Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.
 

Aug 23

Mets Face Bleak Offseason

How could anybody be anything but enthused about the Mets for 2013?

With GA Sandy Alderson telling us the budget hasn’t been set but don’t expect it to be much higher than it is now. Then he said trades might be the way to go. But, if the Mets aren’t willing to part with Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler, will they purge the rest of their farm system? History says it isn’t likely.

A quick glance at the major league roster tells us there’s little to trade of value outside of David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese. I like the potential of Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, but outside of that, who would anybody want?

You’d love to trade Johan Santana and Jason Bay, but nobody wants those contracts, plus their limited production and injury histories.

There’s simply little of any value other teams would want. We are talking about a team that is ten games below .500 and facing another losing season. This is a team that since its last World Series appearance in 2000 has had five managers and four general managers. The latest, Alderson, is a fixer, brought in to clean up a mess brought on by the owner’s financial distress and hopefully field a competitive team in the process.

Considering all that, of course there’s limited talent available. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in this mess.

It wasn’t going to be pretty work, nor was it going to be easy. So far, Alderson has sliced nearly $50 million in payroll and said good-bye to Jose Reyes. He also cut ties with Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, players with bloated contracts brought in when the team considered itself a contender.

The Mets have a myriad of issues they must face with limited dollars:

1.  Re-sign David Wright: He’s had a solid season and deserves it. Plus, if you let the face of the franchise leave who is going to want to come here? After losing Reyes it would be a disastrous decision. Wright will be a FA after 2013, so any dealing of him would be limited for the fear of him leaving. There is the possibility of next year being a huge distraction if there’s an unsigned Wright at the trade deadline. Talk about a potential mess.

2. A starting pitcher: The Mets got more from Santana than they could have hoped but eventually shut him down. They have to go under the assumption he’s a health question. Also, Jon Niese has not performed as hoped and is it realistic to think they’ll get a similar year from Dickey? No. They likely won’t bring back Mike Pelfrey – remember him? – and while there’s optimism, the Mets still don’t know what they have in Dillon Gee, Harvey, Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia.

3. The bullpen: This was Alderson’s area of concentration in the offseason and it blew up on him. Frank Francisco is a disaster and Bobby Parnell has yet to grasp a role. Maybe the Mets have run their course with Dan Warthen as pitching coach, I don’t know. But, that must be examined. Are their any viable pieces? Doesn’t look that way.

4. Outfield: Bay will be back because of his contract, but I’d eat it and start fresh. Lucas Duda will get a shot in left then, but they need power from the right side. They aren’t getting it from Andres Torres or Jordany Valdespin, both of whom aren’t any better than bench players.

5. Catcher: Josh Thole has not progressed either offensively or defensively as hoped. But, he’s a healthy body right now and for the Mets, that’s a positive.

When you come down to it, that’s an impressive shopping list to fill on a limited budget. It looks as if next year’s team will look similar to this year’s Mets, with the hope for improvement coming from more production from their current roster. They need breakout years from Davis, Duda, Thole, Harvey and either Wheeler or Mejia.

They need a monster year from Wright and more power from Daniel Murphy.

They need a hell of a lot.

 

Aug 22

Mets Shut Down Santana

It wasn’t a shoulder, an elbow or his ankle. Instead, inflammation in his lower back landed Johan Santana on the disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 18, but indications are he’ll be shut down for the season.

Surgery is not required.

Santana has given up at least six runs in each of his past five starts, so it was obvious something was wrong.

“I’m very confident he’ll be back next season ready to go, hopefully in a stronger position coming into this season,” GM Sandy Alderson said. “If you look back at this season and what we reasonably could’ve expected at the beginning of the year, he’s accomplished quite a lot.”

Alderson is right and this was the best move. And keeping him off when he’s eligible to be activated is a must. It must be remembered Santana has been working hard at his rehab since December, so he’s already pitched the equivalent of a full season.

“My mindset was to start tomorrow, but the doctors are thinking different now, so we’ll go with everything they’re saying,” said Santana. “I want to keep pitching. I felt that I could pitch, but at the same time, I’m listening to them.”

Collin McHugh will be brought up to start in Santana’s place Thursday. He was 2-4 with a 3.39 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo.

 

Aug 22

Mets Mailing It In?

OK, I understand slumps and bad stretches. Nearly every team gets them. But, with less than 40 games remaining, they aren’t just mailing it in. Last night, they used FedEx.

Manager Terry Collins thought as much and ripped into his listless team after the game.

“We have not packed it in,” Collins insisted. “But, as I told our guys, ‘perception is reality.’ And when you sit on the outside and you watch a game like tonight, perception is, ‘they’ve packed it in.’ And I won’t stand for it.”

Collins even accepted some of the blame.

“I believe in accountability,” he said. “I believe in how you play the game right. I’m the manager here and you have a game like that, where it looks like they are not prepared, that’s my fault. That’s where I come in.”

These guys are major leaguers. They should know how to do the simple things, like covering the plate, which Bobby Parnell did not. There’s a right way and wrong way to play the game, and as professionals they don’t need a manager or coach to tell them.

Chris Young, who operates with a small margin for error to begin with, began it with a throwing error, the first of several defensive breakdowns.

Collins talked long about changing the culture of this franchise, and for awhile the Mets played alert, exciting baseball. At one time they were eight games over .500. A loss tonight and they are ten games under.

I really thought with series against Colorado and Houston the Mets still had a chance at .500. No more. They are kicking that away. They could be in the cellar by the end of the weekend.

I don’t expect much, but I do expect effort and playing the right way. The least they could do is head into winter with us feeling good about them and their season. It isn’t looking that way.

Aug 21

Mets Matters: Santana Update And Free Tickets

Evidently, there is something else to look forward to seeing this season, and that is Jenrry Mejia starting for Johan Santana Thursday against the Rockies.

Santana will have the results of Tuesday’s MRI on his back tomorrow. The Mets haven’t officially shut down Santana for the season, but it is heading in that direction. 

Santana has made 21 starts this season, and following the season’s high point in his no-hitter, he is 3-7 with an 8.27 ERA in his last ten starts.

* The Mets announced today a Kids Go Free ticket offer for the Mets-Rockies game Thursday, August 23 at 1:10 p.m. at Citi Field. Up to three children 12 and under will get free admission with the purchase of regularly priced tickets.

For the Kids Go Free ticket offer available via phone at (718) 507-TIXX and in person at the Citi Field Box Office, fans buying one adult ticket will get up to three complimentary kids tickets. or the ticket offer available online at Mets.com/KidsFree, fans may purchase a Family Four Pack that includes four tickets for the price of two.

For the ticket offer available online at Mets.com/KidsFree, fans may purchase a Family Four Pack that includes four tickets for the price of two.

All tickets must be picked up at Citi Field the day of the game and children must be present.

For more information, contact the Mets Ticket Office at (718) 507-TIXX.