Before the Dodgers and Mets face off at Citi Field in game one of a three-game series, I caught up with Steven Schreiber from Amazin' Avenue to talk about New York's season thus far.
DAVID LAUTERBACH: What was your expectation for the Mets this year?
STEVEN SCHREIBER: My totally unscientific guess was 78 wins but depending on how things fall, I could see them being right around a .500 club in the end. The starting pitching and defense is going to keep them in games, while the offense will struggle, and the bullpen will hopefully not suck too much. Unfortunately, that's a bit disappointing given the promises of competing in 2014 and Sandy Alderson's 90 win goal but I guess as long as the young players continue to establish themselves and Matt Harvey returns at full strength at some point, it's a modestly successful season. 2015 looks to be the make or break season for the Alderson regime.
DL: Did you like the Bartolo Colon signing?
SS: I did like the Colon signing, actually. Given the loss of Harvey, the Mets needed somebody to chew up those innings (pun intended) and Colon was quite good the last two seasons in Oakland. He was probably a bit over his head last year but for just two years and $20 million, it wasn't a huge risk to take on a quality pitcher. He's had some rocky games so far (home runs and hard contact in general have been issues) but I think he'll right the ship, assuming he stays healthy. His command hasn't been totally sharp yet, which often means 88 MPH meatballs down the middle and that's never a recipe for success.
DL: What about the Curtis Granderson deal?
SS: It wasn't a perfect deal but it was probably a necessity for a couple of reasons. First of all, take a look at next winter's outfield free agent crop. It's brutal. The Mets needed outfield help and they were better off going for it now as opposed to waiting. Now personally, I would've been all over Shin-Soo Choo if money weren't an issue. But with the Mets it always is, so we got Granderson instead. The second reason why also relates to money: if they didn't sign Granderson (or another similarly expensive player) payroll would've dipped into ridiculously sad territory and ownership would probably have a full-fledged riot on their hands. Now, it's not far from a riot currently but at least they can say that they "spent money" (even if payroll is slightly down overall from a season ago). I think Granderson will be decent in the end. He's not a star but he'll give the Mets good defense in right field and some level of offense that they desperately needed. Hopefully Brandon Nimmo or Cesar Puello or somebody else is ready to step into the lineup in the near future.
DL: I've seen a lot of frustration on twitter regarding Terry Collins. What's the situation with him as manager?
SS: Just like any manager, Terry often makes boneheaded moves during games and is ultra predictable with his lineup construction. He also rarely sticks to what he says he's going to do, changing his mind frequently based on incredibly small samples (last year, for instance, he famously named Collin Cowgill his full time starting center fielder and then started platooning him mere days later). Really, anybody who listens to what Terry says in the media is a fool.
SS: If I had to gauge Terry's managerial skill, I'd probably place him slightly below average and that's not a complement to Terry Collins but more of a shot at the strategies of big league managers. It seems like he does a good job in the clubhouse and the players always play hard for him but he's basically your typical old school manager during games. Also, he most recently sat budding center fielder Juan Lagares for days, which earned a great deal of ire around the internet, and he was pretty defensive about it when questioned by the media. He just signed an extension in the offseason, so I think he's pretty safe for now but I could certainly see a scenario where he's used as a scapegoat at some point.
DL: How can the Mets fix their pitchers' issues at the plate?
SS: My ideal answer would be to institute the designated hitter in the National League so I never have to see another pitcher hit ever again but clearly that's not happening this season. I think ultimately, the Mets pitchers will get their fair share of hits as the season goes along through the evening out of luck. The long hitless stretch is somewhat embarrassing but it's also somewhat fluky as well. Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Zack Wheeler are somewhat credible hitters (for pitchers, anyway), and the Mets have added former college shortstop Jacob deGrom to the rotation, too. I will add that while Bartolo Colon is probably a lost cause at the plate, his at bats are great for Amazin' Avenue's traffic. You can never have enough animated GIFs of Bartolo wildly swinging a bat and losing his helmet.
DL: Who has been the biggest disappointment so far this season?
SS: There have been a few (Travis d'Arnaud, Colon, Granderson stick out) but to be honest, I think I have to go with David Wright. Now you might look at David's line and say it's harsh to call him a disappointment but expectations are always high for him. He's such a great player that when things aren't going well, you tend to take notice. His walk and strikeout rates are all out of whack and he's hit for little power with just 2 home runs and a .088 ISO so far. I think he'll get things straightened out because he's too good a player not to but this almost reminds me of the 2009 or injured 2011 version of Wright, which is a scary thought.
DL: What about the biggest surprise?
SS: I think it's either Daniel Murphy or Juan Lagares' bat. Murphy's had hot streaks like this and they're usually followed by him going ice cold for weeks at a time, so I want to be a little cautious right now but he's been on fire at the plate for a few weeks. The best thing is that he's hit to the opposite field with more authority than in the past. Lagares, meanwhile, has been excellent at the plate in addition to his outstanding defense in center field. He's at .302/.345/.462 right now and while that seems likely to regress due to that .375 BABIP, even a slight reduction would make him one of the Mets best players. He's a lot of fun to watch right now and I hope he can keep it going (and that he gets regular playing time).
DL: Who is New York's MVP at this point?
SS: Murphy and Lagares are probably the top candidates but on the pitching side, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee have been been great as well, giving the team a bunch of quality starts. The Mets bullpen hasn't been particularly strong as a unit but Carlos Torres probably deserves some down ballot votes as the team's workhorse and best reliever.
DL: Series prediction?
SS: By all accounts, the Dodgers are very good and the Mets are not very good, so it's tough for me to predict a series win without looking like a complete and utter homer (which, let's face it, I am most of the time). Two of the Mets three starters are making their second career start (Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom), so they're huge wild cards. I think the Mets take one game and maybe they can sneak two of three if one of their starters can manage to hold down the Dodgers offense.