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Frustration Following Big Trade

I’m sure Jay Bruce will enhance the Mets lineup. But last night’s excruciating loss could not be blamed on the offense even with Bruce yet to arrive. For one evening, the offense led by Matt Reynolds put the Mets in position to win late in the game. His three run bomb into the left center field stands gave the Mets a 5-3 lead. Going into the late innings with the Mets bullpen protecting a lead usually ends with a happy recap but not last night.

Of all nights for Addison Reed to give up any runs, he sure picked a bad one. He had not given up a run since late June.

Oh those bases on balls.

Culprit number one was Jerry Blevins. The lefty brought in to face a couple of lefties simply cannot walk the first batter. It’s a baseball mortal sin. Reed came in after Blevins struck out Jacob Ellsbury.  Reed struck out Mark Teixeira. With two outs, not too many thought Reed would have any difficulty getting through the inning with no damage done. But Brian McCann singled then Didi Gregorius fought off slider after slider until he punched a high changeup into left field, driving in two to tie the game. Right there you knew the Mets just turned a victory into a defeat.

Seth Lugo, like Blevins, also walked the first batter he faced in the 10th. You knew that run would score and of course it did.  The Mets poised for a dramatic comeback in the bottom of the 10th failed to do so. James Loney doubled and moved to third on a sacrifice. Rene Rivera grounded back to the mound and Curtis Granderson struck out. Just a painful loss to watch, especially on the day the Mets acquired Jay Bruce. The loss was made more painful because it was at the hands of the Yankees.

Last season at the trade deadline the Mets won their game in a euphoric atmosphere, also in extra innings. They knew Yoenis Cespedes was coming and that changed everything. Knowing Jay Bruce is coming may have inspired Reynolds but it did not change the fortunes of the bullpen. On a rare evening, the pen could not hold the line and the Mets lost an opportunity to pick up a game against the second wild card Marlins who lost to the Cubs.

There are only 57 games left this season for the Mets. Realistically the Mets need to win the majority of those games to make the post season. If the Washington Nationals go .500 the rest of the way, they will win 89 games for the season. Most likely the Nats will win more than that, at least in the low 90s. For the Mets to win 90 games, they will need to go 36-19. That’s 17 games over .500. Does the addition of Bruce and Niese make you think the Mets can win at that clip when the most they have been above .500 all season has been nine games? I doubt it. And even if they did, it would not be enough wins to take the division unless the Nats completely collapse. The Mets best bet is to shoot for the wild card.

The Dodgers will win around 87-88 games if they go .500 the rest of the way. For the Mets to reach that number of wins, they must win 34 of the next 57 games. That’s a record of 34 and 23, 11 games over .500. We are asking them to go 11 over for the final 57. Can Bruce make an 11 game swing happen?  Possibly but it’s going to be tough. He certainly can’t do it alone. Granderson, d’Arnaud, Conforto, and Walker all must step up their game. If they continue to hit so poorly with runners in scoring position, it won’t matter that Bruce is aboard and the Mets would have traded away part of their future for nothing.

Jon Niese? Really?

The Mets couldn’t have done better than this? Well the bright side of this trade is it didn’t cost them any prospects, just another struggling left handed pitcher. So the Mets traded a struggling pitcher for a familiar struggling pitcher . Perhaps out of the bullpen Niese will have some success as he did during last year’s post season.

And as for the Yanks…

It was the 61st time the Yankees have defeated the Mets in the regular season (Mets have won 44 times). It’s the 30th time that the Yankees have beaten the Mets at home, the 13th time at Citi Field. It was also the fourth time the Yanks won an extra inning game against the Mets and the 14th one run loss. Regardless of the era, the Yanks own the Mets.

Subway Series History and Trade Deadline

The Mets have played 104 games that count against the cross town rival Yankees. The Mets have won 44 while the Yanks have won 60. The Yankees swept the Mets once in 2003 (six games) and the Mets have swept the Bombers once in 2013 (four games). Last season, in a year where the Mets went to the World Series and the Yankees made the playoffs as the second wild card, the Mets lost the season series two games to four.

This season, the Mets are four games over .500 entering the subway home and home series and the Yanks are at the .500 mark. Both New York clubs had miserable weekends. The Yanks were swept in a three game set at Tampa Bay while the Mets were able to salvage the final game of a four game set against Colorado at Citi Field thanks to Neil Walker. It’s safe to say that both clubs are struggling.

The Mets have experienced a rash of injuries this season having lost Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera to the disabled list this weekend. Add them to the list that already includes David Wright, Matt Harvey, and Juan Lagares who have been lost for the season. Then there’s Lucas Duda still out and unclear when he will be coming back. Reliever Jim Henderson is also still on the DL with Zach Wheeler still hoping to make a 2016 appearance.

The Yanks on the other hand are suffering from an aging roster after countless years of success. In the last week, they have traded two of their star relievers and have stock piled some outstanding prospects. The Yanks now have seven of the top 100 prospects in their system as they tool their club to be great again in the not too distant future.

The Mets, although looking very vulnerable of late, are still in a slightly better position playoff wise. They are 6.5 games back of the Nationals for the division lead and 2.5 games back of the Marlins for the second wild card spot. The Yankees meanwhile are 7 games back of division leading Baltimore and 5.5 games back of wild card two Boston.

Performance wise, the difference between the two New York clubs really comes down to the month of April. In that month, the Mets went 15-7 while the Yankees went 8-14. Since that time, the Mets have struggled to a 39-43 mark as injuries mounted and the Mets offense sputtered horrendously. Meanwhile the Yanks have gone 46-38. There is no question the Yankees have played better than the Mets since May 1st. But the Mets head into the subway series with a better record than the Yankees at 54-50 to 52-52 respectively. It’s only the sixth time in twenty seasons of interleague play that the Mets have a better record than the Yankees on the eve of their first meeting of the season. Here’s a history of the other times when the Mets were better than the Yanks prior to the subway series.

The first time was in 2005. The Mets were 22-19 heading into the subway series with the Yankees at 21-20. The Mets and Yanks split the six games that season, Mike Piazza’s last with the Mets. The next season, in 2006, the Mets had one more win than the Yanks but the same amount of losses with a 24-16 record vs. a 23-16 record.  Also that season, the Mets went further in the post season than the Yanks for the first time when both teams made the playoffs. (Of course both clubs made it to the last game of 2000). The largest disparity in the Mets favor occurred in 2007. On the eve of that subway series’ first meeting of the season, the Mets were 26-14 and in first place while the Yankees were struggling at 18-21 in second place trailing the Red Sox. The following season, the Mets were a game over .500 at 20-19 with the Yankees two games under at 20-22.

Since the new New York baseball stadiums era began, the Mets had virtually the same record in 2012, (32-26 vs. 31-25). Last season, the Mets had won eleven in a row with a 13-3 record prior to meeting the Yankees for the first time. So there you have it. The Mets were better than the Yankees just five times in the twenty seasons that interleague play has occurred before tonight’s contest.

Interestingly, in 1997 the Mets were 36-30 and the Yankees were 37-29 on the eve of the very first Mets-Yankees subway series. After Dave Mlicki pitched a complete game shutout in that historic first game, both New York teams had identical records of 37-30. Mets equality was short lived however as the Yanks took the next two, winning the series. Back then, the two rivalries met only once during the season.

The home and home series is something relatively new since interleague play began. It started in 2013 and only happens when the Mets do not play American League East teams. When they do, the Mets and Yanks go back to the traditional three game series in each park. This season, it starts in Citi Field for two then moves over to Yankee Stadium II on Wednesday for games three and four.

What makes this subway series unique is that it starts on the day of the non-waiver trade deadline. That’s never happened before. As stated, the Yanks have already sold off while the Mets are still looking to do something to bolster their dreadful offense.

I long for the day when the Mets are clearly New York’s team. But with the disappointing season they have had and with the Yankees playing better and having made a great haul of prospects, I’m skeptical we’ll ever see it happen.

I certainly hope the Mets do not mortgage their future today. So many things have gone wrong in terms of injury and less than normal performance, it may be fruitless to try and repair a team that really just needs a winter to get healthy and regroup.  Many of these Mets are still very young. It would be easy to give up on them considering the microscope of New York. But doing so could prove to be costly in the long term.

It’s interesting that Yankee general manager has taken a page out of Sandy Alderson’s book in that he has sold off a couple of stars for very good prospects. I would hate to see the Mets give up on the philosophy they have embraced. Sometimes a season just doesn’t work out the way it was planned. The Mets have had a lot of bad luck this year. I say make a tweak move or two and let the chips fall where they might. I simply don’t want to see the Mets head into years of uncertainty yet again because they failed to be patient and unnecessarily moved key prospects.

Update:  The Mets traded Dilson Herrera and a minor league pitcher for Jay Bruce. I’m glad they got Bruce but I am extremely disappointed they had to deal Herrera. You never know how a prospect is going to turn out however all we have heard is that Herrera would be a future all star. In Bruce, the Mets have a great power hitter and everyone knows they needed one. With all the injuries the Mets have suffered this season, the only real shot to make the post season was to make a deal like this. The Mets can control him through next season. Meanwhile the Mets outfield is like a Sudoku puzzle.

Who plays where?

Nimmo who was originally headed for Cincinnati but remains because the deal had to get reworked because of somebodies medical reports, will likely get sent back to AAA until September 1st. Does Conforto play center or does Granderson? Should be interesting.

In other moves, the Mets brought back Jonathan Niese. This one boggles my mind and with letting their future second baseman go makes me wonder if the Mets really don’t know what they are doing again. Hopefully they do and hopefully they turn things around and begin a run like they did a year ago. But we’ll see. Seldom does it happen that what occurred in one season happens again in the following.

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.