Jun 13

These Mets Made You Watch

Yoenis Cespedes has turned out to be one of those hitters, the kind that grab your attention and keep your eyes transfixed to the plate, whether you’re at the ballpark or watching on television. When he steps up, whether you’re heading to the concession stand or the refrigerator your heads turn to him like a rubber necker staring at a highway accident.

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

Everything can wait until you see what Cespedes does. It could be another home run; a line drive into the gap; or he could screw himself into the ground striking out. It doesn’t matter because it was an event.

Cespedes is one of four Mets that I believe who mesmerized us with their power.

Dave Kingman was the first. He was long and lean, once a pitcher. But, strong and launched 154 homers in his six years in two stints with the Mets, most of them high, arching moonshots.

Kingman came to the Mets from San Francisco, purchased for merely $150,000. He was the total all-or-nothing slugger with 442 career homers and 1,816 strikeouts.

Another was Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who hit 220 homers eight years with the Mets. Piazza came to the Mets from the Dodgers – after a week layover in Miami – and lead them to the 2000 World Series. Piazza’s swing uncoiled, almost in slow motion, but the ball jumped off his bat.

Piazza authored arguably the most memorable homer in franchise history with his game-winner over the Braves in the first pro sports event in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Others hit longer or higher home runs. Others hit them in October. But, Piazza’s was undoubtedly the most emotional and will never be forgotten,

Finally, there was Darryl Strawberry, the only one of the group who was home grown. He hit 252 homers in eight years with the Mets, and things froze at Shea when he came to the plate. Strawberry played for the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants – all four of New York’s baseball teams.

If there was one Strawberry blast that defined his power and strength, it was his blast off the scoreboard clock in old Busch Stadium.

There were other Mets who hit significant, if not dramatic, home runs. David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Lenny Dykstra, Rod Swoboda and Tommie Agee also hit memorable home runs for the Mets.

But, Strawberry, Piazza, Kingman and Cespedes made us stop and watch.


May 12

Mets Wrap: Syndergaard Does It All

SYNDERGAARD: Dream game. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Dream game. (AP)

Noah Syndergaard was still dealing in the eighth inning, but maybe it wasn’t because his pitch count was low. I’m thinking Terry Collins kept him in the game because Syndergaard was the only Met who was hitting.

Syndergaard drove in all four Mets’ runs with a pair of homers – including a three-run drive in the fifth after failing to put down a bunt – in Wednesday night’s 4-3 victory over the Dodgers.

Maybe it’s something in the water in Southern California.

“I don’t think I ever hit two home runs in Little League,’’ Syndergaard told reporters. “To hit two home runs in a big league game, especially with a pitcher like Kenta Maeta out there, it was an ultimate experience.’’

And, he wasn’t too bad at what he is paid to do, either, giving up two runs on six hits with six strikeouts. Syndergaard gave up five hits in the first four innings, but settled down and retired 11 straight.

Syndergaard amazed everybody.

“He’s throwing 100 (mph) and he’s hitting home runs to the opposite field in Dodger Stadium. It’s legendary,” Mets second baseman Neil Walker said.“He’s a big strong kid. He’s Thor.”

And he put the hammer down.


Game: #33, May 11   Record: 21-12   Streak: W 1

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 141     Average per game: 4.3    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 13

SUMMARY:  Syndergaard pitched eight stellar innings and supported his own cause by driving in all the Mets’ runs with a pair of homers.

KEY MOMENT:  Syndergaard’s three-run homer in the fifth.

THUMBS UP: Walker broke a 0-for-22 slide with a double in the second. … Two hits each by Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Syndergaard. … No stolen bases by the Dodgers.

THUMBS DOWN: Just joking, but Syndergaard’s error in the second. … Ouch! Curtis Granderson went 0-for-5 as did Asdrubal Cabrera.

EXTRA INNINGS: Steven Matz will miss his next start with soreness in his left forearm. I’ll have more on that later. … David Wright did not play. It was a scheduled day off, but he’s nursing a sore shoulder. … Walker was back in the lineup after missing three games with a bruised shin. … Syndergaard had his elbow checked after his May 1 start against San Francisco. … Wilmer Flores is expected to go on the disabled list today with lefty reliever Sean Gilmartin being brought up.

QUOTEBOOK: When you’re supposed to bunt, you’d like to see him get the bunt down. But, if you don’t get the bunt down, you might as well hit a homer.’’ – Collins on taking off the bunt sign before Syndergaard’s second homer.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14: Groundball outs by Syndergaard, proof his slider was working well.

NEXT FOR METS:  Tonight: Bartolo Colon (3-1, 2.82) vs. Clayton Kershaw (4-1, 2.02). Kershaw has given up two earned runs in 16 innings over his previous two starts, with 24 strikeouts and no walks.

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May 11

Why We Love Jacob DeGrom

It wasn’t Jacob deGrom at his best, but perhaps it was vintage Jacob deGrom nonetheless.

DE GROM: True Grit. (AP)

DE GROM: True Grit. (AP)

Who didn’t have flashbacks to Game 5 of last year’s NLDS when deGrom gutted out six innings to give the Mets a chance to win? On Tuesday, despite lacking his best stuff and perfect mechanics, deGrom was all grit in guile in giving the Mets seven innings in the 3-2 loss to the Dodgers.

Sure, it would have been great for him to be rewarded with a win, even so watching deGrom squirm his way out of trouble was akin to John Elway scrambling to avoid the pass rush.

Watching deGrom is watching sport at its finest and why we love this guy. No drama, no excuses, just a player competing at the highest level.

“This night showed what Jake deGrom is made of,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We all talk about the ‘plus’ stuff. He’s fighting through some mechanical things right now, and this guy was in trouble for the first five innings.

“And yet you looked up and he gave you seven innings. That tells me a lot about him. … This guy is usually pinpoint, and he hasn’t been that. That’s why he’s been struggling. I’ll tell you one thing: I like running him out there every fifth day.’’

And I love watching him every fifth day.

Hopefully, fifteen years from now, when those long dark locks have been shorn and faded to gray, we’ll enjoy him at the end of a spectacular career.

All done in a Mets’ uniform.

May 10

Mets Wrap: Another RBI, Another Brain Cramp By Cespedes

It is not piling on to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for getting doubled off second base to end the third inning Monday night in Los Angeles.

The play cost the Mets a run – Wright would have scored after tagging up – and consequently the game. The Mets came away lucky by beating the Dodgers, 4-2, but Cespedes shouldn’t come away blameless.

Manager Terry Collins called out Kevin Plawecki for not hitting. To be consistent, he needs to tell Cespedes to wake up.

Cespedes has all the tools – he has 11 homers already and is batting .303 with a .384 on-base percentage – but his hustle and concentration lapses are maddening to watch.

You can forgive a bad throw. You can forgive a dropped fly ball, unless, of course, when you hot dog it and try to make a one-handed catch.

But, you can’t forgive a brain cramp. You can’t forgive being lazy, which is what Ron Darling called him. However, Cespedes may have redeemed himself when he backed up Juan Lagares in the eighth when the latter dropped a fly ball.

I don’t expect perfection for $27.5 million, but I do expect him to think about what he’s doing in the field.


Game: #31   Record: 20-11   Streak: W 3

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 137     Average per game: 4.4    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 12

SUMMARY:  Once again the Mets took an early lead – 3-0 after three innings – on homers by Curtis Granderson and Plawecki, and Cespedes’ RBI single, and Steven Matz made it stand up to improve his record to 5-1 this year and 9-1 overall in 12 career starts. Matz also helped his cause with a RBI double in the sixth.

KEY MOMENT:  After the Dodgers pulled within 3-2 on Trayce Thompson’s two-run homer in the fourth, Matz regrouped to strike out Howie Kendrick with the tying run on third.

THUMBS UP: Granderson homered to lead off the game. It’s the 37th game-opening homer of his career. … Plawecki hit a solo homer in the second, his first of the season. … Love that Collins had the hit-and-run on with Matz in the fourth. Didn’t work, but it was a good call. … Flores stole second in the fourth, but not without cutting his nose. … Matz gave up two runs in six innings with five strikeouts. … Cespedes leads the NL with 31 RBI. … Jim Henderson came back from being 2-0 in the count to strike out Yasiel Puig in the eighth. Henderson then got Thompson out on a pop up to end the inning. … Three hitless innings from the bullpen.

THUMBS DOWN: Cespedes being doubled off second in the third. … Matz throwing 98 pitches in six innings. As long as the Mets keep pulling their starters around 100 pitches, it is fair game to call them out on this. … Lagares’ error in the eighth. … Sunday’s hero, Antonio Bastardo, had a rocky eighth, hurt by Lagares’ error.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Chase Utley not in the starting lineup, which isn’t a surprise against the left Matz. … Bartolo Colon was named Co-NL Player of the Week with the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist. Remember him? … Did you know Mets’ pitchers have hit Utley 28 times with pitches?

QUOTEBOOK: [The issue of retaliation] was brought up. What happened, happened. We won the series; let’s not get anybody hurt,” – Collins on retaliation against Utley.

BY THE NUMBERS: 24-5: Mets’ scoring vs. opponents in the first inning.

NEXT FOR METS:  Jacob deGrom (3-1, 1.99) vs. Alex Wood (1-3, 5.18). Wednesday: Noah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.58) vs. RHP Kenta Maeds (3-1, 1.66). Thursday: Bartolo Colon (3-1, 2.82) vs. Kershaw (4-1, 2.02).

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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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