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
The Mets front office had an interesting week, bringing in a new double-play combination, jettisoning an ungrateful pitcher who didn’t figure into their future plans and finding out a veteran outfielder has decided to hang them up. That’s a win-win-win for Mets fans!
Just as the Chanukah celebrations began, the Mets seemed to unwrap gifts every day – sometimes sneaking two in on the same day. And just like the holiday season, negatives turned into positives and at the end of the day, there were smiles.
LOSING OUT ON BEN ZOBRIST
Early in the week, it looked like the Mets were the front-runners on the utility man’s services and when the Nationals jumped into the race, talk around town was that the Mets just might have to overpay to get him and keep him away from their Division rivals. But then a “mystery” team entered the fray and just like that, Zobrist was off the table. The Cubbies and Joe Maddon – his former manager in Tampa –gave him $56M over four years.
Oh, the backlash in the NY media! We Mets fans were disappointed, but did we really want to invest four years into a guy that is turning 35 in May? Don’t we already have that problem with Michael Cuddyer (more on that later)? Last off-season it was the Dodgers spending like drunken sailors, this year it’s the Cubbies.
After looking at the numbers, it turns out that Zobrist and our own Daniel Murphy really aren’t that much different offensively. And Murphy is only 30 years old. So maybe the Cubs did us a favor, right? Rumor has it that the Mets offered $60M, but Zobrist took less from the Cubs because of the way the deal was structured.
The contract for Zobrist is back loaded and he will get $15M in years 3 and 4. That’s two years and $30 million owed to a utility player who will be 37 in 2018. Plus, Zobrist has a full no-trade clause where he can identify up to eight teams that he will consider for a trade. Good luck with that.
THE END OF JONATHAN NIESE
The Pirates and hometown favorite Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native, could not seem to get together on a new contract. With Daniel Murphy now a Free Agent, the Mets needed a second baseman. The Pirates asked for Jonathan Niese and the Mets hesitated for a nano-second and said, Sure!”.
The 30 year-old Walker was a Silver Slugger winner in 2014 and as a switch hitter, he has the second most home runs in the NL as a second baseman since 2010. He hit 16 last year and drove in 71. Walker was happy to be coming to the Mets and was “excited to be in Mets Blue”
The collateral damage in getting Walker was the Mets had to give up lefty Jonathan Niese, who spent his whole career with the Mets. But as he departed, instead of being a professional (see Michael Cuddyer’s story below) Niese took a shot at his World Series teammates when being interviewed by the Pirates writers:
“I’m sure what I’ll appreciate more than anything is the way (the Pirates) play defense. I’m looking forward to that,”
Really? This from a guy that could never get through the 6th inning? This from a guy that would melt every time a player made an error behind him?
Do you know how many errors the Mets made last season? They made 88 errors as a team, 27 of them from Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores. Want to know how many errors the Pirates made? They made 122 of them, most in the NL and 20 of them from their shortstops.
Hey Jonathan, take a look at how the kid Jacob deGrom pitched in and out of trouble against the Dodgers in the postseason when he just didn’t have it. If you had started that game, the Mets would have been in a seven run hole and you would have left the mound shaking your head.
You are the epitome of the “me first” baseball player. So please, take your 61-61 lifetime record with you into Pittsburgh and see how well your “woe-is-me” act plays on a team that will really depend on you. The Mets and their fans put up with you in 2015 because we couldn’t go with a four man rotation all season. But as soon as we could, your ass ended up in the bullpen.
NOW WE HAVE AN ASDRUBEL
Three hours after the Walker trade was announced, the Mets signed free agent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera, a two-time All Star from Tampa Bay, can at a reasonable price of $18.5M over two years with a team option for a third year.
Cabrera was quoted as saying, “I can’t wait to play at Citi Field, in front of the best fans in the world.”
As a compliment to the Walker trade, the 30 year-old Cabrera brings another professional ballplayer to the Mets infield and solidifies the up-the-middle defense to support our young stud pitchers. But he also brings some pop.
Cabrera hit just .265 last year, but .328 after the all-star break. He also hit 15 HR and drove in 58. That gives us a double play combination with over 30 HR and 130 RBI – but they can catch the ball and play defense more consistently.
Only two shortstops have hit over 90 home runs since 2007 and Cabrera is one of them.
MICHAEL CUDDYER RETIRES
When I first heard the news, like most Mets fans, I just couldn’t believe our luck. Cuddyer had turned into just another one of the Mets bad free-agent signings. A former really good player who turned into a shell of himself once he put on the Orange and Blue. Now that he was retiring and leaving $12.5M on the table, that was good news, right?
But as much as Cuddyer’s body betrayed him over the last few years of his career, what he meant to the Mets couldn’t be measured in the box score anymore. It was his veteran presence and leadership that helped the young players on the Mets. The way he went about his business. He always played hard – right to the end. Never took one second of his major league career for granted.
He played the game like it was mean to be played. And he always did it with a smile on his face. Please take the time to read his retirement announcement on Derek Jeter’s website “The Player’s Tribune” called “Play Hard and Dream Big”. Stay with it until the end, it’s worth it. It put a lump in my throat and made me feel bad about how I booed him and was overjoyed when I first heard he was retiring.
Maybe if we had five more like him, we would be the World Champs…
“Finally, thank you to the game of baseball. I was one of the lucky ones who got to play the game for a living. One of the lucky ones who got the play for All-Star managers and coaches. One of the lucky ones who got to be a poster on a kid’s wall. I never played for money or fame, but you showered me with both. I played baseball the way I did because I knew one day it would be over. Today’s that day.
I hope you know that physically, mentally and emotionally, I gave you everything I had.”
A life-time average of .277, 197 home runs and 794 RBI in 1,536 major league games is not enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, but baseball is losing a Hall of Fame player. He will make a great manager or coach one day, a great mentor to young players. He will teach them how to play the game.
BUT WE STILL NEED A BAT
With all this going on – reshaping the infield and resolving a glut of pitching and corner outfielders – what about a big bat? The Mets still don’t have it. I’m sure that Cuddyer didn’t just walk away from $12 M, there must have been a buyout involved. Nobody is THAT benevolent.
On September 1st, there was not a Mets fans out there (including your humble narrator) that would not have given Yoenis Cespedes a blank check. But lately the Mets faithful seem fairly divided. There are a lot of pros and cons on this one because of his performance down the stretch and in the postseason. Add in the years and the money he is looking for and the word out on the street is that the Mets want no part of it. That’s sad to me.
Remember that feeling when you found out he was coming to Flushing? Was that not the single, most defining moment of the 2015 season? And now we are willing to let him get away for nothing?
I know he might be a selfish player, but look at his arm in the outfield! A baseball team needs a good mix of young studs, veterans like Michael Cuddyer and Juan Uribe and star players like Cespedes. A team without star players is like, well, the July 2015 Mets.
He brought a lot of things to the Mets lineup that didn’t show up in the box score. Teams were suddenly afraid of the Mets lineup. What other player in the lineup would ever be intentionally walked to get to Lucas Duda?
And the home runs, oh, those home runs! Did we all forget that?
I know they are most likely not going to sign him, but man, I loved watching him play. We haven’t had that kind of player since Darryl Strawberry. Did you ever change the channel or get up from your seat to go do something else when Strawberry was at bat? Of course not, because there was always the chance he was going to hit it over the scoreboard. Same with Cespedes.
Pay the man. He’s not afraid of our ballpark. He’s going to hit 30-35 home runs, isn’t he? He is going to throw out base runners, but more importantly, they are not going to attempt to take too many extra bases on that arm. And what is going through that pitcher’s head when he strolls to the plate with a man on third?
Pay the man…
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.
By: Paul DiSclafani
Chase Utley continues to haunt the Mets, even though he is now living 2,500 miles away. The former Phillie took out Reuben Tejada at second base as he tried to turn a double play in the seventh inning, leading to four runs and helping the Dodgers tie the NLDS, beating the Mets 5-2.
The Mets were protecting a 2-1 lead in the seventh, thanks to second inning home runs from Yoenis Cespedes and rookie Michael Conforto, when Bartolo Colon relieved starter Noah Syndergaard with runners on first and third with one out. Colon got Howie Kendrick to tap one over second base that Daniel Murphy tracked down and flipped to Reuben Tejada for the force at second. But Utley barreled into Tejada as he spun around to try and complete the double play, knocking him to the ground and allowing Enrique Hernandez to score from third and tie the game 2-2.
As Tejada lay on the ground in pain, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly challenged the call at second. X-Rays revealed that Tejada has a fractured right fibula, ending his post season. Looking at the replay, Utley never made contact with the base and went right at Tejada, flipping him like a helpless NFL receiver making a catch.
After reviewing the play, the out was overturned as it was ruled that Tejada never touched the base. Utley was put back at second – even though he never touched the base – because if a call is overturned, the umpires can put the runners back on base.
With first and second and still one out, Addison Reed relieved Colon and got Corey Seager to fly out to left for what should have been the final out of the inning. Instead, Adrian Gonzalez, who had struck out three times against Syndergaard, pulled a double down the line in right, scoring both Utley and Kendrick and giving the Dodgers their first lead of the series, 4-2. Justin Turner then doubles into the right field gap, scoring Gonzalez to make it 5-2.
The Mets never recovered.
Replays showed that Utley came into Tejada hard, not even beginning to slide until he was passed the base. This will be discussed for the next couple of days as to if this was a dirty play. When asked after the game if he felt the play was dirty, Mets manager Terry Collins said, “It (the play) broke my shortstop’s leg, that’s all I know. It’s over, it’s done, There’s nothing we can do about it. My argument was that is was a roll block and he didn’t touch the bag, but the umpires said they reviewed the whole thing. They handled the call right.”
The Utley play and the Mets unraveling in the seventh overshadowed the great performance from Syndergaard. Although he was charged with three runs – he was responsible for the two that scored in the seventh – Syndergaard was dealing the entire game, mixing pitches and blowing the Dodgers away with 100 mph fastballs. Syndergaard struck out 9. But he was working long counts and was up to 115 pitches
The Mets got to Cy Young candidate Zack Grienke early, touching him for two runs in the second inning on solo home runs from Cespedes and Conforto. Conforto’s home run was a rocket off the foul pole in his first ever postseason plate appearance. Cespedes has not hit a home run in 60 AB’s.
But the Mets couldn’t put anything together against Grienke or the Dodger bullpen the rest of the way, managing just five hits.
Now the series switches to Citi Field and the Mets are not going to forget a borderline dirty play that cost them their shortstop. Matt Harvey will be on the mound for Game 3. A series that seemed to be going the Mets way because of their pitching just took a wrong turn.
POSITIVES: Curtis Granderson had two of the Mets five hits and also worked out a walk … Jonathan Niese got his first relief appearance, getting the final out in that miserable seventh … Hansel Robles pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out 2 … Mets pitchers have struck out 25 Dodgers in two games.
NEGATIVES: David Wright hit into two double plays following Granderson hits … Without Tejada, Wilmer Flores will have to play short. This not only weakens the defense up the middle, but removes his bat off the bench. Juan Uribe is not available. Mets only had two runners in scoring position all game.