Tagged: Jeurys Familia

It Never Ends – Now Familia is Headed to the DL with an Arterial Clot in His Shoulder

By Paul DiSclafani

AP Photo / Kathy Williens

The hits just keep on coming in this disaster of a start to the 2017 season for the Mets.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia was diagnosed with an “arterial clot” in his right shoulder and is headed to St. Louis to see Dr. Robert Thompson for further tests.  Thompson is the same surgeon that operated on Matt Harvey for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Familia, who has pitched in just 11 games this season after serving a 15-game suspension at the start of the season, has just three saves.  Familia was charged with his first blown save of the season after surrendering four runs (three earned) to the Giants on Wednesday afternoon, failing to protect a 3-2 lead in a game the Mets eventually lost, 6-5.

Former Mets pitcher David Cone had a similar blood clot issue in his arm pit in 1996 and missed four months following surgery.

Familia had pitched just 9.2 innings in his 11 appearances, and was pulled by Manager Terry Collins twice already this year.  He has 8 walks to go along with his 10 strikeouts.

 

50 Straight For Familia As Reyes Provides Spark For Mets; “He Creates Havoc”

By Paul DiSclafani

James Loney admires monster 2-run homer in Mets 5-3 win over Marlins Eric Espada/Getty Images

James Loney admires monster 2-run homer in Mets 5-3 win over Marlins
Eric Espada/Getty Images

When the Mets acquired their former spark plug Jose Reyes back in June and promoted him to the big club on July 5, they knew he was not the same player that won the batting title in 2011, the year before he bolted to the Marlins after signing a huge Free Agent deal in the off-season.

They knew he had a lot of baggage with his recent domestic abuse situation that cost him a 52 game suspension and his job with the Colorado Rockies. But they also knew that their moribund offense was going nowhere unless it hit home runs, so they took a chance that Reyes could provide a jolt.  That lightning bolt finally arrived tonight.

Reyes (33), making his first appearance at Marlins Park since he was traded in 2012 to Toronto, had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run in the Mets 5-3 win over the Marlins. The Mets (51-44) pulled to within a half game of second place Miami (52-44) and picked up a game on the first place Nationals, now trailing by five games.

“He brings some energy to the lineup,” manager Terry Collins said after the game about Reyes. “He gets on base and gets into scoring position.  He creates havoc.  When he gets on base, people worry about him.”

Reyes started the game with a double, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Yoenis Cespedes to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Then in the fourth, his two-out RBI single gave the Mets a 2-0 lead.

“We don’t have to sit back and wait for the home run,” Collins said. “This guy is producing runs.”

After the Marlins had tied the game in the sixth on a two run homer by Christian Yelich, Reyes made things happen again in the seventh to get the Mets the lead. He banged a one-out single up the middle and using his speed, went from first to third on a Curtis Granderson single to right, putting himself in position to score on another Cespedes sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.

“”I know if I get on base,” Reyes said, “the guys behind me will drive me in. I’m starting to get more comfortable at the plate.”

Collins echoed Reyes comments about getting more comfortable at the plate.   “It’s a matter of accumulating more at bats and getting comfortable from both sides of the plate.  We’ve got a lot of games to play and he is going to make a big difference in our lineup.”

“He’s like a can of Red Bull bottled up into a human being,” starter Logan Verrett said about Reyes. “That’s something that we were lacking. He brings that energy to the field every single day. He had a huge game for us today at the plate. He brings the same exact energy if he’s 0-for-4 at the plate, which is what you need.”

Verrett (ND) took a shutout into the sixth, but gave up the two-run home run to Yelich to tie the game. Handel Robles came on to get the final two outs after the Yelich home run and put in a 1-2-3 seventh inning to pick up his fifth win (5-3).  Robles is 5-0 since June 10th with a 1.59 ERA in 22.2 innings with 26K and only 9 walks.

With a 3-2 lead and Jeurys Familia getting ready to try for his 50th consecutive save, James Loney gave the Mets some breathing room in the ninth inning.  Loney, who came on in a double switch in the eighth inning, crushed a 2-run home run into the upper deck in right field to give the Mets a 5-2 lead.  It was Loney’s fifth home run of the year after getting only four all last season.

As has been the story recently, Familia found himself in trouble, but managed to escape. On Tuesday, the Cubs loaded the bases in the ninth with no outs, but Familia worked out of it to get save #49 in a row, thanks to a game ending double play started by Jose Reyes.  Tonight, he gave up a run to make it 5-3, but got two strikeouts to get save #34 on the year and his 50th consecutive regular season save.  Familia is only the fourth player in MLB history to get 50 or more consecutive regular season saves, closing in on Jose Valverde (51) and Tom Gordon (54), but still far away from Eric Gagne (84).

“He’s been unbelievable,” Collins gushed after the game about his All-Star closer. “He has great confidence when he goes out there.”

Jacob deGrom (6-4, 2.38) takes on All-Star Jose Fernandez (11-4, 2.53) tomorrow. DeGrom is coming of a 1-hit, complete game shutout of the Phillies last week.

WHEELER UPDATE:  Zack Wheeler was in the ballpark today at Miami to visit with his teammates and threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session. He will face live batters in a few days and could ready for a rehab assignment as early as next week.  That puts him at late August, early September for a possible return.

POSITIVES: Cespedes had two RBI (both Reyes) on sacrifice flies as Mets manufactured three of their five runs … Reyes raised his average from .215 to .250 with his 3-5 … Reyes already has three SB as a Met … Marlins were a hot team, going 8-2 in their last 10 games … Mets have won 11 of their last 20 vs Miami … Mets are now 4-3 on this 9-game road trip … Addison Reed had a 1-2-3 eighth and his 21st hold (whatever that means) .. Ichiro Suzuki is just four hits shy of 3,000.

NEGATIVES: Neil Walker was 0-5 and saw his average drop to .242 .. Marlins closer Fernando Rodney has given up just two home runs all year, Loney’s tonight and the other to Alejandro De Aza …

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 2 of 3 From Fish as Nationals Roll Into Town; Harvey to the DL

By Paul DiSclafani:

Jose Reyes celebrates his return to the Mets with two doubles in 4-2 win over the Marlins AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Jose Reyes celebrates his return to the Mets with two doubles in 4-2 win over the Marlins
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

After their surprising four game sweep of the Chicago Cubs last weekend, the Mets (46-38) took care of business against the Marlins, winning the rubber game, 4-2 and can now set their sights on the First Place Nationals, who come into New York for a four game weekend set.

After being swept by Washington, the Mets were left for dead heading into their big rematch series with the Cubbies, but pulled themselves out of the offensive funk that plagued them for most of the month of June, shocking everyone, including themselves, and sweeping all four games against the team with the best record in the league. But that left them vulnerable this week as their personal tormentors, the Marlins, came into town.

With Matt Harvey on the mound for the Holiday game on Monday, the Mets found themselves in a 6-0 hole before chipping away at the lead, scoring in each of their last five frames for an 8-6 comeback win for their fifth straight. But on Tuesday they laid an egg, dropping a 5-2 decision as Giancarlo Stanton hit two home runs.  That set up the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon.

Wilmer Flores, who hit two home runs on Sunday when he tied a franchise record going 6-6 against the Cubs, hit two more today as the Mets get a win for Jacob deGrom, 4-2.  DeGrom, who hadn’t won a game since April 30th (10 straight starts) has now won two straight as the Mets have won six of their last seven.

DeGrom (W, 5-4) pitched seven strong innings, striking out seven and allowing two runs. Both came in the form of solo home runs by Stanton, who also hit two home runs on Tuesday.  Stanton hit milestone #200 in the sixth inning.  He hit home runs in his last two AB’s on Tuesday and his first two AB’s on Wednesday, giving him four home runs in consecutive AB’s.  Last time that happened was with Albert Pulols in 2006.

Jose Reyes got to play shortstop instead of third base when Asdrubal Cabrera was unable to play due to a family emergency and made the most of his second start in his re-debut with the Mets. After taking an 0-4 collar on Tuesday, Reyes smacked two doubles as the leadoff hitter.  “He creates a lot of problems at the top of the lineup,” Neil Walker said. “He’s going to be important for us setting the table for the guys in the middle.”

Curtis Granderson, batting behind Reyes in the lineup, drove in two runs in the third inning to give the Mets a 3-0 lead before Stanton got one back in the top of the fourth. But Flores got that one right back in the bottom of the inning.

Addison Reed pitched a perfect 8th while protecting a 4-2 lead, setting up first time All-Star closer Jeurys Familia to get the final three outs for his 30th save of the year.  Familia has now registered 46 consecutive regular season saves.

Now the Nationals, with a four game lead over the Mets, come into town before the All-Star break, for a four game series. After being swept in their previous series, the Mets have fought back, winning six of their last seven, but trimming only two games from the Nationals lead.  This might be considered a “statement” series for the Mets, their chance to show the Nationals they are not going to go quietly into the night.

Game one will feature 43 year-old Bartolo Colon (7-4, 2.87) against rookie Lucas Giolito (0-0, 0.00). The highly regarded Giolito made his major league debut against the Mets on June 28, throwing four shutout innings of one-hit ball before the rain came and he needed to be replaced.

The rest of the series probable pitchers shape up like this:

  • Game 2 (FRI): Noah Syndergaard (9-3, 2.41) vs Stephen Strasburg (11-0, 2.71)
  • Game 3 (SAT): Logan Verrett (3-5, 4.01) vs Max Scherzer (9-6, 3.21)
  • Game 4 (SUN): Steven Matz (7-4, 3.34) vs Gio Gonzalez (4-8, 4,79)

HARVEY ON THE DL

Matt Harvey landed on the 15-Day DL with “discomfort in his right shoulder”. After meeting with team doctors, Harvey will visit a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) specialist Robert Thompson in St. Louis on Thursday.  Maybe this at least partially explains the recent poor performances Harvey has experienced.  Zack Wheeler is not expected back until late July, so the logical choice will be Logan Verrett to take Harvey’s spot in the rotation.

Harvey is just 4-10 in his 17 starts with an ERA of 4.86. He has allowed 111 hits in 92.2 innings, the fourth highest hit total in the league and tied for the league lead with 10 losses.

Former Mets pitcher Chris Young experienced “Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” in his career and was miserable until he had surgery. Obviously, the Mets are worried enough that Harvey might also be suffering from TOS that he is seeing an expert on the subject tomorrow.

THE RETURN OF JOSE REYES

The superstitious baseball fan will point to Tuesday’s Mets loss, following a five game winning streak, as proof that you don’t mess with success and that putting Jose Reyes into the lineup jinxed the Mets. Guess that lasted only one game as Reyes followed his 0-4 re-debut with the Mets on Tuesday with two doubles and a run scored in Wednesday’s win.  Reyes, for all his baggage, gives the Mets the one thing that no one on the current roster can – speed.  Is it really a bad thing that he took a spot away from Matt Reynolds?

POSITIVES: Familia is only the 15th player in Major League Baseball history to reach 30 saves before the All-Star break, which happens to be a Mets record.  Three of the other 14 did it in 2013:  Jim Johnson (33), Joe Nathan (30) and Mariano Rivera (30) … Granderson, Flores and Reyes all had two hits … Flores now has seven home runs … Cespedes (0-4) snapped a nine game hitting streak and has had a hit in 13 of his last 15 games, raising his average from .280 to .304

NEGATIVES:  Got a bad feeling about Harvey going to see a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome expert …

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.

Cubs Finding Out About Nimmo as Mets Snap Four Game Skid

By Paul DiSclafani:

Brandon Nimmo celebrates his first Major League RBI in Mets 4-3 win over the Cubs AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Brandon Nimmo celebrates his first Major League RBI in Mets 4-3 win over the Cubs
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

The Mets (41-37) snapped a nine game regular season losing streak against the Cubs (51-27) with a come from behind 4-3 win, scoring three times in the seventh inning and holding their breath as the Cubs threatened in the ninth inning. Jeuurys Familia worked out of a jam as the Cubs put runners on second and third with no outs.

Trailing 3-0 in the sixth and being held to just two hits by Cubs starter John Lackey, the Mets seemed well on their way to their fifth straight loss when lightning struck in the form of Yoenis Cespedes.

After getting Neil Walker to foul out to first to start the sixth inning, Lackey fell behind Cespedes 2-0 before the Cuban launched a moon shot into the third deck in left field (section 436 to be exact) to put the Mets on the board and cut the lead to 3-1. Nobody has ever hit a home run into the third deck in Citi Field since the park opened in 2009, but Cespedes was among a handful of players that did it during the 2013 Home Run Derby.

The homerun energized not only the crowd but the Mets as the bench erupted.

Mets starter Steven Matz, who was pitching with an extra day’s rest, put them in a 2-0 hole after just five pitches when Kris Bryant followed Ben Zobrist’s leadoff single with a home run. He later gave up a solo home run to Javier Baez in the sixth.  Matz pitched just 5 1/3 and issued three walks and seven hits to go along with six strikeouts.

Eric Goddel (W, 1-0), who relieved Matz in the sixth and got the final two outs, threw just 10 pitches to finish the seventh inning when the Mets offense went back to work.

With Lackey still on the mound, Travis d’Arnaud singled to left with one out after Wilmer Flores opened the inning with a line drive out to center. That was it for Lackey, who was replaced by Joel Peralta.  Peralta got ahead of pinch hitter Alejandro De Aza 1-2, but eventually lost him, putting runners on first and second.

Rookie Brandon Nimmo, making only his fifth start for the Mets, also fell behind Peralta 1-2, but he kept battling, fouling off three straight before singling up the middle and collecting his first major league RBI as d’Arnaud scored to make it 3-2. With De Aza racing to third, center fielder Albert Almora threw to third late and Nimmo alertly took second on the throw.

“I’m just trying to stay calm, act like nobody is on base,” Nimmo said about his RBI single. “… I was absolutely ecstatic. It is hard to put into words because this is just something I dreamed about ever since I was a kid. To be able to come through and help the team win, you always need it, but tonight was really, really big. To just be able to help the team somehow and be able to come up here, it feels good to contribute.”

Cubs manager Joe Maddon then summoned Pedro Strop to pitch to Walker and decided to play the infield in to try to cut down the tying run at the plate. Strop got ahead of Walker 1-2 and he grounded it slowly to second base.  Even with the infield in, Baez had no play at home, so he fired to third to get Nimmo as he tried to advance.  But Bryant, who was also playing in at third, didn’t get back to the bag in time and the throw went off his glove and into foul territory, allowing Nimmo to score along with De Aza and the Mets took a 4-3 lead.

Now it was up to the bullpen to hold the lead and get the Mets a win they desperately needed. But the Cubbies were not going to go quietly into the night.

Wilson Contreras greeted Addison Reed with a single to lead off the eighth and moved to second on a wild pitch. Reed struck out Baez and Chris Coghlan, but then walked Addison Russell and Terry Collins brought in Jerry Blevins to face pinch hitter Jason Heyward.  Why not bring in Familia for a four out save in that situation?  Blevins got behind Heyward 2-1, but got him to ground one back to the mound and the Mets were out of the inning, still clinging to a 4-3 lead.

That set the stage for Familia as he tried to nail down his 27th save of the season and 43rd in a row.  After getting ahead of pinch hitter Miguel Montero 0-2, he walked him on four straight pitches, then gave up a booming double to Zobrist over Nimmo’s head in right field and the Cubs were in business with second and third and no outs and Bryant coming up.

“I’ve been in that situation before”, Familia said, “I try to calm down a little bit, don’t get too high, control my emotions and make my pitch.”

Familia pounded Bryant with splitters out of the strike zone and struck him out for the first out. After intentionally walking Anthony Rizzo, Familia pounded Countreras the same was as Bryant, getting him swinging for the second out.  He then got Baez to pop up an 0-2 pitch to end the game.

If there was ever a “must” win game for the Mets this season, this was it. Coming off a moribund 2-5 road trip in which they had more injuries than runs scored, facing the best team in baseball for a four game set was not what they had in mind.  Even though the Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS, the Cubs were much improved and the Mets were not.

“It sure came at the right time, to come back against that team the first game of this 11-game homestand,” Collins said. “I think it’s huge for us. It lifted the spirits of everybody in there that they could come back and win a game, which we haven’t done in a while.”

As the Mets say good-bye to a miserable June, Jacob deGrom (3-4, 2.67) faces off against Jason Hammel (7-4, 2.58) on Friday night. DeGrom is 0-4 in his last 10 starts and hasn’t won a game since April 30th.  Hammel has never beaten the Mets in five starts (0-3).

POSITIVES: Familia leads all of baseball with 27 saves … Mets had lost nine straight to the Cubs dating back to 2014 … Cespedes has 19 home runs … Mets had just six hits, but d’Arnaud had two of them …

NEGATIVES: Granderson was out of the lineup after an MRI revealed a mild strain of his left calf.  He may miss a couple of games, but Juan Lagares is ready to come off the DL.

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 …

”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

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

By Paul DiSclafani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SERIES:

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

THE STARTERS:

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

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

WHAT TO EXPECT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mets Sunday Brunch 3/27/16: Spring Training is Way Too Long; Final Observations and Predictions

By Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2Remember how excited we were six weeks ago when we were counting down the days until pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training? Now we can’t wait for it to end.

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

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!