Monday, June 30, 2014

Column A, Column B

The Weekend wasn't a total wash for the Mets, seeing as how they won on Saturday, but in the grand scheme of things, losing 3 of 4 in Pittsburgh isn't exactly the way you want to make your presence known. It was mostly a forgotten weekend of games for me. Saturday, as I have been for the past several weeks, I was out of the house and not near a TV while the game was going on, and therefore I missed the Blue Bombers, behind Jon Niese and an early flurry of hits and runs, beat Gerrit Cole in his much-ballyhooed return from the Disabled List 5-3.

Sunday, I was home and had the game on, and with Bartolo Colon on the mound, certainly you figured the Mets would have a fighting chance. Colon, who gives the impression, of course, that he's far too old and out of shape to do anything of consequence, has been more good than bad this season, particularly recently, where his starts have generally consisted of him pitching very well and very deep into games and coming away with wins. When he's looked good, he's been great, and that's been the case for him over the last several games he's pitched. Unfortunately, when he's been bad, he's been particularly putrid, and he ends up looking less like the Bartolo Colon that plows his way through innings and more like the fat, sweaty, uncomfortable Bartolo Colon that he appears to be (or, more appropriately, Shaun Marcum). Sunday was one of those days for Bartolo Colon. The Pirates whacked him around early, and by the middle of the game I had tuned out in favor of other activities like cleaning my bathroom and doing laundry. The remainder of the game was a blur, the Mets scored a couple of runs late in the game and I don't really know how they did it, and the result was a 5-2 game that had the feel of an 11-3 game.

There seems to be very little in between with the Mets lately. They win boring or they lose boring and, sure, every once in a while they have games like Friday night that get kind of wacky, but then again even those games offer more to get frustrated about as opposed to glimmering good times. Then again, they had a glimmering good time game on Tuesday night this week. But games like that could be counted on one's total digits this season. The upshot to all this is that while the Mets have been mostly boring this season, so has the rest of their division, and we'll get to see that first hand when the Mets voyage down to good ol' Atlanty to play the wonderful Braves. It's scheduled to be about 97˚ all three games. This probably won't go well, but we'll see I guess.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Go Back To Sleep

Following a particularly taxing week, I found myself coming home this evening with a strong desire to just crawl into bed and take a nap for a while. The result was that I slept through a large swath of tonight's game. But I woke up in time to see the latter portion of the proceedings as they dragged further and further into the night.

Given the way things ended up, perhaps I should have just stayed in bed and forgotten about the game altogether.

That certainly feels like a recycled comment, and I know I'm pretty much echoing the sentiments of everyone who watches this team on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, the artfulness in which the Mets found a way to spit tonight's game up was one of those particular cake-takers.

The Mets scored their requisite two runs for this game in the 4th inning courtesy of a Lucas Duda single. That's now 3 games in a row that Duda has managed to net an RBI, and this time he did it without loafing the ball out of the ballpark, which is kind of nice, it shows he has a pulse in situational hitting situations, but when that's the sum total of the offense for the night, well, you can probably guess how things ultimately turned out.

But for the Mets, who continue to pitch well in spite of often hopeless circumstances, they stuck around in this game. Jacob deGrom once again pitched well, and once again was victimized by one bad inning and a lack of run support. The 2 runs he allowed in 6.2 innings was indicative of another fine outing, but one that could do no better than match his rookie counterpart Brandon Cumpton. deGrom was followed to the mound by Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia, who brought the game through to the 9th inning, when Jenrry Mejia took over and stopped the Pirates as well, sending the game into extra innings, setting the stage for one of those truly farcical Mets Moments that you look back on so many years later and smack yourself in the head.

The 10th inning began for the Pirates with Josh Harrison, one of those Brandon Phillips-types who has the look of a Met Killer all over him, singling. Fairly benign to start the inning, but then he stole second, although Ruben Tejada seemed pretty certain that he didn't. It looked to me like Harrison was safe, but Tejada got demonstrative enough to cajole Terry Collins into challenging the call, which was predictably unsuccessful. Mejia went back to work and got Gregory Polanco (not Gregor Blanco) to hit a comebacker. Harrison having taken off on contact, Mejia did the proper thing and ran directly at him to get him in a rundown, except that instead of a rundown, some horrible Baseball version of a Marx Brothers chase scene ensued, wherein Mejia gave up on the play too soon, made an ill-advised throw to Daniel Murphy. Murphy chased Harrison towards 3rd, dodging Harrison's helmet, which he may or may not have intentionally thrown off his head in some weird ruse to distract someone. Somehow the ball ended up with Ruben Tejada, while Harrison decided he was better off taking a left turn about 25 feet shy of 3rd base and crawling across the infield to avoid getting tagged out. Somehow, this worked, not because that was a great idea on Harrison's part, but because it's the Mets, and somehow every umpire on the scene neglected to note that Harrison was, in fact, out of the baseline. On the other hand, the Mets may or may not have deserved such a fate since Tejada decided to give up on the play as opposed to simply tagging Harrison, which would have sidestepped all this.

After the rundown and the Terry Collins bitch-fit that followed, Mejia was then tasked with having to get out of one hell of a jam, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs, and he was very much up to the task, striking out Travis Snider and Neil Walker, and even getting Russell Martin (Mr. Low-rent Paul LoDuca himself) to fly out in a situation that seemed ripe for Martin to get a hit and rip off his own jersey while doing a Superman Dance across the infield. But, no, Mejia got LoDucu to pop out and end the threat. And after getting out of that particular jam, you might think the Mets would be energized enough to put together a rally. Vic Black took over for Mejia in the 11th, and he seemed primed to cruise right along until he walked Clint Barmes with 2 outs and Harrison came up again and I think we all know what happened from there.

In some other era, the Mets probably would have pushed a run across in their half of the 11th, and Black would have gotten a Save out of the proceedings. That's the same kind of era where the Mets are a perennial contender and have the intestinal fortitude to not only get out of impossible jams, but also get the necessary hits to win games afterward. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those eras, and the result is that games like this end up being those sort of games you can only chuckle about years later in happier times. You know, whenever those happier times may come.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Other Things To Do

I tend not to make much mention around here about my life outside of the Mets, because a) It's not especially interesting to an audience like this and b) Who cares. But it's worth mentioning that in 10 days, the woman I often refer to as my other half will officially become Mrs. Mets2Moon, an occasion that is certainly cause for great personal joy. 

I bring this up for a variety of reasons, the largest of them being that much of our evenings of late have been spent making preparations for the event that's going to be pre-empting Cereal Bowl Day at Citi Field, and as such, I don't pay as much attention to games as I might were things a little less hectic at the moment. 

What I've missed, clearly, hasn't been much noteworthy. Tonight's game in Pittsburgh featured very little in the way of action on the part of the Mets, which has been an unfortunate common theme of late, except for a pair of anomalies earlier in the week where their batters decided it would be nice if they hit the ball. After scoring 21 runs in 2 games, the Mets scored 5 runs last night after the game was well out of reach, so let's just say they scored 0 tangible runs, and tonight, they scored 2 runs, and that at least kept the game within a 3-Run Home Run's reach of being tied. Last night, Lucas Duda hit a 3-run Home Run with the Mets behind 8-0. Had he saved such a thing for the late innings tonight, the game might have ended differently. Sadly, Duda appeared to have mixed up his Solo Home run situation with his 3-Run Home Run situation, and therefore the solo Home Run he hit—to the opposite field no less—in the 4th inning merely meant that they lost to the Pirates 5-2 instead of 5-1

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who continues to make starts at the Major League level, had another start this evening and pitched a majority of the game for the Mets, but at some point where I wasn't paying much attention he gave up several runs, most of them at the hand of the Pirates' hotshot Rookie Gregory Polanco, whom I at some point confused with Gregor Blanco and after a few minutes of being incensed that Matsuzaka was getting burned by a slop-hitting journeyman, I realized that he was getting burned by the flavor of the Month. That's not to say that it makes this loss feel less bad. The Mets are always getting burned by someone of late, it seems. Every day it's someone else. That's why it's easy to stop paying attention and work on other things.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Not What You Were Looking For

Too many things happened too early in this game that are worth mentioning, simply as thoughts and coincidences. As has happened on many an occasion, I was late in getting home and when I finally did arrive and put the game on, I was greeted with a line that read OAK 6, NYM 0 in the bottom of the 2nd inning, Zack Wheeler already removed from the game.

My first thought: Well, I'm glad I went last night instead of tonight.

My second thought: Well, so much for Zack Wheeler going out and using his brilliant shutout performance in Miami as a springboard to bigger and better things, because he just regressed right back to his usual inconsistent dreck.

I didn't actually see any of what Wheeler did, but it seems he basically had nothing from the get-go. Brandon Moss, the former castoff-turned-#3-hitter reached him for a Home Run in the 1st, and the 2nd inning consisted of some bloops and blasts and Oakland players circling the bases. So, basically, by time I got home and put the game on, there really wasn't much of a game worth watching.

Games like this are terrible, not just because the Mets are hopelessly out of the game before the entire audience has reached their seats, but because after a day of work, I often look forward to coming home and putting the game on, and when I get home and put on a game where the Mets are behind 6-0 in the 2nd inning, it's like why even bother? I don't want to see Dana Eveland come in and work mop-up, I don't want to see the Mets just swing through Brad Mills' array of slop, I just want to shut the game off and go find something else to do with myself. This, of course, is complicated since there's a limited amount of things I can bear to watch on TV, and none of them are on on Wednesday nights. Thus, I ceded things to my other half, who happily put on a reality show of insidious nature, which didn't make me feel any better.

I missed, by giving up on the proceedings, something of a cosmetic comeback by the Mets. Down 8-0, Lucas Duda hit a Lucas Duda—a 3-run Home Run that had absolutely no consequence except to prevent the Mets from being shut out altogether—and Chris Young also hit a Home Run in the 8th, so instead, when you look back at this game and see the Mets lost 8-5, you might thing, "Hey, Barnburner!" instead of knowing the truth about this shit show. In the present, it might have actually kidded a few hearty souls into thinking comeback, although given the Mets propensity for 8-run comebacks is more or less non-existent, thoughts like that are born out of wishful thinking more than actual intuition. But, then again, when you have a game like this, wishful thinking is more or less all you've got. At least I went the night before. I know I said that already but it needs to be reiterated.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Sit Back And Enjoy

In around the 6th inning, as the Mets had already put the finishing touches on a runaway 10-1 victory over the Oakland A's, George turned to me and said "You know, I don't think I can remember the last time we were at a game that was an actual laugher."

I had to pause and think for a while, and I couldn't remember the last laugher I'd been to either. It's a nice feeling, seeing the Mets stick it to their opponent early and often and just cruise the rest of the way home, unimpeded by any sort of drama or delays that might happen in a close game. The Mets lit up Scott Kazmir to the tune of 7 runs on 8 hits in 3 innings, on the strength of a trio of Home Runs, and more or less coasted from there behind another masterful performance from Bartolo Colon.

It was a somewhat festive atmosphere at Citi Field for my 11th game of the season. The Mets and Oakland A's meet rarely; those more senior than I might have some ill feelings from the 1973 World Series, but in reality, the Mets and A's don't have much in the way of a heated rivalry. That being said, the A's right now are more or less everything the Mets aspire to be; a team comprised mostly of youngsters and castaways who have somehow meshed into a cohesive unit that hits and pitches with fierce consistency, to the point where they hold a fairly solid lead in the AL West.

Scott Kazmir, who we all know as the great prospect that wasn't, is one of those players who's rediscovered some prior magic in Oakland, coming into the game with a league-leading ERA of 2.08. But the Mets treated him with little regard. After spotting the A's a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Mets exploded for 3 runs in the 2nd inning, courtesy of back-to-back Home Runs by Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. This from an offense where 2 Home Runs in a game is noteworthy. Happily, the Mets were just getting warmed up. In the 3rd, the Mets rallied again, stringing together some hits and an RBI Groundout from Granderson to set the stage for the recently recalled Travis d'Arnaud. d'Arnaud, who didn't hit at all in the Majors, and then got sent down to AAA and immediately started hitting .400, stepped to the plate with a golden opportunity to prove himself, and I couldn't help but think "if he could just park one right here, that would be great." And sure enough, he did, smoking a pitch well out into the seats in Left Field for a 3-run Home run that opened up a 7-1 Met lead and spelled the end of the night for Kazmir.

The remainder of the game moved along at a brisk pace and featured a number of odd highlights that make laughers enjoyable. For one, Oakland's manager, Bob Melvin, began employing double switches in the 4th inning, swapping out Kazmir and Jed Lowrie for Jim Johnson and Nick Punto (prompting George to muse "Wait a second...Nick Punto is an A!?"). He did it again in the 6th, and then in the 7th inning, he outdid himself, putting Eric Sogard in the game at 2nd base and removing Coco Crisp, and in the process shifting Alberto Callaspo from 2nd base to 1st base, Brandon Moss from 1st to Left Field and Yoenis Cespedes from Left to Center in a gordian knot of confusion that only happens in Spring Training games, or games where your team is down by 9 runs.

Chris Young, of whom rumors of an impending release were swirling, chimed in with a second Home Run in the 5th inning, and almost hit another one later on in the evening, driving a pitch out to the warning track in left center. For someone as maligned as Young has been of late, a 2-Home Run game is great, but 3 would have been pretty far out. Especially 3 at Citi Field, where the Mets pretty much never hit Home Runs.

And, of course, there's Bartolo Colon, who once again coolly worked his way through 8 more or less effortless innings, tying the A's up in knots after allowing a 1st inning run and finishing his night with 8 strikeouts to go with 1 walk and 4 hits. He also proved himself a showstopper with a bat in his hand, as he drew cheers following a 2nd inning Sac Bunt and a standing ovation after flaring a single to left to start the 4th inning. Colon batted again in the 6th after Ruben Tejada was hit by a pitch and eschewed the bunt, instead swinging away (and why not with a 7-run lead) and ripping a good foul ball before hitting a slow roller out to 3rd base, and despite the urging of everyone in attendance, he proved not swift enough to beat it out.

All in all, this was a rare night at Citi Field where there was nothing to complain about. The weather was splendid, the game was over in a brisk 2 hours, 24 minutes, the Mets scored early and often and the outcome wasn't in doubt. George and I even got to bear witness to a true meeting of the minds late in the game, as both Cow Bell Man and Pin Man convened in front of us for a conversation of true hard-liners. Pin Man had met up with some friends and received gifts of more pins, while Cow Bell Man was simply making his rounds as he is wont to do. But there they were at game's end, high-fiving George and myself and everyone else around and reveling in one of those rare relaxing Citi Field evenings.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Oh Dammit

Terry Collins, it seems, has learned nothing from his prior experience in being innovative and experimental, because he went back to the same stupid strategy twice this past weekend in Miami. And Dammit, the Mets went and won both the games in which he hit the pitcher 8th, which means that now it's going to encourage him to keep on doing it.

After playing one of their typical "Stupid Florida Games" on Friday night, in which the Mets played a back and forth game that they ended up losing in annoying fashion—this time on a walk-off Outfield Assist as opposed to a walk-off 35-foot single—which happens to the Mets pretty much every time they set foot in the city of Miami (or its general vicinity). Usually, once they lose a game like that, it ends up taking them 3-4 more games to get rid of the stink that it leaves, but for once, the Mets shook it off and actually won a couple of games in the Mystery Machine.

Saturday, Terry Collins decided to put on his LaRussa mask once again and hit Jacob deGrom 8th. Again, the Mets unfortunately won, but I'd like to think that it had less to do with this cheap ploy and more to do with deGrom again pitching effectively and actually getting some meaningful run support in the process. I didn't have a chance to see much of the game, but in 7 innings, deGrom didn't allow the Marlins an inch, only giving up 5 hits and 3 walks to go along with 8 strikeouts. deGrom has had similar outings that didn't end quite as well; the Mets only gave him 4 runs to work with, but since he didn't allow any to the Marlins, and the suddenly strong late-inning tandem of Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia didn't allow any runs either, the end result was that the 4 runs the Mets generated was actually enough to net deGrom his first Major League win. About damn time. I'm sure he felt the same way.

Though the Met runs came courtesy of a pair of RBI singles from Chris Young and David Wright, and a 2-run Home Run from Lucas Duda (in the 9th inning, of course), Collins of course stuck to his guns and hit Jon Niese 8th on Sunday. This actually nearly bit Collins in the ass in the 2nd inning when the 8th spot in the lineup came up with the Bases Loaded, and instead of a position player, he had Niese batting, but Niese helped his own cause and made Collins look not-as-foolhardy by laying down a squeeze bunt that drove home the Mets 2nd run of the game. This particular play might have loomed larger in the game had the Mets not exploded for 10 additional runs, winning a 11-5 game going away. Daniel Murphy landed the big blow with a 3-run Home Run in the 4th inning, and others like Anthony Recker and Ruben Tejada chipped in. When you score 11 runs, generally everyone plays a little bit of a part in it, and when you're the Mets and sometimes you're lucky to score 11 runs in a week, even the lesser-known guys contribute. Niese kind of ran out of steam in the 6th inning, but it's hard to say that this game was in much doubt after the Mets stormed out to a 7-0 lead.

So, the Mets win 3 out of 4 in Miami, a rare coup indeed, particularly considering that a month ago the Mets went into Miami and ended up getting swept and embarrassed by the Mickey Mouse Marlins. Winning 3 of 4 is nice—even if they still had one of their stupid Miami games in the process—just because it helps to put these chowderheads in their rightful place for a little while. Contenders my ass. If they're losing to a team that's so desperate for a jolt that their dopey Manager decided the best thing to do was bat his pitcher 8th, how in contention can they really be?

Friday, June 20, 2014

What You Were Looking For

After several weeks of up-and-down starts from Zack Wheeler, the optimism that he gave cause for last season seemed to be waning a bit, as his star appeared to be waning from the lofty level of Jerry Koosman or Ron Darling down to Paul Wilson or Bobby Jones. Moments of brilliance had mostly given way to a series of starts where it appeared that Wheeler's greatest opponent was himself, as he sweat his way through 4- and 5-inning efforts where he ran too many deep counts, threw too many pitches and ended up gassing himself. Even if his results weren't ugly—and sometimes they were pretty ugly—his record stood at a disappointing 2-7, a result of his inconsistency just as much as his lack of run support, and his other numbers not befitting what we'd hoped.

But, Thursday night in Miami, Wheeler gave everyone that little bit of hope back by spinning a masterful 3-hit Shutout with all of 1 run to work with, courtesy of a 1st inning David Wright Home Run. That was all he got. But he ran with it, keeping the Mickey Mouse Marlins in check with a dazzling array of sliders and curveballs to go with his usual heat and finally, the results lived up to the potential as Wheeler earned his first career CGShO, a year and a day after his much-ballyhooed Major League debut.

It's easy, given that Wheeler, at 24 years old and a veteran of 366 days in the Major Leagues, to say that this particular start might have been the good one amid a string of inconsistencies, and certainly Wheeler could just as easily slip back into his bad habits in subsequent starts. But if you're looking for things to hang your hat on from this particular outing, there are certainly a spate of good things to take away from this game.

For one, Wheeler has clearly adopted the Mickey Mouse Marlins as the team that he consistently owns. This is now the 3rd outing this season he's had against them, and each time, he's basically mowed them down. Usually every pitcher has one team that just gets him every time, and another that he always gets, and it seems that Wheeler clearly gets the Marlins, which is nice, because it's about damn time one of the Mets pitchers just pimp-slaps those guys and puts them in their rightful place as MLB's dog.

More important, though, was the fact that Wheeler was given the opportunity to finish what he started. After 8 innings, Wheeler had (and I'm completely estimating here) about 98 pitches under his belt for the night. Terry Collins, when he's not busy trying to be innovative and experimental, has often yanked his starter at such a number, just because that's the vibe he got, I guess. But Thursday, he let Wheeler finish, and he should have let him finish. I know that after Reed Johnson reached Wheeler for a 2-out single, pretty much every Mets fan out there had that vision of Rafael Furcal lining an RBI triple into the corner to tie the game and send the game along to its proper place as a 15-inning bloodbath where the Mets strand 27 men on base and lose on a 40-foot scratch single by Garrett Jones, but for whatever reason, I felt calm. I may have been silently screaming "STAY IN YOUR SEAT, TERRY" at the TV, but I was confident Wheeler would get Furcal out. And, sure enough, he did, in spite of the fact that his line drive to center looked awfully hairy off the bat, it landed in the right place—Chris Young's glove, for the game's final out. Given an opportunity to finish what he'd started, Wheeler proved up to the task. When it seemed like there was no way, particularly given the lousy karma surrounding the team, that he would close out the Marlins, he did, and with that created all sorts of good vibes for once.

It's an oft-recycled comment around these parts, but maybe, just maybe, this is something that can be built upon. One step at a time. Hopefully we'll see more starts like this down the remainder of the season.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Come To Your Senses

And on Wednesday, Terry Collins wised up and fielded a "normal" lineup, featuring his pitcher, Bartolo Colon, batting 9th, where he should be batting. And Colon, sensing that he might need to help his own cause, driving a 6th inning double for his first hit in 8 seasons and in the process sparking a 2-run rally that would ultimately win the game for the Mets.

Strange as it may seem, Terry Collins decided, after two such successful games using his innovative and experimental pitcher batting 8th strategy, the project was abandoned and the Mets won a game. This doesn't prove anything in particular, really, but it's good, because conventional superstition would dictate that after two games of being innovative and experimental, and losing, followed by going back to normal and winning would mean that a) Tony LaRussa isn't always right and we should stop kissing his ass, and b) hopefully Terry Collins won't be so tempted to try this again. Of course one might think that the reason he decided to stop being innovative and experimental yesterday was probably because Bartolo Colon is a truly awful hitter even for a pitcher, today's hit notwithstanding, and not because he was ready to give it up. I guess if, tonight, we see Zack Wheeler batting 8th, we'll have our answer. Hopefully, he's batting 9th. 

But the story on Wednesday was less about the lineup and more about Bartolo Colon. Colon has, for whatever it's been worth, been the closest the Mets have had to a stopper of late. Niese has certainly pitched well and when he was healthy, so had Dillon Gee, but the rest of the rotation has been somewhat inconsistent. Bartolo Colon has not only pitched well, but he's won games, and Wednesday afternoon's sweaty affair in St. Louis was just such an example. The Mets didn't hit much, and that's nothing new, but the offense they did generate was enough for Colon, whose 8-inning, 86-pitch effort was so sorely needed, if nothing else to remind people that the Mets can, in fact, win a game, and I don't just mean win a game in St. Louis, where they rarely seem to win, but win a game in general. That hasn't happened much of late.

So, somehow, the Mets salvage a game in St. Louis and make something respectable out of it. Of course, they have the high pleasure of going from one place they rarely win to another place they rarely win in Miami, even though they really should try to win a few more games in the Puke Green Hell Hole than they actually end up doing. Might be nice. Just saying.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It Still Doesn't Work, Stupid

So if, after one game, Terry Collins' innovative and experimental strategy to jump start the lineup by  batting his pitcher 8th didn't work, yeah, why not try it again?

I think everyone probably feels about as exasparated as Jon Niese looks in the above photo.

Niese did about as much as he could to try to keep the Cardinals at bay last night, but he was done in by some long hits in the 5th inning, and a betrayal by his defense (specifically Daniel Murphy, who made one of his trademark Daniel Murphy errors that serves to remind everyone that for all he does, he's still Daniel Murphy) in the 6th inning, and the end result was that he took the loss. Not that he deserved it, but that's the game. You pitch well and often don't reap the benefits. Especially when you're a Met.

In support of his general yeoman's work, the innovative and experimental Mets lineup generated 2 runs, both of them coming on Home Runs. The first one came from David Wright when the game was meaningful. The second came from Lucas Duda, in the trademark Lucas Duda Home Run situation: a 5-1 game in the 9th inning. The rest of the Mets lineup, from 9th place hitter Eric Young Jr, to leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson did very little against Michael Wacha, or any of the other pitchers the Cardinals threw out the Mets. 

The point is, this team can't hit no matter where the pitcher hits in the batting order, and trying to shake things up by shuffling the same crap around the batting order doesn't help anything. The problem here is that there's no punch. d'Arnaud didn't hit in the Majors and now he's back in AAA, where he's promptly hit .450 with 5 Home Runs in about a week, Juan Lagares is on the DL and nobody among Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker and Eric Young Jr have proven themselves to be especially adequate, and, of course, there's the train wreck that is Chris Young, and these guys playing on an every day basis leads to what we've basically seen over the past month: No Damn Good. Being experimental and innovative isn't going to help the situation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Innovative and Experimental!

I guess it's somewhat fitting that in the house that Tony LaRussa's massive ego built, Terry Collins would try to jump-start a lifeless lineup by paying homage to the legend-in-his-own-mind that LaRussa was and shake up his lineup. And by shake up his lineup, I mean bat his pitcher, Jacob deGrom 8th, and the recently activated Eric Young Jr. 9th, while keeping Curtis Granderson in the top of the order. How exciting! How innovative! Experimental genius! Let's get going!

Surprisingly, it didn't work. The Mets lost anyway.

The 6-2 loss the Mets suffered was less an issue of the Innovative and Experimental lineup shakeup and the fact that the players in the lineup continue to exhibit a general inability to hit no matter where they're placed in the lineup, while Jacob deGrom was hit around a little bit by the Cardinals. The Cardinals, whom the Mets actually beat 3 or 4 in April if you can believe it, remain the most irritating team imaginable. Basically, they single and double you to death on offense, while running pitcher after pitcher out to the mound who throws 95mph gas. That's been their recipe for several years now, through the latter era of Experimental and Innovative Genius Tony LaRussa and into the new regime of Mike Matheny.

Unfortunately, Terry Collins is stuck in 1998 when it comes to the emulation of LaRussa. The pitcher batting 8th ploy came in a season when the Cardinals were lousy, and their only draw was the steroid-aided exploits of Mark McGwire, so LaRussa decided that he'd bat his pitcher 8th, and either Luis Ordaz or Placido Polanco or Joe McEwing 9th in an effort to possibly get an extra guy on base for McGwire. The result was pretty negligible. The Cardinals finished in 3rd place, generally a non-factor except for the McGwire human interest story. But at 83-79, the 1998 Cardinals appear to be light years better than the 2014 Mets, who right now seem hard-pressed to get to 70 wins. 

Other teams have attempted to be experimental and innovative like LaRussa, such as when Jack McKeon used to bat Dontrelle Willis 7th in the lineup, but in that instance, Willis was likely a better hitter than the guys he had hitting 8th and 9th. The problem is, each time a manager decided to be experimental and innovative like Tony LaRussa, he was doing so while managing a team that was completely a lost cause and the move was essentially grasping at straws. All it does is make the broadcasters and columnists marvel over how experimental and innovative Terry Collins or whoever is being in trying this lineup out instead of writing about how the team can't hit and generally is terrible. Or maybe they write about that anyway. I don't know, I stopped reading and I tuned the game out after about 5 innings. There wasn't anything experimental or innovative going on for, just the same old shit show. If you thought otherwise, you were lied to.

Monday, June 16, 2014

On The Outside

The weekend matchups between the Mets and the Padres didn't exactly result in interesting, memorable ballgames. That's, of course, my cheap, copout way of saying I didn't watch either of the games, but who's counting?

Saturday, I was in the vicinity of Citi Field, one of those incredibly rare moments when I was in Queens, on the 7 train, getting off at Willets Point...but not going to Citi Field. Prior engagements brought me out to Corona Park and the remnants of World's Fair's past right around game time, so I was caught in the throngs of people going in to the stadium...but I was walking in the opposite direction. A strange feeling indeed, but given the way the game turned out, I probably was doing the right thing by walking away. Losing 5-0 to the punchless Padres isn't exactly confidence-inspiring. Then again, nothing the Mets have done these past few weeks has been confidence-inspiring. Zack Wheeler had the typical Zack Wheeler game. Didn't pitch badly, but also didn't pitch good enough to win the game, while the Mets did nothing against Ratso Happ or whoever the guy pitching for San Diego was. He now goes down among such luminaries as Troy Mattes or Jason Jennings as guys who made auspicious Major League debuts (or early career performances) by throwing shutout ball against the Mets.

For some reason, Saturday's loss elicited a multitude of negative responses from my Met fan brethren across the internet, and I can't figure out why this, out of all the losses they've suffered this year, last year, or any of the several years before this when they lost a game and looked like a bunch of assholes doing so, this particular game was the tipping point. I mean, I don't think I know many people that were at the game, and certainly even the lure of 50 Cent probably wasn't enough to bring many of my friends to Citi Field anyway. But somehow, this game was the one that threw everyone over the edge, screaming about losing to the Padres and how could they stoop so low. I'd like to see this sort of outcry when the Mets lose to the Marlins. But maybe it's asking too much. How worked up can you get over a Mets loss these days?

Sunday, the Mets did not lose, I was not in Queens, and I did not see the game. I heard that Curtis Granderson, out for a few days with a calf injury, returned, got inserted in the leadoff spot, and hit the second pitch of the game from Ian Kennedy for a Home Run. Later, Bobby Abreu continued to defy age and logic by getting run-producing hits. Daisuke Matsuzaka left with John Maine syndrome, leaving the bullpen to cobble together the remainder of the game. A dicey proposition, but somehow, they got through it, the tandem of Carlos Torres, Vic Black and Jenrry Mejia outdueling Kennedy and Kevin Quackenbush in a 3-1 victory that sounds about as exciting as the score.

So, the Mets won 2 of 3 from the Padres, so everyone can come in off the ledge now. Or not, because the Mets have the high pleasure of going out to St. Louis to play the Beknighted Cardinals and we all know that generally doesn't go well for the Mets.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Severe Conditions

Things were a bit hairy at Citi Field this evening, and it wasn't because it was Free Shirt Friday and I wasn't there, and it wasn't because of a major June Thunderstorm that rolled through the area at around 7pm, forcing about an hour's delay. What was hairy was that once things got started, the Mets won a game by virtue of the performance of a pair of guys more suited for significant contributions in 1998, not 2014.

That would be, obviously, Bartolo Colon and Bobby Abreu.

In what's spiraling into another lost season for the Mets, Bartolo Colon has emerged as pretty much everything the Mets wanted him to be: a Marketable Trade Commodity. Colon obviously wasn't brought in here for his bright future, he was brought in here with an eye to, if the team struggled, be easily flipped for more prospects. Though Colon has had his share of implosions, as he was usually wont to do in his more "salad" days, of late Colon has pitched rather well, and beaten teams he probably should be beating. The punchless San Diego Padres, who arrived in town with an offense to rival the Mets, were little more than an annoyance for Colon. Following a 2nd inning Home Run by Rene Rivera, Colon then retired 18 Padres in a row, bridging the game straight to the 8th inning, while the Mets offense set out and actually scored a few runs in his support.

In addition to Abreu, who scored twice and drove in two runs, Taylor Teagarden contributed with an RBI hit, and even Lucas Duda, who hasn't had a hit all month, chipped in with an RBI double. These are nice signs, but they unfortunately seem like isolated events all too often. Even more unfortunate is the fact that a Mets victory seems like an isolated event all too often. I can't even say with great confidence that playing a team that's clearly worse than them, like the Padres, is a winning proposition.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

You Cannot Be Serious.

Tonight's...or perhaps by this point last night's...we'll just call it Thursday's game probably is the most 2014 Mets effort of the season. Consider all the ways this game went wrong and you'll probably agree:
  1. After 7.2 brilliant innings and only 97 pitches, Jon Niese is bewilderingly removed from the game by Terry Collins. Niese's natural reaction to this move is to shake his head and utter epithets you didn't need to be a lip reader to understand. There's no particularly good reason for Collins to remove Niese from the game at this point, and it's a move that will ultimately bite Collins in the ass later on in the evening. But he doesn't know it at that time. The flipside of this move, though, is that although Niese certainly appeared capable of mowing down the Brewers for another 4 innings, it likely would not have led to a better fate since his teammates were again generally incapable of getting a run for him.
  2. In the top of the 11th inning, Jenrry Mejia came up with some back stiffness and had to leave the game instead of remaining in for a second inning of work. This meant that since Collins had already pre-emptively removed Niese several innings ago, and since then burned through Jeurys Familia and spent Josh Edgin on one batter, he was now even thinner in an already thin bullpen, forced to use Gonzalez Germen one inning earlier than he probably wanted to.
  3. If that wasn't enough, Germen's entry to the game was immediately followed by a spontaneous downpour. Immediately, Angel Hernandez, whom we know all too well for his rather unique approach to Umpiring, waved the Mets off the field and called for the Grounds crew. Immediately, my thoughts went to things like suspended games and return trips to New York for the Brewers. That in and of itself would have been a fitting conclusion for the night. Only the Grounds crew didn't appear to want to show up and bring out the tarp. A couple of crew members came out with a bit of a "WTF are you doing?!" look on their face, and all of a sudden they were holding court with the entire umpiring crew. Then some kid with the Apple Weather app was running out and showing it to anyone who would listen to him. Finally, the whole mess was concluded by Crew Chief Gary Cederstrom overruling Hernandez and calling the Mets back onto the field, concluding a rain delay that lasted all of 3 minutes. Because if there's anything that took this game to another zone, it was a 3 minute rain delay.
  4. Hernandez, clearly jilted after having his rain delay overruled, didn't want long to re-interject himself into the game. The Mets had a rather golden opportunity to win the game in the last of the 11th, getting David Wright to 3rd base with 1 out, and Chris Young coming to the plate. This isn't exactly a winning proposition, but still, the odds had to be in the Mets favor, particularly when the Brewers decided to throw the rarely-seen 5-man Infield alignment together with Ryan Braun. Young walked, amazingly, and Curtis Granderson and his back spasms were intentionally walked behind him, which brought Wilmer Flores to the plate. The Brewers countered with essentially moving Braun to Pitcher's helper, while the rest of their infield was straight up. Flores did the proper Mets thing to do by hitting a chopper to Mark Reynolds at 1st, who easily threw Wright out at home for the second out. Angel Hernandez then stole the show, spontaneously expanding the strike zone in order to punch out Anthony Recker on a 2-2 pitch. Recker, not surprisingly, blew his stack. Unwisely, Recker got himself thrown out of the game, meaning that the Mets, who by this point had blown through not just their entire bullpen, but their entire bench to the point that Zack Wheeler was thrown out as a Pinch Runner, had to throw the last man on their bench, Taylor Teagarden, into the game. 
  5. Collins, now left to Carlos Torres and lefty specialist (with pizza) Dana Eveland, opted for Torres in the 12th inning, and after barely surviving the Brewers 12th, finally imploded in the 13th, allowing the first 6 Brewers that batted in the inning to reach. Highlights of this particular shit show included a Home Run by Jonathan Lucroy, a double by Aramis Ramirez and an RBI single from Reynolds before Torres was mercifully removed from the game. Eveland fared only slightly better, getting 3 outs while only allowing one more run when he hit Rickie Weeks
If the Mets were hitting, perhaps none of this would have been necessary. This was a game that could have been won if the Mets could have scored more than one run, but more than one run appears to be a tall order for the Mets on most nights. I mean, I guess we shouldn't be too surprised, when the latest solution involves Daniel Murphy hitting leadoff, and then immediately followed by multiple at-bats per game for the geriatric Bobby Abreu, the useless Chris Young and the hopeless Lucas Duda, plus a mostly scuffling David Wright, the problems are quite evident. Unfortunately, there's no good solution other than just boiling that spaghetti for different intervals, throwing it at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Oh Me

It was a sleepy game at Citi Field on Wednesday night, at least in the sense that the Mets looked rather sleepy during the course of the game. The Brewers looked kind of sleepy too, and the end result was a 3-1 game that wasn't quite as close as the final score may have indicated, or maybe it was. I'm not quite sure.

It was the kind of game that I had on TV simply because it was on TV. I can't say I paid great attention to what was going on. I was out late at a meeting of the minds or whatever the kids call it these days and by time I arrived home, all the runs that were going to be scored in the game had scored, so I was left to watch the Mets stand around and not do very much.

Wily Peralta kept the Mets mostly in check, which meant that once again, Jacob deGrom pitched a reasonably good game and managed to get hung with a loss, putting him at 0-3 for his career thus far. That deGrom is 0-3 and feels like 0-6 is a good indicator of how little a pitcher's won-lost record can indicate performance. In some cases, yes, it can, but deGrom is not one of those cases. In his case, he's 0-3 primarily because he's had, I believe, about 6 runs scored for him in his 6 starts thus far. deGrom's pitched rather well, but in some particular bad luck. Tonight was a pretty good example of that. He threw a lot of pitches over his 5.2 innings and did give up 9 hits, but only single runs in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings, which meant that he minimized the damage against him. Of course, when your offense can only muster 5 hits for the game, 3 runs is a lot of damage.

So, not quite as interesting as Tuesday night's game. In my meeting, a colleague suggested to me that they would "rather be at a Mets game," in jockular fashion since that person happens to not be a sports fan of any kind. I said I agreed. But given the outcome, I think I'm glad I had a meeting tonight and tickets to the game last night.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Teagardening At Night

...And at my 10th game of the season, Taylor Teagarden happened....

It was one of those nights where I was at Citi Field simply because the schedule said I was supposed to be there. I had the tickets, I couldn't get anyone to go with me, and I certainly couldn't have been blamed for not going, after a long, tiring day of work, on a sticky, humid night where it might end up raining, after the Mets were limping home fresh off a 6-game losing streak where each game was worse than the one before it. The weather and the pitching matchup of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Marco Estrada seemed to dictate one of those sweaty, uncomfortable games that ended at 10:45 with the score 3-1 Brewers and the Mets leaving 17 men on base and striking out 14 times.

But, as I have gone on record as saying, an evening by myself at Citi Field can often be like a sanctuary of sorts, a little alone time to clear my head and watch our grand old game, or something reasonably resembling it. So, I went. Of course I did. Would you have expected any less of me?

My faith, on this particular evening, was rewarded on a multitude of fronts. Playing the streaking NL Central leading Brewers, Matsuzaka was not only quick, but effective over 6 innings, allowing but one run and generally keeping things tidy. He survived a mild mess in the 4th, courtesy of a Lyle Overbay RBI double, but that was followed by a nifty play by Ruben Tejada, who fielded a grounder by Jean Segura and alertly threw to 3rd base to get the lead runner and short circuit any further action in the inning. Later, Matsuzaka shook off a Carlos Gomez line drive that hit him somewhere along his backside, and after hopping around for a few seconds ended up staying in the game and finishing off the inning.

Matsuzaka was backed by a pair of Home Runs, the first of which came from Daniel Murphy, the cover subject of the latest edition of Mets Magazine and the subject of one of the more bewildering features therein. Rather than the usual fold-out poster that comes in the program, there was now a Daniel Murphy coloring page, which was why when I purchased my program, I was handed a little box of double-pointed, multi-colored jumbo crayons. This is what the Mets have stooped to? Crayon drawings in the program? I suppose the marketing department will try anything at this point, but if they want to please the fans, instead of coloring Daniel Murphy, they should hope that Daniel Murphy does a little more of what he did in the 3rd inning, and hit a 2-run Home Run, a line drive that just did land in the netting atop the Mo's Zone that staked the Mets to a 2-0 lead.

But the show was stolen later in the evening by Taylor Teagarden, the castoff that mysteriously surfaced with the Mets over the weekend after d'Arnaud's demotion. The move to bring up Teagarden wasn't exactly confidence-inspiring on any front; Teagarden's career arc is that of a failed prospect (whom I oh-so-wisely picked to win the AL Rookie of the Year in 2009) with a career batting average to rival Mario Mendoza's. Teagarden's first two at bats of his Met career produced two strikeouts, which essentially meant he fit right in with the team concept. But the stakes were higher when he stepped up to the plate in the 6th inning, following a troika of walks to Wright, Granderson and Duda, sandwiched around the predictable Chris Young strikeout. Nobody was exactly expecting greatness here, but sometimes, you shit a diamond and that's exactly what happened when Teagarden belted a sinking line drive towards the Right Field corner that had just enough mustard on it to bounce off the top of the fence and into the seats for perhaps the unlikeliest of Grand Slams I've ever witnessed. All of a sudden, a never-was became a folk hero in Queens, and a tenuous 2-1 lead that probably wouldn't have held up became a surprisingly comfortable 6-1 lead that felt like an avalanche of runs considering how the offense has scuffled. The 5 run lead was enough to withstand a minor hiccup from Jeurys Familia in the 8th, and he, along with Vic Black and Jenrry Mejia carried the game home, a feel-good 6-2 victory that was over in all of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

A game like tonight's is sort of a reminder of why I always go to the game when the schedule tells me to. Greg at Faith and Fear would say something like "you're already a part of the paid attendance," and he's right. If I'm going to be counted, I should be there in person, even if I might not necessarily feel like going. Besides that, you might end up seeing something you never thought you'd see, like Taylor Teagarden hitting a Grand Slam.

Monday, June 9, 2014

That's Enough Of That

I said last week that if the Mets couldn't figure themselves out against the lousy Cubs, then things stood a very good chance of getting quite ugly once they went out to San Francisco to play the Giants, a team that not only had a sizable lead in their division but also the best record in Baseball. And boy, things got pretty damn ugly.

At no point did the Mets make me or probably anyone watching these games think that they had a realistic chance of winning any one of the three games, and that's even at moments when they took a lead and things were looking up. Every time the Mets had a chance to cut the Giants off, the Giants did something a little extra and got that break to swing the game in their favor. It's sort of early to pin this label on them, but perhaps the Giants have grabbed back the mantel of The Hot Team and the mojo that comes with it.

Friday night, the Mets could conceivably have done themselves a greater good had they just let Matt Cain throw a No Hitter at them. Ruben Tejada ended that with a 6th inning single, but he was summarily erased by a Travis d'Arnaud Double Play that had become so ROTE by this point that d'Arnaud found himself back in AAA by weekend's end. Jon Niese did his own yeoman's work in a basically hopeless situation, and actually found himself in the lead when somehow Daniel Murphy stuck his bat in front of a breaking ball and seemed to just kind of flick it over the right field wall at Pac Bell Colin Kaepernick AT&T Park for a 2-run Home Run. But Niese gave the run back in the bottom of the inning thanks to a predictable string of 2-out hits, and then lost the game in the bottom of the 8th thanks to the predictable 2-run Home Run by Buster Posey. All things you could pretty much see coming no matter how you sliced it. Much better than the alternative: Playing 14 innings and having Posey hit the Home Run at 3am EDT.

Saturday was slightly a little more upbeat for the Mets, but in the end the result was the same. The Mets came out early and actually built a nice little lead against Tim Hudson. Anthony Recker actually drove home a couple of runs and so did Lucas Duda, and for a few innings there was a little hope as Bartolo Colon kept the Giants at bay. But you knew it wasn't going to last, didn't you? David Wright made an error that led to an Angel Pagan 2-run single to cut a 4-1 lead to 4-3, and that lead lasted until the 9th. But you knew that Jenrry Mejia and the Mets were fucked as soon as Recker didn't catch strike 3 to Pagan, and then couldn't make a clean throw to 1st. That pretty much sealed the Mets fate right then and there, because everything that happened subsequent to that always happens to a team that makes that kind of an asshole mistake. Before Mejia even knew what had hit him, the game was tied and then the game was over when Michael Morse hit the trademark "single over the drawn-in Outfield" to seal the inevitable 5-4 Giants win.

Sunday, the Mets did a great job, if you consider greatness somehow managing to screw up every possible fundamental way to play Baseball. I'd like to give a well-informed breakdown of the game, but, really, who's got the energy? I know Curtis Granderson provided all the meaningful offense and Zack Wheeler had a regression game and that's pretty much all that needs to be said, or at least that's all that can be said politely. Everyone else may as well be flushed down the proverbial toilet. Burn the tape and never speak of this trip to San Francisco again.

Now, the Mets come home—and you know they play so well at home—and get to take on the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that I considered a total non-entity at the beginning of the season, so it makes perfect sense that they, like the Giants, have gotten off to a hot start and currently have the lead in the NL Central, or at least they did the last time I checked. I have tickets to Tuesday night's game. That should go splendidly. Hopefully it will rain. Or not. I don't know anymore.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Bluh

The Mets, who at times give the appearance that they are a Major League Baseball team, often have the annoying habit of not performing like one, and as such they have these, let's call them "tics" in their season, where they do things like play a number of stupefyingly stupid games in a row and end up getting swept by a team like the Cubs, who haven't swept a team all season. Their series in Chicago this week was, at best, embarrassing and in reality a complete and total debacle that I can't even be bothered to use the English Language to title this post. Were I Mike Francesa or someone of his ilk, the phrase I might be coerced to use would be the ever popular "NNNNNEY STINK!"

You knew the Mets were doomed on this night once Jacob deGrom gave up a Home Run to the opposing pitcher, Travis Wood. I know Wood is a fine hitter as pitchers go, so it's not so much of a stretch, but giving up a Home Run to the opposing pitcher is still giving up a Home Run to the opposing pitcher and it leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth. The fact that it came directly after Rick Renteria challenged a close play at Home Plate and had it overturned in his favor, thereby turning a 0-run inning into a 3-run inning kind of sealed the entire fate right there.

Even after the Mets came back, thanks to some rare clutch hitting by Ruben Tejada and Andrew Brown. Brown's Home Run off Mother Grimm in the 7th inning was his first since his lightning-like Home Run in the 1st inning on Opening Day. However, in between then, Andrew Brown did very little of consequence at the Major League level. He did hit 13 Home Runs in AAA ball, but that doesn't do anybody any good here. Nonetheless, his 2nd Major League Home Run of the season did tie the game and set the stage for Vic Black to turn around and hand the game right back to the Cubs in the bottom of the 7th, courtesy of a bomb of a Home Run by Anthony Rizzo. You could see that one coming. And just to make sure, the Cubs tacked on two more runs in the 8th thanks to a Junior Lake triple, so instead of losing by a frustrating 1 run, the Mets lost by a frustrating 3 runs as the Cubs completed their sweep.

So the Mets go from winning 4 of 5 in Philadelphia and looking really good in doing so to getting swept by a team that hadn't won 3 games in a row all season and looking completely clueless. This sets the stage for a little trip out to San Francisco, where they'll have the high pleasure of playing the Giants, who right now boast the best record in Baseball, perhaps recapturing the form that has seen them win two of the last four World Series Championships. This should be a real barrel of laughs.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sleepy Time

I can't vouch for what the weather was like on Wednesday night in Chicago. If it felt as oppressively humid as it did in New York (where my living room felt like something out of the movie "Smoke"), then the 3 hour, 40 minute mess of a game that the Miserable Cubs and the Lifeless Mets waged probably would have made a little more sense. In yet another rhythmless game that saw the Mets get runners on base repeatedly and fail to drive them in, and in a game where they got yet another Home Run out of Ruben Tejada of all people, the Mets in general decided to stick their thumbs in their asses and let the Cubs rally back and take a lead in the 5th inning. By this time, it seems that the general length of the game had made them tired, so Terry Collins' team strategy for the last 4 innings of the game was apparently for the entire team to take a nap. So, they did, and the result was their second consecutive 1-run loss to one of the worst teams in Baseball. God Bless.

The warning signs for a long game were evident before the first pitch, since the pitching matchup pitted Daisuke Matsuzaka, who's known for slowing down to a crawl if that's the kind of vibe he's feeling, against the Cubs' Edwin Jackson, who once famously threw a 147-pitch No Hitter and can often be likened to watching paint dry on the mound. Jackson threw about 66 pitches in the first two innings while his teammates kicked the ball around and allowed a few Mets to score, which was nice, except that the game was already over an hour old. Starlin Castro, the Cubs Jose Offerman-like Shortstop, made one of his trademark egregious errors and Jackson just as egregiously allowed a 2-run double to Lucas Duda and the Mets were on their way. Tejada homered in the 4th and things seemed fine.

Then Matsuzaka came unglued in the 5th, which became one of those innings where you want to just turn off the TV and run and hide. We've been through it far too many times with far too many pitchers, one of those innings where the opponent gets a bunch of walks, and some scratch hits, and then there's a 2-run single and a few pitching changes, and all of a sudden there's guys like Dana Eveland pitching for the Mets, and there's another pitching change and Jeurys Familia is wild-pitching home the lead run for the Cubs...

...And you know the rest. The Mets never recover. A succession of 6 Cubs Relievers, many of whom you never heard of or never wanted to hear of managed to allow the Mets 2 hits for the rest of the game, giving more credence to my theory that they were just too tired to finish the game after that mess of an inning. There's no other reason I can think of that they couldn't manage to cobble together at least one run in that period of time. So, now they've lost this series and can only hope to salvage the final game tonight, if they feel like waking up.