Tagged: 2015 MLB Postseason

Do I Have To Say Goodbye to 2015?

by: Paul DiSclafani

Aaron Doster / AP

Aaron Doster / AP

As a Mets fan, I don’t want to let go of 2015 just yet.

I know, I know, the end result of the World Series was a huge disappointment and we have a great pitching staff and we will get better and blah, blah, blah…

But do any of us really know what is going to happen in 2016? Can anyone guarantee another magical run for the Mets next season?  Is this team going to get out of the box strong again, only to be brought down to earth half-way through the season, then be lifted to the same heights that we found ourselves in August?

I believe in this team. I believe in this pitching staff.  I believe in Sandy Alderson’s vision (although I STILL want a big bat).

I just don’t have a crystal ball. I remember the crash of 1987 that ruined our chance at becoming a dynasty.  I can’t even remember what happened in 1974 or 2001.  I only remember that I don’t believe I took the time to really appreciate what happened during those magical seasons when we DID get to the World Series.

I think I may have taken those seasons for granted and just assumed we would get back there again next year. Isn’t that what Yankee fans do each year?  I’m not going to do that this year.  I want to hold onto those 2015 memories as long as I can and I don’t want the calendar to force me to forget what an incredible ride 2015 was.

It may be time to turn the page on 2015, but I’m going to go kicking and screaming!

For me, the best part of 1986 were the two years leading up to that Championship season, when the Mets were chasing the Cardinals and baseball games in August and September were meaningful.  We had to fight for every game and we were building a reputation as a scrappy bunch.  By the time 1986 came, the Mets were sleep walking through August and September.  I think the NY papers began posting their Magic Number in June.

When we finally got to the post season, we didn’t dominate at all. We had to win two extra inning games against the Astros and one in the bottom of the ninth.  And do I really have to remind you how lucky we were in the World Series?

Please understand, I am not complaining at all. Those were the most exciting, gut wrenching postseason games I have ever been involved in and I am proud that we finally prevailed.  I enjoyed the result, but can’t say I have good memories of the actual season of dominance.  It almost became ho-hum.

Not 2015.

I loved this season, and if you didn’t have a chance to watch the FS1 “Tears Of Joy”, you have really missed out (re-airing on Wednesday, January 6th at 9am on FS1).

We really didn’t know what to expect when the season began. We knew that Matt Harvey looked just great in Florida and we got glimpses of that tall kid with the funny last name, Syndergaard.  We had another good pitcher in the Rookie of The Year, Jacob deGrom, but we also knew how strong the Nationals were going to be and that everyone else in our Division was just playing for second.

I want to remember that feeling of going into Washington on Opening Day with Bartolo Colon on the mound and then taking two out of three to open the season.

There was “Matt Harvey Opening Day” against the Phillies after the actual home opener that David Wright pulled his hamstring in – an injury that would uncover a much deeper back problem and cost him most of the season.

How great was the 11-game win streak? What about comedian Jim Breuer’s daily Mets wrap up video’s?  If there is anyone out there that could capture the true feelings of a Mets fans – the ups and downs – it was Jim Breuer.

As the season chugged along to the All-Star break, we Mets fans were just waiting for the inevitable collapse, but it never came. There were plenty of chances to the Nationals to break away, but by the time we got to late June, I think we all realized that they just weren’t as good as everyone thought they would be.

We also realized something else – both Wild-Cards were most likely coming out of the NL Central, so if you wanted to make the postseason, you were going to have to win your division. So as long as the Mets hung close, they had a chance.

When July hit, the Mets seemed to lose their offense and had hit bottom when the Dodgers came to town and Clayton Kershaw almost pitched a perfect game against a lineup that featured John Mayberry Jr. hitting cleanup.

That began the 10 days that changed the course of the NL East (click on the link if you want to read the entire series I wrote back then).

Do you remember that feeling when things started to change? We promoted Michael Conforto and then got Uribe and Johnson, two professional hitters.  Then there was the Wilmer Flores debacle.  But for me, it was the three-game series against Washington that started with the early Christmas Present of Yoenis Cespedes on Friday afternoon.

Flores hitting that home run to win the Friday game, the Nats intentionally walking Cespedes to get to Duda on Saturday Night in a 2-2 games and he comes through with a double for a 3-2 win and Syndergaard blowing the Nats away as the Mets hit consecutive home runs off Jordan Zimmerman on Sunday night to move into a First Place tie.  Syndergaard ended his night throwing a 99 MPH heater past a helpless, flailing Bryce Harper, who walked back to the dugout shaking his head.

The Mets went on to win 21 games in August and never looked back.

There was another sweep in Washington, including a game that the Nats knocked out Matt Harvey and had a 7-1 lead and Kirk Nieuwenhuis PH a home run to complete the comeback. Another incredible ninth inning comeback, this time against the Braves on a Sunday afternoon, that ended with a Daniel Murphy home run.

In the postseason, we went into Los Angeles to face Kershaw and we stole a game, and then finished them off.   How great was Game 3 at Citi Field?  Remember the performance from deGrom when he had nothing, but kept getting in and out of trouble?

When the Cubs followed in the NLCS, Games 1 and 2 were so cold it was more like football weather, but we took care of their Ace and never looked back.  Oh the fun we had with Daniel Murphy hitting bombs at key moments!

Regardless of what happened in the World Series, Game 3 was worth every penny.  To have been there, being a part of what was going on inside Citi Field and being able to share that with my kids, as they say in the commercials, priceless (although it was pretty pricey!).

Yes, 2015, you were pretty good to us Mets fans. Nobody knows what is going to happen in 2016, it could be another year filled with happy memories that might end up in a World Championship.

I’m not going to let the disappointment of not winning the World Series ruin all of 2015 for me. We Mets fans have had a lot of disappointment in the last few years and in 2015, we were playing with house money.  And if you have ever gambled, there is nothing better than playing with house money.

I’m looking forward to 2016, as should all Mets fans. But I’m not ready to put 2015 in a box somewhere in my attic just because the calendar says it’s time to go.  I want to keep feeling that joy.  I want to remember what it was like to wake up with a smile on my face almost every day in the months of August, September and October.  When we got Cespedes, when we took over first place, the look on the Nationals faces when we swept them in Washington, the clincher in Cincinnati, 17 home runs from Cespedes, Game six in LA, the sweep in Chicago, Daniel Murphy’s home run tear.  It was a wonderful ride.

Happy New Year, everyone and Lets Go Mets!

You can also read other baseball / Mets articles by me on “Around The Horn Talk” using This Link:  Paul DiSclafani Articles

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Hall of Fame, Hall of The Very Good or Hall of Cheaters?

1936 hall of fame

The first Hall of Fame inductees in 1936 including Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb

 

By Mike Moosbrugger

I originally wrote this article in January of 2015 shortly after the Hall of Fame voting and the announcement of the players to be inducted. I am reposting this article to bring to your attention a very big change in who will be permitted to vote from now on to enshrine players in Cooperstown. Look at the four changes that I call for in how the voting is done. The second one listed has in fact been changed for the 2016 voting! There will be 100 less “writers” allowed to cast a ballot this year. The Hall of Fame has decided that if you have not actively covered baseball for the last 10 years then you lose your right to vote. It is no longer a lifetime privilege. Good job by the Hall of Fame Committee because that one issue really needed to change. The 2016 Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on January 6th 2016. Ken Griffey Jr. is a lock to get elected. Trevor Hoffman may have to wait another year or two.  

It was a lot easier in 1936 when the BBWAA ( Baseball Writers Association of America ) first got together to vote in the first class of hall of famers. Those first 5 inductees were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner and Walter Johnson. The term “no brainers” comes to mind so you would think that the first class of inductees and the voting that elevated these fine players to HOF status would be without controversy. I looked at the voting for that first class and managed to have a raised eyebrow at what I saw. Cy Young failed to get in by only garnering 49% of the vote? Young had 511 wins pitching over a 21 year career, a record that will never ever be broken. What does a guy have to do to get a little respect? Cy Young was later inducted of course and the award given out each year for the best pitcher in each the National and the American League was named after good old Cy after the 1955 season. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson received two votes on that first year ballot even though he had already been banned for life from the game with no eligibility for reinstatement or election to the Hall of Fame. This was as a result of Jackson’s alleged involvement in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. The scandal implicated 8 players on the Chicago White Sox that were believed to have been losing intentionally and being paid off by gamblers to do so. Joe Jackson was a .356 career hitter during the “dead ball” era and hit .375 with 1 homerun and 6 RBI’s in the 1919 World Series. There have been issues and controversies nearly every year since the voting the Hall of Fame started over 70 years ago.

The 2015 class of Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio is a good one for the most part except for Smoltz. John Smoltz is a first ballot hall of famer? I don’t even think he is a hall of fame worthy player at all but to put him in on the first ballot? He had one very, very good season when he won the Cy Young Award in 1996 going 24-8 with the Atlanta Braves. Other than that Smoltz had a very good career not a hall of fame career. When they change the name of the building to the Hall of The Very Good then Smoltz should be a first ballot inductee. Mike Piazza is one of the top hitting catchers of all time and it looks like he won’t get in until his fourth year of eligibility next year. I will get back to the Piazza issue in a moment. Biggio has been labeled a “compiler” by his detractors but I have an answer for that as well. Let’s not diminish a player’s career that included durability, versatility, longevity and productivity over 20+ years because he did not hit 30 homers a year. What Biggio did is very hard to do make no mistake about it. Only 27 other men that ever played the game have reached 3000 hits. I for one will not diminish any of those players careers.  What Biggio did is hard to do, it is unique and it is Cooperstown worthy, case closed.

The biggest problem facing the voters the BBWAA is how to handle the steroid era and the players that put up video game type stats during it. It is a conundrum of major proportions but I know what I would do if I had a vote. Players that have steroids attached to their names should be separated into 2 categories.

Category 1 – The users and abusers

These are the guys that have either failed a drug test, admitted using or have such overwhelming evidence against them that it can’t be ignored. The most notable ones are Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens. Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez will be eligible in the future and are in the category as well. These players changed the game and its statistical records so much that they have altered the game in a way that can only be fixed by vacating the stats which will never happen. They made the millions and took the health risks and now have to live with the results. No Hall of Fame for these players, ever.

 

Category 2 – The locker room whispers

The players that come to mind are Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Gary Sheffield and Jeff Kent. These are the guys that players, fans and writers whispered in corners of the room about but no hard evidence ever came forward. There is a 5 year waiting period after a player retires before he is eligible for Hall of Fame. If the evidence did not present itself during a players long career plus the 5 years after then I have to measure the player based on his performance on the field and steroids does not enter into my thought process.

 

In addition to deciding what players should or should not be on the ballot there are big problems with the the Hall of Fame voting process. It is riddled with issues that need to change. Here are the main ones that I would like to see changes in:

  1. Members of the BBWAA select players that are eligible to be on the ballot from a list of all players that have been retired for 5 years. This is done via a “special screening committee”.

I can’t explain how these writers could put Aaron Boone, Tom Gordon, Brian Giles, Tony Clark or Darin Erstad on the ballot with a straight face but they did. No disrespect intended as these players had nice baseball careers but in no way shape or form should they even be considered Hall of Famers. This process needs to be a little more transparent to the public so the fans know how these players are being justified to appear on the ballot.

  1. Members of the BBWAA that have been a member for 10 years and covering baseball then have a ballot that they can cast. They are permitted to vote for up to 10 players each year.

Some of these members have not been covering baseball for a very long time but once you become a voter it is basically a lifetime job. This makes little to no sense to me. If a writer is no longer actively writing about baseball I think his credentials should be reviewed each year to ensure that the guy voting is qualified to do so. Voting for the Hall of Fame is a privilege not a right. The 2015 voting results revealed that Troy Percival, Tom Gordon, Aaron Boone and Darin Erstad all had support. Each received 2 votes except for Erstad who only received 1. I don’t know if it was 7 different writers that cast these ballots but whoever it was he should no longer have the ability to vote in my mind.

  1. The board of directors at the Hall of Fame decide how players are elected. Currently and since 1936 they have relied on the BBWAA to vote on players.

It is not 1936 anymore so I think with all the media outlets in our lives today it makes more sense to open up the voting to others. Broadcasters and website writers come to mind. Although there has been some progress on allowing certain website writers gain eligibility to vote I do think more is needed. My real issue here is the broadcasters. Vin Scully has been broadcasting the Dodger games since the 1950’s. The man has met Babe Ruth for crying out loud. He has probably watched more games live and in person then any member of the BBWAA. Scully is a good example of a guy that I feel should have a vote. Others that come to mind here in New York where I live would be Michael Kaye or Howie Rose. Kaye is a Yankees broadcaster and Rose is a Mets broadcaster. I would trust that these gentlemen would take the vote serious and do the due diligence before casting a ballot. It is time for new voices to enter into the process.

  1. Players stay on the ballot for 15 years and must get at least 5% of the votes each year to remain on the ballot during the 15 years. After that time has passed the only way a player can get in is via the “veterans committee”.

This committee is all living Hall of Fame players and they vote every two years on players that are no longer on the ballot. This is how players such as Bill Mazeroski and Phil Rizzuto got inducted. They both had decent careers but in neither case are they Hall of Fame worthy. Rizzuto should be in as a broadcaster but not as a player. I think it is a dangerous thing when players start to vote on other players. The players and the voters get older and start to get more and more nostalgic about a player’s career which can start to cloud good judgment. I would eliminate this committee. 10 years should be the max amount of time that a player should be on the ballot.

These are just a few of the changes that I would make. The board of directors of the Hall of Fame have to decide what kind of hall of fame they want as well as who should be voting on the inductees. I have visited the baseball Hall of Fame numerous times over the years and it is a great place to recall some of the great players and moments in the history of the game. It is just time to review the entire process to ensure that only the best and most deserving players are being honored.

 

I Almost Married The 2015 New York Mets

By James DiSclafani

mets wedding cake topperI know, I’m a little late to the party, but nearly two weeks removed from the 2015 World Series I can finally bring myself to talk about it.  I needed the time to let myself recover (both physically and emotionally) from the toll the postseason took on me and so that I could try to look back at the 2015 season with a clear head, not entirely besmirched by the painful memories provided by the Kansas City Royals.

I think every year it is possible to have a different relationship with your sports teams.  Each courtship is unique in its own way with different characters and moments that help define that relationship.  As sports fans, we invest so much time, energy, and real emotion into our teams that calling it a relationship is really the only way to accurately capture your emotions. Joy, sadness, anger, love, grief, you name it, they’re all there.  By the end of it, we know each other’s quirks and flaws and each team is special somehow and every year, win, lose or draw, we break up only to start the cycle over next season.  I almost married the 2015 New York Mets, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to get over them.

First, let’s congratulate those same Royals who caused us all so much pain.  They were the better team, plain and simple.  Every time the Mets made a mistake they took advantage of it, and any mistakes that they made, the Mets failed to fully capitalize and consistently left the door open.  As much as it comes down to the Mets not executing in key situations, and though I truly hate them for it, credit the Royals for being able to rise to the occasion where we failed.

What truly hurt the most about losing the World Series was not just HOW the Mets lost (in CLASSIC and heartbreaking Mets fashion), but the fact that this very specific team had a chance to be truly special. Not because they had an overly talented roster.  Other than obviously otherworldly starting pitching the Mets were fairly average-to-below-average in talent.  Just like the 1969 Amazin’ Mets were special, this team had that chance.*

By and large the national sentiment was that this team was not supposed to compete in 2015. Sure, some had the Mets as a second wild card team and everyone knew about Harvey and deGrom, but they wouldn’t get past the Nationals just yet.

And then the season started.

Mets fans knew in the beginning of April that this season had a chance to be more than we had hoped for. After a 2-3 start, the Mets ripped off 11 straight wins (though according to anyone on the Internet wins in April don’t count for anything) getting to 13-3 and I officially had a crush on 2015 New York Mets.**

There was something a little different about this team, something more.  Citi Field had an electricity to it that had never been felt before, right from Matt Harvey’s first start back in front of the home crowd.  A packed house, everyone on their feet with a raucous “HAR-VEY, HAR-VEY” chant on a Tuesday night in April. He went on to strike out five of the first seven, the crowd on its feet for all of the first three innings.  Mets fans didn’t care if they weren’t supposed to compete in 2015, and more importantly, neither did the Mets.  Make no mistake, it doesn’t matter that it was early in the season and against one of the worst teams in the baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies, that night in early April was a statement – the Mets are here.

Unfortunately, sort of lost in the emotion of that night was the injury suffered by our Captain, David Wright, a hamstring injury that would turn out to be something so much more.  A few more injuries (Cuddyer, TDA, Murphy), combined with a shaky bullpen (minus the emergence of Jeurys Familia), and largely uninspired play had the Mets sitting at a dead even .500 in the beginning of July.   Terry Collins’ job seemed on the line (admittedly I was more than ready to move on from Terry, regardless of the lineup he was forced to trot out there every day and the names in the bullpen) and you had to question whether the Mets might be sellers come the impending trade deadline.

Partially because the Nationals were nowhere near as good as advertised and entirely because the Mets young pitching had allowed them to hang around and inspired hope in the front office, they had one final push to make.  A nine-game road trip out to the west coast just before the All Star Break could make or break their season.  Not only did they survive, but the Mets took seven out of nine setting the stage for a flurry of moves that would change their season.

By this point, my relationship with these Mets had advanced well past the “crush” stage.  We flirted through the majority of May and June and come July, the Mets were officially to be considered a Summer Fling.  They were fun, they had STUD young pitching as Harvey continued to return to form and deGrom dominated seemingly every time he went to the mound. We had the emergence of Noah Sydergaard with his 100 MPH fastball, unhittable curveball, and the awesome persona of the Norse God, Thor.  Bartolo Colon was arguably every Met fan’s favorite player, and rightfully so.  Steven Matz (along with Grandpa Matz) was electric, and to top it all off, this team was actually smack dab in the thick of things.  Meaningful baseball that I had not seen for longer than I care to recall.

Mid-July brought the All Star Game, where the rest of the world found out something Mets fans already knew.  Matt Harvey was the big name in NY, but Jacob deGrom was a force to be reckoned with and the Ace of the best pitching staff in baseball. 10 pitches, 3 outs, 3-K’s, and the baseball world was put on notice.  From here on out it was clear, the Mets could win this division outright – but they needed to get some actual, Major League help.

Enter the wizard, Sandy Alderson.  For as much grief as Alderson has gotten as the Mets GM (some parts more deserved than others), he has consistently been the master of the trade. Before the trade deadline in 2015, Alderson made major league talent appear out of seemingly thin air.  The Mets gave up nothing for major league bats from the Braves in Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (more on Uribe in a bit) and of course, minutes before the deadline, he absolutely fleeced the Tigers out of Yoenis Cespedes.  Those two moves, along with some bullpen additions in Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed (we won’t mention Eric O’Flaherty here) and we had our big guns.  We had a shot at the crown and if the Mets were going down, at least they were going down swinging.***

Any truly great championship run has to have several key factors.  If you want to be a championship team, there are certain “moments” that are a part of your identity and help to mold the narrative and story of your season.  These are the moments that are almost exclusive to sports. They give you chills when you think about them, where heroes are born and legends formed.  They’re the things you can’t imagine truly happening, until they do.

The 2015 Mets had these moments in spades.  It was one of the things that made us fall in love with them and their players.  The Wilmer Flores walk off home run to beat the Nationals in extra innings, just the DAY after he was supposedly traded and openly wept on the field. David Wright’s home run on his first at bat back, in a season where no one was sure if he would ever be able to play baseball again.  The improbable come from behind wins against the Nationals in August and September that all but clinched the division and left the Nats dead and buried.  Hell, even Kirk Nieuwenheis hit 3 home runs in a game at one point.  The point being, this team wasn’t just your run of the mill squad, this team was magic.  Everything they did from the trade deadline on was sprinkled with a little bit of pixie dust and to be a part of it as a fan was something unforgettable.

The other thing you need in order to win a championship, is a locker room that is willing to fight and die for the guy next to you, and a few championship character players that provide the glue.  For the 2015 New York Mets you didn’t have to look any further than two guys that transformed the Mets clubhouse into a championship caliber locker room: Juan Uribe and Yoenis Cespedes.  Uribe, while of course not entirely the offensive impact of Cespedes, was as important to this team as anyone else on the roster.  Forget how well he held down third base while we waited for David Wright to get back, his character in the locker room, his demeanor (widely regarded as the funniest guy on the team), his “hog shows” (google it) kept the Mets loose and focused on the ultimate goal through the dog days of August and September.  Certain players are born with the “clutch” gene, that “IT” factor that fails to show up on any stat sheet.  Juan Uribe had more of “it” than anyone on the Mets roster the moment he stepped through the door and in order to win a title in any sport you need players with the ability to deliver in the biggest moments on the biggest stage.  I will forever believe that Juan Uribe not being healthy enough to be a consistent contributor played an ENORMOUS factor into the Mets not winning the 2015 World Series.

As for Cespedes, he brought a different type of swagger to the Mets.  He wasn’t just insanely good, he was really cool.  A five tool stud who would rip cigs in-between innings, throw you out from the warning track in CF, and then pimp a moonshot off your best pitcher.  Through the middle of September, I would have paid literally any amount of money to keep Cespedes here after the season.****

Directly after the trade deadline, my relationship with the Mets officially got serious.  We had the horses, we had the offense, and eventually, we had the lead over the Nationals.  During the season, I had a ticket plan which made me eligible to purchase postseason tickets for every home game the Mets could play.  In mid September when those tickets became available to purchase, I got engaged to the 2015 New York Mets and was now all in.  This team could do it, with this pitching throwing the way they could, in a 7-game series – the Mets, MY Mets, could win the World Series.

Somehow, we made it through the NLDS against the Dodgers. More pixie dust from none other than Daniel Murphy leading the charge.  We had beaten two of the best pitchers in baseball and in all honesty, I didn’t think I would make it.  I was fairly certain that Game 5 against the Dodgers would physically kill me because my heart just couldn’t take this much pressure for the rest of the postseason.  But these Mets overcame, again, just like they had all season, because they were different, they were magic.

Then came the Cubs in the NLCS.  In reality, the Cubs had no idea what they were about to run into. They were too young and probably too good, too fast to deal with this pitching that had grown up so quickly before our eyes.  I was there as we all screamed “ARRR-IEEEE-ETTT-AAA” and the Mets (more specifically Daniel Murphy) blew the roof off of Citi Field. Again, HOW could anyone possibly beat this pitching rotation in a 7-game series?  Who cares that the offense was entirely reliant on the home run and was generated from essentially 2-3 guys for the whole series?  You had to go through Harvey TWICE, deGrom TWICE, and Thor TWICE.  Not possible, bring on the Royals.

This was probably the delusional phase of a relationship, when it literally doesn’t matter what the other persons flaws are you just ignore them because the sex and everything else is still new and great.

The first two games of the World Series are what I imagine the few weeks leading up to getting married to be like.  Nerve wracking, doubt creeps in, but at the end of the day you press on because you have faith.  Down 2-0 off one brutal loss in Game 1, I was shaken.  But this Mets team was different, it was resilient and to be honest, I was head over heels in love with the 2015 Mets and there was no turning back now.  As soon as they won the NLCS, I threw my pessimistic, stereotypical “The sky is falling” Mets fan attitude in the trash. That didn’t exist anymore, because it didn’t have to.  This team would fight for me, this team would not let us down.

Then the moment that should have changed the entire World Series happened.  “Meet me at 60 feet 6 inches”.

The atmosphere on Friday night for game 3 was unlike anything I’m likely to experience ever again.  The best way to describe it was apprehensive electricity, the entire crowd was ready to explode – but we needed something to light the fuse.  Noah Syndergaard did that with his first pitch message to Alcides Escobar, a 100 MPH, high and tight and a blatant message as the crowd erupted “We’re not done yet.”

Regardless of the score or how the Mets ended up winning the game, that game was over as soon as Escobar hit the dirt.  Now it was simple, the sweep would be great, but just get us back to Kansas City.  You couldn’t beat Harvey twice, deGrom twice, and Syndegard twice – get us back to KC and let’s win this thing.

The rest is history.  The Mets gave away Game 4 in the most typical Mets fashion possible and despite a near Herculean effort from Matt Harvey in Game 5, the Royals did what they were able to do all series long. Death by contact.

The pixie dust ran out, Murphy turned back into a pumpkin, Cespedes didn’t perform and at the end of the day the Mets were the Mets. That right there is specifically what makes losing this World Series so incredibly heartbreaking.  These weren’t supposed to be the same Mets.  The 2015 Mets were special, unlike almost any other Mets team I have ever rooted for.  This team that was so easy to fall in love with for so many reasons.  It was supposed to end with the fairy tale that is David Wright holding a World Series trophy over his head, cigar in his mouth, tears in his eyes, and somehow that didn’t happen.

The worst part about it is, I shouldn’t be this heartbroken.  The Mets are in a better place than they’ve ever been going into 2016.  They have the best pitching staff in baseball and it’s not even close. They’re only going to get better with the eventual addition of Zach Wheeler.  With a good offseason from the front office, there’s a legitimate chance this team turns into a 100-win juggernaut in the next two years, but it doesn’t matter.  If the New York Mets win the World Series next year, will I be upset about it? Of course not!  I’ll be there, and I’ll cheer and it will be one of the best moments of my life, but there will always be that little thought in the back of my mind.  What if the 2015 Mets had managed to pull it off?  The underdog team that was still a year away, with all the Made-For-DVD moments and memorable faces, how incredibly special would that have been?

I left Game 5 of the World Series in the top of the 12th.  It’s not because I’m a bad fan or any of that nonsense.  It’s because I couldn’t watch the Kansas City Royals celebrate on my field while all Mets fans drowned in misery.  I’ll never forget what it felt like walking away from Citi Field that night. I heard the Royals fans cheer inside our building when it was finally over, and I was angry, upset, and even envious.  That was our fairy tale and I just wasn’t ready to break up yet.

I’ll fall back in love with the 2016 New York Mets, just like all fans do every year, and who knows how that story ends. I just know that I had never experienced anything quite like 2015 New York Mets, and I may not again.

I almost got married to the 2015 New York Mets, but they left me standing at the altar, wondering what could have been.

 

* – I may not have been around for 1969, but trust me I’ve seen the VHS of that season enough times to know

** – The later the season went the more excuses Mets Haters would come up with, “Wins in April Don’t Count,” “Talk to me after the All Star Break,” “The Division Title doesn’t mean anything if you don’t get out of the first round.” I swear to god it never ends, nothing is good enough for you people.

*** – Fine, we know Clippard didn’t work out in the long run, but at least we didn’t have to keep pitching Bobby Freakin Parnell

**** – They should probably still bring him back, but I just wouldn’t write him that blank check anymore

Mets Sunday Brunch for 11/08/15

By: Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2Are you over the disappointment of the World Series yet? Maybe being “over” it is not the correct term.  Maybe more like, “Are you ready to move on?”.

I went through all five phases of grief already and finally arrived at “Acceptance”, so I’m OK with it. It really was a wonderful season, a surprising season.

I think we finally got to “next year” with our pitching staff. Watching the development of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom was just beautiful.  We saw them develop from raw talent to learn to rely on their secondary pitches.

And the return of Matt Harvey was a sight to behold. I know there were times this year that we just shook our heads at the decisions he made, but he is a marvelous pitcher and a true star in this game.  And for the next few years, he is still our star.

There were many bright spots to the season, but here are the few that made this one memorable for me (and hopefully you) in no particular order:

Getting Yoenis Cespedes with 10 minutes to go at the trading deadline.

I know he may turn out to be a rental player, but what a rental! He transformed our moribund lineup instantly.  We knew about his power, but found out he was a good defensive player also (the World Series notwithstanding).  What a gun he has!  He hit 17 home runs for us in less than half a season.  Boy, I hope they make him a decent offer.  I still believe his injury was more than it was made out to be.  You just don’t go from being the player he was in August and September to what we saw in the postseason just like that.  No matter what happens, Thanks Yo.

The sweep of the Nationals at Citi Field

Has there been a more important 3-game series at Citi Field that the late July one against the Nationals? Trailing them by three games, we beat them on Friday on a home run by Wilmer Flores in the bottom of the 12th inning in his first game back after the trade-no trade debacle.  Then on Saturday, Cespedes makes his Mets debut and his presence in the lineup known immediately.  The Nationals intentionally walked the already 0-3 Cespedes in the 8th inning to pitch to Lucas Duda, who drove a double off the wall for the winning run.  Then on Sunday night, the Mets hit three home runs on five pitches against Jordan Zimmerman to complete the sweep and never looked back.  Syndergaard went eight innings for the win and said this after the game.  “It’s so much fun to be a Met right now,” Syndergaard said. “Just an unbelievable night, and I’m looking forward to the days to come.”  How right he would be.

The 7-1 Comeback Against The Nationals

Washington had knocked Matt Harvey out of the box and made Cespedes pay for an error that allowed three runs to score. The Mets had come back the night before to increase their NL East lead to five games, but Washington was on the verge of cutting into the lead with this game in the bag.  But in the seventh inning, the Mets inexplicably score six run to tie the game as the Nationals issued six walks and a wild pitch.  You could feel the air coming out of the building and see the looks on the players faces as the Mets had done the impossible.  Then Kirk Nieuwenhius hit a pinch hit home run in the eighth inning to break the tie and the backs of the Nationals and they were never heard from again.  Oh yeah, the Mets completed the sweep the next day.

The 13-3 start

Remember when Terry Collins said it was necessary for the Mets to get off to a good start? They went into Washington and won on Opening Day, taking two out of three to start the season, but then went to Atlanta and lost the first two before going on an 11-game win streak.  Everyone knew that they couldn’t keep up that pace, but wins in April count the same as wins in September and we needed all of them.

Jacob deGrom At The All-Star Game

The reigning Rookie of The Year finally got into the All-Star game in the sixth inning in Cincinnati. As the Mets lone representative, he wanted to just “let it fly”.  And boy, did he ever!  He threw just 10 pitches, becoming the first player in All-Star history to strike out the side on 10 or less pitches.  Granted the three American Leaguer’s he struck out might not be ticketed to the Hall of Fame, but Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis (.303, 52 RBI), Oakland’s Stephen Vogt (18 HR, 71 RBI) and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias (.300, 125 hits) were quite impressed.  “It was good morning, good afternoon, ball outside, goodnight,” Kipnis said of his at-bat, the only one to last more than three pitches. “He’s a power pitcher, a strong pitcher and a [darn] good one, and I got to see it tonight.”

Clinching The Division

I honestly had tears in my eyes as the Mets celebrated on the field that night in Cleveland. All the suffering of the last nine years, all the pain of collapsing in the final couple of days in the season, all were forgiven.  Everything got washed away with that clincher.  We were going to the playoffs!

The First Home Playoff Game

When Citi Field first opened, most fans spent time walking around the place or on the line at the Shake Shack. We didn’t have a lot of baseball to cheer about, either.  But as the season drew to a close, more and more fans seemed to actually be into the game itself.  Citi Field set records for single game attendance for the Washington Series and now this.  The fans were ready to go and so was the team.  The Mets had split the two games of the NLDS in Los Angeles and with Matt Harvey on the mound were loaded for bear.  We had just lost Reuben Tejada to a nasty, dirty play by Chase Utley and during the introductions, Tejada came out to the top of the dugout steps to wave to the crowd!  44,276 were witness to the first playoff game in the new stadium and the Mets set a team record, scoring 13 runs.  I don’t think I will ever forget how loud the crowd was in the first inning.

Game 3 of The World Series

Just to see the Mets in the World Series was something. But after giving the Royals Game 1 on a silver platter and looking overmatched in Game 2, we needed something.  Noah Syndergaard drew a line in the sand by throwing the first pitch, a 98 mph heater, over the head of Alcides Escobar, then striking him out.  Then David Wright launched a home run in his first World Series at bat at home.  I don’t think I have ever felt Citi Field shake like that before.

Daniel Murphy’s Postseason Home Run Streak

Could that streak come from any more unlikely a player? Not that Murphy isn’t capable of doing it, just that, well, he’s not capable of doing that.  Granted he had a career high 14 home runs in the regular season, but home runs in six straight postseason games?  Not Babe Ruth, or Mickey Mantle?  No one ever did that?  When he hit the last one in Chicago, I just shook my head.  He will forever be remembered in Chicago as Daniel “F-ing” Murphy.

The Big League debut of Steven Matz

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in late June and life-long Mets fan Steven Matz was about to make his Major League debut. The kid from Stony Brook Long Island got onto the mound at Citi Field in front of his family and friends and threw his first 96 mph heater over everyone’s head and into the bricks behind home plate.  Although he was the winning pitcher in his debut with 7.2 innings of two-run ball, he drove in four runs with three hits, including a two-run double.  The rest of the league had to be shaking their head at what the Mets were now putting together, adding Matz to the other three studs Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard.

I guess when we look back, this really was a wonderful baseball season for the Mets.  So we didn’t get the brass ring this time, I’m just as disappointed as you are.  But for the first time in a long time, the phrase “Wait Till Next Year” really means something.  I know I can’t wait for Next Year, can you?

Thanks for reading my stuff all year!  Still lots of stuff to talk about this offseason, so stay with me!

Still need to get over your grief?  Let me help you get through it with this article:  Ya Gotta Bereave!

Ya Gotta Bereave – The Five Stages Of Grief For a Mets Fan

By: Paul DiSclafani

mr met crying

It’s been three days since the Mets lost the World Series and I’m still not over it. Are you?

I’m not complaining. I’m not going to bitch and moan or second guess what happened in the World Series.  What is that going to accomplish?  The only thing that matters is the final result and the KC Royals won four of the five games.  End of story.  That’s it.

Sure we can lament that we led in two of those games in the ninth inning and in one of them it was the eighth inning. Does that get us another three outs?

Psychologists tell us that most people go through five stages of grieving when losing a loved one. Mets fans have been collectively grieving ever since the end of Game 5.  The stages of grief don’t necessarily come to all people in the same order, but you will need go through them all before you can get on with your life.  Maybe we can do that together?

And we will move on. Most of us have had our lives disrupted ever since the playoff started, I know I have.  I was lucky enough to have attended all seven home postseason games.  All were exciting, some ended sadly.  But I wouldn’t have traded it for a minute – well maybe that LAST game…

DENIAL

How could the Mets lose? The Royals outplayed them in only one game, Game 2, and even in that game the Mets held a 1-0 lead into the fifth inning.  The Royals couldn’t beat Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, right?  Who cares about that not-striking-out nonsense.  Ok, they gave away Game 1 when they beat Harvey and Familia, that’s not going to happen again.  Game 4 was an aberration because Murphy made an error in the eighth inning.  That’s not going to happen again.  Harvey was pitching shutout ball in Game 5, he has to come out and finish it in the ninth inning.  What could go wrong?  We are set up back in KC with deGrom for Game 6 and Syndergaard in Game 7.  I love our chances.

ANGER

An inside-the-park-home-run on the first pitch?  Come on … Bases loaded in a 1-0 Game 5 and the Mets can only score one run … Cespedes looks more like a soccer player than a centerfielder … Murphy with two crucial errors at 2B … Can d’Arnaud make one throw to second base to get a stealer? Every single or walk turned into a double … As John Belushi would say in “Animal House”:  Cuddyer-dead!, Clippard-dead! … Collins used Uribe to PH just once in five WS games, Plywecki never batted – that’s three guys on the bench we never used … They didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves.

BARGAINING

If we don’t allow Clippard to walk TWO batters in the eighth inning of Game 4, maybe Familia could get out of it for a 5-out save … If we don’t let Cespedes hit after fouling a ball off his kneecap, maybe Uribe gets a hit there and blows the game open … If we let Harvey and deGrom pitch to their strengths in Game 1 and 2, we might have gotten a split … If we had only played the Blue Jays instead … If we had won Game 1 and 4, this would have been OUR clinching game.

DEPRESSION

Now what? This was a wonderful opportunity to win the whole thing.  Our pitching staff was fairly healthy for the entire season (Wheeler not withstanding) and the Nationals tanked.  In baseball there are no guarantees.  The 1986 Mets won 108 games in the regular season and missed the playoffs in 1987 because of injuries.  You think the Nationals are going to lay down and die two years in a row?  The Pirates/Cubs/Cardinals are going to lock up two Wild Card spots again, so if you want to make the postseason, you will most likely have to win your division.  Cespedes, Murphy, Colon and others will be free agents.  The Yankee fans all have little smirks on their faces…

ACCEPTANCE

There is not a single thing you can do or say that gets the Mets to Kansas City to play a Game 6. The 2015 season is over, like it or not.  We can go back over all the minutia or we can just look back and remember how great the month of August was.  Remember when we got Ceepedes?  Remember that weekend sweep of the Nationals at Citi Field that got us into a First Place tie?  Flores hitting that extra-inning home run?  Then a few weeks later, we went into Washington with a 3-game lead and they put up a 7-spot against Harvey, but the Mets came all the way back when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a HR?

And remember the smile on your face and the bounce in your step when they clinched the division in Cincinnati? Then we beat the Dodgers to get to the NLCS, where we enacted revenge on the Cubbies – how must those guys feel?  1908 – 1908!!!

And heading into Citi Field for that first playoff game, the pure joy and excitement? Waving those towels every time there were two strikes?  Having to stand for most of the game and never complaining?  It was cold, it was nerve-wracking, it was the most fun we’ve ever had with clothes on (many layers, I might add).

I know, I know, they lost. They had a great chance of being World Champions, but just couldn’t get it done.  It happens.  I’m not saying we should be happy just to have been there, but we should have been.  We won our division and we won two playoff series.  Personally, I think we ran out of gas.

It happens. I think I’m OK with it now.  I’ve just gone through all the five stages of grief with you.  We’ve done it together!  As Tom Petty sings, “Time to move on, time to get going…”

We waited 15 years to get back to the World Series and they lost. In two World Series appearances since 1986, the Mets are 2-8.  They just can’t seem to do it on the big stage.  They work so hard and, and, and ….

I think I’m in denial again.  103 days till pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie…

“Never Give Up! Never Surrender!”

By: Paul DiSclafani

galaxy quest 1The 2015 New York Mets need to invoke the rallying cry from the 1999 comedy “Galaxy Quest” that followed the adventures of a group of actors from a fictional TV series (think Star Trek) who get put back together and have to fight real aliens to defend a race of Thermians, who think the TV show was real.

I know, it sounds ridiculous, but the movie was such a hit it has been included in the top 100 comedies of all time.

And now Commander Peter Taggert (Tim Allen) and the crew from the NESA Protector have five simple words for the Mets and their fans.  Stand up, make a fist with your right hand and cover your heart: “Never give up, Never Surrender”.

Trailing the World Series three games to one, the Mets have no margin for error. Tonight, Matt Harvey will try to send the Mets back to Kansas City for a Game 6 where they will throw Jacob deGrom and a Game 7, where they will throw Noah Syndergaard.

Other than Game 2, which they were outplayed and stymied by Johnny Cuerto, the Mets let Games 1 and 4 slip away, losing leads late. In their eyes, they should be up three games to one.

But baseball is a game of 27 outs – you need to get all of them to win. All other sports use time clocks to determine when a game ends.  You get a lead in those other sports, you can win a game by managing the clock to your advantage and just stalling until the time literally runs out on your opponent.  Not baseball.  There’s no place to hide.

These Kansas City Royals just don’t quit. They are like little gnats, or cockroaches. Maybe more like vampires.  This postseason alone, they have manufactured six comeback victories from at least two runs down.  Nobody has done that in almost 20 years.  The Royals have scored an incredible 44 runs in the seventh inning or later, the most ever in the postseason.

The mantra of these Royals and coach Dale Sveum is to just “keep the line moving”. They are not cracking game winning 3-run home runs, they are keeping at-bats alive and putting runners on base.  Their station-to-station philosophy has them just one win away from their first World Championship since 1985.

They have hit just one ball over the fence – and that was the game tying home run by Alex Gordon in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. The Royals are finding a way.  They stole a game against David Price and the Blue Jays in Toronto in the ALCS and in Game 4 against the Mets, they sent seven men to the plate and scored three times.

They have struck out only 26 times in the first four games of this series against the Mets vaunted starters.

Want some more gloom and doom? Of the 80 best of seven series that went into Game 5 three games to one, only 17 teams have come back to win and 39 of those teams with the lead closed the series out in Game 5.  The last time a team did that on the road was the 2004 Boston Red Sox.  The last team to do that on the road?  Why, it was these same Kansas City Royals, who came back from a three games to one deficit to win their last World Series Title in 1985.

Never give up!  Never Surrender!

Forget the gloom and doom – how about these numbers?

  • The Mets have had the lead in every game in the World Series in the fifth inning.
  • Tonight’s Royals starter Edinson Volquez, who tragically lost his Dad just prior to Game 1, has not recorded an out in the seventh inning all postseason.
  • Matt Harvey is pitching on his customary four days rest
  • Manager Need Yost was forced to go to his bullpen early and often in Games 3 and 4.  In Game 4, he used closer Wade Davis for six outs and 27 pitches. He has never pitched on consecutive days after throwing 25 pitches.
  • Ryan Madson, Luke Hochevar and Danny Duffy all pitched in Games 3 and 4 and both Madson and Hocheaver missed 2013 because of injuries and have not pitched three consecutive days all season. Duffy, who was just moved to the bullpen in September, had never pitched on consecutive days until Games 3 and 4.

Never give up!  Never Surrender!

galaxy quest 2The Mets need to get to Volquez early and often to have any shot. Harvey needs to go deep in this game to give his own bullpen a break.  It’s his last start of the year, so there is nothing to save for.

Before this series started, most baseball fans would have agreed with the following premise: The Mets split in Kansas City and the Royals get one in NY, setting up a Game 6 in Kansas City.  Most Mets fans would take that Game 6 in Kansas City right now.

The Royals know firsthand that coming back from a 3-1 deficit is possible. They also know that they have been far from dominant in this series.  They have relied on late inning rallies once they got into the Mets bullpen.  They have made the best use of their 27 outs.  But they also know that they need to end this now.

A loss tonight pushes them into a Game 6 and the prospect of facing a fairly annoyed Jacob deGrom, who has recorded all three of his postseason wins on the road. It also raises the possibility of the Royals having to face Noah Syndergaard again in this series, in a winner-take-all Game 7.

The series has not been the mismatch that the final results, so far, seem to indicate. A team up three games to one has usually dominated the opponent.  But gnats don’t dominate anyone.  They annoy you, but you don’t pack your bags and go home.  You slap them off and after a while, you can just ignore them.

Never give up!  Never Surrender!

Mets on the Brink, Turn To Matt Harvey To Save Season

By Paul DiSclafani

murphy WS Game 4And now it’s up to The Dark Knight to save Gotham City.

After blowing two leads in Game 1 and falling in extra innings to the Kansas City Royals, the Mets wasted two home runs by rookie Michael Conforto and blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in Game 4 now finding themselves on the brink of elimination in the World Series.

Postseason hero Daniel Murphy’s error in the eighth allowed the Royals to tie the game after Tyler Clippard was unable to protect a 3-2 lead, getting the first out and then walking the next two batters. Jeurys Familia relieved Clippard and got a ground ball from Eric Hosmer, but the slow roller went under Murphy’s glove and into right field, allowing Ben Zobrits to score from second to tie the game.  Mike Moustakas singled on the next pitch, just past the diving Murphy, scoring Lorenzo Cain to give the Royals the first and only lead they would need for the night, 4-3.  Salvador Perez took care of the insurance run, following with another RBI hit to right, plating Hosmer and it was 5-3.

“There’s no way to describe it. It hurts when you feel like you got a direct hand in a ballgame,” Murphy said. “I didn’t do the job. That’s the most frustrating thing.”

As the Royals celebrated their 5-3 win at Citi Field after escaping the bottom of the ninth by doubling Yoenis Cespedes off first to end the game with the tying runs on base, Mets fans were shaking their heads at how they could be in this position. In a game that seemed to be leading up to the Mets tying the series with Matt Harvey on the mound for a pivotal Game 5, they imploded, allowing the Royals back into it and eventually handing Game 4 to them.

The Royals, who set a major league record with their sixth comeback win of the postseason from at least two runs, are now just one win away from their second World Series title.

“There’s just a belief amongst the guys that it doesn’t matter what the score is, what the lead is, what the deficit is. The guys just believe that they’re going to find a way to get it done,” Kansas City starter Chris Young said.

“What they did tonight is what they’ve been doing the whole playoffs,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s a group of guys that have the utmost confidence in themselves. I don’t think at any point these guys thought that they were going to lose tonight.”

Mets manager Terry Collins could not disagree. “They truly don’t ever stop.”

This game was filled with strange plays and misplays almost from the start. Rookie left-hander Steven Matz, making only his tenth start in the major leagues, allowed a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar to start the game, but on a 1-2 pitch, struck out Zobrist swinging.  Escobar was running on the pitch and easily stole second, but was called out when Zobrist interfered with catcher Travis d’Arnaud on his follow-through, preventing him from making a throw and Escobar was called out also.

Conforto led off the third for the Mets with a monster home run into the Pepsi Porch (376 feet) just inside the foul pole to give the Mets their first lead of this Halloween night, 1-0. When Wilmer Flores followed with a single on the next pitch, it seemed like the Mets might have starter Young on the ropes.  Young had set down the first six before Conforto’s blast.

Then he bounced a 55-foot curveball, moving Flores to second and he got to third on a Matz sacrifice. With one out, Curtis Granderson lifted a lazy fly ball to right.  With the slow-footed Flores on third, there was going to be a play at the plate.  But Alex Rios settled under the ball and initially thought it was the third out.  A split second later with centerfielder Lorenzo Cain shouting at him, Rios fired the ball home, but Flores scored standing up to make it 2-0 Mets.

“It’s a mental mistake,” Rios said. “But what do you do? You can’t just put your head down. You have to compete. If you put your head down, you’re done.”

The Royals broke through in the fifth for a run to make it 2-1, but Conforto launched another moon shot to center in the Mets half (400 feet) to give the Mets another two run cushion, 3-1 and energizing the crowd.

Matz had held the Royals to a run on five hits to that point, but his night was about to end very quickly. Zobrist doubled to center on the first pitch and Cain followed two pitches later with a single to center, scoring Zobrist to make it 3-2 and ending Matz’ night.  Jonathan Niese and Bartolo Colon got the Mets out of the mess after Cain stole second and went to third when Colon tried to pick him off.  Colon stranded him there winning an 11-pitch battle with Perez, striking him out to end the inning.

Addison Reed pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, but you had the feeling that three runs was not going to be enough in this game against this team.

After the eighth inning debacle and now trailing 5-3, the Mets still had two shots at getting back in the game, but Royals closer Wade Davis would have none of it. Wade set them down 1-2-3 in the eighth setting up the Mets fans for more disappointment in the ninth.

The fans seemed to overcome their shock in the ninth, coming to life after Murphy and the Cespedes singled following a David Wright strikeout to start the inning. With the tying runs on base and the winning run in the form of Lucas Duda at the plate, the fans were once again up and screaming.  Duda hit a soft liner to third that Moustakas grabbed at his shoe-tops, then easily doubled off Cespedes at first who was half-way to second at the time.

And just like that, the Royals take a stranglehold on the series and the Mets will need to turn to their Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, to save their season and punch their ticket back to Kansas City.

Game 5 is the last baseball game of the season at Citi Field win or lose. The Mets and their fans hope there are two more games to play.