Tagged: Antonio Bastardo

Mets Roll Boxcars In The Third Inning And Beat The “Craps” Out Of Giants, 13-1

By Paul DiSclafani:

Cespedes greeted by Wright, Conforto and Granderson after drigin them all home with his Grand Slam. AP Photo / Julie Jacobson

Cespedes greeted by Wright, Conforto and Granderson after driving them all home with his Grand Slam. AP Photo / Julie Jacobson

When the 13-7 Mets completed their second consecutive series sweep on Wednesday to win their seventh straight game, the NY newspapers could only talk about the quality of the teams they had beaten – the Phillies and the Reds.

“Wait until the Giants come to town”, they said. “Now they are getting into the tough part of their schedule”, they cried, “Let’s see how they respond.”

Respond they did.

The Mets (14-7) set a franchise record by scoring 12 runs in the third inning, highlighted by a Grand Slam from Yoenis Cespedes to turn an 8-0 nail biter into a 12-0 laugher and win their eight straight game, 13-1 over the San Francisco Giants (12-12). The Mets sent 15 batters to the plate in the third and registered eight hits and four walks, chasing San Francisco starter Jake Peavey (L, 1-2) before he even got an out (6 ER, 5W, 2 INN) and beating up on reliever Mike Broadway (6R, 5H, 1W, 1 INN), splitting the 12 runs between them.  Peavey, a former Cy Young winner, saw his ERA balloon to 8.61.  Broadway recovered nicely to get eight straight, but the damage was done.

Michael Conforto had two hits in the inning, driving in three runs, but it was Cespedes who put the icing on the cake. Cespedes had singled earlier in the inning to drive in two runs, giving the Mets a 3-0 lead, and when he came up with the bases loaded about 20 minutes later, it was already 8-0 and there was still only one out.  Like he did on Tuesday night with a pinch hit 3-run home run, Cespedes hit a laser just beyond the left field fence on the first pitch he saw, only this time it was a Grand Slam giving him 6 RBI in the inning.  Cespedes now has seven home runs on the year and 23 RBI.  He even set a franchise record with an extra base hit in nine consecutive games.

The lucky recipient of all those runs was Steven Matz (W, 3-1), who pitched six shutout innings, striking out four and scattering seven hits. Since losing his first outing of the year on April 11 and lasting just five outs while being charged with 7 earned runs, Matz has won three straight and given up just two runs in 19.1 innings (0.96 ERA), striking out 21 and lowering his ERA to 3.86.  The Mets have scored 27 runs during his streak.

Jacob deGrom (2-0, 1.54) takes on Matt Cain (0-2, 6.43) in the late afternoon (a 4:05 start) as the Mets go for their eighth straight win.

POSITIVES:  Cespedes broke Butch Huskey’s 1998 team record with six RBI in the third inning and is the first player to do it in the majors since 2012 … First eight Met batters reached base in the third inning until Matz fouled out on a third strike bunt attempt … Mets had 12 hits and six walks … Matz had an ERA of 37.80 after his first start of the year and now it sits at 3.86 … Mets were an incredible 9-16 w/RISP … Conforto, Neil Walker, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera had two hits each … Conforto is now hitting .343.  Cespedes (.313), Cabrera (.312) and Walker (.306) are all hitting over .300 …

NEGATIVES:  Peavey and Broadway combined for 66 pitches in the third inning … Broadway’s ERA is now over 18 … Lucas Duda was the only regular not to get a hit, but he walked twice and scored a run … Antonio Bastardo pitched a scoreless ninth, but he walked two more batters and has surrendered five walks and nine hits in his 10.1 innings.  He also has 16 strikeouts.

Thanks for reading!  You can read other articles from me on “Around The Horn Talk

And Now It Begins – Mets and Royals Pick Up Where They Left Off

By Paul DiSclafani

wright-cespedesThe beauty of Opening Day is that everyone gets to start at 0-0. Both the Mets and Royals are looking to put 2015 in the rear view mirror.  Well, the Mets more than the Royals.

The Royals are primed to celebrate their first World Series Title in 30 years with a flag raising ceremony in front on their home crowd on Opening night, followed by receiving their Championship rings two days later. Both ceremonies will take place front and center, with the Mets watching (or not watching) from the visitor’s dugout.

Captain David Wright addressed the mood of his team and how it will feel on Opening Night as the Royals open up old wounds as they celebrate with their fans.

“It’s impossible to simulate World Series atmospheres,” Wright said, “but with them getting their rings and raising the banner and things like that, I think it would give a little bit of motivation. But I also think they deserved it. They outplayed us during the World Series, no question.”

The Mets have had all offseason to lament their performance in the World Series, falling to a far superior Royals team. Although they had a lead in every one of the five games, they managed to win only once.  But the theme of both training camps seemed to be that it’s time to turn the page.

”A lot of guys here were not in the World Series. At some point, you turn the page and get ready for 2016, and for us that was this spring,” Wright said. ”It stinks to fall a little bit short, but it was a heck of a run. We just can’t keep talking about last year.”

Even KC manager Ned Yost, who has guided his Royals to two consecutive World Series appearances, cautioned that it is not as easy as it looks. The last time a team made it to the World Series three consecutive years was the Yankees (1998-2000) and before that, the Oakland A’s (1972-74).

”It’s extremely difficult to maintain that, and just to get there,” Yost said. ”Our focus in spring training was getting off to a good start, and at the end of the year, having an opportunity to fight our way back. Because it is, it’s a fight. Everyone starts the year with those aspirations and dreams of making it to a World Series, but it’s very difficult to do.”

For the first time in baseball history, the two teams that met in the World Series will meet again on Opening Day.

If the Mets want to learn from their mistakes in the 2015 season and win the World Series for the first time in 30 years, all they have to do is look across the field at the Royals and follow their lead. The Mets road back to the World Series begins right where it left off in 2015.

THE SERIES:

The Mets (90-72) and the Royals (95-67) meet for two games on Sunday Night and Tuesday afternoon at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City.   The Mets finished 2015 with a 41-40 road record, while the Royals were an impressive 51-30 at Home.

THE STARTERS:

Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71) will start Opening night for the Mets against Edison Volquez (13-9, 3.55). Harvey had a medical scare earlier in the week with a blood clot in his bladder, but he has been cleared to make this start.  Volquez and Harvey met in Game 1 of the World Series, but didn’t factor in the decision as the Royals prevailed in 14 innings.  Both gave up three earned runs in their six innings.  They hooked up again in Game 5, another extra inning game that they Royals won, this time to take the World Series Crown.  Harvey was brilliant for 8 shutout innings and Volquez was poised to be on the losing end, having surrendered just two runs, one earned.

Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24) was set to face the newest KC starter, Ian Kennedy (9-15, 4.28 with San Diego), but a hamstring injury may force former Met Chris Young (11-6, 3.06) to start instead. Syndergaard was the only Mets pitcher to win in the 2015 Fall Classic, winning Game 3 of the series.  Syndergaard started the game by throwing the first pitch over the head over leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar and the Mets responded with two home runs in a 9-3 win.

WHAT TO EXPECT:

Nobody really knows. The Royals are the World Champions, playing in front of their home crowd for the first time since winning the World Series almost 1,200 miles away in Citi Field.  Obviously, there will be plenty of emotion and pride as they raise their banner and receive their Championship rings.  The Mets have had a difficult spring as far as results on the field are concerned, failing to win in 14 straight “games” at the end of the Spring and although everyone insist that they don’t count (and they don’t), there were a couple of red flags.

Understanding 100% that the “results” of the games in the Spring are bogus, individual performances over the course of an entire Spring need to at least be considered.

Consider this: The Mets hit just 17 home runs in 25 Grapefruit League games, seven of them from players who didn’t make the Opening Day roster and one  came from the backup catcher.  David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda hit one each – and they played a combined 45 games and had 125 AB’s.  Add in Michael Conforto, who hit two HR in 49 AB’s, and that’s just 5 HR in 174 AB’s.  Not exactly the type of numbers that will light up the Mets Home Run Apple.

A little more concerning are the relief pitching individual numbers. Antonio Bastardo pitched nine Spring innings, but gave up 8 runs (7 earned) and 10 hits.  Remember, relief pitchers are only charged with runners they put on base that scored.  Addison Reed surrendered 9 hits in his 8.2 innings (3 earned runs) and Jeurys Familia 8 hits in his 7.1 innings (also 3 earned runs).  Granted, pitchers admit to “working on things” during the Spring, but it is still a little disconcerting.

So what can we expect for this Opening Series between the best teams from 2015 in each league? Both teams think they have a lot to prove after their success / failures in the postseason and both teams want to get out of the gate quickly, but frankly, who doesn’t?  Both teams are all saying the right things and the Royals backtracked on their supposed “revenge” on Syndergaard’s opening pitch of Game 3, but one thing remains…

The 2016 Mets want to be the 2015 KC Royals, a team that returned to the World Series and finished the job. The 2015 Royals started last season sweeping the Chicago White Sox at home and went on to win their first seven games, making a statement to everyone in the American League that their 2014 appearance in the World Series was no fluke.  Let’s see what the Mets can do behind Harvey and Syndergaard now that everything “counts” again.

You can also read my full 2016 Mets preview: Final Observations and Predictions or my compact season preview: Opening Day Countdown.

Mets Sunday Brunch 3/20/16 – Looking Ahead to The New Season

By Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2

It’s been a long time since that dreadful Monday morning, November 2nd, when we Mets fans woke up to the realization that the 2015 season was really over.  We still may not be over it, but I’m ready to move on.

On April 2nd,  we will be getting ready to defend our National League Championship pennant against those pesky Kansas City Royals, where our players will have to stand quietly while the Royals and their fans celebrate the raising of the 2015 World Championship banner in their gold and blue colors. Let’s hope that scene inspires the Mets to imagine what that will look and feel like in April of 2017, when the colors on that flag are orange and blue.

So with the full understanding that the result of these spring training games don’t mean a hill of beans, let’s take a deep breath and get ready for the 2016 season…

THE 2016 NEW YORK METS

The Mets are in a position coming into 2016 they don’t have a lot of experience in, being talked about as a front-runner. When they were World Champions in 1969, it was more of a joke than anything else and they certainly weren’t expected to even make it back to the playoffs.  It took 17 years to get another Championship, but the foundation for that dominant 1986 team was laid by the 1984 and 1985 teams.

Based on the domination of 1986, there was talk of a Dynasty in the spring of 1987 with veterans like Keith Hernandez and Gary Cater and young studs like Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, this team was going to dominate until the end of the decade. Of course, that team followed every other successful postseason Mets team before them, failing to make it back the next year.

And although the Mets had much success in the late 90’s with Bobby Valentine and Mike Piazza, making the postseason in consecutive years for the first time ever, they just couldn’t get over the hump and disappeared after losing the 2000 World Series to the Yankees.

Can we not even talk about Carlos Beltran taking that called third strike in 2006?

This spring somehow feels different, doesn’t it? There is a quiet confidence about this team, a low-key air of optimism that we’ve never experienced before.  For the first time in franchise history, the Mets don’t need to read their press clippings to find out how good they are.  They know.  The challenge for the Mets in 2016 though, is that everyone else knows it too.

The 1986 team that reported to Spring Training had a target on their back, but that was because everyone hated them and their arrogance. The target on the back of the 2016 Mets is out of respect.

STARTING ROTATION

If there is a better starting rotation in baseball, more power to them. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are top 10 pitchers in most baseball rankings and all three of them take the hill in Flushing.  No team this season is going to “miss” seeing one of them every series.  How many other teams can say that?

matt harvey 100615Although all had wonderful years in 2015, they are all going to be even batter.  Harvey now has a full year under his belt following his Tommy John surgery and has got his slider back.  He no longer has any doubt in his mind that “his next pitch might be his last” that most pitchers coming back from surgery experience.

DeGrom was dominant in 2015 before running out of gas in October, but he showed something in how he was able to pitch in the postseason without his best stuff. That might be more important than developing a “new” pitch or finding your fastball.  DeGrom showed that even at a young age, he can be a pitcher.

Charles Wenzelberg / NY Post

Charles Wenzelberg / NY Post

Syndergaard threw the only pitch that mattered in the World Series, throwing the first pitch of Game 3 at 98 MPH and right over the head of Alcides Escobar. It was the only game that the Mets won in the World Series.  After the game, he said:

“My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable, and I feel like I did just that. I think in every postseason game that Escobar has played in, he’s swung at the first-pitch fastball. I didn’t think he would want to swing at that one. I mean, I certainly wasn’t trying to hit the guy, that’s for sure. I just didn’t want him getting too comfortable. If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away. I’ve got no problem with that.”

He is not only being taught how to pitch, he is beginning to understand how to pitch. He may have the best pure stuff in baseball.

What about rookie Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon at the back-end of the rotation? Colon, at 43, will continue to put up quality starts and make everyone smile when he puts on a batting helmet.  And Matz has as much potential as anyone if he stays healthy.  And don’t forget Zack Wheeler is looming in the background, targeting a July return.

BULLPEN

familia 073015Nobody was counting on Jenrry Mejia anyway, so good-bye to bad rubbish. Jeurys Familia owned the ninth inning last year.  The problem was getting a lead to him.  Gone are the guys who made you roll your eyes, like Tyler Clippard, Eric O’Flaherty and Buddy Carlyle.  The Mets signed Antonio Bastardo as a left-handed specialist to share the late innings with Addison Reed.  Remember Jerry Blevins?  He missed almost all of last year with not one, but two broken left arms – but he didn’t give up a hit in his 7 appearances before getting hurt.  Hansel Robles and Logan Verrett may get more work as spot starters than long relief.

Talk all you want about the big three in the Yankees bullpen, this Mets bullpen is going to be solid.

Now all we need is some runs….

THE CORNERS

Lucas Duda had a 7 game stretch in May where he hit 6 HR's and had 9 RBI's.

Probably the biggest question marks on this team are on the corners. Which Lucas Duda is going to show up for most of the season and how much of the season will David Wright be able to play – and how effectively?  Duda will most likely get to his 30 HR mark, but although he hit 27 of them last year, he hit 10 of them during a 7 game stretch last season.  He missed some time in August with an injury and played only 135 games, but that means he hit the other 17 over the course of 128 games.

Of course Wright will tough it out and play as much as he can, but what is more concerning is that Sandy Alderson didn’t really do anything to shore up that position if (when) Wright can’t go, or is ineffective. With this type of spinal injury, the body might be willing and able to play, but can the player perform at the level a team with Championship aspiration needs the player to perform?  The playing field is littered players who have had their careers derailed by back injuries.  Let’s hope that Wright still has a few more productive years left, but we should be prepared (and not surprised) if he doesn’t.  Wilmer Flores (hitting .440 this spring) is learning another position this year, after spending last spring learning second base and at this point is the only viable option.

MIDDLE INFIELDERS

Was there anything more frustrating than watching the Mets NOT be able to turn a double play when they really needed it? Regardless of the quality of your pitching staff, you can’t give teams more than 27 outs and although the Mets didn’t lead the NL in errors (the Pirates did), they certainly led the league in bone head plays and poor decision-making once they caught the ball.  Enter Sandy Alderson.

daniel murphyAfter making the decision to make a $13.5M qualifying offer to arguably our best hitter Daniel Murphy – that he turned down – , and losing out on the Ben Zobrist sweepstakes (he went to the Cubbies), Alderson made two moves less than five hours apart that tightened the Mets up-the-middle defense that was the bane of their existence in 2015.

Remember the search for a shortstop in the spring of 2015? Then remember how awful we all thought Flores was early in the season, when he made 11 errors in the first two months of the season?  For the first time in a long time, the Mets are solid up the middle in the infield.

2B-Neil Walker came over from the Pirates for the always dour Jonathan Niese to hold down the fort until Dilson Herrera is ready for the majors. Walker is a much-needed defensive upgrade at 2B over the departed but highly popular Murphy and he’s has some pop with at least 16 HR in each of his last three seasons.  Then Alderson signed Asdrubal Cabrera to play SS, which is more of an upgrade in offense than defense over Reuben Tejada.

Both of these guys are switch-hitters and there won’t be this three-headed monster to deal with every game with Tejada/Flores/Murphy depending on who the pitcher is or what inning it is.

OUTFIELD

cespedes NLDS 101215No more crying about not signing Yoenis Cespedis, ok? No more worrying about his opt-out contract or the $27M he will be making or the cars he drives or any of the other nonsense that we have been bombarded with since before Christmas.  He is here and, barring injury, will be in the middle of the lineup and patrolling Center Field.  Where that leaves Juan Lagares, nobody knows.  But he isn’t Cespedes – nobody is.  If Michael Conforto continues to improve against lefties (like he is showing this Spring), Lagares may not be happy or comfortable in a reserve, 4th outfielder role.  Just look at this particular Mets lineup without Cespedes in it somewhere.  End of story.

Curtis Granderson is still the leadoff hitter and in the postseason, he got every one of the rallies started. He made me a believer after wondering early in 2015 if Terry Collins had lost his mind.  Power and ability to drive the ball as a leadoff hitter turned out to be a great idea in the end.

CATCHING

No one doubts that Travis d’Arnaud is a good major league hitter and that this valuable pitching staff enjoys throwing to him and has confidence that he can call a good game. But over the last two seasons he has only played 175 games.  He was on the DL three times last season alone.  That type of past requires a solid Plan B to a contending team.  The concern about Kevin Plawecki is:  What do you do with him when d’Arnaud is healthy?  He might be a better defensive catcher than d’Arnaud, but he struggled at the plate, hitting just .219 last year.  The scuttlebutt is that the Mets might come north without Plawecki so he can play every day in Las Vegas at the AAA level, and let Johnny Monell ride the bench and spell d’Arnaud early on.

FINAL ANALYSIS

Is this a 100 win team in 2016? Probably not.  Not because they aren’t going to be better than last year, but because there are a lot of good teams in the National League.  They are going to have to play almost 40 games against the Nationals and the much improved Miami Marlins.  Then there are 21 games against the three-headed monster in the National League Central, the “St. Louis Pirate-Cubs”.  This Mets team won 90 games last year, but won most of them over the final two months of the season.

The pitching is way too good to fail them this year. This is not the touted, but unproven “Generation K” that fizzled and died a quick death after Opening Day in Chicago way back in 1995.  These guys are solid and will just continue to get better.  Let’s not talk about how long they will be together or how Free Agency will cause them to take different paths in the future.  Just concentrate on 2016.

The difference between this Mets team and most Mets teams we have lived through might be something as simple as this:

In the fifth inning, with the Mets nursing a 1-run lead or trailing by a run, this team is going to step up and get the runs they need to win the game. They are going to make the defensive play they need to prevent a 1-run deficit from becoming a 3-run deficit.  They are going to get that strikeout to prevent a run from scoring.

That seemingly innocuous 2-run home run by Cespedes in the third inning to make it 3-0 is going to look like 8-0 when the other team sees Syndergaard stride to the hill for the top of the fourth.

That’s what is going to be different about this Mets team. They are not going to need the dramatics of late inning home runs or walk-off wins.  Don’t get me wrong, they are going to have their share of them.  But teams that make it through the grueling regular season and the pressure of the playoffs to get to the World Series don’t win the Series because they are lucky.  Maybe you get there because you are lucky, but you win because you are the better team.

The Mets realized in late October that the Kansas City Royals were the better team – even though the Mets had a lead in every one of the World Series games. And next Sunday night, when that blue and gold banner is being raised inside Kaufman Stadium and the Royals and their fans are celebrating their 2015 accomplishment, the Mets will be front and center to see it all.  And they will lament that the colors on that flag are not blue and orange, and they will lament that they may have wasted a golden opportunity last October.  But they better not dwell on it.

Matt Harvey will be on the hill to start the 2016 season for them and 2015 will be just a memory.

Fasten your seatbelts Mets fans and enjoy the ride!

Mets Sunday Brunch 2/14/16: Pitchers And Catchers In 3 Days, The Winter of Sandy Alderson and Questions, Questions, Questions

By Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2Good riddance to bad rubbish. Jenrry Mejia threw it all away and for some strange reason, I just don’t care anymore. And neither should you.  We’ve got much nicer things to talk about today!

On Wednesday morning, the National League Champion New York Mets – my Mets, our Mets – will begin the defense of their NL East Division Title as pitcher and catchers report to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie. How great does that sound when the temperature here in NY is in the single digits?

In case anyone has forgotten, General Manager Sandy Alderson has been a busy little beaver since the end of the World Series and for the first time in recent memories, the Mets are reporting to Spring Training with not a lot of holes to fill. Usually Tradition Field is the site of many question marks.  Who’s going to be the shortstop?  Can this veteran return to form?  Can this pitcher return from surgery? Who is going to be the bridge to the closer?

The offseason saw both sadness and joy for Mets fans.  Trying to reconcile the loss in the World Series to the KC Royals when we had the lead in every game was a tough nut to crack.  Then, Mike Piazza finally gets elected to the Hall of Fame and a few weeks later, Cespedes is back in the Blue and Orange.

My articles:  YA GOTTA BEREAVE    PIAZZA HOF   CESPEDES

The 2016 season has a completely different line of questioning. The question is no longer CAN the Mets get to the playoffs, now it’s WILL the Mets get to the playoffs.  It’s just a slight difference, but it means everything.  For the first time in a long time, it’s the Mets that have a target on their back.

Of course, Mets history always haunts us the year after making the post season. Did you know that the only time the Mets went to the post season in consecutive years was 1999-2000?  Remember the “Dynasty” of the 1986 team?  Just one other playoff appearances before it all fell apart, a 1988 loss to the Dodgers.  How about the strength of that 2006 team that came within one strike of the World Series?  I’m not even going to get into that disaster.

Although the 2015 Mets went all the way to the World Series, the club reporting to Spring Training is significantly better in a lot of ways. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors as we start dreaming of wearing T-Shirts and shorts outside again…

The Daniel Murphy Factor – Of course this was a difficult decision. Murphy was one of our best, if not the best hitter we had, hands down.  He was an emotional player and in most cases the heart of the team.  I was (and still am) a big Daniel Murphy fan.  But I had learned to come to grips with his limitations.  Can we all be honest here?  He was a liability without a bat in his hands.  He makes poor decisions in the field with his glove, with his arm and with his legs.  I know, he hit 50 home runs in the post season, but let’s be realistic, shall we?  I don’t know what Daniel Murphy that was and I don’t ever expect to see that Daniel Murphy again.  But I am quite sure the Washington Nationals are expecting to see THAT Daniel Murphy.  And when they don’t, he is going to be one very unhappy muchacho until 2019.  He should have taken the Mets offer.

My article:  WHY DANIEL MURPHY SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE DEAL

The Jonathan Niese Factor – Have you ever seen a pitcher with such mediocre talent that didn’t know which side of his bread was buttered? Niese was a malcontent that saw the writing on the wall with all of these young guns, and instead of embracing the future of this team and learning to become part of it, he whined and cried like a little baby.  He complained every time someone made an error.  If he got into trouble on the mound, he didn’t have the ability to get out of it.  Then, when he was traded to Pittsburgh, the first thing he said was he was happy to go to a team that played good defense.  Guess he didn’t know the Pirates led the National League in errors last year.  Good luck with that, Jonathan.  This was addition by subtraction for Alderson and the Mets.

The Remaking of the Middle Infield – Part of the Niese trade was bringing in second baseman Neil Walker from the Pirates. Walker is certainly an upgrade defensively over Murphy (who isn’t?) and is a pretty good hitter himself.  At the very least, this is a slight upgrade.  But Alderson went one better and signed shortstop Asrubal Cabrera for two years ($18.5m) a few hours later.  Now Wilmer Flores can become the super utility player the Mets have lacked for a long time.  And with David Wright’s back still a part of the great unknown, we are going to need a couple of guys that can play third.  This also gives Terry Collins a middle infield combination that he can pencil in almost every day.  This is a huge upgrade for the Mets.

My articles on NEIL WALKER and ASRUBAL CABRERA deals

The Bartolo Colon Show Returns – Was there any other Met that made you smile every time you saw him on the field? When he was standing on the mound, flipping the ball up and down, when he was strolling to the plate with a bat in his hand?  Bartolo Colon is like Bruce Springsteen on stage – he is thoroughly enjoying himself and getting the job done.  For $7 Million, Colon will easily be able to bridge the gap while Zack Wheeler rehabs from Tommy John surgery.

More Help For The Bullpen – Tyler Clippard is gone (thank goodness), but Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed will be back. Then for good measure, Alderson inked Antonio Bastardo, the lefty specialist the Mets were looking for all year.  Lefties hit just .178 against him last year while he was with the Pirates.  That is a pretty good three-man bridge to Familia.  With this starting pitching staff, the Mets are going to have a lot of 6 and 7 inning games from their starters.  That’s where these guys are going to earn their money.  With no more innings limits to worry about, the guys won’t have to start warming up in the 4th inning anymore.  Mets long relievers should already have a new nickname, “The Maytag Men”.  (You kiddies won’t get that one, sorry.  Google it)

The Big Bat We All Know We Wanted – The Mets and Yoenis Cespedes danced the entire off season, causing the fan base to lose their mind. Of course we needed Cespedes, but it turns out he needed us too.  Some teams offered him more money, others more security.  But when you get right down to it, the other teams couldn’t offer him what the Mets had – a stud pitching staff ready to take them to the next level.  The Mets fans showed him the love he needed to see after four teams in five years, but I think it really came down to NOT wanting to face these pitchers 18 times a year – especially if he signed with Washington.  Cespedes was able to see firsthand what NY was like in the postseason.  Not a lot of free agents get that on the tour, you know.

Now for some outstanding questions – Shall the nitpicking begin, then?

  • Is Lucas Duda an everyday first baseman?  If not, is the answer really Wilmer Flores?  This guy hits a lot of home runs, but they always seem to come in bunches.  He may not be as big a mental case as Ike Davis was, but it’s all in his head.  Maybe he can finally relax now that Cespedes will be hitting in front of him.  Let’s hope so.  Not a lot of talent in the minors to play 1B.  Why do you think they asked Plawecki and d’Arnaud to invest in first baseman gloves?
  • Will the Mets have the lowest stolen base total in baseball history?  Not going to be a lot of RBI doubles with a man on first this season, my friends.
  • Can our catchers throw anyone out?  To answer this I just say, oh yeah?  YOU try throwing down to second after five innings of catching 98 MPH heaters all the time, every day.
  • Is there any doubt that one or more of our stud pitchers is going to come down with what will initially be diagnosed as “arm fatigue” that turns into full blown Tommy John reconstructive surgery?  I really hope not, but these are MY Mets, after all…
  • Are Steven Matz and Michael Conforto ready for everyday duty at the Major League level?  Matz needs to show he can stay on the field and Conforto needs to show he can play against left-handed pitching.  This smells of “sophomore Jinx: all over the place.
  • What will Zack Wheeler be able to deliver when (if) he returns in July?  When Matt Harvey returned to Spring Training last season, he had almost 18 months without having to face a batter.  He left in August of 2013 and rehabbed the entire 2014 season making him very ready to return in 2015.  If you are going to have TJ surgery, looks like August is the best time.  But Wheeler is just a year out of surgery and even though he will not be pitching competitively until May or June, let’s just hope the Mets don’t “need” him in July because of an injury or something else.  We kind of got spoiled with Harvey’s return, you know.
  • Will both Wild-Cards come out of the Central again?  That’s a tough division to start with and the Cubs have gotten better.  Looks like the Mets will need to win the East again.
  • There’s another baseball team in this town?  Talk about role reversal!  The Yankees were very quiet in the Free-Agent market, but they seem to be building a great bullpen.  Did you know they led the league in runs scored last year until September?  But without that run production this year and suspect starting pitching, that bullpen is going to lead the league in “holds” while the Yankees scramble to score runs.  And I bet they wished Tanaka had that TJ surgery when he had the chance, don’t they?  And good for CC Sabathia in getting his life back together.  Not gonna matter, baseball fans.  This will be another banner-less year in the Bronx as their aging lineup has to start acting their age without the benefits of steroids.

Now that the Super Bowl closed out the NFL Season, it’s time to dust off that Mets cap and get ready for what is going to be one of the most anticipated springs in Mets history. After each one of our previous World Series appearances, there were lots of question marks and concerns.  Not this year.  We are coming back as Defending National League Champions and for the first time, we are even better.

I can’t wait, and I am sure you, my faithful readers, can’t wait either!