Mets owner Fred Wilpon has lengthy meeting with Terry Collins after lopsided spring training loss

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After six straight losing seasons, the Mets have high hopes for 2015, as many see them as a realistic possibility to contend for a playoff spot. One of those believers is Mets owner Fred Wilpon, who is putting the pressure on manager Terry Collins in early March.

The Mets were knocked around by the Marlins 13-2 today, after which Wilpon held a 20-minute with Collins to discuss the state of the team. Here’s how Collins described the meeting to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York:

“He just wanted to talk about the club, which he loves to do,” Collins said. “He loves to talk baseball. But he’s not mad at all.”

Collins said the two discussed areas of concern with the team, including the high number of walks (now 36 in 61 innings) as well as unimpressive lefty relief.

“He likes to come in and just run through the roster — talk about, ‘Hey, what are you looking at right now?’” Collins said. “He’s got great passion. He wants to win so bad. … I said, ‘Listen, you’re going to like what’s going to come out of here.’

“He expects it to be a much better team. There’s no doubt about that,” Collins said. “He told me two weeks ago, ‘Look, I’m going to be here a lot — a lot,’ where, in the past, he’d come in and he’d be gone for a week or 10 days.”

Wilpon is never going to win any PR battles in New York with the way the team has slashed the payroll dating back to the fallout from the Bernie Madoff scandal — they are still in the bottom-third in MLB in payroll — but even putting that aside, it’s a little crazy to hear about a manager essentially being put on notice in the early part of spring training. It’s one thing for a fan to potentially overreact to small samples in early March, but an antsy owner is another matter altogether. In case it wasn’t obvious already, Collins could be shown the door if the Mets get off to a slow start this season.

Collins hasn’t had the best talent to work with during his time in New York and owns a 304-344 (.469) record over four seasons as manager. He’s entering the final year of his contract.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.