Tagged: Asdrubal Cabrera

Seven Home Runs And A Hat Trick From Cespedes, As Mets Bash The Phils, 14-4

By Paul DiSclafani

AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson

Entering the game hitting .154 with just one RBI on a solo home run, Yoenis Cespedes cranked up the volume with three home runs and five RBI in the Mets 14-4 thrashing of their favorite punching bag, the Phillies.  The First Place Mets (5-3), who love hitting at Citizens Bank Park, banged out a season high 20 hits, hit a total of seven home runs and have now won three straight.  Lucas Duda, who hit his first home run of the year yesterday, hit two more today.  Asdrubal Cabrera and Travid d’Arnaud hit their first homers of the year.

Cespedes hit a three-run home run in the first inning after Curtis Granderson walked leading off the game and Cabrera got the first of his four hits, a double.  Phillies starter Clay Buchholz (L, 0-1) was down 3-0 before he even got an out.

Matt Harvey (W, 2-0) was the recipient of the early lead, but the Mets tacked on runs in every one of the next five innings, building a 10-1 lead, before Harvey left the game with hamstring tightness after racing to cover first with two outs in the sixth.  Terry Collins said Harvey felt fine after the game, but will be evaluated tomorrow.

But this night belonged to hitters as they battered the Phillies pitchers.  Buchholz lasted just 7 outs, charged with six earned runs and giving up eight hits.  Adam Morgan was rocked for four home runs, two from Cespedes, and seven runs in his 3.2 Innings.

Jay Bruce, who hit two home runs last night, drove in two runs with a single in the second inning to up the Mets lead to 5-0.  D’Arnaud made it 6-1 with an RBI single in the third.  Cabrera and Cespedes went back to back leading off the fourth to make it 8-1.  Cespedes with a 450-foot monster made it 9-1 in the fifth and Duda hit his first of the night leading off the sixth to put the Mets in double digits, 10-1.  D’Arnaud went yard in the 8th to make it 12-1 and Duda finished things off in the ninth with a home run to make it 14-4.

Mets go for the sweep on Wednesday as Zach Wheeler (0-1) makes his second start after returning from TJ Surgery in 2014, facing Vince Velasquez (0-1).  Both pitchers got battered in their first starts of the season.

POSITIVES:  Cespedes is the 13th Met to hit three home runs in a game, but the first to do it twice … Mets had 20 hits, 14 of them were extra base hits … Cabrera, Cespedes and Duda all had four hits … Mets have hit seven or more home runs at Citizens Bank Park four times, hitting eight in 2015 … First time in Mets history that three Mets have had a single, double and home run in the same game (Cabrera, Cespedes and Duda) … Mets have hit 46 home runs in their last 21 games in Philadelphia … Duda’s home run in the sixth hit off the brick wall in center field, about 448 feet away … Every starter in the lineup had a hit, including Jose Reyes.  Unfortunately, he was 0-5 in his other AB’s …

NEGATIVES:  What can you complain about on a night they hit seven home runs?

Bruce Goes Deep Twice, Mets Top Phillies, 4-3

By Paul DiSclafani

AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson

Jay Bruce went deep twice (for the first time as a Met), including a game changing 2-run home run into the second deck in the eighth inning, as the Mets (4-3) come back and beat the Phillies, 4-3.  The win puts the Mets into First Place in the National League East.

Bruce, with his third home run of the season in the fourth inning, bailed out starter Jacob deGrom (ND), who struggled in the first inning, putting the Mets into a 2-0 hole.  Batting cleanup for the first time this season, Bruce cut the lead to 2-1.  With the scored tied 2-2 in the eighth, Bruce hit a bomb well into the second deck at Citizens Bank Park, with two strikes and two outs, putting the Mets ahead, 4-2.  He already has four home runs in just seven games.

When Bruce was traded to the Mets on July 31st last year, he had already hit 25 home runs with the Reds.  He then hit two home runs in his first five games, but didn’t hit another one until September 1st.  Bruce hit just eight home runs with the Mets in his 50 games.

Prior to the home run, Asrdubal Cabrera was buzzed by Phillies pitcher Edubray Ramos (L, 0-1) with a pitch well over his head and into the backstop.  The pitch was payback for Cabrera’s bat flip last September, when he hit a walk-off home run in extra innings against Ramos.  Although the pitch didn’t hit Cabrera, it caused a stare down and some finger pointing, resulting in a walk to Cabrera, who scored on Bruce’s home run.

Both benches were warned and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was ejected for arguing after the warning was issued.

DeGrom uncharacteristically walked leadoff batter Cesar Hernandez to start the game and found himself in a base loaded, one out situation after consecutive singles.  Michael Saunders then singled to right for the third straight hit, to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.  Again, deGrom was facing the bases loaded and issued a 3-2 walk to Cameron Rupp to make it 2-0.  With deGrom struggling, Brock Stassi then hit it right back to the pitcher and deGrom started the 1-2-3 double play to get out of the inning.

The Phillies (3-4) wouldn’t score again.

DeGrom willed his way through six innings (2 ER, 2 W, 3K), giving the Mets a chance to get back in the game.  Trailing 2-1 in the seventh, Bruce led off with a walk and went all the way to third on an infield single by Curtis Granderson when the throw to first skipped past Stassi.  Neil Walker then brought Bruce home with a sacrifice fly to center to tie the game, setting up the fireworks and heroics in the eighth.

The Mets bullpen did the rest, with a little drama along the way.  Jerry Blevins (W, 1-0) finished off the seventh inning for Josh Smoker, who put two runners on with a single and a walk as the Mets caught Howie Kendrick off first base in a run-down play after a pitch escaped Travis d’Arnaud.  Blevins then needed a double play to end the eighth after a two out single put the tying run at the plate.

In the ninth, Addison Reed came in for the save and gave up a home run to Stassi leading off the inning to make it 4-3, as Stassi got revenge for hitting into the double play in the first inning.  Reed then got a strikeout before Daniel Nava got a base hit to put the tying run on base.  But Hernandez filed out to center and Reed struck out Kendrick for his second save of the year.

Matt Harvey (1-0) gets the start tomorrow against Clay Buckholtz (0-0) as the Mets try to make it three in a row.  Mets complete the series with the Phillies on Wednesday, then travel to Miami for a four-game weekend series.  The Mets play their first 24 games of the season against the NL East, including six with Washington.

POSITIVES:  DeGrom got his 500th career strikeout in only his 77th career game, the third fastest Met to 500K behind Doc and Harvey … Mets had only four hits and Bruce had two of them.  Three of their hits went for extra bases … Granderson’s hit got him up to .208 … Blevins still hasn’t allowed a run

NEGATIVES:  Reyes went 0-4, dropping down to .037 … Phillies had 10 hits and Mets issued four walks … Mets were 0-5 with runners in scoring position

Paul DiSclafani is a featured writer on “A View From The Bench”, which has been recognized by Major League baseball as one of the top 100 blog sites.

Mets Rout Phillies 17-0, Closing In On Wild-Card Berth

By Paul DiSclafani:

 AP Photo/Seth Wenig

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The Mets saved the best for last as they kicked a late Field Goal and beat the Philadelphia 17-0 in the last home game of the regular season. This was the largest shutout in franchise history.

The win, combined with a loss by San Francisco in San Diego, gives the Mets (83-73) a one-game lead over the Giants (82-74) and the lead for the top Wild-Card spot, which would result in the Wild-Card game being played in New York.  The Cardinals (81-73), who play the Cubs tonight, are in a virtual tie with the Giants for the second spot.

The Mets will head into Miami for three games starting tomorrow followed by a day off on Thursday, then to Philadelphia for the final weekend of the series. Although the series in Miami will have a heaviness to it after the tragic loss of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez early Sunday morning, the Mets just completed a powerful display hitting against the Phillies.

The Mets scored 43 runs in the four game series against Philly, matching a franchise record by scoring at least eight runs in four consecutive games. Of course, the Mets pitching gave up 23 runs in the first three games before rookie Robert Gsellman threw seven scoreless innings in the finale.

After falling behind 10-0 on Saturday and almost coming all the way back in a 10-8 loss, Gsellman was just what the doctor ordered for the Mets bullpen that was decimated in the previous three games. And what a three games it was.

On Thursday, Mets starter Seth Lugo gave up three runs in his five innings, but manager Terry Collins needed six other pitchers to complete the regulation nine innings, capped off by Jose Reyes crushing a 2-run dinger in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game 6-6 after Addison Reed gave up a go-ahead 3-run home run in the eighth to give the Phillies a 6-4 lead. Then the Phils got two runs off Jeruys Familia in the 11th, only to have Asdrubal Cabrera win it for the Mets with an improbable 3-run homer in the bottom of the 11th for a 9-8 Mets win.  Collins ended up using 10 pitchers in the game, nine of them in the final six innings.

Then on Friday, Collins burned through three pitchers in the first five innings before the Mets blew the game open with six runs in the fifth and three more in the seventh. Gabriel Ynoa threw 43 pitches in the first two innings and Logan Verrett followed with 46 more in the next two.  Josh Smoker needed 32 to get his three outs in the fifth, but he got the win.  Mets needed three more pitchers to finish the game, now having used 16 pitchers in two wins.

So of course, Saturday’s starter Sean Gilmartin couldn’t even get out of the first, giving up five runs on four hits and three walks. Rafael Montero came in to get the final out of the first inning, but he lasted only three more innings giving up five runs of his own to put the Mets in a 10-0 hole after just four innings.  You already know that the Mets AAA players took over and almost completed an improbable comeback, falling 10-8.  But it took five more pitchers to finish that debacle, bringing the total to 23 pitchers to complete three games.

It was up to Gsellman to save the day.  “Our bullpen was shot,” manager Terry Collins said. “When you run 23 pitchers out in three games, you’re out of gas. It was nice to be able to have comfortable innings at the end of the game.”

In the finale of the very entertaining series, the Mets pounded out 14 hits, had four players hit by pitches and worked out nine walks. They scores a season high 17 runs and even left nine runners on base.  Six Phillies pitchers threw 201 pitches in only eight innings.  Even Jay Bruce (remember him?) had two hits.

Curtis Granderson hit his 30th home run of the season, a career high and Jose Reyes drove in four runs, coming to bat four consecutive times with the bases loaded.  In the seventh, with the score 7-0, Cabrera hit a grand slam and in the eights, the Mets tacked on six more to complete the rout.

Now it’s on to Miami for what will unquestionably be an emotional experience. The Mets are banking on veteran Bartolo Colon to be up to the task.  “Tomorrow is going to be a rough one for everybody”, Collins said, “Because I’m sure they’re going to be all fired up not only to beat us, but in honor of Jose. But we’ve got to do what we’ve been doing — go out and play, execute. We’ve got to feel good because we’ve got Bart going tomorrow night, because if anybody can handle those situations, it’s him. We’ll see what happens.”

Six games left. The Mets have a Magic Number of 7 with the Cardinals, pending their game tonight.

REMAINING SCHEDULES:

  • Mets (6 games): 3 @ Miami; Thursday off; 3 @ Philadelphia
  • Giants (6 games): Monday off; 3 vs Colorado; 3 vs Dodgers
  • Cardinals (8 games): 1 @ Chicago; 4 vs Cincinnati; 3 vs Pittsburgh

HONORING JOSE FERNANDEZ

The Mets honored Miami Marlins star Jose Fernandez before the game by hanging a #16 Mets jersey (Fernandez’ number) and his name in the dugout. The Mets will take the jersey with them to Miami for the series next week.

POSITIVES:  Mets home attendance (2,789,602) was the highest since the first season at Citi Field (3,154,262) … Four hit batters were a franchise record as Cespedes, Rene Rivera, TJ Rivera and Gavin Cecchinni were all bruised today … Two more home runs today gave the Mets 112 at home, a team record.  Their 212 overall is already a team record … Mets scored 28 runs (27 earned) against the Phillies bullpen in 17 innings … Jay Bruce, who hit the first pinch hit home run of his career in the Mets 10-8 loss, was 4-2 … TJ Rivera had two more hits and his average is up to .361 … Mets finished 44-37 at home this year. Mets were 49-32 at home in 2015.

NEGATIVES:  Granderson has just 56 RBI with his 30 home runs.  He needs 9 RBI in the final six games of the season or he will set an MLB record for the least amount of RBI for a player with at least 30 home runs – 64 set by Felix Mantilla (Red Sox) in 1964 and Rob Deer (Detroit) in 1992 …

Five Home Runs Power Mets Past Cubs Again, Arrieta is Next

By Paul DiSclafani:

Brandon Nimmo Celebrates First Major League Home Run in 10-2 rout of Cubs AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Brandon Nimmo Celebrates First Major League Home Run in 10-2 rout of Cubs
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Within the span of two games against the team with the best record in baseball, the Mets have brought their fans back a few more feet from the ledge as they hit five home runs against pitcher Jason Hammel on Friday in a 10-2 drubbing between multiple rain delays to go along with Thursday’s thrilling come from behind 4-3 win, which snapped a four game losing streak. Although the Mets had lost nine consecutive regular season games to the Cubs since 2014, they have now beaten them six straight, including a sweep of last year’s NLCS.

With nothing specific to point to other than the infectious smile of rookie Brandon Nimmo, the gloom and doom of being swept in Washington earlier in the week has given way to hope and optimism. That is, until Jake Arrieta takes the mound for the Cubs tonight.

Arrieta, arguably the league’s best pitcher at 12-2 will try to use that league leading 2.10 ERA to his advantage against a Mets team that is suddenly feeling its Wheaties.

The Mets finally provided some run support for Jacob deGrom on Friday as they tied a team record hitting five home runs against the same pitcher, allowing deGrom (4-4) to become a winner for the first time since April 30th, snapping a 10 game winless streak.  Asdrubal Cabrera (twice), Yoenis Cespedes (#20), James Loney and Nimmo hit home runs in the rout.  For Nimmo, it was his first in the major leagues (measured at 442 feet) and prompted the appreciative Citi Field crowd to demand a curtain call.  Nimmo, smiling all the way around the bases, gave the ball, which landed in the bullpen area, to his parents, who were in attendance.   Loney and Cabrera went back-to-back in the second inning.

In addition to his home run (and curtain call), Nimmo made a sliding one-handed catch of a fly ball in right field, prompting manager Terry Collins to say, “It’s always nice to have those young guys come up, because they bring energy.”

Now we’ll see how that energy translates to offense against Arrieta. Since tossing six shutout innings against the Pirates on 6/17 and lowering his ERA to 1.74, Arrieta has come back down to Earth a little.  He was the losing pitcher against St. Louis on 6/22 and lasted only five innings in his last start against, of all teams, the last place Reds.  Arrieta was charged with five earned runs and issued five walks, but the Cubs still managed to get him the “W” in an eventual 11-8 win.

The Mets roughed up Arrieta in Game 2 of the NLCS for three runs in the first inning highlighted by two-run home run by Daniel Murphy en route to a 4-1 win. But Arrieta is 2-1 lifetime against the Mets with a 1.82 ERA in the regular season.

Bartolo Colon (6-4, 2.86) goes tonight and tries to keep this good feeling going for the Mets as they continue to tread water heading into the All Star break next week. After what the Mets have been through the last two weeks, they are certainly enjoying their new-found enthusiasm.

“I’m real aware that it’s the gloomiest days when you lose here,” Terry Collins said. “If you lose two or three in a row here, it’s very hard to deal with. But it’s a long year.”

POSITIVES: Mets hit five home runs in a home game for the fifth time in franchise history, but for the first time at cavernous Citi Field.  Last time was at Shea Stadium in 2000 against the Marlins … Juan Lagares has been activated for tonight’s game after going 6-18 with a triple and a couple of RBI with AA Binghamton as he continues to try to play through a partially torn ligament in his left thumb … Reliever Seth Lugo made his big league debut and pitched two scoreless innings of relief (2 hits and a HBP), but then was sent back to AAA Las Vegas to make room for Lagares.  He is the first Met to ever wear #67 – now THAT’s a future trivia answer …

NEGATIVES: Curtis Granderson will miss the rest of this series and the Mets expect to make a decision on whether to put him on the DL today or tomorrow … David Wright looked gaunt in speaking to the media yesterday and has resigned himself to the fact that he will not play again this season.

Paul DiSclafani is a featured author at A View From the Bench, an official affiliate of MLB.com. A View from the Bench is recognized in the Top 100 of MLB.com/blogs.

Mets Take Two From Royals, But Syndergaard and Cespedes Leave With Injuries; Familia Notches 40 Straight Saves

By Paul DiSclafani:

AP Photo / Kathy Williens

AP Photo / Kathy Williens

Fresh off putting together back to back wins against the Royals, the Mets (38-32) and their fans couldn’t even enjoy the moment. Both Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes were forced to leave today’s game with injuries.

With everything going on around them, all the bad news of injuries, all the talk about a possible Jose Reyes reunion and a workout scheduled for Free Agent Cuban star Yulieski Gourriel, the Mets managed to shake it off and win two against the defending World Series Champions.

The Mets bullpen, which was largely responsible for the World Series collapse considering they led in every game at one point, was spot on in these two games. After Colon got hurt on Tuesday after the first batter, they were called on to get the final 26 outs in a 2-1 win.

Today, after Syndergaard was unable to come out for the seventh inning after throwing just 91 pitches, they protected the 4-3 lead with three innings of one-hit ball. Jeurys Familia, who was charged with three blown saves in the World Series against the Royals, finished each game for his 23rd and 24th save of the season.  He now has saved a club record 40 consecutive regular season games.

With Juan Lagares already on the DL with a thumb injury and Steven Matz having elbow tightness, the Mets then found out that Zack Wheeler is experiencing tightness in his TJ elbow.

And now this…

Noah Syndergaard, one of the few Mets pitchers who has NOT had Tommy John Surgery, is experiencing tightness in his elbow. Sheesh.

Yoenis Cespedes, who is hitting .290, hit his 18th home run yesterday and had two hits in the game, left with a wrist injury.  “I don’t know what the issue is”, manager Terry Collins said about Cespedes after the game, “But I am certainly concerned about it.  He had a similar problem last fall with that left hand and he ended up tearing up the National league for a while.”

The Mets that could play, came to play today. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a home run, made a fantastic play behind second base, flipping a backhand throw to second for a force out and then scoring the first run of the game by avoiding a tag at the plate with a great inside slide, giving the Mets a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning.

Syndergaard (W, 8-2) has won six straight decisions, but he allowed a home run to Cheslor Cuthbert in the fifth to tie the game and the Royals scored again on a single, a sacrifice and two out single to take a 2-1 lead.

The Mets got that one back and more in their half of the fifth when Cabrera hit a two run home run to center, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead. Not to be outdone, KC came right back the next inning with another two out hit as Paulo Orlando drove in Salvador Perez, who had doubled.  Tie game again.  But not for long.

Matt Reynolds, making his major league debut in the outfield, hit his first home run in the majors off Joakim Soria, giving the Mets the lead again, 4-3. When asked why he would put Reynolds into the outfield when he had never played there before, Collins said, “He’s making the most of every opportunity.  He’s never played the outfield in the big leagues.  He’s a baseball player.  There are those guys who will do whatever you ask.  He handled himself just fine.”

With Syndergaard unable to come out for the seventh inning, Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed did their job (2 innings, one hit) setting up for Familia.

Thursday is an off day as the Mets look for revenge in a weekend set in Atlanta.

POSITIVES: Blevins has now gone 21 straight appearances (13 innings) without giving up a run …Colon is still scheduled to make his next start ,,, James Loney RBI single in the fourth snapped the Mets 0-28 futility with Runners in Scoring Position.  Loney is hitting .289 … Cespedes was 4-6 with a HR and RBI against KC … Syndergaard beat KC in the second game of the season and had the only win for the Mets in the World Series, so he is 3-0 lifetime against them.

NEGATIVES: Rene Rivera is hitting just .180 … Wilmer Flores is just 1-14 since getting hit by a pitch on the wrist …

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

”This is a game we had to have. We couldn’t sacrifice another game.”

By:  Paul DiSclafani

GETTY Images / ELSA

GETTY Images / ELSA

Mets manager Terry Collins wasn’t fooling around in the 8th inning as his Mets were clinging to a 2-0 lead over the Miami Marlins.  The Mets (3-5) had lost four straight and needed to win this game, not only to avoid a sweep, but to get back on track after a miserable 2-5 start to the season.

With one out in the eighth and Christian Yelich on first, Collins came out for reliever Jerry Blevins and summoned closer Jeurys Familia for a five out save. That raised a number of eyebrows, not so much because the move seemed a little panicky, considering it is only the eighth game of the season, but Familia pitched two days in a row (36 pitches in total) and was now being summoned to save what should be considered a meaningless game just 11 days into the season.

Was it panicky?  Tell that to the New York Media or the New York Fans, who have been struggling with their emotions as the Mets have stumbled out of the gate, hitting just .186 as a team and ranked 29th in runs scored with just 18.  Everyone needed the Mets to win this game.  Everyone.

”We’ve gotten off to a slow start. It happens. It happens. It’s part of the game,” Collins said. ”There’s a lot of teams that get off to great starts and falter. There are teams that get off to slow starts that have huge second halves and run away with stuff. I just thought it was important today for our fan base to stay excited.”

Fans have been lighting up social media since spring training about the Mets lack of urgency and possible lack of preparation as they lost 13 straight Grapefruit games and just continued to shrug off the results, pointing to the “real” games when the season started. Well, here we are, seven games into the season, and the Mets have looked exactly as they did during the spring – punchless at the plate and clueless on the field.

”I’m not worried about the confidence. I’m worried about the perception is that there’s no energy here, which is completely not true, that we’re not prepared, we’re overconfident or we’re not taking things seriously,” Collins said. ”I heard that last night and it made me sick to my stomach, that people actually think that this team, that accomplished what they did last year, would have any semblance of that type of makeup.”

The players and coaches are certainly taking notice of what is happening and they are plenty aware of what is being written and said about their low energy start. After the incredible high of the playoffs and World Series last year, compounded with seeing the start the Washington Nationals are having, winning exciting games late and coming out of the gate 5-1, Mets fans are a little nervous and a little impatient.

”I’m not deaf, and I’m not blind. I listen. I see how people are reacting. I hear what’s going on,” Collins said. ”I read the stuff, and I read between the lines of what’s being said.”

David Wright knows the expectations in the clubhouse as the Captain said, “This isn’t the start that we thought about and planned to have.”

Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki rescued the Mets with a two-out single in the 7th, driving home both Wilmer Flores (making his major league debut at first base) and Asdurbal Cabrera, giving them a 2-0 lead.  A lead that Collins felt was so worth protecting, he made the call for Familia with five outs left.

”If you start saying games are must wins, I think there’s some pressure that really is not needed,” Plaweicki said, ”but definitely there was a sense of urgency to get a win today.”

Lost in the Familia shuffle was Logan Verrett, who tossed six shutout innings in a spot start for Jacob deGrom, allowing just three hits. And in the seventh inning, with the game still tied 0-0, Collins went to reliever Jim Henderson, who threw a career high 34 pitches about 17 hours prior.  Henderson was awful, allowing a leadoff single and two walks to load the bases with no outs.  Henderson’s velocity is 89-91, way down from 95-97 in his previous appearances.

Hansel Robles came to the rescue, striking out Miguel Rojas looking and Derek Dietrich swinging. Blevins finished the job by getting Dee Gordon to fly out to left and end the inning.  But after getting the first out in the eighth, Blevins allowed a single to Yelich that ended his night and started the inquisition of Collins as Familia came into the game to face Giancarlo Stanton.

Familia snuck two fastballs by Stanton to get ahead 0-2, then got him to fly out to center for the second out. Martin Prado then singled, moving Yelich to second.  Familia got ahead of Justin Bour 1-2, but Bour singled to left to make it a 2-1 game.  Although Familia got JT Realmuto to hit it back to the box on the next pitch to end the inning, he still needed to go out there again in the ninth to secure the win.

In the ninth, Familia (S, 2) took care of business, just like Collins drew it up, finishing with a strikeout of Gordon to end the game and the Mets losing streak at four games.

”We’re talking about something now that’s going to be written up tomorrow like we’re on the cutting edge here, we’re walking that razor blade,” he said. ”We’re not. We just wanted to win today.”

So did everyone else.

Mets have the day off on Thursday and head out on a nine-game road trip, beginning with a weekend set in Cleveland as Bartolo Colon (0-1) gets things started on Jackie Robinson Day in MLB.

POSITIVES: Blevins got the win (1-0) … Yoenis Cespedes went flying into the stands in the eighth inning to try to snag a ball, crashing into a fan and hitting his knee.  He stayed in the game and was later rewarded by being hit in the elbow by a pitch … Cabrera had two hits … Flores, making his debut at 1B, turned a nifty 3-6-3 DP

NEGATIVES: Jacob deGrom may be headed to the DL … Mets were 3-9 W/RISP, but scored both runs on the same AB … Gordon snapped a 19-game hitting streak against the Mets

Mets Sunday Brunch 4/10/16: No More “If’s”; Who’s Making These Schedules and Mr. Met Didn’t Get a Ring?

By: Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2Nice to have baseball back in New York. The largest regular season crowd ever to fit into Citi Field witnessed the Home Opener and all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it.

I’ve always loved Opening Day and this one was special. We got to celebrate the raising of our fifth National League Championship banner and for the first time, there was a real palpable feeling that we were going to get another one this year.

Every year in recent memory, all talk about the Mets chances started with “If…” – If the pitching holds up, If this guys has a bounce back year, If the other team under performs. Finally, there aren’t too many “If’s” that are deal breakers.

Of course like any team, the Mets have a number of “If’s” that could be a potential problem, but none of them (I think) cause the train to go off the rails.

“If David Wright Can Play With Spinal Stenosis…” – As it relates to David Wright, of course that is a problem. Although the Mets didn’t specifically address the issue during the Spring, they made some curious moves that could have shored up a solid “Plan B”:  releasing Reuben Tejada and not resigning Juan Uribe or Kelly Johnson.  Granted Wilmer Flores can learn to play 3B, what if there is an injury to Neil Walker or Asdrubal Cabrera?  The Mets are kind of thin on the infield after Flores – how many more chances are we going to give Eric Campbell?

“If the pitching holds up…” – you mean ALL the pitching? If there was any team that could survive a major injury to a pitcher, it’s this team.  Of course, injuries to multiple pitchers would derail any team.  This staff is constructed to take a licking and keep on ticking.  There are three legitimate #1 pitchers and a potential #2 guy.  Then our #5 guy would be a number 3 anywhere else, know what I’m saying?

“If Yoenis Cespedes plays like his first six weeks and not his last…” – Really? Is that a concern?  He is going to be a major factor in the middle of the lineup and hopefully not a liability in the outfield.  Is he going to hit 50 home runs?  Did you expect him to hit 50 home runs?  Let’s be realistic, people.  Cespedes is going to get his hits, drive in runs, and force opponents to pay attention to the other guys in the lineup.  We haven’t had anyone like that in a long time.

We are five games into a 162 game season, let’s sit back and enjoy things for a while before we start worrying about things we really don’t have to worry about.

DeGrom and the Lat Injury

Something has been slightly off about Jacob deGrom the entire Spring as he experienced back pain and a groin injury while losing some heat on his fastball. We started to see it late last season, especially as he labored in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers with a gutsy performance that should always be considered in the top 10 of any Met pitching performance.

degrom 091515Then he took himself out of the home opener after just 76 pitches and six innings because of “lat tightness” on a day that he couldn’t hit more than 92-93 mph on the jugs gun.

I know, I know – last year Steven Matz had “lat tightness” and the Mets let him make his next scheduled start in Los Angeles and we didn’t see him again for two months after he tore the lat. Why don’t we just be cautious on this one?

With his wife about to give birth to their first child and his next start not scheduled until Wednesday, let deGrom go home to Florida to be with his wife and stay there, skipping his next start. Thursday is an off day, so his next scheduled start after that is Tuesday, April 19th in Philadelphia – that’s a full 10 days off.  Don’t know how much “rest” a new father can expect to get, but he certainly should not have any chance of “tweaking” his lat changing diapers.

 

Michael Conforto Is A Hitting Machine

Are we about ready to let this guy play every day? In his first three games, Conforto is 4-9 with two doubles, two walks and three RBI and two of those RBI came against a lefty.  Do I love Juan Lagares?  I love the 2014 Juan Lagares, but I don’t know where that guy went to.  Maybe Terry Collins should consider giving him a few games in right for Curtis Granderson (.063).  The slim and trim Lagares is 2-5 so far, but still seems a little tentative in the OF.

But Conforto may continue to push the issue of playing time sooner rather than later for Collins. When you watch him hit, you always get the feeling he is going to put it in play.  Conforto, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are making the middle of the Mets order something to be reckoned with.

Daniel Who?

Remember that guy who hit home runs in six straight postseason games? Remember that guy who led the team in doubles and was the most clutch and consistent hitter on the team?  Remember that guy who just sometimes didn’t know what to do with the ball when it came to him, no matter what position he played?

daniel murphyListen, I loved Daniel Murphy and was sorry to see him go, especially to a team like the Nationals. But have you been watching Neil Walker in the field?  Of course, he has been pretty impressive and productive at bat (4-12, 3R, 1HR, 5 RBI), but is he a professional second baseman or what?

I have watched all three games so far and not once when the ball was hit to second base did I have to say, “oh my God, oh my God, oh my God” and hope that it would result in an out. Is Walker the greatest second baseman to ever play the position?  Of course not, but he will do just fine in Flushing.  I know that the fans of the Pirates are all lamenting the loss of Walker.

Murphy has certainly kept up his end of the bargain for the Nationals (4-11, 1HR, 5 RBI) and all Mets fans should wish him the best.

Who Makes This Schedule Anyway?

Can someone tell me why baseball can’t schedule the first two weeks of the season in places with domes and warm weather? There are domes in 7 cities, including “cold” weather places like Toronto and Milwaukee.  There are another seven teams in “warm” weather cities, like Texas and Atlanta, including five in California alone.  That’s almost half the league.

snowy baseballDo you think the Mets or Yankees would complain if they had to start the season on the road? They were melting ice in the outfield for Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.  It snowed in Chicago on Thursday.

On Monday, when most teams opened the season, Seattle (who has a dome) played in Texas (a warm weather climate) and Toronto (who has a dome), played in Tampa Bay (who has their own dome) while the Dodgers opened the season in San Diego. Was it really necessary to play on April 4th in Cleveland, Baltimore and New York?

This weekend we have games in sunny Detroit, Colorado and Chicago while two teams with their own domes (Houston and Tampa) and three California teams, are all on the road. Oh yeah, Texas is playing in Los Angeles while San Diego is bringing their snow parkas out to Colorado.

Mr. Met Didn’t Get a Ring?

How did that happen? The supposed “Best Mascot in Sports” didn’t get a ring from an organization that gave out over 750 of them?  A Mets spokesman said that the organization established a specific set of criteria for the non-players to receive the second place rings and Steven Boldis (Mr. Met for the last 12 years) didn’t qualify.mr. met

“There were specific criteria for part-time and per diem employees related to hours worked last season. He (Boldis) worked approximately half of the required hours last season, did not meet the criteria, and as such did not receive a ring.”

Guess the new rules to help speed up play during the games hurt his chances of getting a ring. But let’s be realistic, where do you get a size 67 ring anyway?

The Rest of the Month for the Mets

After starting off the season against the World Champion Royals, the Mets face the Phillies ( six times), Miami (3), Cleveland (3), Atlanta (3) and Cincinnati (3) the rest of the month. That’s 18 games against five teams that lost 463 games last year – an average of 93 games each.

This week’s recaps:

Mets Blow Bartolo’s Gem

Mets Raise Their Pennant

Syndegaard Dominates Champs

 

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!