Sep 30

Gsellman, Bruce Carry Mets One Step Closer

Usually, a playoff team has a player or two not on their radar coming out of spring, that end up carrying them down the stretch. The Mets have had more than a handful this year, but clinched a tie for the wild-card spot because of the hefty contributions of Robert Gsellman and Jay Bruce.

Gsellman, along with Seth Lugo, carried the Mets’ rotation following injuries to Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom; Bruce, whom they coveted last year but wound up with Yoenis Cespedes, instead, is finally hitting to expectations.

GSELLMAN: Superb again. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Superb again. (AP)

Gsellman gave up one run in six innings and Bruce drove in three runs with his fourth homer in six games to give the Mets a 5-1 victory in chilly Philly Friday night.

However, it has been more than one game – for both.

Gsellman is 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA in his last four starts with a 25-6 strikeouts-walks ratio. He is 4-2 overall, and combined with Lugo, have won nine games.

“We’ve asked a lot of out young pitchers,” Collins said. “But, nobody was thrust in a pennant race like these guys have. They’ve done a great job of controlling their emotions. They’ve been very impressive.”

The Mets wanted Bruce last summer, but the Reds were seeking too much. After the Carlos GomezWilmer Flores/Zack Wheeler fell through, the Mets had Cespedes fall into their laps.

With Cespedes hurting for almost all of July, the Mets again needed to import a bat.

“We knew when we got him if he could start swinging the bat he would change our lineup,” Collins said. “Hopefully, he can stay hot.”

Bruce fell into deep slump shortly after the trade and was benched for several games. A pinch-hit homer got him back into the lineup, and he’s scorched ever since. Bruce is riding a six-game hitting streak, going 10-for-20 with four homers and eight RBI in that span.

“It wasn’t at a great time,” Bruce said of his slump. “But, I’m on the upswing now. I’m swinging at pitches I can hit and not missing them. … I’ve always had confidence in myself and I have confidence in this team. I want to help this team get to a World Series and win it.”

They can take another step in that direction with a victory Saturday behind Bartolo Colon.

Apr 03

Repeating Will Be Harder

Wilmer Flores wasn’t halfway back to the Mets’ dugout after striking out to end the bottom of the 12th inning and last year’s World Series when we already asking the question: Can the Mets return to the Series?

Getting to the World Series is one thing, but getting back there is different, and much harder. Much harder for the simple reason everybody is gunning for you.

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

SYNDERGAARD: Game two starter. (Getty)

“The first thing I talked about in spring training is the difference between being the hunter and the hunted,” David Wright told reporters. “We have a bullseye on us now.”

That they do. The Washington Nationals want to wrestle the NL East back from them and the Chicago Cubs – everybody’s sexy pick to get to the World Series – want to avenge being swept in the NLCS.

Last year at this time, the Mets entered the season without having a winning record since 2008. The hope was their young pitching keyed by Matt Harvey‘s return following Tommy John surgery, and Jacob deGrom coming off a Cy Young season, could carry them. And, don’t forget, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz hadn’t even made their major league debuts.

The Mets entered 2015 with questions at catcher, shortstop, Wright’s health at third, left field and in the bullpen.

The Mets got off to a blistering start, but lost Wright in April with a strained hamstring that turned into spinal stenosis and almost four months on the disabled list. The pitching kept the Mets afloat when the hitting collapsed.

The Mets kicked away their early lead, then turned their season around when Michael Conforto was brought up and the team traded for Yoenis Cespedes with a couple of days after a trade for Carlos Gomez fell through which created the enduring image of the season, that being Flores crying at shortstop after hearing he had been traded to Milwaukee.

The season began with .500 as the goal, but the Mets pulled away from Washington, outlasted the Dodgers in five games – winning the deciding game on the road – and sweeping the Cubs to reach their first World Series since 2000 and the fifth in franchise history.

However, Jeurys Familia blew three save opportunities in the World Series and the bats fell quiet and the Royals won in five games.

“Falling short can be a motivator,” deGrom said.

Daniel Murphy left, but the Mets appear to have upgraded their up-the-middle defense with the acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cespedes was brought back and they’ll have Conforto for a full year. They’ll also expect to have Syndergaard and Matz for a full season.

The health of Wright and Travis d’Arnaud are significant issues as is the make-up of the bullpen.

But, we’re not talking about .500 as a primary goal, but winning a World Series.

“Mets fans are hungry,” Wright said. “We’re hungry.”

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Dec 09

Niese Traded To Pirates For Walker

Just as the Mets quickly rebounded by getting Yoenis Cespedes when the Carlos Gomez trade fell through, they did it again as they have traded for Pirates second baseman Neil Walker the day after losing Ben Zobrist to the Cubs.

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

WALKER: Newest Met. (Getty)

All it cost is Jon Niese, who wasn’t in their plans in the first place. I wrote last night I wasn’t all that broken up about Zobrist falling through because he was too pricey and there were other options. Zobrist’s 162-game averages are .265 with 17 homers and 77 RBI, while Walker hit .269 with 16 homers and 71 RBI last year. The difference is one hot weekend.

Niese was to make $9 million this year, which is the projected arbitration award for Walker.

Walker doesn’t play the outfield corners like Zobrist, but like him is a switch-hitter and is four years younger. However, with Zobrist they would have him locked up for four years. Walker could only turn out to be a rental as he’ll be a free agent after this season. That could mean the Mets could be going through this again next winter if Dilson Herrara doesn’t show them anything this year.

As for Niese, 29, he was being phased out because of the Mets’ young core of arms. Niese was projected to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler comes off the disabled list, but are now expected to go with Rafael Montero. The trade of Niese could also spur the Mets to re-sign Bartolo Colon.


Nov 05

Extending My Apologies To Sandy Alderson

In my coverage of the Mets, from my days as a newspaper reporter to this blog, I have been a proponent for being stand-up. I have applauded David Wright, Daniel Murphy, ,manager Terry Collins and others for accepting responsibility when things go wrong.

ALDERSON: You have reason to smile. (AP)

ALDERSON: You have reason to smile. (AP)

And, I have been critical of Matt Harvey for not always doing the same.

Given that, I must hold myself to the same standards and admit I was wrong on GM Sandy Alderson on several issues this year. Among them:

* Not having a concrete plan for Harvey as to his innings limit, or at least, not being open with it.

* For his reluctance to promote outfield prospect Michael Conforto from the minor leagues when the team was in a woeful hitting slump.

* For seemingly dragging his feet on bringing in a bat at the trade deadline. And, when the Carlos Gomez trade with Milwaukee fell through, Alderson deserves considerable credit for despite the rapidly approaching deadline, kicking the tires on Jay Bruce from Cincinnati before landing Yoenis Cespedes.

The bottom line: No Cespedes, no playoffs.

Alderson told us to be patient and rewarded us.

When the Harvey news broke, Alderson went with the flow and worked with the appropriate parties to make sure it wasn’t a lingering problem. And, well Conforto made the most with his opportunity and in addition to gaining valuable experience, helped the Mets to the World Series.

He’s expected to be a starter next season and the Mets are far ahead because they already have a book on him. In both cases, Alderson did what he was supposed to do, which was act in a manner that made the Mets better. Nobody can ask for more.

There’s no rest for him as he’ll be attending the general managers meetings next week. Next year has already begun and with it a myriad of issues, from rebuilding a bullpen, and making hard decisions on Cespedes, Murphy, the middle infield and ascertaining where things are with Wright’s back.

I’ll voice my opinion as I always do, but for now, Alderson deserves to savor this season without my two cents.

So, cheers to you Mr. Alderson for making me, and countless Mets fans, eat our words. Your instincts about this team were correct and I was wrong. You had one hell of a year.


Aug 28

High Flying Mets Due For Letdown Loss

Even after blowing another Matt Harvey start Friday night, a lot of things are breaking for the Mets these days and it is adding up to a wonderful summer. If it keeps going like this, it could be a great October.

For example:

HARVEY: Another no-decision. (Getty)

HARVEY: Another no-decision. (Getty)

* For most of his tenure as general manager, Sandy Alderson sat on his hands at the trade deadline, but this year brought in Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard.

Perhaps the most defining, at least in regard to the tweaking of the Mets, was when the Wilmer Flores-for-Carlos Gomez trade fell through and Alderson was able to get Cespedes.

In May and June, and much of July, the Mets hungered for runs. But they’ve been mashing lately, and despite falling behind by three runs and down to their last out, the Mets fought back and the game ended with the winning run on base. Still, four days after hitting a club record eight homers in Philly, they were able to do little with the 12 walks the Red Sox gave them. That can’t happen if they make the playoffs.

* Speaking of Clippard, he fell into the Mets’ hands after blockhead Jenrry Mejia‘s second drug suspension. The Mets have bullpen problems, but not having an eighth-inning set-up reliever could be devastating. Now, the problem is filling in the seventh and this is where not having Mejia hurts.

On Friday they were forced to go with Carlos Torres the day after he pitched multiple innings against the Phillies. Not wanting to extend Harvey and not comfortable with his bullpen options, the Mets had to stay with Torres. This will be an issue in the playoffs.

* After not having David Wright for nearly five months, he homered in his first at-bat, but more importantly has been able to catch up to the speed of the game defensively.

* After Harvey was skipped and given 11 days of rest, there was some wonder as how he would do Friday night against Boston, but six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts answered that question. Of course, in watching the Mets blow the game, the nagging question about monitoring innings resurfaced. If he stayed in for another inning could extra innings have been avoided?

Perhaps, but Collins made a point to emphasize that in the playoffs he would have stayed with Harvey.

So many good things have happened for the Mets lately, including losing on the same day Washington lost. The NL East isn’t a given because we’ve seen leads slip away before, but before that harrowing thought takes seed, first we must look at Friday night as a simple speed bump.

After all, Jacob deGrom is pitching Saturday.