Jul 05

Even DeGrom Can’t Save Mets

Do you want the truth from me about the Mets, or should I tell you what I think of them through blue-and-orange glasses? I’m guessing you want the truth because that’s all I’ve given you on this site.

I hope I am wrong and the Mets do something heroic, but even if Jacob deGrom beats the Nationals tonight, I think this over.

DE GROM: Can't help Mets now. (AP)

DE GROM: Can’t help Mets now. (AP)

Just when they take a step forward, like trim a 12.5-game deficit down to 8.5, they stub their toe. They not only failed to sweep the Phillies but got clobbered in the final game. Curtis Granderson hit a game-tying homer with two strikes and two down in the ninth, which is the stuff great pennant runs are made of.

But, they lost that game and were routed yesterday to fall back to 11.5 games behind.

They can’t beat the Nationals, Dodgers or Diamondbacks, and I don’t like their chances against St. Louis and Colorado.

There is too much going on with the Mets that doesn’t encourage a miraculous comeback. Their pitchers walk too many hitters and the bullpen is among the game’s worst. Their offense is all-or-nothing with the home runs. Hitting in the clutch? Uh, no.

And, let’s not forget the numerous injuries: Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey; David Wright and Neil Walker; Jeurys Familia and Michael Conforto.

Quite simply, the Mets need to pick up at least six games by the end of the month to have any chance of making it a race giving them two options: 1) maintain the illusion and keep the status quo, or 2) back up the truck and have a fire sale.

Whatever they do, I’ll keep watching and imagine you will, also, because that’s what we do.

May 17

Today’s Question: What Version Will Mets Get From Harvey Today?

Today’s Question: Will the real Matt Harvey, or the version he claims to be step up?

Arizona was where it all began for Harvey, who struck out 11 Diamondbacks in his major league debut late in the lost season that was 2012. He had poise that day, an explosive fastball, and above all, devastating command.

HARVEY: Who is the real Harvey? (AP)

HARVEY: Who is the real Harvey? (AP)

The Mets crowed about what they had, and they had the right. Harvey finished the year at 3-5, but with a 2.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.

A few short months later, Harvey masked the pain in his right forearm, and when the injury was finally revealed, he, along with coaxing of ownership, let their future start in the All-Star Game.

He was brilliant that night in Citi Field, but a few weeks later the burning in his elbow needed to be cooled by Tommy John surgery. We can gloss over the pettiness in his sparring with management about whether to have surgery, went to have it, and where he should rehab.

He fought the Mets at every turn, and when he came back in 2015 he fought with them over his innings limit.

Then there was Game 5 of the World Series.

Now, Harvey goes to the mound with a 31-31 career record and more questions than answers. Harvey goes in with a three-game losing streak and suspension on his most recent resume.

“You get to the point where you don’t sit here and say, ‘I hope I get this’ and ‘I hope I get that,’ ” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You just send him out there and you hope he’s getting back to what Matt Harvey is. That’s what I’m looking for: improvement. That’s it.”

What is the real Matt Harvey? Well, on-the-field he’s been underachieving with average numbers. Off-the-field he’s still caught up with an arrogant sense of entitlement whose act is wearing thin.

He received no public support from his teammates, which is rare in a baseball clubhouse. That’s partly because he’s done nothing lately to prove to his teammates he’s worth the trouble.

That’s the heart of the matter.

 

May 16

Robles’ Role In Jeopardy; Free Fall Continues

Dear Mets readers: I haven’t been around for nearly a week after undergoing back surgery. I came home and today learned my server went down. Please accept my apologies. Hopefully, nothing else will happen. I wish I could include the Mets’ bullpen in that. Best to you, John

The Mets dodged a bullet when Paul Goldschmidt’s fly against Hansel Robles off the center field wall was a replay ruled a double instead of a home run. No worries for the Diamondbacks, who would hit three more homers in the fateful eighth, two off Robles.

Considering Robles has given up nine runs in his last two appearances – not including Sunday’s meltdown – it is probably safe to assume the Mets should be thinking his role should be reduced to mop-up situations like it frequently has been when he’s done.

Pitching was supposed to be the Mets’ strong suit, but the bullpen bridge to the closer was always a rickety one over a rocky cavern with a fast-moving river like in the movie Deliverance.

With Jeurys Familia out indefinitely following surgery to remove a blood clot creating a blockage in his right shoulder. Surgery in St. Louis to remove the clot was successful and he won’t start throwing for up to six weeks and it could be three months before he gets in a game. Just where will the Mets be then?

Addison Reed hasn’t pitched well, and whom in the pen do you trust? Certainly not Robles, whom Collins said his role is in serious jeopardy.

“We use him often because he has such a great arm, but he’s not making pitches, Collins said after the Mets’ fifth straight loss to drop them to eight games behind Washington. “We have to take a good hard look at where he fits, but we don’t have a lot of options.

It is what it is, but you have to manage it anyways.”

One positive tonight was Zack Wheeler, who pitched into the seventh after giving up one run. It was the second consecutive game when a starter entered the seventh only to watch the bullpen cough up the game like a cat with a hairball. Jacob deGrom did so Sunday. DeGrom was supposed to pick up the rotation after Noah Syndergaard went down and will be lost for up to three months.

DeGrom is 2-1 which is good two weeks into the season, but he didn’t win his first game until April 28. DeGrom is on top of the leader boards in strikeouts, but what is really alarming are the seven homers he’s allowed (he gave up 16 all of last year).

Matt Harvey‘s comeback is failing; Robert Gsellman would be optioned if Steven Matz was ready to be activated, but he’s several weeks away; recently-acquired Tommy Milone will get the ball tonight?

What’s next for the Mets?

“Somebody has pissed off the baseball Gods, because every move we make turns out to be the wrong one,” Collins said.

In ancient times, sacrifices were made to the Gods to curry favor.

Who will be the first? Robles? Gsellman? Curtis Granderson? Asdrubal Cabrera?

Will the Mets finally forego their obsession with the Super Two status regarding Amed Rosario? Will they stop thinking Yoenis Cespedes‘ return – which is at least three weeks away – will be the panacea for all that ails the Mets?

The most imminent decision is whether to DL Cabrera and already there are reports Rosario won’t be brought up. Looks like another bad decision in the making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Niese Rocked

Jon Niese’s return to the rotation turned out to be a tease for the Mets. Starting in place of Logan Verrett Wednesday night, Niese threw three scoreless innings before Arizona unloaded on him with three runs in the third and knocked him from the game the following inning.

Niese, making his first start in over a month (when he was with Pittsburgh), gave up homers to Yasmany Tomas and Rickie Weeks, in the third before he was chased in favor of Erik Goeddel in the fourth.

Niese gave up four runs on four hits in 4.2 innings, but struck out six in the 13-5 loss. Last week in New York, the Diamondbacks got to him for six runs in one inning.

With no imminent help coming up from Las Vegas or from the waiver wire, Niese will likely remain in the rotation.

OFFENSE DISAPPEARS … AGAIN: The Mets scored seven runs Tuesday, but after scratching out a run in the first did precious little.

The Mets produced only four hits.

Manager Terry Collins, in trying to “take something off his plate,’’ dropped Curtis Granderson to sixth, but was 1-for-4 with a meaningless homer in the ninth and two strikeouts.

The Mets expect Yoenis Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera to be activated this weekend in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Michael Conforto, who the Mets seemingly have no intention of bringing up from Triple-A, is 12-for-18 in his last four games.

DOESN’T GET EASIER: After finishing their season series 1-5 against the Diamondbacks, the Mets are off to San Francisco for a four-game series then three in St. Louis.

The match-ups will be: Thursday, Jacob deGrom vs. Madison Bumgarner; Friday, Steven Matz vs. Johnny Cueto; Saturday, Bartolo Colon vs. Matt Moore; Sunday, Noah Syndergaard vs. Jeff Samardzija.

Sunday’s game was moved to the night.

Niese, deGrom and Matz are scheduled to start in St. Louis.

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Aug 17

Has Syndergaard Turned The Corner?

UPDATED: Adding quotes by Syndergaard and Collins.

For awhile last night it appeared Noah Syndergaard turned the corner and all would be right with the Mets again. However, as has been his pattern, he ran into the wall otherwise known as the sixth inning and was haunted by familiar ghosts.

I won’t go into the bone spur issue because when you live in a 98 mph., neighborhood, your arm has to be sound. Stolen bases are a problem – the Diamondbacks had four more Tuesday night and nine in his two starts against them – but one he should eventually solve with his experience.

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good and bad signs. (AP)

The main issue with Syndergaard has been his pitch-count efficiency and inability to put away a hitter or shut down an inning. It’s why he doesn’t give the Mets the number of innings he should considering the number of pitches he throws.

Of his 23 starts, he has gone at least seven innings only nine times. Only twice did he venture into the eighth inning. Twice.

Last night he cruised through five innings and was good as advertised but unraveled in the sixth. Yes, he was hamstrung by T.J. Rivera‘s defense, but when you’re supposed to be an ace, you must find a way to get out of the inning. The Mets survived the inning, but not Syndergaard.

This is not what you’d expect from somebody deemed an ace, much less a Super Hero.

Roughly one of four pitches he throws is fouled off, meaning he’s not putting away hitters. He averages over a strikeout an inning, but only four times has he reached double-digits in strikeouts, the last being June 15 against Pittsburgh.

Double-digit strikeout games signify going deep into games. Syndergaard went deep with a two-run homer in the fifth but was done an inning later. He expects more of himself.

From how he overpowered the Diamondbacks early in the game, his final line of four runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings was a disappointment despite going to 10-7 in the Mets’ 7-5 victory. Also discouraging was he threw 106 pitches.

Syndergaard took a six-run lead into the sixth. He should have coasted the way he did against Pittsburgh and the Cubs on July 3, his last win before last night. He went into the eighth in those games.

Jake Lamb reached on Rivera’s error and moved to second on a wild pitch. Syndergaard struck out Yasmany Tomas, but gave up a single to Wellington Castillo and two-run triple to Mitch Haniger. A second error by Rivera let in another run. After an infield single, Syndergaard left in favor of Jerry Blevins and the last image of him was throwing his glove in anger in the dugout.

Sure, blame the inning on Rivera, but it’s up to the pitcher to overcome disaster and put away the next hitter, something Syndergaard didn’t do. With his mounting pitch count manager Terry Collins didn’t have the confidence to let him finish the inning.

When Syndergaard cruised early in the game, he challenged hitters inside, his command was sharp and his curveball had bite. All encouraging signs.

“In the middle innings I thought he threw the ball great,” Collins said. “When he commanded his fastball in the right spots they weren’t able to do much against him.”

But, he couldn’t sustain. Whenever he loses it quickly, it raises the question about the bone spur. The Mets believe – and Syndergaard concurs – this is a pain tolerance issue. The spur is something that should be dealt with by surgery in the offseason as it will be with Steven Matz.

“My arm felt great,” Syndergaard said. “I was fluid in my delivery. I felt it was a step in the right direction.;;

There are games, like those against the Pirates and Cubs – and for five innings last night – where he dominates and pitches to the ace-like levels of Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver. But, he’s not there yet on a consistent basis.

The elbow spur bothers me, and I’m sure it bothers Syndergaard more than he lets on. Of his last seven starts he reached the sixth three times before being pulled. Is it the spur or did hitters catch up to him?

Before last night, Syndergaard had four losses and two no-decisions in his previous six starts. In looking for an explanation for what’s happening one thing surfaces.

This is Syndergaard’s first full season and there are growing pains. His fastball averages 98 and his changeup averages 89, but there’s more to pitching than throwing hard. Just because he throws lightning and is built like a linebacker doesn’t mean he’s automatically Don Drysdale.

Syndergaard is ahead of most with his experience level, but not where he envisions himself. He needs more polish. He must learn to take something off his pitches; to reach back for the 100 mph., heater when he needs it, not with every pitch.

The bone spur is an issue, but one surgery should resolve. The real problem with Syndergaard is the expectations are exceedingly high from the Mets, his teammates, the media, and the fans. Everybody expects more of him – including the pitcher himself – than he is capable of giving.

Too many expect him to be the second Seaver instead of letting him develop into the first Syndergaard. He is still growing. He’s not the force he expects of himself to be.

Not yet, anyway.

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