Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Man for All Time, A Team for None

I wasn't at Citi Field last night for the retirement ceremony of Mike Piazza's number 31. I'm not proud of this fact. I do feel as though I missed out on something pretty special. Considering how many of Piazza's iconic moments I was present for, yeah, I probably should have been there. Think about it. I've gone over many times just how much Piazza is revered by all Mets fans, and just how deserving he is of the honor. I can go back to the day he was acquired on May 22nd, 1998, hearing about it as it happened on Mike & The Mad Dog, and then being there and being part of the welcome wagon that following Saturday afternoon, and being there for 27 memorable Home Runs, and being there on September 21, 2001, and being there when he hit his 352nd Home Run as a Catcher in 2004, and on his last day on October 2nd, 2005. I was even there the night he came back with the Padres and hit two Home Runs off of Pedro Martinez. Want me to keep going? Last game at Shea. First game at Citi Field. Mets Hall of Fame induction. Throwing out the first pitch at the World Series last year. Should I have gone last night? Yeah. Probably.

But as I'd mentioned yesterday, the Mets performance over the past several days just took me out of it. Plus, you know, the ceremony is readily available for viewing here. So, regrettably, I was not there.

Yeah, I'll probably hate myself a little bit for missing this piece of Mets history.

On the other hand, I won't hate myself for missing the 9-inning turd sandwich the current version of the Mets treated the sellout crowd to after the ceremonies concluded.

Usually, when the Mets hold a big ceremony, it doesn't bode well for the game to follow (or precede in the case of the closing of Shea Stadium). It's really weird. The Mets do a wonderful job of feting their conquering heroes. You can complain about a lot of things the Mets do, but when it comes to honoring champions and past heroes on the field, in front of the fans, it never disappoints. Unfortunately, juxtapose the ceremony and the honoree against what the team puts out on the field, and there's a major disconnect. The Mets do a wonderful job of throwing a really nice party, and then completely shitting the bed afterward.

Mike Piazza is and will always be remembered as a Mets hero for all times, and as he instructed us, whenever the team needs some inspiration, just look to the top of the stadium in the Left Field corner at that newly-minted 31 plaque and remember that Ol' Mikey is always there with us. Unfortunately, he can't will the team to hit right now. In fact, Mike at age 47 could conceivably do a better job of driving in some runs than half the lineup the Mets threw out there last night. Bartolo Colon on short rest didn't have it. Once again, the Mets were throttled by the Colorados and Jorge De La Rosa, who I think has made a career out of pitching to a 5.38 ERA, had no problem swatting away the Mets hitters like flies.

I seem to keep finding these weird parallels between this year's Mets team and some historic era Mets team, and right now, maybe these Mets are like the early-1998 Mets, before Piazza showed up on May 23rd. They're a nice little team with no particular direction, except that right now, there's no Mike Piazza floating around on the open market to be acquired and save everyone's hide. I know that everyone seems to be hot on Jonathan Lucroy, but the Brewers seem to want a king's ransom in return and he's already rejected a trade to the Cleveland Indians, so that's a bad sign. Plus I seem to remember hearing somewhere that he didn't want to play in New York, so there's that little wrinkle too. Regardless, for as much as Lucroy might be viewed as such, he's no Piazza. One player isn't going to fix the issues here and I wonder if the what the Mets really need is a sports psychiatrist and maybe a team-wide prescription for Lexapro or Ativan so they all relax a little bit.

Otherwise, 2016 will just dissolve into 2012, the team will fade back into obscurity and all the haters will crawl back out of their caves, pointing and laughing and screaming about how last year was a fluke and now the real Mets have come back (duh slobbuh drool see yuh next week).

Saturday, July 30, 2016

(Yawn) Another Night With The Mets

I don't have tickets to the Mike Piazza number retirement ceremony tonight. I was thinking I would try to snag something on Stubhub (there are, in fact, tickets available from the Mets, but, you know, you have to be comfortable spending $250 a pop, which I am not). But after the two games I attended this week, I've decided I don't feel like going. I can watch it on TV.

I realize that yes, I'm passing on Mets history, and the honoring of an iconic player, but you know, I was also there for his first game, his last game, and his Mets Hall of Fame induction 3 years ago, and many key moments in between. I feel like I should be there. But the problem is that I can't justify spending money, and good money, on a ticket, going back to Citi Field for a 30-45 minute ceremony, and then follow that up by subjecting myself to the Mets slobbering all over themselves for another 3 hours while sitting in front of some back-seat-driver fan who's really a closeted rooter for the other NY team.

Friday night was my 14th game of the season, and you know, there are years when I just have the stink on me, and I think 2016 is one of those years. Most of the games I've attended have been patently awful. Wednesday's game was bad in that having-the-rug-pulled-out-from-under-you sense. Friday's game wasn't just bad. It was boring. And I'm not the only one who felt that way. I had the sense that there were literally people falling asleep watching this team play. My poor other half came with me last night, and she spent the whole time complaining that the game was unexciting. She's been to 2 games this season in roasting heat, and she's seen the Mets score a total of 3 runs in those 2 games. Somehow, they won the first game. This one, not so much.

Steven Matz, bless his heart, did yeoman's work. The Colorados kept singling him to death and he was working at an absolute crawl, but he allowed a single run in the 1st and nothing until the 6th. In between, he gave up plenty of hits, including so many to Charlie McCharlieman that I was ready to jump onto the field, run up to him, punch him in his dopey, bearded mug and yell "STOP!" Of course the Mets responded with a James Loney Home Run in the 2nd and nothing more than that. Tyler Chatwood, who if you'll recall was the starter for the Colorados in the "NNNNNNNNEY STINK" game 4 years ago, ensured that this game would leave me with the same feeling. The Mets, going into the 6th inning, had 2 hits. Once Matz allowed an RBI single to Nick Hundley to score the second Colorados run, I knew the Mets were screwed.

The remainder of the game could have been scripted, that's how predictable it was. McCharlieman got another 4 hits. Matt Reynolds hit a Home Run in the 8th, because Matt Reynolds always hits a Home Run when I'm at a game. The Mets got 2 singles off Jake McGee to start the 8th, and then Mcgee was replaced by Scott Oberg, who proceeded to get the next 3 batters out ON THREE PITCHES! Antonio Bastardo was summoned out of the Gulag for the 9th, worked at a pace to rival Steve Trachsel, essentially put my wife to sleep, and I guess spent so much time scratching his crotch that he forgot he was on a mound, in a game, and grooved a slider for Carlos Gonzalez to hit a 3-run Home Run, at which point 75% of the people in the stadium immediately got up and left.

In the last of the 9th, my wife said one of two things would happen: Either it would end quickly, or something stupid would happen and the game would go 11 innings. I reminded her that the Mets would need to score 5 runs in the 9th to get the game to go 11 innings, and they hadn't scored 5 runs all week. Fortunately, they did not somehow muster up the 5 runs. Not that anyone actually thought they were capable of doing so.

The entire season seems to be teetering on the edge of the abyss right now. I mean, I know this happens to the Mets every season, or at least it feels like it does, but doesn't it seem so much worse this season? It was one thing when ney stank, back in 2012, because that team had no expectations. That's part of the issue here, is that the Mets are falling victim to the curse of high expectations. And I wonder if management here fell victim to the same line of thinking that bit them in the ass between 2000 and 2001, because they went to the World Series the year before and that made them believe they were good enough. I know some improvements were made, but now they need more improvements and nobody seems to be quite sure how that will be accomplished. And for some reason, I keep hearing that they need another pitcher. THEY DON'T NEED ANOTHER PITCHER! I just said yesterday how they seem to have more pitchers in the bullpen than they know how to use. The starting pitching has been excellent. I mean, excellent. It's not deGrom's fault that he threw 7 shutout innings and the Mets lost. It's not Matz's fault that this happened last night either. When your starter gives up 2 runs in 6 innings, he's given you a very good chance to win the game.

The issue lies with all these hitters that are just up there swinging out of their shoes and not doing anything useful. There was some promise in this lineup, but right now it's all evaporated. To wit: after the game, I was thinking to myself, "Hey, you know, Michael Conforto looked really good tonight, he had four solid At Bats." Conforto went 0-for-2 with two walks. And somehow, in my mind, this is a success. Compared to the rest of the lineup, sure. But this just underscores the point. Not only are the Mets boring, but this is getting depressing. I sat through a Baseball game last night and it literally felt like a majority of the crowd didn't actually want to be there watching this team. And it's bad enough that they've made me willingly skip the Mike Piazza ceremony tonight, because I just can't get up the energy to go watch this bullshit team again after what they subjected me to last night.

Friday, July 29, 2016

So, Now What?

Well, if Wednesday night's game left a bad taste in everyone's mouth, the Mets made sure it stayed there on Thursday. After a game where they displayed minimal offensive ability, they somehow managed to outdo themselves against the Colorados, once again turning over a 1-run lead to Jeurys Familia and then watched him blow it again as the Mets lost 2-1.

The only upshot to all this is that I wasn't there, and because for some reason this series against the Colorados started with a weekday afternoon game, I didn't watch it, either. Who would want to watch a game like this? I know that Jacob deGrom was awesome and threw 7 shutout innings, but that can only take you so far. Against the Colorados, who it seems every year now comes in here late in the Summer, boasting some sub-.500 record and really, looking like a team that has absolutely no business coming in here and winning games. The past few years, the Mets have handled them. Right now, the Mets can't handle themselves.

Blah, blah, blah, 1-0 lead against Tyler Anderson. Jake McGee comes in, Mets load the bases with no outs and then Scott Oberg (you know, the great Scott Oberg) comes in and retires the next three batters with not so much as a cookie. And that was the game right there. Just like on Wednesday, the Mets had boatloads of opportunities to open up a lead and cruise home, because the Colorados weren't hitting deGrom, but they're just unable to do this and I can't understand it. All season long, the Mets have insistently played shorthanded on purpose because they insistently believe in carrying a dozen pitchers, most of whom they don't bother to use (anyone seen Seth Lugo recently? Antonio Bastardo still on the team?), and leave themselves with a 3-man bench because both Jose Reyes and Yoenis Cespedes are hurt. But because the offense is so putrid, I guess Collins must have begged Cespedes to pinch hit in this stagnant rally, except that he sent him up with men on 2nd and 3rd...the perfect situation for him to get intentionally walked.

This is the problem. The problem isn't Familia blowing two Saves in two days. Closers blow saves. That's normal behavior. What isn't normal is going 1-for-34 with men in scoring position like the Mets have the last two days. What isn't normal is essentially playing with a 20-man roster when you're allowed 25 for no good reason.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Self-Aggrandizing Pricks

Citi Field on Wednesday night was hot, sweaty and full of Cardinals fans. It was a perfect storm of awful and it seems that the Mets were all too happy to oblige in the misery. After mostly muddling their way through the early part of the game, the Mets exploded to life in the 7th, finally running Adam Wainwright out of gas and taking the lead on Yoenis Cespedes' absolute missile of a Home Run. But the roof ultimately caved in on the Mets in the 9th as Jeurys Familia blew his first save of the season, allowing the Cardinals to tie and ultimately take the lead. Instead of getting to revel in a steely victory, I was subjected to a bunch of Right-wing, underwear-sniffing Cardinals fans squealing and humping each other in the aisles. My Citi Field record for the season once again slipped under .500 in this 5-4 debacle of a game.

It was headed down a bad road from the start. Wainwright was eminently hittable all night, but for all the hitting the Mets did against him, nothing resulted in any runs. This is, of course, the ongoing problem. Neil Walker drove in a run in the 2nd inning and until the 7th, that was it. The Cardinals grabbed a lead in the 3rd because they, unlike the Mets, actually hit the ball with men on base and the result was a 3-run inning against Logan Verrett. So you think that Verrett somehow battled through the night. Wrong. Verrett, outside of that one inning, was just fine. The rest of the team just couldn't get out of their own way. Twice, Michael Conforto came up with a runner in scoring position and 2 outs, and even a measly single would have made some kind of a difference, but each time, he did nothing. It was so bad that Mets fans couldn't even muster the energy to react.

It took until the 7th for the Mets to finally get their asses in gear. Travis d'Arnaud singled, and Alejandro De Aza singled, and the Mets had their opportunity with men on the corners and no outs. But this hasn't been a sure thing by any stretch, and sure enough, Curtis Granderson struck out, and then Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, and George and I were just sitting there in muted agony, while the Cardinals fans were hooting and hollering. One fellow, in particular, was sitting in front of us, by himself, wearing headphones and after each strikeout, he jumped up and did some weird Frank Drebin strikeout impression. That left it up to Yoenis Cespedes, probably the only savior left in this godforsaken mess of a lineup. And Cespedes was game to a tiring Wainwright, and worked the count a bit instead of squeezing the bat into sawdust. Finally, on 2-2, Wainwright bounced his trademark curveball and it skipped past Yadier Molina, and d'Arnaud scored. Amazing. After all that, that was what it took to get a run home. I wasn't complaining, but this was beginning to border on the criminal. Two pitches later, Wainwright again tried to slip a curve in there. We've seen that before. But this time, Cespedes was in full hack mode and he just smoked it. And I mean he Smoked it. Off the 2nd deck, Home Run, and somehow the Mets had taken the lead. You know, after all that mess. As soon as the ball landed, the jerkoff with the headphones stood up, gave me a nasty look, and left. I assure you, for all the epithets I wanted to scream at this turd, I bit my tongue, because I'm far too diplomatic and I try my best to be a good host, even if the houseguest keeps doing things like leaving the toilet seat up and eating all the Frusen Gladje. So I said the nicest thing I could: "One pitch too many!"

In the 8th, Addison Reed did his job and retired the Cardinals without a peep. Now, the Cardinals fans were sitting on their hands, if they hadn't departed altogether. The Mets again had an opportunity to pad their lead in the 8th, but didn't, but that didn't bother me much. They had Familia in the 9th.

And, of course, we know what happened from there. It figures that Familia blows a Save for the first time in a year the night I'm there. It figures that Molina was the one that did it to him. It figures that instead of holding the Cardinals there and keeping the game tied, he gave up a double to Judy-hitting Kolten Wong to give the Cardinals the lead. It figures that the remaining Cardinals fans started standing and grab-assing again. It figures that the Mets went down meekly against Seung Hwan Oh once again. It figures that all the way down the stairs, and outside the building, and on the Subway, Cardinals fans were holding a virtual mosh pit.

The bitch of it all is that it didn't have to go this way. Pick any inning between the 1st and the 6th, and if the Mets could have managed one more hit, it would have meant another run and maybe we wouldn't be in this mess. But noooo. That seems to be too tall of an order for this group. I mean, this is the 4th year in a row I've been to a Mets/Cardinals game, and every year I have to deal with the Cardinals and their obnoxious fans who basically expect us to bow down to them. They really have no clue as to how they appear. Cubs fans are annoying like a 10 year old with bad manners. Fans of the other team in town are annoying like your generic frat bro. Cardinals fans are a different level of annoying and after last night I'm feeling more convinced that they might be the worst of the bunch. And if I say your fan base is worse than that other NY team, well, that's saying something. But at any rate, each of the last 3 seasons, I went to a Mets/Cardinals game and the Cardinals won 9-0, and if they didn't, it felt like 9-0. Sometimes, after games like this, I almost wonder if we're better off if the Mets just didn't score and lost 3-1. But that's besides the point. Then I'd just be writing about how the Mets were simply noncompetitive and the Cardinals Fans were jackasses. What's the use?

At least we're done with the Cardinals here for this season, but more importantly, we're done with their fans. I think I've seen enough of Cardinals fans for the next decade.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Two For The...?

Tuesday had the makings of total disaster for the Mets. Consider the circumstances: Out of sorts after a long road trip, playing a team that they historically have not done well against, in their own building full of fans of said opponent, playing a doubleheader that would begin with about 40 people in the stands, and so on and so forth.

The first game seemed to be the embodiment of all of these problems. Noah Syndergaard dug his own hole, first by essentially beaning Yadier Molina on a throw home to attempt a fielder's choice in the 2nd inning, and then by allowing a 2-run Home Run to Jedd Gyorko, the San Diego expatriate (who was good and then wasn't and now is a Cardinal, so just watch him hit 30 Home Runs this season), in the 3rd. The Mets best recourse was to score 2 runs on a Rene Rivera Home Run and then proceed to leave 16 men in scoring position against Carlos Martinez and others, including Tyler Lyons, Tyler Siegrist and Seung Hwan Oh. Which means that the Cardinals have decided to turn back the clock to 2006, when they similarly had a bullpen full of guys named Tyler. And then Oh. Whoever he is.

Trying to force an issue in the 9th, Curtis Granderson decided to try and tag up from 1st on a Yoenis Cespedes fly ball and got thrown out. That kind of summed up the day game, a 3-2 Mets loss where nothing went right and dumb shit happened. Oh.

So, the Mets lost the game that their best Pitcher started, which is demoralizing in and of itself, and then they had to go back out and play another game against the same Cardinals with their same dopey fans littering the building. There were only 40 people in the seats at the beginning of the 1st game, and no, I wasn't there, nor was I watching on TV, I just know what happens when you start a game at 4:10 on about 20 hours notice. Nobody shows up. Fans either decide they'll just show up for the nightcap, or they're blissfully unaware that there's a Doubleheader and they're wondering why the game is in the 7th inning when they showed up. Either way, Bartolo Colon pitched for the Mets in the nightcap and just like Syndergaard, he gave up a Home Run to Gyorko early in the game, because of course he did.

Unlike the 1st game, Gyorko's Home Run ended up being all the offense the wonderful Cardinals were able to muster off of Colon. It took the Mets a while to get going, but eventually they did reach Jaime Garcia for some runs. In the 3rd, the Mets tied the game when Asdrubal Cabrera got his first hit with a man in scoring position in about 2 months, doubling off the wall to score Alejandro De Aza. In the 4th, the Mets did not get a hit with a man in scoring position, but James Loney hit into a Double Play with no outs and Wilmer Flores on 3rd, and Flores scored to give the Mets the lead. In the 5th, Cabrera did not get a hit with 1 out and De Aza on 3rd, but he did hit a Sacrifice Fly to score De Aza and extend the Mets lead. 

Colon then did the rest, in a rather vintage Colon performance in which he just goes out, throws strikes and by time you look up he's gotten through 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and strikes out 8. Addison Reed for the 8th, Jeurys Familia for the 9th, a 3-1 win and, amazingly, a split of this Doubleheader, which I guess is about as good as you can ask for.

The next thing I'd ask for, of course, would be for the Mets to break this win-loss-win-loss trend and win again tomorrow since I'll be at the game. That'd be nice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

All Wet Again

A few weeks ago, I'd batted around going to a Mets/Cubs game amid an iffy weather forecast. I decided not to go and the game ended up being played, and the Mets won. Yes, there were also three Rain Delays, but I still felt like I'd missed out.

Monday night, I had tickets to the opener of the Mets/Cardinals series, amid an iffy weather forecast. In spite of the fact that there was a torrential downpour in Manhattan when I left my office, I decided to forge ahead to Citi Field anyway, since, according to the Mets Rain Hotline*, the game had not yet been called.

On the 7 train out to Citi Field, I saw plenty of lightning flying around but no rain, as though Noah Syndergaard had waved his Mjölnir and willed the weather away so that he could make his start. By time I arrived at Citi Field, it wasn't raining at all. In spite of the weather, it seemed like there was a fair enough crowd on hand, including a healthy presence of Underwear sniffing, Selflie-stick using Cardinals fans ready to thumb their noses at us brutish Mets fans while Mike Matheny wrote another book about how wonderful he is.

There was a tarp on the field, however, so a delay was in the offing, but I'd figured it wouldn't last long, and maybe by 7:45 we'd be underway. So I walked around the Field Level a little bit. The crowd was sparse, at least for the current times, sparse enough that by time I reached Fuku, the new David Chang outpost, there was, in fact, no line whatsoever. Usually, the line runs halfway down the Shea Bridge. Now, I've made mention of my misgivings toward David Chang, but I'll admit when food lives up to hype. I hadn't been to the Fuku at Citi Field, but I did have the opportunity to visit another location and, well, it's a really good sandwich. And the fries have this wonderful spicy seasoning. So, if there was no line, and I wasn't in a rush, well, here we are.

So I get my Fuku and head upstairs and I grab some napkins since I know I'm going to have to towel off my seat, and then Alex Anthony starts talking and I turn around towards the field and I see on the scoreboard in giant block letters:

POSTPONED

Oh dammit. 

So this, then, would be my first Citi Field Rainout. I seem to have had a good run of avoiding going to games that get rained out. I'd suffered through some delayed games, but none that were rained out outright, not since a Saturday night in 2008 at Shea Stadium when the Field Level literally turned into a lake and they waited a good 10-15 minutes after the game had been called to announce it to the some 50,000 fans in attendance that night, so they would keep buying things. The age old trick, of course. I thought there was a window to get the game in, but the Mets have more advanced meteorologists than I do and so if they didn't think it was possible, couldn't they have called things at 5:30 and saved me the trip? I feel a bit like I fell into one of Ratso Wilpon's rabbit holes because I showed up and spent money, so not only was I annoyed that the game got rained out (and I've once again been rooked out of seeing a Syndergaard start by some weird happening), but also because I'd been made a rube of by a weasel-faced turd that nobody likes.

Well, me, and about 15,000 other people who showed up and were still eating and drinking and buying things after the game had been called. To say nothing of the mass of humanity that formed at the ticket booth outside the stadium afterward. 

So, no game tonight, just another random escapade where I went to see a Baseball game and instead just went out to dinner at Citi Field. We'll try this again on Wednesday.

*Yes, there is in fact a Mets Rain Hotline. Only us true lunatic Mets fans know about it. When I tell people about it, they think I'm joking but it's a real thing. (718) 507-RAIN.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Coronation Day

Mike Piazza officially entered the Hall of Fame on Sunday, inducted, of course, in our colors.

I won't try to match the magnitude of the day or of the words he shared in his speech on Sunday afternoon, or the love he spread to all Mets fans, but what I will do here is copy in a blog I wrote back on May 21, 2008, which is the day he announced his retirement. It seems to fit the occasion.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Greatest.

I suppose I should be talking about the Mets letting all of the air out of their weekend triumphs on Tuesday in Atlanta, but I can't.

The real news of the day, for me at least, concerned the retirement of the Greatest Met of my generation, Mike Piazza.

The resumé Piazza boasts as he calls it a career speaks for itself. A .308 career batting average, 427 HRs, 1,335 RBIs are all outstanding accomplishments, considering the number of years he played, almost all of them spent catching for over 120 games a season.

But what Piazza is measured by, particularly in the hearts of Mets fans, goes far deeper than pure statistics. Deeper than being elected to the All-Star team every year (save 2003) he played for the team.

It is one day short of 10 years since the day Piazza came to the Mets, a lazy Friday afternoon in May. Just a week earlier, the Baseball world had been shaken by the Dodgers dealing Piazza to the Marlins, in a cash dump deal that sent a king's ransom to LA in exchange for Piazza and Zeile. The cash-strapped Marlins were sure to deal Piazza. The question was, when and to whom?

The Mets appeared uninterested. They had an All-Star catcher themselves, in Todd Hundley, though he was shelved for most of 1998 following elbow surgery. The Mets, undermanned and unexciting, were muddling through the early part of the season. I had recently returned home after my Freshman year of College. The first games I attended that season, a weeknight Doubleheader against the Reds, saw barely 15,000 people in attendance. Steve Phillips claim that the Mets weren't going to pursue Piazza, was met with widespread anger. On WFAN, Mad Dog Russo was heard screeching, "THESE FANS ARE SCREAMING FOR PIAZZA! YOU GOTTA BRING THIS GUY IN!!!"

That Friday, I was listening to Mike and the Mad Dog, when around 2pm, they immediately broke in with the announcement that the Mets were holding a Press Conference at 4pm. Something big had happened. Mad Dog had his interns searching frantically for information. It was around 2:20 that they broke the news. The deal had been made. Mike Piazza was coming to the Mets. Rejoyce!

I attended that night's game, and before I went in the stadium, I bought a ticket for the Saturday game. A line for tickets had already formed. The excitement was in the air before he even arrived. The scoreboard displayed a large announcement, "HE'S COMING TOMORROW!!!" Del DeMontreux even announced the trade over the PA before announcing the Starting Lineups.

And it was that Saturday, May 23rd, 1998, that he arrived. He not only brought his bat, but he brought credibility and excitement, two things that had been sorely lacking at Shea through most of the 90s. With one swing—a ringing RBI double off the right field wall—the Mets had a New Franchise, a New Face that would carry them into the 21st Century.

Sure, it was rocky early on. Piazza struggled to adjust to his new environs. His relationship with the fans was acrimonious and his clutch failures were magnified when the Mets fell a game short of a playoff berth. He could have left. He could have told the fans to screw themselves, taken a big money deal someplace else and departed New York a cowardly villain, along with the likes of Bobby Bonilla.

But he didn't. He decided to stay. He risked the boos and decided that this was where he wanted to be, for good or bad, better or worse. What happened was that Piazza became the Greatest Hero the Mets would ever see. So many times in so many situations, Mike found himself at the plate in a key moment, and so many times, he would deliver that big hit that we knew he was meant to deliver.

It began early in the 1999 season. A walkoff HR against the unhittable Trevor Hoffman. The bat flip HR off the Picnic tent against Ramiro Mendoza. A vengeful HR off Kevin Brown to beat his former Dodger teammates. With a retooled and reloaded offense around him, Piazza would match his career highs in HRs and RBIs in 1999 with 40 and 124, busting his ass for 141 grueling games that left him battered, bruised and running on fumes by season's end. Still, he persevered. Playing with a bruised thumb that forced him from the NLDS, a concussion and a strained forearm, injuries that would have had him on the bench in the regular season, it was he who would come up as the tying run in that fateful 6th game in Atlanta on October 19th, with the Mets having trailed 5-0 and 7-3, and smoke a John Smoltz fastball over the right field fence to tie the game. His stone-faced trot around the plate told you everything you needed to know. His postseason drive through the south told you everything you needed to know about how much it meant to him just to be there, to be in that key spot in the big game, and how much it hurt him to be unable to contribute at the level he wanted to.

With that in mind, a decreased workload in 2000 saw Piazza put forth one of the most dominant seasons of his career. Piazza broke from the gate like a house afire, tearing through pitchers on a frightening basis. On May 21st, he hit a pitch from Randy Johnson halfway up the Mezzanine at Shea. One streak in June saw him drive in a run for 15 straight games. It was the 13th game where Piazza would produce one of the signature moments of his Mets career. With the Mets having fought back from an 8-1 deficit against the Atlanta Braves into an 8-8 tie thanks to a 7-run 8th inning, Piazza stepped to the plate with 2 on and 2 out. Terry Mulholland made the cardinal sin of grooving one to Piazza. Piazza swung and unleashed a vicious line drive that would have sailed clear to Flushing Bay had it not caromed off the retired numbers. The sellout crowd went nuts. The normally stoic Piazza let the moment get the best of him, and wildly pumped his fist as he ran to first. The Mets went on to a 11-8 victory, which seemed to spur them on for the rest of the season, as they coasted into the Playoffs as the Wildcard for the 2nd straight year.

Although Mike struggled in the NLDS against the Giants, he worked Mark Gardner for a key walk in the 1st inning of the final game of that series. Gardner thought ball 3 was strike 3, missed badly with ball 4, and grooved his first pitch to Robin Ventura, which he promptly hit for a 2-run HR, setting up a 4-0 victory behind Bobby Jones' 1-hitter.

It was the NLCS where Piazza took center stage and became, quite literally, a monster. Playing the Cardinals in St. Louis, Piazza came up in the 1st inning of the 1st game against Darryl Kile and smacked a double to left, scoring Timo Perez with the series' first run. In the dugout, Mets coach John Stearns screamed, "THE MONSTER IS OUT OF THE CAGE!" in reference to Piazza, the Monster, needing to get that big hit and get out of the cage. Boy, was he ever out of the cage. In Game 2, Piazza blasted a long HR off Britt reames to aid the Mets to a 6-5 victory. In the 4th game, Piazza smacked a long 2B over J.D. Drew's head and off the wall in right, the 3rd consecutive double the Mets would hit in the 1st inning that night. In the 4th inning of that game, Piazza laid into a slider from Mike James and blasted it deep into the night, over the Cardinals bullpen and out of sight. In the clinching 5th game, Piazza hit a double in the 4th inning that preceded Todd Zeile's 3-run double to ice the game. And when the ball came down in Timo's glove, Piazza raced to the mound and led the team in a victory lap around Shea Stadium. He called it his greatest career accomplishment. And although the Mets fell short in the World Series, Piazza didn't disappoint, becoming the first player in World Series history to hit a HR in both Shea and Yankee Stadiums.

In 2001, Piazza again had his typical Piazza year, replete with big hits and big HRs. But it was one particular HR that would stand out far beyond any other he would ever hit. With the City and the Nation reeling following the attacks of September 11th, it was Piazza who delivered a blow that made us forget, at least for a moment, all the pain and the anxiety that followed that day. It was September 21st, 2001, yet another key game against the Atlanta Braves, and it was Piazza, batting in the 8th inning, with the Mets trailing 2-1 with a man on. And it was Piazza, playing the role of Hero once again, coming up and hitting a long, deep drive that clanged off the camera well in deep center field for a 2-run HR, that gave the Mets the lead, the victory, and helped to begin the healing process. It was, for many Mets fans, the moment when Piazza became more than just an ordinary slugger. You knew it from the tears he shed in the pregame ceremony. You knew it when he emerged from the dugout and pointed to the sky. Piazza wasn't just a Hero. He was Our Hero. He was Our Guy, and he would be forever. No matter what would happen, Piazza had cemented his place with the Mets.

The following seasons brought injuries and inconsistency for Piazza. He still put up lofty numbers for a Catcher, but the years and the strain were beginning to take their toll. He missed a large portion of the 2003 season with a groin injury, and talk began to emerge that he should consider a move to 1st Base to ease his workload and, perhaps, prolong his career. But he didn't want it. He would close in on the record for HRs by a Catcher, and it seemed right and proper that he remain behind the plate until the record was his.

It was a Wednesday night, May 5th, 2004, and I was in attendance for my first Mets game of the season with the San Francisco Giants. Piazza had tied the HR record the previous weekend, and on this night, in the 1st inning, on a 3-2 pitch from Jerome Williams, Piazza swung, and kept his date with destiny. The ball sailed deep and high and out, fittingly over the 371 mark in Right Center field, a spot where so many Piazza HRs sailed previously. All I could do was laugh. Piazza had a knack for always doing something special when I was at a game. And here, he'd done it again.

Piazza would play out every day of the 7 year contract he signed with the Mets back in 1999. And when that contract began to wind down, the fans began to stand up. It wasn't ever clear that the Mets would or would not bring him back, but the fans stood anyway. He didn't have to do anything great anymore. We would stand and cheer regardless. Our hero, Our Guy, Our Mike Piazza's career was now winding down, and it was time for us to stand and cheer in appreciation and thanks for all the years, and all the big hits and all the great moments he'd given us. I was there once again that final day, October 2nd, 2005, just as I'd been there on that first day and for so many days in between, and I stood and cheered with everyone else. Several videotaped tributes from Piazza played on Diamondvision, and during the 7th inning stretch, Fan Appreciation day became Mike Piazza Appreciation Day.
A 10-minute standing ovation gave way to fans weeping and saying goodbye. But it wasn't goodbye, it was just until we met again.

It was that following August when Piazza returned to Shea, and the ovations and cheers continued. Piazza hit 2 HRs in his 2nd game back. Following his first HR, the fans cheered so loudly that Piazza was prompted to give a curtain call from the visitor's dugout. A return with the Oakland A's in 2007 was short-circuited by an injury. He brought out the lineup card one night and again received a standing ovation. And that was it for Mike as an active player at Shea Stadium. The next time we see him, we'll perhaps be revealing his #31 on the outfield wall, in tribute to all he brought to this franchise. All the hits, all the moments and all the joy he brought us. All he meant to the team when he kept running himself out there, even during times when it appeared there was no hope left at all. He'd certainly be deserving of the honor. Who would be fit to don #31 for the Mets after all that Piazza accomplished wearing it?

And so, on Tuesday, Piazza hung 'em up. In his typical fashion, Piazza handled the situation with humility and stoicism, only releasing a statement through his agent. All the adulation and love he received from Mets fans was mutual. "...I have to say that my time with the Mets wouldn't have been the same without the greatest fans in the world," he said. "One of the hardest moments of my career, was walking off the field at Shea Stadium and saying goodbye. My relationship with you made my time in New York the happiest of my career and for that, I will always be grateful."

We Love you too, Mike. We always will. We're making our hotel reservations in Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend, 2012. You'll be there. I know you will. For almost 8 seasons, I had the pleasure and the privilege of watching you carry my team on your back, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Thank you for coming, Thank you for staying, Thank you for delivering those hits when we needed them the most. You handled everything with class, dignity and grace. You knew how good you had it here. You appreciated us, and we appreciate you. Maybe Seaver was The Franchise, Maybe Hernandez brought home the Championship, but I never saw a better player or a better person wearing the Orange and Blue.

Thanks, Mike.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

In Your Face

For as irritable as losing to the Marlins can make me, that's about as much as I enjoy it when the Mets beat the Marlins. I enjoy seeing the Mets beat just about anyone, but when they can beat the Marlins, especially in the Loriadome, I really enjoy it. Even if I wasn't around to watch it.

Like Saturday night, I was out and about during the day and so the game only existed on my phone, but the Mets did what they needed to do. Really, the only thing they needed to do was just to Beat the Marlins, and they did that, but they also did a few decent things en route to their 3-0 victory.

First of all, Steven Matz, who by my count was looking very much like a shoo-in for NL Rookie of the Year back in June but then fizzled out in a string of inconsistent starts, injury worries and general malaise which happens sometimes. But he'd been slowly but surely regaining some of his luster and this afternoon he was great, firing 6 shutout innings at the Marlins, a team that's given him problems on more than one occasion.

Then, there was Jose Reyes, who tripled for the second time in 3 days and, well, is there anything more Baseball than a Jose Reyes triple? This one drove in Michael Conforto, who had a fine afternoon making his first ever start in Center Field and put the Mets out in front 1-0. Later, Yoenis Cespedes and James Loney provided insurance runs. Cespedes doing positive things isn't really of note since this has been going on all year, but lost in this stretch of season has been how much Loney has contributed. For somebody who was just expected to be a fill-in and hold the line without killing the team, Loney has really played well, much better than anyone would have expected, particularly on the offensive side of things. He's done it rather quietly, but think about how many times Loney has come up and come through, such as he did on Friday night, to give the Mets important insurance runs, or today providing the same. On a team that's struggled so much with driving in runs, Loney's contributions have been massive.

So after everything that's gone on, in this road trip that feels like it's been a month long, the Mets finished out 5-4, which is better than going 4-5, or the 2-7 it's sometimes felt like. They did nothing to especially help their chances in the standings, which isn't great, but they also didn't kill themselves either, except that they've lost 9 games worth of time. They did manage to go 4-2 within the division, which is nice. But otherwise, does anyone feel much better about the team now than they did when the second half started? I'm still not sure what I'm watching. They still have 3 games of massive importance against the Cardinals this week to start off a 9-game homestand. These woods are not parting just yet.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ruining My Night

I'd been out most of the evening with my other half, having a pleasant time. We'd gone out in spite of the fact that there was a game on, simply because it seemed like going out and taking a walk and going someplace for dinner seemed like a nice thing to do.

We got home sometime around 10 and I put the game on, saw the score MIA 7 NYM 2 in the 8th or the 9th inning and my night was basically wrecked. Jacob deGrom didn't have it and basically he got Marlin'ed to death, which means he kept giving up scratch singles to Hamburgers Yelich and Derek Dietrich before Giancarlo Stanton hit a Home Run.

I have a feeling that this thing I have with the Marlins is something that only a therapist might be able to help me with. I mean, the Mets lose games regularly, and for years this was something that they almost turned into an art form. But for whatever reason, the Mets losing to the Marlins just makes me so angry that I spend the next two hours stewing about it. I've gone over, many times, my disdain for the Marlins and their very existence and really, if you asked me to explain it deeper, my answer would probably be something along the lines of "Because fuck the Marlins!"

I know I'm not the only Mets fan that feels this way. It's as though the Marlins raison d'être is just to annoy the Mets and their fans, and, well, they do a very good job of it. As a franchise, it's basically the only thing they're good at. But, come on. It goes back years, and I don't need to go into the details. Nothing seems more exemplary of Marlin behavior than Jose Fernandez striking out Wilmer Flores back in June in the 7th inning of a Sunday afternoon game and storming off the mound screaming and yelling and pumping his fist. This is the Marlins. Maybe when the Marlins trade him to the Dodgers he'll be instructed to tone it down a notch, but when you're basically playing for a Little League team, anything goes.

And, of course, the Mets are trailing these clowns in the standings. Have I said that before? Probably, but come on. The fact that the Mets have spent a majority of this season stuck in Neutral doesn't bother me as much as the fact that they're behind the Marlins in the standings. Again, no good explanation, other than Fuck the Marlins. That's about all I got tonight.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Dusting And Dusting

After 6 games out of the All Star Break, the Mets had proved nothing other than they're good at not being able to figure themselves out. This was kind of problematic considering that they were going into Miami, where stupid things always happen, to play the Mickey Mouse Marlins, who specialize in doing stupid things. In spite of this, and in spite of Celebrity Manager walking around with this smug, shit-eating smirk on his face, silently demanding preferential treatment, and in spite of Logan Verrett once again having a solid outing fall apart at the end, the Mets beat the Marlins 5-3.

They won this game primarily based on Jose Reyes, who at least tonight looked like 2006 Jose Reyes and forcibly interjected himself into the middle of everything important. He started the game with a double off of Adam Conley, stole 3rd and scored on a sacrifice fly. In the 4th, he pulled the anti-Met move and singled with 2 outs to score Travis d'Arnaud. And in the 7th, after Hamburgers Yelich tied the game with a Home Run, Reyes started the inning with a single off David Phelps, moved to 3rd on a Granderson hit, and socred on another Yoenis Cespedes sacrifice fly. That's 3 hits, 2 runs, an RBI and a stolen base.

Remember when Reyes used to have games like that on a daily basis?

It seems so long ago in a place so far away when that would happen. The Mets and Marlins play in stadiums now that didn't even exist in 2006, and Reyes has bounced around, from an ill-advised season with these same Marlins, to Canada, to the Colorados, and now back to the Mets, and yes, he's older, and he's rusty, but you can still see that spark is still there and so maybe now that he's getting back to game speed he can run off some more games like this. Maybe.

The more operative thing here is that the Mets had to beat the Marlins, particularly since they'd slipped behind the Marlins in the standings, and I have no idea how this happened because the Marlins are a joke of a team and a bunch of turds. They need to be put in their place a little bit and nobody to this point seems to have been able to do that. And, of course, nothing would be more Marlin than to use the Mets as the springboard to success. Point is, the Mets needed to win this game and they did, and when it was close in the 9th, they put the game away against Fernando Rodney. First, he hit Yoenis Cespedes with a pitch, so in my opinion someone on their side needs to get dusted at some point, but then again James Loney did the dusting himself by hitting one into the upper deck for a 2-run Home Run. This set up a much easier 9th inning for Jeurys Familia who once again did not make it easy on himself, and the more the Marlins kept their irritating rally going, the more I had visions of Greg Dobbs coming off the Bench and hitting a 6-run Home Run and the Marlins running around slapping themselves with salami, but Familia's trademark continues to be to bend but not break, and so the Mets finished out the game.

That's good. Now do this two more times. Then come home and do it some more. That's called consistency. The Mets need some of that.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What Season Is This?

As Wednesday's game was an afternoon affair, which is kind of a trademark of Wrigley Field, I didn't see it. That's just as well. The Mets continued their up-and-down, left-and-right, can't-get-out-of-their-own-way style of play as they did plenty of hitting against Kyle Hendricks, but none of the hitting involved scoring runs. The Cubs, in particular Anthony Rizzo, did plenty of hitting against Bartolo Colon. Unfortunately, when the Cubs hit, they score runs. The end result is that the Mets looked tired and dopey and lost 6-2 in a mostly non-competitive effort.

The question flying around right now isn't simply "What's wrong with the Mets," it's now switched to "Where is this season going?" I know we asked this question a lot last season and yes, it turned out all well and good, but the bullets that Sandy Alderson could put in his chamber aren't quite there anymore. Washington isn't going away, and as proof, all those so-called Nationals Fans are predictably pointing and laughing and using words like "Fluke" and "Outlier" to describe the Mets, but that really shouldn't be the concern right now. I know that this team has been described as mirroring 2007 but that's inaccurate. The 2007 Mets were substantially more talented than this Mets team is, particularly on the offensive side, and they played lazy, complacent baseball. I don't see the 2016 Mets as lazy and complacent. They're underachieving, but this is underachieving like they underachieved in 2001, another season where they had a World Series/Playoff Hangover and just couldn't kick themselves into gear until it was a little too late. You could view this as another 1987, too, because they keep getting derailed by injuries and inconsistency to the point where even the good achievements seem to come with a caveat. Whatever this is, it boils down to the Mets being not quite good enough to run people over, even though they look so at times, and not quite bad enough that they're going to lay down and die. And they don't really sustain anything in either direction. And what years were defined by inconsistency? 1987, 2001, 2007. So maybe this is just a combination of all three.

Regardless, it's too late to say that there's a lot of season left and not too late to really start panicking. So...now what. The Mets seem to be too far behind Washington to make a run for the Division, or at least that's what conventional wisdom would tell us. These are probably the same people who said the Mets were too far ahead of Philly in 2007 and we know how that turned out. Washington hasn't exactly lit the roof on fire either. But beyond that, the Mets are in a real battle for the Wildcard with a bunch of other teams. And they happen to play their next six games against two of those teams because if you can believe it, the Marlins, a cute little story, lead the Mets by a game (or so) and the Cardinals, who are always a pain in the ass, are right on the Mets tails.

Point is, the Mets, if they want to make everyone calm down a little bit, should win 5 or 6. But because it's the Mets, and because they can't sustain, will probably go 3-3 which won't solve anything. If they wanted to make us really crazy, they'd go 2-4. Whatever they do, the next week will tell us quite a bit about what year this really is.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Magicians

I'm not quite certain that the Mets did anything, over a majority of the game last night, that would have made them deserving of a win, but somehow they did win. In one of those games that would have had Bob Murphy exclaim "They Win the Damn Thing!", they nursed Noah Syndergaard through 5.2 innings, they survived a seemingly rejuvenated GOLDEN JAKE, they grabbed a late lead thanks to a replay challenge and a 2-out hit by Rene Rivera, and then closed it out when Jeurys Familia somehow managed to escape a bases loaded, no-out jam, inducing a game-ending Double Play from Baseball Jesus to finish off a harrowing 2-1 victory.

Really, this seemed to be nothing but a gloom and doom game from the get-go. Syndergaard, whose arm I suppose may fall off at any second, kind of weaved his way in and out of trouble throughout the early part of the game. He allowed a run kind of by accident, when in the 3rd inning Willson Contreras, who's got a little bit of Marlins Spirit in him, doubled, went to 3rd on a Wild Pitch that Rene Rivera couldn't corral, and then scored when Rivera made an ill-advised desperation heave into Left Field. I mean, if that's not a Marlin-style run, what is?

Meanwhile, the Mets were doing nothing against GOLDEN JAKE, which I suppose is to be expected from him. GOLDEN JAKE even attempted to widen his own lead in the 4th when he doubled with 2 outs and tried to score on a Tommy LaStella single. In fact, according to Home Plate Umpire Eric Cooper, he did score, much to my chagrin, except for the rather obvious tag that Rivera got on him before he actually touched the plate. Replay, reversal, score remains 1-0.

And then it was tied, somehow, in the 6th, when Jose Reyes turned the clock back to 2006 and hit a triple, which is something we used to see with regularity in another time and place, and then scored on a Curtis Granderson sacrifice fly.

So Syndergaard was done in the 6th and GOLDEN JAKE got through 7, and you figured it was just a matter of time before something dumb happened and, well, while plenty of dumb things did happen, it somehow didn't manage to sink the Mets. Jerry Blevins finished the 6th and Hansel Robles worked a clean 7th and then an 8th for good measure, and so the game remained tied going to the 9th.

The Cubs went to their closer, Hector Rondon, another guy who looks like he'd fit in well as a Marlin, and the Mets mounted an excruciatingly slow rally. James Loney led off with a single, but Neil Walker grounded into a Double Play, except he didn't because he beat the throw to 1st and Umpire Ratso McGillicuddy blew the call. Replay, reversal, Mets have 1 on and 1 out. Cabrera follows with a single to bring up Michael Conforto, who has quietly returned to the lineup but still appears to be pressing. In a key spot, a hit here would have been enormous, symbolically, but Conforto appeared overanxious and struck out. This wasn't good BUT OH RENE RIVERA GOT A HIT TO DRIVE IN THE LEAD RUN! Somehow the Mets didn't screw it up!

To the bottom of the 9th and Jeurys Familia, who quickly got ahead of Addison Russell, didn't get a call and subsequently lost the plate, not finding it until he not only walked Russell, but Miguel Montero behind him, sending Cubs fans into a tizzy. Javier Baez followed by laying down a bunt that was obviously going foul except that Jose Reyes decided to field it and make a throw to 1st not especially close to getting Baez. So, bases loaded, no outs, Cubs fans peeing themselves over in glee and, of course, Matt Szczur coming up, and if you figured there was one guy ripe to spoil Familia's Save streak and drive a 2-run double into the Right Field corner, it's Szczur. And Syzygy did pull the ball, but right to Loney, who threw home for the out. No matter. Up came the Baseball Jesus himself, and again, there were visions of him hitting one to Waukegan and Cubs fans uniting for a giant collective orgasm. Except that Bryant slapped a shot right to Reyes, who started the 5-4-3 DP and somehow, the Mets escaped imminent disaster. Twice. Three times if you figure they had to face GOLDEN JAKE.

So it goes. The Mets alternately look awful and lose, or look great and win, and sometimes they manage to do both at the same time, like tonight. They didn't especially look like they were going to win this game most of the night, but somehow they did and at this point I'll take wins however I can get them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hell Stretch

No Mets season feels complete without a ridiculous long road trip directly out of the All Star Break. Granted, this season isn't quite as bad as the years that they had to come out of the Break and go to San Francisco, St. Louis and San Diego, or Atlanta, St. Louis, Colorado, or St. Louis, Los Angeles, St. Louis, but this trip, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, isn't exactly much better.

The Mets played good in Philadelphia, which is also against trend, because usually these trips end with the Mets going 2-7, but then again they only played good, and not great. They'd have to play great against the Cubs, who I'm quite certain have had enough of the Mets and their fuckery. For once, we're the team that's been pushing the opponent around, at least when the Cubs are concerned, and you had to figure it was just a matter of time before they shoved back.

Monday night, the Cubs shoved back, to the tune of a 5-1 win. Steven Matz couldn't survive the 3rd inning, Anthony Rizzo hit the big Pizza Pie, and the Mets never recovered against Jon Lester.

I know that the Mets weren't going to totally stone the Cubs this season and a game like this was brewing, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow. I've gone on record many times detailing my distaste for the Cubs (and primarily it's their fans, but then again that's the case with my dislike of most teams). I have a good friend who happens to be a Cubs fan and I'd at one point said that if the Cubs ever do win a Championship, I'd be happy for him, and no other Cubs fan. There is a humility to Mets fans, and perhaps it's just an embittered, cynical world view based on too many years of losing, collapsing, Willie Randolph and Ratso Wilpon. The Cubs fan seems to know none of this, for whatever reason. I'm not sure why, since the Cubs history is dotted with things like "Manager by Committee" and "Steve Bartman." But I digress. Now that they put together what is, in essence, a SuperTeam, you get what you have right now, which is essentially a giant circle jerk around the city of Chicago. Tell them that the SuperTeam never works and you're likely to get hit over the head with a Baseball Jesus poster or something.

Really, I didn't mean to spend this entire post cracking on Cubs fans, but for one, it's too easy and for two, I've said everything that needs to be said about the game. It was too much. Too much Rizzo, too much Lester, too much Matt Szczur (and I think his name being announced at all qualifies as too much Sczcur). Matz wasn't awful but he wasn't exactly inspiring either. Now, the Mets are down again, and they have to come back and face GOLDEN JAKE, who keeps talking about how he's refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to throw another 4 No Hitters. So, I mean, buckle up your chinstraps, right?

Monday, July 18, 2016

deGuy

I finally found myself with some free time and in front of a TV on Sunday, and as such I actually got to watch an entire Mets game undisturbed for what feels like the first time since, well, the last time I was at a game 10 days ago. Yes, I know there was an All-Star Break in there. It just felt like months since I'd seen a game.

It also felt like months since we'd seen Jacob deGrom pitch; his last appearance was way back on July 6th against the Marlins. He'd been in a great groove leading into the break, but he outdid himself on Sunday afternoon, spinning his first career Complete Game Shutout against the Phillies as the Mets won 5-0.

There have been several times when deGrom has absolutely stood head and shoulders above everyone else on this pitching staff and with the struggles some of his mound-mates have been dealing with over the course of the season, what we saw out of deGrom is really encouraging from the standpoint of he needs to be That Guy again. I mean, even when deGrom hasn't had his best stuff, he's managed to grit his way through some outings and come out ahead. But when he's got everything working, he has days where it's like, get out of my way. Sunday was one of those days. I'm not sure where, exactly, I started paying more attention to his pitching than the Mets offense, probably around the 6th, but this was one of those signature games for him. He has these moments where he reminds you that he's really good, and today he was really good against the Phillies for 9 innings and 105 pitches, and I'd say none of them were under any kind of duress. He allowed a hit to Zac Eflin, the opposing pitcher in the 3rd, a leadoff walk to Ryan Howard in the 8th...and nothing else. The Phillies couldn't even manage to get a runner to 2nd against him and, well, if he's a little more nimble on the quick comebacker that Eflin hit, we might be talking about something of greater importance here.

Nonetheless, a 1-hit shutout is nothing to shake a stick at. A Complete Game is nothing for a Mets pitcher to shake a stick at altogether. The last time they had one was last year when Bartolo did it and, before that, you have to go back to Zack Wheeler in 2014. So they don't come around very often. You look for this sort of effortless performance out of these guys and on Sunday that's what deGrom delivered. He'd thrown somewhere around 70 pitches after 6 innings and basically held that line from there, to the point where after he breezed through the 7th I knew he was going to wrap the rest of the game up. He was going up against an overmatched opponent and pitched his game as such. That's what the Mets should be doing to Philly anyway.

Now, the Mets can go into Chicago, where they'll be meeting a slumping Cubs team that's probably steaming over the pistolwhipping they took from the Mets 2 weeks ago, with a nice, fresh bullpen.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And This Continues To Be The Problem

As is usually the case on Summer Saturdays, I was out all day and didn't actually see any of the Mets Phillies game, but based on the results, a 4-2 Mets loss, I see that even after a few days to rest and get their heads straight, the Mets still have a hard time getting out of their own way against lesser opponents.

Logan Verrett, whose entire season may be that he's just the victim of these kinds of games, started for the Mets, pitched passably well, kept the Mets in the game (and became the 143rd Met pitcher to allow a Home Run to Ryan Howard), and the Mets offense, in his support, got plenty of runners on base and went 0-for-18 with men in scoring position.

This is a continued problem for the Mets, who over the past several years have turned stranding runners in scoring position into some sort of stupid art form. I keep writing about this, and I think about 85% of Mets Bloggers keep writing about this but what difference does it make? The same dopey thing still happens. I can't even single out a culprit here because basically everyone is guilty, except maybe Yoenis Cespedes and he didn't play, so maybe it's his fault for being hurt, and also I can't blame Wilmer Flores, because he didn't play either, and I can't really understand why since he usually does reasonably well in those spots. But the rest of the bunch, come on! I know there's still a bunch of games left to play but it feels like this whole season has been Mets fans saying "I'm not panicking, there's still a lot of games left to play." I'm still not panicking, but the point here is I'm tired of talking about it. I said it yesterday, I'll say it again, and I feel like I'm going to say it a lot more over the remaining games this season: Do Better.

This year still feels like 2001, even if the Mets probably aren't going to run up to 54-68. I didn't like 2001, though. I like this less, probably because in 2001 we were still in the stone age and there wasn't so much information readily available and there weren't happy-talking Nationals fans that are already acting like they've won the division and last season was a fluke. It's like listening to fans of that other team in this city. There's too many people with too much to say. Perhaps that's the real problem.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Back To Game Speed

I didn't have much to say this week, even as far as assessing the state of the Mets after the first half of the season. There's not much to say. They're hanging in, in spite of some injuries and a lot of inconsistencies, and a general lack of situational hitting. The goal for the second half: Be better.

Friday night in Philadelphia was a good start as they beat the Phillies, 5-3, taking out a team that they need to do a better job against since they're going to see each other 12 times (at least) over the remainder of the season. Though Yoenis Cespedes was still out, recovering from his leg injury, Juan Lagares did a good job in his place, hitting a Home Run and generally being in the middle of things. Neil Walker, who also could be better, hit a 3-run Home Run off Jeremy Hellickson, and this was enough in support of Bartolo Colon and company.

This was, in essence, a night for the Mets snubbed All Stars to shine. Yes, the Mets lost 2 of their 4 All Stars to injury, and so I had no problem with Cespedes or Syndergaard not appearing (even though Syndergaard was there to tip his cap and do Syndergaard things). I was, however, puzzled over the disappearance of Colon and Jeurys Familia in the game. Especially since Terry Collins was managing the game. Now, I care very little about the All Star Game in general. I'll usually watch the game, if only to root for the National League, which more often than not has been a losing cause, and also to see the Mets, in the hope that they will represent themselves well. David Wright was usually very good at this, since he played in 7 games and almost always got a hit. Few Mets All Stars did better to this particular end than Jacob deGrom did last year, of course. So I watched, halfheartedly, some of the later innings to see Colon and Familia. But they never showed up. And that's a bit of a shame. Familia is one thing, but Bartolo Colon making the All Star Team at age 43 is almost like a Lifetime Achievement award. How many more times will this happen? So they were both apparently pissed off and I can't blame them. Their own manager couldn't get them in the damn game? It wasn't right.

That's all I have to say about that, but if nothing else the first game back last night was their night to prove themselves worthy, and they both did well, Colon picking up his 8th win of the season, Familia got his 32nd Save, the Mets were back in business and now I have to start paying attention every day again, which was tough after a few days off, and I ended up sleeping through the first 6 innings. But in the end all is well, and here we go.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Go To Hell, Murphy

In the top of the 1st inning on Sunday, Daniel Murphy teed off on a Steven Matz curveball and whacked it into the Pepsi Porch Coca Cola Corner for a 2-run Home Run, which if you're keeping score gave him 33 Home Runs and 121 RBI this season against his former team.

At that point, I realized what the Mets needed to do: They needed to dust him. Not hit him, not hurt him, just, dust him. You know, like what Syndergaard did to Escobar last October. Just put one under his chin and knock him on his ass. Get him uncomfortable.

Of course, given how this has played out, Murphy will probably hit another 3 Home Runs and run the bases backwards.

I and basically every other Mets fan continues to maintain that letting Murphy go was still the right move, because come on. Who the hell thought this was going to happen? This is a guy who once spent an entire season grounding out to 2nd base, and another season getting thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple 39 times. And now, as I said yesterday, he's Dork Jeff Kent. It almost figures that this would happen, because it's the Mets and this is the sort of shit that happens to them. Why the hell couldn't the Anaheim Angels have jumped in, offered him $50 million and saved us from this? It wouldn't bother me as much if he were hitting like this in the American League because a) we wouldn't have to see him skipping around and waving his towel in our faces and b) everyone does that in the American League anyway.

So, yeah. That happened, that sunk Matz, sunk the Mets, sunk the weekend and sent us into the All Star Break not feeling so good about things. The Mets over the last 3 games looked like a team that needed a break, and, well, now they've got one. They finish out the first half 47-41 and tied for the 2nd Wildcard, but a rather distant 6 games out of 1st place behind a team that's gone back to thoroughly pounding them to the tune of a 4-9 record. I mean, given everything that's happened to the Mets this season, with a constant stream of injuries and a whole host of inconsistencies, I suppose we should be fortunate to be in this position hanging tough, but come on. The Mets have looked outright miserable against a bunch of teams they should have beaten soundly, and those are games they're not going to get back. It makes it that much harder to make up the ground between them and Washington, even the ground between them and the Dodgers, who hold the first Wildcard spot.

I don't know what the second half of the season will hold here, and I suppose I felt the same way last season. The only difference here is that there probably isn't a Yoenis Cespedes trump card that can be brought in to save the day. I don't know if there's enough chips left in the system to pull something like that off, and, well, I don't know where an additional piece would fit here? I have a feeling that what we're seeing here is what we're going to the whip with the rest of the way. I hope it works. Otherwise, I'll be trashing Murphy even more. If that clown could have performed like this when he was here, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Unraveling

After a week's worth of battling and hitting and doing mostly everything right, the Mets seem to be undoing all the work they did at the 11th hour leading in to the All Star Break. After dragging themselves back into the race for the NL East, the Mets have promptly turned back into pumpkins against the Nationals, and nobody's been doing more carving to them than Daniel Murphy.

I didn't actually see much, if any, of Saturday's game, which is just as well because I'm told that the FOX broadcast essentially turned into the Daniel Murphy ass-kissing festival. I'm dumbfounded. Murphy was regularly viewed as a joke by National broadcasters during his time with the Mets, and if you didn't know better, you'd assume he was some C-level utility guy that was forced into way too much playing time. Of course, most of the time, Murphy obliged them by playing his own unique brand of Baseball, which involved leaping into outs, throwing to wrong bases and clanking ground balls. And now, all of a sudden, he's turned into Dork Jeff Kent. I can't understand it.

Logan Verrett was the latest victim of the Murphy revenge tour, as a relatively decent outing for him was submarined by Murphy at basically every avenue. The Nationals took an early lead, the Mets kept it close for as long as possible, and then Murphy hit a Home Run and was literally skipping around the bases. And that basically sealed the Mets fate for the night. I don't think I needed to watch the game to know this, and I certainly didn't need to hear Joe Buck (and I can only assume he was announcing) bury his head up Murphy's ass.

Ho hum. One more chance to get this right.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Continued Carnage

It was already a lousy day for the Mets on the injury front with the news earlier in the day that Matt Harvey's season was over, but then I put on the Mets/Nationals game at around the 6th inning only to be greeted with more lovely news of Noah Syndergaard's unceremonious departure from the game. Whenever Syndergaard leaves a game prematurely now, I think every Mets fan drops into heart attack mode. The game becomes secondary to waiting around for some sort of word about what the story is. It came down later that the issue wasn't elbow-related, but still, fatigue seems like a really vague description and doesn't make anyone feel any better.

The game, by this point, had already been decided, after Syndergaard was touched up for a Clint Robinson Home Run and an RBI double from Daniel Murphy, who continues to fuck things up for the Mets even though he's on another team. The Mets did nothing against Stephen Strasburg, who finally has decided to perform up to his potential, and the whole night had basically become a wash, proving once again that the prior day's momentum really means very little in the grand scheme of things.

After the game, Syndergaard spoke and was throwing around phrases like "my arm feels dead," "It's just that time of year," and "I've thrown a lot of pitches, a lot of innings." Certainly, I wouldn't expect to see him in the All Star Game on Tuesday at all, which I guess is just as well. The more time he can take to rest and regroup, the better, at this point, since there's a lot of season left to be played, and the Mets still have some winning they need to do.

Already, they'll have to do this without Matt Harvey, and even though this is disappointing that his season is finished altogether thanks to this Thoracic Nerve issue, but at least there's some kind of tangible answer to his struggles this season. He never seemed right, and even though he'd gotten some of his luster back over the past month, it was once again beginning to fizzle out. It's a double-edged sword. He could have had some temporary fix but who knows if that would work, and is it all really worth trying to suck it up and continue to pitch lousy when this surgery will likely fix the problem? Sure, I know it's risky. All surgeries are. But as I've kept saying about Harvey, it's not as though he's somehow yakking it on purpose. Nobody wants him to pitch better more than he does himself, and sometimes I feel like I'm on an island defending him but I believe this as fact. It's easy to forget that behind the bluster and the image he's created for himself, he's still human. He gets hurt, he feels insecure and he takes his criticism to heart. I know athletes are supposed to be these cold, unfeeling cyborgs but not everyone is wired that way. It's never been Harvey's strong suit. So I think a lot of him masking whatever issue he'd been going through to this point this season is sort of his way of trying to fix his own problem, and he tried to do this until he couldn't do it any further. It sucks to lose him in the middle of the season. But it's probably better to do this now and come back with a clear head and a rested arm next year rather than fumpher his way through the rest of the season not knowing where the ball is going to end up.