Jun 13

These Mets Made You Watch

Yoenis Cespedes has turned out to be one of those hitters, the kind that grab your attention and keep your eyes transfixed to the plate, whether you’re at the ballpark or watching on television. When he steps up, whether you’re heading to the concession stand or the refrigerator your heads turn to him like a rubber necker staring at a highway accident.

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

Everything can wait until you see what Cespedes does. It could be another home run; a line drive into the gap; or he could screw himself into the ground striking out. It doesn’t matter because it was an event.

Cespedes is one of four Mets that I believe who mesmerized us with their power.

Dave Kingman was the first. He was long and lean, once a pitcher. But, strong and launched 154 homers in his six years in two stints with the Mets, most of them high, arching moonshots.

Kingman came to the Mets from San Francisco, purchased for merely $150,000. He was the total all-or-nothing slugger with 442 career homers and 1,816 strikeouts.

Another was Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who hit 220 homers eight years with the Mets. Piazza came to the Mets from the Dodgers – after a week layover in Miami – and lead them to the 2000 World Series. Piazza’s swing uncoiled, almost in slow motion, but the ball jumped off his bat.

Piazza authored arguably the most memorable homer in franchise history with his game-winner over the Braves in the first pro sports event in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Others hit longer or higher home runs. Others hit them in October. But, Piazza’s was undoubtedly the most emotional and will never be forgotten,

Finally, there was Darryl Strawberry, the only one of the group who was home grown. He hit 252 homers in eight years with the Mets, and things froze at Shea when he came to the plate. Strawberry played for the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants – all four of New York’s baseball teams.

If there was one Strawberry blast that defined his power and strength, it was his blast off the scoreboard clock in old Busch Stadium.

There were other Mets who hit significant, if not dramatic, home runs. David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Lenny Dykstra, Rod Swoboda and Tommie Agee also hit memorable home runs for the Mets.

But, Strawberry, Piazza, Kingman and Cespedes made us stop and watch.

 

Jun 12

Things Better Change Quickly For Mets

Last week I asked if there was a reason to be concerned with the Mets, but stopped short of saying they were in trouble. I’m not stopping short any longer. If the season ended today the Mets would make the playoffs as the second wild card, but there are more than a few reasons to believe they aren’t heading in the right direction.

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

MATZ: Roughed up Sunday. (Getty)

There’s plenty of season left to turn things around, but also enough time has gone by to conclude despite their young pitching – and Bartolo Colon – that if there’s not a reversal soon the playoffs many of us took for granted on Opening Day might not happen.

Following their 15-7 April, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss in Milwaukee the Mets have gone 19-21. They are 4.5 games behind Washington, and one of seven teams lumped under the 4.5-game umbrella of wild-contenders.

Teams will lose, but the Mets didn’t play well during their 5-5 road trip. They weren’t just beaten, they beat themselves. On Sunday, they had breakdowns in all phases: 1) Steven Matz was roughed up in his second straight start; 2) the defense committed three errors and could have had a fourth; and 3) and their hitters struck out ten times and went 2-for-9 with RISP.

April’s storyline was the Mets’ propensity for hitting homers, but more importantly in their 62 games they have scored three or fewer runs in half (31) of them. That’s an alarming number. Overall, they are hitting .214 with RISP; and average around nine strikeouts and close to the same in runners left on base in a game.

Nine strikeouts mean in three innings they did not put the ball in play. For all those who don’t give credence to strikeouts as an important statistic, it is time to get a clue. Not putting the ball in play means no chance for hits; no chance to reach on an error; no sacrifice flies; and no productive outs to put runners in scoring position.

A positive note is Matt Harvey seems to have turned it around, but could that be offset by Matz’s two straight stinkers? And, Jacob deGrom hasn’t won in his last seven starts. The bullpen, so positive in April, is showing cracks. Closer Jeurys Familia is far from a sure thing. Their most reliable reliever is Addison Reed; with everybody else you hold your breath.

Injuries are a concern with David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud on the disabled list. They could get d’Arnaud back in a week or so, but he wasn’t hitting or throwing runners out on the bases before he got hurt. Michael Conforto has a sore wrist and is in a dreadful slump; Neil Walker has a tight lower back; and Juan Lagares has an injured left thumb.

The upcoming schedule is brutal as from now until the All-Star break they have three more games with Pittsburgh; two against Kanas City; three with the Marlins; four against the Cubs and seven with the Nationals. Beginning Tuesday, the Mets start a stretch of 26 games in 27 days.

Seriously, there’s a chance the trade deadline could be moot.

The Mets can get on a hot streak, turn things around and maybe add a couple of pieces just as they did last season. However, since the end of April we’ve seen precious few signs of that happening.

There’s reason for concern, and yes, they are in trouble.

Jun 11

Mets Wrap: Walker Injured; Options Available

Here’s a shock, the Mets have another player down with a lower back injury and it has manager Terry Collins concerned. Very concerned.

VERRETT: Torched by Brewers. (AP)

VERRETT: Torched by Brewers. (AP)

Neil Walker left Saturday’s 7-4 loss at Milwaukee with tightness in his lower back. He won’t play Sunday and beyond that the Mets don’t know of his availability.

At this point, the disabled list can’t be discounted. David Wright (herniated disk in his neck) and Lucas Duda (stress fracture) are already on the disabled list with back-related injuries.

Walker grounded into an inning-ending double play in the third and was out of the game in the fourth.

“`With what we’ve been seeing, yeah,” Collins told reporters if he was concerned, saying Duda’s soreness turned out to be a broken back.

“Any time you’re talking about the lower back there is a concern.”

Collins said Walker will be examined Sunday, but what happens next nobody knows. Of course, you must assume the worst, which is usually what you have to do when it comes to the Mets and injuries.

Walker said he’s not concerned and hopes to play Tuesday.

Kelly Johnson will likely play tomorrow, but beyond that we could end up seeing Dilson Herrera up from the minors sooner than we expected. I floated the idea of signing Jimmy Rollins, but unless Walker’s injury is severe, they won’t do anything substantial.

METS GAME WRAP

June 11, 2016, @ Milwaukee

Game: #61          Score:  Brewers 7, Mets 4

Record: 34-27    Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East, three games behind Washington.  Playoffs: First WC.

Runs: 226    Average:  3.7   Times 3 runs or less: 30

SUMMARY:  Logan Verrett gave up three homers in a spot start and Mets’ pitching surrendered five overall.

KEY MOMENT: Curtis Granderson tripled to lead off the third and was stranded. … Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

THUMBS UP: Two hits by Cabrera, including a two-run homer in the second. … Granderson had three hits and fell a double short of a triple. …

THUMBS DOWN:  Verrett gave up five runs on four hits and four walks in four innings. … Reliever Hansel Robles walked two. … Antonio Bastardo gave up two homers in the seventh. … Mets’ hitters struck out nine and their pitchers walked seven.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets had won six straight before losing Saturday. … The Mets have 83 homers, third in the league. … The Mets’ pen has given up 18 homers. … Travis d’Arnaud caught in a rehab assignment in Port St. Lucie.

QUOTEBOOK: “He threw 80 pitches in four innings. That’s a lot.’’ – Collins on Verrett’s performance.

BY THE NUMBERS:  5-for-51: The numbers behind Michael Conforto’s recent slump.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz (7-2, 2.39) vs. RP Zach Davies (4-3, 4.29) at Milwaukee, Sunday. … The Mets are off Monday then begin a three-game series Tuesday against Pittsburgh at Citi Field.

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Jun 10

Mets Should Consider Rollins

It is a no-brainer in the sense the Mets have nothing to lose if they rolled the dice on former nemesis Jimmy Rollins, who was designated for assignment Friday by the Chicago White Sox.

If it didn’t work out, the Mets could always release him, so why not take a chance? What would it hurt? Some team will make a run at Rollins. Why not the Mets? And, he won’t cost much.

ROLLINS: Why not? (Getty)

ROLLINS: Why not? (Getty)

Of course, Rollins isn’t the same player who once tormented the Mets – along with his double-play partner Chase Utley – but has a winning mentality and could bring something to the table down the stretch.

This season, Rollins, 37, was hitting .221 with two home runs and eight RBI in 41 games with the White Sox. But, he was signed as a role player, evidenced by his $2 million contract.

Once sizzling at 13 games over .500, the White Sox have lost 12 of their last 15 games and entered Friday’s play at 30-30. The Mets aren’t hot either, but they are still very much a playoff contender.

The Mets have a runner on third with one out late in the game. Who would you rather have at the plate, Rollins or Eric Campbell? Or Ty Kelly?

Rollins is better than anybody the Mets have to spell Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop. Although no longer a blazer, he does bring an element of speed, something the Mets lack. Two years ago – his last with the Phillies – he stole 28 bases.

A line drive hitter, he has been a doubles and triples machine during his career. Of course, he’s not in his prime. It would be ridiculous to think he is. However, it isn’t a stretch to think there could be a flashback moment this summer when he could help the Mets steal a game.

And, isn’t that the point of mid-season additions?

Jun 09

Meet The New Mets: Never Bad Idea To Take Pitching

There are no guarantees in the baseball draft, but selecting power arms is generally a good idea, which was the Mets’ thinking when they used their first two picks to take junior pitchers Justin Dunn of Boston College with the 19th overall selection, and left-hander Anthony Kay of Connecticut 12 picks later.

You might wonder why a team struggling offensively and pitching rich would go after more pitching. Quite simply, we’re talking about Dunn and Kay not being ready for up to three more years, and a lot can happen in that span.

(05/31/2016 Chestnut Hill, MA) Boston College pitcher Justin Dunn throws in the bullpen as the BC baseball team prepares for the NCAA tournament  at  practice at Shea Field on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Photo by Matt West.

(05/31/2016 Chestnut Hill, MA) Boston College pitcher Justin Dunn throws in the bullpen as the BC baseball team prepares for the NCAA tournament at practice at Shea Field on Tuesday, May 31, 2016. Photo by Matt West.

From the Mets’ current staff, there are injuries and trades, not to mention free agency. Of course, the way things have been going for him, you could exclude from that mix Bartolo Colon, who gave up one run in seven innings Thursday in Milwaukee.

Also, as the Mets proved with Yoenis Cespedes last year, hitting is generally more easily obtainable.

The 6-2, 184-pound Dunn started the college season in the bullpen, but his 90-mph., plus fastball and power curveball were moved into the rotation in April and went 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA in eight starts.

However, what the Mets should really love is he struck out 49 and walked just 13 in 47 innings.

“I try to pitch in the range of 90-92,” Dunn told The Boston Globe. “That’s where mentally I’d like to think I’m pitching. If it comes out harder than that, it comes out harder than that. Lately, it has been, which is a blessing. I feel pretty confident in all four pitches. That’s what makes it so hard for hitters. A hitter in a 1-and-2 count can’t eliminate one.”

Dunn throws a two- and four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. Dunn, who is from Long Island, will be pitching this weekend to send the Eagles into the College World Series.

Kay is also from Long Island and from the same high school that produced Steven Matz.

KAY: Following Matz to Queens. (UCONN)

KAY: Following Matz to Queens. (UCONN)

Kay throws in the low 90s and throws a fastball, changeup and curve.

UConn coach Jim Penders says Kay has a Long Island swagger, and you know what he means by that when you watch Matz.

“`It has kind of grown since I left Long Island,” Kay told The Hartford Courant. “It means you don’t care what anybody thinks about you – you just go out and do your job and get it done the best you can.”

Kay was 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 83.1 innings.

The Mets drafted Kay in 2013 and made him a six-figure offer, but he opted for college. They got a second chance Thursday.