Nov 25

Mets Give Us Many Reasons To Be Thankful

As Mets fans, we have had a lot to be thankful for over the years. First and foremost, we have a team we care about deeply. They give us a release from our daily trials and pressures.

If you’re a shut-in, they give you entertainment and a sense of belonging to a greater entity. They make your day.

MARVELOUS MARV

MARVELOUS MARV

They are our team, unlike any other, and we are thankful for the passion in our hearts whenever we find our seat at Citi Field or turn on the television. For the next three hours, they entertain and sometimes frustrate us. But, we’ll always watch.

I don’t believe in the term “die hard Mets fan,’’ because dying means you eventually turn away from them. If you’re a fan, you always stay. Once you give your heart to them, you don’t take it back.

I also don’t believe in “long suffering Mets fan.” They might frustrate us, but we don’t watch to suffer. We watch in hope.

It’s why, on the day after Thanksgiving, you’re reading Mets blogs, you’re waiting for the Winter Meetings and the hope they’ll do something big, and you’re waiting for spring training.

Quite frankly, the Wilpons and GM Sandy Alderson, from their lofty perches, don’t understand what we do about the team they run.

It’s the holiday season and the order is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Opening Day. Aren’t they the ones that really matter?

As a Mets fan, what are you most thankful for?

How about William Shea, who when the Dodgers and Giants left the city, fought to bring National League baseball back to New York?

You’re thankful for:

Catcher Hobie Landrith, the first player taken by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft.

Casey Stengel, the Old Professor was the Mets’ first manager. His words made us dizzy as we watched that 120-loss team in 1962.

Don Zimmer, a Brooklyn Dodger who became an original Met.

Frank Thomas, the Mets’ first star and Ron Hunt, the first All-Star.

We’re thankful for the legends of Marvelous Marv Throneberry; Choo Choo Coleman; Al Jackson; Roger Craig; Jim Hickman; Roy McMillan and his specs; Jay Hook, the winning pitcher in the club’s first victory.

We’re thankful for the former stars who became Mets for a brief time: Richie Ashburn, Gus Bell, Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, and, of course, Gil Hodges.

We’re thankful the Mets let us watch baseball once again in the Polo Grounds. And, we’re thankful for Shea Stadium, that when it opened in 1964 brought a bright and shiny toy for our team to play in.

Once state-of-the-art, even when Shea Stadium became cold, drafty and leaky, we’re thankful because it was our home.

We’re thankful for Hodges’ steadying hand that brought us the Miracle Mets of 1969, with the celebration at Shea Stadium. We’re thankful the Mets became baseball’s best “worst-to-first story.’’

We’re thankful for 1969, and the brilliance that was Tom Seaver, a future Hall of Famer and the franchise’s greatest player.

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

We’re thankful that season also showcased Jerry Koosman’s guile; Jerry Grote’s toughness; Bud Harrelson’s steadiness at shortstop; Ed Kranepool, who struggled through the hard times to taste champagne; for Tommie Agee’s glove and power; for the addition of Donn Clendenon; and for the steady bat of Cleon Jones.

We’re thankful Hodges had the backbone to publicly discipline Jones, a turning point to that season.

We’re thankful we saw a real team in 1969, with many non-descript players had their moments. Al Weis, Ron Swoboda, Don Cardwell, Ken Boswell, J.C. Martin, Joe Foy, and so many others.

We’re thankful we got to see Nolan Ryan in his Hall of Fame infancy that year.

We’re thankful for organist Jane Jarvis, sign-man Karl Ehrhardt, Banner Day, and the guy we sit next to for nine innings and talk Mets.

We’re also thankful for the second championship season, 1986, when victory was expected and featured one of the game’s greatest comebacks.

We’re thankful the immense talent that wooed us that summer: the brashness of manager Davey Johnson who predicted domination; Keith Hernandez’s leadership, a nifty glove and timely bat; the captaincy of Gary Carter that put the team over the top; the grit and toughness of Len Dykstra, Wally Backman and Ray Knight; the prodigious power of Darryl Strawberry; and, of course, Mookie Wilson.

We’re thankful for Dwight Gooden’s mastery and the K Corner; Sid Fernandez’s overpowering stuff; and the calmness of Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda. We’re thankful for the deepest rotation in franchise history.

We’re thankful the “ball got through Buckner.”

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

Although they didn’t win, we’re thankful for the World Series runs in 1973, 2000 and 2015. Because, even in defeat, those teams brought thrills, joy and pride.

We’re thankful for so many more stars thrilled us, even if it was for a brief time: Lee Mazzilli and Rusty Staub; Jon Matlack and Al Leiter; John Milner and Carlos Delgado; Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco; John Stearns and Felix Millan; Tug McGraw and David Cone; Howard Johnson and Edgardo Alfonzo; Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy; Hubie Brooks and Jon Olerud; Rey Ordonez and John Franco; Dave Kingman and Rickey Henderson.

There are so many. You think of one and another comes to mind.

We’re thankful we got to see Willie Mays one more time in a New York uniform. He wasn’t vintage, but the memories of him were.

We’re thankful Carlos Beltran always busted his butt for us, even playing with a fractured face.

We’re thankful for Johan Santana’s willingness to take the ball and the might he finally gave us a no-hitter.

We’re thankful to have a player who embodies the word “class,’’ and that is David Wright. We’re thankful we saw his development from prospect to All-Star. He means so much to us that we hurt when he hurts.

We’re thankful the game’s greatest hitting catcher, Mike Piazza, thought so much of his time here that he chose to wear a Mets’ cap into the Hall of Fame. There’s no greater honor a player can give to his city and fan base.

We’re thankful for the great rotations we’ve had, and for the future of the rotation we have now: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. They give us dreams.

We’re thankful for scintillating moments veteran journeymen pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon gave us. They gave us a chance to win every fifth day.

We’re thankful for Citi Field, one of baseball’s jewel stadiums. Hopefully, it will bring us the great moments Shea Stadium did.

We’re thankful for so many great plays, from Jones’ catch to end the `69 Series to the plays made by Agee and Swoboda that year. … For Staub playing with a busted shoulder in `73, and, Endy Chavez’s catch in the 2006 NLCS.

We’re thankful for the summer Yoenis Cespedes gave us in 2015 and wonder if he’ll be back for more.

We’re thankful for the enduring pictures and images spun by the words of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson. We’re thankful for Kiner’s stories and malapropos; Nelson’s sports coats and the soothing voice of Murph, especially after that win over the Phillies: “and the Mets win it … They win the damn thing.”

We’re thankful for that great broadcasting team, and the one we have now in Gary, Keith and Ron. We’re thankful Gary Cohen is staying.

We’re thankful for the voices when we’re in our cars or grilling on the deck: Howie Rose and Josh Lewin bring us to the game.

We’re thankful for so many memories and for the memories to come.

Yes, with Thanksgiving gone and Christmas approaching, the Mets give us so many reasons to be thankful. Not the least of which is hope for 2017.

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May 26

Matz Passes Watershed Moment; Collins Should Be Applauded

There comes a time in every player’s path from prospect to star when he faces a watershed test he must pass, which is what happened to Mets pitcher Steven Matz Wednesday afternoon in Washington. Hopefully, it will be something Matz will wistfully recall down the road, perhaps before All-Star and playoff games.

MATZ: Passes the test. (AP)

MATZ: Passes the test. (AP)

Pitching coach Dan Warthen immediately recognized it and told manager Terry Collins, “we’re going to see what the kid is made of.”

The Mets were hanging to a slim 2-0 lead when the Nationals had a runner on with two outs in the eighth. Collins knew it, too, when he glanced into the Nationals’ dugout and saw Bryce Harper, the 2015 NL MVP, selecting a bat.

Matz was at 100 pitches and this was his last inning regardless and Collins had a warmed-up Jerry Blevins in the bullpen. The conventional choice, one Collins has frequently made in the past, was to go to the mound with his hand extended for the ball and pat Matz on the back.

Instead, Collins nodded to Warthen and did nothing.

“When you have a young player in certain situations, you have to challenge him,” Collins would say to reporters. “If he’s going to be a big winner for us, he’s got to learn to get the big out.”

It was an important gesture Collins and it was more than symbolic. It was one of confidence not lost on the young left-hander. It might turn out to be the most important decision Collins will make this season.

“It definitely means something,” said Matz, now 7-1 this year and already 11-1 in his young career. “As a competitor, you don’t want to come out in that situation. And for your manager to have faith in you to leave you out to face arguably the greatest hitter in the game right now, it’s pretty awesome.”

And, awesome was Matz’s response as he threw four more pitches – all fastballs – to wrap up his gem, the last one to get Harper to meekly ground out to second. From the other dugout, Nationals manager Dusty Baker made a comparison Mets’ fans should appreciate.

“You don’t see many lefties like that,” Baker told reporters. “He was very determined. He’s a good athlete. He reminded me of Jon Matlack back in my day, with the Mets. He was throwing the heck out of the ball, working quick. He threw a heck of a game. A heck of a game.”

Yeah, “heck” was a good term for Baker to use. We can go on for a long time raving about Matz, but for now Mets’ fans should settle for being grateful to have him.

And, for Collins’ unconventional, yet essential decision of loyalty to trust him.

As Matz’ career hopefully progresses to stardom, this will be a moment he will frequently recall.

Apr 08

DeGrom A Most Intriguing Met

Of all the Mets’ young pitchers, I am most intrigued with Jacob deGrom, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year and Wednesday’s starter at Washington. Quiet and unassuming, unlike Matt Harvey, deGrom came out of the bullpen last season following an injury to Dillon Gee and never left the rotation.

Hopefully, he’ll stay in it for years.

Why deGrom over the others?

DeGROM: Captures the imagination.  (Getty)

DeGROM: Captures the imagination. (Getty)

Well, Harvey is Harvey, and despite his hype, all too often he leaves the impression he’s more interested in becoming a New York media darling instead of a Mets’ star. There’s a big difference.  Also, I can’t shake the feeling he’s just passing through Queens until he relocates to the Bronx.

Fair? Maybe not, but that’s the perception.

I get the feeling if deGrom stays healthy he’ll have a longer career with the Mets than Harvey.

The same applies with Zack Wheeler, but for a different reason.

Wheeler’s elbow injury went from bad to worse, and it won’t be until late in the 2017 season until we might really know something about him. By then, it is hoped he would have developed command to go with his natural stuff. So far, that lack of command lead to high pitch counts that stressed his arm.

But, for right now the main intrigue is his health.

As for Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, yeah, there’s interest. However, the intrigue meeter won’t click on until Sandy Alderson forgets this Super Two nonsense and brings them up here. Until then, they are wishful thinking.

But deGrom?

Well, he’s here and now. He seems real; he’s not a diva. We saw what he did last year coming out of nowhere, and it whet our appetite for more. He went 9-6 despite an offense that provided little support and a shaky bullpen. What was eye-popping was a 2.69 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 140.1 innings. That’s dominating stuff. And it continued in spring training as he showed no signs of letting up with a 2.08 ERA, .167 opponent batting average and 0.73 WHIP in 26 innings.

What I also like is he’s not a know-it-all. He exudes confidence without being abrasive, and also a willingness to learn evidenced by working hard on his breaking pitches during spring training. He also took copious mental notes watching Bartolo Colon on Opening Day.

“I watched what Bartolo did,” deGrom told reporters in Washington. “He just located and kept the ball down and threw the ball really well. That’s always my game plan, to throw strikes and keep it down.”

As with Harvey, the Mets will carefully monitor deGrom’s innings early in the season.

“I’ll just go out there and go as long as they’ll let me go,” he said.

And, that might be good enough.

ON DECK:  More on the lineup.

Nov 10

DeGrom Wins NL Rookie Award; Seaver, Gooden Impresssed

The New York Mets took another step toward relevancy today when Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Year.

He is the joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGrom: Wins ROY.

DeGrom: Wins ROY.

DeGrom, 26, made 22 starts and won the NL Rookie Triple Crown leading NL rookies in strikeouts (144), ERA (2.69) and tying for the league lead with nine wins.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and would like to thank the BBWAA,” said deGrom in a statement released by the team. “I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for the support of my teammates. I’m already looking forward to 2015 and helping the Mets reach the postseason.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “His journey has been unbelievable. When we promoted him he was supposed to go to the bullpen but an injury forced him into the rotation. This award speaks to Jacob’s determination and desire to succeed.”

His competitive nature was noticed by Gooden and Seaver. Eye-popping was when he struck out eight straight MIami Marlins to open a September 15 game.  He had four double-digit strikeout games during the season and set a rookie franchise-record, pitching 67.1 innings from June 5-August 7 without allowing a home run.

“When I saw that he had struck out eight straight I just said to myself ‘Wow, this guy almost broke my record and all of his were to start the game,’” said Seaver in a statement released by the Mets. Seaver holds the major league record with 10 straight strikeouts at any point during a game.

“That’s impressive. I made sure to find his box score whenever he pitched.”

Said Gooden: “I was fortunate enough to see him pitch a few times at Citi Field. What impressed me the most was that every time he got into a tough situation he always made the pitch he needed to get out of the jam. I love the way he competes.”

It’s that poise that makes deGrom in the Mets’ young pitching core along with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard.

Perhaps the hardest thing for any rookie pitcher is to develop a chemistry with his catcher. That wasn’t a problem,

“He is enjoyable to catch because he is always around the strike zone,” said catcher Travis d’Arnaud. “I just hold up my glove and he hits the mitt. He never gets rattled no matter the situation. He’s just going to get better and better.”

o say deGrom could be the next Seaver or Gooden is a stretch, but there is a lot to like about him and it isn’t farfetched  to say he’s ahead of Wheeler,

What was most impressive about deGrom was his composure and ability to command his secondary pitchers. These are things Wheeler must improve. Wheeler also has a tendency to run up his pitch count, frequently forcing an early exit. The Mets could count on deGrom getting into the sixth inning.

A ninth-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, deGrom made the first of his 22 starts, May 15, and made an immediate impression by giving up just one run in seven innings in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees. He gave us a glimpse of his 96-mph. fastball and darting slider with six strikeouts and only walked one and gave up four hits.

DeGrom turned out to be the kind of workhorse the Mets need by working into the sixth or longer in 19 starts. Ten times he took a game into the seventh or longer.

DeGrom worked 140.1 innings this year, but in this era of pitcher preservation – not recognized by the Giants and Madison Bumgarner – he was pulled from his last start against Houston.

“Obviously, I wanted to make my last one, but they talked to me about it,’’ deGrom said at the time. “The decision was made for me not to, and to end the year healthy. I respect that decision and I look forward to next year.’’

The decision was made in large part by a season-low 92 mph., in his proceeding start against Atlanta, and Collins said. The lower speed is indicative of a tiring arm.

“We explained the big picture,’’ Collins said. “One more start isn’t going to vary any votes. One more start isn’t going to show everybody that he belongs here.

“One more start could lead to some trouble. The big picture was to make sure when this season was over that those five [rotation] guys were going to be healthy. We think we’ve reached that point.’’

By votes, Collins meant from the Baseball Writers Association, which concludes its voting after the season. Postseason performance is not included, for one reason it gives some players a larger body of work. For example, if the postseason were included, Bumgarner would easily win the NL Cy Young over the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

The other National League candidates are Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton and St. Louis’ Kolten Wong. Hamilton fizzled at the end and Wong wasn’t a clear-cut standout, although he was impressive in the postseason.

Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox was a unanimous winner in the American League, beating out the Yankees’ Dellin Betances and the Angels’ Matt Shoemaker.

 
Nov 10

Breaking News: deGrom Wins NL Rookie Award

The New York Mets took another step toward relevancy today when Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Year.

He is the fifth Met to win the award, joining Tom Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Darryl Strawberry (1983) and Dwight Gooden (1984). For those believing in omens, the Mets played in the World Series within two years of each previous winner.

DeGrom, 26, made 22 starts and won the NL Rookie Triple Crown leading NL rookies in strikeouts (144), ERA (2.69) and tying for the league lead with nine wins.

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and would like to thank the BBWAA,” said deGrom in a statement released by the team. “I wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for the support of my teammates. I’m already looking forward to 2015 and helping the Mets reach the postseason.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “His journey has been unbelievable.  When we promoted him he was supposed to go to the bullpen but an injury forced him into the rotation. This award speaks to Jacob’s determination and desire to succeed.”

DeGrom was named the NL Rookie of the Month for July and for September by Major League Baseball and went 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA (16 earned runs/66.2 innings) in 10 starts after the All-Star break.

NOTE: Update to follow.