Oct 06

Bumgarner Wins Classic Duel

For the second straight season, the interlocking “NY’’ on the Mets’ caps stood for “next year.’’ After an improbable run to overcome lengthy offensive droughts and numerous injuries to reach the postseason, the Mets received a sterling performance from Noah Syndergaard.

BUMGARNER: A classic ace. (AP)

BUMGARNER: A classic ace. (AP)

However, it wasn’t enough to beat Madison Bumgarner, who again came up with a game for the ages in October, who spun a four-hitter to beat the Mets, 3-0, to send the San Francisco Giants to the NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Syndergaard throws heat all the time and showed he doesn’t just have ace potential, but that he’s already there. However, Bumgarner will go down as one of the game’s greatest playoff pitchers in history.

In three postseason win-or-go-home games, Bumgarner has thrown 23 scoreless innings. He has reached a level few could ever imagine.

In 2014, Bumgarner won Games 1 and 5 in the World Series, then came back after two days of rest to throw five scoreless innings in relief. When asked what he hoped his legacy would be, Bumgarner simply said: “A winner. That’s all anybody wants to be regarded as.”

Syndergaard outpitched Bumgarner in the early part of the game, but as his strikeouts mounted – he finished with ten – so did his pitch count. Syndergaard threw 108 in seven innings while Bumgarner threw 119 for the complete game.

“Bumgarner, he never gives in,” said Jose Reyes. “We had some chances and couldn’t do anything with them.”

Bumgarner vs. Syndergaard had baseball junkies salivating and weren’t disappointed. The Mets had their best going, but unfortunately, the Giants had one of the best of all time going for them.

The starters were the storyline of the night, with the others being Jeurys Familia and Yoenis Cespedes spitting the bit.

FAMILIA LOSES IN THE NINTH: Familia saved 51 games this season and the Mets weren’t in the playoffs without him.

Last year, Familia blew three save opportunities. Tonight wasn’t a save chance, but it hurt just the same.

The fall began with a double by Brandon Crawford. After Angel Pagan failed to get a bunt down, Joe Panik walked then Conor Gillaspie crushed a three-run homer to bring on winter.

“It was a sinker. That’s my best pitch,” said a stand-up Familia. “Every time I try to go out and do the best I can. I missed with the location. I have to move on.`I know these things are going to happen. It’s a game.”

CESPEDES SILENT: For all his talking about living for these moments, for the second straight postseason Cespedes came up empty.

As far as I’m concerned, Cespedes gave away his four at-bats by swinging from the heels at pitches out of his reach. Bumgarner toyed with him getting him to strike out twice and pop up.

Cespedes saw only 18 pitches.

True to form, Cespedes opted not to talk after the game.

Perhaps he had an early tee time.

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Nov 20

How The Market Is Shaping Up; Things Could Happen This Week

When will the New York Mets do something of consequence this off-season isn’t hard to imagine. If recent history is an indicator it likely won’t be until the market is defined, which comes after the Winter Meetings.

However, the week preceding Thanksgiving can get busy. Not much happens usually happens around Thanksgiving. There’s usually activity after the holiday leading up to the Winter Meetings and after until Christmas.

HUDSON: Returning West.

HUDSON: Returning West.

Then, more stuff gets done after the New Year with what’s left of the market leading up to spring training. That’s usually when the Mets have done their work.

So far, there’s been some interesting news, including LaTroy Hawkins signing with Colorado for $2.5 million. He’s somebody I was hoping the Mets would bring back before at 41 because he could still throw in the low-to-mid 90s and for his clubhouse presence.

Hawkins was an astute pick-up last year, and with Bobby Parnell coming off surgery, he would have filled a spot in the bullpen.

The Yankees brought back shortstop Brendan Ryan, who I touted for his defense. I’d still rather have him than Ruben Tejada. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens with Jhonny Peralta, who, as of now, would represent the Mets’ biggest splash in the market. Philadelphia brought back catcher Carlos Ruiz for two years, out-bidding the champion Red Sox.

Perhaps the most interesting acquisition is San Francisco signing Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million contract. The 38-year-old Hudson is coming off ankle surgery.

Hudson is the latest in several costly, and expensive, decisions the Giants have made the past few years. The first was signing Angel Pagan – whom the Mets gladly shipped out – to a four-year deal. Then, they extended Tim Lincecum’s contract two years for $35 million when there were no indications he’d be a hot commodity on the market.

However, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012 with pitching-based teams, so they are doing something right.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he didn’t want an injury reclamation project, which Hudson clearly would be. However, Alderson has a history with Hudson when they were with Oakland and I was wondering if he at least reached out the pitcher.

Currently, agents and general managers are talking and posturing – that includes Alderson – but the market is still forming. Mostly, parameter dollar amounts have been exchanged. With the Mets there hasn’t been much in terms of specifics.

In addition to shortstop, the Mets need two starters, bullpen depth and a power-hitting corner outfielder.

Oct 30

2012 Mets Player Review: Situational Right-handers Manny Acosta And Ramon Ramirez


PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s priority last winter was bolstering his bullpen, something by his own admission he wasn’t able to do. Building a bullpen entails a closer, set-up man, situational relievers, and if luxury provides, a long man. The Mets were woefully thin in most of those areas and entered the season hoping for something from Manny Acosta, who gave them 44 appearances in 2011, and Ramon Ramirez, who came to the Mets with Andres Torres in the Angel Pagan trade. Both are situational right-handers expected to be the bridge to the set-up relievers and closer. Acosta throws a fastball in the mid-90s and decent curve. He averages a strikeout an inning, which is the kind of pitcher you want in a jam with runners on and a tough right-handed hitter such as Mike Zimmerman or Matt Holliday coming to the plate. However, like a lot of pitchers with a power arm, Acosta is prone to streaks of wildness. Acosta’s career has not been one of consistency, so there was a bad-Acosta the Mets knew was possible. As for Ramirez, he also has a plus fastball. Ramirez logged 68.2 innings in 66 games for the 2011 Giants, so the Mets knew they were getting a workhorse. They also knew they weren’t getting a dominant reliever.

2012 SEASON REVIEW: The Mets received pretty much what they expected from Acosta and Ramirez. They got the innings they needed, although they weren’t necessarily quality innings. Acosta started so slowly that he was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo as the result of a gagging 11.86 ERA over his first 19 appearances. Acosta worked out his mechanical issues in the minors concerning his release point and in the second half batters only hit .148 off him and he cut his ERA down by almost half. Ramirez threw 63.2 innings in 58 appearances, and wasn’t effective as he put on 93 runners in that span. He only struck out 52, so we’re not talking a power arm. The Mets’ bullpen was woefully inadequate this summer and these two were a part of the problem.

LOOKING AT 2013: Of the two, Acosta is the one most likely to return next summer. Acosta made $875,000 last season and is eligible for salary arbitration. Considering how strong Acosta was at the end, they could offer arbitration and still take the hit if they were to lose the case. Ramirez made $2.65 million in 2012 and will become a free agent. He did not have the season worthy of bringing him back and can find comparable production at a lower cost elsewhere.

Oct 22

Mets Matters: Ike Davis Could Score In Arbitration Process

There’s little that passes for news from the Mets these days as the club braces for a winter of non-spending.

Their primary contractual concerns are extending David Wright and R.A. Dickey, both of which will be pricey. The two are linked in that both said their decisions to test the free-agent market after next season is contingent on the efforts the Mets will take to be competitive. Dickey flat out said he would follow Wright out the door.

The Mets also face the prospects of going through the arbitration process with Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Manny Acosta, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Parnell, Andres Torres and Mike Pelfrey.

They also faced arbitration with Rob Johnson and Fred Lewis, but both chose free agency instead. It’s not as if the Mets can’t live without them.

Pelfrey and Torres are expected to be non-tendered, which would remove them from the process. Pelfrey, however, might cause the Mets to think twice because he’s 28 and their rotation has numerous questions. The Mets also have outfield issues, but Torres proved he’s no Angel Pagan. I never thought I’d write that line.

Acosta isn’t worth keeping, but Davis, Murphy and Parnell are potentially valuable pieces. Thole has regressed, but the Mets have few catching options other than him.

The owners cry about free-agency causing the spike in player salaries, but in reality arbitration is the culprit. In the process, both player and management submit figures to an arbitrator, who picks one or the other. The arbitrator can’t find a compromise number. The owners usually lowball the players, while the players aim high. The arbitrator’s decision isn’t based on career numbers, injuries or other factors, and is usually determined by the salaries of other players.

So, if a player has a one-time good season the arbitrator will review what players with comparable stats are making and rule that way. It’s why the owners frequently get smoked in this process.

Meanwhile, the Mets usually attempt to settle before the arbitration hearing.

Of the players eligible for the Mets, Davis has the potential to be the most costly.

In other Mets Matters:

* Dickey underwent surgery in Philadelphia to repair a torn abdominal muscle. After his final start Dickey revealed he’d been pitching with discomfort for most of the season.

Perhaps throwing the knuckleball helped Dickey get through the season because there’s less stress involved throwing that pitch. Even so, he’s testing the muscle with each pitch and it has to hurt. That, combined with his numbers, is why Dickey should win the Cy Young Award.

* Jordany Valdespin has played both right field and second base during the Dominican Winter League.

* Last week I started a series on Player Profiles of the 2012 Mets, analyzing their preseason expectations, what they accomplished this summer and what to expect.

I’ll continue tomorrow with those pitchers not in the rotation who made starts.


Oct 11

Former Mets Shining In Playoffs; Beltran, Pagan and O’Day Playing Well

The Mets’ fear in releasing Jason Bay is he would suddenly find it somewhere else. They had the same trepidation with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

Watching these playoffs, it is easy to see their thinking, but that doesn’t mean it is justified.

Outfielders Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan, and reliever Darren O’Day all distinguished themselves yesterday, and wouldn’t you know it, those are all holes for the Mets.

Angel Pagan had a huge day in the leadoff slot – another Mets’ hole – with two hits, two walks, two runs and two RBI in three at-bats. The homer was to lead off the game to get the Giants rolling so could live another day.

I don’t know what the Giants’ plans are for Pagan, but he certainly played better for them than Andres Torres did for the Mets. Pagan was an inconsistent player here and often let his concentration wander on the bases and on defense. Maybe he wasn’t ready, but he was definitely old enough where he shouldn’t have been making rookie mistakes. Perhaps the Mets weren’t patient with him.

I hoped it would work out when the Mets moved him to center and shifted Beltran to right, but Pagan never took the way he did the preceding year when he played when Beltran was injured.

Beltran, who homered twice in Game 2, had two more hits yesterday as the Cardinals took a 2-1 games lead over Washington. Beltran, who shines in the postseason, is hitting .417 in the series. And this, is after coming off a superb season.

Belran was injured at the end of his stay with the Mets, but when healthy produced. He moved without a hitch to right field and he played hurt. What else could the Mets want from him? Oh yeah, they wanted him to do it for half the price.

The Mets paved the way for Beltran’s exit with the flap over his knee surgery. After that, there was no way he was staying. Especially considering their financial situation.

O’Day appeared in four games for the 2009 Mets, but was released when they couldn’t find a spot for him on the roster. Mike Pelfrey was ailing at the time, but balked at going on the disabled list. He couldn’t make a start and the Mets had to bring somebody up to replace him  for a turn. That meant somebody had to go and it was O’Day.

Rather than exerting his authority and judgment, Omar Minaya gave in to Pelfrey and it cost the Mets. O’Day was quickly signed by Texas and became a bullpen stalwart that season and he was terrific for the Orioles this season with a 7-1 record, 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Plus, he only made $1.35 million this year.

O’Day put the Yankees down in order last night.

Wouldn’t you know it? The game was decided by Raul Ibanez’s two homers. Ibanez was a player the Mets wouldn’t consider after he left Philadelphia. An outfield plug and power bat off the bench? Nah, that wouldn’t fit in Citi Field.

There are plenty of others with ties to the Mets this October, including Endy Chavez – did I mention the Mets need outfield help? – and coach Chip Hale and manager Bob Melvin in Oakland, and, of course, Davey Johnson in Washington.

There’s always an explanation for why somebody doesn’t work out for a team, and Beltran, Pagan and O’Day all left for different reasons.

But, were they good reasons?