Bad Decision

So once again, the Mets bats cannot generate any offense. With the bases loaded and no one out in the seventh inning, the Mets could not score a single run. Holding on to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth, Terry Collins elects to bring in his closer who threw 26 stressful pitches in his blown save less than twenty-four hours ago.

I questioned the move to bring in Familia this afternoon before it unraveled. After the damage was done and the Rockies took the lead, Collins then took out Familia and brought in Robles. Look, Familia was not helped out by Loney’s error but I question Terry’s motivation to not give Familia the day off. This is not the time to build confidence. It’s time to win. Terry is not the whole problem but some of his decisions add to the problem. And today he did so by not bringing in Robles to start the inning.

The wheels are falling off folks.

Worst Loss Since Last July 30th

It had to happen sooner or later so predicts the law of averages. But of all nights for it to happen, it just made it so much more difficult to swallow.

During a game where hitters once again struggled to get the big hit, it seemed like the Mets were destined to go quietly into the night losing the series to their wild card rival St. Louis Cardinals. But when Yoenis Cespedes had “the at bat of the season”, as Gary Cohen put it, the feeling we had in 2015 started to come back. Wow, what a game to steal and from Adam Wainwright of all pitchers. The image of his devastating curve ball that had current Yankee, former Met Carlos Beltran buckling his knees to end our season ten years ago is still a fresh image in my (our) mind.

Heading into the ninth, even with the heart of the Cardinal lineup due up, you had to think that this is the game that will turn the season around. Now in hindsight I hope that’s not the case because the turn could be trending down.

After Jeurys Familia got Matt Adams to fly out to center, he then walked Jedd Gyorko. Yadier Molina hit the next pitch over Juan Lagares’s head to tie the game and end the regular season save streak at 51.

Yadier Molina! Yadier Molina!! YADIER MOLINA!!! YADIER F%$#&%G MOLINA!!!!

Its official, Molina has become a lifetime member of the Mets Killers Club. The club, if you are unaware, is officially chaired by none other than former Brave Larry “Chipper” Jones. Molina of course hit the home run in game 7 of the NLCS in 2006 that dashed Mets hopes of reaching the World Series. And through the seasons since, it seems that when the Mets play the Cardinals, Molina always comes through and puts a hurting on the Amazins. Last night was no exception. I cringed just hearing his name when he was announced at the plate. You knew it was coming.

The greatest closers blow saves. The great Mariano Rivera blew saves, even losing a World Series and allowing a Red Sox team with their last breath back into the 2004 playoffs. It happens and it happened to Familia at the most inopportune time. When the hero of last year, the product of one of the Mets greatest trades ever, came through with an unbelievable at bat, fighting off sliders and curve balls, one after another then pummeling a hanger into the left center field grand stand, it was 2015 all over again. But it soon became 2006 all over again when the Cardinals snatched a victory turning it into a crushing loss for the Mets.

Today we will see what the 2016 Mets are made of.  Last year at this time, the Mets blew a game to the San Diego Padres. After a terrible rain delay, Familia blew a save in the game the Mets once led by a score of 7-1. It was his last blown save until last evening. It was the low point of the season. The next day, Cespedes came to the Mets. The Mets swept the Nationals and never looked back. This season, there will be no “Cespedes” coming. Maybe a reliever or bench player will arrive for a low level prospect or two. However, there will be no cavalry coming over the mountain to help figure out why so many Mets hitters can’t get a big hit with runners in scoring position. In fact, the focus of last night’s game is on the blown save but there were situations early in the game when the Mets showed their ineptitude and could not get a couple early runs.

The up and coming Colorado Rockies come to Citi Field this afternoon for the first of four. Last night’s loss could ignite a downward spiral or perhaps the Mets might refocus and turn things around. Realistically the Mets must win three of four to being a run that can get them back into this thing. One reason that might not happen is because the Rockies have Mets’ Killer Club member Carlos Gonzales. He loves hitting at Citi Field.

If the Mets are hung over after last evening, then this could be a very ugly weekend heading into the subway series. And after that it’s off to Detroit. The next week and a half will show us which direction the Mets are going. I have to say, I’m not feeling too optimistic, at least right now.

The Best of New York

The argument goes on. The one about is New York a Mets town or is it a Yankees town? Realistically New York has not been a Mets town since the mid to late 1980s. The Mets flirted with taking over the city in the late 90s but even with two playoff appearances in ’99 and ’00, they really could never overcome the juggernaut of the late 90s Yanks. Those Yankees won four out of five World Series from 1996 to 2000. The last one of course being at the hands of the Amazin’s, the first subway series in 44 years (In ’56, the Yanks defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers in 7 games).

The Mets once again made noise in 2006 when they went deeper into the playoffs than their crosstown rivals. But two gut wrenching collapses in 2007 and 2008 put the Mets back in their place before the Yanks won a another World Series in 2009. The Yanks once again touted their superiority over their baseball brethren from Queens.

With both teams struggling since 2010, attendance figures still favored the Bombers until last season when the Mets went all the way to the World Series. With the young stud pitching staff, Michael Conforto primed to be a star, the signing of Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and Asdrubal Cabrera, and a core of young position players in the minors led by Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Dilson Herrera, and Dominic Smith, the Mets were and are poised to take over the city.

Not so fast my fellow Mets fans.

Sometimes, often when the Mets are involved, things just don’t go as planned. The common thought this season might be that the Mets are better than the Yankees. In a lot of ways, that’s true. The Mets are currently a half game behind the second wild card Marlins after splitting a double header with the Cardinals last evening. The Yankees are 6.5 back in the division and 4.0 back of the second wild card. The Mets attendance is about 350,000 more than the Yankees (although the Yanks have played five fewer home games). The Mets have the younger roster with the Yanks having aging stars that can’t perform like they used to. The Yankees just traded fire balling Arolis Chapman to the Cubs for top prospects. They may soon rid themselves of Carlos Beltran who still can flat out hit, waving the white flag and gearing up for next season. Mark Teixeira is just a shell of what he used to be and A-Rod keeps hanging on with one more painful season left on his contract. So folks, how could the Mets possibly blow this opportunity to become the kings of New York?

Well since May 1st, the Mets have gone 38-39 while the Yankees have gone 44-34. The Mets continue to not be able to get out of neutral. Their offensive engine sputters in fits and starts. Last night was the perfect example. The Mets left eleven runners on base in the first game unable to take a lead. Had third base coach Tim Teufel sent Reyes home with less than two out, maybe the first game is a different story. But the Mets offensive problems go deeper than any mistake made by the third base coach.

With all the issues surrounding Matt Harvey going down with another major surgery and elbow issues for both Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, the Mets starters and relievers still continue to pitch admirably. The Mets record when scoring four or more runs is 39-7 while going 14-39 when scoring less than four. Next week the Mets play four in a row against the Yankees. It’s a home and home series with the first two at Citi Field then the last two at the Yankee Stadium.

It could be a painful four games if the Yankees continue to play well (now four over .500 having taken the first two in their series against Houston) while the Mets offense continues to baffle. Not only could the Mets situation to make the playoffs become more desperate but the Yanks could once again beat down the Mets proving the city belongs to the Bronx and never Queens.

First the Mets must face their nemesis Adam Wainwright this evening in the series finale against St. Louis. Then the Mets have four games against the Rockies who come into Citi Field having played well of late. Although under .500 at the moment, Colorado has some very talented players that can’t be taken for granted. Rookie Trevor Story already has 26 home runs.  If the Mets play poorly against Colorado and continue to confound, the Yankees series might not mean much more than bragging rights and that would be a shame.

Tid Bits

Here are my thoughts on the first rumored trade of this frenetic week leading up to the deadline. The rumor has it that the Mets are interested in swapping Travis d’Arnaud to Milwaukee for Jonathan Lucroy.

I really like d’Arnaud and at 27 years old, I still think he will develop into one of the best catcher’s in the league. Also, for the deal to happen, the Mets would have to part with a blue chip prospect. That would mean Dominic Smith, Dilson Herrera, or Amed Rosario (no way can this guy be traded). Considering the Mets questionable situation at first base, I’m not trading Smith. Also I do not want to give up the future double play combination of Rosario and Herrera, especially Rosario.

Another problem is that Lucroy has stated he prefers to play in a small market.  That sounds to me like he doesn’t like the big stage. New York… ah that’s a pretty big stage.  Lucroy is also three years older than d’Arnaud.

The one positive of such a deal is that d’Arnaud is always hurt and Lucroy would be more dependable and no question that the current Mets offense would be improved. Just not sure I would be willing to risk a deal like this. I don’t see Lucroy as a huge difference maker a la Yoenis Cespedes, especially if he does not want to be here.

The Speech

I’ll take Piazza’s over that fear monger fest from Donald Trump on Thursday night, thank you. Piazza’s acceptance speech at the annual Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies was as classy as I’ve ever heard from a ball player. Mike was sincerely emotional and thankful for the opportunity to play in front of Mets fans. Mike, we were the lucky ones. Once again, congratulations and looking forward to your number 31 being retired this weekend at Citi Field.

Hall of Famer Mike Piazza

This weekend, Mike Piazza becomes only the second Met in franchise history to become a member of the Hall of Fame. Tom Seaver, The Franchise, is of course the first and other member to wear a Mets hat when inducted.

When you think of the great Mets players, there are many. But arguably only two have stood out to be the player that the entire team rallied around. In 1998, as the Mets continued to show improvement the year earlier under manager Bobby Valentine, the Mets seized a great opportunity. All Star catcher Mike Piazza who could not agree with a contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was traded to the Miami Marlins. The defending World Champion Marlins were in a rebuilding mode and had no intention of keeping Piazza. It was clear from the outset of the trade that the Fish would quickly swap the slugging catcher for top prospects. The Cubs and the Mets were considered the favorites to land Piazza who thought even at the last minute he was headed to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

But low and behold, on Friday, May 22, 1998, the Mets traded 1992 first round pick outfielder Preston Wilson, minor league right handed pitcher Geoff Goetz, and minor league left handed pitcher Ed Yarnell for Mike Piazza. The trade changed the fortunes for the Mets for the next four seasons.

Piazza got off to a sluggish start with the Mets although he certainly helped the Mets come close to making the playoffs. The last weekend of the ’98 season proved to be disastrous as the Mets were swept by Atlanta thwarting hopes of the wild card. It was unclear after the season ended if Mike would sign a new deal to stay with the Mets. After much soul searching, Piazza signed a seven year deal that would make him a Met through the 2005 season.

The deal paid off as Piazza became a force in the Mets lineup. With his ability to turn a game around, especially in key at bats, the Mets were able to make the post season in 1999 and 2000. It was the first and only time in franchise history that the Mets made the playoffs in back to back seasons. In 2000, the Mets won their fourth National League pennant and met the Yankees in the first subway series since 1956. Although the Yanks won the series four games to one, every game was a nail biter.

Then of course came 2001 and the terror attacks that shook the world. If you think of one home run that Mike hit, and there were many, the one that stands out is the one he hit on September 21, 2001 when baseball returned to New York for the first time after the attacks. With the Mets trailing in the game, Piazza’s eighth inning two run homer gave them the lead and ultimately the win. The Mets that season did not go on to the playoffs and unfortunately the following years to the end of his contract were losing seasons. The Mets just never got the players they needed around Piazza to continue the winning trend that he helped to bring back to the franchise.

Although Piazza was not a Mets farmhand, the fans embraced Piazza like one of their own. He gave Mets fans multitudes of thrills during his contract. While many Dodger fans might feel his great years in LA warrant his entry into the Hall as a Dodger, the stats and his love affair with Mets fans speak otherwise. In seventeen offensive categories, Piazza had greater numbers in fourteen of them with the Mets. He hit 220 of his record breaking home runs for a catcher with the Mets as opposed to 177 with the Dodgers. In other categories when looking at Mets stats vs. Dodgers stats respectively, we see 972 games vs. 726, 3478 at bats vs. 2707, 532 runs vs. 443, 1028 vs 896, 1885 total bases vs. 1548, 193 doubles vs. 115, 655 RBI vs. 563, 424 walks vs. 283, .373 OBP vs. .372, .537 slugging vs. .532, and a .910 OPS vs. .905. The only categories that favor the Dodgers is triples (2 for the Mets, 3 for the Dodgers), stolen bases (7 for the Mets and 10 for the Dodgers), and average (.295 for the Mets and .314 for the Dodgers). In fairness, Mikes best production year was 1997 when he batted .362 for LA with an OPS of 1.070. Piazza made the All Star game five times as a Dodger and six times as a Met. In the post season, Piazza made it twice as a Dodger and twice as a Met. With LA, Mike never got farther than the NLDS with the Dodgers being swept in three games in 1995 and 1996. But with the Mets, he got to the NLCS twice and the World Series once. His power stats in the post season was better with the Mets as well– .302/.458/.759 with the Mets vs. .274/.400/.674. To be fair Mike played in 22 post games with the Mets vs. six with the Dodgers.

Of course there is the intangible and that’s what Mike meant to New York and what New York meant to him. Piazza, like Seaver, will always be a favorite son and he will be linked to Mets lore forever. My son and I were at his final game he played as a Met in 2005. He received extended standing ovations from when he walked in from the bullpen, took his at bats, and when he walked back to the dugout. He shed tears when he waived to the fans as he walked off the Shea Stadium field for the final time mid-game. Those tears showed us what we meant to him as our ovations showed him what he meant to us. The following season, Mike returned to Shea Stadium as a member of the Padres and once again received standing ovations at every at bat. The Mets even played his walk up music that he used for many years as a Met.

As one fan, all I can say is thanks for all the memories Mike. You meant so much to my son and I during those years you were a Met. I will look forward to the next time I visit the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown New York and see your plaque with that familiar and classic interlocking NY on your hat. I will also be watching next week when the Mets honor you and rightfully retire your number 31 on top of the Citi Field facade.

Congratulations Mike Piazza. You deserve your day in Cooperstown.

Important Series Begins

Since the end of April, the Mets have gone 35-37. So far this season, they have not managed to get to ten games over .500. If it wasn’t for a very good month of April, the Mets might be considering selling at the trade deadline. While it’s true that the Mets have a slightly better record today than they did one year ago, one cannot escape the feeling the Mets are peddling and peddling and going nowhere.

Consider that the Cardinals who have struggled all season long now have one more win than the Mets and are ahead of them in the wild card standings by a half game. Consider that the Marlins have surged and now are the second wild card, having taken over where the Mets were for quite a while. In my last post, I pointed out all that has gone wrong with injuries and performance so I’m not going to rehash those points again. While the Mets have been treading water for much of the season, these other clubs have been able to get their act together and are now a real threat to the Mets hopes of making it back to the playoffs.

The Mets have 67 games left. Every win is really going to count and is so important. The Mets, now in third place in the second wild card race, must win this weekend series in Miami. Then they must win the series in New York against the Cardinals starting Monday. After the four game Colorado series, we’ll be in August when the Mets start the month off with a home and home series against the Yankees. The way I look at this right now, because the Dodgers have been very hot and have taken off since the end of June, the Mets are in a four team race for one playoff spot, the second wild card.

The four teams include the Mets, Marlins, Cardinals, and Pirates. The Mets have no control over the Pirates, their games are over. The Mets went 3-3 vs. the Bucs this season. All six games against St. Louis are yet to be played. The Mets open their next home stand Monday with three night games against the Cards then travel to St. Louis in late August. The Marlins are another story. The Mets having won their last series meeting in New York prior to the All-Star break still have ten games left with the Marlins. The remaining meetings against Miami include this weekend for three, a four game set at Citi Field at the end of August, and a three game series the last week of the season. The Marlins will be tough. They have a great offense and one of the best pitchers in baseball in Jose Fernandez. The Marlins have won eight of their last ten games while the Mets have won just four of their last ten.

As for the division, well of course nothing is impossible but it seems as if the Nationals have tamed the Mets as they did prior to last season. Realistically the Mets need to focus on one game at a time with the hope of making the playoffs as one of the wild cards. Of course winning the next 17 of 23 games could certainly help the Mets fortunes and would allow us to rethink our expectations. But since April, regardless of injuries or subpar performances, the Mets simply can’t shake this one step forward-one step backward season they have had to this point.

Don’t expect any help at the trade deadline. The Mets no longer have the abundance of minor league pitching they traded last season for key players. Perhaps a reliever or spot starter might be obtained but the Mets will not, and should not, part with Amed Rosario, Dilson Herrera, and Dominick Smith.

The Mets have the talent to pull this off already. All the players are on the team. As long as they can begin to play to the back of their baseball card, the Mets should be fine. But if their inability to hit with runners in scoring position continues, then we could be in for a very disappointing ending to a long season.

The Glass Half Full

Consider that the Mets have likely lost David Wright for the rest of the season. Consider that their alleged ace, Matt Harvey, is gone for the season. Also know that the Mets have the worst RISP average in baseball. Realize that the dream rotation even without the loss of Harvey has not lived up to its billing. Zach Wheeler was supposed to be back by July now it’s not clear if he will be available before September. Also realize that Travis d’Arnaud missed quite a bit of the first half and that since coming back he has not delivered the kind of offense that he was supposed to. Also, Michael Conforto was sent down to the minors to get his game straightened out. Even though he’s the streakiest of hitters, who expected that Lucas Duda would join the injury parade? Also we must accept the fact that not delivering a multi-year contract to Daniel Murphy may have been the ultimate blunder of the off season. However, I’m not blaming Sandy Alderson since I agreed with the qualifying offer. The point is a lot has gone wrong this season.

Reading the above without knowing better might suggest the Mets are dwelling around the bottom of the division with the front office deciding to be sellers before the July 31 trading deadline. However, with all that has gone wrong, the Mets have managed to stay relevant in the race to the National League playoffs. After last night’s loss to the Cubs that broke an eight game winning streak going back to last year’s NLCS, the Mets are a game out of the second wild card. The Marlins and Dodgers currently own the second and first wild card spots respectively. Realistically the wild cards will be won by two teams comprised of the Cardinals, Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, and Pirates. Currently a four game spread separates the five teams with the Dodgers a game up and the Pirates three back of Miami.

Can the Mets catch the Nationals for the division title?

The Mets have never won back to back division titles in their history. Mets fans were hopeful that it might finally happen this season. In fact the Mets have only made back to back playoff appearances once. That was under Bobby Valentine when the Mets won the wild card in 1999 and 2000. I have felt for a long time that a New York team not winning back to back division titles in such a market was an indictment of its front office. After all, the Yankees have done it a ridiculous amount of time. But whatever I think, it’s appearing unlikely the Mets will be able to overcome a six game deficit to the Nats unless they can figure out a way to hit with runners in scoring position especially with two outs. Are you listening Asdrubal Cabrera?

Mets fans will be expecting Alderson to pull off a Yoenis Cespedes like trade before the deadline and frankly I don’t think it’s going to happen and here’s why. Any trade for a significant player would likely require the Mets to give up shortstop prospect Amed Rosario who is simply killing it at double A Binghamton. This kid could be a future star at short in Flushing and the Mets would be insane to trade him. Also the Mets gave up a ton of young pitching talent last season to bring in the likes of Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Addison Reed, and Juan Uribe. The Amazins simply do not have the pitching talent left to bring in a difference maker.  On a side note it’s interesting that Michael Fulmer, the prospect traded for Cespedes, maybe the best pitching prospect the Mets had and that’s including the current major league starting rotation. Fulmer is simply carving up American League teams. I’m not deriding the trade. Without Cespedes, the Mets do not make the playoffs last season.

So what can the Mets do?

My opinion will not be a popular one. I say the Mets should do nothing, at least nothing significant. The Mets as currently constructed are still good enough to make the playoffs. Logan Verrett did a good job the other evening in Philadelphia and is a reasonable fifth starter taking Harvey’s place in the rotation. It’s not his fault he received no run support. The law of averages suggests the Mets will start getting some hits with runners in scoring position, it has to. I would just hate to see the Mets succumb to pressure and trade Rosario or Brandon Nimmo or even Dominic Smith who has started to hit more with the B-Mets. And who’s out there to get anyway? The Mets have Conforto back now, who got a nice pinch hit in last night’s loss. They have Cespedes, Juan Lagares, and Curtis Granderson in the outfield. Who could the Mets get to improve on that? Cabrera has struggled at the plate with runners in scoring position but he’s been hitting home runs and is as solid as anyone in the league at short. Neil Walker, although struggling lately, has done what the Mets had hoped. He’s provided a good bat and solid defense at second. The Mets are better defensively up the middle with Cabrera and Walker compared to Rubin Tejada and Murph from last year. James Loney has done a nice job at first base, resurrecting his career. To my surprise, Jose Reyes has made a nice contribution in his return. Are the Mets ready to give up on d’Arnaud? He’s having a bad season but is still very young. Will the Mets consider trading the future for catcher Jonathan Lucroy of Milwaukee? I don’t know, maybe but doubtful.

The idea that the Mets would make it back to the World Series because they were there last season was not realistic. It’s an extremely hard thing to do in today’s game. The Royals did it and kudos to them.  But today it’s rare to go back to back in World Series appearances. For the first time, these young Mets players are playing under different expectations. Last season they were not expected to win. This year they are. Add to that all the things that have gone wrong with health and performance, it’s really amazing the Mets are where they are.

I’m going to continue to view the club with the glass half full. A lot has gone wrong and certainly it could get worse. But all we can truly hope for is that the Mets remain competitive. So far they have been and at least they are positioned to make another run for the post season.