Jul 09

Three Mets’ Storylines: Murphy Deserves This

Daniel Murphy is just piling it on the Mets now. The one-time Met turned Mets tormenter with Washington stuck it to his former team again Saturday night.

Murphy drove in four runs on three hits – including a homer; missing a second by a few feet – in a 6-1 Nationals’ rout that opened their lead over the Mets to a comfy five games in the NL East. Murphy is a big part of that lead. Had he stayed with the Mets and produced the same numbers, you can make an argument the standings could be flipped.

MURPHY: Easy to root for. (AP)

MURPHY: Easy to root for. (AP)

Ask GM Sandy Alderson why they are not.“It’s always nice to beat a divisional opponent,” said Murphy as he suppressed a smile when asked if he took any pleasure in beating the team that shunned in the free-agent market.

“It’s always nice to beat a divisional opponent,” said Murphy as he suppressed a smile when asked if he took any pleasure in beating the team that shunned in the free-agent market.

Murphy is batting .437 with six homers and 19 RBI against the Mets. Overall, he’s hitting .349 with 16 homers and 64 RBI and if the season ended today, and it’s getting close to that feeling with the Mets, he would be a MVP frontrunner.

And, I couldn’t be happier for him. As a sportswriter, I root for good stories and Murphy is a good story. He was a great story last October, and before that was always an interesting story for the Mets.

For some reason only Alderson and the Wilpons know – but haven’t been forthcoming about – the Mets didn’t want him back, only giving him a $15.8-million token qualifying offer.

Maybe his politically-incorrect statements was the decider. Definitely, he didn’t fit Alderson’s Sabremetrics profile, which I always felt was overrated. His defense was never top drawer, but the first-place Nationals don’t seem to have a problem with his glove.

Murphy was a homegrown Met who always busted his hump for the team. He had some brain cramps, but there was never a problem with his heart.

I always liked Murphy when he played with the Mets and wanted him back, although I never believed Alderson would pull that trigger. The kicker is Murphy, after working with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, showed the power stroke last year in the second half in the playoffs he’s flashing now.

One of the things I always liked about Murphy is he’s not a chest-thumper. When asked if he’s having fun, especially in the park where he blossomed last year in the playoffs, Murphy said: “We’re playing well. [Being called a] post-season hero is humbling, but there were 25 guys over there last year.”

Last year seems like a long time ago, and with each Murphy at-bat it’s getting further away. I don’t know if the Mets can regroup and challenge Washington after the break, but I am happy to see him thriving.

Murphy deserves to be a headliner, and could be one through 2018 with the Nationals, while the player they replaced him with – Neil Walker – could walk after this season.

Murphy was the main storyline Saturday. The two others were the Mets’ continued inability to hit with RISP and how Antonio Bastardo adds nothing to the bullpen.

METS WITH RISP: The Mets’ inability to hit with RISP has been a significant issue all season. They were 0-5 with RISP and stranded seven runners. If there was a turning point in the game it came in the first when the Mets had runners on second and third with no outs and came away with only one run.

Max Scherzer, who no-hit the Mets last year and has 29 strikeouts in three starts against them this season, struck out Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo to get out of the inning.

“It’s an age-old story,” Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters. “When you have a pitcher like [Scherzer] on the ropes early, you’d better get him.”

All season Collins said the Mets are built on power, which is not the optimum way to construct a team. Of all the telling stats about the Mets, perhaps the most significant is they have won only five games in which they did not hit a homer.

BASTARDO BOMBS OUT: Bastardo is not why they lost tonight, but continued to be a weak link in the bullpen.

Murphy took him deep tonight and also on Thursday. He has a 4.91 ERA and as simply not produced as the situational lefty.

The Mets enter the break with no shortage of needs, and a lefty in the bullpen is one of them.

 

Jul 08

Three Mets’ Storylines: More Injuries

What was that line in Bull Durham? “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And, sometimes it rains.” However, on this night for the Mets, it didn’t rain long or hard enough.

The Mets lost 3-1 Friday to the Washington Nationals, but that was just the game. On a day the Mets lost Matt Harvey to season-ending shoulder surgery they lost a lot more during the game.

SYNDERGAARD: When will we see him again? (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: When will we see him again? (AP)

I covered Harvey earlier today, so the top three Mets storylines tonight are: 1) Noah Syndergaard leaving with an arm injury, 2) Yoenis Cespedes leaving with a strained quad muscle, and 3) Jose Reyes’ reluctance to run.

SYNDERGAARD LEAVES WITH ARM INJURY: Syndergaard, who has been bothered by a bone spur in his elbow, and whom manager Terry Collins would pitch in the All-Star Game, left in the fifth inning with what the Mets called “arm fatigue.”

Collins told reporters: “He just said his arm went dead. It got tired on him. … “He tells me there’s nothing wrong. He’s just tired.”

Collins said Syndergaard will not pitch in the All-Star Game. He also said “as of now,’’ there’s no correlation between this and the bone spur.

His velocity was down and he winced with his last pitch. Doesn’t a wince denote pain? If he couldn’t feel anything in his arm, that’s not a dead arm.

“I didn’t have anything on pitches,” Syndergaard told reporters. “I knew something wasn’t right.”

Twice already this season Syndergaard complained of discomfort in his pitching elbow and underwent a MRI. He said he didn’t think a third MRI is necessary.

Wanna bet?

CESPEDES HAS QUAD INJURY: The Mets’ All-Star outfielder left after three innings with a strained right quad while chasing Daniel Murphy’s double.

Cespedes leaped to catch the carom off the wall and landed awkwardly. What the good folks at SNY didn’t say was he didn’t play the ball properly and was too close to the wall.

Collins said he might have to do without him for a couple of games, which should also put him out of the All-Star Game.

“`I’m running out of things to say and we’re running out of bodies,” said Collins, who indicated the Mets will play shorthanded for the rest of the series.

REYES DOESN’T RUN: The Mets had runners on the corners with no outs, with Reyes on first. Or, should I say, anchored on first?

He didn’t try to steal to get the tying run into scoring position. He didn’t run to stay out of the inning-ending double play.

SNY’s analysis ranged from the wet turf, to being rusty to not being confident, yet, to run. None are good explanations.

Reyes is here for his speed and provide a spark. If he’s rusty, what’s the point? The day before he was activated Collins said Reyes wasn’t ready, and several days prior to that the player said he didn’t want to come back until he was 100 percent.

Evidently he is not, despite the homer Thursday. Evidently, if the manager and player said Reyes wasn’t ready, then did management force this move just to sell a few tickets against the Marlins?

 

Jul 03

A Master Plan For Flores

FLORES: A plan for him. (AP)

FLORES: A plan for him. (AP)

As they were with Daniel Murphy, the Mets never seem pleased with Wilmer Flores, who carved a place in club lore last July when he was brought to tears on the field after thinking he had been traded to Milwaukee.

A couple of days later, he hit a walk-off homer to beat the Nationals to jumpstart the Mets’ pennant push. Perhaps the Mets’ 2016 pennant push began with this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs at Citi Field, capped off by today’s 14-3 rout in which Flores tied a franchise record – Edgardo Alfonzo – with six hits, including two homers.

Yeah, six-for-six. Riding a 0-for-14 slide entering the game, there was a school of thought Flores might get sent down when Jose Reyes is brought up.

“Players aren’t naive,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “They read the papers. They know what’s going on. I don’t think there’s any question he hasn’t heard Reyes is coming.”

What’s going on is Flores is on the cusp of losing his job as the Mets, in search of an offensive spark, reached into their past. And, outside of a wild few days last summer, the Mets’ past didn’t include Flores.

A starter for much of last season in the second half at shortstop, Flores started this year on the bench following the winter acquisitions of Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera. Theoretically, Flores was to serve as the back-up at third for David Wright and first for Lucas Duda.

Flores assumed the starter’s role at third when Wright went down, but now the Mets seemed poised to replace him with a player who has never played third. Reyes is coming, make no mistake, but what should be done with Flores?

Under no circumstances should they option him to Triple-A to make room for Reyes, an idea Keith Hernandez floated on SNY. First of all, there are no assurances Reyes will take to third. They should also not relegate him full time to the bench.

“It’s experience and reps. you have to get him out there,” Collins said to give the impression Flores’ best position is batter. “You have to get him 500 at-bats. In order to have an idea of what a player is capable of doing you have to play him.”

There’s the rub. One of the things I find annoying about Collins is how he uses his bench. All too often he’ll ride his starters while the role players collect rust, which seemed to be the case with Flores before Wright was hurt. There never seemed to be a regular resting format for Wright. There was no third-to-first rotation with Flores to start the season as he sat in ten games and only had 28 at-bats in April.

Flores was on a 0-for-14 skid before Sunday’s once-in-a-lifetime game.

“I thought I was swinging the bat well, I just wasn’t lucky,” was how Flores described his mini-slump, and of his turnaround, added, “I was looking to be aggressive.”

Whatever the Mets had in mind for Flores, he’s always been the good soldier. Genuinely hurt last year when he thought he had been traded, he seemed annoyed when the Reyes issue was raised Sunday.

“It’s not my choice,” Flores curtly said. “I’m here to play.”

But where?

Like a six-year-old child who ignores his favorite toy when presented with a new one, I fear Collins might bury Flores on the bench.

Collins has proven he doesn’t always follow through with a plan. From batting Juan Lagares leadoff last season to starting the year with Curtis Granderson hitting first; to an innings limit for Matt Harvey; to juggling his lineup; to how to handle Michael Conforto, Collins is quick to abandon a plan.

I get it, Reyes will play third base, but Flores must be used. He should start at least four games a week to keep his bat sharp. One game at third, one at shortstop, one at second and one at first. Have him be a super sub on a regular rotation. If the Mets make a run, Collins can’t afford to drive Cabrera and Walker into the ground, and James Loney needs a breather at first.

Flores is hitting and the Mets must keep it that way.

May 09

Going After Utley A Bad Idea

The dumbest thing the Mets can do during their four-game series against the Dodgers – starting tonight in LA – is to go after Chase Utley with a beanball. Whether it be at his head, ribs, butt or knee, there’s no reason to start something that has already been finished.

It wouldn’t be smart even if Ruben Tejada was still on the Mets. He’s not, so what’s the purpose.

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let's move on. (AP)

UTLEY-TEJADA: Let’s move on. (AP)

MLB overreacted last October during the playoffs, which was substantiated when the suspension was dropped on appeal.

We can debate all we want on whether it was a dirty play. I’m saying it wasn’t, because: 1) Daniel Murphy did not make a good throw; 2) Tejada turned into the path of the runner, and 3) Utley was within close proximity of the bag, at least according to the rules in place. (See photo).

Also, it has always been an umpire’s discretion to eject a player if he deemed the play dirty. This did not happen and MLB behavior czar Joe Torre came down with the suspension to avoid Mets fans going ballistic when the NLDS moved to New York.

Was it aggressive? Yes. Was it dirty? Debateable. Is it worth it for the Mets to retaliate and possibly get a player injured or suspended? No.

The issue will be brought up tonight and I’m betting the over/under on the times SNY shows the play to be at least 12. That would be three times per game.

Suppose Steven Matz, or Matt Harvey, or Noah Syndergaard hit Utley and a brawl ensued. Why risk one of them being injured to prove a questionable point in protecting a player no longer on the team?

And, pitchers aren’t the only ones you could be injured. Cal Ripken nearly had his consecutive games streak snapped when the Orioles were involved in a brawl with Seattle. As it was, Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina took a few bruises.

Of course, it would be fascinating to see Yoenis Cespedes against Yassiel Puig in a WWE cage death match event. But, I digress.

The Dodgers aren’t playing good right now, so why wake them up? It could only hurt the Mets in the long run. Plus, the Mets and Dodgers could meet again in the playoffs. Why give the Dodgers ammunition to use in the future?

I felt bad Tejada didn’t get to play in the World Series. and that was his last play as a Met. However, the Mets didn’t think highly enough about him to keep him on the roster. Tejada is gone, demoted to a trivia question in Mets lore.

It’s over and time to move on.

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Apr 03

Mets’ Over/Unders

What’s baseball without numbers? Every team has its significant statistics, and the following are the over/under stats for your 2016 Mets. The most important number, or course, is victories and that’s where we begin with last year’s 90 victories:

Every team has its significant statistics, and the following are the over/under stats for your 2016 Mets. The most important number, or course, is victories and that’s where we begin with last year’s 90 victories:

 

92: Wins by Mets.

90: Wins by Washington Nationals.

20: Victories by Matt Harvey.

Tonight: When Harvey breaks media silence.

5: Drama issues by Harvey (he already has one).

17: Victories by Jacob deGrom.

16: Victories by Noah Syndergaard.

14: Victories by Steven Matz.

200: Innings pitched by Harvey.

200: Innings pitched by deGrom.

200: Innings pitched by Syndergaard.

20: Starts by Bartolo Colon.

July 15: Date Zack Wheeler brought up.

12: Starts made by Wheeler.

8: Number of pitchers who will start for Mets this summer.

13: Number of different relievers used by Mets.

40: Saves by Jeurys Familia.

7: Blown saves by Familia.

120: Games played by David Wright.

14: Homers by Wright.

33: Homers by Lucas Duda.

96: RBI by Duda.

.285: Neil Walker batting average.

10: Errors at shortstop by Asdrubal Cabrera.

17: Homers by Wilmer Flores off the bench.

15: Games started at shortstop by Flores.

95: Walks by Curtis Granderson.

28: Homers by Granderson.

35: Homers by Yoenis Cespedes.

100: RBI by Cespedes.

9: Errors by Cespedes.

450: At-bats by Michael Conforto.

50: At-bats by Conforto vs. left-handers.

.280: Conforto batting average.

10: Mets victories over Nationals.

4: Mets victories over Cubs.

3: Mets victories over Yankees.

13: Mets victories in April.

115: Games started by Travis d’Arnaud.

18: Homers by d’Arnaud.

12: Runners caught stealing by d’Arnaud.

22: Times Mets use disabled list.

8: Number of different Mets to hit double-digit homers.

7: Longest winning streak by Mets.

6: Longest losing streak by Mets.

2: Playoff series won by Mets.

4 million: Attendance at Citi Field.

8: Playoff games at Citi Field.

.335: Daniel Murphy batting average vs. Mets.

4: Murphy homers vs. Mets.

3: Mets to make All-Star team.

43: Players the Mets will use this year.

 

ON DECK:  Mets should be happy to watch KC celebrate.

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