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A Glaring Mistake

It made no sense whatsoever to keep Rafael Montero in the game after the first inning. He clearly is demonstrating that he is not a go-to pitcher in pressure situations. And clearly, this cannot be tryout time for the Mets. Fortunately for the Mets, every team that is in the hunt for a wildcard lost last evening also. The Cardinals lost to the Cubs, the Giants lost to the Padres, and if you consider the Pirates and the Marlins still in the race, they lost too. What Terry Collins did not do is what any team should do when it’s clear their starting pitcher is digging a hole in a pennant race game. Get him out of the game.

The Mets have an army of pitchers in the bullpen. The Mets still might have lost but by not getting Montero out of the game, any energy the Mets had on that bench was sucked away when Montero grooved one to Anthony Rendon. Goodbye home run, goodbye game, time to watch the scoreboard and root for the Cubs. What is Terry Collins doing? There were 19 games left including last night’s. He’s got to manage every game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series. This was not the time to attempt to get innings out of Montero or to build his confidence. You do that in April, not September.

If the Mets do not get to the post season this year, I don’t want to hear about injuries, who had a bad season, what have you. The front office has to seriously consider a change in the dugout. I think Terry Collins is a great guy and with all due respect to Keith Hernandez’s apparent man crush on him, he may have to go. Last night’s inaction was glaring to say the least. Again, no one can predict that the bullpen would have shut down the Nats but by leaving Montero in, who clearly looked lost on the mound, the message sent to the team was we’re going to lose tonight. The message could and should have been that Montero is obviously not cutting it and we need to win this game. The question as to why this was not the case had to have been written into Sandy Alderson’s notebook and addressed after the season.

While it is fortunate the Mets did not flip-flop with St. Louis, a win would have helped solidify their hold on the second wildcard. The assumption moving forward cannot be to not worry because the Mets schedule is easier than the Cardinals. We’ve seen that kind of thinking blow up in the Mets faces before.

We do know that if the Mets were to replace Collins, it will not be Wally Backman. He “left” the organization yesterday and likely he was let go by Alderson who has grown tired of Backman. Wally was never going to be a manager under Alderson anyway, that much is certain. That’s a shame. It appears that baseball executives have lost their taste for a fiery manager not afraid to speak his mind. Just hope Backman doesn’t turn up managing an NL East team in the near future.

A Tough Series Starts The Week

After winning two of three in Atlanta the Mets find themselves in the second wild card position once more. Their narrow margin comes down to the Mets having one more win than the Cardinals. The Mets and Cardinals are tied in the loss column. The Mets are 1.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants and forget about the division trailing by nine games with 19 left to play. At least Daniel Murphy will experience two division titles in a row.

The Mets have a tough series beginning in Washington DC this evening. Though the Mets have virtually no shot at the division title, they cannot afford to lose the series to the Nats. A wild card spot is still on the line and will require the Mets to continue winning.
Is the seventh six time the charm?

Tonight with Rafael Montero on the mound, the Mets will attempt for the sixth time this season to reach ten games over .500. Not once this season have the Mets been able to get above nine over. Here’s the breakdown of ten over .500 attempts that ended in failure:

May 9 record 20-11, on May 10 Mets lose to Dodgers 3-2 at LA

May 11 record 21-12, on May 12 Mets lose to Dodgers 5-0 at LA

May 27 record 28-19, on May 28 Mets lose to Dodgers 9-1 at Citi Field

July 7, record 47-38, on July 8 Mets lose to Nationals 3-1 at Citi Field

Sept 9, record 75-66, on September 10 Mets lose to Braves 4-3 in 10 innings at Atlanta

Sept 11 record 76-67 Update: on September 12 Mets lose to Nationals 8-1 in D.C.

Montero must shut down the Nats against Matt Latos. Latos was acquired by Washington from the Chicago White Sox. He pitched in relief against the Mets on September 4th in New York and gave up two runs.

While the Mets play the Nationals, their chief wild card rival Cardinals and Giants will play the Cubs and Padres respectively. Both the Cards and Giants will be home. The other teams in the hunt, the Marlins and Pirates have been struggling. The Bucs will be in Philadelphia and the Marlins will be in Atlanta. Both teams have an opportunity to get back into the race with about 20 games left in the season. Certainly both these teams need to make a move this week if they have any shot of getting back in the wildcard hunt. The Rockies play in Arizona but their chances are dwindling rapidly if not already gone.

With the Cubs magic number down to five it would appear that on paper the Cardinals have the tougher competition than the Mets this week. But the Nationals just swept the Phillies and like the Mets have won seven of their last ten. However this weekend, the Mets face the Twins at Citi Field while the Cardinals play four in San Francisco. The Mets need to keep the pedal to the mettle. There can be no letup if the Mets want to make it to the post season for the second straight season.

Meaningful Games in September

Today, the New York Mets find themselves in a virtual tie for the second wild card. And they are just one half game back behind the first wild card San Francisco Giants. The Mets, who stumbled for four consecutive months after a brilliant April, have found themselves during this final month of this season.

True, they are doing it against some of the worst teams in the league but that’s what good teams have to do. But let’s not forget they did take two of three from the Nationals, a team destined to take the Eastern Division crown from the Mets.

The Mets are playing well at all facets of the game right now and with many understudies in place of the headline cast. Confidence is abounding in the Mets clubhouse right now. Now it’s off to Atlanta where the Mets must take advantage of another struggling team. During late April and early May the Mets took five of six from the Braves. But later as the Mets struggled approaching mid-season, they were swept at Citi Field by the Braves then split a four game set the following weekend in Atlanta. Overall the Mets are 7-6 against Atlanta this season and looking to improve on that record this weekend.

Realistically the toughest series left, at least on paper, is next week when the Mets go to Washington to play the Nationals for a three game set. In second place at 8.5 games back in the standings, it’s silly to think the Mets still have a chance to win their second division title in row. However, the Nats could certainly put a crimp in the Mets hopes of winning a wild card.

As it stands it looks like the two wild cards are going to go to two of three teams—the Cardinals, Giants, and Mets. But there still is time for the Pirates and Marlins to get their acts together also. But just looking at the Cardinals and Giants, there is something intriguing about their schedules. They play each other four times next weekend in San Francisco while the Mets are home to play the Twins. The Giants also have six games left with the Dodgers and the Cardinals have six games left with the Cubs. At the very least, the Mets could not have asked for a better situation schedule wise. However may I remind you that the best laid plans…

As for the Pirates, they get a break playing the Reds, Phillies, and Brewers over the next 14 games. But the Bucs end the season against the Nats (3), the Cubs (4), and the Cardinals (3), a tough final 10 games. The Marlins have to play the Dodgers this weekend for three then get a break for six games with the Braves and Phillies. They then have six with the Nationals, three with the Mets and four more with the Braves. Clearly the Mets have the easiest schedule of all five wild card hopefuls. But before we get carried away remember back to 2007 and 2008 when the Mets had a difficult time winning against the also-rans in the division and ended up the brides-maid. But like those seasons that ended in disappointment, the Mets will be playing meaningful games in September for the second straight campaign. Anything can happen in this wacky game of baseball but I do like the Mets chances as long as they continue to play to their ability.

On A Roll

So now what? Do we actually believe them? Even with the injuries that have decimated the roster, the poor play from many during the course of the long season, we are supposed to believe the Mets actually have a shot at this?

Well, seeing is believing. For now, the Mets are indeed making some sort of move. The Amazins have won thirteen of their last seventeen games. It’s really their most winning period since way back in April. Perhaps this will be a bookend season—great April and great September with mediocrity in the middle. The Mets have won four in a row for the first time since they won five in a row from June 30th to July 4th.

During this four game streak, Mets pitchers have given up just five runs. Two were on a two run homer last night from Rafael Montero. The streak also coincides with Curtis Granderson’s revival. Grandy hit one of the four homers last night.

Is what we are seeing enough to get the Mets in the playoffs? I would say it is as long as the Mets avoid a major slump along the way. The problem is that the team the Mets are chasing, the St. Louis Cardinals, keep winning too. Last evening, the Cards were down to their last strike when Matt Carpenter homered to tie the game. Two more homeruns in the inning led to a Cards 9-7 win. The Pirates are toast. But alas, the San Francisco Giants have been faltering ever since the All Star break. But they came back last night in Colorado to squeeze by the Rockies 3-2. So the Mets remain one game out of the wild card two position (two in the loss column) .

There is no rest for the weary. The Mets will have to keep plugging along winning games against a weak schedule or nightmares of going 2-11 against the Rockiers and Diamondbacks combined will haunt their dreams all winter long.

Will It Be A September to Remember?

The Mets are in second place in the wildcard 2 standings. However there are no rewards for finishing in second place. Because of last night’s loss to the Miami Marlins, the Mets are now three back in the loss column to the wildcard 2 leader St. Louis Cardinals. The San Francisco Giants remain the number 1 wildcard a game and a half up on the Cards. The Mets now face the daunting task of going up against an express train known this season as the Washington Nationals. The Nats are certainly making up for their uninspired play of last season, due in large part to the play of former Met Daniel Murphy that they acquired as a free agent last winter.

Forget the division title. At 9.5 games back of Washington, the second place Mets have little chance of catching them. Once again, the Mets will fail to win division titles in back to back seasons. That’s due in large part to the plethora of injuries the Mets have dealt with all season long. The latest casualty is Neil Walker who will have season ending back surgery to correct a herniated disk. Add him to the list that already includes David Wright (neck), Lucas Duda (back), Matt Harvey (shoulder), and Juan Lagares (thumb), all gone for the season.

Also on the infirmary list is Zach Wheeler who will now miss two complete seasons due to elbow surgery that includes continuing nagging setbacks. Although there is no structural damage to his shoulder, Steven Matz could miss the final four weeks of the season with discomfort in the rotator. Jacob deGrom continues to pitch ineffectively of late but there also could be medical issues involved but no one is fessing up. And even Noah Syndergaard who has been pitching well is doing so with bone spurs in his elbow that will likely require a clean out in the off-season. So the once heralded rotation of Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and Wheeler has become deGrom, Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman. Oh I’m forgetting Jonathan Niese who the Mets reacquired at the break. But wait, he just had surgery to repair his knee and he’s likely done for the season as well.

Let’s not forget that Yoenis Cespedes (quad) and Asdrubal Cabrera (knee), key offensive players, continue to play at less than 100 percent. If either or both of these two players succumb to their nagging injuries, there will be slim to no chance of the Mets getting to the post season. It’s just one of those seasons where health is playing a huge role in the outcome. When you consider all of these injuries plus the less than stellar play of Curtis Granderson and the disappointing sophomore season of Michael Conforto, it’s truly amazing the Mets find themselves just two games behind a playoff spot.

This weekend will be crucial for the Mets. A losing series against the Nationals could be a major setback to the Mets’ chances of getting to the post season in back to back seasons for only the second time in history. While the Mets have to play the Nationals, the Cardinals go to Cincinnati where the competition is not so great. If the Mets stumble, they could march into Cincinnati themselves on Labor Day in much worse shape than they are in today. The other wildcard contenders, the Pirates and the Marlins, play the Brewers and the Indians respectively. The Bucs are at home while the Fish head to Cleveland for an inter-league series. Certainly the Marlins could have a tough weekend. The Tribe leads the NL Central by 4.5 over Detroit who has won three in a row. But the Pirates who were just swept by the Cubs will try to regenerate their batteries against the lowly Brew-Crew.

There are 28 games left for the Mets. It’s six against the Nationals, three against the Marlins, six against the Braves, three against the Reds, three against the Twins and seven against the Phillies. Of the 28 games, 19 are against losing teams. Those games will be extremely crucial and not easy. The last thing the Phillies, Braves, Reds, and Twins are going to do is role over for the Mets. Time is getting short.

Notes: The minor leagues are closing down this weekend. Unlike previous seasons, the Mets minor league clubs have not fared well this season. That’s likely do to trades made to acquire major league talent since the middle of last season plus many of the prospects being at the major league level with the Mets. The St. Lucie Mets (Advanced A) of the Florida State League have a shot at the post season. They lead the South Division in the second half by 1.5 games over Jupiter (St. Louis) with three left to play. If the Mets can hold on they will be the only farm team to make the post season. All other Mets farm teams are below .500.

It’s All In The Schedule… Well Maybe

The Mets completed their games against the National League west on a high note winning the last two games in San Francisco. Saturday’s 9-5 blowout was highlighted by Yoenis Cespedes who returned from the disabled list on Friday evening. Cespedes hit two homers on Saturday and also helped out Noah Syndergaard with another homer, a two run jack accounting for the only Mets runs in the finale. That’s all Thor needed as he shut out the Giants over eight innings.

If the Mets do fail to make the post season, and all signs are showing that will be the case, then one of the places to look will be their play against the NL West. They went 13-21 against the NL West (.382), by far their worst division.

Actually the Mets went .500 (7-7) against the two best teams from the west. Against the Dodgers the Mets went 3-4 and against the Giants, they went 4-3. They also went 4-3 against San Diego. The Rockies and the Diamondbacks will be two teams the Mets look back at during the 2016 post mortem to reflect on how things might have turned out. The Mets were able to muster just one win against each of those two bottom division dwelling teams and that’s painful.

Looking ahead, the schedule favors the Mets. They have 38 games left. The Mets face under .500 teams twenty-two times with the remaining sixteen being against contenders. The breakdown against the also-rans is 6 against Atlanta, 10 against the Phillies, 3 against the Twins, and 3 against the Reds, Against the winning teams it’s the Marlins for 7, the Nats for 6, and starting tomorrow night, the Cardinals for 3.

However, the Cardinals’ schedule isn’t really that much different. They play 3 against Oakland, 7 against Milwaukee, 7 against Cincinnati, and 3 in Colorado. That’s 20 games against some pretty crappy teams. Colorado can be tough in their house though. Facing the good teams, if I may be presumptuous, they play the Mets for three tomorrow night, 6 against the Pirates, 6 against the Cubs and 4 against the Giants. That’s 19 games against contenders.

The Marlins schedule is tougher than the Cardinals or the Mets. They play the Mets 7 times, the red hot Royals 3 times, the Dodgers 3 times, the Nats 6 times and the Indians 3 times for a total of 22 games against the contenders. Against the losing teams the Marlins draw the Padres for 3, Phillies for 6, the Braves for 7 for a total of 16 games.

Then there are the Pirates. They have a difficult schedule even though a slight majority of games is against losers. They play the Astros 3 times beginning tonight at home. They play 7 against the Cubs, 6 against the Cards, and 3 against DC. On the easier side they play Milwaukee 10 times, Cincinnati 7 times and the Phillies 4 times.

So while the experts may say the Mets have an easy go of it, it’s not as if these other wild card contenders are playing the ’27 Yankees every night. And what does it really mean for the Mets to have an easy schedule when they’ve played so poorly against losing clubs.

I say through all that nonsense out the window. The Mets have simply got to win the majority of their games. They remain four and a half games out of the wild card. With 38 left to play and three teams to climb over, that’s a mighty hill to climb. But after the series in St. Louis, the Mets will remain in the Eastern Time zone the rest of the season. At least the travel won’t be too bad.

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?