Oct 22

Classy Gesture By Cubs To Wright

Every once in awhile you read something that makes you feel good about sports and what they are supposed to be about, and that includes a very classy gesture extended by the Chicago Cubs to Mets captain and third baseman David Wright when they presented him the third base bag used in Game 4 of the NLCS.

Wow!

Cubs Recognize Wright: FOX Sports

Cubs Recognize Wright: FOX Sports

That was my first thought. The Mets just crushed them in the playoffs, sweeping them without trailing for one moment in the series. Not a second.

They did it because of their respect for Wright and what he’s meant to the sport. They didn’t have to considering what just happened to them.

When a player retires, and this isn’t to suggest that’s what’s going on here, other teams usually present him with gifts. These guys, and that includes Wright, can afford anything they want. Wright once told me he’s embarrassed when he goes out to eat and the restaurant comps his meals.

He can afford to buy the restaurant, much less the meal. He understands why it happens. But getting something like the third base bag from Wrigley Field is something he would cherish more than say, a power boat or television.

The Mets took unfair heat when they made similar gestures to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. The pitching rubber from Citi Field meant a lot more to Rivera than anything they could have bought.

I covered the Yankees for a long time and know what meant lot to Rivera. I’ve also been around the Mets since 2006 and know this means to Wright.

This is Wright’s 12th season, but only his second in the playoffs. Who better than the Cubs would appreciate a playoff drought? After all, some of the best players in their history, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Ferguson Jenkins and Billy Williams, never played in the postseason with them.

The Cubs understand and should be commended.

I don’t know whose idea this was, whether it was manager Joe Maddon, or Theo Epstein, somebody in marketing, Kris Bryant or one of the concessionaires who sells that terrific deep dish. It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is a classy player was recognized for his class and integrity.

And, someday the Cubs will be rewarded for their class.

Oct 18

Mets Might Not Have Familia In Game 2

Eventually, Mets manager Terry Collins must go to regular-season relievers Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed after using closer Jeurys Familia the last two games for more than one inning.

That could come tonight as Collins said he might not have Familia available in Game 2.

“I don’t know, maybe Jeurys [Sunday] will need a night off and we can close with Clip and set up with Addison,’’ Collins said. “We’ve got options down there. …I’m hoping Noah goes deep in the game. That’s the perfect scenario. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does, I think you’ve got to go to it.’’

The Mets used Noah Syndergaard in middle relief in Game 5 and Bartolo prior to that in the NLCS. Clearly, Collins felt more confortable to using starters in middle relief.

“I’m not trying to [deliberately not use my middle relievers],’’ Collins said. “It’s just we’ve got pretty good starting pitching, and if they can get deep into the game [and] you’ve got what I think is one of the best closers in baseball [then] I like our chances.’’

Something to watch for tonight.

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Oct 18

Refined Syndergaard Aims To Give Mets Commanding NLCS Lead

Several month ago, when it didn’t feel like snow and the Mets had not morphed into the team three games from the World Series, Noah Syndergaard debuted against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. They lost, but the game was circled as one that would come back to bite them in the rear.

imagesIt did not and Syndergaard developed into what we expected: A stud pitcher with star potential.

Since then, the Mets got back Travis d’Arnaud and David Wright, brought up Michael Conforto, and added Yoenis Cespedes to their stagnant lineup. In those few months, Syndergaard also added refined mechanics to his 100 mph. fastball.

“My mechanics are completely different,” said Syndergaard, who is now able to throw his secondary pitches for strikes behind in the count. “`I think my mentality out there is a lot different. I’ve been able to go out there with a lot more confidence in myself and getting myself out of certain situations by using necessarily uncomfortable pitches that I might have used at a different time.”

When Syndergaard came up in early May to replace the injured Dillon Gee, it was thought he might eventually end up in the bullpen. He eventually did in Game 5 of the NLDS, and it seemingly put manager Terry Collins in the corner as to his Game 2 NLCS starter when he warmed up four times.

“The first couple times he only threw 16, 18 pitches before the inning was over,” Collins said. “But he said, `I feel great. I’m not stiff. I’m not sore.’ And I said, `Well, then you’ve got [Sunday].’ ”

With the Mets to start Jacob deGrom in Game 3 at Wrigley Field, this is as close to a must-win game for the Cubs as can be.

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Oct 18

Mets Lineup, Game 2 NLCS

The Mets can take a commanding 2-0 lead over the Cubs in the NLCS with a victory tonight at what will be a cold Citi Field. Here’s the lineup they’ll put out against Chicago’s Jake Arietta:

Curtis Granderson, RF

David Wright, 3B

Daniel Murphy, 2B

Yoenis Cespedes, CF

Lucas Duda, 1B

Travis d’Arnaud, C

Michael Conforto, LF

Wilmer Flores, SS

Noah Syndergaard, RHP

ON DECK:  Syndergaard can give Mets commanding edge

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Oct 15

Where’s Lucas Duda And Offense?

Jacob deGrom is the best the Mets have to offer in Game 5, but it doesn’t matter what he does, if the hitters don’t produce they won’t win. It’s a simple as that in handicapping tonight’s NLDS game in Los Angeles.

No hitting and say hello to winter.

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

DUDA: Paging Lucas Duda? (AP)(

One hitter manager Terry Collins needs to wake up is first baseman Lucas Duda, who is 2-for-15 with nine strikeouts in the NLDS. Duda has always been prone to long stretches of sizzling and being cold. But, he’s been so frigid lately Collins and his coaching staff briefly thought of sitting him tonight, with Daniel Murphy playing first and Kelly Johnson going to second.

In the end, Collins went with the player expected to be a Met for years.

“Kelly hasn’t played. Not that it wouldn’t work, but Lucas has been the guy,’’ Collins said. “And you never know when he breaks out. As we’ve seen, if he breaks out, he carries you. So we’re hoping tonight’s the night.’’

When he’s going good, Duda takes the ball to the opposite field, but Collins said he’s pull-happy, and against Zack Greinke, who can pound the strikezone low-and-away to left-handed hitters, that means weak groundballs and pop-ups. It also means strikeouts.

“We’ve just got to get Lucas to relax a little bit – just, hey, look, put the ball in play,’’ Collins said. “When he gets it going, he’s dangerous to all parts of the ballpark. So when you see him struggling like he is right now – and, again, this is only from what I’m seeing – it looks like he’s trying to pull a little too much.’’

It’s not as if Greinke, a Cy Young Award candidate at 19-3, can’t be beaten, but the odds are against it. Lefties are hitting .194 against him; righties at .182.

The Mets’ hottest hitter in this series is Curtis Granderson at .429 with five RBI, three on one swing, but he’s .192 lifetime against Greinke. Yoenis Cespedes has two homers in the series; one in a loss and another in a blowout win. However, he’s .200 lifetime against Greinke.

In addition to Duda, the Mets need something from David Wright, who is .333 (3-for-9) lifetime against Greinke, but .083 with five strikeouts in the NLDS.

If the Mets are to play the Cubs, they not only need deGrom to pitch big, but their hitters to play better.

Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook.