Nov 01

What History Will Be Written Tonight?

Home runs and extra-inning games don’t necessarily define a great World Series. Those things, plus a tight and compelling Game 7 – which could also have aces Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel working out of the bullpen – could lift the 2017 World Series into the category of classic.

Sometime after midnight, and probably for the sixth time during this Series after the sixth inning, MLB will have a new champion, and the 39th crowned after a Game 7.

“This is the biggest stage, the best stage, an opportunity to win the World Series in Game 7,’’ said Astros manager A.J. Hinch.

Hinch’s ace, Justin Verlander, the loser in Game 6 who could be available for a batter or two tonight, said Game 7 was inevitable.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, said the same: “It seems fitting. You’ve got the two best teams in baseball going head to head. Like we’ve talked about from the beginning, these two teams mirror one another. And the compete and fight in both teams is the most important thing I see as similarities.’’

The Dodgers won 104 games this season, while the Astros won 101 games. It is the first time since 1970 – Orioles vs. Reds – that both teams won over 100 games.

This World Series has had just about everything. Outstanding pitching and explosive offense. It has had great defense and crappy defense. It has had stars, both on the field and in the stands – although a few less shots of celebrities would be nice.

There’s been so much to like about this Series. The one thing it hasn’t had is former Mets start Carlos Beltran delivering in the clutch.

Maybe we’ll get that tonight.

May 09

Today’s Question: Any Leftover Feelings By Wheeler For Giants?

At one time, Zack Wheeler was the hot property of the San Francisco Giants, destined to join a rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. But, to return to the World Series in 2011, the Giants needed a big bat.

That turned out to be Carlos Beltran, and prior to Noah Syndergaard, that was GM Sandy Alderson’s biggest deal.

Wheeler is 1-1 in three starts lifetime against his former team, but some players have long memories when it comes to being traded, so, other getting the Mets going again, what’s in his motivational tank?

In his last start, May 4 at Atlanta, he allowed one run in three innings before the game was eventually washed away. If you’re thinking Citi Field is a motivator, it could be in the opposite fashion. Wheeler is 6-12 lifetime, including 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA this year.

 

 

 

 

Dec 13

Mets Can’t Afford To Stand Pat

The 2006 season ended for the Mets with Carlos Beltran frozen by a wicked Adam Wainwright curveball with the bat on his shoulder. The Mets reasoned with another break or two, they could have won the NLCS that year and advanced to the World Series. Perhaps thinking if the breaks went their way in 2007 they might get to the World Series, the Mets did precious little that winter.

METS: Can't stand pat now.

METS: Can’t stand pat now.

Maintaining the status quo didn’t work out then and the Mets can’t afford to duplicate that thinking this winter.

The Mets upgraded their up-the-middle defense with the additions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, but there is more to be done and this isn’t the time for them to be cautious. Attendance at Citi Field will increase this summer as it usually does after a playoff season, but that shouldn’t alleviate the Mets of their responsibility to put a good team on the field and their response should be to be aggressive.

Their situation in the bullpen and in center field isn’t good enough to win with now, and they have several other questions. Will their sterling rotation stay healthy and continue to progress? Will David Wright remain healthy? Will Lucas Duda be consistent? Will Michael Conforto make the next step?

They’ve already done something to back-up Wright, but Michael Cuddyer‘s retirement and not bringing back Daniel Murphy leaves a gap behind Duda? They must remember Conforto won’t take anybody by surprise this year..

That being said, the bullpen and center field are the main weak links and this is no time to stand pat. Especially since Chicago has improved, as has San Francisco and Arizona. You can also count on the Dodgers and Nationals being aggressive the rest of the winter.

I don’t expect Mets to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, but there are other options and Kirk Nieuwenhuis shouldn’t be among them. And, expecting Hansel Robles to be a bullpen stud is wishful thinking.

This isn’t the time for the Mets to watch the turnstiles click, because if they think repeating is a given that would be mistake.

 

Jun 07

Mets Must Overhaul Handling Of Injuries

While introducing the Sandy Alderson Era, Mets Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon promised a different mentality emanating from the top. The Mets would be more aggressive in obtaining talent, and perhaps just as importantly, more diligent and proactive in keeping that talent on the field.

The Mets have long been criticized for their handling of injured players, including David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Ryan Church, Pedro Martinez, Ike Davis and the list goes on.

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

WILPON: Needs to overhaul handling of injuries. (AP)

Injuries haven’t been diagnosed properly, players played when they should’ve been benched or were rushed back. Players also haven’t been proactive in reporting injuries, which in the case of Matt Harvey, this likely lead to his surgery. Perhaps most bizarre was when Beltran opted to have surgery on his own.

This season has been about injuries and an 11-game winning streak. That streak is why they’re where they are considering they lead the major leagues with 12 players on the disabled list.

Eight players are gone from the Opening Day roster, and three players in the starting lineup in Sunday’s game at Arizona were injury related. There’s not a day when injuries aren’t the focal point. Injuries will dictate if the Mets make the playoffs; what, or if, they’ll make any trades; and possibly, their offseason agenda.

What should also happen is a complete overhaul of their injury protocol. From the trainers, to the team physicians, to the organization’s philosophy in handling and treating injuries, everything should be on the table for review. What they are doing now isn’t working.

Why, over the years, has there been a glut of arm injuries resulting in Tommy John surgery? Why have there been so many muscle pulls and strains? Is there a problem in the offseason training program? Are players encouraged or discouraged to report aches and pains?

Do the pitchers throw too much or not enough? Is nutrition an issue? Do the players stretch enough? Is there too much weight lifting during the season?

There’s not a constant with each injury, but something isn’t right and it must change. Teams like to say, “next man up,’’ but for the Mets it seems to be “who’s the next to go down?’’ Yes, injuries are part of the game, but for the Mets it seems to be all nine innings.

What should also be noted is playoff caliber teams need to overcome injuries and adversity, and that brings us back full circle to Wilpon and Alderson. Will ownership provide the financial resources, and does Alderson have the capabilities to fill the void?

We’re waiting.

 

Mar 04

Johan Santana Signs With Orioles; It’s Official, Mets Lost Deal

Despite both sides saying continuing their relationship remained a possibility, we all knew when the New York Mets gave Johan Santana a $5.5 million buyout for this season that would never happen.

It’s what parting sides always claim when they don’t want to say what’s really on their minds.

SANTANA: Offiical: Mets lose trade (AP)

SANTANA: Offiical: Mets lose trade (AP)

From his part, Santana would liked to have kept on milking the cash cow. The Mets however, weren’t happy he threw before he was scheduled that final spring and ended up sitting out the entire 2013 season.

After spending $137.5 million, they weren’t about to throw good money after bad, especially since Santana made it clear he wasn’t going to offer a “home team discount.’’ Instead, Santana settled on a minor league contract today with the Baltimore Orioles.

Any contract is a risk, especially a six-year deal for a pitcher who had already experienced shoulder problems before he broke down with the Mets. In the end, for all that money, the Mets received one solid year, a tainted no-hitter, but without question, 100 percent effort whenever Santana took the mound.

They did not receive the repeated 20-win seasons and playoff appearances they had hoped. In short, they gambled and lost.

After they lost Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS and kicked away a seven-game lead with 17 games remaining in 2007, and in dire need of pitching, the Mets rolled the dice on Santana.

The Mets sent four prospects – one of them turning out to be All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez – for the overworked and already damaged left-hander. They then signed him for at the time was the richest contract in franchise history.

As what often has been the case with the Mets, in both the trade and subsequent contract negotiations, they bid against themselves.

Santana became available because both the Yankees and Red Sox backed off, so as the only real party to the table, they could have had him for less. And, because the Twins weren’t going to bend to Santana’s salary demands, the Mets agreed to giving him way too much money.

Outside a 15-7 record with a league-leading 2.53 ERA in 34 starts in 2008, his first season with the Mets, Santana never completed a full year in New York and didn’t pitch at all in 2011 and 2013 because of shoulder injuries.

With a full season is considered 34 starts, Santana left 95 starts on the table. That is far more glaring than his production of 46-34, a 3.18 ERA and the only no-hitter in franchise history.

The no-hitter came in his 12th start after rehabbing from shoulder surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule. To this day, manager Terry Collins laments letting him throw 134 pitches.

Ironically, it was a tainted no-hitter because a blown call on what should have been an extra-base hit for Carlos Beltran |was ruled a foul ball.

Had that call been made correctly, then Santana doesn’t throw that many pitches, then, who really knows?

Santana made only 10 more starts for the Mets before he was shut down in August of 2012. In spring training of 2013, in an angered response to GM Sandy Alderson’s comments he didn’t report in shape, Santana went against his prescribed rehab routine and without Collins’ knowledge, threw off the mound and aggravated the injury.

In another dose of irony, the pitcher often fueled by pride was done in by the same. Santana re-tore the capsule and underwent a second surgery.

To this day, Santana never acknowledged his mistake of throwing off the mound, and Anderson never admitted whether his dig at the left-hander’s condition was meant as motivation and backfired.

Either way, after that day, the Santana Era was over, regardless of what either side claimed.