Here’s tonight’s Mets’ lineup against the Dodgers in Game 3.
Curtis Granderson – RF
David Wright – 3B
Daniel Murphy – 2B
Yoenis Cespedes – LF
Lucas Duda – 1B
Travis d’Arnaud – C
Wilmer Flores – SS
Juan Lagares – CF
Matt Harvey – RHP
There are many, myself included, who believe Terry Collins should be National League manager of the year for all his team had to overcome this summer. Despite numerous injuries and controversies, and low expectations, the Mets won 90 games to win the NL East.
For that he would have earned my vote.
However, for as good a job as Collins did, his most important work will come now as he attempts to temper his team’s raw emotions in the wake of Chase Utley’s hard take-out slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s right leg.
After the game, Collins said the umpires handled the play properly. Since the umpires have the discretion to eject Utley if they deemed it a dirty play. They saw enough replays before the reversal and their no-call has to be interpreted as it being a legal play.
However, Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre, after reviewing more replays decided to suspend Utley for Games 3 and 4 in New York. Torre’s statement did not include an indictment of the umpires’ actions. After the game, Torre said it was a judgment call by the umpires.
“After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley’s action warrants discipline,” Torre said in a statement released by MLB Sunday evening.
It can’t be discounted that Torre, who has managed both New York teams, understands the fans’ passion and anger, and hearing what came out of the Mets’ clubhouse, made his decision to defuse a potential ugly situation. On Saturday, Torre called it a late slide by Utley. However, on Sunday his statement did not call Utley’s slide illegal. Shouldn’t the label of being illegal been a part of Torre’s statement?
“He’s a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it’s perfectly fine,’’ Wright said. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn’t mind guys coming in like that when he’s turning a double play, then we don’t have any problem with it. It’s a legal slide. It’s within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.’’
Whether Utley’s take-out slide was clean or dirty depends on whom you ask. Utley was clearly the villain according to Mets players and the talking heads on SNY.
“Yeah, they’re angry,’’ Collins said. “You lose in a playoff series to that serious of an injury, yeah, they’re not very happy about it.’’
Will there be retribution, and if so, in what form? I’m figuring a warning will be given prior to the game, which should diffuse headhunting. If nothing else, the Mets won’t have Utley to throw at unless there’s a fifth game.
Mets Game 3 starter Matt Harvey said “the most important thing for me is to do me job,’’ and he’s right.
Harvey plunked Utley in April, but these are the playoffs and he can’t afford to be ejected. Another factor to consider is if they take a shot and the Dodgers retaliate, who is to say another key Met is injured that could prevent them from advancing.
What Collins must do is tell his team, “we received a bad break, but the best way to respond is to win.’’
If the Mets play dirty and out for blood, it would be a sign Collins lost control of his team. Especially considering Utley’s suspension.
As for Utley, he defended his actions.
“The tying run’s on third base, I’m going hard to try to break up the double play. I’ve always played that way,’’ Utley said. “I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever.’’
Utley also texted an apology to Tejada through Wright. Utley texted the contents of his apology to FOX Sports: “In no way shape or form was I trying to hurt Ruben… I slid in hard like I have for 12 years. I feel terrible about the outcome. I’ve reached out to Ruben via David Wright.’’
Whether Utley’s apology gesture is accepted remains to be seen, but it is up to Collins temper his player’s emotions.
The season could depend on it.
Cal Ripken Jr., said it was a “hard, clean’’ play, but not dirty, and if anybody should know about take-out slides it is him. That’s not to say others didn’t have their own opinion. Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada to break up the double play in the seventh inning Saturday night, and in doing so knocked the Mets’ shortstop out of the playoffs with a fractured right leg.
Not only did the game-tying run score on the play, but when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appealed Tejada never touched the bag, Utley was ruled safe, and with the out taken off the board, it enabled Adrian Gonzalez to hit a two-run double that lifted the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory to change the complexion of the series.
Mets manager Terry Collins said the umpires made the right call, and added his players were an angry bunch.
“You have to take the emotion and keep your focus,’’ Collins said. “You can’t lose control.’’
Instead of returning to New York with a chance to finish the sweep behind Matt Harvey, the NLDS goes back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece.
Until then, there will be continued debate on the nature of the slide – clean or dirty?
“Only Chase knows what the intent was,’’ Mets captain David Wright said. “My opinion is he wasn’t close to the bag.’’
Utley, known for being a hard-nosed player, defended his actions.
“It was one of those awkward plays,” Utley said. “There was no intent to injure Ruben, whatsoever. My intent was to break up the double play.”
Speaking of Harvey, what immediately came to mind with the Utley slide was of him getting plunked by the Mets’ Game 3 starter before he was traded by the Phillies. Utley wasn’t thinking that when he slid into Tejada, but if there wasn’t bad blood between Utley and the Mets before, there probably is now.
One thing for sure, what has been a compelling series by its stellar pitching, now has an edge to it.
The Mets won their season series against the Dodgers primarily because of pitching. So, let’s assume starters Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey pitch lights out, what then will be the three keys to beating the Dodgers?
First, they have to split in Los Angeles. There’s no way they’ll win the series if they lose the first two games, against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. So, how do they beat two Cy Young Award candidates, beginning with Kershaw Friday night?
Since Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is a disciple to pitch counts, the Mets must work the count. If leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson squeezes out a nine-pitch at-bat to lead off the game but strikes out, that’s still productive.
If nothing else, if the Mets lose Game 1 but force Kershaw to throw 120 pitches, that puts a strain on him for Game 5.
Finally, assuming deGrom turns the game over to the bullpen in good shape, it must hold the lead or at least keep the game close. For the most part, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard did the job, but the question of how to pitch to left-handed hitter Adrian Gonzalez remains an issue.
There you go, one, two, three. Simple as that,
I’d like to thank my friend Joe DeCaro for posting the feature on Justin Turner.
On December 2nd, 2013 the New York Mets decided to non-tender then-utility infielder Justin Turner. Essentially, the Mets front office decided to release Turner because he was due a raise in arbitration that would have paid him $750 thousand dollars.
However, after a tide of shock and dismay by Mets fans on social media, two days later the team leaked rumors that the real reason they cut Turner was because he was “lazy” and “didn’t hustle.” Fans didn’t buy it.
“That caught me off guard. It was something I wasn’t expecting. I’ll tell you what, that was probably the worst offseason I’ve had – not knowing where or if I was going to be playing the next year. That was hard.”
On Monday, Mets GM Sandy Alderson spoke about that decision with Bill Shakin of the Los Angeles Times,
“He was always sort of a marginal 40-man roster guy,” Alderson said. “We gave him more of an opportunity than he had elsewhere, and he did a nice job for us. But you’d have to say we missed on him.”
In 36 at-bats against the Mets, Turner has tagged them for five doubles, two home runs, five runs, five RBIs, a .583 slugging percentage and .938 OPS.
Since leaving the Mets Turner has emerged as one of the Dodgers’ top hitters slashing at .314/.384/.492 with 47 doubles, 23 home runs to go with a 145 OPS+ and 8.4 fWAR over 675 at-bats. With runners in scoring position this season, Turner is batting .322/.404/.556.
“He brings that college mentality of ‘do anything’ to a big league clubhouse,” said Mets third baseman David Wright on Monday. “He’s an excellent defender, can play a number of positions, give you a great at-bat, great situational hitter, good in the clubhouse.”
“I’m happy for him,” Wright said. “I’m not going to be happy if he plays well against us in the playoffs. But he’s one of those guys you genuinely root for.”
Terry Collins also weighed in saying, “He’s gotten his opportunity. A lot of times, guys who get the opportunity to be an everyday guy don’t run with it. He has. I salute him. He’s one of my favorite guys.”