Sep 13

Lagares Auditioning For Playoff Roster Spot

While it is clear Juan Lagares lost his center field job to Yoenis Cespedes, what is in question is a possible postseason roster spot, and he’s yelling: “Don’t forget about me.’’

Lagares, buried on the bench behind Cespedes and later Kirk Nieuwenhuis, personified what has been going on with the Mets lately.

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

LAGARES: Auditioning for playoff spot. (AP)

These Mets refused to give the Braves that third strike or third out. Sunday’s game was lost – that is L O S T – when Lagares came to bat in the ninth.

He fell behind 1-and-2, fouled off a couple of pitches before lining a ball into the right-center gap Cameron Maybin couldn’t hold after a diving attempt.

Curtis Granderson, who has excelled leading off, drew his second walk of the game, 12th of the month and 83rd of the season. Then Daniel Murphy, who isn’t a power hitter, crushed a game-tying three-run homer.

The three runs the Mets scored in the tenth inning was a formality, and with it, the Mets had their 82nd victory for their first winning season in seven years.

The Mets are on an unconscious roll the past six weeks, or since the deal for Cespedes, and it would be easy for a young player such as Lagares to get down on himself.

Lagares is 5-for-9 this month, with three of those hits coming off the bench. He’s started only one game in September. Those are numbers manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson will need to evaluate when deciding the postseason roster.

We know the outfielders will include Cespedes, Granderson, Michael Conforto – there’s no way they can even think about not keeping him now – and Michael Cuddyer. If they want a fifth outfielder the candidates are Nieuwenhuis, Lagares and Eric Young.

Nieuwenhuis offers a left-handed bat off the bench and Young gives them speed and a stolen base threat. Lagares offers a right-handed bat – as does Cuddyer – and defense. But, they won’t take out Cespedes for defense in the playoffs.

Where does that leave Lagares? Today he demonstrated his head is still in the game. If not for the playoffs, then for next season.

Sep 12

Mets Should Ride And Not Rest Cespedes

It came as no surprise Yoenis Cespedes was in the Mets’ lineup tonight in Atlanta. And, to listen to manager Terry Collins, Cespedes will be in the lineup tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that …

Cespedes will play until he wants a day off, and why not? He’s 29 and firecracker hot with no signs of letting up. It should also come as no surprise Cespedes hit another home run, giving him 16 with the Mets. And, when he came to bat in the ninth with the bases loaded, another RBI that iced the Mets’ sixth straight victory was a formality.

CESPEDES: Does it again. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Does it again. (Getty)

With their lead over the Nationals having ballooned to 9.5, another soon to be a formality will be their first playoff appearance since 2006. Tonight they assured themselves of finishing .500 for the first time since 2008.

You wouldn’t be a Mets’ fan if you somehow were not worried Cespedes will eventually cool. Hopefully, that won’t happen until the season is over.

I wrote the other day I didn’t think the Mets would bring back Cespedes, but that’s strictly because of their track record with high-priced free agents. It’s not because I don’t want the Mets to sign him, but simply a gut feeling.

With every passing day, and each extra-base hit, his price keeps going up. Who knows how high it will go? Actually, on the radio today I heard he might pass the $240 million over ten years Robinson Cano got from Seattle. I wouldn’t give Cespedes either, as they’ll grow to regret it the last four or five years.

If Cespedes doesn’t want to rest, just ride him until the Mets clinch and then give him a day or two. That’s what Collins should be doing with everybody … keep the pressure on and go for the throat.


Sep 11

Don’t Figure Cespedes Returning

Count me among the group wanting the Mets to bring back Yoenis Cespedes, although I’m not confident in their ability to do so. They have the money, but I don’t see them going $150-million over seven, which would be the starting point.

The Mets won’t bring back Daniel Murphy or Bartolo Colon – which could come back to bite them – and Michael Cuddyer will be gone after next season and Curtis Granderson will be out after two more years.

CESPEDES: Want him back. (AP)

CESPEDES: Want him back. (AP)

I see the Mets making an offer, but not going all out. As good as Cespedes has been, I see the Mets falling short. Somehow, I see this going the way of Jose Reyes.

Another thing I don’t see is Cespedes winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award. As somebody who has voted for these awards, the thought process of most voters is to look at the entire body of work, and for Cespedes, that will be only two months in the National League.

Cespedes’ season has been terrific, but the award is for what he did in that league – hence, NL MVP. Bryce Harper, despite his team falling, still had the best season of anybody in the National League. Even Cespedes’ yearlong composite numbers for both leagues aren’t as good as Harper’s in the National League.

The Mets could have two postseason awards, and it’s not something anybody could have envisioned. GM Sandy Alderson for Executive of the Year and Terry Collins for Manager of the Year.

At one time I briefly thought Noah Syndergaard had a chance for Rookie of the Year, but that faded, and Michael Conforto, in case you’re wondering, hasn’t been around enough.

Of course, isn’t the important thing the World Series trophy? That’s the prize and it is within sight.

Sep 10

What Is Mets’ 2015 Black Cat Moment?

It wasn’t hard to figure out the omen that turned out to be the Mets “Black Cat Game” in 1969 when a black cat came out of nowhere in Shea Stadium to walk in front the dugout of the fading Chicago Cubs. There was nothing subtle about it. Nothing.

FLORES: They are now tears of joy. (AP)

FLORES: They are now tears of joy. (AP)

However, what is this year’s “Black Cat” moment? I’ve got a few contenders in mine, beginning with the night of July 29 when the Mets’ trade for outfielder Carlos Gomez for Wilmer Flores fell through and the Mets’ shortstop cried on the way to his position.

“It was a tough night,” outfielder Michael Cuddyer recalled. “Bizarre is a good way to put it.”

Bizarre? Flores received an ovation prior to a late-inning at-bat that he couldn’t comprehend until he got back to the dugout.

“I heard I had gotten traded,” Flores said. “And, I got very emotional.”

BLACK CAT: The moment defined 1969.

BLACK CAT: The moment defined 1969.

The Mets looked clumsy that night, but turned it around and acquired Yoenis Cespedes two days later. Trades are mostly build on hope, and that’s what the Cespedes deal was all about. Manager Terry Collins sensed that right away: “This guy was a legitimate run producer. He is an impact player.”

That night, Flores homered in extra innings to give the Mets a victory over the Nationals, and they would go on for three-game sweep of the series and wipe away years of pent up frustration in the process.

The Mets were on their way.

Cespedes lit a fire under their dormant offense, with the signature moment the night of Aug. 24, when David Wright homered in his first swing after four-and-a-half months on the disabled list. It was definitely was a “things will be all right” moment. They hit eight that night.

Three days later, the Mets had one of those “I don’t believe it” moments when the Phillies’ Jeff Francoeur ripped a ball off reliever Carlos Torres‘ foot that bounced to first baseman Daniel Murphy who made a backhanded, no-look flip to the pitcher.

Also tipping the “WOW” meter was Bartolo Colon‘s behind-the-back flip to first last weekend in Miami. Then, there was that crazy inning Tuesday night in Washington.

Does anybody else have a moment that could end up defining this season?

Sep 09

The Dream Continues

Not only did the Mets sweep the Nationals for a second straight series, all three games this time were done in come-from-behind fashion. Not only that, the Mets’ pitchers in the first two games – Jon Niese and Matt Harvey – were torched, and Jacob deGrom was off Wednesday night.

None of that mattered as the Mets found away to win because they willed the outcome. As good as Stephen Strasburg was, you never had the feeling the Mets were out of it, but instead, it was only a matter of time.

“ I love where we’re at. We’re rolling,” said Kelly Johnson, who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer off Strasburg in the eighth. And. of course, Yoenis Cespedes, continued his push for MVP consideration, with a game-winning homer in the eighth.

That roll included Michael Conforto driving in an insurance run and making a run-saving catch. It seems like a long time ago that the Mets were reluctant to bring up Conforto as not to damage his confidence. It doesn’t seem like anything can phase Conforto these days.

And, for the third straight night, the bullpen pitched well, despite Bryce Harper‘s cosmetic homer in the eighth.

The Mets left Florida Sunday night having lost two walk-off games to the Marlins and their lead down to four. The Nationals were hot, having won five straight.

For those who remember the titanic collapse of 2007, when they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play, there’s the thought that these are the Mets so anything can happen. However, it’s a different year with different players, and above all, a different chemistry.

For the past several years, the Nationals simply bullied the Mets. But, this year, the little guys have the muscle.