Welcome, my friends, to Panic City, where your mayor, GM Sandy Alderson and his deputy, Terry Collins, have some serious scrambling to do before they take their last place Mets into Washington for a three-game series with the Nationals.
While Alderson was in his office after today’s 7-5 loss to the Braves – the Mets’ sixth straight – weighing his limited options, Collins was delivering his annual, closed doors, “nobody is going to feel sorry for you … it’s time to grind it out, starting now,” address to his shell-shocked team, losers of ten of their last 11 games.
Syndergaard has biceps tendinitis and the Mets hope he’ll be ready for Sunday, but they are accomplished at wishful thinking. Cespedes, whom the Mets gambled was back from a tight hamstring, significantly pulled it legging out a double in the fourth inning and will be lost for an extended period.
Cespedes will get another MRI Friday and likely will be placed on the disabled list before his surviving teammates face Max Scherzer in Washington. There, he will join Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, David Wright, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo and Brandon Nimmo.
Collins, his voice getting louder with each name, ticked them off one at a time, Duda, Wright, Matt Harvey, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Cespedes, Matz, Jacob deGrom and Travis d’Arnaud, and he said the Mets eventually pulled it together to reach the playoffs.
“I told them, ‘We can do it again, but it’s got to start now,’ ” Collins said. “OK, so the weather is gonna start changing. That can no longer be the excuse. It’s now time to go out and grind it out as we did last year.”
“It’s still April, I understand that, but, we can no longer sit back and say, ‘It’s ugly weather, we’ve got some guys hurt.’ No one cares. The Braves don’t care, the Nationals don’t care. The only thing that matters are the guys in the clubhouse, because that’s the product. They’ve got to care. They’ve got to come out, play with some energy and get this going and I truly believe they can do it.”
When asked about the timing for this message, Collins played the perception-reality card. He said he’s aware of the talk energy is down, but that’s to be expected when your team batting average is .184 and on-base percentage is .268 during this slide.
“Look, it’s just April, I get it, but it’s time,” Collins said. “We’ve got a tough road trip ahead. … We’ve got to grind it out. We can do it, but we’ve got to start now.”
Now, is best defined as Friday in Washington, where the Mets, currently 7.5 games behind the Nationals, will try to stop their free-fall. As of now, deGrom, Zack Wheeler and a to-be-announced pitcher will start, but Collins can’t say whether the offense will show, especially with Cespedes out.
“We’ve got to go out there and have energy,” said third baseman Jose Reyes. “We know we are going to better than this. … We’re going to see what we’re made of. It’s only April, we have five more months. We don’t want to go too deep in the standings. We have a good ballclub and we’re going to turn it around.”
It’s going to be difficult without Cespedes and Syndergaard. Collins said losing Cespedes “is a big hole.”
Losing Cespedes could have been prevented had the Mets acted proactively, which they did not. Instead, they kept hoping he’d get better. By putting Cespedes immediately on the disabled list, he might have missed both Washington series. Instead, foolishly gambling on a player with a history of muscle pulls, they not only miss Cespedes for both Nationals series, but possibly up to a month or longer now.
“No,” a defiant Collins said when asked if he had any regrets by not putting Cespedes on the disabled list a week ago.
“He did all the things that were required to get in the lineup,” Collins said. “It just happens. It’s easy to say you should have put him on the DL. Well, you know what? Every time you turn around for every little thing, if you keep putting guys on the DL, we can’t run anybody out there.
“The guy pulled a hamstring. He’s wound tight. I am going to go with that. Now he’s going to be out for awhile.”
In saying Cespedes is wound tight, and especially after last season, are specifically the reasons why he should have been put on the disabled list. But, Collins doesn’t make those decisions; he’s there to shield GM Sandy Alderson from the flack he deserves.
As far as Syndergaard goes, the Mets can afford a few extra days in making a decision because as a pitcher he works every five days. Syndergaard was supposed to start Wednesday, but was scratched because “I wanted to,” said Collins, not because he felt something in his arm while shagging fly balls before the game.
Syndergaard said the discomfort is in his shoulder and biceps area and isn’t a re-occurrence of the bone spur that bothered him last season.
“It’s quite obvious we can’t take a chance on him,” Collins said. “He’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
Prior to the game, Syndergaard said, “it’s a little thing right now, but we definitely don’t want it to become a big thing.” But after the game he got testy with a team official for not preventing reporters from questioning him.
Harvey started in place of Syndergaard and was lit up by the Braves. He got a phone call early today saying he would start.
“I really wasn’t physically prepared for starting today,” said Harvey, who lifted weights Wednesday. “Having those workouts that I did yesterday and the throwing that I did yesterday, I just definitely wasn’t prepared.”
That’s odd because had he paid attention Wednesday when Syndergaard’s arm was barking and he was scratched, Harvey should have realized something was going on. Of course, that wouldn’t have taken away the workout, but Harvey could have been more mentally prepared.
Should have, could have, would have can’t turn this thing around for the Mets, who are in desperate need of something to go right.
“We need to be cognizant, when things aren’t going your way, not to go through the motions,” said Jay Bruce, one of the few bright spots for the Mets. “We’re up to the challenge.”
They better be, because 21 games into a season they all believed a World Series was possible, they are looking at that opportunity slipping away.