game suspension related to Biogenesis. The Mets shifted Josh Edgin (rib) to the 60-day DL to return Valdespin to the 40-man roster.
It would appear unlikely Valdespin is with the organization at the start of the season, but the Mets have the 40-man roster room to retain him for now.
The Mets will need to shift Ruben Tejada to the 60-day DL on Thursday, when Double-A outfielder Cesar Puello has completed his suspension.
• Jeurys Familia will pitch in the Arizona Fall League.
• From the bloggers … Rising Apple debates the merits of an extension for Collins.
BIRTHDAYS: Reliever David Weathers turns 44. … Infielder Argenis Reyes is 31.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Would you like to see Bronson Arroyo as a Met?
Hate day games during school especially when there is only 5 games left #Mets— Bobby Oldfield (@snoopbobbybob10) September 25, 2013
The first-year National Leaguer almost personally dismantled the Mets in a 3-2, 10-inning Reds win, going 3-for-6 with a double, two runs batted in -- including the game-winner off left-handed pitcher Sean Henn -- and a stolen base.
If Choo, who is represented by Scott Boras, is thinking about cashing in during the offseason on his impressive 2013, he isn’t showing it, preferring instead to focus on the first pennant race of his life.
“I can’t do anything about it, so I just play every day,” said Choo, who’s been everything the Reds hoped he would be when they acquired him from Cleveland in a three-team trade last December. “It’s different. When I played with the Indians, when it was September, we were never thinking about the playoffs. You were thinking about next year. Now, it’s a different season. It’s fun.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker has had just as much fun watching the man he respectfully refers to as “Mr. Choo.” Baker is especially pleased with his center fielder’s run production -- not just scoring them, which he’s done 105 times, but also driving them in, to the tune of 54 RBIs from the leadoff slot.
“If my leadoff man can have 50 RBIs and 100 runs at the end of the year, he’s going to be very, very productive in our league,” Baker said.
There’s every reason to discuss Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo today and not just because he had the walk-off hit that beat the Mets last night.
The 31-year-old Choo will be a free agent this offseason and media reports are that he rates at the top of their list of players to pursue, given their available money to spend and their current outfield situation.
He fits every need
There is a lot to like about Choo, who ranks second in the NL in on-base percentage.
If you average out his numbers over the last five seasons, you get a .287/.391/.459 slashline, 17 home runs, 19 steals and 138 games played (with only one season of less than 144 games).
Choo is a well above-average offensive player who has averaged 4.1 Wins Above Replacement in that span, with highs of 6.0 in 2010 and 5.5 in 2009 when he was probably at his peak.
If you didn’t see the logo on his jersey, you’d figure Choo would be a Met, based on his swing rate. He swung at just under 40 percent of pitches thrown to him this season, a rate comparable to Josh Satin and Lucas Duda.
Choo does not go out of his way to swing at bad pitches. His “chase rate” is under 20 percent, which puts him among the 10 least-likely hitters to swing at a pitch out of the strike zone in the game.
He’s not perfect
Choo does have a couple of weaknesses:
His defense detracts from his value The Reds tried to make him a centerfielder this season and the decision has cost them. Choo ranks last in Defensive Runs Saved this season among the 35 centerfielders with the most innings.
From a Mets perspective, Choo’s numbers in right field are more pertinent. As recently as 2010, Choo had an arm that served as a deterrent, but the value of that declined in 2011 and 2012. In Choo’s last season in right field, he ranked 32nd among 35 outfielders with -12 Defensive Runs Saved, struggling to convert balls hit to the deepest part of the ballpark into outs.
Choo’s value is based largely what he does against right-handed pitching. Though you wouldn’t know it from Monday when he had hits against Tim Byrdak and Sean Henn, his numbers against lefties aren’t good.
Over the last two seasons, he’s hitting .204 with two homers and 104 strikeouts in 382 at-bats against lefties. The heat map atop this article shows his success against righties and his struggles against lefties.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Choo’s numbers may be inflated from playing in Great American Ball Park, which is much more hitter-friendly than Citi Field. But Choo has been more than respectable on the road this season, as noted in the chart on the right.
The injury factor
Choo has been vulnerable to being hit by pitches this season -- he leads the majors with 25.
Choo’s injury history includes left-elbow surgery in 2007 (he throws left-handed), injuries to both thumbs, which sidelined him for three weeks in 2010 and six weeks in 2011, and a pair of oblique strains in 2011.
He may cost more than money
Choo will be a free agent, but the Reds are still able to make him what is known as a qualifying offer, what amounts to a one-year deal whose value is determined by averaging the top 125 salaries from the previous year (further explanation here).
If Choo turns down the qualifying offer, the team he signs with loses their first-round draft pick, unless that pick is in the Top 10 in the draft (in which case they lose their second-round pick for their first signing).
The Mets are currently in a logjam in the standings with the Brewers, Rockies, Blue Jays, Phillies, Giants and Padres for what amount to the seventh through 13th-worst records in baseball. How they finish in the final week will determine where they pick and whether that is a protected pick.
Choo may be the kind of player the Mets are comfortable giving up their first-round pick for. We’ll find out this offseason.
Mets fans: Is Shin-Soo Choo your top free-agent priority? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsOn Monday night, the Pirates clinched their first playoff berth since 1992.
FIRST PITCH: The National League playoff field is set, with the Mets playing a role Monday night in the definitive composition.
The only question now: What is the order of finish in the NL Central?
The Washington Nationals were eliminated from playoff contention with their loss at St. Louis, officially clinching playoff spots for the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates. Pittsburgh reaches the playoffs for the first time since 1992, when Terry Collins served as bullpen coach.
St. Louis (92-65) leads the NL Central by two games over Cincinnati (90-67) and Pittsburgh (90-67) with five games remaining. Two of those teams will play in the winner-take-all wild-card game, with the winner facing the NL division winner with the best record.
That remains undetermined as well. The Atlanta Braves (92-64) right now are a half-game ahead of St. Louis for the league’s top record. The NL West-champion Los Angeles Dodgers (90-66) trail Atlanta by two games.
If the season ended right now, Atlanta would host the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati winner. And St. Louis and L.A. would meet in the other NL Division Series.
The Mets continue to try to play spoiler today at Great American Ball Park. Jonathon Niese (7-8, 3.81 ERA) opposes right-hander Mike Leake (14-6, 3.21) at 7:10 p.m.
The Mets are winless in four games against Cincinnati this season. The Reds have never swept a season series from the Mets.
Tuesday’s news reports:
• Free-agent-to-be Shin-Soo Choo produced a walk-off RBI single off the outfield wall against Sean Henn in the 10th as Cincinnati beat the Mets, 3-2, Monday night. Lucas Duda snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a solo homer and drove in both runs for the Mets.
The Mets have now played 56 extra innings this season. That is four shy of matching the franchise record, set in 1979 and duplicated in 1985. Across baseball, there have now been 237 extra innings this season, matching 2011 for the most in major league history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News and MLB.com.
-- He would like to see Matt Harvey face batters in a “near-competitive level” of play on multiple occasions this fall in order to disprove the need for Tommy John surgery. Alderson mentioned the Arizona Fall League as a possibility, if that is allowable.
"The strong desire is that we will finish this process within the six- to eight-week time frame," Alderson told reporters. "… We're in the six- to eight-week window, but when he actually starts throwing is a little bit unclear."
-- No decision will be announced on Collins’ fate for 2014 and beyond until after the season. ESPNNewYork.com already has reported it is highly likely Collins will be invited back.
"I think I've been pretty open about my support of Terry," Alderson told reporters. "I think he's done an excellent job across the board with the talent that he's had, with the injuries that he's had to endure, with the other changes in personnel. I think he's handled all of those situations and individual events exceptionally well. On the other hand, we haven't won, and that's always an issue. But it's not always a result that can be pinned on the manager.
"Wins and losses, I don't think, ever determine a manager's fate, frankly. Even winning does not necessarily guarantee tenure. It's always a little bit subjective, in this case perhaps more so. You have to temper your evaluation with the circumstances and the context, which includes the players, the injuries, the trades, the other things that come into play on a daily basis. In anything like this, you have to constantly remind yourself of the need to be objective."
-- Wally Backman likely will be invited to manage Triple-A Las Vegas again next season. If a position became available on the major league staff, Alderson indicated Backman would receive consideration.
-- Zack Wheeler did get examined by a team doctor on call at Citi Field after complaining of shoulder stiffness in what turned out to be his final 2013 start. It was determined that no MRI would be needed. "I think if this was any other point in the season, we might back him off or skip a start," Alderson said, minimizing the issue.
Read more from Alderson in the Daily News, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Record and MLB.com.
From the bloggers … John Delcos at Mets Report believes the Mets should just announce now that Collins is returning if that is the case.
BIRTHDAYS: Hubie Brooks turns 57. … Bernard Gilkey is 47.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Who is more responsible for the Mets’ fifth straight losing season -- Sandy Alderson or Terry Collins?
Back in NY! Found an ex Hockey Player!! pic.twitter.com/El4laftbZD— Mike Piazza (@mikepiazza31) September 23, 2013
The thought of Giancarlo Stanton in a Mets uniform is appealing, but unrealistic.
The apple of the Mets (and everyone else’s eye) is in town this weekend. That being Marlins right-fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Recent reports are that Stanton, who would figure to be the Mets (and 28 other teams) top trade target this offseason if the Marlins were willing to deal, is not in any way on the trade market.
But this seems like a good time to discuss a few storylines related to him and the right-field market this offseason.
Why he’s desirable
Stanton is one of baseball’s premier talents, one who will turn 24 next season and would be under team control through the end of the 2016 season.
When Stanton makes contact, he hits balls a long way. As my Stats & Info colleague, Jose De Leon, pointed out yesterday, he’s one of 10 players with four seasons of at least 20 homers by the time he reached his “Age 23 season” (age as of June 30). The other nine are Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Conigliaro, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
Stanton has had an odd season, one that included a hamstring injury suffered against the Mets.
He’s swung less, mainly because he’s often been pitched around and the results haven’t been as good as normal. In particular, he’s failing to drive what we’d classify as “middle-middle” pitches (those in the middle-third of the strike zone, height-wise and width-wise). He had 21 homers off pitches to that area (basically the heart of the plate) in 2011 and 2012, but only has two in 2013.
Even if the Marlins were willing to trade him ...
The biggest hindrance for the Mets is not necessarily the Marlins' reluctance to part with Stanton, but what the Mets could give up to get him.
Look at most of the biggest deals in baseball, in the Mets case what it took to get the likes of a Gary Carter or Mike Piazza. When those deals are made, the team giving up the star gets both bats and arms in return. The Mets have arms to part with, but don’t have any high-end bats other than Travis d’Arnaud, whose major-league stint is not off to a great start.
One good thing about the right-field market this offseason is that there are a good number of options (and that doesn’t even count possibilities among left-fielders) that wouldn't cost the Mets any players, or their first-round draft pick (so long as they finish with one of the 10 worst records in the majors, they don't lose their top pick. They would lose their second-best pick for signing any free agent who received a qualifying offer and third-best pick if they signed two of them).
Among them will be ...
Shin-Soo Choo who, regarding the Mets, interest, you’ve probably already read about (who we’ll take a closer look at when the Mets face the Reds later this month), and whose 20 homers and .400-plus on-base percentage are highly desirable. Choo would also benefit from a move away from center field, where he's played poorly from a statistical perspective.
Hunter Pence, who is hitting .289 with 20 homers for a Giants team that plays in an offensive-limiting ballpark and division. Pence’s numbers have been consistent since the beginning of May, and he’s closing strong, with a .380 batting average in his last 19 games. Pence doesn't rate well defensively, but his successful baserunning skills (21 steals in 23 attempts) would fit with how this team plays.
Nelson Cruz, who is sitting out due to his Biogenesis-related suspension, is two years older than Choo and Pence and would probably not require as long a commitment. One thing to be apprehensive of, however, is how much of Cruz’s value was due to playing in Texas. Over the past three seasons, he has 50 homers at home, 30 on the road.
Marlon Byrd, who has spoken of how much he enjoyed playing in New York, will also be a free agent at season’s end. Byrd has had an amazing year at age 35, and one thing that will be wondered will be not just whether he can maintain his power, but also his batting average.
Byrd has hit .315 when hitting a ground ball this season, seventh-best in the majors and nearly 90 points higher than the .226 he hit on grounders from 2009 to 2012.
Who would you like to see in right field for the Mets in 2014? Share your thoughts in the comments.
And let’s just say Collins largely has not been thrilled with the players’ approaches at the plate after the Mets were shut out for the second time in three days Wednesday.
“We can sit here every night and discuss the same stuff over and over,” Collins said. “You’ve got to make adjustments. You can’t keep thinking you’re going to get balls to pull, or try to go up there and pull every pitch. You’ve got to step out of the batter’s box, or sit in the dugout and pay attention, and realize what the opposing pitcher is doing to get you out, and try to come up with a plan to make an adjustment at the plate and put the bat on the ball.
“I know they’re young. That’s all part of it. But, as we’ve said before, in the growing stages in this part of the year, we want to see some guys get better. And part of that getting better is being able to gather yourself on the side, and get in the batter’s box, and put a good at-bat on.”
The Mets try to get on track and avoid getting swept in the four-game series against the Washington Nationals when Aaron Harang makes his Mets debut opposite right-hander Tanner Roark at 1:10 p.m.
• Yankees president Randy Levine called it “very sad” that Bobby Valentine on Tuesday suggested the Yankees were AWOL when the city needed them after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, writes Andrew Marchand for ESPNNewYork.com. "Bobby Valentine should know better than to be pointing fingers on a day like today," Levine told Marchand. Read more in the Post, Daily News, Newsday and Star-Ledger.
• Collins will return to manage the Mets next season, Mike Puma reports in the Post. That is consistent with what ESPNNewYork.com reported Sept. 1. The organization would only shift course if something monumental occurred, such as a managerial behavior meltdown. As for the Mets’ 2-8 record in September, which is better than only the Chicago White Sox, a team official told Puma: Collins “can’t totally be graded on something he doesn’t have right now.”
As for Triple-A manager Wally Backman’s future, Puma writes:
According to sources, Backman considered tendering his resignation near the end of spring training because he was unhappy receiving orders from team officials about playing time for certain individuals. Backman then angered [Sandy] Alderson later in the season, with comments about how he would fix Ike Davis, after the first baseman was demoted to Las Vegas.
But Backman knows how to manage, something that was reaffirmed this season when he took Las Vegas to the Pacific Coast League playoffs despite having his roster decimated to fill holes with the Mets.
Look for Backman to land in another organization next season, unless the Mets are willing to give him a shot on the major league coaching staff. But such an addition could create an uncomfortable situation because of the mostly false perception that Backman would be the manager in waiting.
Puma also wrote:
Alderson, through channels, has made it known there is almost no chance he would hire popular Wally Backman to manage the Mets if there was an opening.
Backman has thrived managing at the Triple-A level, but there are fears within the organization he would clash with this front office, which -- make no mistake about it -- has the final word on everything related to the on-field product.
The Mets expect to have their first-base answer in-house, between Ike Davis, Lucas Duda and Josh Satin, and will pencil in Travis d'Arnaud at catcher, Daniel Murphy at second base and [Juan] Lagares in center -- though they hope to see more offensive consistency from d'Arnaud and more plate discipline from Murphy. With David Wright back at third base, that will leave shortstop and the outfield corners as the main areas for import.
Ruben Tejada had a lost year and is out of favor and Omar Quintanilla looks like a utilityman, so shortstop will very likely be an emphasis, though the free-agent market at that premium position is less than promising. The emergence of Lagares, the addition of speedy veteran Eric Young Jr. and especially the enormous surprise season of Marlon Byrd meant a potential disaster area in the outfield was somewhat better than expected, but Byrd was traded to the Pirates and Young is seen as an excellent fourth or fifth outfielder they'd like to bring back as a backup. So outfield will once again be the biggest area to look at.
While Choo appears like the best fit, there will surely be a bidding war for a player who is second the National League with a .425 on-base percentage. Choo was below average in center field this year, but will presumably be coveted as a corner man by many teams.
• Zack Wheeler surrendered one run in seven innings, but the Mets were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention with a 3-0 loss to the Nationals on Wednesday night. The Mets mustered only three hits against Dan Haren and four relievers. Tejada went 0-for-3 in his first major league appearance since May 29.
Read game recaps in the Post, Daily News, Newsday, Times, Star-Ledger, Record and MLB.com.
• Wheeler has tossed 163 2/3 innings. The organization is likely to let him make two more starts and approach 180 innings. Read more on a rookie pitcher trying to pitch deep into September in the Journal.
• The Yankees’ move to WFAN -- both AM and FM signals -- was made official Wednesday, bouncing the Mets elsewhere on the dial. Read more in Newsday, the Post and Journal.
• Wright ran the bases Wednesday for the first time since suffering a strained right hamstring. Collins estimates Wright may be back in a game by the middle of next week. Read more in the Star-Ledger and Journal.
• An MRI taken on Wednesday revealed Justin Turner suffered a small right hamstring strain a day earlier. Turner should miss a couple of games, Collins suggested.
• Binghamton manager Pedro Lopez has joined the major league coaching staff. Backman will not be added.
• D’Arnaud discusses his struggles in the Daily News. Scouts on Wednesday told ESPNNewYork.com that d’Arnaud is going to have to make his swing more compact. Right now, he is helpless against breaking balls. And it seems like he is not catching up to the fastballs he is sitting on. He is hitting .152 (10-for-66) with a homer and three RBIs since his promotion.
• Jorge Castillo in the Star-Ledger looks at Matt den Dekker’s season and future.
• From the bloggers … Faith and Fear in Flushing marks the passage of another lost season. … John Delcos at Mets Report suggests Valentine is misguided judging the Yankees’ post-9/11 contribution.
BIRTHDAYS: Luis Castillo, known during his Mets days for that drop at Yankee Stadium, turns 38.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
YOU’RE UP: Was Bobby Valentine in the wrong disparaging the Yankees’ contribution after 9/11?
@AdamRubinESPN Why do fans insist on seeing "the kids" play, then complain with the anemic results, like the last 2 series?— Anthony Messana (@AntJCM47) September 12, 2013