Sep 08

Questions The Mets Might Have Already Answered

Let’s begin the Mets’ salvage operation for September by seeing how they answered the most significant questions facing them as they entered spring training.

Q: Can the Mets finish with a winning record?

A: Mathematically, it’s possible as Sunday’s victory in Cincinnati has them seven games under with 19 to play. They are six games behind in the wild-card standings, but need to leapfrog five teams. They have head-to-head match-ups with Washington, Atlanta and Miami, but even so, the odds are against them. They were 14 games under last year and won’t be the 90-win team GM Sandy Alderson thought possible this spring. Bet, he regrets that comment. Even so, improvement is possible. Hey, you take what you can get.

Q: Who’s on first?

A:  Probably more than anything, Alderson’s high point this season is how quickly he disposed of Ike Davis. Honestly, I thought this might get played out as it was the past two years, but Alderson pulled the trigger quickly on a trade. Davis struggled both with injuries and at the plate out of the gate, and Lucas Duda has done more than just out-play him. Duda has developed into a legitimate slugger who could merit a better contract. As the Mets brace for legitimacy in 2015, they’ll have one less question because of Duda’s development.

Q: Who’ll play shortstop?

A: The Mets teased us with talks of signing Stephen Drew or trading for Nick Franklin. April began with shortstop as a black hole with Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores competing for the job, and the Mets having little confidence in either.

I envisioned Tejada winning the job by default because I didn’t think Alderson would gamble on Drew or Franklin, or ever have the stones to go with Flores.

Surprise: Flores has been getting the lion’s share of the playing time and September is for him to put a stranglehold on the job. Flores always had the better bat and he’s not embarrassed himself in the field.

This could be one less question for the winter.

Q: Who’ll be the leadoff hitter?

A: There was no clear-cut favorite, although manager Terry Collins had lukewarm preference for Eric Young. However, this has been a miserable season for Young, who doesn’t have a good on-base percentage. Several players were used to lead off, including the departed Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. The job now appears to be sliding to Juan Lagares, who stole two bases Sunday. Lagares can steal a base, but there’s more to leading off than stealing bases. Working the count and a high on-base percentage are paramount, and those are two categories are something he’ll need to work on this month. Lagares’ development also assures Eric Young won’t be back.

Q: How will the rotation shake out with Matt Harvey gone?

A: The biggest issues were whether Zack Wheeler would progress and if Jon Niese would take it to the next level. Wheeler has pitched well following a slow start. He won his tenth game Sunday, but was hampered by the persistent problem of running up his pitch count, throwing 99 in six innings. He’s worked into the sixth or longer in all but one start – have to like that – but his 99 Sunday was the fewest he’s thrown. As for Niese, the Mets expected far better than 8-10. The Mets could very well be tiring of Niese’s inconsistency and this could finally be the time when they opt to trade him. Could happen.

Q: Who replaces Bobby Parnell in the closer role?

A: The Mets finally decided on a role for Jenrry Mejia, and it is closer. Mejia still has those moments when he tends to overthrow and lose command. He labored Sunday with 25 pitches, but came away with his 24th save compared to three blown saves.

Let’s face it, 2014 was supposed to be a transition season for the Mets, who made no secret they were waiting for Harvey’s return and a step toward competitiveness.

For the most part, the Mets addressed their issues in the positive. Even so, in the cases of Lagares, Flores, Mejia and Wheeler, there’s a difference between optimism and definitive answers. Looking ahead to 2015, they need to see more of those four in September before deciding their offseason plans.

There’s not enough time remaining for some guys – such as David Wright, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud – to finish with statistically impressive numbers. Even so, there’s time enough to enter the offseason with positive vibes.

The flip side are the nagging questions:

Where is Wright in his career? Has his career peaked and is he on the downhill slide? Did his shoulder injury hurt him more than the Mets let on?

As for Granderson, we knew there would be a power slide leaving the Bronx, but will he ever be a significant power threat again?

The Mets haven’t gotten the production they hoped from d’Arnaud, but the defensive part of his game is getting better and the pitchers are comfortable with him.

As for pitching, nobody can say for certain how Harvey and Wheeler will develop. Niese remains an enigma. The bullpen has been good in spots, but is always a work in progress. Is this as good as it will get for Mejia? What can we expect from Parnell next season?

There will be no playoffs this season, but .500 can be had with a 13-6 finish. With 13 of their remaining games at home, and nine against teams with losing records, stranger things have happened for a franchise that likes to call itself, “Amazin.’’

Let’s not think about 2015 just yet.

COMING UP THIS WEEK:  Mets we might not see in 2015 … Numbers and milestones that could happen … Looking at second base … Are the Mets in better shape than the Yankees?

Sep 08

Please Accept My Heartfelt Apologies

When you run a blog for as long as I ran newyorkmetsreport.com, you have a responsibility to your readers. It is a responsibility, which quite frankly I failed miserably this year.

For this, I can’t apologize enough for my absence. It is something I never wanted, especially with how much I looked forward to this season.

As many of you know, I was hospitalized in mid-March after a serious accident in my home. What you don’t know is I remained there until about two weeks ago.

I went in with a compound fracture of my left arm and fractured shoulder and left five months later in a wheelchair.

I am finally home, but unable to walk and currently undergoing extensive physical therapy. I need people to help me cook and clean, and bathe me. The doctors don’t know when, or if, I will walk again and the prospect of spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair is daunting and frightening.

By comparison, Matt Harvey’s whining about pitching again this season – thank goodness that’s over – doesn’t register on my radar.

I always thought the feelings in my legs would return shortly and I would pick things up again. But,

it never happened, so I spent the last five months in two hospitals and two rehab facilities. During this time I underwent three surgeries and three other medical procedures, including an emergency surgery to remove a gangrenous gallbladder the first week of July.

I barely remember July, but I am sure the hospital bills will remind me.

As you can see, the blog is a ghost town, something I never wanted. A friend of mine recently chewed out my butt saying I should have at least been in touch to tell people what was going on.

Even so, between the pain, pills and depression, I fell into a dark hole and didn’t feel like talking. Many days were spent with Bonanza and NCIS reruns. Some friends said it would be good therapy to start writing the blog again. I tried several times, but it was a reminder of what I lost and what I faced.

My head was not on straight. Writing was a good idea, but something I had to accept on my own. I still followed the team, but that wasn’t enough. My heart wasn’t there and I couldn’t have somebody write for me.

Coming home jumpstarted me. I am at grips with the idea that while my legs don’t work, my mind and typing hands do. So is my heart. I am a writer. Writing is what I do. It is one way for me to get part of my life back.

I want to salvage what is left of this season and attempt to resurrect the blog. I realize it will take a long time to regain your trust and confidence.

I hope you give me that chance.

Thank you.

NOTE: I will have another post up within the half-hour.

Jul 30

How Collins Views Wilmer Flores

terry-collins1

The following transcript is courtesy of Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. It’s a conversation between reporters and Terry Collins at Citi Field regarding Wilmer Flores.

Reporter: ”When you take a look at Wilmer Flores, when he was up here in May, when he played in five consecutive games, he hit. When he plays every other game he doesn’t hit. Is now the time to see what Flores can do on an everyday basis?”

Collins: ”It all depends where you’re going to play him.”

Reporter: ”You don’t have confidence in him at shortstop?”

Collins: ”No, no. I didn’t say that. The other kid [Tejada] is playing pretty good. I don’t know what games you’ve been watching, but we’ve been playing pretty good lately.”

Reporter: ”He’s 3-for-29.”

Collins: ”We’re playing pretty good lately. You know, Ike Davis wasn’t hitting and we were winning games. So you pick and choose your spots. Wilmer came up because Ruben got beaned, so we were concerned about having a backup. So that’s why he’s here. There were no instructions to play him everyday. We’re going to try to get him at-bats. That’s why he’s in there today.”

Reporter: ”What do you need to see from him to keep him in the lineup everyday?”

Collins: ”Nothing from him. We’ve got to figure out if he is going to be the shortstop, or if the other guy is going to be the shortstop.”

During Flores’ first call-up to the Mets, he hit a grand slam and drove in six against the Phillies to win the game. Afterward, Collins said the following about Flores:

“It’s not like he hit it against Cliff Lee.”

After sitting idle for 12 straight days, Collins was asked if that was harmful to Flores’ development. The Mets manager responded:

“I cant worry about developing players, I have games I’ve got to win.”

Last week, when asked if Flores would share time at short with Tejada, the Mets manager said:

“Lets understand that if Tejada didn’t get beaned, Flores is not even here right now. Got it?”

Cripes… Yeah, we got it…

Jul 27

Glavine Gets Inducted Into Hall of Fame

glavine-739958The Baseball Hall of Fame will induct its 2014 class today in Cooperstown, NY and standing among them will be two former Mets. Joe Torre, who was elected by the Veterans Committee, played for the Mets from 1975-1977, where he hit .267 with 12 home runs and 75 RBI in 254 games. Torre began his managerial career with the Mets in 1977 and skippered the team through 1981, going 286-420. LHP?Tom Glavine will also be enshrined today. Glavine was 61-56 with a 3.97 ERA?in five seasons (2004-2007) with New York.

To baseball fans, Glavine was one of the best pitchers of his generation.  He won 305 games over his 22-year career, including five 20-win seasons.  He finished in the top three in Cy Young Award balloting six times, while winning the award twice (1991, 1998).

Mets fans might remember him for something different.  Some will remember Glavine for picking up his 300th career victory in 2007 as a member of the Mets. Others will remember his outstanding 2006 campaign; a year in which he finished with a 15-7 record in the regular season and followed that up with two more victories in the postseason, which included a sparkling 1.59 ERA in three starts.

Some of us will only remember Glavine for his final appearance in a Mets uniform…

On September 30, 2007, just one day after John Maine pitched his near no-hitter against the Marlins to help the Mets tie the Phillies in the standings going into the regular season finale, Glavine was only able to record one out against Florida in what would be the worst start of his career.

The veteran southpaw was tagged hard for seven runs – all earned – by the Marlins that day in a devastating 8-1 loss.  Coupled with Philadelphia’s victory over the Washington Nationals, the Mets failed to repeat as division champions in 2007 and the late-season collapse was etched in stone. With a seven-game division lead on September 12, the Mets lost 12 of their last 17 games in what is regarded as one of the worst collapses in MLB history.

If his poor performance against the Marlins wasn’t enough to enrage Mets fans, his post-game comments surely managed to do the trick when Glavine told reporters he was disappointed but not devastated.

“I spent a pretty big hunk of my career in New York. And I know at first I was just a guy coming in. But after a while, I became comfortable, and I think I was accepted. Winning the National League East in 2006 made it better, and then I won my 300th with the Mets. I felt I had the city behind me. If we had beaten the Marlins in the last game, I don’t think I would have lost any standing. But the way it worked out wasn’t as good as it could have been.”

As a baseball fan, I appreciate what Tom Glavine did on the baseball field.  While I rooted for him everyday as a Met. for some reason I never quite looked at him as a Met. Whenever I saw him I saw Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox. The Tomahawk Chop would be playing in my head. He’ll be joining his teammate Maddux this afternoon on that podium.

I want to congratulate Glavine, who was always a class act on and off the field. He was a great competitor, a quality postseason pitcher, and he was always a plus in the clubhouse.

However, as a Mets fan, every time I think of the final 17 games of the 2007 season, I think of Tom Glavine. In many ways we are still trying to recover from that historic collapse.

Congratulations on your Hall of Fame enshrinement, Mr. Glavine.

MMO footer

Jun 06

Piersall Touches Them All… Backwards

Jim Piersall is one of dozens of major leaguers who played with the Mets at the tail end of his career. And, what a memorable career it was. He wasn’t always spectacular, but he was entertaining, such as on this date in 1963 while with the Mets he celebrated his 100th career homer by rounding the bases backwards.

PIERSALL: Magical Mystery Tour

While there are some pretty creative prop bets created for the MLB, even sportsbooks in modern times could not have predicted what happened next. Two days later he was released by manager Casey Stengel, who said of him: “He’s great, but you have to play him in a cage.’’

He wasn’t a Hall of Fame player, but definitely a Hall of Fame personality and character, who suffered from bipolar disorder was committed to a mental hospital in 1952. His experience led to his autobiography, “Fear Strikes Out,’’ which became a movie.

In his book, Piersall wrote: “Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Whoever heard of Jimmy Piersall until that happened?”

Piersall’s mother, Mary, suffered from mental illness and was committed to a sanitarium, and it wasn’t too deep in his career that her son began showing bizarre, uncontrollable behavior.

Piersall would take a bow after catches in the outfield. He brawled with Billy Martin – then again, who didn’t? – then fought with his teammate Mickey McDermott. He snorted like a pig at Satchel Paige.

Piersall’s best years were with the Red Sox, when he made two All-Star teams, including in 1956 when he hit .293 with 14 homers and 87 RBI. He hit 19 homers the following year, but after his average dropped to .237 in 1958 he was traded to Cleveland.

While with the Indians, he threw a ball at the Comiskey Park scoreboard in Chicago, and after being dusted by Yankees pitcher Jim Coates, threw his bat at him.

Piersall was eventually traded to Washington, and the Senators dealt him to the Mets for Gil Hodges.

Stengel, who managed Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, said of Piersall: “I thought Joe DiMaggio was the greatest defensive outfielder I ever saw, but I have to rate Piersall better.’’

Following his release from the Mets, Piersall signed with the Angels. After three seasons with the Angels, he was released in 1967 and eventually retired.

After he retired, Piersall bounced around baseball in several capacities, including being hired by Martin in Texas as an outfield instructor, and later as a broadcaster with the White Sox teamed with Harry Caray.

PIERSALL’s CAREER