Oct 17

2015 NLCS Preview: Chicago Cubs vs New York Mets

nlcs 15 cubs

The last time the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs were in our national consciousness man had just landed on the moon, our country’s cities had been burning and we were mired in Vietnam.

The Mets, in their seventh year of existence, climbed out of a huge deficit to overtake the Cubs and blitz through the postseason to win the World Series. The similarities of those teams in 1969 and those in 2015 were quite remarkable.

The 1969 Mets were built on pitching depth, as is this team. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry in the rotation and Tug McGraw in the bullpen then; Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey in the rotation and Jeurys Familia in the bullpen now.

The 1969 Mets had a core of Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones, but came to life after the mid-season trade for Donn Clendenon. The 2015 Mets had its core in David Wright and Daniel Murphy, but needed the spark of Yoenis Cespedes.

The 1969 Cubs had quality pitching in Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman. Today’s Cubs will throw at you Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Both the 1969 and 2015 Cubs are power laden teams. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams then; Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber now.

The similarities are many, including the Cubs still playing in rickety old Wrigley Field and lamenting a century’s worth of bad luck.

By the way, there’s no truth to the rumor the Mets invited Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch.

jacob deGrom

WHY THE METS WILL WIN (John Delcos)

After nine years of misery, these Mets are a talented bunch, with “a bright future,’’ says manager Terry Collins. However, I don’t want to hear about the future, I want to see them win now, and it is possible with that young pitching staff. While the home field will play a role, the Mets will win the NLCS because their rotation is deeper and Familia is a better closer than the Cubs’ Hector Rondon.

After Arrieta and Lester, there’s nothing frightening about Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. Meanwhile, I like the Mets’ Nos. 3 and 4 starters have.

The belief here is the Mets’ pitching can hold down the Cubs’ power, while New York’s offense can better manufacture runs.

Although the Mets won Game 5 of the NLDS in Los Angeles, it’s always better to have the extra game at home and Game 7 at Citi Field is enticing.

The Mets also have the “it’’ factor in having overcome so much this season to return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.

The Cubs owned the Mets 7-0 in the season series, but that run can’t last forever, as can’t the prolonged slumps of Wright and Lucas Duda.

Cubs advance to NLCS Rizzo

WHY THE CUBS WILL WIN (John Delcos)

Yes, the Mets are due, but after a century’s worth of disappointment so is Chicago. After billy goats and Bartman, this could very well be the Cubs’ year. Sooner or later it has to happen.

One bright spot if it is will be that we won’t have to hear Cubs’ fans whining anymore about being cursed.

Arrieta should be the National League’s Cy Young Award winner, and Lester has proven to be a big-game pitcher in his own right.

Speaking of having a big game mentality, as good as Mets’ manager Terry Collins has been, Chicago’s Joe Maddon might be the best big game manager in the sport.

Pitching usually trumps power, but when that power is on a roll – as are the Cubs now – it is hard to contain. Bryant and Rizzo might be the game’s best 1-2 punch, and Schwarber makes three. The Mets don’t have that kind of power.

From top to bottom, the Cubs are loaded.

I don’t believe Chicago’s regular-season success will be the deciding factor, but the Cubs can’t help but enter the series with a measure of confidence. The Cubs clinching the day before gives them added rest, and we can’t help but wonder if the Mets aren’t emotionally spent from a grueling Game 5 against the Dodgers followed by a cross-country flight.

Being fresher could enable the Cubs from stealing one of the first two games at Citi Field.

Another reason to like Chicago is deep dish pizza.

Cespedes Yoenis

WHY THE METS WILL WIN (Joe D.)

Almost all season long I’ve referred to the Mets as a team of destiny. Think for a moment of all the adversity this team has endured. They started the season losing a top of the rotation starter in Wheeler, then their closer gets suspended, their third baseman and starting catcher miss over three months of the season, all the controversies and media driven drama they’ve had to deal with, and yet here they are today, four wins away from the World Series. Why will the Mets win? Because it’s written in the stars.

But on a more serious note, the Mets will win because their starting is deeper and better. Sure the Cubs have Arrieta and Lester, but deGrom and Harvey are no slouches and Syndergaard and Matz easily trump Hendricks and Hammel. It’s not even close, Mets starting pitching is deeper and better.

I keep hearing about how much power the Cubs have, and granted they have some great young hitters. But the Mets hit more homeruns and had more extra-base hits than any other team in the league from August 1 to the end of the season. They also had more multi-homer games than anyone else. Yoenis Cespedes will be a beast in the NLCS and if Daniel Murphy stays hot and David Wright and Lucas Duda decide to join the party, the Cubs have no chance.

But the biggest reason the Mets will win comes down to one man, Justin Turner… The Cubs don’t have him. Only kidding, it’s my man Jeurys Familia… He has become a weapon of mass destruction.

joe+maddon+cubs

WHY THE CUBS WILL WIN (Joe D.)

Wait, what? Who says the Cubs are going to win? Fine, I’ll play along.

It saddens me to say this, but the Cubs are going to win because Joe Maddon makes Terry Collins look like a mental midget. Maddon is a brilliant strategist and tactician who is always looking for that edge. And he does his homework and always shows up well prepared, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in that opposing dugout. He’s considered one of the most innovative managers in baseball, having popularized defensive shifts and making the safety squeeze a staple. His players play hard for him, and so does Collins’ but it’s all those other things that sets Maddon apart.

The Cubs will win because they have two of the best young sluggers in the league if not the game in Bryant (5.9 WAR) and Rizzo (6.2 WAR) who combined for nearly 60 homers and 200 RBIs while also stealing 30 bases between them. They have tremendous bat speed and each of them can take over a game at anytime.  Mets pitchers, beware.

murphy game 5

FIVE METS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Daniel Murphy: The Dodgers still don’t know where he is and it cost them the series. Plus, Murphy is a lifetime .305 hitter against the Cubs, including .349 with four homers and nine RBI in Wrigley Field.

Matt Harvey: Being the Game 1 starter also puts him in line to start Game 5 and maybe Game 7. Remember, there are no restrictions. Harvey is about atonement and he wants to make up for Game 3 against the Dodgers.

David Wright: He says he’s been waiting nine long years to get back into the playoffs and his .083 average against the Dodgers was not what he or anyone else was expecting. Look for Wright to flex some muscle in this series.

Yoenis Cespedes: The most dangerous and most explosive hitter in the Mets lineup. If Cubs pitchers leave one hanging or groove one in his zone, Cespedes will make them pay for it. He could be a big threat to steal second when Lester is on the mound. Which brings us to…

Eric Young Jr. – My hunch is he makes the NLCS roster for the Mets so that they can exploit Lester and manufacture a run late in the game, especially in a tight one.

Jake Arrieta

FIVE CUBS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Jake Arrieta: He struggled in his last NLDS start against St. Louis and you have to wonder if the season hasn’t taken a toll. Or he could come back with a vengeance.

Kris Bryant: He’s no Justin Turner, but he can carry a team, and he can do it for seven games. His match-ups against Harvey and deGrom could be monumental. Frightening thought: For as good as Bryant is, his numbers did not match Rizzo.

Javier Baez: As the replacement for the injured Addison Russell he’ll attract a lot of attention. The Cubs don’t lose that much defensively. but Baez is better known for his bat. He went 4-for-5 with a home run, stolen base, and three ribbies in the NLDS.

Kyle Schwarber: He only has 288 major league at-bats, but has proven he can hit in the clutch – an drive the ball into next week. He is 7-for-13 in the postseason with three homers and five RBIs.

Kyle Kendricks/Jason Hammel: There will be games not started by Arrieta or Lester, and the Cubs need to win at least one of those. Either of these two must find a way to beat the back end of the Mets’ rotation, which is much better.

John’s Prediction: I’m already on record saying I believe the Mets can get into, and win, the World Series. That means beating the Cubs in the NLCS. They’ll do it in seven games.

Joe’s Prediction: The Mets will win the NLCS in five games if Syndergaard starts Game 2, otherwise the Mets will defeat the Cubs in six games.

2015_NLCS_logo

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Oct 05

The World Series Match-Up I Want Most

With the playoff field set, it’s fun to look at potential World Series match-ups for the Mets. Of course, Mets-Yankees immediately springs to mind, but doesn’t give me the buzz of several others.

STAUB: As a Colt-45. (Topps)

STAUB: As a Colt-45. (Topps)

The one really grabbing my attention is Mets-Astros, a clash of two underdogs who entered the National League together as expansion franchises in 1962. The match-up would provide numerous story lines, including stars Nolan Ryan and Rusty Staub, who played for both teams; a comparison of each team’s early building plans; and, of course, revisiting the 1986 NLCS.

It would be delicious.

Mets-Rangers doesn’t stir my heart, but the Blue Jays would be interesting, especially if Met-killer Troy Tulowitzki can play. There’s also the story lines of why the Blue Jays traded Jose Reyes, and old friend R.A. Dickey. The potential slugfests with the Blue Jays could bring us some football-type scores.

I’m not sure Mets-Astros will make the networks happy, which is reason enough to want it. Frankly, although they are a great baseball story, their revival doesn’t touch the ratings meter. Probably the World Series match-up the networks least want to see is Astros-Pirates, or Astros against anybody, or Pirates against anybody.

You can probably throw the Royals and Blue Jays in that mix.

Although they are a great organization, perhaps the best in baseball, but the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t a ratings coup because have been in a lot recently. But, Yankees-Cardinals, the two winningest franchises in history, would be very special.

The team the networks most want to see are the Cubs, with a Cubs-Yankees series most desirable. That’s a ratings slam dunk.

I usually root for the underdog, which is why I’d like to see the Astros, That, plus I worked for the Astros for several years right out of college.

If the Cubs get in, they damn well better win it just to get rid of their cursed storyline. Just give it up on the cow kicking over the lantern and Steve Bartman. There are a lot of reasons why the Cubs haven’t won. Playing all their games at day to tire them out is plausible, but most prevalent have been they’ve put a lot of lousy teams on the field.

It would be sad to think of the Cubs in the World Series without Harry Caray and Ernie Banks. But, if thety win it all would be the removal of the curse, much like it was when the Red Sox won in 1994. People can finally die and go to heaven, but the main thing is won’t have to hear the whining anymore.

But, if they won, wouldn’t a lot of their mystique fade away?

TUESDAY, OCT. 6

AL wild card: Houston Astros at New York Yankees at 8 p.m. ET (TV coverage on ESPN)

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 7
NL wild card: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates at 8 p.m. ET (TBS)

THURSDAY, OCT. 8
ALDS Game 1: Wild-card winner at Kansas City Royals (Fox or Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network)
ALDS Game 1: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays (Fox or Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network/SportsNet)

FRIDAY, OCT. 9
NLDS Game 1: Wild-card winner at St. Louis Cardinals (TBS)
NLDS Game 1: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers (TBS)
ALDS Game 2: Wild-card winner at Kansas City Royals (Fox or Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network)
ALDS Game 2: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays (Fox or Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network/SportsNet)

SATURDAY, OCT. 10
NLDS Game 2: Wild-card winner at St. Louis Cardinals (TBS)
NLDS Game 2: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers (TBS)

SUNDAY, OCT. 11
ALDS Game 3: Kansas City Royals at Wild-card winner (Fox or Fox Sports 1 or MLB Network)
ALDS Game 3: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers (TBD)

MONDAY, OCT. 12
NLDS Game 3: St. Louis Cardinals at wild-card winner (TBS)
NLDS Game 3: Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets (TBS)
ALDS Game 4*: Kansas City Royals at Wild-card winner  (Fox or Fox Sports 1)
ALDS Game 4*: Toronto Blue Jays at Texas Rangers (Fox or Fox Sports 1 or SportsNet)

TUESDAY, OCT. 13
NLDS Game 4*: St. Louis Cardinals at wild-card winner (TBS)
NLDS Game 4*: Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets (TBS)

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 14
ALDS Game 5*: Wild-card winner at Kansas City Royals (Fox or Fox Sports 1)
ALDS Game 5*: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays  (Fox or Fox Sports 1 or SportsNet)

THURSDAY, OCT. 15
NLDS Game 5*: Wild-card winner at St. Louis Cardinals (TBS)
NLDS Game 5*: New York Mets at Los Angeles Dodgers (TBS)

 

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?

May 18

Mets Game Wrap: Harvey Comes Up Empty, But Mets Win

In his last start, the Mets’ bullpen coughed it up in Chicago and Matt Harvey got a no-decision in a loss to the Cubs. Tonight, Jeurys Familia blew his first save opportunity of the season, but the Mets regrouped to win, 2-1, in 14 innings.

Tonight was the third straight start in which Harvey failed to win his sixth game.

The Mets, playing in their first extra-innings game of the season, won it when the struggling John Mayberry Jr., drove in Eric Campbell on a bases-loaded, pinch-hit infield single. By this time, Harvey was long time gone with an ice-pack on his valuable right arm.

Familia, who had been perfect, was shaky in the ninth. The Cardinals put runners on the corners on Yadier Molina‘s hit-and-run single and Jason Heyward followed with a sacrifice fly to right.

The Mets had a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth, but Michael Cuddyer struck out to end the inning with two runners on.

BULLPEN OVERALL STRONG

Yes, Familia was off, but overall the Mets’ bullpen still got five scoreless innings from Hansel Robles, Erik Goeddel, Alex Torres and Carlos Torres.

DEFENSE ENABLED HARVEY TO STAY IN

Harvey came out for the eighth inning despite throwing 97 pitches. This is how it should be with Harvey. If the game is close late, this is when you push the envelope with Harvey, who was greatly aided by double plays in the fourth and seventh innings.

Wilmer Flores started an inning-ending double play in the fourth when he made a diving, back-handed stab of a sinking line drive. Flores also took part in a double play in the seventh.

Take away those two plays and Harvey would have been forced to pitch to at least another two hitters. That would have pushed him over 100 pitches and he would have been out of the game.

Harvey struck out nine for the second straight game.

DUDA BEATS SHIFT TO DRIVE IN RUN

Sometimes the Cardinals are too smart for their own good. With Curtis Granderson on third and Lucas Duda at the plate, the Cardinals put on shift that almost defied belief as they had the third baseman hold the runner and put everybody else on the first base side of the infield.

However, if you’re going to employ that shift, you have to pitch inside but John Lackey left the ball out over the plate and Duda grounded it up the middle. With a normal shift, the shortstop would have been in position to field the ball.

GOOD DEFENSE SAVES HARVEY RUN IN FIRST

Cuddyer saved the Mets a run in the top of the first when he cut off Jhonny Peralta’s double from going all the way to the left field wall. Had Cuddyer not cut off the ball, Matt Holliday, who reached on an error by third baseman Eric Campbell, would surely have scored.

Lackey put down the Mets, 1-2-3, in the bottom of the first.

By the way, Milwaukee centerfielder Carlos Gomez, who was hit in the head by a Noah Syndergaard fastball Sunday, homered in his first at-bat tonight in Detroit.

METS GET POSITIVE INJURY NEWS ON WRIGHT, D’ARNAUD

The Mets got some positive injury news today regarding David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud. Wright, on the DL with a pulled right hamstring, was on the field today resuming baseball activities.

“The big thing now is to see how he [feels when he] wakes up tomorrow,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters prior to Monday’s game.

D’Arnaud, on the DL with a fractured finger, swung the bat today for the first time.

Collins did not speculate on when they will return, and also offered no timetable for relievers Bobby Parnell and Vic Black, who are on rehab assignments at Single-A St. Lucie.

Dec 10

Mets Almost Too Desperate To Deal Niese and Gee

Mets GM Sandy Alderson seems determined, almost to a fault, to trade his excess pitching and the signing of Jon Lester by the Chicago Cubs can only help in his efforts.

Those wanting a left-hander, “Jon Niese is available” Alderson will tell anyone within earshot. But, first things first, he wants to dump Dillon Gee’s $5 million contract. Remember, priorities.

Speaking today with reporters at the Winter Meetings, Alderson said: “We’re comfortable that we’ll be doing something. It could happen today. It could happen tomorrow. It might be a little later.’’

Sounds like a firm timetable. I am betting on later, most likely after the meetings.

San Francisco and Boston, both of whom lost out on Lester – with the Red Sox, it was their own fault as they low-balled him – and Texas, Kansas City and Minnesota all need pitching and reportedly are willing to spend.

Since Lester was the lead pitching domino, it stands to reason Alderson’s phone would ring more. Once James Shields and Max Scherzer are off the board things could warm up for the Mets.

However, it must be remembered Niese and Gee have been dangled by Alderson for several months now. Alderson’s eagerness to trade them sends the message they aren’t valued highly be the Mets. Teams know this and believe they can always come back to the Mets if their Plan A doesn’t pan out.

Any real estate agent will tell you that the longer a house stays on the market the price will go down.

It’s the nature of the market.