Oh for the Home Stand

So you are starting to feel good about the Mets season? You are feeling somewhat more confident then when the Mets ended their last home stand? Well I say take a couple of Advil and rest. While it was a very nice road trip the Mets just completed, winning six of nine games, the truth is they have proven nothing yet.

The problem as I see it is the Mets are returning home beginning a ten game home stand this evening. They will play the Braves (3), Cardinals (4), and then the Marlins (3). In my opinion these next ten games could very well define the Mets 2014 season.

In most cases, a fan would feel good about their team having a very good road trip then returning home for ten games. But if recent history is any evidence for things to come, the next week and a half could be disastrous. The Mets simply do not play well at home. Why is anyone’s guess but here are some startling facts:

The last time the Mets won a home stand at Citi Field was last August 2nd through 8th of 2013 when they went 4-2 against Kansas City and Colorado. And that was only because they were able to sweep a three game set against a dreadful Rockies team. They also had won the previous home stand (4-3) against Philadelphia and Atlanta. Before that you have to go back to the 2013 opening home stand against San Diego and Miami when the Mets won four of six games. That’s it. So since the beginning of the 2013 season, the Mets have won just three home stands. And it’s not as if they dominated them either. In those three winning home stands, the Mets combined win loss record was 12-7. That’s two 4-2 home stands and one 4-3.

So yes, it was great to see the Mets win a series in Atlanta as they did last week. They could have easily won the series in Anaheim although they didn’t and another positive sign was Arizona.

Now, many would say the Mets swept a very bad Diamondback team, a team that has the worst record in baseball (4-14). (Kirk Gibson will likely be the first manager to be fired in 2014 unless Arizona turns its’ fortunes around in a hurry.) So the Mets should have been expected to destroy the Dbacks which they did. But in the past, this is the type of team that would give the Mets leaving Mets fans scratching their heads. So the positive I take out of the Arizona sweep was the Mets did exactly what a good team should do against the meek in the league. How do you think the Yankees have been so successful over the years? They play around .500 against the best in the league and beat the hell out of the dregs. The ’86 Mets did the same and so does all winning teams.

The next test starts tonight.  If the Mets are to be taken for real then Citi Field has to become more than a pretty face. The new park in Queens (now in its sixth season already) has got to become what Shea Stadium was for many years—a park where other teams hated to come and play and not because of the all the jet noise.

The problem the Mets have at Citi Field could be psychological.  Do they press too hard at home? Are they less focused then when on the road? Do they fear the wrath of a disgusted fan base that will boo them at the slightest misstep? It’s tough to know but it would certainly help if Mets pitchers can continue to hurl they way they have recently, especially the bullpen. Mets hitters struggle and they will continue to do so against the three teams coming to town. All of them have terrific pitching. For the Mets to have a chance to win more games than lose of the next ten, their pitchers are going to have to keep the team close in every game.

So I am excited about how the Mets played on the road during this just completed opening road trip but I will believe the Mets have started to turn the corner when there is more evidence. That could start with this home stand. If the Mets can go 6-4, it will go a long way to getting more fans in the seats at Citi Field this season. If not, then management may have to consider more post game concerts.

Blown Out

Yesterday’s loss was the worst since last July.

The Mets lost 14-2 to the Angels yesterday, a twelve run differential. On July 28th of last season, the Mets lost to the Washington Nationals 14-1, a thirteen run differential. Carlos Torres started that game and gave up eight runs. The Nats only had hit two home runs in that game compared to the Angels four yesterday including the back to back to back extravaganza of the first inning. This is why I worry about a pitcher that is over 40 years old and is overweight. Bartolo Colon was suppose to stabilize the staff in the absence of Matt Harvey, not light it on fire.

This was the worst loss the Mets have suffered at the hands of the Angels but not by much. Back in 2003, the Mets lost in Anaheim by the score of 13-3. Jason Roach took the loss in that one giving up seven runs in three innings including two home runs.

Every team endures a blow out or two during the course of the regular season. Remember the night in 1985 when the Mets lost to the Phillies 26-7 at Veterans Stadium? That was the worst loss in franchise history, and that Mets team went on to win 98 games.

Hopefully the Mets can get on the other side of one of these soon. But so far, and the season is still quite young, it appears the Mets are stuck in the mud again, winning one day then losing the next. They just cannot seem to get to the .500 mark and really that should not be such an insurmountable task.

Off to Disneyland

The Mets take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this weekend. It is the fifth time the Mets will play the Angels in a series since 2003. The Mets are 6-6 vs. the Angels, last playing them in 2011 at Citi Field. The Mets lost the series two games to one.

It was in Anaheim in 2008 when the Mets saw fit to fire manger Willie Randolph. After a 9-6 win on June 16, 2008 against the Anaheim Angels (as they were known then), Omar Minaya fired Randolph. The first black manager in Mets history had gotten his team off to a 34-35 start but expectations were much higher and the team had collapsed miserably in 2007 down the stretch. It was a mistake to fire Randolph, one of many made by Minaya that further unraveled the Mets fortunes for the next several years.

The next evening, Jose Reyes got into an on field argument with new manager Jerry Manual after the all star shortstop stumbled running down to first. As a precaution, Reyes was removed from the game and was not happy about it. The Mets lost on Manual’s first night but won the rubber game the next evening.

When you think of the Mets and Angels, only one thing comes to my mind—Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.

In 1972 and desperate for a third baseman, the Mets sent the future Hall of Fame fireball throwing Ryan to the Angels for the aging Fregosi. He was an outstanding third baseman but by the time the Mets got him, his skills were well beyond finished. Fregosi batted .232 in ’72 then played just 43 games in 1973 before his Mets career concluded. He was sold to the Texas Rangers in July of ’73. Ironically the dreadful Mets of July ’73 rallied to win their second National League pennant that season.

Today, both the Mets and Angels are 4-5 to start the young season.

Rubber and Hope

Tonight’s game is the first rubber game of the season. What’s a rubber game you ask?

It’s the game that decides who wins the series when there are an odd number of games in the series and both teams have won an equal amount of games. Most rubber games in baseball occur in a three game series after the teams split the first two games. But it is possible for there to be a rubber game in a rare five game set that may have to be scheduled because of previous postponements.  The seventh game of the World Series could be considered a rubber game but generally it isn’t because of its extreme importance. But what is the origin of the term, rubber game?

It’s difficult to say with certainty but apparently it is a very old term that has been used for other types of competitive matches where a deciding game was played. It likely is from England and the term pre dates the substance we think of when we hear the word “rubber”. Rubber is a synonym of eraser, to rub out. It likely meant that after the deciding game or the “rubber” game, the scoreboard (perhaps chalk on slate) would have been erased or rubbed out so a new match could begin.

So anyway, tonight’s “match” against the Braves will be the Mets first rubber game of the season. Trailing 0-2 in games to Washington in the opening series then leading Cincinnati 2-0 in the weekend series meant the final game in each of the first two series was not a deciding game.

Beyond this fascinating exploration of term origins, I am seeing some positive signs from the Mets. Even in last night’s loss, there were good things that happened.

First was Zach Wheeler. His stuff is electric and he had Jason Heyward struck out in the top of the first. Unfortunately, the home plate umpire called a fastball over the outside corner of the plate a ball when it should have been strike three. That caused Wheeler to throw more pitches that Heyward kept fouling off before he parked one in the right field stands. Wheeler was pretty solid after that until things unraveled in the fifth.  Once Zach figures out his secondary and tertiary pitches, he is going to become one awesome pitcher. In fact, I predict in a couple of years, he will be the ace of the staff. Perhaps down the road when you think of the Mets top three it will be Wheeler, Syndergaard, and then Harvey but time will tell.

The other positive was the Mets coming back in the top of the ninth. True they fell a run short but they didn’t give up and got a key hit from Travis d’Arnaud. If this kid starts to hit the way he has in the minors then maybe the Mets truly have a budding star in their stable. It’s all wait and see at this point but even at 3-5, clearly there is some hope here.

Knuckleheads

So Boomer and Mike, Daniel Murphy should have made his wife schedule a C-Section before the start of the baseball season so he would not have to miss any games? That’s your take?

This is why I do not listen to sports talk radio. Look, I love baseball, it has been (for good or worse) one of the great distractions in my life. But I am sorry, for the most part, jocks are morons and so are sports talk show hosts who were not good enough to be on the field.  Here is the quote from Boomer Esiason, co host of WFAN’s Boomer and Carton radio program.  “Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts.  I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.”

Let’s take the points Boomer made. He says “this is what makes our money”.  Yes true, as a baseball player, Daniel Murphy will make his money playing baseball. But as a baseball player, Murphy is also entitled to take three games off for paternity leave. That was collectively bargained by the players union and the baseball owners. Please explain to me how Murphy is putting his baseball income in jeopardy by being with his wife while she gave birth to their first child. I think he would be more appropriately concerned in that regard if he batted .215 for the season.

Giving that child every opportunity to be a success in life has not been threatened by Murphy doing what every father in this country is entitled to do. Murphy will continue to make his income and provided he and his wife are smart investors, that child of theirs should do just fine. Murphy will make almost three million dollars this season and of course that does not count what he has saved prior to this season and any endorsements he may have.

What I really find offensive is how Esiason is so cavalier in stating Murphy’s wife simply should have scheduled a C-Section prior to the season, as if she were having her teeth cleaned. A C-Section is major surgery requiring up to six weeks recovery time. The procedure was not nature’s intent but a modern solution to a problem that in the past threatened the life of the unborn child, the mother, or to both. His remark is completely insensitive to the scale of the seriousness of the situation. We are talking about her health as well as the child’s.

Of course the real issue for these clowns with microphones is not about Murphy’s wife and the couples’ new born. It centers on the fact that both Esiason and Craig Carton, his loud mouthed co-host, are pissed off that the Mets have started the season at 0-3. As if Murphy’s appearance in the lineup on Monday afternoon and Wednesday evening would have made a difference in this train wreck of a franchise. Murphy was in the lineup yesterday afternoon and had a hit and a walk in three at bats. See the difference? Look how it changed the outcome of the game? What….? Oh, right. They lost.

Baseball is a game folks, it’s not life or death. As much as C-Sections are routine, they still are considered major surgery and with that comes the potential of something going wrong. Murphy did the right thing. His place was by his wife’s side, being there through a major event in their lives.

If this Mets season, that has started out so badly, continues in this trend, it will be defined by a bullpen that can’t get anyone out and an offense that chronically cannot score runs. Murphy’s absence during the first two games will have nothing to do with it. And really, picking on Daniel Murphy? What Mets players is more of a gamer than Murph? Love him or hate him, he busts his butt every day on the field. He played in 160 games last year.

Mike Francesa backed off somewhat, as the coward often does, because of all the flak he received for making similar comments. He claims that what he meant was a guy like Murphy, who has a unique position, should not be allowed to take the time off.  That’s a slippery slope. So I guess if you are fortunate enough to make lots of money and be in the public eye, you are no longer entitled to the same rights everyone else has. Francesa’s true colors always seem to come out. He had previously stated that no man should be able to take time off for something like this (maternity), that it was a scam to do so. Yeah, Mike, I guess they’re just takers just like the unemployed, impoverished, and mentally ill in this country. Gee, I wonder who you voted for in the last election.

But really why are we so upset? Does anyone really take seriously what these knuckleheads say day in and day out? The reality is they really don’t know too much about anything, including sports in many cases I might add. But who really should be concerned about these remarks, even more so than most of us, is the wives of Esiason and Francesa. Hopefully they are now aware not to plan any major surgeries on days these two bozos are on the air.

No Wins for the City

So what New York team will blink first? Both the Mets and Yankees have yet to win a game. My Yankee fan friends are beside themselves wondering how a 189 million dollar team can’t beat a 21 million dollar team. As a Mets fan- well we always have low expectations. I never expect my team to win anymore. Hey,  if anything, it keeps team merchandise nice and cheap. Have at it Zach.

Letting Reyes Walk Not Such a Bad Decision

Jose Reyes was hurt on the first play of the game on opening day in Tampa. The former Met is on the DL for 15 days with a hamstring pull.

Since signing a 106 million dollar contract with Miami following his batting title season of 2011 with the Mets, Reyes has played in a total of 254 games. That was a full season with Miami, one in which Reyes stole 40 bases. He stole only 15 for Toronto last season playing in just 93 games because of suffering a severe ankle sprain and missing a couple of months. Now he has a pulled hamstring and as we recall, this is the type of injury that can hamper Reyes all season long.

I’m not saying that what we have today is better than Reyes, that would be absurd. But I am saying that perhaps the Mets brain trust was correct in their assessment and not giving that many buckaroos to Reyes. He will be 31 this year and showing the kind of problems management was concerned about.

It’s just an observation and does not excuse management for not being able to secure a more productive shortstop than what is currently in the stable. But at least it may help vindicate them for the decision to let Reyes walk.