After a long, cold winter, we here in the East are looking forward to short sleeves and sunshine. And when things started in Port St. Lucie for the Mets, that was what we got. Only that was all we got.
We couldn’t find “games” on TV, and when they were televised, the recognizable names played just a few innings. Why was Jeurys Familia pitching in the fourth inning?
Of course, that’s what spring training is for, to get ready for the regular season. But I think that times have changed dramatically for baseball and to some degree most sports, when it comes to spring training / training camp / exhibition season.
Do we really need seven weeks of spring training in 2016? Maybe in 1952 when players had to work in the fields and dig ditches (do people still dig ditches by hand?) in the off-season, they needed seven weeks of spring training to get back into baseball shape. But in 2016?
Aren’t players that report to training camp already in-shape? Other than the Giant Behemoth in Boston, Pablo Sandoval, what players need Spring Training to actually get into physical shape? Don’t they work out all year? Did they all ditch their personal trainers to avoid steroid temptation?
I understand they need to “get their legs” and work on their control and timing, but Spring Training in baseball is starting to look like pre-season NFL football – almost unwatchable. Most of the times, players are being “protected”, or just trying not to get hurt. It’s more like a showcase for the minor league players.
When exhibition games require a three-hour bus ride (oh, heavens!), most veterans stay home. What’s the point of playing 25-30 games and keeping track of the standings, when the players and coaches don’t take it seriously? I understand the need to compile statistics so you can get a read on how an individual player may be performing. But keeping standings on ESPN, including winning streaks and home / away records? Isn’t everyone away?
How many times have you read that a pitcher was “just working on things”? And who are these guys wearing uniform numbers in the 80’s and 90’s that aren’t Turk Wendell? Did you even know that the Mets have a kid outfielder named Travis Taijeron who has played in 17 games this spring (34 AB’s) and leads the team in RBI (10)? Of course not, why would you?
The Mets have hit just 9 home runs as a team in their 20 games so far, and they came from nine different players, none of which wear #52. Does that really matter? Maybe to fantasy players, but in the overall scheme of things, other than injuries, does anything that happens in spring training matter? Exactly.
Remember how the Mets used to end their Spring training schedule? It used to be a game or two up the East Coast on their way home to NY. Or a few games at Shea Stadium before the season started. Not anymore.
The Mets complete their Grapefruit schedule this week with 3 games in Florida, and then head out West on Thursday to play their final two games against the Cubbies, one in Arizona on Thursday and then the Spring finale on Friday in Las Vegas, before getting Saturday off. Then another plane ride up to Kansas City for the season opener on Sunday night.
In a bizarre quirk to the schedule, the Mets and Royals have an off-day on Monday before concluding the season opening 2-game series, but the Mets are off on Wednesday and Thursday before the home opener against the Phillies on Friday. So the Mets will have three off-days before they have played three games.
While the pitchers are targeting their last appearance as their “final tune-up” before the season starts, I think we could have gotten away with just two weeks of games instead of four weeks. You know, if the veterans aren’t playing the entire game anyway, what good are you getting out of it by having minor-leaguers play against minor-leaguers in a major league game?
We were all waiting with bated breath for pitchers and catchers to begin reporting in the middle of February so we could begin washing the sour taste out of our mouths after losing the World Series to Kansas City in November. I’m over it by now, what about you?
SPRING TRAINING OBSERVATIONS:
Just a little concerned over the lack of power the Mets have shown in their 20 or so games. Not enough to raise any red flags, but Maikel Franco on the Phillies has 8 home runs on his own – and he has only 16 hits. The Mets have hit only nine home runs as a team all spring … Other than Jenrry Mejia getting re-re-re-suspended, it has been a quiet camp … For those of you that care about this sort of thing, Daniel Murphy is hitting .243 this spring with the Nationals (9 for 37) and no home runs …Like what we’ve been hearing about Noah Syndergaard. Can’t wait to see him in Game 2 of the season against the Royals. Actually, can’t wait for the first pitch … Sorry to see Reuben Tejada go. Looks like Matt Reynolds or (heaven forbid) Eric Campbell will take his spot on the roster. Tejada is still staying in his hotel at Port St. Lucie (with his girlfriend and 9 month-old daughter) and driving the 40-odd miles to the Cardinals training camp. Looked odd in Cardinals red this week against the Mets, but he did make an error at short … The supposed fifth Beatle, I mean outfielder, Michael De Aza, is hitting over .400 so far in the spring with Cespedes not far behind at .394 …Hope that David Wright can thrive in the 2-hole this year and not worry about hitting 25 home runs anymore. Also hope he is smart enough to understand that it is one thing to be able to play through the pain, but another thing to perform at a very high level on a team that is trying to get back to the World Series. The Yankees never took Derek Jeter out of the lineup in his final year and maybe they should have. Let’s hope we never have to make that decision with our Captain.
SOME PREDICTIONS FOR 2016:
Mets win 96 games and the NL East again. The Cubs and Dodgers crash and burn and don’t even make it back to the postseason. Mets and Giants play in the NLCS, but Mets take it in seven and go on to face the Blue Jays. Mets are World Champions, 4 games to two … Noah Syndergaard is the Cy Young award winner … The Yankees fail to make the post season and finish last in the AL East … Clayton Kershaw is a disaster for the Dodgers and the Nationals finish third behind the Marlins … Bartolo Colon hits a home run over the fence in Philadelphia … David Wright goes on the DL in July and never returns … Steven Matz is sent to the minors when Zack Wheeler returns because Colon is 12-2 … Cespedes breaks Mets team record of 41 home runs in a year, but still decides to opt-out of his contract …
See my complete 2016 Mets Preview by clicking here: Looking Ahead To The New Season
It’s been a long time since that dreadful Monday morning, November 2nd, when we Mets fans woke up to the realization that the 2015 season was really over. We still may not be over it, but I’m ready to move on.
On April 2nd, we will be getting ready to defend our National League Championship pennant against those pesky Kansas City Royals, where our players will have to stand quietly while the Royals and their fans celebrate the raising of the 2015 World Championship banner in their gold and blue colors. Let’s hope that scene inspires the Mets to imagine what that will look and feel like in April of 2017, when the colors on that flag are orange and blue.
So with the full understanding that the result of these spring training games don’t mean a hill of beans, let’s take a deep breath and get ready for the 2016 season…
THE 2016 NEW YORK METS
The Mets are in a position coming into 2016 they don’t have a lot of experience in, being talked about as a front-runner. When they were World Champions in 1969, it was more of a joke than anything else and they certainly weren’t expected to even make it back to the playoffs. It took 17 years to get another Championship, but the foundation for that dominant 1986 team was laid by the 1984 and 1985 teams.
Based on the domination of 1986, there was talk of a Dynasty in the spring of 1987 with veterans like Keith Hernandez and Gary Cater and young studs like Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, this team was going to dominate until the end of the decade. Of course, that team followed every other successful postseason Mets team before them, failing to make it back the next year.
And although the Mets had much success in the late 90’s with Bobby Valentine and Mike Piazza, making the postseason in consecutive years for the first time ever, they just couldn’t get over the hump and disappeared after losing the 2000 World Series to the Yankees.
Can we not even talk about Carlos Beltran taking that called third strike in 2006?
This spring somehow feels different, doesn’t it? There is a quiet confidence about this team, a low-key air of optimism that we’ve never experienced before. For the first time in franchise history, the Mets don’t need to read their press clippings to find out how good they are. They know. The challenge for the Mets in 2016 though, is that everyone else knows it too.
The 1986 team that reported to Spring Training had a target on their back, but that was because everyone hated them and their arrogance. The target on the back of the 2016 Mets is out of respect.
If there is a better starting rotation in baseball, more power to them. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard are top 10 pitchers in most baseball rankings and all three of them take the hill in Flushing. No team this season is going to “miss” seeing one of them every series. How many other teams can say that?
Although all had wonderful years in 2015, they are all going to be even batter. Harvey now has a full year under his belt following his Tommy John surgery and has got his slider back. He no longer has any doubt in his mind that “his next pitch might be his last” that most pitchers coming back from surgery experience.
DeGrom was dominant in 2015 before running out of gas in October, but he showed something in how he was able to pitch in the postseason without his best stuff. That might be more important than developing a “new” pitch or finding your fastball. DeGrom showed that even at a young age, he can be a pitcher.Syndergaard threw the only pitch that mattered in the World Series, throwing the first pitch of Game 3 at 98 MPH and right over the head of Alcides Escobar. It was the only game that the Mets won in the World Series. After the game, he said:
“My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable, and I feel like I did just that. I think in every postseason game that Escobar has played in, he’s swung at the first-pitch fastball. I didn’t think he would want to swing at that one. I mean, I certainly wasn’t trying to hit the guy, that’s for sure. I just didn’t want him getting too comfortable. If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away. I’ve got no problem with that.”
He is not only being taught how to pitch, he is beginning to understand how to pitch. He may have the best pure stuff in baseball.
What about rookie Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon at the back-end of the rotation? Colon, at 43, will continue to put up quality starts and make everyone smile when he puts on a batting helmet. And Matz has as much potential as anyone if he stays healthy. And don’t forget Zack Wheeler is looming in the background, targeting a July return.
Nobody was counting on Jenrry Mejia anyway, so good-bye to bad rubbish. Jeurys Familia owned the ninth inning last year. The problem was getting a lead to him. Gone are the guys who made you roll your eyes, like Tyler Clippard, Eric O’Flaherty and Buddy Carlyle. The Mets signed Antonio Bastardo as a left-handed specialist to share the late innings with Addison Reed. Remember Jerry Blevins? He missed almost all of last year with not one, but two broken left arms – but he didn’t give up a hit in his 7 appearances before getting hurt. Hansel Robles and Logan Verrett may get more work as spot starters than long relief.
Talk all you want about the big three in the Yankees bullpen, this Mets bullpen is going to be solid.
Now all we need is some runs….
Probably the biggest question marks on this team are on the corners. Which Lucas Duda is going to show up for most of the season and how much of the season will David Wright be able to play – and how effectively? Duda will most likely get to his 30 HR mark, but although he hit 27 of them last year, he hit 10 of them during a 7 game stretch last season. He missed some time in August with an injury and played only 135 games, but that means he hit the other 17 over the course of 128 games.
Of course Wright will tough it out and play as much as he can, but what is more concerning is that Sandy Alderson didn’t really do anything to shore up that position if (when) Wright can’t go, or is ineffective. With this type of spinal injury, the body might be willing and able to play, but can the player perform at the level a team with Championship aspiration needs the player to perform? The playing field is littered players who have had their careers derailed by back injuries. Let’s hope that Wright still has a few more productive years left, but we should be prepared (and not surprised) if he doesn’t. Wilmer Flores (hitting .440 this spring) is learning another position this year, after spending last spring learning second base and at this point is the only viable option.
Was there anything more frustrating than watching the Mets NOT be able to turn a double play when they really needed it? Regardless of the quality of your pitching staff, you can’t give teams more than 27 outs and although the Mets didn’t lead the NL in errors (the Pirates did), they certainly led the league in bone head plays and poor decision-making once they caught the ball. Enter Sandy Alderson.
After making the decision to make a $13.5M qualifying offer to arguably our best hitter Daniel Murphy – that he turned down – , and losing out on the Ben Zobrist sweepstakes (he went to the Cubbies), Alderson made two moves less than five hours apart that tightened the Mets up-the-middle defense that was the bane of their existence in 2015.
Remember the search for a shortstop in the spring of 2015? Then remember how awful we all thought Flores was early in the season, when he made 11 errors in the first two months of the season? For the first time in a long time, the Mets are solid up the middle in the infield.
2B-Neil Walker came over from the Pirates for the always dour Jonathan Niese to hold down the fort until Dilson Herrera is ready for the majors. Walker is a much-needed defensive upgrade at 2B over the departed but highly popular Murphy and he’s has some pop with at least 16 HR in each of his last three seasons. Then Alderson signed Asdrubal Cabrera to play SS, which is more of an upgrade in offense than defense over Reuben Tejada.
Both of these guys are switch-hitters and there won’t be this three-headed monster to deal with every game with Tejada/Flores/Murphy depending on who the pitcher is or what inning it is.
No more crying about not signing Yoenis Cespedis, ok? No more worrying about his opt-out contract or the $27M he will be making or the cars he drives or any of the other nonsense that we have been bombarded with since before Christmas. He is here and, barring injury, will be in the middle of the lineup and patrolling Center Field. Where that leaves Juan Lagares, nobody knows. But he isn’t Cespedes – nobody is. If Michael Conforto continues to improve against lefties (like he is showing this Spring), Lagares may not be happy or comfortable in a reserve, 4th outfielder role. Just look at this particular Mets lineup without Cespedes in it somewhere. End of story.
Curtis Granderson is still the leadoff hitter and in the postseason, he got every one of the rallies started. He made me a believer after wondering early in 2015 if Terry Collins had lost his mind. Power and ability to drive the ball as a leadoff hitter turned out to be a great idea in the end.
No one doubts that Travis d’Arnaud is a good major league hitter and that this valuable pitching staff enjoys throwing to him and has confidence that he can call a good game. But over the last two seasons he has only played 175 games. He was on the DL three times last season alone. That type of past requires a solid Plan B to a contending team. The concern about Kevin Plawecki is: What do you do with him when d’Arnaud is healthy? He might be a better defensive catcher than d’Arnaud, but he struggled at the plate, hitting just .219 last year. The scuttlebutt is that the Mets might come north without Plawecki so he can play every day in Las Vegas at the AAA level, and let Johnny Monell ride the bench and spell d’Arnaud early on.
Is this a 100 win team in 2016? Probably not. Not because they aren’t going to be better than last year, but because there are a lot of good teams in the National League. They are going to have to play almost 40 games against the Nationals and the much improved Miami Marlins. Then there are 21 games against the three-headed monster in the National League Central, the “St. Louis Pirate-Cubs”. This Mets team won 90 games last year, but won most of them over the final two months of the season.
The pitching is way too good to fail them this year. This is not the touted, but unproven “Generation K” that fizzled and died a quick death after Opening Day in Chicago way back in 1995. These guys are solid and will just continue to get better. Let’s not talk about how long they will be together or how Free Agency will cause them to take different paths in the future. Just concentrate on 2016.
The difference between this Mets team and most Mets teams we have lived through might be something as simple as this:
In the fifth inning, with the Mets nursing a 1-run lead or trailing by a run, this team is going to step up and get the runs they need to win the game. They are going to make the defensive play they need to prevent a 1-run deficit from becoming a 3-run deficit. They are going to get that strikeout to prevent a run from scoring.
That seemingly innocuous 2-run home run by Cespedes in the third inning to make it 3-0 is going to look like 8-0 when the other team sees Syndergaard stride to the hill for the top of the fourth.
That’s what is going to be different about this Mets team. They are not going to need the dramatics of late inning home runs or walk-off wins. Don’t get me wrong, they are going to have their share of them. But teams that make it through the grueling regular season and the pressure of the playoffs to get to the World Series don’t win the Series because they are lucky. Maybe you get there because you are lucky, but you win because you are the better team.
The Mets realized in late October that the Kansas City Royals were the better team – even though the Mets had a lead in every one of the World Series games. And next Sunday night, when that blue and gold banner is being raised inside Kaufman Stadium and the Royals and their fans are celebrating their 2015 accomplishment, the Mets will be front and center to see it all. And they will lament that the colors on that flag are not blue and orange, and they will lament that they may have wasted a golden opportunity last October. But they better not dwell on it.
Matt Harvey will be on the hill to start the 2016 season for them and 2015 will be just a memory.
Fasten your seatbelts Mets fans and enjoy the ride!
By: Paul DiSclafani
I went through all five phases of grief already and finally arrived at “Acceptance”, so I’m OK with it. It really was a wonderful season, a surprising season.
I think we finally got to “next year” with our pitching staff. Watching the development of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom was just beautiful. We saw them develop from raw talent to learn to rely on their secondary pitches.
And the return of Matt Harvey was a sight to behold. I know there were times this year that we just shook our heads at the decisions he made, but he is a marvelous pitcher and a true star in this game. And for the next few years, he is still our star.
There were many bright spots to the season, but here are the few that made this one memorable for me (and hopefully you) in no particular order:
Getting Yoenis Cespedes with 10 minutes to go at the trading deadline.
I know he may turn out to be a rental player, but what a rental! He transformed our moribund lineup instantly. We knew about his power, but found out he was a good defensive player also (the World Series notwithstanding). What a gun he has! He hit 17 home runs for us in less than half a season. Boy, I hope they make him a decent offer. I still believe his injury was more than it was made out to be. You just don’t go from being the player he was in August and September to what we saw in the postseason just like that. No matter what happens, Thanks Yo.
The sweep of the Nationals at Citi Field
Has there been a more important 3-game series at Citi Field that the late July one against the Nationals? Trailing them by three games, we beat them on Friday on a home run by Wilmer Flores in the bottom of the 12th inning in his first game back after the trade-no trade debacle. Then on Saturday, Cespedes makes his Mets debut and his presence in the lineup known immediately. The Nationals intentionally walked the already 0-3 Cespedes in the 8th inning to pitch to Lucas Duda, who drove a double off the wall for the winning run. Then on Sunday night, the Mets hit three home runs on five pitches against Jordan Zimmerman to complete the sweep and never looked back. Syndergaard went eight innings for the win and said this after the game. “It’s so much fun to be a Met right now,” Syndergaard said. “Just an unbelievable night, and I’m looking forward to the days to come.” How right he would be.
The 7-1 Comeback Against The Nationals
Washington had knocked Matt Harvey out of the box and made Cespedes pay for an error that allowed three runs to score. The Mets had come back the night before to increase their NL East lead to five games, but Washington was on the verge of cutting into the lead with this game in the bag. But in the seventh inning, the Mets inexplicably score six run to tie the game as the Nationals issued six walks and a wild pitch. You could feel the air coming out of the building and see the looks on the players faces as the Mets had done the impossible. Then Kirk Nieuwenhius hit a pinch hit home run in the eighth inning to break the tie and the backs of the Nationals and they were never heard from again. Oh yeah, the Mets completed the sweep the next day.
The 13-3 start
Remember when Terry Collins said it was necessary for the Mets to get off to a good start? They went into Washington and won on Opening Day, taking two out of three to start the season, but then went to Atlanta and lost the first two before going on an 11-game win streak. Everyone knew that they couldn’t keep up that pace, but wins in April count the same as wins in September and we needed all of them.
Jacob deGrom At The All-Star Game
The reigning Rookie of The Year finally got into the All-Star game in the sixth inning in Cincinnati. As the Mets lone representative, he wanted to just “let it fly”. And boy, did he ever! He threw just 10 pitches, becoming the first player in All-Star history to strike out the side on 10 or less pitches. Granted the three American Leaguer’s he struck out might not be ticketed to the Hall of Fame, but Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis (.303, 52 RBI), Oakland’s Stephen Vogt (18 HR, 71 RBI) and Detroit’s Jose Iglesias (.300, 125 hits) were quite impressed. “It was good morning, good afternoon, ball outside, goodnight,” Kipnis said of his at-bat, the only one to last more than three pitches. “He’s a power pitcher, a strong pitcher and a [darn] good one, and I got to see it tonight.”
Clinching The Division
I honestly had tears in my eyes as the Mets celebrated on the field that night in Cleveland. All the suffering of the last nine years, all the pain of collapsing in the final couple of days in the season, all were forgiven. Everything got washed away with that clincher. We were going to the playoffs!
The First Home Playoff Game
When Citi Field first opened, most fans spent time walking around the place or on the line at the Shake Shack. We didn’t have a lot of baseball to cheer about, either. But as the season drew to a close, more and more fans seemed to actually be into the game itself. Citi Field set records for single game attendance for the Washington Series and now this. The fans were ready to go and so was the team. The Mets had split the two games of the NLDS in Los Angeles and with Matt Harvey on the mound were loaded for bear. We had just lost Reuben Tejada to a nasty, dirty play by Chase Utley and during the introductions, Tejada came out to the top of the dugout steps to wave to the crowd! 44,276 were witness to the first playoff game in the new stadium and the Mets set a team record, scoring 13 runs. I don’t think I will ever forget how loud the crowd was in the first inning.
Game 3 of The World Series
Just to see the Mets in the World Series was something. But after giving the Royals Game 1 on a silver platter and looking overmatched in Game 2, we needed something. Noah Syndergaard drew a line in the sand by throwing the first pitch, a 98 mph heater, over the head of Alcides Escobar, then striking him out. Then David Wright launched a home run in his first World Series at bat at home. I don’t think I have ever felt Citi Field shake like that before.
Daniel Murphy’s Postseason Home Run Streak
Could that streak come from any more unlikely a player? Not that Murphy isn’t capable of doing it, just that, well, he’s not capable of doing that. Granted he had a career high 14 home runs in the regular season, but home runs in six straight postseason games? Not Babe Ruth, or Mickey Mantle? No one ever did that? When he hit the last one in Chicago, I just shook my head. He will forever be remembered in Chicago as Daniel “F-ing” Murphy.
The Big League debut of Steven Matz
It was a beautiful Sunday morning in late June and life-long Mets fan Steven Matz was about to make his Major League debut. The kid from Stony Brook Long Island got onto the mound at Citi Field in front of his family and friends and threw his first 96 mph heater over everyone’s head and into the bricks behind home plate. Although he was the winning pitcher in his debut with 7.2 innings of two-run ball, he drove in four runs with three hits, including a two-run double. The rest of the league had to be shaking their head at what the Mets were now putting together, adding Matz to the other three studs Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard.
I guess when we look back, this really was a wonderful baseball season for the Mets. So we didn’t get the brass ring this time, I’m just as disappointed as you are. But for the first time in a long time, the phrase “Wait Till Next Year” really means something. I know I can’t wait for Next Year, can you?
Thanks for reading my stuff all year! Still lots of stuff to talk about this offseason, so stay with me!
Still need to get over your grief? Let me help you get through it with this article: Ya Gotta Bereave!
By: Paul DiSclafani
Major League Baseball has suspended Dodgers infielder Chase Utley for the next two games of the NLDS after the league deemed he made an illegal slide into Reuben Tejada, fracturing his fibula.
During his press conference in the aftermath of the Dodger’s 5-2 win in Game 2 that evened the series, when asked point-blank if he thought the play was dirty, Torre hinted at what might come in the future. “I have to determine if I thought it was excessive, I guess is the word, on the slide. Not that you shouldn’t slide hard, but as I said, just the late slide is probably the only thing that is in question now.”
After further review, all the fans, media and players that have been blowing up social media sites were right after all. It was a dirty play.
“After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline,” Torre said in a statement. “While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09 (a) (13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.”
Most of the baseball community felt that this suspension was justified, but don’t ask that to the Los Angeles Times. The Times blasted MLB with a headline of “MLB Overreacts with two-game suspension of Chase Utley”.
The quoted Mattingly as saying, If it had been their guy, they would be saying, ‘David Wright, he he’s a gamer. He went after him. That’s the way you gotta play.’ But it’s our guy. It’s different. If David would have done it, it’s wouldn’t have been any problem here in New York.
“Our organization is proud of the way Chase plays,” Mattingly continued, ”We love the way he plays. Let’s say he (Tejada) didn’t get hurt. There would be rumblings, but it goes away. But since someone got hurt, now it’s a story.”
Mattingly and the Dodgers just don’t seem to get what the rest of the baseball world is complaining about. What Utley did was just plain dirty. He ran full speed into Tejada without even attempting to slide. It was obvious on the replay that he wasn’t just playing “hard-nosed” baseball and trying to break up the double play. That’s what Torre said in his statement.
Of course Utley’s agent, Joel Wolfe, didn’t get the gist of the issue either as he said in a statement, “Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation — break up the double play. “We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions. Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada’s injury and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody.”
It wasn’t about his intent to injure. Nobody truly believes that Utley went into that situation trying to hurt Tejada. But that was a result of his actions and he needs to take responsibility.
The Mets had a different approach and supported the decision, although nothing will bring Tejada back for the series. ” We (The Mets) feel this was the appropriate course of action,” the team said in a statement. “With this decision behind us, the team and our fans can now focus on playing winning baseball.”
Utley will most likely have his appeal heard early Monday morning. If the appeal is upheld, Utley will be eligible to play in Game 3.
Let’s see if he has the guts to come out of the dugout.
By: Paul DiSclafani
Instead of talking about the great pitching performance by the Mets Jacob deGrom and two home runs off Zack Grienke, the focus of players, media and Major League Baseball centered around the “take-out” slide Chase Utley employed against Reuben Tejada in Game 2 of the NLDS, effectively changing the course of the game and ending Tejada’s season with a broken fibula.
“’Slide’ would be generous” said Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who had the best view of the play some are calling “hard-nosed” while most are calling just plain dirty. When asked what he thought of Utley’s slide, Michael Cuddyer said, “He hit Tejada before he hit the ground. That’s not a slide, it’s a tackle. It’s up to you to decide if tackling is legal in baseball”
Infielder Kelly Johnson was incredulous when he was asked about “The Slide”. “How is it a slide if he hits the player first? If he hits the dirt first, I don’t have anything to say. He has a broken leg because he was crushed”
Mets manager Terry Collins, ever the politician, had some things to say through gritted teeth when asked what he thought. “He broke my shortstop’s leg, that’s all I know.”
Even Major League Baseball didn’t know what to make of it in a bizarre post game press conference with the league’s Chief Baseball Officer, former Yankee skipper Joe Torre. After fumbling around for words to explain how Utley could be called safe when he never even touched the bag and insinuating, incorrectly, that any Met with the ball could have tagged him out as he went off the field – even in the dugout – , Torre touched on the slide itself. “The lateness of the slide, that concerns me.” Torre said. “But we’re still talking about it. I’m still in charge of determining if it was an over-the-top thing. I’m looking at it to see if there’s anything that should be done.”
Utley and the Dodgers, of course, didn’t feel there was anything wrong about the slide that broke up the double play and allowed the Dodgers to tie the game 2-2, eventually leading to a four run innings and a 5-2 win that tied the NLDS at one game apiece.
“The tying run is on third base, I’m going hard to try to break up the double play,” Utley said. “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever. I didn’t realize his back was turned. It happened so fast.”
Dodger manager Don Mattingly backs up Utley’s claim. “I know Chase is not trying to hurt anybody,” he said. “He’s just playing the game the way he plays it. He plays it hard, he’s aggressive.”
None of that nonsense is going to cut it in the Mets locker room.
Utley’s “slide” started as he arrived at the bag, not before it. He didn’t even hit the ground until he hit Tejada at full force with a rolling, cross body block. As a second baseman by trade, Utley should understand the difference between a clean, hard slide trying to break up a double play and what happened in this game. But Utley has a history of taking out runners at second in this fashion during his 13-year career, being accused of the same thing against Tejada back in 2010.
“He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it’s perfectly fine,” David Wright said back then. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.”
Kelly Johnson, an infielder who has played both short and second, was livid after the game. He wasn’t questioning Utley’s desire to play hard, it was the method of delivery.
“Chase is playing hard,” he said. “He’s doing his thing. He’s in the moment. That’s not the issue. The issue is he hit our shortstop first before hitting dirt. The question is at, one, is that illegal? At what point do we say, ‘Hey, man, we missed something here.’ We’ve got rules at home plate to protect our guys. What’s the difference? Ruben stuck his neck out there to make a play to try to get the bag and then to turn to make a throw. And before he can get the ball out of the glove he’s getting tackled.”
Even players not involved in the game, got into the game via social media. Padres outfielder Justin Upton said, “If that was a superstar shortstop (like Troy Tulowitzski), we would have a “Tulo” rule being enforced tomorrow”, referencing baseball’s new rule protecting catchers that is called “The Buster Posey” rule.
The subject of protecting certain players over others didn’t sit well with Johnson, either. “I want to know why there’s not something in place to protect us (infielders),” Johnson said. “and not jump into, break fibulas and knock people out of the game.”
In the TBS broadcast booth, Mets SNY announcer Ron Darling compared the play to football. “If this was the NFL, Uutley would have been flagged for interference on a defenseless receiver.”
When asked point-blank if he thought the play was dirty, Torre hinted at what might come in the future. “I have to determine if I thought it was excessive, I guess is the word, on the slide. Not that you shouldn’t slide hard, but as I said, just the late slide is probably the only thing that is in question now.”
And what was Utley’s intent? Wright can’t help you. “Only Chase knows what his intent was,” said the Mets Captain, “You’re going to have to as Chase what the intent was. Reuben had his back to him and couldn’t protect himself. When he’s running to second base with Reuben’s back turned, I don’t know what his intent was.”
Game 3 is Monday night at Citi Field with Matt Harvey on the mound for the Mets. You think Chase Utley gets into the batter’s box? Enough said…
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.
By: Paul DiSclafani
Daniel Murphy goes deep against Clayton Kershaw and Jacob deGrom strikes out 13 in seven shutout innings as the Mets take Game One of the NLDS against the Dodgers out in Los Angeles, 3-1. It’s the Mets first postseason appearance in nine years.
Talk about a pitcher’s duel, this was a strikeout duel as Kershaw and deGrom put on a show, combining for 24 K’s. But it was the neophyte deGrom who outpitched the veteran Kershaw.
The reigning 2014 Rookie of The Year pitched seven shutout innings, striking out a season high 13 batters and walking just one. He set a major league record becoming the first pitcher to strikeout six batters in his first two postseason innings. He also set a Mets franchise record by striking out 10 in his postseason debut.
DeGrom was in trouble early, when former Met Justin Turner lined a ball to Michael Cuddyer in left that was mis-played into a double leading off the second inning, but he strikes out Andre Ethier and AJ Ellis before intentionally walking Joc Pederson to get to Kersaw, who he struck out.
In the third, deGrom gets the first two outs quickly on just five pitches, then Corey Seager slices one to the opposite field that Cuddyer mis-plays again for a ground rule double, the Dodger’s third hit. DeGrom gets out of it again, striking out Adrian Gonzalez. LA is now 0-4 w/RISP and 3K’s.
Then came the thunder. Murphy takes Kershaw deep to right on a 2-0 pitch for a home run to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Murphy hit a career high 14 home runs this season, but only one off a left-hander. The ball went deep into the Mets bullpen for Murphy’s first postseason dinger.
The Mets couldn’t muster any offense against Kershaw, but they did get a runner on in each of the first five innings. Meanwhile, deGrom was still dealing with trouble. After Turner got his second hit of the game leading off the fourth, AJ Ellis also singled and the Dodgers had runners in scoring position for the third straight inning. Joc Pederson flied out for the second out, then deGrom got Kershaw to end the inning, but he gave it a ride to deep center for the final out.
Kershaw just kept ringing the Mets up, striking out the side in the fifth for his 11th K of the game and getting his first 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. But things began to unravel for him in the seventh.
Lucas Duda drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on Cuddyer’s grounder to third. Duda became the Mets first base runner in scoring position. With Reuben Tejada up and deGrom on deck, Terry Collins had a tough decision to make. If Tejada makes the second out, does he pinch hit for deGrom, who had already thrown 101 pitches?
Instead, Tejada works out a walk to put two runners on and keep deGrom in the game, as he sacrifices the runners to second and third for Granderson, who already had two hits. Kershaw gets ahead of Granderson 1-2, but he works out a walk to load the bases and that ends Kershaw’s night. Manager Don Mattingly replaces Kershaw with Pedro Baez to face David Wright. With a full count and the runners moving, Wright, who waited nine years for this moment, lines a single to center, driving in two and giving the Mets a huge 3-0 lead. Mets got only one hit in the inning, but it was the only hit they needed.
The Dodgers did get a run in the 8th against Tyler Clippard to make it 3-1, but Jeurys Familia came in to get a four-out save and give the Mets a 1-0 lead in this series.
Rookie Noah Syndergaard gets the start in Game Two of the series tomorrow night against CY Young candidate, right hander Zack Grienke and his regular season 1.86 ERA in what suddenly becomes a must win for the Dodgers.
POSITIVES: What a great series of AB’s for the Mets in the seventh. Duda laid off some close pitches to work out a leadoff walk. Cuddyer got the job done, moving Duda to second. Tejada worked out a walk after being down in the count 0-2 with an 8-pitch AB. DeGrom laid down a perfect bunt to move the runners-up. Granderson worked out another walk after being down in the count 1-2. And the Captain finishes it off … When was the last time Kershaw walked three batters in the same inning? … Mets left-handers had four of the Mets five hits off the lefty Kershaw … Collins, the oldest manager in the majors at 66, gets his first postseason win in his first postseason game …It was 88 degrees at game time. Don’t you just love LA? … Mariano Rivera had just 13 career four-out saves in the regular season, but had 30 of them in the postseason … First time in post season history that two pitchers had at least 11 K …
NEGATIVES: Kershaw has lost his last 5 postseason starts … Yoenis Cespedes and Tejada struck out three times … Cuddyer was brutal out in left field and was 0-3 with a K. Michael Conforto may have caught both balls Cuddyer mis-played. Conforto will start against Grienke in Game 2.