May 29

Loney Was Best Possible Available Option For Mets

James Loney might not have been the best player the Mets could have gotten to replace Lucas Duda at first base for the next two months, but considering how they do things he was the best possible option.

The Mets considered several internal options – including Wilmer Flores – but acted with unusual swiftness for them by getting Loney, 32, from San Diego for cash.

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

I would have preferred Adam LaRoche, but the speculated cost in coaxing him out of retirement from the White Sox would probably have been too high. However, I definitely prefer Loney over a mix-and-match platoon of Eric Campbell and Flores. He’s also a better option than moving Michael Conforto or David Wright to new positions.

“Loney was an immediate, obvious possibility in terms of ease of acquisition and a variety of things,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters. “We had someone go and look at James a couple of games last week and earlier in the month. We felt this was the right move for us at the moment.

“We felt we needed another left-handed bat. James doesn’t have a lot of power. He hasn’t demonstrated that, but we’ve got that elsewhere in the lineup. He’s someone who hits from the left side, a contact hitter, doesn’t strike out a lot. He could be a nice fit for us.”

Manager Terry Collins, whose roots are in the Dodger system as are Loney’s, has known him for 15 years.

“He’ll add a nice dimension to us,” Collins said. “He’s a very good first baseman. He’s a good offensive player. He’s not necessarily a big power guy. He’s a tremendous guy in the clubhouse.”

Loney was released by the Rays this spring and had been with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, Texas, where he was hitting .342 with two homers and 28 RBI in 158 at-bats.

Loney was to make $9.6 million this year, but because he was released by the Rays, the Mets are responsible for the pro-rated major league minimum for him.

All in all, it was the best possible deal the Mets could have made.

 

May 28

Mets Wrap: Plenty Of Deserving Fingers To Be Pointed In Syndergaard Fiasco

The Mets ignored the ancient Chinese proverb, “when pursuing revenge remember to dig two graves.”

The Mets finally chose Saturday night to seek retribution against Chase Utley for his hard take-out slide during last year’s NLDS against the Dodgers that resulted in a broken leg for their then shortstop Ruben Tejada.

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

The only grave filled was by the Mets and Noah Syndergaard.

The Mets eschewed retaliation against the Dodgers for the rest of the playoffs; during the four-game series in Los Angeles earlier this month; and Friday night. One school of thought was the Mets would continue to let Utley wonder, which would have been the best choice.

Instead, Syndergaard threw behind Utley’s back with one out in the third. Plate umpire Adam Hamari booted Syndergaard before the ball stopped rolling at the backstop. Utley calmly kept his head down and smoothed the dirt with his foot.

Utley homered in the sixth. If that wasn’t enough to rile Mets’ fans, then surely his grand slam in the seventh that sealed the Dodgers’ 9-1 blowout win should have been.

Utley maintained a stoic look throughout the game showing zero emotion. None.

Hamari had no choice but eject Syndergaard because whenever a pitcher deliberately wants to hit a batter he throws behind him, the thinking being the hitter will step back into the pitch.

Please, let’s not insult our intelligence by saying the ball got away because he had only walked nine hitters entering the game. Please, also don’t blame our intelligence, as SNY did, by saying Hamari didn’t have a handle on the situation because he is only a third-year umpire.

Since it’s all about blame these days, my finger is pointed at three parties for Syndergaard’s ejection.

First, let’s look at Syndergaard, who should be smart enough to know that after the buildup there would be no way he could go after Utley and skate. He’s young, but not naïve.

Second, there’s manager Terry Collins, who is not having the good start to this season. Collins has to understand the ramifications of losing Syndergaard. He made a big deal of wrongly justifying his poor decision to bring in Jeurys Familia in a non-save situation Friday because he wanted to win the game.

Don’t you think the Mets’ chances to win are enhanced with Syndergaard? When the teams played in Los Angeles, Collins warned his team about retaliation, saying he didn’t need to have anybody hurt or suspended. He didn’t have a similar message prior to this series.

For his efforts, Collins was also tossed. Collins said he was “surprised” Syndergaard was ejected so quickly without a warning. Seriously? Hasn’t he been paying attention?

Finally, Major League Baseball needs to take a bow for totally screwing up this whole situation. Here’s how:

* The umpires have discretion for ejecting a player they believe intentionally tried to injure a player. They did not.

* In response to the uproar from media and Mets fans about the play, MLB feared an incident at Citi Field when the NLDS moved to Citi Field. MLB suspended Utley for two games not because they judged it a dirty play, but because they feared an ugly scene. Joe Torre, who handles these decisions for MLB, should know more than most that is not the basis for a decision.

* When Utley’s appeal was heard this spring the original suspension was not upheld. MLB would say it was because of a new rule change, but the incident was committed under the old format.

* Finally, knowing the tension heading leading into the series – surely, the Commissioner’s office reads the New York papers – it would have been prudent to issue a warning.

This has been a total screw up from the beginning, and if Syndergaard is suspended – as Collins fears – it will only get worse.

METS GAME WRAP

May 28, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #48          Score:  Dodgers 9, Mets 1

Record: 28-20     Streak: L 1

Standings: First, NL East, four percentage points ahead of the Nationals.  

Runs: 187    Average:  3.87   Times 3 or less: 23

SUMMARY: Syndergaard’s retaliation attempt at Utley failed and resulted in his ejection. The Dodgers homered five times, including two by Utley, who drove in five runs.

KEY MOMENT:  Syndergaard’s ill-fated attempt to put the hammer down.

THUMBS UP:  At least they didn’t need Familia. … Juan Lagares homered for the second straight game. … Nobody got hurt. … The Nationals also lost.

THUMBS DOWN:  The whole night. … Now they have to face Clayton Kershaw. … Just three hits. … They gave up four homers. … They still don’t have a clue as to how to pitch to Utley. … The bullpen gave up nine runs and the hitters struck out ten times.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play because of pain in his neck. There exists a possibility he could be placed on the disabled list Sunday. … Wilmer Flores could be activated from the DL Sunday. … The Mets sent cash to San Diego for first baseman James Loney.

QUOTEBOOK:  “It would be fair.’’ – Collins on if he was upset with the decision to eject Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS:  34: Pitches thrown by Syndergaard.

NEXT FOR METS:  Bartolo Colon against Kershaw Sunday night.

Please follow me on Twitter

May 27

Mets Wrap: Granderson Saves Familia, Collins

The Mets won tonight despite Terry Collins’ over-managing. They overcame a rocky start by Jacob deGrom to take a four-run lead into the ninth. Everything seemed to be falling in place for the Mets.

Addison Reed worked the eighth and got Justin Turner on an inning-ending double play. He needed only seven pitches, so there was no concern about him being overworked.

FAMILIA: Tough night. (AP)

FAMILIA: Tough night. (AP)

That’s when Collins started poking at embers on the grill.

“You can’t worry about tomorrow,’’ Collins inexplicably told reporters as to why he used Jeurys Familia in a non-save situation. “You want to win the game.’’

How many times can you remember the Mets expanding a lead and have Familia sit down and somebody else enter the game?

Collins said he’s used Familia in non-save situations before. Friday was the eighth time he’s done it. Sometimes a closer will be brought in that way if he hasn’t had a lot of work.

Including tonight, Familia has pitched five times in the past week and converted three save opportunities, so it’s not as if he needed the work.

Familia hasn’t been effective in that role and certainly was off Friday, giving up three straight singles and a bases-loaded walk to bring in one run. Collins could see Familia didn’t have it, but what was he going to do, pull his closer for somebody else to close the game?

Instead, he let him pitch to Chase Utley, who drilled a three-run double into the right-center gap. All that talk about retribution with Utley seems tired and moot right now.

Familia eventually got out of the inning – he struck out three – but needed a season-high 32 pitches to do so. It remains to be seen if Familia will be available Saturday.

Curtis Granderson homered down the right-field line off Pedro Baez on the second pitch he saw to take both Familia and Collins off the hook.

METS GAME WRAP

May 27, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #47          Score:  Mets 6, Dodgers 5

Record: 27-19     Streak: W 2

Standings: First, NL East, four percentage points ahead of the Nationals.  

Runs: 186    Average:  3.95   Times 3 or less: 22

SUMMARY:  Instead of his fourth victory, Jacob DeGrom came away with a no-decision when Familia couldn’t hold a four-run lead in the ninth. Granderson took a night of angst away from Familia and Collins by hitting his ninth homer.

KEY MOMENT:  Granderson’s leadoff homer in the ninth.

THUMBS UP: DeGrom’s ability to pitch out of trouble, highlighted by a fastball in the mid-90s. It could have been his best fastball of the season. … David Wright homered for the third straight game. … No unnecessary fireworks involving Chase Utley. … Asdrubal Cabrera’s defense and guess what, he got another hit. … Two hits from Neil Walker.

THUMBS DOWN: Collins’ decision to go with Familia and the closer’s dismal performance (four runs on four hits and a walk). … Mets’ hitters struck out 12 times. … Granderson struck out three times and is now hitting .195. … Familia struggled in a non-save situation, giving up four runs in the ninth.

EXTRA INNINGS:  GM Sandy Alderson said the team is still exploring external first-base options. Kelly Johnson and James Loney are being considered. … Eric Campbell started his fourth straight game at first. … Wilmer Flores is expected to return from the disabled list soon, perhaps during this series. He can play first. … The Mets discounted the idea of using Conforto at first. … Matt Harvey pitched to Alejandro De Aza and Matt Reynolds prior to the game as the team still is searching for answers. Harvey is scheduled to start Monday against the White Sox.

QUOTEBOOK: “He doesn’t get down. He’s level. He’s a professional.’’ – Collins on Granderson.

BY THE NUMBERS:  13: Mets homers in their last seven games.

NEXT FOR METS:  Noah Syndergaard (5-2, 1.94) starts against Kenta Maeda (3-3, 3.29).

Please follow me on Twitter

May 27

Where Were You Went The Ball Got By Buckner?

The Mets are honoring their 1986 championship team this weekend. That World Series had numerous moments capable of being etched into our memories forever, but one clearly stands out: Mookie Wilson’s ground ball that scooted between Bill Buckner’s legs.

I was in the family room of my ex-wife, watching the game with her and my father-in-law. It was pretty quiet.

METS' SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

METS’ SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

Anthony Arthur was a Mets’ fan and he took me out to Shea that summer. The game, and what had been a marvelous season, were slowly and agonizingly slipping away in the tenth inning of Game 6 with Boston holding a 5-3 lead.

After Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Well, they had a great season. Maybe next year.”

Gary Carter singled, and Kevin Mitchell followed with the same. As ’86 Mets lore has it, by this time Keith Hernandez was in manager Davey Johnson’s office, his feet propped on the desk as he sipped a beer.

I wonder if it was a Reingold?

Ray Knight singled and it was 5-4.

Enter Bob Stanley, who threw a wild pitch and all of a sudden the game was tied. Technically, it was tied, but we all knew the game was over. And likely the World Series.

I always wondered, as those in New England probably still do, why Roger Clemens wasn’t called in to pitch?

Wilson was up and after fouling off six pitches, dribbled a ground ball towards first on the tenth pitch of an epic at-bat. VIDEO OF VIN SCULLY’S CALL.

It might be the most memorable moment in Mets’ history. VIDEO OF BOB MURPHY’S CALL.

I wonder, where were you when “the ball gets by Buckner?’’

I’d love to know.

 

May 26

Matz Passes Watershed Moment; Collins Should Be Applauded

There comes a time in every player’s path from prospect to star when he faces a watershed test he must pass, which is what happened to Mets pitcher Steven Matz Wednesday afternoon in Washington. Hopefully, it will be something Matz will wistfully recall down the road, perhaps before All-Star and playoff games.

MATZ: Passes the test. (AP)

MATZ: Passes the test. (AP)

Pitching coach Dan Warthen immediately recognized it and told manager Terry Collins, “we’re going to see what the kid is made of.”

The Mets were hanging to a slim 2-0 lead when the Nationals had a runner on with two outs in the eighth. Collins knew it, too, when he glanced into the Nationals’ dugout and saw Bryce Harper, the 2015 NL MVP, selecting a bat.

Matz was at 100 pitches and this was his last inning regardless and Collins had a warmed-up Jerry Blevins in the bullpen. The conventional choice, one Collins has frequently made in the past, was to go to the mound with his hand extended for the ball and pat Matz on the back.

Instead, Collins nodded to Warthen and did nothing.

“When you have a young player in certain situations, you have to challenge him,” Collins would say to reporters. “If he’s going to be a big winner for us, he’s got to learn to get the big out.”

It was an important gesture Collins and it was more than symbolic. It was one of confidence not lost on the young left-hander. It might turn out to be the most important decision Collins will make this season.

“It definitely means something,” said Matz, now 7-1 this year and already 11-1 in his young career. “As a competitor, you don’t want to come out in that situation. And for your manager to have faith in you to leave you out to face arguably the greatest hitter in the game right now, it’s pretty awesome.”

And, awesome was Matz’s response as he threw four more pitches – all fastballs – to wrap up his gem, the last one to get Harper to meekly ground out to second. From the other dugout, Nationals manager Dusty Baker made a comparison Mets’ fans should appreciate.

“You don’t see many lefties like that,” Baker told reporters. “He was very determined. He’s a good athlete. He reminded me of Jon Matlack back in my day, with the Mets. He was throwing the heck out of the ball, working quick. He threw a heck of a game. A heck of a game.”

Yeah, “heck” was a good term for Baker to use. We can go on for a long time raving about Matz, but for now Mets’ fans should settle for being grateful to have him.

And, for Collins’ unconventional, yet essential decision of loyalty to trust him.

As Matz’ career hopefully progresses to stardom, this will be a moment he will frequently recall.