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 27

Mets Must Understand Manufacturing Runs Still Important

Terry Collins likes to say the Mets are a “home run hitting team built on power.’’ It makes me uneasy when I hear that because history is full of teams built on power that didn’t win.

Sure, it’s great the Mets can come back with one swing as they did with Yoenis Cespedes Tuesday night. One pitch, one swing and BAM, the game was tied.

HARVEY: Goes tonight. (Getty)

HARVEY: Goes tonight. (Getty)

It was the first time this year the Mets came from behind to win.

Power is a great weapon in any team’s overall arsenal, but it is not the most important. History tells us most champions are built on pitching, defense and timely hitting.

People like to counter with the Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle Yankees. However, those teams also had solid pitching and balanced lineups.

It’s also been that way with baseball’s recent champions: Kansas City, San Francisco, St. Louis and Boston. The Red Sox had power, but they wouldn’t have won without pitching.

When the Mets moved into Citi Field, they promised to build their teams on pitching, speed and defense. So far, it has been their young pitching and power.

The Mets have little speed and their defense has been better than expected. This season they surged because of pitching and power, but remember they hammered the suspect rotations of Philadelphia, Atlanta and Cincinnati. They also spent three games each in the bandboxes in Cleveland, Philly and Atlanta.

How long will this surge continue?

Will it go away against the Giants this weekend? Or will it fade against the Dodgers, Nationals and White Sox in May? Hot pitching always trumps hitting.

Sorry stat geeks, it has been that way from the beginning and will remain that way. That’s was the foundation of the Mets’ championship teams in 1969 and 1986.

Why do you think the Mets relish talking about Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Wednesday night’s starter, Matt Harvey?

They do so because they realize pitching is more important. The Mets are third in the majors with 29 homers hit, but more importantly rank first in homers allowed, giving up just seven.

Collins likes to say his team doesn’t have a lot of speed and doesn’t bunt. It’s another way of saying the Mets are poor in situational hitting and can’t manufacture runs.

Power is not sustainable. It fades. The ability to manufacture runs over time is far more important.

Don’t think so? In the 19 games the Mets have played, they:

* Are 4-4 in one-run games.

* Have struck out 174 times, and average of 9.2 a game. That’s the equivalent of going three innings without putting the ball in play.

* They have stranded 140 runners, or an average of 7.4 a game. That’s a little less than a run an inning.

Sooner or later, their inability to manufacture runs and put the ball in play will catch up to them.

History says it will regardless of the new wave numbers.

 

Apr 11

Today In Mets’ History: Grote Homer Beats Reds

Not known for his power, on this day in 1971 Mets catcher Jerry Grote’s homer in the bottom of the 11th was the difference in a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati at Shea Stadium.

Batting eighth, Grote homered off Wayne Granger to lead off the inning. Grote homered twice that season and 39 times during his 16-year career, which included 12 seasons with the Mets where he carved a reputation as a defensive specialist with a strong throwing arm.

GROTE: Mets' best defensive catcher. (AP)

GROTE: Mets’ best defensive catcher. (AP)

Grote was a National League All-Star in 1968 and 1974. In those days, the NL was strong behind the plate with the likes of Johnny Bench, Tim McCarver and Randy Hundley.

How good was Grote defensively? Bench once said: “If Grote and I were on the same team, I’d be playing third base.”

Tom Seaver started that day and pitched nine scoreless innings. He was relieved by Tub McGraw, who worked two innings for the victory.

Grote also played with Houston (1963-64), the Dodgers (1977-78, and 81), and Kansas City (1981).

Grote was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1992.

He is 73 and lives in San Antonio, Tx.

ON DECK: April 11, Mets’ Lineup Against Miami

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Apr 03

Today In Mets’ History: Win Seaver In Hat Lottery

On this date in 1966, Tom Seaver’s name was picked from a hat in a special draft, awarding him to the Mets over the Indians and Phillies.

SEAVER: Mets hit lottery with him. (Topps)

SEAVER: Mets hit lottery with him. (Topps)

In 1965, Seaver was originally drafted by the Dodgers following his 10-2 sophomore season. However, the Dodgers balked at Seaver’s $70,000 salary demands and he re-entered the draft for 1966. This time, the Braves took him.

Seaver signed with Atlanta, but the contract was voided by then commissioner William Eckert because his USC college team had played two exhibition games (although Seaver didn’t play).

When Seaver’s father threatened a lawsuit, Major League Baseball backtracked with the hat lottery.

There are some interesting “what ifs” had history played out differently. For example, had the Dodgers agree to Seaver’s original salary request, he and Don Drysdale could have formed an interesting tandem. No, he never would have played with Sandy Koufax, but they might have gone to spring training together in 1966, which was the Hall of Fame left-hander’s last season. Koufax retired after the World Series that year because of an arthritic condition in his left elbow.

More delicious, however, would have been had he gone to the Indians, where he could have been part of an interesting rotation featuring Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and Sonny Siebert.

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Feb 26

Hypothetical Terry Collins Address To Mets

By all accounts, Mets’ manager Terry Collins‘ address to his players today was positive with him stressing the expectations will be higher this season and they should embrace being the hunted. Using that information, I’ve put together a hypothetical speech Collins should have said to his team this morning prior to their first full-squad workout in Port St. Lucie.

“Good morning, gentlemen. It’s great to see all of you. Of course, most of you have been here now for several days, which tells me a lot. It tells me how serious you are about the work ahead of us, which it get back to the World Series and win it this time.

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

COLLINS: Starts another year. (AP)

“I know we all remember how great it felt after we clinched in Cincinnati, and after we beat the Dodgers and Cubs. I also know how bad we all felt after we lost the World Series. I’m sure you thought about it during the winter. I want you to carry that feeling with you this summer and use it to your advantage.

“Yes, last year was great. But, last year is also last year. Last year doesn’t guarantee us anything this year. Washington will be better. The Cubs are better. The Giants are better. St. Louis is good. The Dodgers and Pirates are good. Nobody will hand us anything. We have to earn anything we get, and that begins with us taking care of our business.

“The media will say David Wright and Matt Harvey are the leaders of this team, and they will right … but only a point. To me, a leader isn’t just a player who produces in a big spot, but somebody whose teammates can rely on at all times. A leader is somebody who does his job. That means keeping your head in the game and keeping your focus at all times.

“It means knowing what to do in the field before the pitch is thrown. It means not giving away at-bats. When we weren’t hitting last year it was mostly because we gave away too many at-bats. We have to do a better job of moving up runners, we have to be more aggressive on the bases and we have to take advantage of opportunities when we get them. Remember, nobody will give us anything.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to need everybody at one time or another. So, when your name is called you have to be ready to play.

“Last season taught us a lot of things. It taught us how great winning can feel. It also told us how bad losing can feel. Above all else, last year taught us how difficult winning can be and we’ll need everybody if we’re going to achieve what we want to do.”

Collins isn’t a rah-rah type, so there wasn’t any “win it for the Gipper,” emotion. So, all this is what he might have said to his team. Collins isn’t one to single players out in a team meeting. He’ll likely meet with his players individually. Hopefully, he’ll stress to Wright the need for him to be honest about how he feels and not fight him about rest.

And, along those lines, and you knew I would get to this eventually, in speaking to Harvey they would have to relive that ninth inning of Game 5. I hope Collins made Harvey understand he went against his better judgment when he let back out for the ninth inning. But, Collins let Harvey stay in the game because he trusted him.

That being said, I hope Collins made it known Harvey would have to regain that trust. And, that would start with Harvey not fighting his decisions when it comes to taking him out of a game.