At the end of each month, the Rising Apple staff will look back and weigh in. Here are our thoughts on April, during which the Mets had a record of 10-15:
Danny Abriano, Editor:
After opening the year 7-4, the Mets closed out April by going on a 3-11 slide. My final record prediction before the season was 80-82, so I certainly wasn’t expecting tremendous things from this club. Still, their performance over the last two weeks of the month was unacceptable. It’s understood that the Mets are lacking in several areas, but this isn’t a team that should lose 95 games. If they keep playing the way the did over the latter part of April, they may lose more than that.
As the month drew to a close, tons of fans began to call for Terry Collins to be fired. Now, it’s obviously absurd to claim that Collins is to blame for all of the teams’ ills. It is, however, his responsibility to utilize his personnel in a way that puts the team in the best position to win. During the Mets’ 3-11 free-fall, he didn’t do that. Specifically, Collins’ bullpen management was atrocious. His other in game moves ranged from puzzling (refusing to substitute Lucas Duda out for defense on occasion, not using Juan Lagares in center field late in games) to mind boggling (walking Donovan Solano intentionally when he was behind in the count 1-2). Collins has to get better at every facet of his management besides motivation. If he doesn’t (and there’s no reason to believe he will), he should be replaced.
As far as the personnel goes, there are only 11 players who should be comfortable enough to not be looking over their shoulder as the season continues. Those players are John Buck, Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Ruben Tejada, Jordany Valdespin, Justin Turner, Matt Harvey, Jonathon Niese, Scott Rice, Scott Atchison, and Bobby Parnell. If Jeurys Familia continues to pitch well, he’ll join that list as the 12th member. Every other player should be on notice that their playing time/spot in the rotation/place in the bullpen isn’t guaranteed. Yes, this is likely a rebuilding year. However, instead of being complacent, the front office should be replacing those who are under-performing and/or are unlikely to be a part of the squad in 2014 and beyond with players (from the minor leagues or elsewhere) who might have a chance to be.
Michael Lecolant, Senior Staff Writer:
The Mets are falling apart far earlier than I anticipated. At least they kept us enthralled through June last season. My hope is that late summer provides more fresh young talent from the farm, and continues changing the complexion of the team. With some potential minor league reinforcements, I think the starting rotation can be better in the second half. Maybe Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero both find their way to Flushing this season. Collin McHugh is also available for duty. Together with Gee, Harvey, Niese, and even Jeremy Hefner, I think they can all potentially form a solid stable to work with. Additionally, the Mets might want to just flood their bullpen with even more minor leaguers, because their current major leaguers are doing a horrific job for the most part. Four minor league call-ups from Binghamton and Las Vegas, including recalling Josh Edgin, certainly can’t do any worse. Leave them all alone, and they might even excel in a prelude towards contention. Stranger things have happened.
Having said that, I am on board with the club’s rebuilding program. At the moment, competing for a division flag or wild card does not necessarily concern me. While many of us debate lineups, rotations and bullpens, I am focused on a protected list. Outside of some obvious arbitration cases, David Wright and Jonathon Niese are the only players under contract beyond this season. Leading up to this year’s trading deadline, I feel it is already time to fix our minds towards deciphering who the keepers on this team are, and what players can be usefully jettisoned. The Mets have young players to deal, so my preference is that the club operates aggressively and proactively. Will they remain reactive, though? After giving Sandy Alderson the space he needed, the 2014 season now looms closer. With another season of gained separation from the Madoff mess, firm expectations will soon start elevating.
Going forward, I say hands off Lucas Duda. He should get to play every day for the remainder of the year. If he plays a full campaign without having to look over his shoulder, for better or worse, we will know once and for all if Duda is worth keeping. Center field and right field still pose obvious problems. The Mets’ offensive issues, however, extend much further than the outfield. To help make up for their shortcomings elsewhere, I want the Mets’ best outfield arm in right field. I don’t care if that player hits at the Mendoza Line. Over the last three April games alone, I can point to four instances that would have been better served with a stronger arm manning right field. If offensive production is once again the Mets’ greatest liability, the defensive play must get substantially better. If Ike Davis doesn’t snap out of his second consecutive season starting funk soon, the Mets are doomed. The team needs him to be a difference maker in the middle of the line-up. For the moment, he remains frustratingly inconsequential. I think if we allow Ruben Tejada to regain his form, he’ll be fine. John Buck has been tremendous.
Sam Maxwell, Staff Writer:
When it comes to he Mets in April, I’d love to discuss John Buck‘s historic start, or Jordany Valdespin‘s continuing El Hombrèness. I’d love to talk about my fellow southpaw, Scott Rice, or Juan Lagares making his ML debut. But when it comes to the first month of the 2013 season, the biggest takeaway is one I will beat into the ground: Terry Collins should not be the long-term solution as manager.
It started out as a gut instinct but it has turned into a full-on wrath over the last week. I will spare you the examples since a couple of us have written about the topic ad nauseum recently. Regardless of what you think about the roster construction, Terry Collins is a subpar in-game manager and I do not believe he will be at the helm for the Mets next championship-caliber ballclub (or that the Mets will be one with him at the helm.) As far as I am concerned, the Mets dispatch Collins and move on to the next chapter, the better.
When I looked at the Mets’ schedule for April, I saw the chance to establish a winning record right out of the gate. After all, they were set to play the Padres, Twins, Rockies, Marlins twice, and Phillies twice. That dream lasted about 20 games, and the team finished a disappointing month a disappointing 10-15. Not close, no chance of a cigar. But we all knew this season was going to be a challenging one, so I’m willing to look past the disappointment and find the positives.
David Wright is tearing it up, once again; no worries there. Matt Harvey was Seaver-esque, and while I don’t expect him to keep up those Franchise numbers, I do expect him to establish himself as the definitive ace of the staff. We’ve learned teams can’t win consistently with half a starting staff, but the half we do have has been pretty great. Jeremy Hefner has been surprisingly solid in his last couple of outings, and with Dillon Gee struggling, Terry Collins might have to reconsider who loses their job once Zack Wheeler comes up from Vegas. While the bullpen has been atrocious overall, Bobby Parnell and Scott Rice have stood out as bright spots in a sea of darkness.
Finally, if Mets fans want to see their boys in the starting lineup at the Citi Field All-Star Game in July, I see three legitimate chances of rallying support based on merit. David Wright, of course, is the face of the franchise and is having another All-Star caliber season. John Buck was a run-producing machine in the first month of the season, and he should benefit from early voting and still being fresh in voters’ minds. And while he’s cooled off in the past week, Daniel Murphy still leads National League second basemen in batting average, is near the top in OPS, and has had more than his fair share of Web Gems in the field. I can realistically see Wright, Buck, and Murphy in the National League lineup on July 16th. That, as much as anything, would add a silver lining to the otherwise bleak prospects of the rest of 2013.
Kevin Baez, Staff Writer:
The first month of the 2013 season sure had a number of ups and downs for the Mets. On the plus side, John Buck has been a pleasant surprise with his team-leading nine home runs and 27 RBI’s. What’s funny is Buck has already outperformed all of the 2012 Mets’ catchers in the power department this season in just one month. Matt Harvey has shown everyone the potential dominant ace he can be for years to come, as he has proven to be the strongest commodity in the Mets’ starting rotation. However, aside from Jon Niese and Harvey, I worry about the quality of production the Mets will be able to get from the rest of the rotation. While Shaun Marcum has a proven track record, I worry about his ability to stay on the field. Aside from Ike Davis‘ early struggles, I worry mostly about the Mets’ bullpen.
Although it’s early in the season, manager Terry Collins has made some poor managerial decisions that have cost the Mets dearly. Is it truly fair to judge his performance given the dearth of Major league talent he has been given by ownership during his tenure as Mets manager? No, but it certainly doesn’t sit well with the fans based on his performance as manager. Terry Collins is by no means a perfect manager, as no one manager is, but the more and more I see head scratching decisions, the more I think the Mets will look to hire a new manager to hopefully take this team to the next level in the years to come. Only time will tell, but it isn’t looking good for Collins in the early part of the 2013 season.
Rich Sparago, Staff Writer:
The Mets aren’t far from my expectations after the first month of the season. They’ve had some exciting moments, and unfortunately, more frustrating moments. Their offense has come back to earth, after leading the majors in runs-per-game for a few weeks. Their reliance on their “approach” of taking pitches and driving up pitch counts seems to have hit diminishing returns, as the league has adjusted to it. The starting pitching has been exactly what we could have expected. It’s reliable and often exciting (spelled H-A-R-V-E-Y) at the top of the rotation, and an adventure at the back of rotation. If you add this all up, it amounts to a sub-.500 team.
The team seems to be headed in the direction that Sandy Alderson laid out for 2013. They’re trying to survive this season with respectability, while allowing for the continued development of Harvey, and to-be introduction of Wheeler and d’Arnaud. The question that faces the organization is just how far in the futire the better days will be. Based on what we’ve seen in April, if the brighter days are expected to be within the next two years, significant changes are needed. The outfield has struggled (as we anticipated), and the team suffers from both a lack of power and a lack of speed. The rotation should continue to deepen, with better performances from Gee and Marcum. The bullpen is not as bad as it has appeared, and in my opinion, should not be the primary target for improvement efforts.
Dan Haefeli, Staff Writer:
April was one of the more strange and, at times, unfortunate months to watch as a Mets fan. There’s been room for encouragement: The rotation, despite missing Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum to begin the season, has been better than some would have expected. The trio of Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, and Jeremy Hefner(!) have collectively averaged 6 innings per start with a 2.76 ERA and 1.129 WHIP. As Zack Wheeler continues to rebound from a rough start, it will be up to Hefner, Dillon Gee, and Shaun Marcum to quell the calls for the young ace-in-the-making.
Offensively, it’s been great, or terrible. The Mets have scored more than 3 runs in just three of their past ten games, which is a big part of why they’ve only won three of their past ten games. Despite that, they’re still second in the National League in scoring, averaging 4.85 runs per game. John Buck has, thus far, been a revelation, with 9 home runs and 27 RBI in 24 games, both representing more than half his total production from last year. David Wright and Daniel Murphy have both been steady, and Lucas Duda has been the king of the Three True Outcomes – his 21 walks, 26 strikeouts, and 5 home runs represent 52.5% of his total plate appearances. They’ve been able to score runs with an unproductive Ike Davis, but I suspect that won’t last forever.
I’m not going to jump on the fire Terry Collins bandwagon yet because I don’t think 26 games makes a reasonable sample on which to judge him. He’s made some risky (read: poor) decisions so far this year, and it has cost the team. However, he’s also been terribly unlucky with what good decisions he’s made (example: Aaron Laffey handing a game back to the Nationals). Either way, he will need to right the ship to save his neck. Taking two of three against a struggling Atlanta Braves team (5-9 in their last 14) would be a big step in that direction.