Sep 27

Mets Matters: The Home Season Finale Today

There’s always a twinge of sadness prior to the last home game of the season. It represents finality and dreams lost.
There was little optimism coming out of spring training, but the Mets created interest, relevancy and excitement for the better part of three months. More importantly, they created optimism for a fan base that had none.
I don’t know why, but the off button was hit in the last series of the first half when they lost two of three to the Cubs, including getting pasted that last Sunday. Something just happened that was more than injuries to Dillon Gee and Johan Santana. It was as if a cloud of listlessness consumed them.
Sandy Alderson rattled off a bunch of numbers the other night. The one that was most important to me was pitches faced per at-bat. The Mets were no longer patient, no longer hitting with two outs, no longer using the whole field. They were consumed, top to bottom, with poor fundamentals.
Then the starting pitching became spotty for awhile and the bullpen imploded. As you watched July burn into August you could see on a daily basis the season slipping away. The low point? Perhaps that extra inning loss at Washington when they came from behind only to lose two leads late. By the time of the 16-1 Philly debacle, the competitive part of the season was long gone.
Once they dipped a couple of games below .500 I didn’t think they could recover. And, doing nothing at the trade deadline was another definite sign. Alderson wanted to wait and see, and what he saw was a team in decline. By then, it was too late.
The rest has been hell to watch, and I don’t need any statistics to know I was watching bad baseball. Really bad baseball.
Well, there are six games on the road after today, and it’s for Mets junkies only, much like the second half.
The Mets had a feel-good moment last night with a strong effort from Jeremy Hefner, who gave up seven runs in his previous outing. At least he leaves this season with a better taste in his mouth.
David Wright has the club hit record and today R.A. Dickey goes for 20. Wright, who had a great first half struggled in the second and is righting himself before winter. Dickey, except for a string of a few starts has been the most consistent player the team has had.
We’ll be watching today rooting for Dickey, but wondering how aggressive the Mets will be in bringing them back. If the Mets had a sense of theatre, they’d announce extensions for both today.
They won’t.
Jul 07

Mets Frustrating Again; Johan Santana Rocked

Didn’t we just see this movie?

Yeah, I remember. They beat the Dodgers three of four, then lose two of three at Chicago. If the Mets are as good as they claim they want to be, they can’t lose to teams like the Cubs. Championship caliber teams must beat up on teams with losing records.

This is something they must improve upon in the second half.

I am wondering a bit about Johan Santana, who was rocked with another big inning. Santana had been keeping trouble to a minimum, and that’s what he must do.

Jul 04

Jon Niese: One Of The Untouchable Mets

Sometimes it is better to hold a pat hand, which is what the Mets have done with Jonathan Niese over the past few years. More than a few times we heard Niese’s name mentioned in a possible trade.

NIESE: Untouchable (AP)

Whom the Mets would have received in return would not have lifted them from their 2007-2011 funk. At least, not as much as Niese is lifting them now. He’s 7-3 after last night’s 11-1 rout of the Phillies.

The players the Mets might have received could have given them a temporary spark, but they were in need of a deep rebuilding with their pitching and that begins with a stud left-hander, and Niese certainly fits that mold.

Niese was dominant last night with all his pitches, working quickly and staying ahead in the count. Give him a few runs and he’s golden. Last night he had more than he needed.

Niese is a major reason why the Mets, if the season ended today, would be in the playoffs. There’s nobody that could have predicted. Nobody.

At one time the Mets were eight games over .500 and poised to go on a roll. Instead, they faltered and threatened to go below .500. However, this has been a resilient team – perhaps its best attribute and they are seven over with two more games against the Phillies and three against the Cubs. Ten over by the break is very possible.

The Mets are doing what they should be doing against the reeling Phillies, and that is to beat up on them. When facing a down team go for the throat. While they are hurting, the Phillies still have that strong rotation and Ryan Howard due back. The season is not over for them. Other teams have made up more ground in less time, so putting as much space between them is essential for the Mets.

 

Jun 26

Terry Collins Saw It Coming; Calls Mets “Flat”

Terry Collins has been around the block more than a few times. He can see things others can’t and yesterday sensed a lack of energy from the Mets. Getting into Chicago at 4 a.m., after their adrenalin-sapping series with the Yankees can do that to a team.

WOOD: Mows down Mets (AP)

Offensively, Ike Davis’ two-out homer in the ninth averted a shutout. They couldn’t touch Travis Wood. Defensively, David Wright committed a crucial error that opened the door to a four-run Cubs seventh.

There was nothing good about the night.

“We were a little flat,” Collins said. “They’re human beings and the adrenaline knock out for a while, and the fact that they got about probably five or six hours of sleep didn’t help either.”

It was only one game, but how the Mets respond the rest of the series will be important. Contending teams, which the Mets now consider themselves, must be able to beat up on losing teams and the Cubs are MLB’s worst, now 23 games under .500.

ON DECK: Parnell gets closer job … again.

 

Jun 25

Mets Visit Charming Wrigley Field

The Mets will attempt to lick their wounds from losing two of three to the Yankees when they open a three-game series tonight at Wrigley Field, still a charm after all these years.

Built in 1912, the same year as Fenway Park, Wrigley Field remains a captivating place. It’s not an easy venue for a writer to work, but that’s our problem. It’s also not a comfortable place for players with small clubhouses and a cramped dugout.

For the visitors to get to the dugout, they must walk down a couple of flights of stairs and then weave their way through several halls (you could call them tunnels), the last two usually stank and wet.

But, the old time charm is what makes it worthwhile. The ivy on the brick walls, the rooftop seats across the street (a windfall for the building owners and the Cubs), the manually operated scoreboard in center field. All that takes us to a different time.

When you look past the center field bleachers you can see downtown Chicago. But, in that park you’ve escaped the hustle of today to a quieter, gentler time.

The seating for the fans is cramped and often obstructed, but Wrigley Field is still a tradition baseball and the Cubs are not willing to sacrifice. It’s been said in most years if you traded the Cubs roster for the White Sox roster there likely wouldn’t be a dramatic shift in attendance or fan support, because the real star is Wrigley Field.

(This year the Sox are significantly better, so that theory might not apply. But, we’re talking years when the teams have roughly the same record).

The fans are closer to the field than most parks (Fenway is the same), which generates a different feel and ambience. It’s like you’re a part of something. When a 10-year old can actually exchange a hello from a player during the game, that’s special.

In a concession to today’s economic realities of television advertising, the Cubs are playing more night games than ever. Although it has been decades since their last World Series appearance (they last came close in 2003 and would have made it had it not been for Steve Bartman), they have had playoff teams so it’s not an impossible concept.

Even without the luxury boxes other teams deem vital for their survival, the Cubs plod along. Once owned by the chewing gum company and later the syndicate that owns the Chicago Tribune, and now owned by the family trust of billionaire Joe Ricketts, the money is there to spend if they truly wanted.

They don’t jump into the deep end of the salary pool because the main attraction is an ancient stadium that is always filled, so what incentive do the Cubs have to spend more?

They build it and the people came, and they are still coming.