Jun 22

Mets Need To Be Cautious Regarding Gourriel

The Mets working out Cuban defector Yulieski Gourriel is one thing. Signing him to a multi-year, exorbitant salary is another, regardless of Yoenis Cespedes‘ endorsement. The Mets are among a half-dozen, major league teams interested in the 32-year-old infielder. The group includes the Angels and Dodgers, Giants, Astros and Yankees.

Gourriel is MLB’s latest flavor of the month in its voyage into international waters. He’s a hot name, but that doesn’t mean he’s the right fit for the Mets. It also doesn’t mean he isn’t the right fit.

“We’re going to do our due diligence on that player,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters. “So we’ve made arrangements to do that. At the same time, this player hasn’t seen live pitching for weeks if not months. It’s not clear how long a player in that situation would take to be ready. And, of course, there is the investment and all the other issues – and making an evaluation currently of the player based on workouts and not game competition. But we’re going to go through that process.”

Here are the red flags in signing Gourriel:

* The Mets are without David Wright for an undermined period, and while Gourriel could plug the hole at third base, a quick sign smacks of panic. Nobody knows if Gourriel is the right answer. By the same token, nobody knows if Wilmer Flores won’t develop into the right answer.

* Regardless of what numbers Gourriel put up in Cuba, it wasn’t against major league pitching. Nobody knows for sure how good he can be. To compare Major League Baseball to leagues outside the United States falls under the guise of political correctness. It’s baseball, so isn’t it all the same? Not even close. On that note, that’s why it is insulting to suggest Ichiro Suzuki should be the all-time hit leader. Nope, that’s Pete Rose. Period.

* As good as Cespedes has been, remember the world was once Yasiel Puig‘s oyster, too That quickly soured. There are no sure things when it comes to Cuban shopping. Speaking of Cespedes, what’s his endorsement really worth if he’s able to walk after this year? If he said, `Sign him and I’ll stay,’ that would mean something more.

* Gourriel is listed as 32, but as often the case with Latin players reported age is often not accurate as there are widespread incidents of them lying about their age, stating they are younger as to not scare away major league scouts. Birth records, when available, aren’t always accurate.

* There’s been nothing reported as to Gourriel’s salary expectations, but we can assume it won’t be cheap. If the Mets are willing to shell out big bucks, I would rather they spend it in two ways: 1) to lock up some of their young pitching, and 2) on proven bats in the free-agent market on players with proven talents.

Clearly, there’s a lot for the Mets to consider in signing Gourriel. In the big picture, I don’t know how good Gourriel can be. Nobody does. Signing him is akin to walking down a flight of stairs in the dark. Better be careful.

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 06

Today In Mets’ History: Happy Birthday Willie Mays

In 1969, the 100th Anniversary of Baseball, Joe DiMaggio was voted the game’s greatest player. That was wrong then and certainly was for the next 30 years of DiMaggio’s career. The voters slighted Mays.

You could make valid arguments for Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Hank Aaron. You might also lobby on behalf of Willie Mays, who on this day in 1931 was born in Westfield, Ala.

My vote goes to Babe Ruth as the greatest player in history, with Mays second. In addition to his prodigious power and five tools, Mays will always be remembered for his catch in the 1954 World Series (video) against Cleveland.

Mays’ professional career began in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. His major league in 1951, the year DiMaggio retired. They faced each other in the World Series that season.

Mays is first, and foremost, a Giant. He became a Met in 1972 when he was traded for Charlie Williams (perhaps the ultimate trivia question answer) and $50,000 in cash. The driving force behind the trade was, of course, money.

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

Giants owner Horace Stoneham, who moved the Giants to San Francisco, was operating a team hemorrhaging money. Mays was nearing retirement and the Giants could not guarantee a job when he stopped playing. The Mets could and brought the icon back to New York.

/a>Mays played a year-and-a-half with the Mets, appearing in only 133 games, but played in the 1973 World Series, in which in went 2-for-7, but is best remembered for falling down in the outfield and his plea after being called out at the plate.

Mays looked like he was playing hurt, and later said, “growing old is a helpless hurt.’’

Mays’ last at-bat was grounding into a force play in Game 3. He retired after the season with a career .302 average with 660 home runs. He appeared in a record 24 All-Star Games. He was a 12-time Gold Glover and three-time MVP.

Mays was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year of his eligibility, but amazingly didn’t appear on 23 ballots.

May 05

Today In Mets’ History: Pitching Classic At Shea

When Madison Bumgarner went against the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard last Sunday it was a fun matchup featuring the established veteran against the promising phenom. However, on this date in 1965, Shea Stadium was the site of an underappreciated pitching duel between two future Hall of Famers, the Mets going with retread Warren Spahn against the Phillies’ Jim Bunning.

SPAHN: A Met for a moment. (TOPPS)

SPAHN: A Met for a moment. (TOPPS)

Bunning, who pitched a perfect game against the Mets the previous season at Shea, bested Spahn on a four-hitter, winning 1-0, in a game when both pitchers went the distance in a nifty 1:52. The only run scored that day off Spahn came on Bunning’s homer in the sixth.

Spahn pitched 21 years in the majors (20 with the Milwaukee Braves) and compiled a 363-245 record. Many forget he |was 4-12 for the Mets in 1965 before he was released July 17. He signed with the Giants two days later. Spahn won three games with the Giants and retired after that season.

It is conceivable Spahn might have won 400 games had he not spent three years (1943-45) serving in the military during World War II.

The most Spahn ever made during his career was $73,500 in 1965. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973. Spahn died in 2003 at 82 and is buried in Oklahoma.

Bunning was 18-11 with a 2.48 ERA in 36 games (34 starts) lifetime against the Mets, including 10-6 at Shea.

Bunning went 224-184 in nine seasons with Detroit, six with Philadelphia, two with Pittsburgh and one with the Dodgers. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1996.

 

May 01

Mets Wrap: Is Running On Syndergaard A Big Deal?

Like a shark senses blood in the water, a team will jump all over a pitcher when it detects a weakness, especially when it’s somebody such as the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard, who doesn’t have many.

The book on Syndergaard is you can run on him. No, make that you can run all over him – that is, if you can get on base.

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

SYNDERGAAARD: You can run on him. (AP)

Runners have been successful in all ten of their stolen base attempts against Syndergaard, but what the Mets have to figure out is if it is a big deal or something they can live with.

The Giants’ running game resulted in four runs in San Francisco’s 6-1 victory Sunday over the Mets.

“We have to do a better job of holding runners,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters. “He can’t be that slow to the plate. He can’t be that deliberate. What I don’t want is to get him out of sync.’’

Scoreless going into the fourth, the Giants had runners on the corners with one our following singles by Matt Duffy and Buster Posey. With the count full, Giants manager Bruce Bochy sent Posey to stay out of the double play, which undoubtedly would have been the case on Brandon Belt’s hard-hit ball to second.

So, instead of being out of the inning with no runs, the Giants scratched out a manufactured run, and Hunter Pence followed with a two-run homer.

The Giants eked out another run off Syndergaard in the sixth when Duffy singled and stole second. After a walk to Belt chased Syndergaard in favor of Hansel Robles. Pence followed with a RBI single to pad Madison Bumgarner’s lead.

Syndergaard allowed three steals Sunday – the Giants stole four overall – and five in his previous start against Cincinnati. In his short 15-start career, runners have stolen 27 bases in 29 attempts.

Collins said Syndergaard could incorporate a slide-step to the plate, which is harder for runners to time. The downside is a possible loss in velocity, or worse.

“You don’t want him to lose command,’’ Collins said.

Another downside of a slide step is it could force Syndergaard to tip his pitches, telling the hitter a fastball is coming.

As it is, if a runner gets on against Syndergaard, especially a speed guy leading off an inning, it’s almost a sure double.

Syndergaard is a rising star, but his Achilles Heel is not being able to hold runners. It hurt him Sunday, and will continue to do so in games in which he doesn’t have his best stuff or when the Mets don’t hit.

It’s a flaw that can be corrected, but pitching coach Dan Warthen isn’t likely to make any major mechanical adjustments during the season. This is something the Mets will work on with Syndergaard during spring training.

Or, they could decide Syndergaard is pretty good now the way he is and don’t want to mess with him.

METS GAME WRAP

Game: #23 Record: 15-8  Streak: L 1

SUMMARY: Bumgarner outpitched Syndergaard in a dynamic pitching matchup and was backed by Pence’s three RBI.

KEY MOMENT: By sending the runner to stay out of what would have been an inning-ending double play, the Giants scored a scratch run and set up Pence’s homer.

THUMBS UP: Two hits from Juan Lagares, David Wright and Neil Walker. … It was Curtis Granderson Socks Day, so we don’t have to see any more of those commercials.

THUMBS DOWN: Two runs against the bullpen, including Posey’s homer off Logan Verrett. … Syndergaard threw 98 pitches in 5.2 innings. … The Mets left 12 runners.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets’ winning streak was snapped at eight, but they have won five straight series. … Granderson and Lucas Duda sat against Bumgarner. Duda appeared in the eighth as a pinch-hitter for Eric Campbell and grounded into a force out. Granderson also appeared in the game and struck out. … Michael Conforto’s streak of reaching base ended as 17 straight games, also ending a stretch of hitting a double in six consecutive games.

QUOTEBOOK: “He’ll be all right. There will be days like this.’’ – Collins on Conforto going 0-for-5.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0.62: Bumgarner’s career ERA at Citi Field.

PUT A CLOCK ON IT: A pitching coach or manager has 30 seconds from the time he steps out of the dugout to deliver his message and leave the field. Yet, instant replays drag on. There were two replays Sunday, both over a minute.

TOMORROW’S STARTER: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 3.42) goes against the Braves, who have not named their starter. Colon is 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts against the Braves.

NEXT FOR METS: The Mets close the homestand with three games against the Braves, whom they swept last weekend in Atlanta. After Colon, Matt Harvey (2-3, 4.76 ERA) and Steven Matz (3-1, 3.86) will go for the Mets.