Archive for the 'General' Category

Collins Snubbed

Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League manager of the year award. What in the world does Terry Collins have to do to be recognized? He managed an injury riddled team, full of call ups, and imports from other teams scrap heaps to get to the post season as the first wild card. There were many times during the season where Terry could have lost the clubhouse but he held it together and managed the team to a streaking conclusion that landed the club in the playoffs. I’m not saying Roberts was not deserving of the award but certainly Collins was as well if not more so.

Mets’ pitching prospects Corey Oswalt and Corey Taylor combined to pitch seven innings yesterday in the Arizona Fall League. Oswalt gave up one run (homerun) on three hits and struck out three in five innings. Taylor pitched two perfect innings and struck out four.

 

 

An Emotional Evening

Perhaps it was the pressure of having to perform in such an emotional game last evening that cost Bartolo Colon early on. And to be honest, given the circumstance, the evening felt right that the Marlins, led by Dee Gordon, won the game.

Yes it was only a game but if it gave the slightest comfort to those mourning the loss of ace right hander Jose Fernandez, then it was right and just for the game to go the way that it did. I was not bothered by the loss and I’m sure most Mets fans were not either. In fact, it was moving to see the Mets players embrace their rivals and do what they could to comfort the Marlin players. The Marlins after the game surrounded the pitcher’s mound in what was one of the more moving tributes I have ever seen. The pennant race and everything associated with the game of baseball paled in comparison to what was happening in the center of the diamond. Everyone was touched and it gave all in attendance and watching on TV a moment of perspective.

So if I can be so bold as to get back to baseball, where do the Mets stand in the race for the wildcard?

The Mets have an 83-74 record after last night’s loss. Realistically a win total of 86 should capture one of the two wildcards. With five games left, the Mets will need to go 3-2 to achieve an 86-76 record. If the Mets are unable to do that, there is a very good chance they will sit out the post season and deservedly so.

The St. Louis Cardinals also lost last evening, a 15-2 drubbing by the Reds. For St. Louis to tie or beat an 86 win total, they will need to go 6-0 or 5-1 respectively with their six remaining games. Running the table would give the Cardinals an 87-75 record and likely the wildcard one title. A 5-1 record would land them at 86 wins and would also give them wildcard one since their intra-division record is better than the Mets.  It is not inconceivable for St. Louis to do this considering their competition. The Reds are bad and the Pirates are virtually out of the race now, and the Cardinals are well… simply the Cardinals. They always seem to figure out how to win.

The Giants who were idle last night will need to go 5-1 or 4-2 over their last six games to get to 87 or 86 wins respectively. They are playing the Rockies at home then the Dodgers who are still striving for the best overall record for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Clearly the Mets are in the driver’s seat but that’s what scares me. Sorry but it brings up bad emotions from the end of 2007 when I kept hearing that all the Mets need to do… and guess what, they weren’t able to do anything and they ended up suffering the worst collapse in baseball history. Now no one is going to accuse the Mets of a major collapse this season, not with all they went through on the injury front and with Sandy Alderson having to rebuild the roster almost on a daily basis. But to get this close to the post season and not make it with a handful of games left would be difficult to swallow.

Tonight, the Mets will need to get back on track or they will face a tremendously pressure packed weekend in Philadelphia. The last thing the Mets will want is to have to depend on the Giants or Cardinals losing games.

Obviously we need to keep in my mind how our hopes of the Mets making the post season is dwarfed by the horrendous event over the weekend in the water near Miami. But we all move forward and so does baseball, exactly the way Jose would have wanted it.

Perspective

We live and die with each game. How silly that seems right now.

It’s a game, baseball that is. It has rules. The rules were made up a long time ago. The teams play by the rules. It became a huge business surrounded by talent, a huge fan base, and inordinate sums of money. But make no mistake that it is a game.

The results of any baseball game, no matter how great or bad, never started a war, caused the stock market to crash, or created famine. All these games do is make us feel good or feel bad. It gives us a platform to scream to the moon or shed tears of joy. But ultimately the games fade away to memories and numbers in a record book. The games really don’t mean a hill of beans in the grand scheme of the cosmos.

Yesterday, anyone who’s a baseball fan, anyone who appreciates decent people who help others, anyone who finds it compelling that a very decent young man defected from a communist country, made it to American and became a citizen paused and realized that baseball is just a game.

Yesterday we learned the horrible news that twenty-four year old Jose Fernandez, the ace right handed pitcher of the Miami Marlins was killed in a boating accident. If that doesn’t make anyone realize how insignificant sports truly are, I don’t know what will. Sure, sports are an important part of the American fabric, especially baseball. But it comes from the toy store of life. It puts no food on the table for the fans of the game. And while I will continue to watch the Mets as they attempt to gain a wildcard spot, I will do so with some perspective.

If I could choose between the reality of what happened early Sunday morning or Jose Fernandez pitching a perfect game against the Mets tonight, I would gladly chose the latter. Unfortunately I can’t. None of us can. That’s how permanent the situation is. It’s a reminder that professional athletes are simply human who possess tremendous talent, talents we can only dream of having. But they are just as vulnerable and subject to illness and death as the rest of us.

A tragedy of yesterday’s proportion reminds us all of what is important in life. We need sports. We need baseball. But it is just a game and we all need to keep that in perspective.

The Final Home Stand

Well, it’s not the end of the world that the Mets lost the series to the Nationals but it is an important indicator. Realistically for Mets fans, all we can hope for is that the Mets get to the post season as one of the two wildcards.

We may have to be happy with the fact that the Mets could simply make the post season for two consecutive seasons and that’s all. Clearly the Mets, with all the injuries this season, may come up a bit short against some of the league’s elite teams. The only other time the Mets went back to back to the post season was in 1999 and 2000. Both years, the Mets won the wild card. This season, if the Mets make it, they will have done so by being the division winner the first year, and a wildcard the second unless the unthinkable were to happen and the Nationals tank—a very unlikely scenario.

Of course I’m making an assumption and that is that the Mets will be one of the two wildcards. There is still a lot of baseball left regardless of what team has the weaker schedule. Over the final sixteen games remaining, the Mets play teams with a collective winning percentage of .425. Meanwhile the Cardinals play teams whose percentage of wins is .512 and the Giants play teams with a .497 percentage. So clearly the Mets play teams far worse than the ones the Giants and Cardinals have to play.

Let’s look at head-to-head records. The Mets play the Twins (0-0), Phillies (7-5), Braves (9-7), and Marlins (10-6), a total of 26-18. The Cardinals must play the Cubs (8-8), Giants (2-1), Rockies (2-1), Reds (8-8), and Pirates (7-9) for a record of 27-27. And the final team in the mix, the Giants will play the Cardinals (1-2), Dodgers (7-6), Padres (9-6) and the Rockies (8-8) for a total of 25-22. So based on head-to-head competition the rest of the way, the Mets have the best winning percentage against the teams they must play.

What about momentum regardless of competition? Since August 1 the Mets are 23-18, the Cardinals are 20-20, and the Giants are 16-24. So once again, the Mets have the momentum. But of course with two weeks to go, anything can happen. The Marlins and the Pirates could get hot and get right back into the mix as well. Perhaps the Mets could stumble and revert to the play we saw from May through the end of July.

I worry that the Mets playing bad teams could play into their heads. It could be a subconscious thing that they are not even aware of—that they do not playing to their full potential. That is why it’s fun to play with numbers but why the games are played on the field.

The Mets start their final regular season home stand of the year, a ten game, three team affair. It’s baseball’s worst, the Minnesota Twins for three followed by three with the Braves, then four with the Phillies. That’s two last place teams in a row before playing the next to last Phils. How’s that for pressure? The Twins, Braves, and Phillies over their last ten games are 3-7, 3-7, and 5-5 respectively. With all the Mets have been through this season, a chance at the wildcard is being handed to them on a silver platter. But they are going to have to earn it. Regardless that these teams are all having losing seasons, there is pride on the line. They are not going to hand the post season over to the Mets, you can bet on that.

With all the injuries, we still have meaningful games in late September and the final battle at home begins tonight.

The Wheels Have Fallen Completely Off

A statistic that has been really telling for the Mets this season is their record when they have scored four or more runs. Currently it is 44-15, a .746 winning percentage. And when scoring less than four runs, their record is 16-46, a dreadful .258 percentage. These stats point out the Mets haven’t scored enough runs in a little more than half of their games. So why should we be so shocked that the Mets are now under .500 again at 60-61? Here’s why.

The Mets are not below .500 because of hitting. Now it’s because of pitching. The old adage is true. Good pitching will always stop good hitting. For most of the season it has been the Mets pitching that has continued to keep the Mets relevant. With all the injuries the Mets have suffered and the disappointing performances from some players, it has been the pitching that has kept them in a wild card spot or close to one for most of the season. But here’s why the Mets will now begin to drop like a stone. The pitching has fallen apart at a time when the bats have come alive. This is a prescription for disaster.

Consider what has happened so far in the first four games of this westward swing. The Mets have scored 25 runs, an average of 6.25 runs per game. Remember the stat when the Mets score four or more runs? So what’s the Mets record in these four games? Right, 1-3. And that’s because the Mets pitching staff has given up 38 runs in these same four games, and average of 9.5 runs per game—not good. Even in their one win, you had to hold your breath when they looked like they might blow a 7-1 lead finally holding on to win 7-5 against Arizona. Last evening when Justin Ruggiero grinded out a great at bat then took Bumgarner deep for a grand slam, you had to feel good with Jacob deGrom on the hill. But deGrom promptly gave up eight runs in two innings as the Mets blew it big time 10-7.

Can it get any worse?

Ah, yes it can. We also learned that Steven Matz has shoulder discomfort and will miss his start this evening. Seth Lugo will take his spot in the rotation. By now, late August, the rotation was supposed to be Matt Harvey, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matz, and Zach Wheeler, a rotation for the ages. Geez, where have I heard that before Jason, Bill, and Paul? Harvey is gone for the year having had a rib removed to un-impinge nerves in his shoulder. Who knows if he ever comes back? Wheeler has had setback after setback and now another one that will keep him from throwing for two weeks. Matz and Syndergaard have bone spurs in their elbows and now Matz’s shoulder is barking. Moving forward the rotation is deGrom, Bartolo Colon (thank goodness for him), Syndergaard, Jonathan Niese II, and now Lugo. The wheels have fallen off folks; it’s time to start wondering about next season.

The only way the Mets are going to be able to get back into this race for the wild card is for the pitching to re-stabilize and for the offense to continue to hit. Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera will be reactivated tonight. And while that’s great, I think it would be better if the Mets could reactivate Sandy Koufax and Tom Seaver. The reality is nothing has gone right this season. How’s it possibly going to turn around in the final 41 games? Bill Parcells said it best—you are what your record says you are. And the Mets are a less than .500 team since May 1st. The Mets had a good month of April (15-7) and that’s it. Their record since is 45-54 (.455).

I’ll keep watching because I always do. But for the Mets to get to the playoffs will require a run like we last saw in 1973. Can the Mets activate Rusty Staub?

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.

Disappointing Run to the Break

What could have been a magnificent home stand ended on a very sour note as the Mets lost their last three games to the Washington Nationals prior to the All-Star break . The three losses dropped the Mets to six games behind the division leading Nats and to top it off, the Mets are now tied with the Marlins for the second wild card. After sweeping the Cubs in a four game set to start the home stand, the Mets won two out of three against the Marlins before an extraordinary come from behind win to defeat Washington in the opener of their series.

It’s amazing how in baseball one day can change the fortunes of a team. After the Mets won game one by a score of 9-7, everything was looking rosy. And it happened on a day when it was learned that Matt Harvey was likely gone for the season. On Friday night, the Mets lost two players in the same inning. Noah Syndergaard was pulled in the fifth inning from having a tired arm then Yoenis Cespedes had to leave the game due to a pulled quad. All the air that seemed to fill the Mets’ balloon in Thursday night’s affair was let out by the middle of the next game. The Mets lost Friday night’s game 3-1, then Saturday night’s game 6-1, and Sunday’s game 3-2 as Daniel Murphy enjoyed the type of revenge usually reserved for a Hollywood movie.

The Mets still had a nice home stand, the longest of the season, by winning seven of eleven but the last three decisions were unsettling to say the least. Fortunately for the Mets the issues with Cespedes and Syndergaard are not believed to be serious but it will keep the two out of the All Star game.

If you are looking for history as a guide, the Mets finished the first half of last season at 47-42 but were only two games back of the Nats, not six. The likelihood of pulling off major deals at the trade deadline in a similar fashion to 2015 is probably not in the cards because the Mets do not have the prospects to trade for major pieces.

So what do we know?

We know that the Mets have managed to hang in there even with a very inconsistent team. While the club has set a franchise record for home runs in the first half of a season, they still continue to have the worst RISP in baseball. The pitching that was supposed to be the Mets strength has proven to be quite fragile. But when the Mets score four or more runs, their record is an amazing 36-7 but when scoring three or less, they are a meager 11-34. In an ironic twist of fate and due to Harvey’s season coming to an end, Syndergaard and Steven Matz’s bone spurs, and the unclear return of Zach Wheeler, the Mets could actually be looking for pitching come the trade deadline.

The break could not come soon enough for the Mets. But the road trip that beckons is no picnic either. The Mets start the second half against a reinvigorated Phillies team that has won seven out of their last ten. Then they go to Chicago for three before a weekend set in Miami.

If the Mets are to be successful and make it to the playoffs, they are going to have to figure out how to energize their offense in a consistent manor. I was against the Jose Reyes deal. However, he has shown the ability to make some things happen. He has three home runs and two doubles since coming back and he adds speed which this team was sorely lacking. Realistically I don’t think the Mets are going to catch the Nationals. The Mets are now 4-9 this year against Washington and they have Daniel Murphy who is hell bent on proving that Sandy Alderson and his staff were dead wrong in not offering him a three year deal. Right now Murph looks to be correct. While no one was upset about replacing Murph with Neil Walker, I wonder where the Mets might be had they held on to Murphy.

A wild card position is what we hope the Mets can achieve to make it back to the playoffs in back to back seasons for only the second time in their history. Realistically the Mets will be fighting for the first or second wild card against the Dodgers, the Pirates, the Cardinals, and the Marlins. Even with the lack of Harvey, the Mets have the pitching to stack up with these teams. However their offense will be key to securing one of the two wild card positions. There were a lot of exciting moments in the first half. Unfortunately there were a lot of disappointing ones too. It should be an interesting drive to the finish that starts Friday night. The Mets have 74 to play. Let’s hope they can win the majority of them.