Apr 03

Repeating Will Be Harder

Wilmer Flores wasn’t halfway back to the Mets’ dugout after striking out to end the bottom of the 12th inning and last year’s World Series when we already asking the question: Can the Mets return to the Series?

Getting to the World Series is one thing, but getting back there is different, and much harder. Much harder for the simple reason everybody is gunning for you.

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

“The first thing I talked about in spring training is the difference between being the hunter and the hunted,” David Wright told reporters. “We have a bullseye on us now.”

That they do. The Washington Nationals want to wrestle the NL East back from them and the Chicago Cubs – everybody’s sexy pick to get to the World Series – want to avenge being swept in the NLCS.

Last year at this time, the Mets entered the season without having a winning record since 2008. The hope was their young pitching keyed by Matt Harvey‘s return following Tommy John surgery, and Jacob deGrom coming off a Cy Young season, could carry them. And, don’t forget, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz hadn’t even made their major league debuts.

The Mets entered 2015 with questions at catcher, shortstop, Wright’s health at third, left field and in the bullpen.

The Mets got off to a blistering start, but lost Wright in April with a strained hamstring that turned into spinal stenosis and almost four months on the disabled list. The pitching kept the Mets afloat when the hitting collapsed.

The Mets kicked away their early lead, then turned their season around when Michael Conforto was brought up and the team traded for Yoenis Cespedes with a couple of days after a trade for Carlos Gomez fell through which created the enduring image of the season, that being Flores crying at shortstop after hearing he had been traded to Milwaukee.

The season began with .500 as the goal, but the Mets pulled away from Washington, outlasted the Dodgers in five games – winning the deciding game on the road – and sweeping the Cubs to reach their first World Series since 2000 and the fifth in franchise history.

However, Jeurys Familia blew three save opportunities in the World Series and the bats fell quiet and the Royals won in five games.

“Falling short can be a motivator,” deGrom said.

Daniel Murphy left, but the Mets appear to have upgraded their up-the-middle defense with the acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cespedes was brought back and they’ll have Conforto for a full year. They’ll also expect to have Syndergaard and Matz for a full season.

The health of Wright and Travis d’Arnaud are significant issues as is the make-up of the bullpen.

But, we’re not talking about .500 as a primary goal, but winning a World Series.

“Mets fans are hungry,” Wright said. “We’re hungry.”

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Apr 03

Mute Harvey Must Let Pitching Speak For Him

Matt Harvey gets the ball tonight as we all knew he would. However, few thought he’d enter the season pitching as poorly as he did this spring. And, while we always knew he had a chip on his shoulder, nobody thought he’d go into the season with a mad-on at the New York media because he didn’t like a few headlines that poked fun at his urinary tract infection caused by holding in his urine.

OK, so Harvey doesn’t want to talk. That’s his choice, but one that will eventually bite him in the butt in the long run because the headline writers, and columnists, and bloggers, and radio talk-show commentators, will always have the last word. Somebody who is supposedly as smart as Harvey should know that by now.

Harvey’s aggravation might be easier to comprehend if he hadn’t pitched so poorly this spring, as evidenced by a 7.50 ERA and 1.83 WHIP.

However, none of that matters now. Neither does Harvey’s anger. Or what the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series. The only thing that matters is this is a new season and the expectations have never been higher of Harvey and the Mets.

If Harvey doesn’t want to speak, so be it. Let him be silent. It’s all right as long as his pitching gives us something to talk about.

ON DECK:  Mets’ Opening Day lineup.

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Apr 03

Mets Fortunate To See Royals Raise Banner

If I were Mets manager Terry Collins, I would want his players to watch the Kansas City Royals raise their championship banner tonight and received their rings Tuesday. Hell, I might even ask the Royals for a video to play every time the Mets hit a funk this summer.

I don’t, for one second, think it’s unfair or uncomfortable for the Mets to have to witness those pieces of baseball history. This is by no means the Royals rubbing it in the Mets’ faces.

In fact, they should relish this rare opportunity to experience Opening Day in the stadium of the team that beat them in the World Series the previous fall. Not that the Mets should need further motivation, but in case they need a reminder, watching today’s ceremonies should do the trick.

David Wright said if he were in the dugout or on the field at the time, he’d watch, to “pay my respects,” as he put it.

“They outplayed us pretty much in every aspect of the game in the World Series,” Wright said. “It will sting a bit.”

As well as it should. The more, the better. Watching the Royals raise the banner and receive their rings Tuesday will be no better reminder to the Mets as to what might have been, and what could be this year.

ON DECK:  Matt Harvey, The Silent One.

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Apr 03

Mets’ Over/Unders

What’s baseball without numbers? Every team has its significant statistics, and the following are the over/under stats for your 2016 Mets. The most important number, or course, is victories and that’s where we begin with last year’s 90 victories:

Every team has its significant statistics, and the following are the over/under stats for your 2016 Mets. The most important number, or course, is victories and that’s where we begin with last year’s 90 victories:

 

92: Wins by Mets.

90: Wins by Washington Nationals.

20: Victories by Matt Harvey.

Tonight: When Harvey breaks media silence.

5: Drama issues by Harvey (he already has one).

17: Victories by Jacob deGrom.

16: Victories by Noah Syndergaard.

14: Victories by Steven Matz.

200: Innings pitched by Harvey.

200: Innings pitched by deGrom.

200: Innings pitched by Syndergaard.

20: Starts by Bartolo Colon.

July 15: Date Zack Wheeler brought up.

12: Starts made by Wheeler.

8: Number of pitchers who will start for Mets this summer.

13: Number of different relievers used by Mets.

40: Saves by Jeurys Familia.

7: Blown saves by Familia.

120: Games played by David Wright.

14: Homers by Wright.

33: Homers by Lucas Duda.

96: RBI by Duda.

.285: Neil Walker batting average.

10: Errors at shortstop by Asdrubal Cabrera.

17: Homers by Wilmer Flores off the bench.

15: Games started at shortstop by Flores.

95: Walks by Curtis Granderson.

28: Homers by Granderson.

35: Homers by Yoenis Cespedes.

100: RBI by Cespedes.

9: Errors by Cespedes.

450: At-bats by Michael Conforto.

50: At-bats by Conforto vs. left-handers.

.280: Conforto batting average.

10: Mets victories over Nationals.

4: Mets victories over Cubs.

3: Mets victories over Yankees.

13: Mets victories in April.

115: Games started by Travis d’Arnaud.

18: Homers by d’Arnaud.

12: Runners caught stealing by d’Arnaud.

22: Times Mets use disabled list.

8: Number of different Mets to hit double-digit homers.

7: Longest winning streak by Mets.

6: Longest losing streak by Mets.

2: Playoff series won by Mets.

4 million: Attendance at Citi Field.

8: Playoff games at Citi Field.

.335: Daniel Murphy batting average vs. Mets.

4: Murphy homers vs. Mets.

3: Mets to make All-Star team.

43: Players the Mets will use this year.

 

ON DECK:  Mets should be happy to watch KC celebrate.

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Apr 03

Mets’ Roster With Thumbnail Reports

Like it or not, Mets manager Terry Collins has selected the 25-man roster that will open the 2016 season Sunday in Kansas City. Most of the selections were obvious, with nothing considered a major surprise.

Introducing the 2016 New York Mets:

STARTING PITCHING

Matt Harvey: He’s not talking, but most babies can’t. That’s all right as long as his pitching gives us something to talk about. It hasn’t so far this spring, but he gets a clean slate starting tonight.

Noah Syndergaard:  Will start the season’s second game. There’s talk of retaliation, but that’s ludicrous. He just might have the highest ceiling of any of the Mets’ young arms.

Jacob deGrom: Will get the ball for the home opener Friday. Is carving a reputation as the Mets’ best big-game pitcher.

Steven Matz: Roughed up early in spring training, but closed strong. Still hasn’t been determined when he’ll get first start.

Bartolo Colon: Has been an invaluable addition. Could work out of the bullpen for the games in Kansas City. Will be the fifth starter until Zack Wheeler is ready to pitch.

BULLPEN

Jeurys Familia: Had great regular season, but struggled in the World Series. He might have won job by default, but he controls his own destiny.

Addison Reed: The designated set-up reliever, but is capable of closing if needed.

Antonio Bastardo: Lefty specialist. Had a rough spring training.

Jerry Blevins: Lefty is back after missing most of last year with a broken arm.

Logan Verrett: Capable of working in long relief and as spot starter. Started over Harvey last year to give Mets vital victory.

Jim Henderson: Former Brewers closer won spot.

Hansel Robles: Will serve two-game suspension to start season. Has reputation for quick-pitching and losing his composure.

CATCHING

Travis d’Arnaud: His health and throwing are two biggest concerns. Scouts believe if he stays healthy he could have 20-homer capability.

Kevin Plawecki: Thought he might open season in Triple-A. One of Collins’ challenges is to get him enough at-bats to stay sharp.

INFIELD

Lucas Duda: Has hit 57 homers over the past two years. Needs to cut strikeouts and use the entire field more than he does.

Neil Walker: A Daniel Murphy duplicate? Says he feels at home. Considered an upgrade defensively and has more power potential than Murphy.

Asdrubal Cabrera: Missed much of spring training with a strained knee but will start tonight. Considered a defensive upgrade.

David Wright: His back will always be a question. It’s anybody’s guess as to how many games he’ll play this season.

Wilmer Flores: Scheduled to back up each of the infield positions, which could turn out to be his niche. Are 20 homers a possibility?

Eric Campbell: Can also play in the outfield. Could be the first choice to back up Wright.

OUTFIELD

Michael Conforto: Just let him play against left-handers so we can see what he’s all about. It could be a breakout year for him if they give him the at-bats.

Yoenis Cespedes: They are tied into him for $27.5 million this year. Should play left instead of center. Mind and hustle have tendency to wander.

Curtis Granderson: Surprised a lot of people last year at the leadoff spot. I’d love to see another 90-plus walks with 30 homers.

Juan Lagares: The team’s best defensive player won Gold Glove award two years ago. Is seemingly healthy. When he plays it should be in center with Cespedes moving to left.

Alejandro De Aza: Was signed as the reserve outfielder before Cespedes was brought back. Could be available in a trade.

ON DECK:  Mets’ over/unders for 2016.

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