Jul 14

DeGrom Provides Mets All-Star Memory

Jacob deGrom didn’t pitch long, but long enough to show why teams would salivate for the chance to get him if the Mets were to put him on the market.

DEGROM: Gives us a memory. (AP)

DEGROM: Gives us a memory. (AP)

The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year struck out the side in the fifth inning, and needed only ten pitches to do it.

Overpowering is too tame a word. He was nasty. He was filthy. He was special. He was so good that Madison Bumgarner, who is pretty special himself, waited on him when he returned to the dugout with a drink of water.

“He’s a nice guy,’’ the typically understated deGrom said of Bumgarner during a between-innings interview.

DeGrom also said, “I remember being nervous running out there, but not much else.’’

Even so, he gave Mets’ fans a memory that will rank among the franchise’s best in All-Star history as he joined Dwight Gooden as the only Amazin’ to strike out the side (in 1984).

The others on that list are:

2013: Matt Harvey throwing two scoreless innings at Citi Field.

2012: R.A. Dickey tossing a scoreless inning.

2010: David Wright getting two hits and a stolen base.

2006: David Wright homering.

1979: Lee Mazzilli hitting a pinch-hit homer in the eighth to tie the game and drawing a bases-loaded walk in the ninth to drive in the game winner.

1968: Jerry Koosman striking out Carl Yastrzemski to end game.

1967: Tom Seaver earning the save in a 15-inning game.

1964: Ron Hunt became the first Met selected and collected a single in his first at-bat in the game played at Shea Stadium.


Jul 02

Collins Will Take Hit From Failures By Alderson And Ownership

The Mets’ Terry Collins isn’t a great manager, but far from a terrible one. The hitting slump continued today as the Mets scored only one run in being swept by the Chicago Cubs, which erased any positive thoughts garnered from sweeping the Reds.

April’s 11-game winning streak is forgotten; archived in Mets’ trivia.

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

ALDERSON: His manager is on the hot seat. (AP)

With the Mets not hitting, there was nothing Jacob deGrom could do, although he was lucky he didn’t break his hand or a couple of fingers when he punched out a water cooler. That would have been typical Mets, wouldn’t it?

Collins told reporters after the game, “we have to lighten up a bit. … More guys fail in this game from fear than they do a lack of talent.”

Although Collins remains supportive of his team – and his players generally play hard for him – radio talk shows roast him on a regular basis, and stories are percolating about his future. One writer I greatly respect, Newsday’s David Lennon, did so in Thursday’s editions, and nailed it when he said pressure on Collins is “not fair, or right … but it’s reality.’’

Also reality is Collins isn’t getting help from ownership or general manager Sandy Alderson, who said in his book – that proclaimed him as the game’s smartest general manager – he didn’t have any confidence in his manager.

Nice, huh? What a way to instill confidence in your team. You say stuff like that when the manager is not under your employ. Do you think that didn’t go unnoticed by the players? It will certainly be brought up when the ax falls on Collins.

The Mets, a team whose rotation was largely put together by former general manager Omar Minaya, is good enough to win most games with even a little support. They haven’t gotten much, if any, this year. Of their 40 losses, 21 have been by two or fewer runs. They have been shut out nine times; and 29 times (including wins) scored two or fewer runs.

Yeah, that’s Collins’ fault.

Shouldn’t we instead dish blame on the Wilpons for not allowing for a budget needed to acquire a top-drawer hitter? Especially considering they received positive nods in the courts – not to mention a $167 million windfall – in the Madoff case.

Or, how about Alderson, whose only offensive acquisition of quality, was the project Curtis Granderson? The Mets have also had a long line of hitting coaches – they haven’t had a collective clue at the plate since firing Rick Down – with Kevin Long the latest not to reach them.

Yes, the Mets have had injuries, but all teams do. Washington has arguably been hit harder.

Ultimately it comes down to the players.

Collins can’t hit for his players, and as hard as he tries to pound fundamentals into them, it just hasn’t sunk in. Too many strikeouts, not enough walks, not enough situational hitting, and too many wasted at-bats.

The Mets’ team batting average is a league-low .232 by nine points. They have a paltry .297 on-base percentage. I don’t need any of the new sexy stats to tell me how badly they’ve hit. I see it with my own eyes.

Including today, they’ve scored 277 runs (3.4 a game). The Mets have also struck out 620 times (7.7).

No worries, things should be better when the Mets go into Los Angeles and face Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Then, it’s on to San Francisco where they get Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter at them at Citi Field, and Matt Cain.

By that time, they could be four games under .500, maybe more, heading into the All-Star break. Perhaps by then Alderson would make a trade or two, only as a seller and not a buyer.

Collins will eventually take the fall for Alderson’s inability to put a representative team on the field. Alderson wasn’t able to fill the void created by Wright’s injury. For years now, Alderson failed to bring in any quality hitters – or even one.

Instead, Alderson has worked on his comedy routine – several times at the expense of Wilmer Flores – with his latest quip calling the media and fans “residents of Panic City.’’

Of course, the condescending Alderson was telling us we’re not as smart as him. Sandy, I might not be able to build a watch, but I can tell time.

And, what you’re doing isn’t working.

If Collins goes, you should, also.

Jun 28

Matz Makes It All Right For One Day

Quality start doesn’t even begin to describe what Steven Matz gave the Mets today at Citi Field in his major league debut. His pitching, power and poise highlighted a 7-2 victory over Cincinnati. He also broke up a double play and started one after fielding a hard comebacker to the mound.

“He was as good as advertised,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He was ready for this. It was time. … He was ready to show he belonged.’’

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

Matz was making his major league debut five years removed from Tommy John surgery; after the Mets toyed with the decision to bring him up; and, after more than a three-hour delay so the Mets could finish a 2-1 victory over the Reds in a completion of suspension game.

“The more time I had, the more the anxiety went away,’’ said Matz, a sign of his composure.

His composure also surfaced when his first pitch of the game was something out of “Bull Durham,’’ a fastball to the backstop. On his fifth pitch, Tony Phillips hit a replay-reviewed homer.

Matz set the Reds down in order in the second and then, using Las Vegas teammate Matt Reynolds’ bat, ripped a two-run double. He would later hit a hit-and-run single and two-run single.

All the while, he toyed with the Reds on the mound, giving up two runs – Todd Frazier also hit a solo homer – on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Matz went further in his debut than Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler went in theirs.

While Harvey grew up rooting for the Yankees, Matz’s childhood passion growing up on Long Island was the Mets and spent many nights at Shea Stadium. Of course, the Mets want to play on that emotional attachment and as the team struggled through the past month there was a growing groundswell for his promotion. And, for the Mets, it was to attract more than the 130 family and friend he could sometimes hear from the stands.

There’s speculation the Mets promoted Matz to divert frustrated their fan base from their recent plunge in the NL East standings and a woeful offensive slide. That’s for another day, as this one was to enjoy a glimpse into a promising future.

However, while it was gray at Citi Field, there was a glimmer of sunlight, and he wore No. 32.

Jun 26

DeGrom Doesn’t Erase Issues Surrounding Mets

As great as Jacob deGrom was for the Mets Thursday, one lone start is not enough to create the perception of them as a playoff team. DeGrom’s eight scoreless innings enabled the Mets to beat Milwaukee, 2-0, at Miller Park, but did nothing to diminish the growing number of questions swirling around his team.

DE GROM: Brilliant Thursday. (AP)

DE GROM: Brilliant Thursday. (AP)

The Mets were 36-30 when their road trip began, and their record is now 37-37. In the end, all the Mets’ 11-game winning streak in April did was prevent the bottom from totally falling out. The Mets scored 11 runs during their 1-7 trip. They were shut out twice and scored more than two runs once. Five of those seven losses were by two or fewer runs.

It tells you two things that the Mets are 19-18 in games decided by two or fewer runs: 1) they are competitive team, which is what the front office promised, and 2) they are still too flawed to reach the next level.

Playoff caliber teams win close games and the Mets simply aren’t winning enough. But, if you had been told before the season that the Mets would be sitting in second place at .500 at the end of June you would have signed up for it in a heartbeat.

However, their improbable 11-game winning streak ratcheted the expectations of the Mets. What was once competing for a wild card spot changed to winning the division and going deep into the playoffs. It’s not that way any more.

However, this trip illustrates flaws the Mets haven’t been able to overcome:

* The Mets can’t win on the road, evidenced by an 11-26 record away from Citi Field. DeGrom can’t win them all, so there’s no sign this will change.

* The Mets can’t score. They have a minus-18 runs differential. In contrast, the Nationals have a plus-28 runs differential and scored 58 more runs. Like the Mets, the Nationals had early-season injuries, but they’ve been able to overcome them. They are 3.5 games ahead of the Mets and if that lead increases by much in the next 15 games prior to the All-Star break, they won’t be caught.

* The infield defense is atrocious. The best alignment has Wilmer Flores at third base or second, with Ruben Tejada at shortstop. There have been reports the Mets could be moving toward that thinking, but nothing official.

* We keep hearing rumblings Steven Matz will be promoted, and with that again the possibility of a six-man rotation. However, Matz does nothing to improve their offense, and the resulting demotion of Jon Niese only diminishes is already minimal trade value.

* The Mets have been hamstrung by injuries, with Travis d’Arnaud going back on the disabled list and David Wright not having any timetable for his return.

Finally, there is growing speculation manager Terry Collins’ job security is tenuous, which unfortunately is the way of the world. Collins unquestionably has flaws, but the real fault for the Mets’ slide since they were 15-5 has to be directed at ownership, which won’t spend, and GM Sandy Alderson, which hasn’t proven he can make the big trade.

There is a sense of urgency from the Mets’ fan base to do something, to do anything, but the Wilpons and Alderson don’t seem to be listening.

Jun 23

Playing The Blame Game With Mets’ Hitting

Once ten games over .500, the Mets are a team dangerously close to having an even ledger should they lose tonight to Milwaukee, a team they should have pushed around in Citi Field, but did not.

Eleven-game winning streaks are to be built on, not used as a safe haven to play mediocre ball. For a team unable to score runs, Jon Niese is not the guy you want on the mound tonight.

The Mets have blown two 1-0 starts from Matt Harvey and one from Jacob deGrom. They have lost 16 of their 35 games by two runs or less. Had they won half those games they would be 44-27, good for first in the NL East and with the second best record in baseball behind the computer-hacking St. Louis Cardinals.

Hitting coach Kevin Long is basically saying, “these things happen and we just have to break out of it.’’

If you think that’s an oversimplification, it is not.

There’s no help coming from the minors; they won’t trade any of their young starting pitching for a big bat; the pitchers they would trade, Dillon Gee, Niese and Bartolo Colon, nobody really wants, at least not now; and they don’t have any position players to deal.

You can blame the Wilpons for not opening their check book last winter, or you can blame Sandy Alderson for not doing anything significant in the offseason. You can certainly blame the hitters for not producing. You can also blame Terry Collins, because after all, blaming the manager always seems like the easy option.

There’s a lot of blame to go around, but precious little hope right now.