A Mets fan since 1971, Dan spent many summer nights of his childhood watching the Mets on WOR Channel Nine, which his Allentown, PA cable company carried. Dan was present at Game 7 of the 1986 World Series and the Todd Pratt Walkoff Game in 1999. He is also the proud owner of two Shea Stadium seats. Professionally, Dan is a Marketing Communications Coordinator. He lives in Bethlehem PA with his wife and son, neither of whom fully get his obsession with the Mets.
Browsing All Posts By Dan Capwell

Game 19 Recap: The Start of Something Big?

There are those moments in Mets history when you just know. When the team does something that transcends the boxscore, sending a subliminal message that this is going to be a special season. Sometimes, the message comes late in the season. For the 1973 Mets, it was the September “Ball On The Wall” miracle. For last year’s heroes, it was the Wilmer Flores walk off homer over the Nats in August. Sometimes, though, the moment is early.

2006 had Carlos Beltran’s 2-homer game in a 16-inning win over the Phils in mid-May. The 86 Mets had Wally Backman’s diving stop of a Terry Pendleton liner that started a game preserving double play. That game was in late April. When the Mets left St. Louis one day (and more victory) later, the Cards all but ran up the white flag.

Granted, those other wins came against key divisional rivals, something the Cincinnati Reds definitely are not. Although that infamous extra inning affair with them back in 86, when Ray Knight cold cocked Eric Davis and Jessie Orosco played left field, was for me at least, the moment that I knew the Mets where not about to blow the big lead they had in the NL East and that they where going back to the playoffs.

But on a night where they looked as if they had rolled over and died, a night when a patchwork lineup made Reds starter Brandon Finnegan look like Cy Young, on a night when “Big Sexy” showed a few blemishes, two injured Mets starters blasted and blooped the team to an improbable 4-3 win over the Reds at Citi Field. In so doing, they drew within two games of the fast-starting Washington Nationals.

Exhale everybody, Washington won’t run away with it. There will be a pennant race in the NL East after all.

ICYMI, the Mets entered the seventh inning trailing 3-0. With one out, Juan Lagares drew a walk, which was followed by a Kevin Plawecki single. (BTW, I have grown tired of waiting for Travis d’Arnaud, bring on Plawecki). After a dramatic pause, Yoenis Cespedes stepped out of the dugout and strode to the plate to bat in the pitcher’s spot. In a rare case (for him) of successful gamesmanship, Mets manager Terry Collins fooled the Reds into believing that Lucas Duda, rather than Cespedes, would pinch hit. As a result the Reds kept Finnegan in for one pitch too many. “Yo” blasted Finnegan’s first offering 345 feet off the old wall in left, tying the game and turning Citi into an insane asylum. Next, Curtis Granderson tripled and one out later, David Wright blooped a single over third, plating the go ahead run. Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got the final six outs. Final score: Mets 4, Reds 3.

After a lethargic spring training and a slow first week, the Mets appear to be hitting a good stride. FWIW, I would move Wright out of the 2-hole and instead go Cabrera-Conforto-Cespedes-Duda-Walker two through six, respectively. This isn’t hating on David, as I certainly appreciate all he has done for this franchise, but his power is all but gone and his bat has slowed. I maintain that he will retire long before his contract is up.

The Mets window of contention is wide open right now. As was the case last year, they are looking at some potential key defections in the offseason, so there is (or should be) a sense of urgency to this year. It’s an overused cliché for sure, but momentum in baseball is the next game’s starting pitcher. The Mets have a pretty good one going for game 20. Let’s hope he gets untracked.

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Mets Recap: Conforto gets Comforto, Harvey Dented and More

So…maybe they needed a fire lit underneath them after all. After last week’s controversial all out effort to beat the Marlins, the Mets have won three of their next four games, including a series win on the road in Cleveland. Last night, David Wright drank from the fountain of youth that he must have hidden somewhere in Philadelphia, while Noah Syndergaard continued to look like the next Nolan Ryan. All told, a tidy little 5-2 win over the Phillies.

Suddenly, that lead the Nats have doesn’t seem all that insurmountable, no?

Two other developments are worth noting. The first is the ascendancy of Michael Conforto to the three hole in the batting order. No pressure kid, just go out there and carry the lineup. So far so good, a slash line of 333/375/733. If (and its still a big if) he can maintain some semblance of this pace, he provides a stabilizing presence in the lineup, probably the first since Wright was in his recognized prime. Of all of his swings, I was most impressed by one that Conforto took on a foul ball last night. The ball was nearly in on his wrists, but he was able to turn on it, sending a rocket down the right field line that was barely foul. With Wright fading and players like Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud appearing to be too streaky and/or injury prone, Conforto has a good chance of being the next big face of the Mets, at least among the position players.

Speaking of former faces of the Mets, the last Matt Harvey start was disturbing. ICYMI, Matt flirted with perfection for four innings last Saturday before being strafed by the Cleveland batters for five runs in less than two innings. The loss lowered Matt’s record to 0-3 and his ERA is a whopping 5.71. Worse, his WHIP sits at 1.55, nearly half a runner higher than his previous norms. Pitching coach Dan Warthen claims to have discovered a flaw in Matt’s delivery. Let’s hope that is all it is. Early returns for sure, but the Mets offense appears to be very much a feast or famine machine and their bullpen has been shaky, to say the least. That puts all the pressure on their vaunted starting staff to cover this multitude of sins. If innings and injuries have reduced Harvey to a mere mortal, the Mets will be without a vital cog in their defense of the NL crown. Matt’s next start, probably this Friday in Atlanta will be a very important one, as he tries to get back on track. There is certainly an unlikeability factor about Matt, but there is no doubting that the Mets really need him to be Matt Harvey.

And finally, a big sigh of relief, all the way around, for Jacob deGrom. Not only did he avoid the DL for his lat injury, but his infant son is by all accounts past a medical scare and came safely home. Its cliché for sure, but it is incidents like that which remind us of what really counts and what’s just entertainment.

I think we’re in for a season that will be both fascinating and turbulent. So in the words of the late, great Bob Murphy: “fasten your seatbelts.”

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Does Terry Collins Read Mets Today?

To quote Howard Cosell, “what a performance.” The calendar may have read April 13, but the Mets acted as if it were October 13, as they pulled out all the stops; from high-priced outfielders supermanning it into the stands, to their valuable closer getting five outs, coupled together with some aggressive base running, all in an effort to stem a losing streak and getting a win over what may prove to be a very pesky division rival.

I may be in the minority on this, but I applaud these efforts. As I wrote here, have wasted way too many days and nights of my life watching players and managers wearing Met uniforms that appeared to be simply mailing it in. “There’s still plenty of time,” they would say, or “wait until the weather gets warmer,” or “they (the Pirates, the Phillies, the Braves, etc.) will have their slump and we’ll close the gap.” The dearth of championship banners waving in the breeze on top of Citi Field is a good indication of the results of this way of thinking.

After Wednesday’s tour de force, Mets manager Terry Collins made several statements that made me wonder if he isn’t lurking somewhere on this blog.”The perception is there’s no energy here, which is completely not true,” Collins said. “That we’re not prepared. That we’re overconfident or we’re not taking things seriously. I heard that and it made me sick to my stomach.

“I (Collins) said, ‘We’ve got to win this game. We’ve got to show people we mean business…I just thought it was important for our fan base, to stay excited.”

Isn’t this what we want? So why is he being ripped in the papers, on talk radio and in other blogs? I thought the feeling was that after watching the Royals rub their collective noses in it for two days to open the season, that we wanted this kind of play, right from the start. We got it from them yesterday and now we don’t like it?

What’s wrong with us?

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Collins’ Legacy on the Line?

First off, Joe Janish lives. I had an email exchange with him late last week. Among his many statements was this: “the Mets are a mediocre team with great starting pitching playing in a league where half the teams have already tanked.” My first thought was that he was being a bit harsh. Then came the Phillies series over the weekend. Now, I am wondering if Joe hasn’t (once again) nailed it.

Right now, the Mets are hitting like a bad high school team. In both Saturday’s and Sunday’s games the Phillies pitchers followed the same formula in approaching each batter. Inside slider that they foul off. Check. High heater that they swing and miss. Check. Curve on the outside edge of the plate (or further out) that they flail at. Check. All told the Mets struck out a whopping 21 times against a supposedly ragged Phillies pitching staff. In doing so, they fell below the .500 mark and already trail the hated Washington Nationals by a game and a half.

This is where we find out what kind of a manager Terry Collins really is. And as this is very likely his last managerial job, what happens next is probably what he will be most remembered for. You may recall the tepid (to put it mildly) reaction to his hiring back in 2011. Up to then he was remembered as the tightly wound martinet whose players rebelled against him. It was hard to be critical of him as a team of castoffs and has-beens struggled from 2011-14. He did get some credit for holding the team together during those dark days. GM Sandy Alderson admitted that he nearly fired Collins after the 2014 season. Then came a magical 10-week ride in 2015, all the way to the World Series.

Now, the Mets are the hunted. You could sense the glee in the Philadelphia dugout as Sunday’s debacle drew to a close. The Mets played tight. I don’t buy the weather excuse as the Phillies played in the same climate. Right now, it’s up to Collins to get this turned around. Unlike past years, he has the horses. And also unlike those seasons, there is no more help arriving from the farm. The team is relatively healthy and almost everyone has a role. Not much of a stretch to imagine that Collins is a goner if the Mets fail to qualify for the playoffs this year. Like his team, he has much on the line and the stakes are very high.

Putting Janish’s comments in perspective for a moment: the Mets of the Miracle era (1968-1976) also had great starting pitching and a mediocre lineup. They did make the World Series twice. Also, the 1986 and 2015 teams also started 2-3.

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Finally A “Real” Game!

Now that’s more like it…Noah Syndergaard throwing strikes, Jeurys Familia slamming the door shut and GKR behind the mike. The Mets blanked the Royals 2-0.

First off, Interleague play sucks! So does opening the season on a Sunday night. Whatever happened to the good ole fashioned kickoff in Cincinnati every year? Sorry to sound like such a curmudgeon, but Sunday’s opener, with all of it’s non-traditional elements, felt like just another exhibition game. Given the fact that the Mets just wrapped up perhaps the least interesting Spring Training since the “ReplaceMets” fiasco in 1995, I never felt that the first game was for real. Tuesday’s game felt more like the turning of a page to me and now the season (and the defense of the NL Pennant), can begin.

If he can stay healthy, Syndergaard could be something very special. In actuality, the game belonged to the Mets after he stranded Alicides Escobar at third after the latter lead off the first inning with a triple. Syndergaard seemingly toyed with the Royals’ lineup for the rest of his outing. Neil Walker, who I think will prove to be a great pickup, provided all the runs “Thor” needed. Not to be overlooked are the performances of Jim Henderson and Addison Reed. It will be interesting to see if those two veterans can provide the bridge to Familia.

On the flip side, I started to feel a tightening in my guts during the middle and late innings as the game tension mounted. I wonder what shape we’ll be in later this season.

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Game One (Extra) Recap: Malaise Forever?

They’re back…

New job duties and the ever-challenging role of raising a teenager have made me somewhat less Met-obsessed these past few months. Those factors, along with the sudden return of winter to these parts, kept me in a definite non-baseball mood for most of yesterday. I dutifully tuned in, somewhat disgruntled that instead of SNY, I will be forced to endure the crew at ESPN, although I do like Jessica Mendoza. By the way, whatever happened to Jeanne Zelasko?

I did expect the Mets to come out smoking after being forced to watch the Royals pennant raising celebration. Silly me. Instead, they sleepwalked through the first eight innings before erupting late and then falling victim to KC’s super bullpen in the 9th. You can read Dave’s recap for more details. My main concern is that after a very somnambulant spring, they looked sluggish and especially in the case of Yoenis Cespedes, downright disinterested in playing baseball.

And no, this isn’t a premature “Panic City” piece. This is a history lesson. As my bio states, I have been a Mets fan since the days of the Nixon Administration. I have seen a lot of bad baseball, punctuated by brief bursts of elation. It’s the coming down from the peak that has me concerned. I clearly remember my father’s comments about how bland and boring the mid-70’s Mets were. The post ’86 editions played like all they had to do was toss their gloves out on the field and they would win (they didn’t). The events of 9/11 made the ’01 Mets a little hard to gauge, but they didn’t play well before that terrible day. The collapses of ’07 and ’08 are still fresh in almost everyone’s minds. Could we be heading for another disappointment this year?

The record indicates that we could be.

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Matt Harvey: Lone-Star Gunslinger?

Hoo-boy, only a few days into Spring Training and I am already sick of the fluff pieces. Why don’t we mix it up a bit with some good old fashioned trade speculation? A disclaimer, this deal would go down after the 2016 season concludes.

But before we do, let’s acknowledge either the incredible foresight (or was it just plain luck) of the MLB powers- that-be in moving the Houston Astros to the AL West in 2013. That somewhat head scratching move has set up a very compelling in-state rivalry between the ‘Stros and their Lone Star counterparts, the Texas Rangers.

Last year those two teams and the LA Angels went nip and tuck down to the wire for a pair of playoff berths, with the Angels left without a spot when the smoke cleared. It’s hard to envision the aging, broken down Halos keeping pace with the two Texas teams in 2016; it’s instead more likely that they join Seattle and Oakland as long-term also-rans. With several AL East teams reloaded and the Indians pushing KC in the Central, a wildcard from the West is no guarantee. It won’t quite be Yankees-Red Sox, but it does set the stage for a very intriguing tussle between the Rangers and Astros, with both of them searching for an advantage over the other.

Enter the Mets. Coming off a successful (we hope!) defense of their 2015 NL Crown, they will be facing some serious questions about the rising costs of their young starting staff, the fragility of some of their more older parts and the loss of their Cuban slugger, who will one thinks, opt out of his deal. If their apparent current surplus of pitchers hasn’t dwindled too drastically come this December, it might be the time for them to deal Matt Harvey, in a move aimed to address all three issues in one fell swoop.

A hopefully cancer-free Sandy Alderson could approach Texas about slotting Harvey into the top of their rotation alongside Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, giving them one of the top rotations in the AL and making them very dangerous in a short series. In return, Alderson should ask for some combination of prospects like outfielders Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson, third baseman Joey Gallo, pitchers Luke Jackson or Dillon Tate and infielder/outfielder Ryan Rua.

With the Rangers engaged and discussing names, Alderson could then pivot to Houston. Instead of the quantity he wants from the Rangers, he should ask for George Springer, straight up for Harvey. One Connecticut native for another. The thought of Harvey going to Texas could motivate the Astros into this deal. A one-two-three punch of Harvey, Dallas Keuchel and Colin McHugh puts them atop the AL, rotation-wise and prohibitive favorites in any post season series.

In Springer, the Mets get a young, cost-controlled right-handed power hitter. He has been projected between 3.5 to 4 WAR and has the power potential to slug 30 homers. He provides quality defense in right and would team with Michael Conforto as a formidable left/right combination in the middle of the Mets’ batting order. Harvey’s money can be spread around the remaining young guns, while some of the position players in the Mets have in their system arrive and replace some of their other aging or exiting parts. The good times keep rolling!

It could work, couldn’t it?

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After the Champagne: Winter Doings of Past Met Champions

This offseason has just about had it all: a big trade, two free agent signings and the return of a trio of popular incumbents. A player wearing a Mets hat is going to the Hall of Fame. While transaction-wise, the Mets have had busier, splashier off seasons, unlike those other winters, they weren’t coming off a World Series berth. Was this year busier than normal for a World Series Mets team? How did previous Met front offices behave coming off previous trips to the fall classic? Here’s a hint: not very well.

Let’s take a look.

Winter 1969-1970

• Mets trade Amos Otis to Kansas City for Joe Foy
• Mets acquire Ray Sadecki and Dave Marshall for a pair of journeymen
• World Series hero JC Martin is traded to Chicago

Reaction: Ugh. The Otis trade would haunt the Mets for the next decade. As was outlined way back here, the Mets nearly swapped Otis and Nolan Ryan to Atlanta for Joe Torre the year before. Old-timers such as myself can recall the days when third base was a black hole for the franchise. Foy was another failed attempt to fill it and it cost them, although not as dearly as their next attempt would. Marshall logged three seasons for the Mets as a part time outfielder. Sadecki lasted five seasons before being traded for Torre in 1974.

Winter 1973-74
• Mets trade P Jim McAndrew to San Diego
• Mets sell the contract of P Buzz Capra to the Atlanta Braves

Reaction: If there ever was a time to re-tool, the winter after a veteran team goes 82-80 is it. However despite their pedestrian regular season record, the Mets had surprised everyone by getting to Game Seven of the 73 World Series (remember this was in the pre-wild card era). The brain trust decided instead to keep the team essentially intact. This proved to be the wrong decision, but they almost made an even bigger blunder. McAndrew’s career was over by this point, but Capra, finally able to get a regular turn in the rotation, had a spectacular season for the Braves in 1974. He led the NL in ERA. Injuries ruined his career from then on however.

Winter 1986-87
• Mets trade Kevin Mitchell and two other outfielders to San Diego for Kevin McReynolds and P Gene Walter
• World Series hero Ray Knight signs with Baltimore
• Mets trade catcher Ed Hearn to Kansas City for David Cone

Reaction: The hindsight on both trades is far different than the immediate reaction. Most pundits liked the McReynolds acquisition as Mitchell was seen as a utility player. The Cone trade, made right before spring training ended, was overshadowed by Doc Gooden’s entry into rehab. Many saw it as risky, since Hearn had proven to be a capable backup catcher. McReynolds, despite being a solid player, never quite lived up to his expectations, a situation made worse when Mitchell won the MVP for the Giants two years later. Cone had a remarkable career that included stops with both New York teams, which was spilt by a return trip to Kansas City and a stint in Toronto. Without Knight and Mitchell, the post-86 Mets lost some of their swagger. It showed.

Winter 2000-01
• Colorado signs P Mike Hampton (Mets draft David Wright with the compensation pick. Mets also lose SP Bobby Jones to the Padres.
• In one day (December 11), Mets sign Ps Kevin Appier and Steve Trachsel OF Tsuyoshi Shingo (from Japan) and trade Bubba Trammel to San Diego for P Donne Wall.
Endy Chavez is moved for the first time, to KC for a minor leaguer.

Reaction: This was the offseason the Mets passed on Alex Rodriguez, who really, really, really wanted to come here. Interesting to think how much different baseball history might have been for both the Mets and the Yanks if Fred had actually opened his wallet and paid the man. Trachsel hung around long enough to get lit up in Game 3 of the ill-fated 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals. Endy would return for one of the biggest moments in Mets history, although that memory will always be bittersweet.

Right now, Mets GM Sandy Alderson is riding a wave of popularity. Past transgressions are forgotten and even some of his harshest critics have praised his planning and his deal making. Soon comes the hard part: the start of the 2016 season and the task of taking the ultimate next step. With one exception, the Mets have never put together back-to-back playoff seasons. Now, it’s World Series or bust; a tall task for anyone.

So, here’s hoping for a re-run of this article next January with some additional (and happier) content.

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