Tagged: Neil Walker

Walker to the DL, Harvey Right Behind Him, and No Noah Until Late August

By Paul DiSclafani

Is there no end to the madness with the Mets injuries?

First the Mets placed 2B-Neil Walker on the 10-Day DL with a partially torn left hamstring. No surprise there if you saw Walker pull up lame running down to first last night against the Cubs.  Also, no chance he is back after 10 days.

When Matt Harvey left the game after throwing just 58 pitches, one of them landing over the Shea Bridge courtesy of Kyle Schwarber, you knew something was wrong, it was just a matter of what. Arm fatigue?  Soreness?  Hang-Nail?

Following the game, Harvey lamented that “My arm was just not working at all. I think the last time I threw an 87 mph fast ball was in high school.”

Sure enough, turns out after an MRI and a CAT SCAN, he has a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder. He is going to miss several weeks. Hope the Mets don’t have one of those Obama Exchange plans because these tests must be costing them a fortune.

The Mets said that both Harvey and Walker received a PRP injection. Walker can begin rehab immediately after receiving the injection, but Harvey cannot begin until he is pain free.  Neither is expected back for several weeks.

At a press conference today, general manager Sandy Alderson also said that Noah Syndergaard will not even throw a baseball for at least the next four weeks, meaning it will take a number of weeks after that to begin building up any arm strength. Mets are not expecting to see Syndergaard back with the Big Club until late August.

And oh yeah, The Nationals are coming into town tonight for a four game weekend series.

Colon Outduels Arrieta as Mets Beat Cubs Again, 4-3

By Paul DiSclafani:

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

What is going on out there in Flushing?

The Mets (43-37) got to Chicago ace Jake Arrieta early and held on for their third straight win against the NL Central leaders, 4-3. Unbelievably, the Mets go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon.

When the Mets limped home from Washington DC after being swept by the Nationals on Wednesday, they were facing an 11 game home stand starting with four games against the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs. In third place and now six games behind the Nationals, fans on Social Media were jumping off the bandwagon and already looking forward to the opening of NFL training camps.

Instead of throwing in the towel against the formidable Cubs, who not only had beaten the Mets nine straight since 2014 but had a chip on their shoulder and something to prove after being swept by the Mets in the NLCS, they regrouped and circled the wagons.

“You can believe you can compete, but then when you go out and do it, it means a lot,” manager Terry Collins said about the importance of playing well in this series against the Cubs. Thursday they managed a comeback 4-3 win, Friday they hit five home runs in a 10-2 drubbing and tonight they beat Chicago’s Ace, who was 12-2.

“The confidence that it sends throughout the clubhouse, there is no other way to do it except to go out there and beat one of the real good teams and we’ve done that and we want to finish it off tomorrow.”

Just as they did in Game 2 of the NLCS, the Mets got a first inning, 2-run home run from their second baseman just inside the right field foul pole, only this time it was Neil Walker giving the Mets an early 2-0 lead with his 15th home run of the year.  Arrieta then gave up a double to Yoenis Cespedes, then settled down to get the next 10 in a row.

Starter Bartolo Colon cruised through the first three innings without allowing a hit, but Kris Bryant led off the fourth with a single right before Anthony Rizzo launched a 423 foot shot to center field to tie the game at 2-2.

In the Mets half of the fourth with one out, Asdrubal Cabrera broke through the shift with a base hit and after Wilmer Flores popped out, Arrieta walked Alejandro Del Aza, moving Cabrera to second with two outs. That brought up Travis d’Arnaud who took a strike, then blooped the next pitch into nowhere man’s land over second base and just out of the reach of second baseman Javier Baez.  De Aza scored all the way from first behind Cabrera to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.

Colon (W, 7-4) was magnificent the rest of the way, allowing just two more hits and departing in the sixth with the 4-2 lead. “Sometimes he escapes words,” said Collins after the game about Colon.  “He just never ceases to amaze you.”  Of course, the Cubs were not going to go quietly.

Eric Goeddel got the first two outs in the seventh, but Ben Zobrist made it 4-3 on the first pitch he saw with a home run to right. That brought in Jerry Blevins who got ahead of Jason Heyward 0-2, then walked him, prompting Collins to go to Addison Reed a little early to face Kris Bryant.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Addison,” Collins said about bringing Reed in before the eighth inning. “You just gotta trust him.  You trust guys that can throw strikes, because hitting is hard.  If you can locate and you can make your pitch and a guy gets a hit, you tip your hat.  And that’s what Addison has done ever since he’s been here.  He just makes pitches.  There is a certain stage in the game where you think, ‘Hey, this is where we are going to win the game or lose the game’, and I thought we needed to get Bryant out and I thought Addy was the guy to do it.”

Reed got ahead of Bryant 1-2, but a wild pitch moved Heyward into scoring position. Reed then bore down and got Bryant swinging to end the inning.  Back in his more familiar position in the eighth, Reed allowed a leadoff single to Rizzo, then struck out the next three – Wilson Contreras, Miguel Montero and Addison Russell, all flailing at strike three.

That set up Jeurys Familia to try and nail down the save. Unlike Friday night when the Cubs loaded the bases, Familia needed just nine pitches to secure his 28th save of the season and his 44th consecutive regular season save.

Arrieta (L, 12-3) had won his first 12 decisions this year and has now lost three of his last six starts. He allowed four earned runs and eight hits in just 5 1/3 innings and struggled with a 35-pitch first inning. Arrieta, the reigning CY Young Award winner in the NL, had not lost a game on the road since May of last year (19-0 in 24 starts).

Noah Syndergaard (8-3) goes for the sweep on Sunday against Jon Lester (9-3). Matt Harvey beat Lester in the NLCS Opener last year and Syndergaard beat Arrieta in Game 2.

POSITIVES: Loney made a nice 3-3-6 DP in the third … Walker with 15 home runs, is just one shy of his total for all of 2015 … Colon has not given up more than 2 earned runs in a game since May 18 … Juan Lagares got into the game, but hit into a double play in the sixth … Curtis Granderson could return to the lineup on Sunday … Brandon Nimmo led off again with a walk and another hit … d’Arnaud was 2-3 with 2 RBI.

NEGATIVES: Mets had eight hits against Arrieta, but failed to get a base runner after he left them game with one out in the sixth … Loney and Flores were both 0-4

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 Pound Gio And The Nats 7-1; Duda to the DL – Could Miss Six Weeks

By Paul DiSclafani:

Cespedes launches number 15 AP Photo / Alex Brandon

Cespedes launches number 15
AP Photo / Alex Brandon

The Mets (26-18) hit three home runs off Nats starter Gio Gonzalez to win their fourth straight game and pull to just one-half game of Washington, 7-1. The Nationals (27-18) took two of three last week at Citi Field as Gonzalez threw seven shutout innings in a 7-1 win over Bartolo Colon.  What a difference a week makes.

This time it was Colon (W, 4-3) who was the master, following up his miserable performance last week where he walked five and hit a batter with seven innings of five hit ball, walking just two.

Gonzalez (L, 3-2), who had gone 44 consecutive starts without giving up more than one home run, was  tagged for three dingers and charged with all seven runs.  He had a microscopic 0.97 ERA against the Mets in his last four starts. Gonzalez gave up a 3-run home run to David Wright in the third inning, when the Mets strung together six consecutive base runners to put up a five spot and erase a 1-0 deficit.  Then in the fifth, Yoenis Cespedes launched his 15th to right center followed two pitches later by Neil Walker’s 11th of the year.  It’s the seventh time the Mets have gone back-to-back this year already.

DUDA TO THE DL

Fresh off their weekend sweep of the Brewers, the Mets needed to make a statement against Washington. With all the talk about Matt Harvey’s confidence being shot, Jacob deGrom’s velocity being down and Colon being rocked in his last two starts, the Mets got more bad news when they learned Lucas Duda would miss significant time with a stress fracture in his lower back.  He could miss as much as six weeks.

“There’s no real timetable,” Manager Terry Collins said. “It’ll be a while. I guess there are some exercises he can do, but nothing baseball related for a while. We’re looking at a fairly long period before he’s going to be able to get back and do some baseball stuff.”

David Wright had a similar injury in 2011 and tried to play through it before it was diagnosed properly and he missed two months. He had words of encouragement for Duda, but didn’t sugarcoat it.

“You have to be conservative with it. You have to take your time with it,” Wright said. “You have to make sure that you’re meticulous with your rehab. It’s something where you’re talking about a bone being damaged. There’s going to be a time, if it was anything like mine, where you can’t do anything. You have to be very aware of your movements on a daily basis. You have to do things that keep that area stabilized so the bone can heal itself. And then, after that, is when the rehab comes into play. That’s when you really have to stay on top of it. It’s pretty boring. It’s a little long. It’s monotonous. But you have to stick with it because, as me being somewhat of a case study now, these things can kind of creep on you later in your career. And I felt like I did my rehab as good as I possibly could have.”

WHO’S ON FIRST?

So what is Plan B for the Mets? Eric Campbell made the start on Monday and Wilmer Flores is eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday.  The Mets are exploring other options, including using Michael Conforto and David Wright.  Conforto never played first base in a game, but has taken ground balls there in college.

“They always had me taking ground balls,” Conforto said about college. “They always had me make sure I was available in case there was an emergency situation, or if something wasn’t working out with one of our infielders. I was always taking ground balls at third, shortstop, first base. So I’ve been in there. I’ve practiced there. Just not a whole lot of game experience. … I’ll give it my best. I’ll do what I can to prepare myself for that if that becomes an option.”

Collins said he even approached The Captain, who of course agreed to do whatever is best for the team.

“I said that my entire career: Whatever this organization, whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll be on board as long as I can do it and can help,” Wright said. “With that being said, besides the handful of times that we played the shift, that’s about as many groundballs as I’ve ever taken on that side of the infield.”

Mets brought up career minor leaguer Ty Kelly, who has spent more than seven seasons in the minors, but whose .391 average at AAA is the best in all of professional baseball. Kelly plays all positions (except pitcher and catcher) and worked as a first baseman after being drafted by the Orioles in 2009.  Mets indicated that 2013 first round pick Dominic Smith, a 20-year old who was drafted out of high school and has only been at AA for two months, is not ready for the majors.

Bet the Mets wish they still had Kelly Johnson …

UP NEXT: The soap opera that is Matt Harvey will debut another chapter tomorrow as The Dark Knight tries to find himself after two straight disappointing starts, including the worst outing of his career last time against Steven Strasburg, when he gave up nine runs while recording just eight outs.  Harvey spoke about his frustration with ESPN, but he is not going to miss a start.  “For me, taking time off isn’t going to do anything.  I’m not a quitter.  I’m not going to just quit and put the ball down.”

Terry Collins poo-poo’d the notion of skipping Harvey against the Nationals tomorrow.

Nobody is more frustrated than him. He said, ‘I’m not backing away from this.’ A lot of guys would have taken that out. He had a shot to. He could have said, ‘I need to get away from this.’ But he didn’t. He just said, ‘I’ve got to get back out there and I’ve got to pitch. That’s the only way I’m going to get through this.’ I thought that was the most impressive part of it.”

POSITIVES: Six Mets had two hits each – Granderson, Lagares, Cespedes, Walker and Cabrera .. Colon turns 43 tomorrow – Happy Birthday, Big Sexy! … Wright’s home run in the third inning was the 86th of his career that put the Mets in the lead and his 240th as a Met.  He is just 12 behind Darryl Strawberry for the franchise record … Cespedes’ home run was his 32nd since he joined the Mets on 7/31/15, Matching Chris Davis and Khris Davis for the most in the majors since then …

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

By Paul DiSclafani:

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

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

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

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

Respond they did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Paul DiSclafani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DeGrom and the Lat Injury

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

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

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

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

 

Michael Conforto Is A Hitting Machine

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

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

Daniel Who?

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

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

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

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

Who Makes This Schedule Anyway?

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

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

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

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

Mr. Met Didn’t Get a Ring?

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

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

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

The Rest of the Month for the Mets

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

This week’s recaps:

Mets Blow Bartolo’s Gem

Mets Raise Their Pennant

Syndegaard Dominates Champs

 

Mets Ready to Raise Their NL Championship Flag as Phillies Come Into Town

By Paul DiSclafani

Citi fieldThe Mets (1-1) take on the Philadelphia Phillies (0-3) in the opener of the three-game series beginning on Friday night at Citi Field, where they will celebrate their 2015 National League Championship season with the raising of the NL Pennant and receiving their NL Championship rings.

With a rare two days off following Noah Syndergaard’s dominant performance against the Royals (6 innings, 2 hits, 9K, 0 runs) on Tuesday afternoon, helping them gain a split against the World Champs, the Mets take on a Phillie squad that got swept by the Cincinnati Reds in their opening series. The Reds (64 wins) and the Phillies (63 wins) posted the two worst records in all of baseball in 2015.

The Mets went 14-5 against the Phillies in 2015 and scored the most runs against them (111) than any other team. The Mets averaged almost 6 runs per game against the Phils (5.84).

With all the pomp and circumstance expected for the Mets 55th Opening Day on Friday afternoon, the Mets have compiled a league best 33-21 in home openers, including a 2-0 win over the Phillies last year.

PITCHING MATCHUPS:

With the impending birth of pitcher Jacob deGrom’s first child hanging in the air, the Mets rotation is a little in flux. Manager Terry Collins announced that if deGrom is unavailable Bartolo Colon will get the start against Jerad Eickhoff (3-3, 2.65).  Eickhoff (part of the Cole Hamel trade last July) started 8 games for the Phillies in his rookie season in 2015 and struck out 49, walking 13 in his 51 innings.

DeGrom (14-8, 2.54), the 2014 NL Rookie Of The Year, had 205 K in his career high 191 innings last year. He did not have his best stuff against the Phillies in 2015, pitching just 16 innings in his three starts (1-0) and surrendering 21 hits and 8 earned runs.  He will be at Citi Field on Friday, but should he get the call from his wife, he will depart and head down to Florida for a few days.

The veteran Colon (14-13, 4.16) is penciled in as the fifth starter, and won on Opening Day last year in Washington, but he made a relief appearance in Kansas City on Sunday night. The 43 year-old Colon has always feasted on the Phillies, going 4-1 against them last year with a 2.81 ERA.

That leaves Matz for game 2 on Saturday night. Matz (4-0, 2.27) made just six starts for the Mets in 2015 regular season due to injuries (34K in 35 inn), but made three post season starts (one in each series) with mixed results.

Matt Harvey, the Opening Day starter in Kansas City on Sunday, would then start the series finale on Sunday afternoon.

The Phillies are scheduled to throw Vince Velasquez in Game 2. Velzaquez came over from Houston as part of the Ken Giles trade in the off season.  The rookie started 7 games for the Astros last year (1-1, 4.37) and struck out 58 in 55.2 innings.

Jeremy Hellickson (0-0) started on Opening Day for the Phillies, throwing six innings with just three hits and one unearned run. He will start the series finale on Sunday afternoon.  Hellickson was 9-12 for the Diamondbacks in 27 starts last year.

WHO’S HOT

You couldn’t really use the word “hot” to describe any of the Mets batters after just two games. They managed just 13 hits against the Royals in the opening series and just two of them were for extra bases.  Michael Conforto drilled a double and Neil Walker hit the Mets lone Home Run.  Walker leads the team with 3 RBI and David Wright was on base four times (3 walks and a hit).

The Phils weren’t much better at the plate against the Reds in their 3-game disaster. They managed just 11 hits and four runs in the three games.  Freddy Galvis and rookie Maikel Franco each hit a HR and drove in 2 runs.

WHO’S NOT

Travis d’Arnaud is the only regular still looking for his first hit, going 0-6 against the Royals. Curtis Granderson is not that far behind him, going 1-8 and four strikeouts.

The Phils Odubel Herrera (1-6) and Peter Bourjos (0-7) helped the team to a .175 batting average coming into the series.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Looks like the best day, weather wise, might be on Sunday. The home opener will be cloudy and windy.  But it is Opening Day and that is usually a good day for the Mets.  You know, they did lose their first six opening day games and then eight of their first nine.  That means they are 31-13 since 1971.  This will be their 10th home Opener against the Phillies, the most against any franchise, breaking the tie against the Cardinals.  The Mets are 8-1 in home openers against the Phillies.

Want some more numbers? In home openers, the Mets are 10-6 in 1-run games and thrown 10 shutouts (including last year against the Phils) while being shut out just 3 times.

Mets are honoring long-time broadcaster Ralph Kiner with a pre-game tribute and unveil a Kiner logo on the left-field wall. I guess that now makes it a real Kiner’s Korner.  John Franco, Rusty Staub and Edgardo Alfonzo will be part of the NL Pennant banner raising ceremony and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will throw out the first pitch.

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!

Mets Sunday Brunch 12/13/15: Good Riddance Jonathan, So Long Cuddy, Hello New Infield and Don’t Forget About Cespedes

By: Paul DiSclafani

mets sunday brunch2The 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…