Jun 03

Callaway: Mets Need To Get Back To Work

Mets manager Mickey Callaway said his team isn’t focused and maybe it’s time to spend less time before games taking batting practice and more time revisiting spring training fundamental drills.

Callaway was upset when the Mets gifted the Cubs the only runs they needed in today’s 2-0 loss that enabled Chicago to finish its four-game sweep and extend the losing skid to nine of the last 11 games. In particular, he said Steven Matz was slow to first base on a pickoff attempt which enabled Javier Baez to steal home.

This came after Baez faked a steal on the previous pitch.

That was followed by Jay Bruce letting up on a pop-up to short right and letting inexperienced second baseman Luis Guillorme to make the play and allow Willson Contreras – who caught all 13 innings Saturday night – tagged up and score.

Clearly, the Mets didn’t anticipate on either play, which is a fundamental part of playing defense.

“I think we need to shift our focus,’’ Callaway said. “We are not focusing on that part of the game very well. If we have to go out and work on cutoffs and relays and pop-ups and PFP [pitcher’s fielding practice], that is what we will do instead of being on the field and hitting. I guess we need to make some adjustments on what we are focusing on.

“We go out there and do defensive work every day and we go out there and hit, maybe we need to shift our focus to make it more stuff like just ground balls and throwing to bags to be more fundamentals specific. I think it’s focus.’’

Matz said he was being cautious with a runner on third.

“I am not trying to snap a throw [to first] and throw it away,’’ said Matz, but conceded he has to throw the ball harder on the pickoff attempt. “It just caught me off guard. In the future, I’ll be more mindful of the throw. I wasn’t thinking about it.”

There’s no excuse for a left-handed pitcher to be surprised on that play.

As for Bruce, he said he thought Guillorme was already camped to make the catch. Even so, he later admitted that the outfielder has to take charge. He also conceded what we already knew: “I haven’t been good this year. That’s just the bottom line.”

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets are off Monday, then open interleague play with two games against Baltimore. … They have lost six straight home games and are 12-17 at Citi Field this season. … The Mets have been shut out four times, all at home. … The Mets’ offense has scored one run in its last 24 innings. The Mets have scored two or fewer runs 21 times this season. … Brandon Nimmo lead off to start the game and has reached base safely in 14 of 29 leadoff appearances with a .483 on-base percentage in the first inning.

 

Nov 04

How Mets Compare To Cubs

After 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally won their World Series. The curses are over, so perhaps they can do the right thing and invite Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day 2017.

It would be a classy gesture, akin to the Red Sox making up with Bill Buckner – who, by the way – felt the curses of both the Red Sox and Cubs.

REED: A priority. (AP)

                    REED: A priority. (AP)

I doubt it would happen, but I always root for the good story. Meanwhile, our Mets have a title drought of our own – 30 long years.

The Cubs won 103 games this summer and the Mets won 87, but is 16 games the real separation between the two teams? The Mets can’t go back to their four-game sweep of the Cubs in last year’s NLCS or a sweep of them this summer at Citi Field.

The Cubs roared past the Mets, and here’s a position-by-position comparison between the franchises:

FRONT OFFICE: Theo Epstein had a plan when he took over in 2012, and it was only four years before he lead a parade in Chicago. Like was said of the Yankees’ Brian Cashman over the years, he better win that payroll. ($171 million and license to spend).

Meanwhile, Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s mission statement when he was hired in 2010 was to get rid of burdensome contracts – Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and Francisco Rodriguez to name a few – and cut payroll, which he did.

The Mets’ payroll was $126 million in Alderson’s first year and jumped to $142 million in 2011 because of existing obligations, but from 2012- 2014 had sub-$100 million payrolls.

It subsequently jumped to $135 million this year for Opening Day.

Unlike Epstein, Alderson does not have free reign to spend because the Mets are still recovering from the Ponzi scandal.

EDGE: Chicago.

MANAGER: Joe Maddon is regarded as one of the game’s best minds, but in all fairness with his moves in Games 6 and 7, it would be accurate to say the Cubs won in spite of him and not because of him.

He abused reliever Aroldis Chapman in the last three games. It was absurd he sent Chapman out for the ninth with a huge lead in Game 6. I was stunned he sent him out for the ninth, but it also showed extreme confidence in Chapman but also underscored an overall lack of faith he had in the rest of the bullpen. That’s something Terry Collins would never have done.

I thought he pulled Kyle Hendricks way too soon, something we’ve seen of Collins frequently.

The bunt call with Javier Baez was foolish. There were other moments, but those stood out the most.

But Maddon caught some breaks. The last two games in Cleveland allowed him to use Kyle Schwarber as the DH. Think about that Cubs fans when you rail against American League baseball.

The Cubs also caught a huge break with the rain delay that gave them a much-needed timeout. It also took steam from the Indians.

Since Collins replaced Jerry Manuel, he was initially hamstrung with a limited payroll and Alderson’s domineering hand of calling the shots.

Collins’ in-game managing can be head scratching, especially the use of his bullpen and bench. He has shown questionable loyalties to his players, notably Matt Harvey, Michael Conforto, Wilmer Flores and Yoenis Cespedes.

He has been let down numerous times, but his players hustle for him.

EDGE: Chicago.

ROTATION: Jake Arrieta won 22 games in 2015 to win the NL Cy Young Award. Either Jon Lester or Hendricks could win it this year. They have one more season with John Lackey and Jason Hammel is the fifth starter.

Most of the pre-season pitching accolades went to the Mets’ young core of Harvey, Jake deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz. Throw in Zack Wheeler and four of the five are coming off surgery. Bartolo Colon is a free agent, but the Mets want him back.

However, that’s no guarantee he’ll be back. Nothing is assured, including Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman picking up where they left off. They gave the Mets a brief, but an impressive window.

The bottom line is the Mets’ rotation can be terrific, but with the surgeries and relative inexperience, they enter spring training with a myriad of questions.

EDGE: Chicago.

BULLPEN

With Chapman on the free-agent market and Maddon’s obvious lack of faith in his bullpen, the Cubs have serious questions.

Mike Montgomery is 27 and worked a lot in the postseason. They also had Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards and Justin Grimm on the postseason roster. They are under 30, had decent seasons, but Maddon had little faith in them in Games 6 of 7. We’ll never know what Maddon would have done if Game 7 went longer.

The Mets have serious bullpen issues with Jeurys Familia facing at least a 30-game suspension and Addison Reed entering free agency. Honestly, they are in a world of hurt in their bullpen.

If you assume Chapman is gone, the same assumption can be made of Reed, left-hander Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas. They already decided against Jim Henderson. Josh Edgin had a short rebound season from surgery. Hansel Robles is coming off a hot-and-cold season, as did Logan Verrett.

Erik Goeddel and Sean Gilmartin also made appearances, as did Rafael Montero.

EDGE: Even.

CATCHING: Ironically, Maddon’s lack of faith in his bullpen prompted going to Jon Lester, and with him, his personal catcher David Ross. Ross homered to help win Game 7 and retire in style.

The Cubs still list Schwarber as a catcher, but after knee surgery, that won’t happen. Willson Contreras had a good year and enters spring training No. 1.

Travis d’Arnaud was hurt each of the last two seasons and still needs to prove he can hit. Kevin Plawecki and Rene Rivera are back-ups. The Mets need a serious upgrade here.

EDGE: Chicago.

FIRST BASE: It’s Anthony Rizzo (.292/32 HR/109 RBI) for the Cubs against the Mets’ perpetually injured Lucas Duda, and possibly James Loney.

The Mets are also toying with the idea of experimenting with Conforto and David Wright at first. It is a reach.

EDGE: Chicago.

SECOND BASE: When Schwarber was injured, Ben Zobrist played more in left field, and that gave Javier Baez more time at second base.

The versatility of MVP candidate Kris Bryant, who can play the infield and outfield corners, enabled Maddon to keep Zobrist fresh at second.

The Mets were surprised by Neil Walker’s power, but he’s a free-agent coming off back surgery. The most they’ll extend is probably a one-year qualifying. They still have Flores, who they repeatedly showed a lack of faith, and the up-and-coming T.J. Rivera. Kelly Johnson, who filed for free agency. Will they trade for him for a third straight season?

EDGE: Chicago.

SHORTSTOP

The Cubs’ Addison Russell is one of the game’s rising stars, while Asdrubal Cabrera was arguably the Mets’ MVP.

However, Cabrera showed breakdown signs several times last summer. They have him for another year and Collins needs to do a better job of resting him.

EDGE: Chicago.

THIRD BASE

If not Rizzo, Bryant (.292/39/102) could be the NL MVP. He’s 24, terrific in the clutch and can play four positions.

The Mets don’t know if Wright will be back, and if he does, where he’ll play and how much are issues. If he doesn’t, they’ll go with Jose Reyes and Flores.

EDGE: Chicago.

LEFT FIELD

The Cubs have the combination of Zobrist – whom the Mets’ coveted after the 2015 season – and Schwarber. The World Series MVP, Zobrist is also one of baseball’s good guys as he signed autographs outside his Chicago home.

How many remember that Albert Belle chased down trick-or-treaters in his truck?

Zobrist is versatile, has power and hits in the clutch. Small wonder the Mets and Nationals both wanted him. Schwarber, meanwhile, thanks to the DH rule was a factor with awesome power.

The assumption is Cespedes will be gone, leaving left field to Conforto. Curtis Granderson could also get time in left with Jay Bruce brought back to play right field.

EDGE: Chicago.

CENTER FIELD: Dexter Fowler had a terrific season, but is a free agent. He said the Cubs are on his list, but as I did in left field with the Mets and Cespedes, I will assume he’ll be gone.

If the Cubs don’t bring back Fowler, and since there’s no way of knowing who’ll the Cubs will fish for, their internal option is 22-year-old Albert Almora Jr.

Ideally, the Mets wanted Cespedes in center, but he balked. Juan Lagares was injured for a good part of the season, but returned to play well.

Granderson will also get center field time in his last season with the Mets because of Bruce’s presence in right field.

EDGE: Mets.

RIGHT FIELD: The Cubs didn’t get $180 million worth from Jason Heyward. He has a tremendous glove, but his bat went into hibernation this summer.

Bruce struggled after coming over from Cincinnati, but picked it up at the end. Even so, it was a good pick-up, and he’s more economically feasible than either Cespedes or Heyward.

When Bruce isn’t playing, they can turn to Granderson.

EDGE: Mets.

 

Oct 17

2015 NLCS Preview: Chicago Cubs vs New York Mets

nlcs 15 cubs

The last time the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs were in our national consciousness man had just landed on the moon, our country’s cities had been burning and we were mired in Vietnam.

The Mets, in their seventh year of existence, climbed out of a huge deficit to overtake the Cubs and blitz through the postseason to win the World Series. The similarities of those teams in 1969 and those in 2015 were quite remarkable.

The 1969 Mets were built on pitching depth, as is this team. Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Gary Gentry in the rotation and Tug McGraw in the bullpen then; Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey in the rotation and Jeurys Familia in the bullpen now.

The 1969 Mets had a core of Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones, but came to life after the mid-season trade for Donn Clendenon. The 2015 Mets had its core in David Wright and Daniel Murphy, but needed the spark of Yoenis Cespedes.

The 1969 Cubs had quality pitching in Fergie Jenkins and Ken Holtzman. Today’s Cubs will throw at you Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Both the 1969 and 2015 Cubs are power laden teams. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billy Williams then; Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber now.

The similarities are many, including the Cubs still playing in rickety old Wrigley Field and lamenting a century’s worth of bad luck.

By the way, there’s no truth to the rumor the Mets invited Steve Bartman to throw out the first pitch.

jacob deGrom

WHY THE METS WILL WIN (John Delcos)

After nine years of misery, these Mets are a talented bunch, with “a bright future,’’ says manager Terry Collins. However, I don’t want to hear about the future, I want to see them win now, and it is possible with that young pitching staff. While the home field will play a role, the Mets will win the NLCS because their rotation is deeper and Familia is a better closer than the Cubs’ Hector Rondon.

After Arrieta and Lester, there’s nothing frightening about Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. Meanwhile, I like the Mets’ Nos. 3 and 4 starters have.

The belief here is the Mets’ pitching can hold down the Cubs’ power, while New York’s offense can better manufacture runs.

Although the Mets won Game 5 of the NLDS in Los Angeles, it’s always better to have the extra game at home and Game 7 at Citi Field is enticing.

The Mets also have the “it’’ factor in having overcome so much this season to return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.

The Cubs owned the Mets 7-0 in the season series, but that run can’t last forever, as can’t the prolonged slumps of Wright and Lucas Duda.

Cubs advance to NLCS Rizzo

WHY THE CUBS WILL WIN (John Delcos)

Yes, the Mets are due, but after a century’s worth of disappointment so is Chicago. After billy goats and Bartman, this could very well be the Cubs’ year. Sooner or later it has to happen.

One bright spot if it is will be that we won’t have to hear Cubs’ fans whining anymore about being cursed.

Arrieta should be the National League’s Cy Young Award winner, and Lester has proven to be a big-game pitcher in his own right.

Speaking of having a big game mentality, as good as Mets’ manager Terry Collins has been, Chicago’s Joe Maddon might be the best big game manager in the sport.

Pitching usually trumps power, but when that power is on a roll – as are the Cubs now – it is hard to contain. Bryant and Rizzo might be the game’s best 1-2 punch, and Schwarber makes three. The Mets don’t have that kind of power.

From top to bottom, the Cubs are loaded.

I don’t believe Chicago’s regular-season success will be the deciding factor, but the Cubs can’t help but enter the series with a measure of confidence. The Cubs clinching the day before gives them added rest, and we can’t help but wonder if the Mets aren’t emotionally spent from a grueling Game 5 against the Dodgers followed by a cross-country flight.

Being fresher could enable the Cubs from stealing one of the first two games at Citi Field.

Another reason to like Chicago is deep dish pizza.

Cespedes Yoenis

WHY THE METS WILL WIN (Joe D.)

Almost all season long I’ve referred to the Mets as a team of destiny. Think for a moment of all the adversity this team has endured. They started the season losing a top of the rotation starter in Wheeler, then their closer gets suspended, their third baseman and starting catcher miss over three months of the season, all the controversies and media driven drama they’ve had to deal with, and yet here they are today, four wins away from the World Series. Why will the Mets win? Because it’s written in the stars.

But on a more serious note, the Mets will win because their starting is deeper and better. Sure the Cubs have Arrieta and Lester, but deGrom and Harvey are no slouches and Syndergaard and Matz easily trump Hendricks and Hammel. It’s not even close, Mets starting pitching is deeper and better.

I keep hearing about how much power the Cubs have, and granted they have some great young hitters. But the Mets hit more homeruns and had more extra-base hits than any other team in the league from August 1 to the end of the season. They also had more multi-homer games than anyone else. Yoenis Cespedes will be a beast in the NLCS and if Daniel Murphy stays hot and David Wright and Lucas Duda decide to join the party, the Cubs have no chance.

But the biggest reason the Mets will win comes down to one man, Justin Turner… The Cubs don’t have him. Only kidding, it’s my man Jeurys Familia… He has become a weapon of mass destruction.

joe+maddon+cubs

WHY THE CUBS WILL WIN (Joe D.)

Wait, what? Who says the Cubs are going to win? Fine, I’ll play along.

It saddens me to say this, but the Cubs are going to win because Joe Maddon makes Terry Collins look like a mental midget. Maddon is a brilliant strategist and tactician who is always looking for that edge. And he does his homework and always shows up well prepared, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in that opposing dugout. He’s considered one of the most innovative managers in baseball, having popularized defensive shifts and making the safety squeeze a staple. His players play hard for him, and so does Collins’ but it’s all those other things that sets Maddon apart.

The Cubs will win because they have two of the best young sluggers in the league if not the game in Bryant (5.9 WAR) and Rizzo (6.2 WAR) who combined for nearly 60 homers and 200 RBIs while also stealing 30 bases between them. They have tremendous bat speed and each of them can take over a game at anytime.  Mets pitchers, beware.

murphy game 5

FIVE METS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Daniel Murphy: The Dodgers still don’t know where he is and it cost them the series. Plus, Murphy is a lifetime .305 hitter against the Cubs, including .349 with four homers and nine RBI in Wrigley Field.

Matt Harvey: Being the Game 1 starter also puts him in line to start Game 5 and maybe Game 7. Remember, there are no restrictions. Harvey is about atonement and he wants to make up for Game 3 against the Dodgers.

David Wright: He says he’s been waiting nine long years to get back into the playoffs and his .083 average against the Dodgers was not what he or anyone else was expecting. Look for Wright to flex some muscle in this series.

Yoenis Cespedes: The most dangerous and most explosive hitter in the Mets lineup. If Cubs pitchers leave one hanging or groove one in his zone, Cespedes will make them pay for it. He could be a big threat to steal second when Lester is on the mound. Which brings us to…

Eric Young Jr. – My hunch is he makes the NLCS roster for the Mets so that they can exploit Lester and manufacture a run late in the game, especially in a tight one.

Jake Arrieta

FIVE CUBS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

Jake Arrieta: He struggled in his last NLDS start against St. Louis and you have to wonder if the season hasn’t taken a toll. Or he could come back with a vengeance.

Kris Bryant: He’s no Justin Turner, but he can carry a team, and he can do it for seven games. His match-ups against Harvey and deGrom could be monumental. Frightening thought: For as good as Bryant is, his numbers did not match Rizzo.

Javier Baez: As the replacement for the injured Addison Russell he’ll attract a lot of attention. The Cubs don’t lose that much defensively. but Baez is better known for his bat. He went 4-for-5 with a home run, stolen base, and three ribbies in the NLDS.

Kyle Schwarber: He only has 288 major league at-bats, but has proven he can hit in the clutch – an drive the ball into next week. He is 7-for-13 in the postseason with three homers and five RBIs.

Kyle Kendricks/Jason Hammel: There will be games not started by Arrieta or Lester, and the Cubs need to win at least one of those. Either of these two must find a way to beat the back end of the Mets’ rotation, which is much better.

John’s Prediction: I’m already on record saying I believe the Mets can get into, and win, the World Series. That means beating the Cubs in the NLCS. They’ll do it in seven games.

Joe’s Prediction: The Mets will win the NLCS in five games if Syndergaard starts Game 2, otherwise the Mets will defeat the Cubs in six games.

2015_NLCS_logo

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