Mets Game 139: Playoffs? Playoffs? Playoffs!!!

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Well, now it’s official: the 2015 Mets have entered that rarefied air that only a handful of previous Mets teams have ever experienced. They are an “it” team, on one of those magical runs that comes along all too infrequently in team history. This shot, taken in a sporting goods store in Easton, PA, which is normally the intersection of Yankee and Phillies territories, tells you all you need to know. A fellow Mets fan remarked to me that they must have had that stuff in storage for years!

As for the game itself, the Mets weathered superlative performances from Bryce Harper (2 HRs, 12 total bases) and Steven Strasburg (13Ks). Like a patient boxer taking a few jabs, the Mets waited until Washington lowered their guard ever so slightly and then struck hard, with homers from Kelly Johnson and Yoenis Cespedes. In a matter of seconds it seemed, the Washington Nationals where flat on their backs, staring up at the lights, contemplating plans to make tee times for early October.

Much has been written about the Mets July additions of Cespedes, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard. Johnson has been somewhat easy to overlook, but he has been Terry Collins’ secret weapon of sorts since his arrival. He is the epitome of “veteran presence” (read his comments about his approach against Strasburg last night) and his ability to play all over the place has allowed Collins to give a few guys a breather and/or avoid being overmatched. Wilmer Flores had a tough night against Strasburg, but Collins had the option of using Johnson instead of the 23-year old Flores in the 8th. In the 9th, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto showed the Mets can also manufacture runs, combining to put a big insurance run on the board. Jeurys Familia did the rest. When I saw Matt den Dekker was the Nationals last hope, I knew the game was in the bag.

So, the Mets sweep Washington, opening a seven game lead with 23 left to play. Washington is nearly finished, their pitching staff is in disarray, their manager appears to have lost all confidence in himself and some of the team’s veterans look like they’ve quit. They really miss Clippard and Adam LaRoche, which is what I proffered here. The Mets buried the rest of the division with their hot April start, so we are looking at a virtual victory lap between now and the start of the NLDS on October 9, hopefully at Citi Field.

This is an epic time in team history and as a fan since 1971, I  am savoring every moment. The trades GM Sandy Alderson made in July should go down in Mets lore, as they completely altered the season’s (and maybe the franchise’s) trajectory. By the way, just how  smart is Mr. Moneyball, Billy Beane really? While his Oakland team flounders in last place, he can contemplate that in under a year, he traded away both the AL and NL MVPs.  Yes, I know, Cespedes probably won’t win it, but Harper will likely be watching, rather than playing baseball this October.

On a much more somber note, Friday marks the 14th anniversary of the horror that was September 11, 2001. Much water has passed under the bridge since then, but it’s a good opportunity to pause and reflect on the blessings that we do have in this life and to acknowledge the sacrifices of those who put themselves in harm’s way so we can enjoy things like baseball games.

Lets Go Mets!



Harvey: Two Sides Of The Same Coin


Thanks to Joe Petruccio for letting me use the image above. If you need cheering up after Tyler Clippard coughed up Sunday’s game or want to celebrate the Mets 8-5 win against the Nats today, please check out Joe’s daily Mets’ paintings at his Facebook page and his Instagram -– Joe never fails to deliver great stuff so it’s worth it.

The Nats pulled within four of the Mets yesterday, and going into the series we had the Matt Harvey incident. For the one or two of you that didn’t rant on Twitter after Harvey’s press conference, here’s your chance to discuss what you think in the comments below. Harvey’s up next, after all. How’s he going to respond?

Harvey’s always had a “side” to him and this has drawn attention to the bad one. I’ll plead the case for both sides of the scarred coin, and then lay out my thoughts at the end.

Good Harvey


The Mets wouldn’t be where they are in the division without Matt Harvey. Harvey has exceeded all my expectations by remaining largely healthy and pitching to a high standard. That’s some feat coming off the back of Tommy John surgery. Even Tommy John wasn’t as good in his first year back, and they named the surgery after him. Harvey is clearly a top 10 pitcher in the NL, and you could argue – through ERA – that he’s in the top 5. I prefer that to a full season of Dillon Gee.

Financially, Harvey is also vital to the Mets. Don’t forget that this guy is playing for close to the Major League minimum, and that he’s playing for a team who had the financial acumen of a four year old in a candy store. Harvey fills out Citi Field whenever he pitches and has been a boon to the tacky Batman mask industry. Putting up with a few sullen moods and comments from Harvey is easy when you have $ signs in your eyes. Do you think the Giants put up with Barry Bonds for his award-winning personality?

Popularity waxes and wanes, anyway. As soon as A-Rod started hitting homers in 2015, people groused a lot less. Harvey may have been a fraud, but at least he’s not a cheat. And, by backing down the next day and saying he’ll pitch in the offseason, my guess is Harvey will receive more cheers than jeers in Tuesday’s key game with the Nats.

Matt Harvey has often been right in the past too. In 2013, he (subtly) criticised the team’s lack of ambition and – according to some reports – he was pissed in 2014 when the Mets locked him in a training room rather than let him talk to the press about his injury. If he’s grousing more than that behind the scenes, it’s probably with good reason. Uncle Terry endears us with his shrivelled peanut face, but his umm… creative use of Eric O’Flaherty to a right hander in a tight game on Friday shows he’s still fallible. And, if you were Harvey, would you like to deal with Jeffy and Sandy behind the scenes? Me neither.

Yes, Harvey has a chip on his shoulder. It’s easy to tell from his hunched body language in the dugout and in press conferences. Meanwhile, Jacob DeGrom is all smiles and Bartolo Chuckles is throwing firecrackers and behind the back passes to catch a guy a first base.

Maybe Harvey doesn’t like some of his teammates? Or Uncle Terry? Or maybe it’s because lesser – albeit very fine – pitchers like Francisco Liriano are earning $11m plus. Harvey earns more than a comfortable salary and he’ll be making a mint from endorsements but don’t forget that Harvey is still a kid at 26, and he’s got plenty of testoterone surging around. He wants to maximise the money he can from his arm. You blow that out again and… well, you won’t be such a hit with the society gals in New York.

Finally, despite what some people think, Matt Harvey is not a doctor. 35% of pitchers who receive Tommy John twice don’t return to the majors. That’s some pretty big dice to roll.

Bad Harvey:


Hypocrisy is a word that’s bandied around too much. But we had a doozy here.

Harvey complained about the six man rotation and being forced to skip starts and then he seemed to be drawing a line at 180 innings with 13 2/3 innings left and a month to go? No wonder people were foaming at mouth. Why the hell wasn’t this figured out earlier? Why didn’t Harvey express this to the media at the start of the season – or even a month into it – and make it clear he (and his representatives) had a hard limit.

The other thing – nicely picked up on by a couple of ESPN writers – is that Harvey has pitched LESS than a lot of pitchers with similar amounts of innings. He’s been economical this year and averages less than 100 pitches per start. Unless you count trotting over to cover first base or craning your neck to watch a fly ball, I’d say pitches are a better gauge of arm fatigue.

The killer is Harvey has made his toughness vocal and bigged up his Dark Knight persona. He played the role of a gruff rebel with aplomb, fooling both the fans and the press. Never screw with fans, of course, and NEVER screw with the press. They’re ALWAYS looking for a chance to knock you down and they’re revelling in the “Joker” headlines. Smile and move on, Matt, and do a Wright or a Grandy or a DeGrom. It ain’t worth the hassle, and his backing down indicates he’s learnt that lesson.

It doesn’t help that Scott Boras – the unfortunate mix of human DNA with diarrhoea – has a mouth as big as a barn door and can accrue dollars as fast as the Wilpons can lose them. Boras knows the Mets won’t be able to pay the going rate for Harvey when he’s out of team control, so why not get him out of Dodge already? Boras doesn’t care that the Mets might get to the World Series… but he does care about protecting his investment.

Matt Harvey comes out of this smelling faintly of cowdung, because people hate a hypocrite. You can be an asshole and tell the truth and people grudgingly respect that. Harvey is ultimately paid by the fans – especially in terms of his endorsements. Popularity equals big bucks, and Harvey (perhaps temporarily) has screwed that up.

Lastly, the Mets are pretty good this year. The Royals were pretty good last year too. Look what happened to them. Harvey really could be on worse teams and – with a lack of a no-trade clause – he might end up on one elsewhere in 2016. If he’s grouchy here, imagine how much fun he’ll have in Colorado.

My Two Cents:


Like most people, I watched Harvey’s press conference with my mouth slowly opening and steam coming out of my ears. In amongst all the flim-flam, the not-so-hidden message was 180 innings was a hard limit. He dealt with the situation very poorly.

Since then, Harvey’s said he will pitch in the offseason and has been in contact with Sandy Alderson, who’s no stranger to flim-flamming himself.

Why didn’t all this discussion take place behind closed doors? I point the blame for that with Boras and Dr. Andrews, meaning Harvey had to respond to the details his advisors made public. But I’ve got a suspicion he initially chickened out and prompted them to make the comments, in a backfiring attempt to protect his macho image.

Harvey’s backdown quote also interested me with its careful wording:
“I love to play baseball, and I love winning even more. I would not give that up for anything. I also know I want to be able to play and win for a long time. But there has never been a doubt in my mind: I will pitch in the playoffs. I will be healthy, active and ready to go. I am communicating with my agent, my doctor, [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] and the entire Mets organization. I can assure everyone that we’re all on the same page.
“Together, we are coming up with a plan to reach an innings limit during the season,” he said. “It will be a compromise between the doctors and the Mets organization to get me, and the team, to where we need to be for our postseason run. I understand the risks. I am also fully aware of the opportunity the Mets have this postseason. Winning the division and getting to the playoffs is our goal. Once we are there, I will be there.”

I note he doesn’t say he loves the Mets and he did a great job of hiding his lack of doubt in pitching in the playoffs in the press conference. I have no doubt he didn’t want to go beyond the 180 innings limit and now has been forced to back down. Fan power, huh?

Post All-Star Break it’s been fun to ride the wave of Mets positivity and watch some good baseball. Of course, being a Mets fan you always suspect something weird or negative is around the corner. It’s a shame it kicked off with the Mets leading the East and the most important series coming up next… [[[Reader, insert the swear word of your choice here.]]]

What Will The Mets Do?


From the recent comments from Harvey it seems he’ll pitch twice – maybe three times if he has a short outing – more in the regular season. Then I believe they’ll make him the third starter in the offseason so he’ll only have to pitch once in the first series.

I’ve seen it mentioned that Harvey should be punitively put into the bullpen to fill out the seventh inning. I seriously doubt that will happen. He’ll lose value to the team in a trade and – if you want to keep him – will antagonise your second best pitcher.

My gut feeling is that the Mets won’t trade Harvey over the offseason. I think they should. Do you? He has serious value and the Mets will have a big hole in the outfield because Cespedes won’t be at Citi next year. Lagares will be facing his own Tommy John Surgery too. This year’s rentals have been great, but the Mets need to retool heavily for 2016.

The problem, as it always seems to come down to with the Mets, is money. Matt Harvey will still be affordable next year. And you get better bang for your buck – even with some other Rockies thrown in – than Carlos Gonzalez’s expensive contract and nagging injuries.

Urgh. It was all a standard Mets mess but let’s be positive… the frisson of excitement just makes Harvey’s start tomorrow all the more engaging.


Mets Game 131 Recap: The Class of 2014 Comes Through

Maybe there was a plan after all.

Last night 2014’s top draft pick Michael Conforto combined with Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon, the Mets two 2014 Free Agent pickups to give the Mets a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies last night. With the win and the Washington National’s 8-5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Mets begin September with a 6 and 1/2 game lead over the Nats for the Eastern Division crown.

Colon was brilliant again last night, with eight shutout innings over the seemingly hapless Phils, striking out nine. His fifth inning single in front of Granderson’s 23rd homer of the season gave the Mets a 3-0 lead. Earlier in the same inning, Conforto blasted his fourth homer into the left field stands. The early returns on Conforto have been encouraging to say the least. No less of an authority than Keith Hernandez gushes over each at bat; although it must be remembered that Keith was also a big fan of Matt den Dekker.

Perhaps a signal moment occurred in the 9th inning, as Jeurys Familia gave up hits to the first two batters of the inning. Up to the plate strode Ryan Howard, one of the last vestiges of the Phils’ glory days. With one swing of the bat, Howard could have easily turned the entire game and perhaps the Mets season, around. Instead, Familia, channelling his inner John Franco, walked Howard to load the bases. He then induced ex-Met Jeff Francoeur to hit into a double play, scoring a run. Familia then just barely avoided a game tying homer to Andres Blanco before whiffing him for the final out.

Deep breath, deep breath. As I shared earlier, I have a superstitious streak in me when it comes to baseball and I do believe in omens. If the Mets are going to blow this lead, last night would have resulted in either Howard, Francoeur or Blanco hitting a game tying homer, followed by several innings of pure torture before a Phils win. Instead, Familia (who is probably the Mets MVP this year) was able to slam the door shut. Speaking of omens, this win on the last day of August tied the team record for wins in that month, which was set in 2000, the last year the Mets went to the World Series.

So, now we run the gauntlet of “meaningful games in September.” The schedule maker has certainly been kind to the Mets, but it is still incumbent on them to get the job done.  I like the fact that they are adding Steven Matz and Addison Reed to their somewhat beleaguered pitching staff. While they still have those Washington games, although almost all of the pressure is in the other dugout at this point, as that team has almost no room for error.

See you tonight.




Mets Game 130: Win Over Red Sox


Mets 5, Red Sox 4

Looking at the Mets-o-Meter, the optimists seem to be the realists… which is damn rare for Mets’ fans. And if the Mets win 87 games I get to win my 86-88 spread bet AND not shell out money for tacky merchandise prizes. Lets Go 87.

Two months ago, who woulda thunk Brook and Andy would be favourites to get the correct win total? CF Punk, who seemed loopy and is still in training for his MMA career, might take it all. Punk, you’re a smart guy. Izzy, who is loopy and can still be seen shouting from a soapbox, is the first man down. Izzy, we still miss you.

Today’s win over the Red Sox was a good one. The Red Sox illustrate the strength of the AL. They look like an ok team and yet they’re still in last place. Wade Miley has essentially the same stuff as Jonathan Niese – in fact, his fastball has more bite – but Miley has more than a half-run higher ERA. Hey ho, he doesn’t usually face pitchers. But maybe he’s looking forward to that again, after Noah Syndergaard laced the first RBI.

Syndergaard pitched a nice game but ended up giving up 4 earned runs. Uncle Terry decided to stretch him out into the seventh inning and Syndergaard started to rely too much on his fastball. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a ground-rule double to knock out Syndergaard on his 111th pitch, and then Mookie Betts had a strange bloop triple to plate Bradley.

I have no idea where Michael Cuddyer was on the play. The camera focussed on the ball landing and no-one was in shot. That went on for a while as Betts hared around the bases. Was Cuddy having a cigarette somewhere else?

Hansel Robles gave up the triple and also did a terrible job of keeping an eye on the runner on base. Even with my balky calves, I could steal third base off him. The addition of Addison Reed is a great one, but I’m nonplussed that Logan Verrett was demoted instead of Robles. Verrett’s tight slow change (I still think it’s a “Fosh”) beats Robles’ straight fastball, and I know who I’d prefer on a postseason roster.

It seems that the bullpen is the last nuance that needs to be figured out before the Dodgers on October 9th. Tyler Clippard continued to look meticulous in relief, using a fastball up and away to strike out Sandoval with the inherited runner on third. Jeurys Familia made things interesting in the ninth by letting the first two runners reach base. But then he started throwing an unhittable 96mph splitter and, with the tying run on third, he struck out Betts with a high 100mph fastball.

The combination of Clippard and Familia is flat-out nasty, and Sean Gilmartin is a great foil. You may think this guy is here for just one season, but he’s better than that. The contrast of the slower, more measured Clippard and Gilmartin dovetail well with all of the Mets hard-throwers. That will be all the more important when Matz returns this week. Robles can only be successful after Bartolo Colon or Jon Niese, because the change in speed makes the hitter uneasy.

Offensively the Mets were unlucky all night, but they still scraped together enough runs to win. There were a hell of a lot of lineouts and the umpire with the Marty Feldman eyes had a crazily wide strikezone. Curtis Granderson got caught looking at a couple of pitches clearly outside the plate. Luckily Marty’s eyes couldn’t look up and down, and that let Cuddy get a walk on a curve slightly higher but clearly over the plate. That freebie led to one of his two runs.

I’ve called Cuddy “Cruddy” but he had a great game at the plate. And I do like the guy. He’s an amiable cross between a coypu and a human and he’s been hitting well since his return from injury. He knocked in Daniel Murphy, who had stolen second base after a high throw from the Soxs’ rookie catcher. Just be careful with all the double fist punches, Murph. You might pull something and you’ve got free agency to worry about.

Juan Uribe, who I think is a must-sign for next year to replace Murph, had a couple of hits including a long double over the fast-footed Betts to plate Murph and Cuddy in the sixth. His upper cut swing is fun to watch and its success is testament to his quick hands. He looked fine at second too, diving to keep one hard grounder from reaching the outfield. Some sort of job-share between Tejada (whose defense was superb) and Flores in the middle infield can only help this team in 2016.

So on the Mets roll. They next face a Phillies team so emasculated that the SNY graphic has cute pink glowing neon around their “P” logo. And the Nationals? Well, they’ve got the Cardinals. Good luck, Bryce!


Mets Game 127: Worth Staying Up For

Boy,  it was a lot easier to write copy for this blog when there was something to complain about! How about this: the Mets are causing me to lose sleep. I rise at 4:30 AM most days, so these late night games are killing me. Since July 31, Mets games have become “must see TV” in my household, so we all walk around a bit bleary-eyed (but happy) these mornings.

There is an aura around this team right now, a swagger in the dugout and on the field that comes through the TV screen. Down by five runs on getaway day? Let’s play. Starting pitcher is struggling? Let’s play. Wanna go extras? Let’s play. Your knucklehead, old-school coach is trying to intimidate us? Let’s play.  All in all, a 13-inning 9-5 win over a team that just a few short years ago inflicted two humiliating comebacks on the Mets, relegating them (and us)  to also-ran status on the season’s final days; the aftershocks of which are still being felt today.

Fortunately, this is not the 2007 Mets on the field these days. For openers this Mets team is actually adding quality arms, not scrambling to find them. Steven Matz is only a few days away from joining the rotation and Logan Verrett may prove to be one of those kismet (no pun intended) tales frequently occurring  during That Championship Season: lost in the Rule V draft, he is then cut by two teams before returning home to play a key role down the stretch. Sean Gilmartin and Hansel Robles may never be heard from again, but they have shored up the bullpen, which was the major culprit in the 07-08 disasters, providing an important bridge between the starters and the two late innings guys.

But it’s the offensive turnaround that has been the most startling. Lost in Daniel Murphy’s heroics (more on him later) is the fact that Yoenis Cespedes hit yet another homerun, a two-run blast in the 5th that cut the Phils’ lead to one run. I know they don’t give out awards like this, but Cespedes is the Mets’ second half MVP so far. Since his arrival all he has done is slash 303/345/596 with 8 HR and 24 RBI in just 24 games. He has transformed the Mets’ lineup and his ABs are worth staying tuned in for. Curtis Granderson has consistently delivered since the season started and Jeurys Familia was easily the first half MVP, but the arrival of Cespedes added that fear factor the Mets offense. I fervently hope they can find some way to keep him around.

Another potential offseason loss is Murphy. Even more so than David Wright, Murphy epitomizes the sojourn this team has been on since 2008, which was his rookie year. Who ever would have thought that all of those efforts to shoehorn him into the lineup would be paying off the way they are now? (Just keep him out of leftfield). His collaboration with Carlos Torres on that grounder in the 10th inning last night will live on highlight films for years. Plus, Murph is really fired up, which is rarity for any Met player ever (the team has almost always played with a kind of quiet reservation, both in good times and bad) and his exuberance is fun to watch.

So, a sweep in Philadelphia and now a home stand against Boston and these same Phils. Just in case you haven’t noticed, these are not the 2007-08 Phillies anymore. And FWIW, I don’t think the 2015 Washington Nationals are the 2007-08 Phillies either. But, we’ll be finding that out soon enough!

LGM. And, sound off below.



Mets Game 123: Win Over Rockies


Mets 5, Rockies 1

Beating the Rockies is easy, huh?

The Mets have just swept them 7-0 in the season’s series, but here are a coupla fun facts about the Rockies. They went 3-3 against the Nationals. They’re also 7-5 against the Giants. It’s time to update our Christmas card list to include 25 folks in Colorado.

The Rockies are SO bad against that the Mets’ 33 runs in this series would be a great return in a normal week. (Between you and me, I sabotaged their humidor… I got Ant-Man to crawl into it)

The mood of the Rockies team is summed up by Jose Reyes having a dig at them in the media, along with Carlos Gonzalez dropping his bat with disdain after he hit his deep fly. Knowing you’ve only closed the game to a 5-1 deficit has got to take the sting out of hitting a 430 foot homer.

The Rockies have lousy pitching and make daft mistakes. Charlie Blackmon’s baserunning in the 6th was flat-out comedic as he did a Murphy by getting caught going from first to third with two outs and that 5-1 deficit. Michael Conforto made the play with ease. And you could too.

The curious thing is the Rockies do have very good players. Carlos Gonzalez is in full CarGo mode after the All Star Break. Nolan Arenado has 30 homers and robbed Juan Uribe of a double down the line with a slick play that he always makes look easy. DJ LeMahieu flashed his own Gold Glove when he dived to get Johnson’s hard grounder way to his right.

And yet, and yet, and yet… you don’t become 49-73 without being terrible at a lot of things. Jose must have fumed from the dugout, but at least he’s got next year’s $20m salary to cheer him up. The Rockies are bad… yet it’s still nice that the Mets are better.

Dustin Garneau – a catcher whose name rhymes with Travis d’Arnaud but is less of a starlet – conspired to let through 4 wild pitches from David Hale. I’ll defer to Joe on this as a catcher, but Garneau seemed leaden-footed to me.

I do know a little about pitching and it was fun to watch Logan Verrett for an almost complete game. Verrett’s fastball rides about 89-91 mph and doesn’t do much. It pops occasionally but it only showed some duck and dive when he got Paulsen in the seventh. It’s standard, slightly below average in the major leagues.

Verrett’s usual change is only about 5-6mph less than his fastball and looks lazy. It’s fine and got some pop-outs and fly balls, but it’ll get smacked in future. His even worse pitch is his slider that doesn’t really slide. It’s a nothing pitch… there isn’t enough difference from his other pitches to surprise hitters.

So how the heck did Logan Verrett get through 8 innings giving up 1 run in the high altitude hitting heaven of Corrs Field? Those sharp cheekbones and muscle twitches can only carry him so far.

I’ll say this loudly. Logan Verrett NEEDS to be strapped down and told – a la THE CLOCKWORK ORANGE – that he MUST throw his 79-80mph pitch WAY more. It’s flat-out nasty and dives straight down just in front of the plate. I lost count of the grounders and the strikeouts it caused.

I spent most of this game trying to watch his hand, but I needed a better angle to figure it out. Playing cricket, I had to figure out hand positions and constantly watched the bowler’s hand in the field and at bat. Also as a bowler and with one lousy seam to work with, you HAVE to know what the ball can do. People don’t shine one side of a cricket ball for kinky pleasure, alright?

I think – and I emphasise THINK – Verrett’s slower change is a “Fosh.” It COULD be a forkball but I couldn’t see him flicking his wrist. It MAY be a circle change but it didn’t move like it and I couldn’t see the trademark circle grip. Sound back in the comments if you’ve got a view on this.

Verrett’s slow change – and let’s say it’s a Fosh – is a plus-plus pitch. If he can keep throwing it this well he can get away with his average other repertoire. As Matt Harvey fill-ins go, I’ll sacrifice my precious Fantasy Baseball points for such an economical and fine outing from a Mets’ pitcher.

The Mets rumble onto to the Phillies next. Don’t let the Phillies’ post-All Star Break run deceive you. They’re still bad. The NL Least is a gift that keeps on giving, and it’ll be fun to see David Wright back.

Hit me back about Verrett’s pitch. That was a “Fosh” wasn’t it? It’s driving me crazy, but if he keeps throwing it he’ll be a valuable addition in October… Phew, October? I used to be able to get to bed before 4am then.


Mets Game 118: Loss To Pirates


Pirates 8 Mets 1

It was all going so well… and I include the first couple of games in the series against the Pirates as part of that. Yeah, the Mets had lost but they were tight extra-innings games against a superb team.

I think the majority of Mets Today fans love pitching and defense and it’s been a treat to watch high quality games. We had Yoenis Cespedes’ laser beam to catch a runner a third. Curtis Granderson running down a long fly in right-center. Jung-ho Kang showing everyone who whined about his glove that he knows what he’s doing with a smooth double play.

Before that, there was a four-game sweep and a Rally Parakeet who’d been lured by the nesting sites in the Colorado Rockies’ bushy beards. Today, with Jonathan Niese on the bench and Matt Harvey sporting his Jason Statham stubble, the Mets were doomed.

The Mets got swept, yeah. But it doesn’t hurt that Citi Field was packed and that the Nationals are imploding at a staggering rate. The NL East standings remain fine and I think the Pirates are the second best team in the NL.

Pedro Alvarez – more Yogi Bear than Yogi Berra – put the Pirates ahead after he smacked a long home run off Matt Harvey in the second. Harvey pitched around trouble through six innings but showed plenty of class. Most innings got to two outs with someone on third and he coaxed an out.

Harvey is pitching to contact and seldom misses way wide. It looks less showy than strikeouts but he’s doing his job. He’s missing up and down, and he’s rarely grooving pitches. His curve was loopy in this game but the slider was on… helped by a generous call (on a pitch off the plate) to get Marte in the fifth. With all the talk about innings count, I think a guy as smart as him knows what he’s doing. Matt Harvey is maturing. It’s easy to think ball-players are full adults but they’re still getting there, and that’s where a manager as strong as Clint Hurdle comes in. Uncle Terry has matured too, like a 1949 Bordeaux. But he used to be a 1949 Port and he can still confound a little.

Take Travis d’Arnaud. He hit a long homer to left in the bottom of the second to even things up. Tell me why d’Arnaud is batting seventh in the order? He’d been on a 0-5 stretch, I suppose, but Juan Uribe is hot with home runs and little else. The likeable Michael Cuddyer is succumbing to rigor mortis and the humanoid Daniel Murphy has a .568 OBP against lefties. Why bat them above d’Arnaud? d’Arnaud hit a double inside third base in the fourth too, so that might get Extra Terrestrial Collins to add another improved crimp to his line-up.

Sunday felt like a usual Mets game with the game tied at 1-1 and then the storm hit. Given how poor his stick as been recently, Cuddy wisely kicked a ball off his toe for a HBP. I thought the boom of thunder was a stunned response to him getting on base. Sadly, it was bigger than that. Clearly a bunch of Mets’ fans had gone against the advice in Cappy’s last article and had called down wrath.

Playoff teams aren’t flawless, and the rare goof by the Mets (Murph) was matched by the Pirates (Ramirez) in the first couple of games. But today’s seventh inning was an abject mess.

I take notes for games I report on and here’s what I got:
– Parnell throwing 97. Overthrowing up and spiking down. Nervous. Recent issues. Spraying walks.
– Botch at second. Extra outs. Murph thought Tejada was somewhere in center field. Passed ball.
– Cespedes flings throw way left past home plate. Walker tries to score and gets caught. Messy.
– O’Flaherty can’t pitch any more. Almost same surname as an ex-girlfriend. Curse him.
– Lousy inning all around in what had been a great series.

There are worries with the Mets. They limped out with six of the last eight batters striking out. The Mets continue to struggle against anything slow and away, so it’s lucky Greg Maddux has retired.

As Terry Collins stormed to the clubhouse after the final out, there must have been new holes being ripped. But, and I really will make this my last criticism about DM, will he rip into his adopted son?

Question: Was Daniel Murphy’s throw to third on Saturday and throw to second on Sunday:
a. Over-enthusiastic?
b. Misplayed by someone else?
c. Stupid?

a. General thoughts on SNY’s commentary
b. Terry Collins
c. The truth

It’s no embarrassment to lose to the Pirates. The Orioles are solid but that series should be a 1-1 split and then the Mets will be back on Easy Street against the Rockies and the soon-to-be-Utley-less Phillies.

Getting over the hump of the games in July was key for the Mets. They made it but the Nationals aren’t. Put that in your tobacco and chew it, Bryce (sorry again, Cappy, I won’t do that again).


Avoid The Jinx: How to Keep the Good Vibes Flowing

My life was much different back in 1988. I wouldn’t meet my wife-to-be for another year and while I dated, I had no serious relationships going on. I had an entry level job with the organization I eventually would spend another 20-plus years with, but their purchase by a Fortune 500 company and the first of my several promotions was years away. Even further in the future was the birth of my son. I was still adjusting to a personal upheaval that had required me to change most of the people and places in my life. Looking back, I was then in the middle of several transitions, all of which with the benefit of hindsight, turned out quite well.  In 1988 however, their outcome was very uncertain. I didn’t have much going on in my life, financially, socially or romantically.

But I had the Mets. And these where certainly heady times: the team had sprung, seemingly out of nowhere to win 90 games in 1984. They got even better the next year and then with me in attendance at Game 7, won the 1986 World Series. No team had repeated for nearly ten seasons, so I conceded 1987, but was very confident in 1988; especially when they romped to another division title and took two of the first three games in the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.

I had tickets for Game Two of the 1988 World Series at Shea, which by the top of the 9th inning in Game Four of the National League Championship Series, seemed like a foregone conclusion. The Mets where about to go up three games to one on Los Angeles, setting up a 1973 World Series rematch with the mighty Oakland As. I couldn’t wait. I had vacation days put aside and cash saved up for the Series games and memorabilia that I was sure I would be seeing and buying.

Then the roof fell in.

No sooner had broadcaster Tim McCarver mentioned that he thought Mets pitcher Dwight Gooden was tiring, then did Doc walk John Shelby and give up a game-tying homer to Mike Bleeping Scioscia. The Dodgers went on to win the game in extras, tying the series. They eliminated the Mets three games later. I have seen this described as a kind of Continental Divide in the story of the 1980’s Mets—the night their expected baseball dynasty changed direction and headed into a permanent decline instead of another World Series berth. Looking back, you could feel the shift as soon as Scoscia’s shot cleared the right field wall. In less than two years that entire team was nearly completely dismantled and the  long losing streak of the 1990’s began. If only Davey Johnson had brought in Randy Myers to close in the 9th!

I have been through a lot of heartbreak with the Mets since and have experienced some gut-wrenching (and gut-turning) developments, but nothing, not the Generation K flop, not the Kenny Rogers walk, not the 2000 Subway Series humiliation, not the Adam Wainwright curve, not the 2007 collapse (or its 2008 echo), not the post-Madoff retrenchment era, nothing, hurt as bad as the 1988 NLCS loss. I was emotionally vulnerable back then and this unexpected loss to a clearly inferior team hit me as hard as if there had been a death in my immediate family. My work supervisor even pulled me aside after the carnage to make sure I was “alright.” My apparent maturity/cynicism since then has shielded me from taking further blows as hard as I took that one.

So let’s fast forward to this season, which to date has been the entire 1980’s in a microcosm. There’s been a fast start (Joe Torre had the 1980 Mets near first place in mid-July of that year), a period of despair and offensive ineptitude matching that of 1981-83, the rise of young pitchers, a promotion of a highly touted draft pick outfielder and a big trade for a major offensive piece, all crammed into an incredible four-months of baseball, with a potential crescendo looming in the final 50 or so games.

And that’s what has me nervous. These are the Mets we are talking about after all. While their history isn’t quite as bad as that of say the Jets, they have certainly have given their fanbase more than their fair share of angst. Re-read the paragraph just above the previous one in case you don’t believe me. Already, I am hearing some brash fan-boy bluster from talk show hosts, fellow bloggers, broadcasters and a few beat writers—the latter which may be doing it on purpose.

Now I get it, this is Mets Today, founded by a baseball instructor and coach (we miss you Joe) and we take a very analytical, straight talking approach to this game. But, superstition is just as big a part of baseball as batting practice. So I’m begging my fellow Mets fans: please don’t jinx this. We might be on the verge of something special, a season we’ll long cherish—with a lot of special moments that don’t come along too often, at least for us. Don’t offend the baseball gods with some loutish, moronic behavior, tempting them to deal us yet another blow to our collective solar plexus. All hail, oh venerated gods!  I suggest Mets fans might want to consider a quieter and subdued approach to the remaining schedule, going for the ride instead of trying to set the pace. I admit that some of this concern dates all the way back to that cold October night that Mike Scioscia killed off much of my innocence, but with my tongue somewhat planted in my cheek, here is how I advise taking in the rest of the regular season:

  • One Game at A Time: No looking ahead (or behind). Yes they will need a spot starter or two and those pitch counts might become an issue. GM Sandy Alderson’s inability to improve the team over the winter left them shorthanded for half the year, resulting in some frustrating losses, games they eventually may wish they had won. There are six games with Washington left on the schedule. Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Alderson and Terry Collins are still at their posts. But once the game starts there is magic  in between those white lines,  so…
  • Savor Every Moment: Get into the games, enjoy them with friends and family. We Met fans don’t get many opportunities like this one: a team on the rise, lots of charismatic personalities and a new hero almost every night. The last time this happened was 1984-85. A year ago, to be sitting so pretty like this seemed improbable. Unfortunately, as fast as they have risen, they can also fall. Be thankful for what is happening and enjoy it.
  • Respect The Nats (And the Yanks): This is a tough one. Washington is full of unlikeable characters, both on and off the field. They have made some very bold statements, several that they might be regretting. Some Yankees fans seem to think post-season games are their birthright. It’s easy to enjoy their suffering and even crow about it. Remember however that the Mets haven’t proven anything yet and both teams are in a position to do some real damage to our hopes. What good is talking trash if you later have to eat it? If Matt Harvey can stuff it, then so can we. And please, enough talk about “taking back the town.”
  • Don’t Count Magic Numbers (Yet): I have already seen them posted. Why? I can recall them all over the place in August of 2007, along with Gary Cohen’s gleeful ramblings about “sustained success.” Remember the outcome that year? Living in the middle of Phillies country, I sure do. Unless those final three games against the Nats are rendered meaningless, this practice needs to be avoided.
  • Save the Post-Season Roster Speculation: There was a thread started over on NYFS on this topic that included a lively discussion about whether or not Jerry Blevins should be included.  A day later Blevins “slipped” off a curb and re-injured himself (no word if he spilled his beverage). That was a warning. Take Alderson’s comments about the best 25 players at face value for now.

Now, I admit that I have indulged in some speculation myself. So, putting my more analytical Mets Today hat back on for a moment, I took a look at the 2007 Mets roster and compared it to today’s team. A comparison between the ’07 Phils and the current Nationals team was similarly enlightening. So here’s hoping the advanced stats don’t lie. Should the Mets make the playoffs, then  we can then kick out the jams and root loud and long.

But in the meantime, shhhhhhhh.

Baseball Instruction from OnBaseball
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