Dom Smith already validating Mets' concerns with spring blunder

Dom Smith already validating Mets' concerns with spring blunder

PORT ST. LUCIE — All winter Dom Smith talked about how determined he was to prove his dedication to being a professional, and the 20 pounds he dropped seemed to be proof he had learned from the poor first impression he made on the Mets last summer.

So then he shows up late on the first game day of spring training?

When he knows his only chance to beat out Adrian Gonzalez this spring is to impress the heck out of Mickey Callaway and Sandy Alderson on and off the field?

As always with the Mets, you can’t make it up.

Dominic Smith late to Mets camp Friday, scratched from lineup

I’ll say this: It’s hard not to like Smith. He’s a personable kid, and after spending an hour or so with him one day this offseason, I came away convinced he had his head on straight, that he was ready to make good on his talent.

But now you have to have serious reservations about him. Being late for an 8:45 a.m. team meeting on such a significant day is an awfully ominous sign, especially because it’s not the first time, according to a source.

The Mets benched Dominic Smith from Friday's opener after he showed up late to the team facility.

The Mets benched Dominic Smith from Friday’s opener after he showed up late to the team facility.

(Jeff Roberson/AP)

Smith arrived late to the ballpark at least once during his two-month stint with the Mets in August and September last season, the source said, and was aired out in private by a veteran pitcher.

To have it happen this early in camp, when he was penciled in to start at first base, is practically unfathomable, and Callaway did the right thing by scratching Smith from the lineup.

Mets lefty Steven Matz ready to put injury history behind him

In truth, the new manager had no choice but to punish Smith as a way of setting a tone that such unprofessionalism won’t be tolerated on his watch.

And Smith, to his credit, made that point when he spoke to the media.

“That’s the way it should be,” he said. “He shouldn’t give me a pass. That’s what he has been preaching since Day One, accountability for yourself and your actions.

“That’s the only way the team will be great. It’s something that won’t be an issue or a problem going forward.”

Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes made choice to give up golf: source

OK, that sounds great, but it’s hard to give Smith the benefit of the doubt at this point.

There was no indication of any significant reason for him being late. In fact, Smith didn’t offer a reason as he spoke with reporters, and it wasn’t until someone wondered if his alarm clock had failed to go off that he haltingly said, yes, that was the issue.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

MLB spring training is in full swing for the New York Mets

For that matter, it took two sessions with reporters for Smith to own up to being late.

As always with the Mets, apparently there was much discussion internally about how to handle the situation. After noticing that Smith had been scratched from the original lineup card and replaced by Peter Alonso, reporters approached the first baseman and he played dumb, offering no explanation.

5 young pitchers to watch early in Mets camp

About a half-hour later reporters were directed to Smith’s locker again, after two PR people had huddled with him, and he admitted to being late.

So there was more drama than necessary, but at least the Mets made the right call by deciding not to try and cover up the truth, as they’ve been known to do in such situations in the past.

It would have been a disastrous way for Callaway to start his tenure as well. But by forcing Smith to answer for himself, even if it took a couple of tries, the Mets sent the right message to their players as well as their fans.

So now the question is whether Smith matures and becomes the player the Mets envisioned when they made him their first-round draft pick out in 2013, or his immaturity and poor decision-making derails his career.

Mets giving first spring start to Zack Wheeler

For what it’s worth, he said all the right things after finally admitting to being late, and seemed sincere about it.

“I am more upset that I let myself down,” he said. “I was so excited last night to be in the lineup and be playing and stuff like that. Sometimes you can’t get sleep; up all night, my first day again … get to show what I can do.

“I’m disappointed in myself and with myself more than anything else.”

That said, Smith insisted it was nothing more than “a small, minor speed bump” for him, and at age 22 he still has plenty of time to prove that.

Mets’ Adrian Gonzalez trying to impart wisdom to Dominic Smith

But something like this only validates the Mets’ concerns about him, as well as their decision to sign Gonzalez this winter. Hitting .198 after his call-up last season didn’t give him margin for this type of error, that’s for sure.

Some scouts still believe he’ll become a good major-league hitter, but even if that’s the case, a mistake like this is reason to believe Smith needs to grow up some before that can happen.

Tags:
mlb
new york mets
dominic smith
spring training

Send a Letter to the Editor

Join the Conversation:
facebook
Tweet
Dominic Smith late to Mets camp Friday, scratched from lineup

Dominic Smith late to Mets camp Friday, scratched from lineup

PORT ST LUCIE — Dominic Smith was scratched from the lineup for the Mets’ first spring training game Friday for disciplinary reasons. 

The first baseman, who was late to arrive at the Mets complex, first told reporters he was not given a reason for being left out. However, he has since apologized and said he agrees with the punishment.

Earlier Mickey Callaway had simply called the decision “a lineup change,” and said the move wasn’t injury-related. The new Mets manager had preached accountability when he took over, and it appears as though he’s following through.

On Thursday, Callaway had announced Smith as the starter at first base with Adrian Gonzalez as the designated hitter. Instead, first base prospect Peter Alonso is starting at first on Friday when the Mets open Grapefruit League play against the Braves.

Tags:
dominic smith
adrian gonzalez
atlanta braves
mlb

Send a Letter to the Editor

Join the Conversation:
facebook
Tweet
Dominic Smith scratched from Mets lineup for spring training game

Dominic Smith scratched from Mets lineup for spring training game

PORT ST LUCIE — Dominic Smith was scratched from the lineup for the Mets’ first spring training game Friday, and the first baseman says he wasn’t given a reason why.

Smith added that he is not injured.

Mets manager Mickey Callaway called the decision “a lineup change,” echoing that the move wasn’t injury-related.

On Thursday, Callaway had announced Smith as the starter at first base with Adrian Gonzalez as the designated hitter. Instead, first base prospect Peter Alonso is starting at first on Friday when the Mets open Grapefruit League play against the Braves.

Send a Letter to the Editor

Join the Conversation:
facebook
Tweet
Rays, Marlins disorder unfair to fans, other small market teams

Rays, Marlins disorder unfair to fans, other small market teams

TAMPA — The three-team trade that brought infielder Brandon Drury to the Yankees and sent Tampa Bay Rays favorite Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona has served to further emphasize the tale of two teams in the same city — one loading up, the other stripping down — and the looming, much bigger problem in baseball called competitive balance.

There is joy aplenty over at Steinbrenner Field where hordes of early spring training fans swarm through the gates each morning to watch the big show in town — Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton taking batting practice. But tune in to WDAE 620 AM, the local sports talk radio station, and it’s a very different story for the actual hometown team here — nothing but outrage and disgust for the Rays, who are dumping payroll and trading away all their best players while at the same time holding out their hands for community support for a new stadium.

Yes, the Rays are now rivaling Derek Jeter’s Miami Marlins in South Florida when it comes to tanking. Over the past few weeks, the Rays have traded away their franchise player, Evan Longoria, last year’s most valuable Ray; Souza Jr.; their No. 3 starter Jake Odorizzi; their 27-homer leftfielder, Corey Dickerson; and allowed last year’s leading run producer (38 HR/85 RBI), Logan Morrison, and No. 2 starter Alex Cobb to leave as a free agents. That’s 115 homers, 311 RBI and 22 rotation wins gone, but more importantly to owner Stuart Sternberg it’s nearly $35 million in payroll off the books.

SUNDAY, AUG. 6, 2017 FILE PHOTO

Fan favorite Steven Souza Jr. is no longer with the Rays.

(Chris O’Meara/AP)

Like the Marlins and the Pittsburgh Pirates (who traded away their franchise player, Andrew McCutchen and No. 1 starter Gerrit Cole this winter), the Rays have essentially told their fans: There is no need to come out to the ballpark this season. We won’t be competing. But they have done it with an added wrinkle. A few days before the opening of spring training, Sternberg announced the Rays have settled on a site, in the historic Ybor City section of Tampa, for a new ballpark, and thus began his pitch to civic and business leaders for their support for the project.

Meanwhile, what no one is pointing out is that Sternberg will be getting upwards of $60 million in revenue sharing this year, in addition to $50 million in found money with the Rays’ share of MLB’s sale of BAMtech to Disney. That’s over $100 million for DOING NOTHING — and they can’t afford to keep Logan Morrison? The same with Jeter in Miami. Over $100 million in free money and he couldn’t afford to keep Christian Yelich?

No more than 7 images from any single MLB game, workout, activity or event may be used (including online and on apps) while that game, activity or event is in progress.

Giancarlo Stanton.

(Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s an absolute disgrace for baseball. For years, former commissioner Bud Selig insisted the only way to achieve competitive balance in baseball was for a payroll luxury tax as a spending prohibitive on the large market teams and revenue sharing as an incentive for the small market teams. And yet, because of teams like the Rays, Marlins and Pirates (the one team that has yet to sign a free agent this season), the payroll disparity is as huge this year as it’s ever been as these teams are taking their revenue sharing and BAM money and putting it in their pockets rather than spending it on players.

The Players Association pretty much screwed themselves in this latest labor agreement that barely raises the luxury payroll tax and puts increased draft pick/international signing money compensation for free agents, and the only way they’re going to be able to reverse this is to get some form of minimum payroll restrictions on the clubs in the next CBA. Good luck. But by then, Sternberg and the Rays conceivably will be on their way to Montreal, having turned this town off to baseball for good.

The Rays have even traded away their franchise player, Evan Longoria.

The Rays have even traded away their franchise player, Evan Longoria.

(Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports)

“Stuart Naimoli (a disparaging reference to the much-loathed original Rays owner Vince Naimoli) is asking us to pay major league prices to watch a minor league team. Outrageous!” was a typical call to WDAE this week. And even “Dickie V,” Dick Vitale, one of Sternberg’s best friends and a longtime season-ticket holder for Rays games, called on Sternberg to sell the team Wednesday. “I’ve spent over a half million on Rays tickets over the last 15 years,” Vitale said. “We’re getting rid of all our best players and replacing them with no-names. This just isn’t fair.”

The rest of the small market teams who ARE spending money — like the Rockies and Padres — don’t think it’s fair either. Not when Sternberg’s Rays and Jeter’s Marlins get an increase in revenue sharing — at their expense — because of low attendance.

My suggestion to the fans of Tampa this spring is to come over to Steinbrenner Field and watch the Yankees, especially the kids who aren’t going to make the team. The Yankees’ Triple-A team in Scranton, which likely will have Clint Frazier, Jake Cave and Billy McKinney in the outfield, Tyler Austin at first base, Tyler Wade at shortstop and Chance Adams, Luis Cessa, Albert Abreu and Justus Sheffield in the rotation, figures to be a better — and definitely more interesting — team than the one the Rays will trot out at Tropicana Field this year.

Send a Letter to the Editor

Join the Conversation:
facebook
Tweet
Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes made choice to give up golf: source

Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes made choice to give up golf: source

PORT ST. LUCIE — Yoenis Cespedes is sacrificing his love of golf for the hope that he can remain healthy this season. A front office source confirmed reports that Cespedes gave up the game after he suffered a hamstring injury last season and has told them that he doesn’t plan to play this season.

“This was all his decision,” the front office source said. “He came to us with the idea.”

Cespedes’ love of golf has always been a “bad optics” issue for the Mets and their slugger.

In 2015, when Cespedes left Game 4 of the NLCS with left shoulder soreness, fans began reporting that they had seen him at Medinah Country Club that morning. The Mets clinched that night and Cespedes went on to go 3-for-20 with no extra-base hits in their World Series loss to the Royals.

The most notable conflict over Cespedes and golf was in 2016, when Alderson called Cespedes’ obsession with the game “bad optics” during the 2016 Subway Series. That was the day pictures of Cespedes golfing with former big leaguer Kevin Millar surfaced on social media despite a nagging quad issue. Cespedes went on the disabled list the next day with the injury and the Mets quietly asked him not to golf while on the DL.

This time, the source said, Cespedes decided to give up the game on his own and focus on staying in the lineup. Cespedes, in the first year of a four-year, $110-million deal, missed 81 games with injuries to both hamstrings.

Cespedes bagged golf while battling his way back from the hamstring injuries. The Mets hope that staying off the courses during spring training and in season will allow him more time to rest and recover.

In reaction to his injuries — and those of most of the team in 2017 — the Mets reshaped the medical department. And Cespedes reworked his offseason workout program to focus on being more flexible and less bulky.

Cespedes said that he added more running to his offseason workout and while he continued to lift weights, he stayed away from lifting heavy weights. He has also taken up yoga in an attempt to keep himself more flexible and less susceptible to injuries.

“Yoga has been working for me. Last season, the last couple of seasons, when I showed up down here, my lower back and body was very tight,” Cespedes said Monday. “And I haven’t felt that yet. Yoga has been working for me.”

Cespedes, however, is not expected to play in Friday’s spring training opener. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said he would ease his big sluggers, Cespedes and Jay Bruce, back into the lineup over the weekend. Spring training games begin less than a week after position players reported to camp. It is a full week before they normally do because of baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, which adds more off days to the regular season and stretches it out.

After battling injuries over the last several seasons, Yoenis Cespedes is making several changes with the goal of staying healthy.

After battling injuries over the last several seasons, Yoenis Cespedes is making several changes with the goal of staying healthy.

(Frank Franklin II/AP)

But don’t go looking for Cespedes at Winged Foot or Baltusrol on those off days this summer. He’s making a big sacrifice.

Cespedes told the Daily News’ Christian Red in 2015 that he was considering a second career playing professional golf.

“Well, I’ve been playing golf for only a year and a half. Some people who have been playing golf for years and they learn that I’ve only played a year and a half, they can’t believe it and they say ‘Incredible.’ I’ve been thinking about it — if there is an opportunity to play professionally later, maybe not PGA, but I would like to play golf professionally,” Cespedes said.

But for now, Cespedes is solely focusing on his professional baseball career.

Send a Letter to the Editor

Join the Conversation:
facebook
Tweet
Aaron Boone to use Yanks’ spring games for evaluation, experience

Aaron Boone to use Yanks’ spring games for evaluation, experience

TAMPA — No one does an imitation of Joe Torre walking from the dugout to the pitcher’s mound quite like Aaron Boone.

Video of Boone hilariously doing the Torre walk when he was with ESPN’s Baseball Tonight has garnered nearly 40,000 views on YouTube — and probably even more laughs.

But don’t expect Boone to be imitating Torre’s walk when he manages his first Yankees spring training game on Friday.

“I’m just hoping I don’t trip and fall,” Boone said jokingly after his Thursday press conference.

Whether he can manage remains to be seen, but Boone certainly looks the part. His hat is often eschewed, his shades can sometimes be found on the back of his neck, and he always walks around with a bat or sunflower seeds in his hands — sometimes both.

The atmosphere in camp has seemed pretty light and relaxed, though Boone has obviously told his players to embrace championship-or-bust expectations and the pressure that comes with them.

Boone figures to learn a thing or two more than more-established managers over the next few weeks, but he’s not about to put a ton of importance personally on games that don’t count in the standings.

“We’re just trying to make different evaluations and probably allow or do some certain things that we might not in the regular season,” Boone said. “Kind of getting a feel for skillsets and what we think different guys are capable of doing. But as I’ve said before spring training is really about individual players and getting them ready for Opening Day, and tomorrow is the start of that.”

Marquee offseason acquisition Giancarlo Stanton is expected to make his spring Yankees debut, highlighting the day. Last season, Aaron Judge hit a mammoth homer in the first game of the spring. No one knew it at the time, but it was a sign of things to come.

“There will be a little excitement with the crowd and pinstripes and playing a game and playing another team,” Boone said. “The juices start to get flowing for that.”

Still, Boone says there are things he can pick up, whether that’s early evaluations of opposing players or situations that come up in the course of a game.

“I don’t think there’s anything especially in these early games where you’re going to pick up anything strategically, but it gives you a chance to see opposing players and start to formulate an opinion and a thought, hopefully things that go into allowing us to win ballgames,” he said.

The pregame workouts are in the books.

“I kind of keep telling people there’s nothing that has blindsided me or has been overwhelming or anything like that,” Boone said. “There are a lot of things that come across the desk each and every day. There are a lot of things you kind of have your tentacles on or are trying to touch each and every day with your coaches and your players. But nothing that’s been overwhelming so far, (though) I understand that day is coming too.”

OF NOTE

Aaron Judge continues to be brought along slowly following offseason surgery.

Aaron Judge continues to be brought along slowly following offseason surgery.

(Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Aaron Judge (shoulder) just tracked pitches, rather than taking full batting practice. “He’s doing well, and I think right on schedule to go in a game next week,” Boone said, noting this was built into the schedule. … Boone said Gary Sanchez getting Friday off had nothing to do with last year’s bench-clearing incident against the Tigers, noting the team has a specific plan to keep its franchise catcher fresh. … CC Sabathia threw a live batting practice session. He doesn’t have a date yet for his first spring start, but plans to do bullpens and perhaps sim games in order to stay fresh. Sabathia thought he had a better feel for his changeup. The goal is to keep him healthy. Sabathia tweaked his ankle during a fielding drill early in camp, but it wasn’t anything significant.

Send a Letter to the Editor

Join the Conversation:
facebook
Tweet