Mets vs. Yanks

As we head into the final two months of the baseball season, two questions continue to pop up in my mind. 1 – will the Mets ever reach the .500 mark and 2 – will the Yankees ever reach the .500 mark—going the other way?

The Mets, who just finished a winning month (15-10) for the first time since April (15-11), are beginning to show signs that give Mets’ fans hope. The pitching has been outstanding, both the starters and relievers.  As Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud continue to become more dangerous hitters, the Mets offense has begun to come to life. They still need to be better at tacking on runs but the signs of improvement are there. So at 52-56 there is hope this team can actually climb to and hopefully above the .500 mark. A winning record at the conclusion of the season would go a long way to improving the self esteem of this team. And make no mistake, the Mets are talented, young, and hungry. It’s just a matter of confidence and that will hopefully be what August and September are about.

By comparison, the cross town Yankees lack talent, are old, and perhaps the hunger is not there anymore. There is little youth and no real hot prospects down on the farm. They traded away a double A player who has hit 33 home runs for Martin Prado. Some would say why give up that power for a guy who really won’t make much of a difference. Well, the truth is the 24 year old Peter O’Brian may have power but not much else. He has poor plate discipline and a liability in the field. It points out that the Yankees really don’t have a lot to offer from their system. Ask any fan which players would you rather have over the next few years, the Mets with their stockpile of prospects including some really good power arms or the Yankees’? If they are honest they would pick the Mets.

But here’s the thing. That all sounds good on paper from a Mets perspective but the reality is the Yankees are still in a better position in the standings, at least for this season. Today, they are only five games back of Baltimore and only 3.5 games back for the second wild card position. The Mets are 7.0 games back of Washington and 4.5 games back of the second wild card.  The Yankees continue to hover over .500 by three or four games. The Mets continue to remain under that mark, now at four games.

The point I am making here is that there is a lot of positive coming from the Mets and things associated with the Yankees appears negative. But the Yanks continue to rebound when it looks like they are heading south and the Mets continue to disappoint when it looks like they are turning the corner. I do think confidence is key. The experience the Yankees have plays a big part in at least not having a losing record. For the Mets, that .500 mark remains elusive. A group of players can become comfortable losing. It’s familiar to them. The Mets need to find it in them to believe they truly belong with the upper exhalant teams of the league. For that they should look across the river. For all the prediction of demise for the Yanks, they continue to hang around. Look, I’m not stupid. The Mets still need another bat or two but even as constructed, they should be winning a few more games than they are losing.

As mentioned earlier, July is the first month since April that the Mets finished with a winning record. Will the Mets continue to play the way they have this month, especially at home? Or will it be like the last couple of years when they tanked the last two months of the season? I’m being optimistic because the young pitching is finally starting to deliver. The hitting must continue or the pitching will get tired and things will get ugly in a hurry.

It should be an interesting final two months of the season. The Mets need to win 29 of their final 56 games of the season to reach the .500 mark. That’s a .518 winning percentage and I believe doable. It’s a worthy goal, one I would be happy with if the Mets could reach.

I’m Done…for now.

I haven’t written anything for a while because I am thoroughly disgusted. I simply cannot stand the losing anymore. I have gotten to the point where I loathe this team. Night after night it is the same thing. Good pitching and absolutely no hitting. The defense is lacking and the base running is often atrocious. This is a losing team, plain and simple.

A couple of friends were excited when the Mets took two of three from the Padres. Are you kidding? The only team with worse hitting than the Mets is the Padres. And the Mets were shut out in one of those games. Look, even the worst baseball team wins on average at least twice a week.  Think about it. Two wins a week times 26 weeks is 52 wins. Let’s suppose the Mets can win on average 3 games a week, that’s 78 wins. That’s just plain bad.

The Mets minor league affiliates all have winning records. Savannah of the South Atlantic league (A) has already clinched the first half for the southern division. The Florida State League (A+) St. Lucie Mets are a half game out fighting to get to first to win the first half title with a few games left. The Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League (AA) are in second place in a wild card spot at the moment and Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA) is leading their division by about 7 games. This tells you there is a winning trend in the organization. It just has not reached the major league level. We will likely have to wait another season or two or they must trade some of the young talent to get better faster in Flushing.

I think the front office led by Sandy Alderson has done a fine job of rebuilding the lower levels of the organization. But this is New York and we should not have to wait this long for a competitive club. Notice I said competitive, I didn’t say championship club. My expectations have been so lowered that I would be happy with a team that could be a couple of games above .500. We don’t even have that to route for.

I have always tried to write something about the Mets in a positive way. I was a blogger who tended to defend the Wilpons when everyone else was trashing them. You know what; maybe the other bloggers were right. Maybe the Wilpons are really not fit financially and emotionally to own a major league team. They just do not seem to be able to promote a winning feeling around the club. Jeff Wilpon always seems to be apologetic when discussing the team. Look at the way they opened Citi Field, with hardly anything representative of the Mets. Contrast that to other big league parks including the one seven miles away where there are banners and statues depicting the greats of their franchise history. Sure, the Mets corrected all that in the seasons that followed but not after an outcry from the fan base. And not that money is any guarantee of winning but a New York team with a payroll rivaling lower market clubs is embarrassing.

Then there was WFAN who booted the Mets out the door. Now they are better off even with the Yankees lack luster play so far this season. At least they remain over .500 and in striking distance if a deal or two are made. I know it is not a big deal if the Mets are on a new radio station but it’s the perception. Mets fans just constantly feel beaten over the head by this organization.

So I will write no more for a while and I certainly will not pay to go watch this latest disaster of a baseball team. I will have to get my baseball jollies this summer elsewhere, yet again.

Interview With Sandy

The interview Sandy Alderson had with Michael Kay regarding the state of the Mets dismal season so far has generated a lot of chatter. Here’s my take of many points made during the interview.

It’s clear that the firing of Dave Hudgens was a gangland style hit with the purpose of sending a message. The message was to the players who simply don’t hit with runners on base. Look, this is nothing new in baseball. You can’t fire the twelve or so hitters on the team. So a GM fires the hitting coach hoping that a new voice, a new face, even professing the same philosophy makes a difference. Time will tell if it does.

Clearly Mets hitters are spooked at home. Do they try too hard as Hudgens suggests in an attempt to win over the few fans actually showing up to Citi Field? Perhaps they do. So maybe then a new voice will help. Hopefully Lamar Johnson can help these hitters relax and stay within themselves. Clearly the Mets hit better away from Citi Field but any comparison to the road Mets and the 1927 Yankees Murderous Row would be an absurdity. The Mets don’t hit that well on the road either.

So the move is clearly to try and get more out of the hitters the Mets have. The Mets are not going to win the division and likely not even a wild card. But they should be better than this. They should be around where they were at the end of April, three or four games over .500.

A point was made that I have been railing about for years. The question was asked to the Mets GM why in the world is the most distant part of the ballpark in right center field where the Mets star third baseman has most of his power.  Alderson said that was a good question. Here’s my take on that one.

It’s because Jeff Wilpon had far too much input into the construction of the ballpark. It was more exciting for him to build cute into the park instead of practical. Why does the outfield wall have to have all those ridiculous bends and turns when the tract of land the park sits on does not dictate those restrictions? It made no sense, especially when Wright hit so many homeruns to right center field at Shea Stadium.  And as pointed out by Alderson himself, they now have Curtis Granderson for four years and the huge dimensions are not helping him either.

In fairness I do recall the purpose of the Mo-Zone. It was to give Jose Reyes a lot of room to hit for triples. It also was a selling point for party groups behind the right field wall. Well Reyes is long gone showing that the ownership of this team really has no clue of what the team is all about. It was clear that Sandy may consider again changing the dimensions of the outfield wall.

Kay and his sidekick Don La Greca also picked apart the bullpen. Sandy was quite clear that pitchers like Velverde and Farnsworth were bridge type guys until Vic Black, Josh Edgin, and others were ready to come up and take over–nice to see Black’s 98 MPH fastball last night. Welcome! Alderson made the point that overall, the pen is about in the middle of the pack in the league, certainly not the worst one in baseball. It should get better as more young players come up and more experience is acquired. Clearly, he said, the problem is the Mets do not score enough runs. It is a difficult task for pitchers to constantly work with the game tied or with a slim lead. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Mets could score six or seven runs once in a while?

A big part of the interview revolved around payroll. Specifically the question was asked if Mets ownership is not giving Alderson the money he needs to field a competitive team. As a good soldier, Alderson deflected blame away from others and assumed all responsibility for the Mets failures including the payroll. However Alderson did make reference to the fact that payroll would go up if revenue went up and that would require the Mets to win.  His exact quote was “I do believe the payroll will go up if the revenue will support that and that’s why we have to win.”

After the interview, Kay went on quite the tirade that this philosophy was wrong. In his words why should the fans pay to come to Citi and watch a crappy team for payroll to go up? Why is it the fan’s responsibility? I have to agree with Kay (and La Greca). It’s an absurd business model. It would be like opening a pizzeria and telling potential customers that our pizza sucks right now but if you come and buy some, we can make better pizza in the future. Uh no, it doesn’t work that way. Now Kay’s argument is in my opinion 100 percent valid however I think it’s a bit unfair to suggest that’s exactly what Alderson meant. If you read is quote carefully he’s stating a fact that the Mets must win in order for payroll to go up. He did not say it was the fans fault and their lack of support is the reason why the Mets cannot spend money. Honestly I think Alderson is the unfortunate middleman here. In fact the Mets cannot spend money because ownership is weak. The Wilpons simply want to own the Mets. I don’t think they should own a team in New York because they don’t have the finances to make it work. George Steinbrenner’s success with the Yankees was due to him investing heavily in the team from his other assets. His philosophy that it takes money to make money turned the Yankees from a laughing stock into the greatest sports franchise in the country if not the world.

Now in fairness, it needs to be pointed out that there are teams with payrolls around where the Mets are who are doing far better and have even won championships recently. The point is the highest payroll does not always win but a high payroll at least gives a team a chance to compete at a serious level. While I might even squawk if the Mets had a payroll rivaling the Yankees or Dodgers, an 87 million dollar payroll is less than what you would expect for a New York team.  So yes, I am on the bandwagon supporting the idea that the Wilpons and Saul Katz should sell their shares and go off into the sunset living a rich and happy life. But that is unlikely unless things become so bad that financial institutions not getting their loans paid force their hand. But fellow fans, for that to happen we will have to head into much darker times than where we currently are. So be careful for what you wish for.

Another point was made in regards to free agents. Why didn’t the Mets sign Nelson Cruise who is having a great year in Baltimore? The Orioles got him for one year around 8 million, roughly the same deal the Mets gave Chris Young who has been a bust so far. Unfair claimed Alderson and he’s right. At the time the Mets spent the money on Young, Cruz was asking for 65 million over four years. When it became apparent no team was willing to spend that much, his demands dropped and ultimately signed for far less money and only one year. That was long after the Mets had signed Young. Of course Kay and La Greca never claimed mea culpa when that was pointed out.

Alderson also fielded questions about the Mets broadcasters. Hudgens made the claim that Cohen, Hernandez, and Darling’s were constantly criticizing his approach to hitting. Alderson defended the broadcasters and admitted what is said on the telecast has no bearing on the field.

Is Sandy’s job in danger? That was the last topic broached. He said you need to ask someone else but I’ll answer for him. I hope not. For all the criticism he is getting these days, let’s look at some facts. The farm system is in far superior shape than when Mr. Minaya was shown the door. You want a team like the Cardinals, the Braves, and the Giants? Well then you need a strong farm system. Look at the minor league teams. Las Vegas, St. Lucie, and Savannah are all leading their respective divisions. Binghamton is close to first place. There is outstanding pitching at all levels. Position players are strong at the lower levels. There is a winning philosophy that has been put in place throughout the organization. Unfortunately and most notably it has not taken hold at the major league level. If Sandy and his staff including JP Ricciardi and Paul DePodesta are blown up now, then where are we? Who runs the show then, Jeff Wilpon? If that happens forget it, this franchise is doomed and I will never step foot in Citi Field again.

Look, the Mets should be better. I get that. But there still is time. They have had an awful month but sometimes, that happens in the course of a long season. What the Wilpons need to do is make sure they can provide Alderson with the funds he needs and if they can’t they should seriously consider selling (I know that will not happen).

The ’86 Mets were developed over time. It took that regime four years before the Mets were finally able to win 90 games (in their fifth year). We are almost to that point now. But the one thing missing is the Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter type trade that truly turned the Mets around in the mid 80s. We have yet to see that from Alderson but that could be coming. After all, not every prospect is going to make it. Some of that bright young pitching will have to be traded to bring in the pieces that will turn this Mets team around.

But until things truly change for the better, expect more crying out from a fan base, one of the most loyal in baseball, that is truly fed up and disgusted with all the losing.

 

First Base Still a Need

The Mets decided to keep Lucas Duda as their first baseman and trade Ike Davis. So since the trade was made a few weeks back, are there any regrets?

In 39 games for the Mets, Duda has hit .250/.328/.392. He has 4 home runs with 17 RBI and 5 doubles. He struck out 33 times and walked 12 times, once intentionally.

By comparison Davis has hit .250/.375./380. Ike has two home runs and 12 RBI, 8 of them from the two homers which were both grand slams. He has 20 walks, two intentional. He has scored 16 runs and has hit 7 doubles.  Davis has struck out just 22 times compared to Duda’s 33 in 100 at bats.

Neither Duda nor Davis has a triple which is not surprising. Davis was always sure handed with the glove and Duda has shown he can pick it very well himself. That was evident in the series last week at Yankee Stadium.  They are roughly the same age. Duda is slightly older.

So did the Mets make a mistake in trading Davis?

Of course it really is too soon to tell but it probably came down to two things. One, the offer for Davis was greater than what they could have gotten for Duda. Two, Davis seemed to have a reputation for not listening to his coaches. That last one has been denied but the rumor persists.

Honestly I don’t think it really made a difference as to which player they kept. Essentially they are the same player. They both give you decent defense at first base, both are capable of hitting moon shot home runs and both will never be super star players. In fact I would go as far to say that I’m sure the Mets hope that Dominic Smith develops quickly. But the young prospect is not exactly tearing up the South Atlantic League either. Although he does have a .600 on base percentage, his average is low and is not hitting for power.

First base remains a work in progress.

Notes: Better Call Saul – Did Saul Katz actually try to sell his shares of the team? He says no but other reports say yes. I guess you might get to a point where you want to do something different so your money starts earning instead of losing. Although I like the approach Alderson is taking by building from the ground up, I wouldn’t mind seeing a new owner who did not have Jeff Wilpon as the heir apparent. This will be interesting to watch as time goes on.

Here We Go Again

If you think things are bad headed into the Yankees home and home series, they are not as bad as they were last year. The Mets were ten games under .500 last season when the Yanks came to play the first of four at Citi Field then Yankee Stadium. The Mets ended up sweeping all four games the two New York teams played against one and other. It was the first time in history that happened.  The subway series also happened later in the season, beginning on Memorial Day.

This year, the Mets are only two games under .500 at 17-19 while the Yankees have the opposite record of 19-17. An emotional and hard fought win yesterday against the Phillies certainly makes a Met fan feel better before they take on the cross town rivals but by no means do I feel confident heading to the Bronx.

The Mets have won just two games this May. They leave runners on base in droves and when they do have a lead, it is always slight and seldom held by another Sandy Alderson bullpen that is struggling to find its way. And while the Yankees are not lighting the world on fire either, it’s hard for me to believe the Mets are not going to struggle this week. The Mets starting pitching has been good, but for the most part, the Yankees have been too. The Yankees have a better bullpen and score more runs. I would be happy with a split but we may be looking at a 1-3 situation—if that.

The Mets and Yankees have played 94 games since Dave Mlicki shut out the Bombers on June 16, 1997 (gees, SNY has replayed that game enough times). The Mets are 40-54 in those games. Quite simply while the Mets have had their moments in the subway series, the Yankees have dominated them.

The Mets have won the subway series just three times, 2004, 2008 and last season. This year the series starts in Yankee Stadium and if there is one ex-Met who wants to show up his old team more than anyone, it’s Carlos Beltran. The former Mets center fielder made no bones about the fact he was disappointed the way his former club treated him. Well now’s his chance to show up the Mets.

On the Mets side is Curtis Granderson. The former Yankee right fielder has struggled mightily after moving to Queens. Perhaps a trip back to his former digs will help find his lost stroke (although Granderson has been a bit better as of late). Everyone realized Grandi would never hit the amount of homeruns in Citi Field he was able to hit at Yankee Stadium. But certainly most thought he would have more than three by now. So far the signing is not looking very good. But neither is the Chris Young signing or the decision to make Travis d’Arnaud the everyday catcher and Ruben Tejada the everyday shortstop (even though Ruben was the hero yesterday).

While the Mets farm system is looking better and better, struggles continue with the parent club. And let’s face it—if the Mets are being crushed tonight in the Bronx, Mets’ fans aren’t going to be happy that the Savannah Sand Gnats are beating Charleston in the South Atlantic League.

2-4-2

The Mets went 2-4-2 on the just completed road trip. Two wins, four losses, and two games they should have won had Terry Collins and Dan Warthen had enough sense to remove Jenrry Mejia with a six run lead on Saturday night in Colorado and obviously fooling no one. Then on Monday night in Miami when Dice-K was walking the ballpark. he should have got the hook after the first two batters reached on walks. Sorry, but I think those two are on Terry.

Anyway, just when you thought the Mets were turning the corner, they take a step backwards. Personally I would like to see the Mets start promoting some of those young arms for the bullpen. Put Mejia in the pen and let Dice-K start. Looks like Flores is coming up to be the work-in-progress shortstop. The Mets have to do something to wake up this anemic offense.

Oh, Ike Davis went 3 for 4 this evening in Pittsburgh. I know, he has not really been doing well but what Met has gone 3 for 4 lately?

Winning Month

Regardless if the Mets win two, split two, or lose two, or they get rained out with the coming monsoon, they will finish April with the first winning month since last July. The Mets finished July 2013 with a 15-12 record. But then the rest of the season went south. It was the only winning month of the entire 2013 campaign.

In 2012, the Mets had a winning record in the month of April going 13-10. They followed that with two winning months of 15-13 each. That had the Mets in second place at 43-36 at the end of June, just two and a half games behind the Nationals and in the thick of the wild card hunt. But contention was short lived as the Mets suffered a 7-18 (.280) July. It went all down hill from then.

Last season, the Mets played more consistently down the stretch but still managed to never go above .500 in any month but July. So while it’s nice the Mets have done well up to this point in 2014, it’s still understandable if Mets fans take a wait and see attitude. If the Mets can continue there very good pitching and defense and their offense starts to hit, then maybe something is finally starting to change. We’ll see…