Browsing Archive June, 2015

Mets Game 71: Loss To Braves


Braves 1 Mets 0

Sorry for the delay in getting this report out, but I have my reasons. 30 minutes after watching the Mets lose 1-0 to the Braves on Sunday, I had to rush to the toilet to vomit and then suffer the shakes and further sickness for another 24 hours. Is this what the Oh No Mets are doing to everyone?

Well, it was more of a coincidence. A family member picked up a stomach bug the day before and I’d gone into the contaminated zone to nurse them. But nausea and pain have gone hand in hand with the Mets recently.

The most telling image was Jacob DeGrom earlier in the week, who was pitching beautifully before the bullpen and defence lost the game. The camera cut to DeGrom on the bench. Where was his head? Had he decapitated himself out of frustration? Nope, the poor guy had just hidden behind the top of the bench so the camera couldn’t see the endless expletives he must have been saying. Jacob’s sullen face then dropped and looked at the ground.

You probably watched the game on Sunday and felt the same. Matt Harvey’s fastball and slider were working well and, once he fought through the first couple of innings, his only real issue was hanging a few curves. The Braves eventually scored on Harvey’s 112th and 115th pitches (in 90+ degree heat… hmm?) – on a scorched double from Levarnaway that almost cleared the fence and then a little bloop from Ciriaco. Juan Lagares launched a strong throw home (you know, that arm he’s supposed to be protecting) but it was off line.

The only vague moment of interest for the Mets was when they got runners on first and second in the ninth with one out. Then Michael Cuddyer topped the ball to third base for an easy double play. For a “gap to gap hitter,” Cuddyer is aiming a lot for the smallest gap on the field – between shortstop and third base. And why did the Mets keep trying to reach out and pull Julio Teharan (whose last outing gave up 14 hits and 6 runs to the B.O. Sox), who happily threw sliders and dinky fastballs just outside? The Mets were twitchy, pulling the trigger too early.

I know chicks dig the long ball and dudes like strikeouts, but guys like me and you and Joe on MetsToday like a crispy played game. Since the first away game with Toronto I started writing down the most horrific defensive gaffes from the Mets players, many of which cost runs. Not only that, they extend innings, dragging out the starters – hardly ideal in that 90+ degree heat.

Anyway, here goes: Grandy misses easy foul top up, Flores fails to time leap for easy catch, Herrera doesn’t cover second but Plawecki throws it there anyway on a steal, Lagares boots the ball, d’Arnaud has to catch a ball so far down the third base line his arm is nearly ripped off by the runner (and now he’s on the DL), poor baserunning, overthrowing the cut-off man (at least twice), failure to turn the double play x 3, Cuddyer lousy coming in on a soft liner, Lagares struggling to go back. The only starter who didn’t make some mental error was Lucas Duda. But you tell me if he did. I missed a bunch of stuff because I spent lots of time bashing my forehead against the screen.

I can take the Mets losing two against Toronto. But three against the AAA Braves? And here’s the worrying thing, I thought the Mets would fly in June given a soft schedule. Well, the only way they do that if it they REALLY beat up on the lousy Brewers and Reds. Because after that there are nine games against the Cubs, the Dodgers and the Giants. 2-7 in those games? I still haven’t reached Izzy/Nat (he’s back!) psychotic anger but even my optimism is being tested. Where are my pills?

I’ll finish on nice stuff. Father Stokes from THE WALKING DEAD was in the crowd. He’s a Mets fan and showed more animation than the zombiefied Mets. And Keith and Ron did a nice job on commentary. If I have one minor comment, it’s that Gary’s slightly higher pitched and speedier voice contrasts more distinctively with Keith and Ron’s laid-back tones. But their soothing voices


This Third Baseman We’re Getting…

…sure sounds a lot like Daniel Murphy!

I know trade rumors and speculation make for interesting copy, but I just don’t see the Mets expending either the talent nor the money to get a significant upgrade at the hot corner. Instead, when Murphy is activated this weekend, the job is probably his for the remainder of David Wright‘s absence. Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson has said he wants someone who can play third and other positions. If you have been watching the Mets this past half decade you have seen Murphy at first, second, third and left. All to varying degrees of success for sure, but Murphy does have the experience, if nothing else, at multiple defensive positions.

In a perfect world, I am sure the Mets would like to


Mets Game 64: Win Over Braves


Mets 10 Braves 8

Why the heck was Dillon Gee starting this game? We’ll get to the comeback win later on, but the whole Gee thing is ludicrous. He moped around the mound, and rightly so. He’s pitching very poorly and leaving most pitches up, but some of that is because he’s utterly confused.

Gee threw gently gliding fastballs at the same 91mph speed and in exactly the same place while his change-up lazily hung waist high. You know you’re in trouble when Jace Peterson hits you for a home run. But Gee shouldn’t be in this position.

“Dillon, you’re in a six man rotation.”
“Hold on, sorry, Dillon, you’re in the bullpen.”
“Hold on, Dillon, you’re now in a ‘soft’ six man rotation. Just be ready to pitch sometime but we really value your contribution to our company and aren’t phasing you out. Really. Honestly.”

The answers to the Mets’ manipulation of Gee are, of course, obvious. There’s the Super-2 deadline with Stephen Matz (which has now seemingly passed). There are also the fluffy comments on not overpitching the Mets’ young arms (as long as you’re not Jeurys Familia). And there’s the $5.3m the Mets will grudgingly be forced to pay most of when they trade Gee for a AA batboy.

Gee strikes me as less hard-nosed than many baseball players. He needs encouragement that he’s doing a good job. He struck a disconsolate figure on the bench between the almost-four innings of Sunday’s horror. A silent Travis d’Arnaud sat awkwardly next to him. What could d’Arnaud do? Tell Gee he did matter to the team? Or send a quick tweet to Alderson to sort this out?

The sensible option would have been to tell Gee he’s a long relief pitcher this year. No messing around with the hint of starting pitching unless there was a long-term injury. Take your $5.3m and then run.

Gee was vocal about how he felt devalued by the team. That’s always a bad move, because you’re labelled as “hard to manage.” And he should have held back until this current mess. “I’m going to work in the bullpen as hard as possible” would have been a more PR savvy response. But you can only say that to an easy question. This mismanagement defies an easy answer for the guy.

The game itself was between the Atlanta Rangers and New York Blue Jays, who slugged 18 runs. Darrell Ceciliani’s homer was particularly crushed. Captain Kirk Version 2.0 is starting to kick into gear, perhaps due to the threat of a roll back the original version. They both strike out a lot, both field well (Ceciliani’s throw to home last night was great), and both will be on the fringes of outfields for their career.

Curtis Granderson got three hits in the game… all through where Fredi Gonzalez should have put a shift if he actually paid attention to games. You can’t blame Gonzalez for his pitchers leaving breaking balls high (Lagares, d’Arnaud and Herrera all dumped home runs to left on tee-balls) but you can blame him for this. He did the same with Duda too. Duda almost hit an excuse-me double down the left field line in the first, but that’s a one-in-a-hundred chance. Granderson is pulling EVERYTHING. He has to because he’s compensating for his age. Braves’ fans should be fuming.

After years of Mets fans being saddled with too many great teams in their division, the NL East has become little league. Remember the endless misery of watching the Braves’ pitchers every year, or Philadelphia shellacking the Metsies, or the Marlins sudden rises to success? I don’t care who the Mets beat, just keep beating them repeatedly. The Bizarro Mets – the actual Toronto Blue Jays – are next. They have a lot of hitting and a little pitching. Two utterly different teams on exactly the same record, both in largely weak divisions. And both are maybe Wild Card teams who’ll probably split their series 2 and 2. Ah, parity! You give everyone hope. Somewhere Bud Selig is hanging upside down and smiling.


Mets Game 58: Win Over Diamondbacks


Mets 6 Diamondbacks 3

Last week, I said that it would be an achievement if the Mets finished their NL West road trip with a 4-3 record. The Metsies fell one game short at 3-4 but a half game up in the NL East. And they saved the best for last with an efficient win over the Diamondbacks, a team who seem to collect more logos than wins. They have a curly snake logo on their caps, a diamond “A” shaped one, a “db” snake on their arm and an ugly Dbacks one on their chests. Get classy, guys… get pinstripes.

The Mets’ only blip was Eric Campbell’s throwing error in the first that eventually led to a couple of runs. But you can be forgiven when you launch a line drive two-run homer in the next inning.

I’m still trying to figure out Campbell, especially on defense. He’s the Mets fourth option over there but he seems steady enough. He made a nice barehanded play that Owings beat out for a bunt single RBI. I also think Campbell’s a better hitter than his current numbers because his 0 for 168 (or whatever it was) is still dragging him down. He’s got a level swing and a little patience.

Wilmer Flores hit another homer to almost exactly the same spot as Campbell and added a pretty defensive play, snagging a hard hit ball in the ninth and throwing over to get Saltalamacchia. Salty can barely move, but Wilmer still did a nice job.

Wilmer is on a nice little eight game hitting streak and the switch from chewing gum to bubble gum seems to have improved his game. For a guy forced into learning on the job, he’s slogging his guts out. If you watch Wilmer’s face when he fields and bats, he rarely blinks. His eyes must hurt because he’s trying to concentrate so much.

My other favourite player (yet perennial figure of apathy) is Curtis Granderson, who cranked out two home runs to deep right. As Granderson ages, he’s torquing his body even further around. He’s becoming a corkscrew, and that exaggerated twist means that he doesn’t always keep his eyes level. He’s now pulling everything. Opposing teams: keep the infield shift and add an outfield shift too.

You know that Babe Ruth was also famous for torquing his body? Curtis is smart enough to have studied the great man, and I think he’s doing it to compensate for his lack of bat speed. Both homers were off breaking balls and Curtis is a breaking ball hitter who walks (or strikes out) to pitches he can’t catch up to. But I’ll say this again… his OBP is .345 and that ain’t bad. And he’s trying to fulfil a role in a line-up shorn of a bunch of its big hitters. Cut the Grandyman some slack, just for me.

Jacob deGrom was Jacob deGrom again, and in his last two starts he’s been stellar on the road. He spotted his fastball nicely, but his change-ups really caught my eye. DeGrom is a relaxing pitcher to watch. He works quickly and fields his position well. How did scouts miss this guy’s talent? He reminds me of the Dick Van Dyke character in Bilko (only older readers will get that). He’s a lanky and almost goofy athlete capable of everything.

The only downside in the game was an interminable eighth inning where the Mets padded their lousy stolen base numbers by adding four off the Diamondbacks’ J.C. Ramirez. If you thought Steve Trachsel was slow to the plate, watch this guy. We have a new “Human Rain Delay” in Ramirez. That meant the newly christened “Speedster” Eric Campbell stole two bases. I passed out after fifteen minutes and when I woke up the Mets had scored another run. I don’t know how and I refuse to watch the inning again to find out.

The Mets return home with a half game lead over the Nationals, who continue to stagger me with their relatively lousy record. I still think they’ll have a 10 game winning streak at any time, and they have to win 90+ games. But, you know what, the Mets have a nice run of games in June.

July might be the killer for the Mets… check out their schedule for then…. ouch. Will d’Arnaud be firing by then? Will Familia’s electric arm have exploded? Will Wilmer be eating popping candy?

Ah, just enjoy the ride. I am… and I’m still convinced the Mets are only $10m or so from being a contender. Hmm… maybe that’s the key. Will the purse strings be loosened?


First Place and the Credibility Gap

So we’re in first place, but why aren’t we happy? That’s the question nobody seems able to answer. Opinions vary from “well, that’s Met fans for ya,” to Matthew’s “Just Get Over It” rant earlier today. Last June 5, the Mets where 28-32 and in fourth place. I remember the big jump between 1983 and 1984 and how exciting that was. So why so much gloom?

I think I know why and it’s part statistical analysis and it’s part gut-feel.

So attend…

The Mets have four top-line players, all of them pitchers: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon. Between them, Harvey, deGrom and Colon have 20 of the Mets 30 wins. They have a 1.19 WHIP in 305 innings, averaging a bit over one walk per 9-innings, while striking out a shade over seven batters over the same span. That is winning baseball. I am beginning to think that if Colon continues to perform at this level, he is worth being brought back for at least another year. I also loved his taking exception to his batting prowess recently in the Wall Street Journal. Colon’s physical characteristics aside, underneath beats the heart of a true warrior. Met history is somewhat light on this type of player.

Familia is in rarefied air right now. His WHIP is a microscopic 0.82 and he is averaging better than a strikeout per inning. Despite several five-out save assignments, he has allowed a grand total of one inherited runner to score on him. Walks are his only blemish, but he currently has the stuff to overcome these mistakes.

These four winning players are the reason the Mets hold a slim lead on the Washington Nationals. But its only four guys, not enough to push the team all the way into October. They will need more help.  Just where that help is going to come from is the reason that I think most observant Met fans are holding their collective breath.

We see the very unlikable, unsympathetic (some would say crooked) owners and a double-speak, mainly do-nothing front office that on occasions has alternated between a mocking and a condescending tone. Neither inspires much confidence and have in fact generated the reverse effect. We remember the recent past, starting in September 2007, which has been the darkest and longest in Met history since the early 1980’s. We have no doubt been influenced by a steady stream of 24/7/365 Mets coverage, most of it extremely negative and have observed that many of the team’s wounds are self-inflicted.

We look at the rest of the roster: yes, Lucas Duda is on the verge of becoming an elite player, if he isn’t already there. But, Juan Lagares is a gold glover who doesn’t hit and Wilmer Flores is a potential silver slugger who doesn’t field. Travis d’Arnaud can’t stay healthy and the more cautious among us are not ready to anoint Noah Syndergaard as the next anything until he pitches several more times through the rotation. These are the “potential guys,” each demonstrating some degree of elevated performance, just not consistently or over an extended period of time.

Then, we watch as Curtis Granderson, Michael Cuddyer, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee continue to underperform. None of these four belong on a team that considers itself a contender, let alone inserted into key roles. The first two are those albatross signings that perhaps a less hubris-driven front office would be looking to move on from. The latter two are symbolic of the sclerotic inactivity (indecision?) that has plagued the Mets since the Sandy Alderson Era began.

Worst of all, most of us already see the last scene in this David Wright tragedy: A tearful retirement ceremony sometime in the middle of 2017, when this all-time great finally hangs them up.

What we sense coming is a missed opportunity. The Nationals are staggering a bit and the rest of the division isn’t as good as the Mets are, at least on paper. A bold move is needed now. I can’t stand Alderson telling us that trades aren’t made at this time of the season. That is untrue, just ask Mark Trumbo. Do something to help this team make the next level, bring up Steven Matz and waive an ineffective starter. Hell, bring up Michael Conforto and banish an underperforming outfielder. Get Duda some protection. Add some speed. Trade for Wright’s replacement. Just do something to improve the team and do it now.

Instead, it feels as this is just another stage of the con: move the goal posts, using an 84-85 win season as the springboard for selling tickets for the upcoming 2016 season. Meanwhile, cut as much fat as possible away from the payroll. We came oh so close in 2015, if only those injuries, etc. hadn’t occurred, they’ll say, but this year will be better and you’ll be glad you are there to see it.

There is a major credibility gap between the people that run the team and a large contingent of the fanbase. Most of the damage can be laid at the feet of Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons. A hot start (followed by some pretty uneven play since then) just isn’t enough to repair this breach. The next few weeks will be very telling on just how committed they are to winning as opposed to just taking our money.