By: Paul DiSclafani
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.
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.
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?
Listen, 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.
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.
“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:
After a long, cold winter, we here in the East are looking forward to short sleeves and sunshine. And when things started in Port St. Lucie for the Mets, that was what we got. Only that was all we got.
We couldn’t find “games” on TV, and when they were televised, the recognizable names played just a few innings. Why was Jeurys Familia pitching in the fourth inning?
Of course, that’s what spring training is for, to get ready for the regular season. But I think that times have changed dramatically for baseball and to some degree most sports, when it comes to spring training / training camp / exhibition season.
Do we really need seven weeks of spring training in 2016? Maybe in 1952 when players had to work in the fields and dig ditches (do people still dig ditches by hand?) in the off-season, they needed seven weeks of spring training to get back into baseball shape. But in 2016?
Aren’t players that report to training camp already in-shape? Other than the Giant Behemoth in Boston, Pablo Sandoval, what players need Spring Training to actually get into physical shape? Don’t they work out all year? Did they all ditch their personal trainers to avoid steroid temptation?
I understand they need to “get their legs” and work on their control and timing, but Spring Training in baseball is starting to look like pre-season NFL football – almost unwatchable. Most of the times, players are being “protected”, or just trying not to get hurt. It’s more like a showcase for the minor league players.
When exhibition games require a three-hour bus ride (oh, heavens!), most veterans stay home. What’s the point of playing 25-30 games and keeping track of the standings, when the players and coaches don’t take it seriously? I understand the need to compile statistics so you can get a read on how an individual player may be performing. But keeping standings on ESPN, including winning streaks and home / away records? Isn’t everyone away?
How many times have you read that a pitcher was “just working on things”? And who are these guys wearing uniform numbers in the 80’s and 90’s that aren’t Turk Wendell? Did you even know that the Mets have a kid outfielder named Travis Taijeron who has played in 17 games this spring (34 AB’s) and leads the team in RBI (10)? Of course not, why would you?
The Mets have hit just 9 home runs as a team in their 20 games so far, and they came from nine different players, none of which wear #52. Does that really matter? Maybe to fantasy players, but in the overall scheme of things, other than injuries, does anything that happens in spring training matter? Exactly.
Remember how the Mets used to end their Spring training schedule? It used to be a game or two up the East Coast on their way home to NY. Or a few games at Shea Stadium before the season started. Not anymore.
The Mets complete their Grapefruit schedule this week with 3 games in Florida, and then head out West on Thursday to play their final two games against the Cubbies, one in Arizona on Thursday and then the Spring finale on Friday in Las Vegas, before getting Saturday off. Then another plane ride up to Kansas City for the season opener on Sunday night.
In a bizarre quirk to the schedule, the Mets and Royals have an off-day on Monday before concluding the season opening 2-game series, but the Mets are off on Wednesday and Thursday before the home opener against the Phillies on Friday. So the Mets will have three off-days before they have played three games.
While the pitchers are targeting their last appearance as their “final tune-up” before the season starts, I think we could have gotten away with just two weeks of games instead of four weeks. You know, if the veterans aren’t playing the entire game anyway, what good are you getting out of it by having minor-leaguers play against minor-leaguers in a major league game?
We were all waiting with bated breath for pitchers and catchers to begin reporting in the middle of February so we could begin washing the sour taste out of our mouths after losing the World Series to Kansas City in November. I’m over it by now, what about you?
SPRING TRAINING OBSERVATIONS:
Just a little concerned over the lack of power the Mets have shown in their 20 or so games. Not enough to raise any red flags, but Maikel Franco on the Phillies has 8 home runs on his own – and he has only 16 hits. The Mets have hit only nine home runs as a team all spring … Other than Jenrry Mejia getting re-re-re-suspended, it has been a quiet camp … For those of you that care about this sort of thing, Daniel Murphy is hitting .243 this spring with the Nationals (9 for 37) and no home runs …Like what we’ve been hearing about Noah Syndergaard. Can’t wait to see him in Game 2 of the season against the Royals. Actually, can’t wait for the first pitch … Sorry to see Reuben Tejada go. Looks like Matt Reynolds or (heaven forbid) Eric Campbell will take his spot on the roster. Tejada is still staying in his hotel at Port St. Lucie (with his girlfriend and 9 month-old daughter) and driving the 40-odd miles to the Cardinals training camp. Looked odd in Cardinals red this week against the Mets, but he did make an error at short … The supposed fifth Beatle, I mean outfielder, Michael De Aza, is hitting over .400 so far in the spring with Cespedes not far behind at .394 …Hope that David Wright can thrive in the 2-hole this year and not worry about hitting 25 home runs anymore. Also hope he is smart enough to understand that it is one thing to be able to play through the pain, but another thing to perform at a very high level on a team that is trying to get back to the World Series. The Yankees never took Derek Jeter out of the lineup in his final year and maybe they should have. Let’s hope we never have to make that decision with our Captain.
SOME PREDICTIONS FOR 2016:
Mets win 96 games and the NL East again. The Cubs and Dodgers crash and burn and don’t even make it back to the postseason. Mets and Giants play in the NLCS, but Mets take it in seven and go on to face the Blue Jays. Mets are World Champions, 4 games to two … Noah Syndergaard is the Cy Young award winner … The Yankees fail to make the post season and finish last in the AL East … Clayton Kershaw is a disaster for the Dodgers and the Nationals finish third behind the Marlins … Bartolo Colon hits a home run over the fence in Philadelphia … David Wright goes on the DL in July and never returns … Steven Matz is sent to the minors when Zack Wheeler returns because Colon is 12-2 … Cespedes breaks Mets team record of 41 home runs in a year, but still decides to opt-out of his contract …
See my complete 2016 Mets Preview by clicking here: Looking Ahead To The New Season
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.
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?
Although 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.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.
Nobody 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….
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.
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.
After 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.
No 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.
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.
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!
Good 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.
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.
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!
By: Paul DiSclafani
As the calendar turns to December, we’re just about three months away from the Mets first Spring Training game, March 3rd against the Washington Nationals. That means pitchers and catchers report sometime in the middle of February.
The great Rogers Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for the spring.”
Shall we stare out the window together today?
PITCHERS SIGNING MEGA DEALS
Are these teams insane? The Red Sox give 30 year-old David Price a seven-year, $217 million contract that averages about $31 million a year, making him the highest paid player in baseball history for about eight minutes. Then the Dodgers “other ace”, 32 year-old Zack Grienke, signs a six-year, $ 206 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks and his average annual salary is up around $32 million.
Didn’t any of these team executives take a peek at the 2022 calendar during the August and September pennant races, when they will be paying a 37 year-old Price $31 million (with still one more year left) and an almost 39 year-old Grienke $32 million?
Is this where baseball is heading? Teams signing one player to a huge contract and then just crossing their fingers that they will be able to afford to pay 24 other guys somewhere down the road? What does that mean to a team like the Mets with four or five aces? You think the agents for Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz aren’t wringing their hands and putting deposits down on personal islands in the Caribbean this weekend? And what if Zack Wheeler makes it back in 2016 as the fifth ace? Let’s say all of them agree to a “home team” discount of $25 million each – that’s $125 million on just five players. Sheesh…
THE PURSUIT OF BEN ZOBRIST
Am I missing something here? This guy will be 35 in May and is looking for a four-year deal for $60 million? He hit .276 with 13 HR and 56 RBI, but played in only 126 games between Oakland and Kansas City. In the World Series against the Mets, he hit .261 with four doubles and three walks. Is that worth $15 million a year? Will that really be worth $15 million in 2019 when he turns 39?
He can play second base, help out at third for David Wright and he even plays the OF (50 games) and made only 7 errors in the field. He is a contact hitter and struck out only 56 times in 467 AB’s with 129 hits and 36 doubles.
Wait a minute – didn’t we already have a guy like that named Daniel Murphy? He played 130 games in 2015, hit .281 with 140 hits, had 14 home runs, 38 doubles and drove in 73. He also struck out only 38 times all year in 499 AB’s and made only 13 errors.
SANDY ALDERSON’S CANCER
I don’t care what type of cancer you have; there is no “good” cancer. How “good” could his cancer be if he is going through 8-12 weeks of chemotherapy? The word cancer alone is frightening.
The 68 year-old Alderson, who was just named Executive of the year by Baseball America, was told that the cancer is “very treatable” and that he will make a full recovery. The cemeteries are full with cancer “survivors”.
This is devastating news to Alderson and his family and as Mets fans; we all wish him the best of luck.
But at this time, he needs to concentrate on himself and getting healthy. The Mets, the fans, the media and everyone else will get along just fine. Life goes on for everyone, including Alderson and his family.
I don’t want to sound maudlin or uncaring because I care very much about his health, but not as it relates to being a Mets fan. That’s not important to me right now. I’m not concerned about how this is going to affect the Mets chances of signing free agents or their representation at the Winter Meetings next week. To me, that would be selfish.
I love the Mets, you love the Mets, and we all love the Mets. We certainly would not be in the position we are today if not for Sandy’s guidance and that will forever be his legacy here. I’m not lamenting the bad break we were dealt here. Just think how Lou Gehrig thought of himself as the “Luckiest man on the face of the earth”.
We love you Sandy and we are all rooting for a full recovery and when you are ready, we’ll be here for you. But please don’t put yourself in jeopardy again for any job. You should have taken care of this months ago instead of being “tough” and ignoring it because we were in the playoffs. Your health and your family come first. We, the fans, understand that. Godspeed, Sandy and see you in the summer!
WHY NOT TAKE BACK JENRRY MEJIA?
Before you lose your mind, just take a deep breath, OK? I know all the negatives. I know how he let us all down. I know how he let down his teammates and how we all questioned his intelligence level in getting caught again.
I think that players in this day and age that are taking steroids should be banned for life. But they are not. They are punished and then they are allowed to resume their careers. That’s just the way it is.
Tendering Mejia a contract will cost the Mets about $2 million. Since he is still suspended for 100 more games and therefore not collecting a salary, that’s only about $765,000. Where are you getting a major league pitcher for that price? You think Mejia could have helped the Mets in October? You BET he could have!
Mejia would be eligible to join the Mets in early August, just when things should be heating up.
The big difference this time? We’re not depending on him at all. We already have a closer. Should Mejia be a failure, what have we lost? If he is still on the juice and gets suspended again, he’s gone from the game forever. Again, what will it cost us?
But what if he comes back strong and can really help us in August and September? Since he wasn’t suspended during the 2016 season, he is eligible for the postseason. Do we really want to give the ball to O’Flaherty again?
Of course if we don’t take him back, someone else will, won’t they? Do you want to see a clean and healthy Mejia closing games for the Nationals next year?
SO LONG TO THE PEPSI PORCH
Mets and Coca-Cola have agreed to a deal that will be formally announced next week as the new soft drink sponsor at Citi Field. That means no more Pepsi Porch, although I will most likely continue to call it the Pepsi Porch, the same way I still sometimes slip and call it Shea Stadium. I guess they are going to put a giant Coke bottle up there, kind of like what they have in San Francisco.
NEWS AND NOTES: Our old friend Oliver Perez signed a contract this weekend with – wait for it – the Washington Nationals! They lose Jordan Zimmermann (to Detroit) and gain Good Ole Ollie … Good luck to bench coach Bob Geren, who has moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers with new manager Dave Roberts. Most likely candidate would be Tim Teufel to replace Geren, but what about Wally Backman? … Mets will play their final two exhibition games against the Cubs in Las Vegas before heading out to KC for the 2016 season opener … Mets signed right-handed relief pitcher Jim Henderson (Brewers) to a minor league contract … MLB announced that the Mets issued 44 full postseason shares worth $300,757 each, a record for a World Series runner-up. The Royals issued 58 full shares worth $370,069 each. So I guess we won that one…
By: Paul DiSclafani
I went through all five phases of grief already and finally arrived at “Acceptance”, so I’m OK with it. It really was a wonderful season, a surprising season.
I think we finally got to “next year” with our pitching staff. Watching the development of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom was just beautiful. We saw them develop from raw talent to learn to rely on their secondary pitches.
And the return of Matt Harvey was a sight to behold. I know there were times this year that we just shook our heads at the decisions he made, but he is a marvelous pitcher and a true star in this game. And for the next few years, he is still our star.
There were many bright spots to the season, but here are the few that made this one memorable for me (and hopefully you) in no particular order:
Getting Yoenis Cespedes with 10 minutes to go at the trading deadline.
I know he may turn out to be a rental player, but what a rental! He transformed our moribund lineup instantly. We knew about his power, but found out he was a good defensive player also (the World Series notwithstanding). What a gun he has! He hit 17 home runs for us in less than half a season. Boy, I hope they make him a decent offer. I still believe his injury was more than it was made out to be. You just don’t go from being the player he was in August and September to what we saw in the postseason just like that. No matter what happens, Thanks Yo.
The sweep of the Nationals at Citi Field
Has there been a more important 3-game series at Citi Field that the late July one against the Nationals? Trailing them by three games, we beat them on Friday on a home run by Wilmer Flores in the bottom of the 12th inning in his first game back after the trade-no trade debacle. Then on Saturday, Cespedes makes his Mets debut and his presence in the lineup known immediately. The Nationals intentionally walked the already 0-3 Cespedes in the 8th inning to pitch to Lucas Duda, who drove a double off the wall for the winning run. Then on Sunday night, the Mets hit three home runs on five pitches against Jordan Zimmerman to complete the sweep and never looked back. Syndergaard went eight innings for the win and said this after the game. “It’s so much fun to be a Met right now,” Syndergaard said. “Just an unbelievable night, and I’m looking forward to the days to come.” How right he would be.
The 7-1 Comeback Against The Nationals
Washington had knocked Matt Harvey out of the box and made Cespedes pay for an error that allowed three runs to score. The Mets had come back the night before to increase their NL East lead to five games, but Washington was on the verge of cutting into the lead with this game in the bag. But in the seventh inning, the Mets inexplicably score six run to tie the game as the Nationals issued six walks and a wild pitch. You could feel the air coming out of the building and see the looks on the players faces as the Mets had done the impossible. Then Kirk Nieuwenhius hit a pinch hit home run in the eighth inning to break the tie and the backs of the Nationals and they were never heard from again. Oh yeah, the Mets completed the sweep the next day.
The 13-3 start
Remember when Terry Collins said it was necessary for the Mets to get off to a good start? They went into Washington and won on Opening Day, taking two out of three to start the season, but then went to Atlanta and lost the first two before going on an 11-game win streak. Everyone knew that they couldn’t keep up that pace, but wins in April count the same as wins in September and we needed all of them.
Jacob deGrom At The All-Star Game
The reigning Rookie of The Year finally got into the All-Star game in the sixth inning in Cincinnati. As the Mets lone representative, he wanted to just “let it fly”. And boy, did he ever! He threw just 10 pitches, becoming the first player in All-Star history to strike out the side on 10 or less pitches. Granted the three American Leaguer’s he struck out might not be ticketed to the Hall of Fame, but Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis (.303, 52 RBI), Oakland’s Stephen Vogt (18 HR, 71 RBI) and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias (.300, 125 hits) were quite impressed. “It was good morning, good afternoon, ball outside, goodnight,” Kipnis said of his at-bat, the only one to last more than three pitches. “He’s a power pitcher, a strong pitcher and a [darn] good one, and I got to see it tonight.”
Clinching The Division
I honestly had tears in my eyes as the Mets celebrated on the field that night in Cleveland. All the suffering of the last nine years, all the pain of collapsing in the final couple of days in the season, all were forgiven. Everything got washed away with that clincher. We were going to the playoffs!
The First Home Playoff Game
When Citi Field first opened, most fans spent time walking around the place or on the line at the Shake Shack. We didn’t have a lot of baseball to cheer about, either. But as the season drew to a close, more and more fans seemed to actually be into the game itself. Citi Field set records for single game attendance for the Washington Series and now this. The fans were ready to go and so was the team. The Mets had split the two games of the NLDS in Los Angeles and with Matt Harvey on the mound were loaded for bear. We had just lost Reuben Tejada to a nasty, dirty play by Chase Utley and during the introductions, Tejada came out to the top of the dugout steps to wave to the crowd! 44,276 were witness to the first playoff game in the new stadium and the Mets set a team record, scoring 13 runs. I don’t think I will ever forget how loud the crowd was in the first inning.
Game 3 of The World Series
Just to see the Mets in the World Series was something. But after giving the Royals Game 1 on a silver platter and looking overmatched in Game 2, we needed something. Noah Syndergaard drew a line in the sand by throwing the first pitch, a 98 mph heater, over the head of Alcides Escobar, then striking him out. Then David Wright launched a home run in his first World Series at bat at home. I don’t think I have ever felt Citi Field shake like that before.
Daniel Murphy’s Postseason Home Run Streak
Could that streak come from any more unlikely a player? Not that Murphy isn’t capable of doing it, just that, well, he’s not capable of doing that. Granted he had a career high 14 home runs in the regular season, but home runs in six straight postseason games? Not Babe Ruth, or Mickey Mantle? No one ever did that? When he hit the last one in Chicago, I just shook my head. He will forever be remembered in Chicago as Daniel “F-ing” Murphy.
The Big League debut of Steven Matz
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in late June and life-long Mets fan Steven Matz was about to make his Major League debut. The kid from Stony Brook Long Island got onto the mound at Citi Field in front of his family and friends and threw his first 96 mph heater over everyone’s head and into the bricks behind home plate. Although he was the winning pitcher in his debut with 7.2 innings of two-run ball, he drove in four runs with three hits, including a two-run double. The rest of the league had to be shaking their head at what the Mets were now putting together, adding Matz to the other three studs Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard.
I guess when we look back, this really was a wonderful baseball season for the Mets. So we didn’t get the brass ring this time, I’m just as disappointed as you are. But for the first time in a long time, the phrase “Wait Till Next Year” really means something. I know I can’t wait for Next Year, can you?
Thanks for reading my stuff all year! Still lots of stuff to talk about this offseason, so stay with me!
Still need to get over your grief? Let me help you get through it with this article: Ya Gotta Bereave!
After blowing two leads in Game 1 and falling in extra innings to the Kansas City Royals, the Mets wasted two home runs by rookie Michael Conforto and blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in Game 4 now finding themselves on the brink of elimination in the World Series.
Postseason hero Daniel Murphy’s error in the eighth allowed the Royals to tie the game after Tyler Clippard was unable to protect a 3-2 lead, getting the first out and then walking the next two batters. Jeurys Familia relieved Clippard and got a ground ball from Eric Hosmer, but the slow roller went under Murphy’s glove and into right field, allowing Ben Zobrits to score from second to tie the game. Mike Moustakas singled on the next pitch, just past the diving Murphy, scoring Lorenzo Cain to give the Royals the first and only lead they would need for the night, 4-3. Salvador Perez took care of the insurance run, following with another RBI hit to right, plating Hosmer and it was 5-3.
“There’s no way to describe it. It hurts when you feel like you got a direct hand in a ballgame,” Murphy said. “I didn’t do the job. That’s the most frustrating thing.”
As the Royals celebrated their 5-3 win at Citi Field after escaping the bottom of the ninth by doubling Yoenis Cespedes off first to end the game with the tying runs on base, Mets fans were shaking their heads at how they could be in this position. In a game that seemed to be leading up to the Mets tying the series with Matt Harvey on the mound for a pivotal Game 5, they imploded, allowing the Royals back into it and eventually handing Game 4 to them.
The Royals, who set a major league record with their sixth comeback win of the postseason from at least two runs, are now just one win away from their second World Series title.
“There’s just a belief amongst the guys that it doesn’t matter what the score is, what the lead is, what the deficit is. The guys just believe that they’re going to find a way to get it done,” Kansas City starter Chris Young said.
“What they did tonight is what they’ve been doing the whole playoffs,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s a group of guys that have the utmost confidence in themselves. I don’t think at any point these guys thought that they were going to lose tonight.”
Mets manager Terry Collins could not disagree. “They truly don’t ever stop.”
This game was filled with strange plays and misplays almost from the start. Rookie left-hander Steven Matz, making only his tenth start in the major leagues, allowed a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar to start the game, but on a 1-2 pitch, struck out Zobrist swinging. Escobar was running on the pitch and easily stole second, but was called out when Zobrist interfered with catcher Travis d’Arnaud on his follow-through, preventing him from making a throw and Escobar was called out also.
Conforto led off the third for the Mets with a monster home run into the Pepsi Porch (376 feet) just inside the foul pole to give the Mets their first lead of this Halloween night, 1-0. When Wilmer Flores followed with a single on the next pitch, it seemed like the Mets might have starter Young on the ropes. Young had set down the first six before Conforto’s blast.
Then he bounced a 55-foot curveball, moving Flores to second and he got to third on a Matz sacrifice. With one out, Curtis Granderson lifted a lazy fly ball to right. With the slow-footed Flores on third, there was going to be a play at the plate. But Alex Rios settled under the ball and initially thought it was the third out. A split second later with centerfielder Lorenzo Cain shouting at him, Rios fired the ball home, but Flores scored standing up to make it 2-0 Mets.
“It’s a mental mistake,” Rios said. “But what do you do? You can’t just put your head down. You have to compete. If you put your head down, you’re done.”
The Royals broke through in the fifth for a run to make it 2-1, but Conforto launched another moon shot to center in the Mets half (400 feet) to give the Mets another two run cushion, 3-1 and energizing the crowd.
Matz had held the Royals to a run on five hits to that point, but his night was about to end very quickly. Zobrist doubled to center on the first pitch and Cain followed two pitches later with a single to center, scoring Zobrist to make it 3-2 and ending Matz’ night. Jonathan Niese and Bartolo Colon got the Mets out of the mess after Cain stole second and went to third when Colon tried to pick him off. Colon stranded him there winning an 11-pitch battle with Perez, striking him out to end the inning.
Addison Reed pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, but you had the feeling that three runs was not going to be enough in this game against this team.
After the eighth inning debacle and now trailing 5-3, the Mets still had two shots at getting back in the game, but Royals closer Wade Davis would have none of it. Wade set them down 1-2-3 in the eighth setting up the Mets fans for more disappointment in the ninth.
The fans seemed to overcome their shock in the ninth, coming to life after Murphy and the Cespedes singled following a David Wright strikeout to start the inning. With the tying runs on base and the winning run in the form of Lucas Duda at the plate, the fans were once again up and screaming. Duda hit a soft liner to third that Moustakas grabbed at his shoe-tops, then easily doubled off Cespedes at first who was half-way to second at the time.
And just like that, the Royals take a stranglehold on the series and the Mets will need to turn to their Dark Knight, Matt Harvey, to save their season and punch their ticket back to Kansas City.
Game 5 is the last baseball game of the season at Citi Field win or lose. The Mets and their fans hope there are two more games to play.