Friday, July 31, 2015

Life As Baseball

This is probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to write, so I just have to dive in and go.

My Father passed away this week. I would describe it as sudden, but not entirely unexpected, but that doesn't make it any less of a horrible thing to have to go through. To put it in some kind of perspective, I've basically spent the past 3 days feeling like Wilmer Flores did in the 8th inning on Wednesday night.

I'd like to say there was some great Father-Son-Baseball bond between my Father and I, but to be honest, there really wasn't. My Father had professed to being a Brooklyn Dodger fan in his youth growing up on Long Island, but the Dodgers moved and his interests turned elsewhere. That's not to say he didn't foster my love of the game. We certainly had plenty of opportunities where we'd play catch in Central Park or some similar venue, and of course he took me to countless Mets games at grand old Shea Stadium. But going to a Baseball game was never really his cup of tea. The last game we went to together was way back in 1996, on the final day of a mostly forgettable season.

In later years, I would often find myself back at his house after games, since he conveniently lived near the 7 train at Grand Central. He generally viewed my habitual attendance at games as folly; obviously it meant more to me. Generally, if I was at a game, he would listen in on the radio in bits and pieces, mostly to see when, or in some cases if, the game had ended and I'd be on my way home. He was very much a radio person. He'd almost never watch a game on TV if I wasn't around. It was always the radio. He would often listen to broadcasts of the other New York team, although it wasn't necessarily because he had any particular interest in the game, he simply liked listening to 770 AM and would find his program pre-empted. At one point, he did mention that he did like listening to their announcers, for reasons that escape me. Perhaps he simply liked needling me.

Needling me about Baseball could be seen as a bit of a family tradition. If the Mets blew a game late, I would come home and he'd be sitting at the kitchen table, grinning, and he'd say to me, "They put Franco in again, didn't they!!" His favorite, perhaps, would be when the game went into Extra Innings. When this happened, I could count on one of two scenarios. He'd probably have put the radio on, heard the game was in Extra innings, and waited for me to get home so he could laugh, or he'd have fallen asleep, woken up at some late hour wondering where the hell I was, and then put on the radio and laugh. On October 19, 2006, I'd returned home from watching the Mets fall for the final time that year, and the first thing he said to me was "Hey! Who won the game?!"

His view of Baseball in life certainly rubbed off on me in some way. I learned, over time, to accept the absurdity of Baseball in an already absurd world, and I guess you could say that this point of view has been the impetus for this blog in so many ways. Baseball is pretty absurd in its own right and perhaps that's why I view it as such an escape from life or work or whatever else I might need to escape from for a few hours.

Baseball had to take a back seat this week. I'd had tickets for Tuesday night's game, but didn't go. I missed the game completely. Wednesday and Thursday, too. I had some vague idea of what had been going on but to say it wasn't high on my list of priorities would be an understatement. It was only tonight that I was able to watch a game, and get myself back to that little bit of escape. And I really needed an escape.

The game itself was kind of a blur for me. I know how it ended, though, and it seemed so beautifully fitting that it was Wilmer Flores that came through with the winning hit. It might be a crude comparison but for some reason it makes sense to me, but I think Flores probably had the baseball version of my week. He'd basically been traded Wednesday night and found out because of fans and phones, not by being told by his manager. His reaction to being traded from the only organization he'd ever known was sadness, which I can certainly understand because it's easy to become comfortable with the familiar and friendly surroundings. But more than that, it was pretty obvious that he didn't want to leave. Not now, when things seemed primed to become so much more interesting than they'd been for several seasons. Not after he'd given his all and played so hard and strived to become better at his craft. But the prospect of being traded was too much, and he cried. But then he wasn't traded. And the trade deadline came and went and he still wasn't traded. And then he found himself back in the fray on Friday night, and all of a sudden he'd become the Mets newest Folk Hero. Here was a guy who wanted to be a Met so badly that the prospect of being traded turned him into a blubbering wreck. But there he was, coming up with a key play and a key hit behind Matt Harvey. But Washington tied the game late, and the game went into Extra Innings, and perhaps it needed to go Extra Innings. Exactly the kind of game I probably would have been sitting at while my father listened to the radio and cackled. Things dragged on until the 12th inning, when Flores found himself at the plate, and found himself catching up with a pitch and driving it over the fence to win the game. This guy had had a rotten week, just like I'd had a rotten week, but with one swing, he turned it around, and he turned my mood around because he got me jumping out of my chair and pumping my fist, which I hadn't been able to do in several days.

I guess the best way to describe Flores' Home Run was that it was the perfect reminder of just how wonderful an escape Baseball can be.

I think even my Father would have appreciated that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Too Much Sense

Yeah, I know, the Mets traded for Tyler Clippard earlier on Monday, which is a helpful move to shore up the bullpen and more evidence that the Mets aren't just going to sit idly by and let a huge opportunity go to waste.

But then came this late night, out-of-nowhere blockbuster trade between the Blue Jays and the Colorados. After months, or perhaps years of speculation, the Colorados finally dealt Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays, along with old friend LaTroy Hawkins, and in return received what I can only assume is a hefty load of prospects, as well as one Mr. Jose Reyes.

For the Colorados, a team that's clearly in rebuild mode, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for them to deal away Tulo's massive contract and then take on the similarly hefty price tag Reyes carries.

So what, then, does this have to do with the Mets?

Well, Slapenfield, quite a bit. The Tulo-to-the-Mets talk was going on all offseason until it finally died down. But apparently it heated up again somewhere over the last few days, until it once again became apparent that there just wasn't a match to be had. Tulo's contract right now is probably a bit much for the Mets to bear, seeing as how he's still signed through 2020 (with an option for 2021) and owed upward of $90 million with no opt-out in sight. Moreover, the haul Colorado probably wanted in return was more than the Mets were willing to give up, which is probably the real reason a deal like this didn't happen in the offseason, and it didn't happen again now, because Colorado probably never came off of their asking price. And the Mets were probably right to not meet that price since it likely would have meant dealing a pitcher that they shouldn't be dealing at this point in time.

HOWEVER...Jose Reyes, while still owed quite a bit of money, is due about half of what Tulowitzki is owed, with a deal that expires after the 2017 season, which seemed so far away when he left to sign his "Godfather" deal with Jeffrey Loria and instead ended up with a dead fish in his locker. So to that end, it's not as onerous a contract to take on now that it's more than halfway complete. What's more important is that while Reyes will probably command a prospect of some acclaim in return, he does not command the mother lode that it would have taken to acquire Tulowitzki.

So maybe I'm reading between the lines too much, but this seems to be more than just a little coincidental. Mets need a SS. Colorados are trying to deal their SS. Mets and Colorado cannot agree on mutual terms as Colorado is asking too much. Colorados then deal said SS to another team to pick up a talented, but less expensive SS that they have little to no intention of keeping. Colorado and the Mets re-open discussions? The prodigal son returns home when the Mets need him the most?

This now stands to be a very interesting next few days.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Power of Professionalism

Within the span of about 45 minutes, a totally deflating afternoon turned into a victory snatched from the jaws of imminent disaster. Juan Uribe (It will take no less than the remainder of the regular season for me to get over the propensity to call him Jose Uribe) became the second New Met in as many days to pick up his official "WELCOME TO NEW YORK!" moment, as his 10th Inning RBI double plated the winning run in a 3-2 Mets victory. After playing two completely unwatchable games against the Dodgers and looking every bit like they were going to get blasted back into the late 1970s, the Mets got their acts together and won the final two games of the series and somehow earned themselves a split.

This isn't the first time the Mets have surprisingly split a series against a team that more often than not looked like they were in another league. The Mets did this against the Cardinals back in May, thanks to an outing of massive importance from Jacob deGrom on a Thursday afternoon after the Mets had been outscored 44-0 the last two nights. It should be of no surprise, then, that deGrom was on the mound on Sunday afternoon, putting forth a similar outing of massive importance. It was certainly a pitching matchup worth circling, as deGrom, who's rode the wave of his All Star Game dominance to further acclaim, matched up against Zack Greinke and his shutout streak that had reached 44 innings entering the game. So if you needed cannon fodder, this was it. If Greinke was mowing down everyone in sight, how would the punchless Mets have a prayer? In fact, he'd already done it to them once earlier this month. 

Well, sometimes you just have to stone up and hit the damn ball. And that's what the Mets did against Greinke, getting hits from Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Kevin Plawecki and taking advantage of Joc Pederson pulling his "L.A. Cool Dude" act and yakking on Plawecki's ball, allowing Nieuwenhuis to reach 3rd with no outs. A man on 3rd and no outs isn't exactly a winning proposition for the Mets, and lord knows that's a joke I've had to recycle far too many times for it to be funny anymore. But deGrom followed by hitting a well-placed ground ball at in the general vicinity of Adrian Gonzalez, and rather than take what was probably a sure Double Play, he tried to be a hero and throw home, but too late to get Nieuwenhuis. And that, my friends, is how you break Mr. Tough Guy's inning streak.

The Mets furthered their lead later on when Greinke lost the plate in the 6th, intentionally walkEd Murphy, Unintentionally walked Duda and then hit Michael Conforto with a pitch. It's actually nice to see that the Mets now finally have a hitter who's not afraid to hang over the plate and dare the pitcher to come inside, and then not make any sort of effort to get out of the way when he does. Conforto has reaffirmed my assertion that he might be kind of a competitive dick, and pulling a Chase Utley act like that to get his team a run only serves to endear him to everyone.

The 2 runs was all the Mets would get against Greinke, but that was OK because Greinke was getting totally skunked by deGrom. deGrom allowed the Dodgers 2 singles, 2 walks and that's about it. It's not often that you can say a pitcher got the best of Greinke but on this day, deGrom totally outdueled him, working 7.2 innings, striking out 8 batters and bridging the game directly to Jeurys Familia.

Unfortunately, Familia picked this particular game to fall flat on his face. Since the All Star Break, Familia's blown both of his Save opportunities, but then again that's two opportunities in now 10 games since the break, indicative of the fact that things have been going less than well for the Mets. He's also appeared in a pair of non-Save situations and looked fine. But what is disconcerting is that these are good, Playoff caliber teams that are beating him so it bears some raised eyebrows when Familia has the kind of 9th inning that he did yesterday. He got the first out fine, but then came a pair of rocket doubles from Gonzalez and Turner, and then a poke-job single by Yasmani Grandal, and before you could blink, the game was tied and deGrom got yet another no-decision hung on his head.

Coming off of Parnell's gag job on Wednesday, this had all the makings of an even more deflating loss. You could see a game like this dragging out into the 13th inning before someone annoying like Yasiel Puig or Pederson hit a 2-run Home Run off of Gilmartin and backflipped around the bases.

Fortunately, it didn't get that far. The Mets did nothing in their half of the 9th, and Jenrry Mejia performed some magic to get out of the 10th, including striking out Pederson with a runner on 3rd and 1 out. The Mets then created their own opportunity when Curtis Granderson, who all of a sudden has turned into Mr. Sparkplug, singled and then went to 2nd when Andre Ethier went after the ball like he was walking his dog. Following a botched sacrifice by Tejada and an intentional walk to Murphy, Don Mattingly made the curious decision to go to his closer Kenley Jansen right then and there to face Juan Uribe. And, of course, we know what happened, as Uribe took an 0-2 pitch and whacked it off the fence for the winning hit.

See? This is what happens when you have real, Major League hitters on your team. They come up against good pitchers and get big hits to help your team win games! A novel idea, no doubt, but you tell me if you think Eric Campbell would have gotten that hit. Or Johnny Monell. Or John Mayberry Jr. Or Danny Muno. Or anyone else of that particular ilk. This trade wasn't an earth-shattering move for the Mets but in two games you've already seen it pay off, if for no other reason than it gives the Mets actual viable options with their lineup, instead of the same old dreck that goes 0-for-4 every night and find it challenging to lay down a sacrifice bunt. It's nice, isn't it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

That Old Joke

I'd been out most of the day on Saturday and the game was well underway by time I arrived home, by which point the Mets had already run out to a lead and from there didn't look back. The Mets ended up hitting 4 Home Runs, knocking 21 hits and scoring 15 runs, and I was reminded of the old story from 1964 when the Mets won a game in Chicago, 19-1, and a fan called up a sports desk, saying "I heard the Mets scored 19 runs today." "Yes, that's right," replied the Operator. "But did they win?" queried the caller.

It's sort of been that way for the Mets recently, although you'd be hard pressed to find a day in which their pitching staff might get tagged for so many runs, a 15-run explosion for the Mets just seems unheard of. But that's what happened. They attacked hapless Dodger rookie Zach Lee for 4 runs in the 1st inning and went from there. Usually, when Matt Harvey pitches and wins, he's the story of the game. Matt Harvey does the job and the rest of the team just sort of does the minimum necessary, or Harvey gets fed up and drives in his own runs. Last night, Matt Harvey gave up a pair of Home Runs, probably because he was temporarily stunned from pitching with a big lead. Michael Conforto went 4-for-4 with a walk and scored 4 runs in his second Major League game. Kirk Nieuwenhuis also went 4-for-4 with 4 RBI. Lucas Duda hit a pair of Home Runs. Daniel Murphy hit a Home Run, probably the first thing he's done right in weeks. Kelly Johnson provided himself a nice "WELCOME TO NEW YORK!" moment with a Home Run of his own. Not to be outdone, Harvey himself drove in a pair of runs, the third consecutive game in which he's managed to do so.

Basically, everything clicked last night for the Mets in a way it hadn't, basically since the middle of April. You would like to think that it didn't take Terry Collins Terry Collins-puts-players-on-notice-hit-or-sit">basically threatening the hitters to start hitting to produce results like this but that's how it broke out. There are only so many ways you can get people's asses in gear and sometimes it takes going over the top to get the results you need. I highly doubt the Mets will now turn into some demented version of the Anaheim Angels, but with some new hitters who might actually hit on the roster now, perhaps it's pushed some of the borderline starters. Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores were benched outright with Conforto and Johnson now in town, and you can expect that Ruben Tejada and Daniel Murphy might find themselves shifted around as well.

It's Conforto who stole the show with his 4-hit charge, probably because that's exactly what you sort of blindly hope for when a hotshot Rookie hits the big stage. Much like the Mets won't score 15 runs again for a while, I think its safe to assume that Conforto won't bang out 4 hits every game. He shouldn't have to if the Mets actually turn this into something. What would be more helpful is if Johnson and Juan Uribe make their contributions count because they both come from winner's backgrounds. Uribe's only been on 2 World Series Champions, and he's contributed heavily to those causes and others once the calendar flips to October. Johnson has been a Met Killer for years and we've seen up close what he can do many times. The guys they're pushing are all players that just need to get the memo that they're blowing a really good chance to do something big.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Loser Either Way

I was supposed to be at Thursday night's game, but I exchanged my tickets for Friday night based on scheduling and pitching matchups. Based on the results, either decision would have been the wrong one.

The Mets played a game on Thursday night that was so lifeless I couldn't even be bothered to write a post about it. Granted, the Mets are hardly the first team to get steamrolled by Clayton Kershaw, but the Mets nearly turned it into an art form, as Kershaw had a Perfect Game into the 7th and certainly looked good—and the Mets bad—enough to finish the deal. Since I've already seen the Mets get No-hit this season, I'd had my fill of such games. Fortunately, the Mets managed 3 hits, but no runs and ran their train-wreck of a post-All-Star Break record to 2-5.

Tonight, I was expecting a matchup of Zack Greinke and Jon Niese, hardly a more favorable matchup for the Mets, but at least Niese has been in a really good groove lately, so he might at least keep it competitive. Colon kept the game on Thursday night competitive, too, in contrast to his prior start when the Cardinals beat his brains in. Greinke, however, was expecting himself, and thus was scratched from Friday's game in order to be with his wife. So, instead, I got Niese and Ian Thomas, whom I believe I saw earlier this season with the Braves.

Then, of course, earlier in the day came the news that Michael Cuddyer was going on the DL and the much-hyped prospect Michael Conforto was being called up. Conforto, with but a whisper of Minor League time on his resume, probably wasn't going to fix the offense by himself, but if nothing else some new blood is never a bad thing when you're going as badly as the Mets have. You try to find a balance, and if it means giving a kid a shot, well, give the kid a shot. What else is there to lose?

There was a palpable buzz in the air at Citi Field on this particular Friday, partially because of the lure of Free Shirt Friday, partially because of the Major League Debut for Conforto, and also because of the word flying around that the Mets were finally about to make a trade and get some more new faces in here. Granted, the trade was for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson, not exactly headliners, but hardly schlubs, either. For a team that's been trotting unabashed dreck off the bench for weeks, getting two real, professional players is a big deal. Uribe and Johnson on the bench, or in the lineup, means no more Danny Muno, no more John Mayberry, Jr, no more Johnny Monell, or whoever they decide to jettison. The last piece of news, which filtered out just as the game was about to start, was that like Greinke, Niese was also expecting, but opted to pitch the game.

Unfortunately, the way Niese pitched, he would have probably saved us all quite a bit of misery had he just gotten on a plane to Ohio instead. The Dodgers attacked Niese early and often, with old friend Justin Turner leading the charge, red hair flying all over the place and baseballs flying into gaps and into the seats. Turner drove home a 1st inning run, which got me thinking that the Mets would just have to come back, no big deal. In the 2nd, Niese got Thomas to ground into a DP with the bases loaded, to score a 2nd run, but rather then buckling down, he gave up another double to Joc Pederson to score a 3rd LA run. In the 3rd, Turner homered, then Yasiel Puig homered and given the way the Mets were going, this game was toast. Niese was out of the game following the 3rd, mercifully, and Carlos Torres took over. Predictably, he threw 3 shutout innings. Had Niese left, well, maybe Torres would have taken the start and maybe we'd be writing a different story here tonight.

When it's 6-0 and you want to just leave, well, you start looking for reasons to stick around. On this night, Conforto was everyone's reason. His first at bat came with 2 outs and Juan Lagares on 1st, facing Thomas, a lefty. Undaunted, Conforto hacked at the first pitch and hit a screaming line drive which unfortunately found Scott Van Slyke's glove. Had 1st been unoccupied, this ball would likely have been in the corner. Conforto later hit in the 5th, with Lucas Duda on 3rd and 1 out. He grounded out to 2nd, but if nothing else the grounder got Duda home, giving Conforto his first career RBI. In the 7th, Conforto grounded out again. At 0-for-3, not an overwhelming debut, but at least Conforto looks the part of a professional hitter. He wasn't content to just swing at sucker pitches or hit pop flies, he was swinging like he meant it. I know most of the Mets do, but you sense that Conforto has an approach that lives up to his hype.

More than that, however, Conforto looks the part of a Joc Pederson or Baseball Jesus. He doesn't have the ink they're getting yet, but you can see there's that swagger to him. He's got that kind of cocky, weasel-y sort of look to him. You could see him walking into an opposing team's stadium, ripping 3 doubles and strutting around with this smug smirk on his face while the opposing fans seethe. He has attitude. The only players on the Mets you can say that about right now are all Pitchers. The offense needs a guy like that. Hopefully he sticks around.

So, basically, the pieces of the game were more interesting than the game itself, and it's unfortunate that that's not the first time I've had to say that this season. But maybe these new faces will help to fix that a little bit. Again, these players aren't going to turn the whole thing around by themselves. But you want to at least try to change something and finally something's being changed. Washington refuses to get out of their own way, so the Mets have every opportunity to wreak some havoc. Now they just have to get wreaking.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Stupid Strikes Again

The Mets played a game on Wednesday afternoon that was rather specifically reminiscent of a few games they played way back in 2008, which just so happens to be the last time the team was this relevant this late in the season. I somehow maintain that 2008 was one of the more poignant seasons in Mets history because of everything that was at stake and how it all came down to the last two innings of the season. It feels like a lifetime ago, so on the one hand maybe it's good that the Mets can now once again lose games that feel as exasperating as this particular loss did. On the other hand, I think we're all sick and tired of these such exasperating losses no matter where the Mets are in the standings.

The problem in 2008 was that the Mets bullpen was so embarrassingly bad that teams, no matter how terrible they were, always kept playing extra hard against the Mets because they knew they could come back if they could get into the bullpen. The script is different now in 2015, because teams continue to play hard against the Mets knowing that if they can somehow catch a Pitcher on an off day, they can come back and grab a lead knowing that the Mets offense is so embarrassingly bad that they can't get off the mat.

This, unfortunately, is what happened on Wednesday afternoon. Noah Syndergaard gritted his way through 5 innings with less than his best stuff, but he was still good enough to depart with a 3-1 lead. The Mets offense had their 3-run spurt in a 4th inning rally, but could not tack on anything more from there. But after Hansel Robles got through the 6th and Jenrry Mejia the 7th, you had to feel pretty good about the way things were going. Bobby Parnell was reborn and pitching great, and he'd get the Mets through the 8th, and Jeurys Familia would bring it home from there, awesome win, .500 road trip, series win against fierce rival and 1 game out of 1st coming home.

But nooooooooo. That was too easy. Parnell, for the first time since his return, didn't have it. Although from what I saw on Gamecast he was throwing 96-97mph for the first time in a long time, he allowed a hit, and then a walk, and although he was 1 strike away from putting away Michael Taylor, the Nationals' 15-year old Center fielder, everything collapsed in the span of two pitches The first pitch was wild and allowed the runners to move up. The second pitch was bounced up the middle for a hit that scored both runs and tied the game. And if that wasn't bad enough, Danny Espinosa, who no longer sports the mutant Sal Fasano moustachio that he had earlier in the season, then drilled a double to left to score the 15-year old Center Fielder and give Washington the lead.

True to form, the Mets had no recourse to come back from this. Drew Støren came in and struck out the side in the 9th, and the Mets had one of those games that made me want to mash my head into my desk at work and what appeared like a golden opportunity to make a statement was flushed down the proverbial toilet.

But, this is what happens sometimes. A reliever doesn't have his best stuff every game and good teams will take advantage of that. Terry Collins put the blame on himself but should it really have come to this? Were the Mets of more offensive fortitude, they probably would have taken Jordan Zimmermann behind the woodshed because he was plenty hittable early in the game, but the Mets couldn't extend their lead like they did on Tuesday night. A few more runs in the bank and they're able to absorb a bad outing by Parnell and Collins can get Familia in the game sooner and everything is probably hunky dory. But this is what happens when you can't hit. So, for as much as you'd like to pin this loss on Parnell, or Terry Collins would like to pin the loss on himself, the reality remains that it always comes back to the fact that you can't win games if you don't hit enough. Only now has it cost the Mets a game that they really should have won and screwed them out of a really good opportunity.

Now they can come home off of a really deflating loss and have the high pleasure of facing Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke on back-to-back days and everything is terrible.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fighting Back

Through 6 innings last night, the Mets appeared headed for certain doom. They'd managed to plate a run against Joe Ross in the 4th inning, but nothing further than that. Though Jacob deGrom pitched about as well as you can expect a pitcher to do with zero margin for error, but finding himself one out away from escaping a 5th inning jam, deGrom finally bent and Wilson Ramos reached him for a 2-run Home Run that put Washington ahead. This wasn't any particular mistake by deGrom; he'd allowed Washington to get Yunel Escobar to 3rd base with 1 out, but rebounded to notch a huge strikeout of Ian Desmond in the sort of situation where Desmond would normally have killed the Mets. But Ramos, who like Desmond is basically a Greg Dobbs clone, reached out and flicked a slider over the fence.

deGrom was, needless to say, Harvey-level pissed off and screaming expletives on the mound, something I'm sure every Mets fan was doing along with him, but he regained his composure, finished the 5th and iced the Nationals in the 6th.

But, of course, the real question was if the Mets could somehow get that run back and keep Washington from pulling away like they usually do. They got a little rally going in the 7th, when Flores singled and Kirk Nieuwenhuis poked a cue shot towards Clint Robinson at 1st that snaked past him for a 2-base Error that probably should have been a double. This gave the Mets 2nd and 3rd and none out, and of course the prevailing thought here wasn't the approaching strategy, it was how were the Mets going to screw this one up. Washington pulled their infield in, I suppose because even they assumed a weak ground ball was in order. Plawecki followed by popping out, and with deGrom's spot due up, Terry Collins went to Eric Campbell and his .087 batting average, because when you need a big hit, I mean, who else would you turn to? So naturally Campbell fired a 2-run single to Right Field to give the Mets the lead, because in this season that's been totally ass-backwards, it would have to be Campbell coming up big in a spot like that, wouldn't it?

This breathed new life into the Mets, even if it meant removing deGrom from the game after a mere 82 pitches, but this Bullpen Tryptich of Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell and Jeurys Familia (which has taken over the Familia/Mejia Report of last season) was up to the challenge of holding the lead, and holding the lead...but something funny happened in the 9th, which was that the Mets tacked on more runs. A novel idea, no doubt, because it made Familia's job easier (and in fact removed the Save opportunity altogether). Tanner Roark, one of those Awesome Nationals Pitchers that's so good he can't even crack the rotation, came in for the 9th and the Mets basically singled him to death, getting runners on and then getting scoring hits from Granderson, Tejada and Murphy and rather than sitting around waiting for the roof to cave in, the Mets wound up walking away with a nice little 7-2 victory, getting them even in this series and putting them just one win away from a .500 road trip that seemed a long ways away a few days ago.

So, after the horrible sinking feeling that was permeating every Mets fan last night, now there's a less-horrible feeling today because if they can get a win this afternoon—€and certainly you have to like their chances with Noah Syndergaard on the mound—€they'd be all of one game out. Amazingly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In With A Whimper

The Mets came in to Washington last night trailing the division leading Nationals by all of two games, which is a small miracle in and of itself, because the Mets, at least on one side of the ball, look like a team that should be 25 games out and playing out the string. Only because of consistently excellent pitching have they managed to stay afloat and it's got them this far. Not to belabor the point, but this series, combined with the 3 games the Mets will play at home against Washington next weekend, stand to be the biggest games the Mets have had in several years.

And with that in mind, of course, the Mets trotted out a lineup that included Eric Campbell, Anthony Recker and John Mayberry Jr. This was in addition to the usual dreck they've been trotting out there. When Matt Harvey didn't have it early, and wasn't helped by Daniel Murphy having a trademark Daniel Murphy tic-fit game, and the Mets fell behind, everyone knew the game was over. Gio Gonzalez appeared bound and determined to let the Mets back in the game, but they just weren't capable of taking it. Multiple times, Gonzalez threw first pitch strikes so fat that he may as well have just walked to home plate and set the ball on a tee, and of course Mets batters just watched them pass. The two runs the Mets did muster were driven in by Harvey himself, at a point in the game when a team with an actual bench might have gone to a Pinch Hitter.

The 5-run hole Harvey got himself into wasn't entirely his fault. True, he was totally over-amped in the 1st inning, when Washington scored twice, but later on, Daniel Murphy turned into a Little Leaguer, letting a line drive hit directly at him clank off his glove, then airmailed a ball into the seats allowing a run to score. If Gil Hodges were still alive, he would have walked over to 3rd Base and removed Daniel Murphy from the game by his ear.

To his credit, Harvey did manage to get back to himself and plow through several more innings, keeping the score 5-2, but he departed in the 8th and Alex Torres then surrendered Ian Desmond's inevitable Home Run, because what would a Mets/Nationals game be without Ian Desmond hitting a Home Run to kill the game completely.

An article by Will Leitch was flying around my radar this morning, the gist of which summed up this season to a tee: The Mets have been this laughingstock for years, and lord knows I'm beyond sick of it. Nobody respects the Mets. Everything is picked on to the point where the Mets basically have become the Red Sox prior to 2004. And now, they have this incredible pitching staff that's capable of mowing down everyone that deigns to get wily, and management continues to do absolutely nothing to back them up. The biggest series of the year, and the Mets are starting Campbell, Mayberry and Recker?! Who are they trying to fool? Of course Mets fans are angry even though the team is winning, because it seems like the upper management of this team is afraid of success! That's the impression I have right now. They don't even need to spend a ton of money to improve things, it would cost some prospects which right now the Mets have coming out of their ears, but they don't do anything about it. I think what frustrates Mets fans the most is that there's no real explanation as to WHY they don't make any kind of effort to pick up a bat. It's no secret that Fred Wilpon is basically a carcass at this point, and Ratso is too busy acting like a $2 Carny on Coney Island (my alternate adjective would have been to say he's acting like MLB's version of Donald Trump). So should anyone be too surprised that Sandy Alderson has no particular directive?

I know that the pride of these starting pitchers is too great to just let this team die like they usually do right out of the All Star Break, and that right now may be the only thing keeping Mets fans together right now. But how can you have too much faith in a team who, in the past 4 games lost a 3-2 game, got pasted, took 18 innings and 25 men left on base to score 3 runs and by some miracle win, and then go into the biggest series of the year with a lineup that combined hits under the Mendoza Line?

I mean, I've gotten over 2006, I've moved beyond 2007 and 2008 and I know a boatload of Mets fans haven't forgiven the team for what happened in those years. I suppose it's because I adhere to the old Woody Allen corollary that Comedy = Tragedy + Time. But these past six years have really tried my patience at times, not because of the endless losing, but because of the endless stupidity. And right now, the Mets have a chance to make this right, and make it all better, and maybe heal those wounds and bring that support back to Citi Field. But instead of trying to bolster a team that could really use some bolstering, they're spoon-feeding us Eric Campbell, Anthony Recker and John Mayberry Jr. And that's a Goddamn Shame.

Monday, July 20, 2015


Every few years now, the Mets play one of these ridiculously extended games where they just can't seem to get out of their own way, and they get magnificent pitching for inning upon inning, and at the same time they prove themselves so comically inept on offense that when they do eventually score a run, it seems as though they did so in spite of themselves. Sunday's game was such an instance.

For 18 innings, the Mets waged a war that seemed to be more with themselves than with the Cardinals. Mets batters reached base in 17 of the 18 innings. 16 reached via hit. 13 reached via walk. One reached via Error. 3 of them scored. 25 were left on base, which tied an ignominious team record. The Mets went 1-for-47 with Runners in Scoring Position in this game. Juan Lagares was 2-for-10. Wilmer Flores was 3-for-9. Daniel Murphy seemed to be 0-for-16. Sean Gilmartin took an At Bat and got a hit. Jacob deGrom was summoned as a Pinch Hitter and walked. Mets batters saw 319 pitches in a game that lasted 5 hours and 54 minutes.

And, after all that, they won. They damn well better have given all the opportunities they were given.

I've said that once a game extends past the 11th inning, general logic of Baseball starts to be abandoned. Once you pass the 14th inning, you're entering what's basically Baseball Twilight Zone. When a game goes more than 16 innings, well, you start seeing the absolutely bizarre start to happen, generally out of desperation more than anything else. That's what we were subjected to on Sunday.

Jon Niese, if you'll remember, started the game and was brilliant, pitching shutout ball into the 8th inning, while the Mets offense did what they usually do and spend most of the afternoon acting like a bunch of Electric Football players. Niese departed in the 8th inning with the game still scoreless, as Niese received no run support in spite of the fact that Tim Cooney was ripe for the taking. Cooney, and his successors, Seth Maness, Seth Choate, Seth Tuivalala, Seth Siegrist and Seth Socolovich were all ripe for the taking, because they all managed to let Mets reach base and then stay glued to the bases while other Mets took turns popping out to 2nd base, grounding out to 3rd, or just striking out altogether. This continued on through 10 innings, and then the Cardinals turned to Mustachioed Carlos Villanueva, whose job was to basically pitch as many innings as necessary, so by this point Genius Mike Matheny was throwing the book out the window.

On the Mets side, their job, since nobody seemed to want to score a run, was to just keep the Cardinals from scoring, which they kept being forced to do, and dammit, they just kept doing it. Bobby Parnell got through a quiet 9th. Jenrry Mejia nearly spit it up in the 11th, after allowing a leadoff double to Randal Grichuk, a frightening intentional walk to Jhonny Peralta and a sac fly to Mark Reynolds. This set up the Cardinals with a golden opportunity to win the game, with Yadier Molina at the plate, but Ratso Molina hasn't quite been his usual irritating self, and he bounced into a Double Play to end the inning. This was, happily, Molina's 3rd DP of the game, and each time he seemed to be moving slower and slower up that 1st base line, at a pace that would make John Olerud look swift.

Hansel Robles pitched an easy 12th, which brought us to the 13th. Curtis Granderson, who didn't start the game and yet now found himself getting his 3rd AB, looped a ball into Left field and decided he'd had enough of this fuckery and took an extra base. Kevin Plawecki followed with a single and once again, Granderson decided to take an extra base and scored the first run of the game. The Mets had a golden opportunity to extend this lead, except that once Plawecki reached 3rd on a Ruben Tejada single, the Mets remembered that they were the Mets and immediately turned back into pumpkins, popping out, striking out and stranding runners. This would loom large, because Jeurys Familia was summoned into the game after warming up no less than 4 times and ended up giving up a pop fly Home Run to Kolten Wong. Of course he did. Because this game hadn't gone on long enough.

So, we continued, through the 14th, when Sean Gilmartin came into the game, and through the 15th, where Genius Matheny had the brilliant idea to summon the next day's starter, Carlos Martinez, from the bullpen to eat a few innings, to the 16th, where Gilmartin batted and picked up his 1st Major League hit in the process—and was predictably stranded. In the 17th, the Mets once again had an opportunity, with Tejada (Tejada? Sure, why not) on 1st and 2 out, and Matheny, genius that he is, had the idea to walk Daniel Murphy intentionally to bring up the Mets latest Pinch Hitter...Jacob deGrom. So Murphy was passed, and then deGrom was up, and Martinez ended up walking him too, although this served no other purpose than to inflate the Mets futility figures since Lucas Duda subsequently struck out.

In the last of the 17th, Carlos Torres came in, which was a bad sign, although in a game like this, I guess even Torres was capable of putting up a few zeroes. Which he did, although with 2 outs, SNY went black, and then blue as a "Please Stand By" screen came up. My assumption was that this game had gone so long and become so asinine that it actually broke SNY. Fortunately, there was still audio, and Gary Cohen could call a game via smoke signals if he needed to, so I at least heard Torres get out of the inning.

The feed was still out in the 18th as Flores led off with a hit, and then fortunately returned as Granderson got a hit. Plawecki then attempted to bunt, with most of the Cardinals infield charging out of their shoes, but Martinez appeared a bit overzealous in his attempt to field the ball, ended up booting it and getting nobody out. So this meant that the Mets had the bases loaded and nobody out. But after 17 inning of this shit I'm sure nobody was particularly confident that they would manage to get a run across. Somehow, they did, if only because Ruben Tejada got just enough of a pitch to drive it deep enough to score Flores and move Granderson to 3rd, and amazingly, the Mets picked up an insurance run when Terry Collins called for a squeeze and even more amazingly, it worked. This gave the Mets 3 runs, which represented their high total for the series, and Torres fortunately made it stand up—or had the Cardinals just decided that they'd had enough by that point. I'm pretty sure I did.

So, yeah. 18 innings to score 3 runs and leave 26 runners on base as the Mets now go to Washington for perhaps their most important series of the year. And Cuddyer's hurting, and Johnny Monell was sent back to AAA, and in his place the Mets called up...Anthony Recker.

I'm not saying that a reactionary move needs to be made here, but if Cuddyer has to go on the DL, and the offense just needs a kick in the ass, and you have 3 games against the team you're chasing, well, isn't it time to give one of these hotshot kids we keep hearing about a little burn? 3 runs in 18 innings isn't going to fly against Washington. 3 runs in 18 innings isn't going to fly against anybody. It's just some bizarre dumb luck that it worked on Sunday.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Early Exit

I have, in the past, talked about how you can tell whether or not Bartolo Colon has it in a game within the first dozen pitches or so. He's usually cool and collected, no matter how bad he looks, but there's particular signs. If he's looking nimble and on point, where he's hitting his spots and getting hitters to chase bad pitches, he's good. But if he looks fat and sweaty and he's flipping the ball up in the air, the Mets are probably in trouble.

Last night, Colon was looking sweaty from the first pitch. The results indicated as much.

Colon barely survived a 1st inning where the Cardinals strung together a bunch of ringing hits, allowing 4 runs and putting the Mets in a hole that they probably weren't going to be able to claw themselves out of. Sure, they managed to get some singles against John Lackey, but for all the hits they managed, they weren't driving in any runs, which is probably a familiar refrain at this point. Colon, in spite of an awful 1st inning and in spite of Carlos Torres throwing before said inning was over, actually got it together and kept himself in the game for a few more innings, but by then the damage was already done. Then the damage was done some more, in case you weren't sure, in the 5th inning, when the Cardinals got more runs, knocked Colon out of the game, and then Carlos Torres allowed a Home Run to Randal Grichuk and I figured it was time to watch something else.

By time the Grichuk bookended his night by hitting another Home Run off the other Terrible Torres, I was long gone so I've at least wised up to the fact that games like this aren't worth my time once the opponent hangs an 8-spot on the board.

Meanwhile, the Mets continue to generate singles by the bucketload, but never in a useful-enough sequence to score some runs, so what you end up with is this comical sort of line where the Mets actually picked up 12 hits in this game, but only two runs, so you can assume they were leaving runners on base by the boatload while Cardinal runners continually found ways to cross the plate.

Two games into the second half and I'd already like to hit the reset button. Again. What's with this team that it continually finds ways to die after the All Star Break?

Friday, July 17, 2015


The schedule makers in MLB must clearly like to fuck around with the Mets, because I think this is the 5th season in a row where they come out of the All Star Break with a murderously difficult road trip that could very well sink their chances before they really have a chance to get going.

Every year, the Mets come out of the break and have to go on some absurd trip like San Francisco/Milwaukee/San Diego, or Los Angeles/San Francisco/Seattle or Colorado/Philadelphia/Arizona, and they end up falling flat on their faces, going 3-8 and end up screwing up their entire season. This season seems to be no different, since they come out of the break and while their road trip is shorter, it still involves St. Louis and Washington, and then a trip home to play Los Angeles, San Diego and Washington.

The extra home games might be helpful, but considering how well they do against Washington at home and how well they do against St. Louis in general it might still be another screw job.

The Mets went out on Friday, in St. Louis with their selfie-stick fans and more or less played the kind of game you expected them to. Noah Syndergaard pitched great, the Mets didn't hit, the Cardinals won 3-2. I didn't even see the game and I was able to boil it down to 3 sentences, and I don't even need to read the recap I just linked to because I know the story.

There's now 14 days until the trading deadline and I know that names like Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez are being bandied about but is that going to make the kind of difference the Mets need right now? They didn't hit Lance Lynn and a succession of relievers on a night when they just needed to score 4 runs. In fact, most nights, if they could score 4 runs, they'd probably be golden, but it's such a tall order I can't even get over it.

Doesn't get better from here. The Cardinals, who also don't hit much, but hit enough, come back tomorrow with John Lackey, whom the Mets have never hit (although to be fair they also haven't faced him much). Can't wait to see how that goes.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Unkind Houseguests

It seems inevitable, when going to games at Citi Field, and probably at any Major League ballpark, that people show up to the game that are fans of the opposing team. That's just part of Baseball, I suppose, but perhaps it's magnified here in New York, where there are so many tourists and transplants that don't root for the Mets, or the other New York team. Plenty of Mets fans can be found at other team's stadiums as well, when the Mets go on the road. In a perfect world, you'd think that fans of the opposing team would come to a game, be respectful, root for their team and everyone would have a good time. I'd also like to think that Mets fans are, for the most part, gracious hosts, although I know that's not always the case. That being said, Mets fans seem to generally be well-behaved; perhaps this was most evident the night that they found themselves on the wrong side of History. Mets fans were lauded for their support of youngster Chris Heston as he finished out the game, and though I admittedly sat and stewed in muted agony, I certainly didn't root against Heston, or at least not openly. 

But, then again, this isn't a perfect world and there's always a few select jackasses that can get out of line (I am excluding from this group, the people I like to refer to as "Confused Fans," people that come to the game wearing garb for a team that's not even playing in said game). When it happens at Citi Field, I personally am not so salty as to actually take this matter into my own hands, but it leaves a particularly bad impression of a fan base. I am of the mind that if a fan base is particularly detestable, the team probably is as well, and so what ends up happening is there's a group of teams that I dislike for no other reason than I don't like their fans.

This has come up enough this season to get me thinking about which teams have, by my estimation, the least likable fans, particularly after a couple of specific incidents that drew my ire. For me to not like a fan base, they generally have to behave a certain way:

1) Self-aggrandizing.
2) Think they're the reason for their team's success.
3) Act as though their team has already won something before the season's over.
4) Trash the Mets.

So, then, here's how opposing teams' fans break out when it comes to invading Citi Field:

Atlanta Braves: A rare case of where the team's success against the Mets has caused my dislike moreso than the behavior of their fans. Their fans used to be kind of annoying, but that was mostly when Larry was playing. My interactions with them have been fine. Oddly, their years of being on TBS and having their games broadcast so widely once led me to be seated next to a group of Braves fans from Sweden.

Miami Marlins: Only have 4 fans, so be sure to take a picture as proof if you come across one. I saw one of them at a Mets/Marlins game earlier this season but foolishly I didn't get my phone out when I saw him. Spotting one is like playing "Where's Waldo?"

Philadelphia Phillies: Were among the worst when the team was going well, invaded Shea Stadium and then Citi Field, talked all sorts of trash, started fights, stomped on rally towels and generally ruined every Mets fans' impression of them. However, now that the Phillies have returned to mediocrity their fans have now crawled back into their caves. So you can add fair-weather to the list of adjectives describing them.

Washington Nationals: Limited presence at Mets games, partially because I think the people of Washington are still trying to figure out who the Nationals are. For a city in such close proximity to New York, Nationals fans don't seem very inclined to make the trip north, even considering the success they have had in Citi Field. More a reflection of their relevance within their own community than their mass appeal.

Honorable Mention: Since we're on the topic of the Nationals, I should mention that I was at the last game in Montreal Expos history in 2004, and in retrospect it was really heartbreaking to see that a large contingent of Montreal fans had come to New York to see their team one last time, and after the final out had all crowded around the team's dugout to give them one final Au Revoir. A passionate group that just got screwed over continually and deserved better.

Chicago Cubs: Perfect example of a truly obnoxious, unlikeable fan base. I've made many mentions about some particular encounters I've had with Cubs fans that serve to underscore my point. Cubs fans just have no clue. They're so used to mediocrity that in the demented minds of their fans, simply being a .500 team equates to a major victory and they will act as such. Their fans will actually come up and talk trash to you unprovoked. They come out to Citi Field en masse and walk around with their chests puffed out like they own the place and they've deified their players so much that when Kris Bryant came to bat, I'm pretty sure half the Cubs fans in attendance had an orgasm. But, of course, the joke's on them, because they still haven't won a thing in over a century, and everyone knows this, so instead their bravado ends up being more comical than anything else when they inevitably lose.

Cincinnati Reds: Reds fans tend to travel in families, so they don't get out of line all that often. I did have one instance a few years ago in a game where Todd Frazier was bombing Home Runs all over the place and a pair of mustachioed hipsters were bouncing from section to section rooting for the Reds a little too loudly for my liking, but they also probably had too much to drink.

Milwaukee Brewers: Because the Brewers are an obscure, small-market team, they don't have much of a contingent here. I can't recall seeing many, or any of their fans here. Anyone else?

Pittsburgh Pirates: Not a heavily-represented fan base when the Pirates come to town, but a good group that seems to be pretty well-aware of their History and Heritage. But now that they're finding some success after being so bad for so long, I'm curious to see how they change.

St. Louis Cardinals: Absolutely everything you could possibly dislike about a fan base is embodied in Cardinals fans. They travel in large groups, they've clearly let the whole "Best Fans in Baseball" assertion go to their head, the extended run of success the team has had has totally gone to their heads, they think they're God's Gift to Baseball, they walk around sniffing each other's underwear, they carry Selfie Sticks, they only drink Budweiser, they say things like "You need to get a hit NOW, Matt Carpenter! " and it feels like a majority of them have just crawled out of the woodwork since they started winning every year.

Arizona Diamondbacks: I was all set to talk about how I've never seen one, and then I went to a Mets/Diamondbacks game last Friday and there were a whole host of people in Diamondbacks jerseys, etc, so maybe they've finally built themselves up enough that they're starting to show themselves. They keep quiet, mostly, I guess because they're still learning how to Baseball.

Colorado Rockies: Another group of fans that you don't see many of when the Colorados come to town. I'm not entirely sure if it's because they're a Western team or because they're still relatively new in Baseball terms and just haven't built up that kind of a fan base.

Los Angeles Dodgers: An interesting case because there's still some small faction of Brooklyn Dodgers fans that never gave up the ship, as evidenced by the fact that when the Dodgers and Mets squared off in the NLDS in 2006, I saw a group of nuns in Dodgers hats walking around Shea Stadium. Dodgers fans have a reputation of being too cool for the room, particularly when it comes to their own home games, and when they go on the road, yes, they do have fans that show up at Citi Field but they're sort of a nonentity when it comes to making their presence known.

San Diego Padres: I've been to my share of Mets/Padres games but for the life of me I can't recall ever seeing a Padres fan. I know they have fans. Perhaps they just like the weather in San Diego too much to go anywhere else.

San Francisco Giants: You'd think, given that the Giants have won 3 World Series Championships in the last 5 years, and they have a New York fan base that purchases entire sections of tickets to games whenever they come to town, and they've often outnumbered Mets fans on specific occasions that they might be totally overbearing, but oddly every interaction I've had with Giants fans has been nothing but pleasant. They root for their team, but they don't talk trash, they don't go over the top, they celebrate only when appropriate and they only seem interested in having a good time. So I have to give them credit for good sportsmanship.

And then there's the American League teams, whom we don't see much of at Citi Field, so I don't have much to go on. I can say that the Mets/Blue Jays game I attended earlier this season did feature many Toronto fans, but they mostly were very well-mannered and polite, I assume because they were Canadian. I've also seen games against Baltimore, Chicago, Anaheim, Detroit, Tampa and Boston and can't say I've noticed anything noteworthy, although the Boston games came in 1997, 1999 and 2001, back when they were totally defeated and beaten down by life and hadn't yet experienced the trappings of victory. Then, there's the Yankees, and I've made no bones about purposefully not going to any more Mets/Yankees games, simply because I can't take the Yankees fans. The choreographed line dances and Home Run chants are bad enough, but at least they aren't allowed to perform their pre game Chicken Sacrifice at Citi Field. Or at least I think they're not allowed to. We try to preach civility and not barbarism.

So, there you have it. Next up for me are the Dodgers, followed by the Padres, and other games to come against the Colorados and Philly, and even a rare appearance by the Boston Red Sox so we'll see if any of these impressions change. If anyone has any other experiences they'd like to share, please chime in.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In The Shadows

The best way to describe the first half of the 2015 Mets season would be that they've been lurking. They've been basically hanging on the fringes of being a real contender, while teetering on the brink of general obscurity. They've looked really good at times, and then astoundingly horrible at other times, which I suppose is to be expected from a team that's still trying to figure out how to win. What's worked in their favor is that the team that was supposed to be burying them in the standings, the Washington Nationals, can't get out of their own way either, and so the Mets find themselves at the All Star Break only two games out of 1st place. But still, this team has enough flaws that it's tough to figure out if they're a contender or if they'd be better served waiting for next season. That's how in-between this season has been.

What's gone Right:
1) Jeurys Familia
After Jenrry Mejia didn't answer the bell on Opening Day, and then didn't clear the Winstrol out of his system, the closer role for the Mets was once again in flux. Bobby Parnell wasn't ready and wasn't himself. Vic Black was on another planet. So the first crack at the job went to Jeurys Familia and all Familia has done with the role has take it and run. It's not outlandish to say that Familia has been the Mets MVP to this point this season; 27 Saves in 29 Opportunities and a microscopic 1.25 ERA speaks for itself. The question now isn't whether he can handle the role, it's how he reacts when the stakes get higher.

2) Jacob deGrom
The lone Mets All Star has pretty much squashed the fears of a sophomore jinx, as he's looked better than he did last year most of the time. A few hiccups in early May, but otherwise, deGrom has been the best starter the Mets have had all season and there's not much debate on that.

3) The Rookie Pitchers
I'll lump in Steven Matz with Noah Syndergaard if only because Matz has had two starts and was really good in both, and now we just have to hope that the Mets aren't selling us another lather job on his lat injury. Syndergaard has been the real story, because for the most part he's looked exactly as good as advertised through his first 11 starts while looking less and less like a 22-year old Rookie every time he takes the mound.

4) Matt Harvey
I say that Harvey has gone right this season, not based on the numbers, but because for the most part it appears his recovery from the Big Boy Surgery has been a success. His stuff is back; this is evident even on the days when his arm might not agree with him. The fear I had was that he'd fall into some bad Bill Pulsipher zone but it seems apparent that that won't happen.

What's Been OK:
1) Lucas Duda
For the first two months of the season, Duda had gone from one of the best hitters on the team to one of the best hitters in the league. But without any viable protection in the lineup, Duda started pressing and falling into bad habits and the result was a June performance that rivaled any of his worst pre-2014 follies. He appeared to be creeping out of it around the All Star Break but if nobody around him hits, he's going to have more problems.

2) Wilmer Flores
It took Flores some time, but for a while there he was one of the best bats the Mets had going. He started running cold again in June but his numbers remain respectable. Part of the problem with Flores is that so many people seem to be so anti-Flores because he made a few errors early in the season that they just don't buy into the idea that he's a viable Major Leaguer and that's a mistake. Don't believe what you read. Flores is a good hitter and he wouldn't be here if that weren't the case. Give him enough of a chance and he'll prove this to be true.

3) Travis d'Arnaud
I'd say Travis d'Arnaud would have gone under "what's gone right" except he can't stay on the field. Durability was always an issue for him and now it's come to a head because the Mets lineup has really suffered without him.

4) The Bullpen
The starting rotation has been the overwhelming strength of the team so far, but the Bullpen has been good, too. We talked about Familia already, but other pitchers like Bobby Parnell, Hansel Robles, Erik Goeddel, Jack Leathersich and Sean Gilmartin have also had some good moments (and I'm not including the Torreses here). As with any bullpen, they've had blowups, but in general they've done all right.

What's Gone Wrong
1) Most of the Offense
I'm not sure where to start here. It would take me too long to go over this individually so maybe it's easier to just lump people together by level of putridity:
Sucks: Michael Cuddyer, John Mayberry, Eric Campbell, Anthony Recker, Kirk Nieuwenhuis (Sunday notwithstanding), Johnny Monell, Daniel Muno, basically everyone on the bench
Stinks: Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, Kevin Plawecki
Tepid: Curtis Granderson, Dilson Herrera, Juan Lagares.
Do with this information what you will.

2) Injuries
How many more years of multiple roster-crippling injuries do the Mets have to endure before they realize that this particular medical staff isn't working? When you lead the league in Big Boy Surgeries, and when you have key players getting diagnosed with minor injuries that take half a season to get better, there's a disconnect and I'm truly baffled as to why nothing has been done about this after 6 years. Maybe if they were the training staff for the Brooklyn Cyclones, Ratso Wilpon would do something about it.

3) Inactivity
So, when you have so many players out for lengthy periods of time with no timetable for return, you'd think upper management would try to do something to make this better, right? Well, to this point that hasn't happened, and much like I'm baffled by the medical staff, I'm baffled as to why Sandy Alderson hasn't made some kind of move, even if it was just something cosmetic to let us know he's trying. Is the financial situation of the team really still that much of an issue? Somewhere, someone's not telling the truth and all any of us are able to do is conjecture over what the real problem here is, and in the meantime, a once-promising season is teetering on the brink of going down the shitter just like all of the 6 years before that unless something is done to save it. But then again, it may be beyond saving. We keep getting sold on this bill of goods that "Oh, 2014 is the year..." "Oh, 2015 is the year..." Now, we're hearing "Oh, 2016 is the year..." until something else stupid happens and they change their mind again. At some point they have to just say Fuck it and go for the cup and stop worrying about whatever it is they're afraid of.

So, then, the Mets have 73 games left to get this thing right. They're 47-42 and two games out of 1st place and have every opportunity to strike, but can they take advantage of it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Make Them Remember

Generally, I want two things out of the All Star Game. I want the National League to win, and I want the Mets playing in the game to represent themselves well.

I got one out of two this year in Cincinnati. Though the American League, behind Mike Trout (sorry Cubs fans, Trout is the real Baseball Jesus, not Kris Bryant), won the game by a mostly forgettable 6- 3 margin, the lone Met presence at the game acquitted himself particularly well. Jacob deGrom performed so remarkably well, in fact, that he forcibly interjected not just himself, but his team into the conversation.

deGrom entered the game in the top of the 6th inning with the National League trailing 3- 1. Just one inning earlier, Clayton Kershaw, who was selected for the game at the last minute over a possibly more-deserving Jeurys Familia, had pitched and was battered around for two runs, and eventually took the loss in the game. To this point, our wonderful friends at FOX had done just about everything possible to pretend that the Mets actually did not exist. Prior to the game, if you watched their 1st half Highlight package, there were clips from every team, including the lousy Phillies and the Mickey Mouse Marlins, but not a single Mets clip to be found, except from the night that they found themselves on the wrong side of History, and even then, that wasn't a Mets clip, that was at the expense of the Mets. Kirk Nieuwenhuis was among a select few to knock 3 Home Runs in a game, but was he in the montage? Oh no. We don't abscond to show the Mets. They're not relevant. They're not attractive. They're boring. It wouldn't have surprised me if FOX had found a way to omit the Mets from the "Franchise Four" ceremony (where, if you were paying attention, the Washington Nationals Franchise Four included four players who never actually played for the Washington Nationals—so if you're keeping score, the Nationals have un-retired the Expos' retired numbers, basically ignored the Expos heritage and history, and yet haven't yet actually distinguished themselves from the Expos). When announcing the rosters, that plastic-haired schmuck Joe Buck sneered as he said, "And from the Mets..." as though they weren't even worthy of sending someone to the game. And, through the first five innings, things played out as such.

Then, Jacob deGrom entered the game and not-so-subtly told FOX to kiss his ass.

We have been watching deGrom ply his trade all season, and not for nothing but he was the National League Rookie of the Year last season, and so maybe it wasn't quite so surprising to us that he pitched well. But when you have one inning and one shot to make an impression on a National TV audience, you want to make your mark, and deGrom did that with Style. I'm not sure where deGrom had been hiding his 98mph fastball, but he had one inning and I'm sure he figured he was just going to let it fly, and for 10 pitches, that's just what he did. That's 10 pitches, because that was all he needed to strike out the three American League batters he faced.

He came out with a purpose and basically gassed Stephen Vogt on three pitches, and three such effortless pitches that Buck and Harold Reynolds immediately had to perk up. Jason Kipnis followed and deGrom gassed him too, only needing 4 pitches to blow him out of the box. Now, I was fired up, because now everyone had to take notice. deGrom was putting on his own personal show. Jose Iglesias was next and by this point he probably could have been told what was coming and still wouldn't have come close to hitting it, and didn't come particularly close on any of the three pitches he saw, and once he got to two strikes, I'd bet just about every Mets fan watching was up and roaring like we were watching him in person to will him to that 3rd strike, and that's just what he got.

No, it was not the first time a Mets pitcher had gone out in an All Star Game and struck out the side. But you think back to Dwight Gooden doing it in 1984 and you see deGrom simply overpowering a trio of befuddled looking AL batters, and you hear announcers who had earlier scoffed at the mere mention of your team now totally awestruck, and then he's actually getting interviewed in the dugout, and by game's end he's now regarded as the standout performer for the National League, well, maybe people shouldn't be taking the Mets so lightly.

Monday, July 13, 2015

"He Did WHAT!?"

What happened yesterday at Citi Field is truly a testament to just how random Baseball can be sometimes.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis has, at best, been a marginal player for the Mets. He arrived a game into the 2012 season and had some beginner's luck, and a really hot first few weeks kind of endeared him to the fans for a bit longer than it should have. Once the book on him got around the league, Nieuwenhuis regressed, ended up back in the minors by June, and by July was out for the season with a foot injury. Since then, Nieuwenhuis hasn't improved. He had a brief, shining moment in 2013 when he caused the downfall of Western Civilization, but otherwise, he's basically been one of those 4-A guys that the Mets keep calling up whenever they needed a warm body. By early this season, with no particular sign that he would ever prove to be more than this—and with his batting average below .100—the Mets finally cut bait, waiving him and eventually trading him clear across the country to the Anaheim Angels for cash considerations. The Mets couldn't even get a player for him.

Except that Nieuwenhuis proved himself to be equally inept in Anaheim, so once it became apparent that a change of scenery was not the answer, Anaheim cut bait on him as well. Not surprisingly, the Mets scooped him back up, because Nieuwenhuis clearly just seems to be one of those players that would only have a Major League job with the Mets (I've said the same of other players, like Mike Baxter, except that Baxter caught on with the Cubs). I figured after this, Nieuwenhuis was just going to be organizational depth, but a few weeks ago, here he was again; because the revolving Mets bench of Muno, Ceciliani, Mayberry, Monell, Curly, Larry and Shemp weren't hacking it, well, why not give Ol' Kirk another crack. He couldn't be much worse, could he?

Coming in to Sunday afternoon's game, Nieuwenhuis had all of 7 hits for the season. Somehow, 5 of them were doubles, but still. Even for a bench player, that's comically bad when you're at the All Star Break.

So, then, you'll agree that the Beauty of Baseball is that you never find the Moment, the Moment always seems to find you. I talked about this last year during the Postseason, but perhaps nothing defines this more than what happened on Sunday, when Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who was deemed worthless by the Mets, and even moreso by the Angels to the point where they ostensibly paid the Mets to take him back, hit 3 Home Runs against the Arizona Diamondbacks. It happened. I wasn't present to see it, but I certainly watched it on TV.

Not only did Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit 3 Home Runs in a game, he put his name in the Mets Record Books by becoming the first Met to hit 3 Home Runs in a Home Game.

Think about this for a second. The list of Mets who have hit 3 Home Runs in a game includes, for the most part, guys you would expect it from. Carlos Beltran. Gary Carter. Dave Kingman. Darryl Strawberry. Ike Davis. Edgardo Alfonzo. Not surprising names. Even Jose Reyes isn't surprising, because he always thought he was a Home Run hitter. I don't know much about Jim Hickman but he probably seems as likely a candidate as any. Claudell Washington certainly had some pop, too. Now, not only is Kirk Nieuwenhuis on this list, but he was the first to do it in a Mets Home Game! Everyone else did it on the road. The Mets' tradition of pitcher's parks really prevented this from ever happening, except now it's happened, and it happened to someone who's probably on the short list of "Guys least likely to hit 3 Home Runs in a game."

But that's Baseball. Sometimes, things happen that don't make logical sense. I guess in a season where, to this point, not much that the Mets have done has made logical sense, it's a fitting way to finish things out before we disperse for the All Star Break.