Jan 13

Top Ten Reasons Why Mets Can Return To World Series

As they are presently constructed, can the Mets return to the World Series? Why, of course. They are the defending National League champions, and while they haven’t gotten the big bopper they wanted, they still bring a formidable team to spring training.

Here are ten reasons why the Mets, if they stay healthy, can have another October:

1. They learned from 2015:

As Kansas City proved last season following their 2014 Series loss to San Francisco, a team can learn from defeat. From manager Terry Collins on down, the Mets will be better for the experience. They know what it takes to get there and you can’t buy what those five games against the Royals gave them. Not to mention the series against Chicago and Los Angeles.

HARVEY: I'm betting on 20 (Getty)

HARVEY: I’m betting on 20 (Getty)

2. The experience of Game 5:

Believe me on this, Matt Harvey is seething over Game 5. I’m not buying the Mets have the best rotation in the game until one of those wonder kids win 20 games. You’ll read it here first, but I think this is the year Harvey wins 20. I’m guessing he’s more than motivated, and with the restrictions from Tommy John surgery behind him, this could be a special year.

3. A full year with that rotation:

I don’t know if there will be innings restrictions on Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz – or Zack Wheeler when he comes off the disabled list. What I do know is if these guys are as special as advertised, I’m betting they learned from 2015. And, don’t forget, the Mets will have Matz and Syndergaard for a full season.

4. A full year from The Captain:

Assuming David Wright is healthy, and there’s no reason to figure otherwise, the Mets will have him for the full summer. He missed over four months last year, and missed them at a time when the offense struggled. Will he return to All-Star status? That might be a reach, but if he’s healthy and consistent, the Mets will be better.

5. The closer must have learned something:

Jeurys Familia had a breakout year, but didn’t have the smoothest postseason. He could have the potential to consistently save 40 games. That’s precious production. Personally, I’m glad he blew that Series game. Mariano Rivera said the best thing to happen in his career is when Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar Jr., homered off him in the 1997 playoffs. Rivera went on to become the game’s greatest closer.

6. They have a deeper bullpen:

Former closer Jenrry Mejia, when he comes off his suspension, will provide depth. They’ll also have Addison Reed for a full season, and hopefully a healthy Josh Edgin. And, once Wheeler returns, Bartolo Colon will go to the bullpen, where he excelled in the postseason. Hopefully, Hansel Robles will do some maturing. Lefty Jerry Blevins is back from missing last year with a broken. Logan Verrett provides depth, and can even spot start. The most intriguing spring training project with be Rafael Montero.

7. A better keystone combination:

The Mets’ defense up the middle is better with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrerra and second baseman Neil Walker. Offensively, replacing Daniel Murphy with Walker is a wash. Cabrerra is on a par with Wilmer Flores at the plate and is an upgrade in the field. Flores will add depth on the bench and give Collins more opportunities to rest Wright.

8. Left-handed power:

I never liked Curtis Granderson leading off, but love his ability to draw walks. He also hit 26 homers, but would he have more RBI if he batted in the middle of the order? It’s more than possible. Lucas Duda hit 27 homers last year after 30 in 2014. Why does it seem they all came in the same week? He still strikes out too much (138), but had a good on-base percentage (.352). Duda’s numbers should improve with more playing time (only 471 at-bats in 135 games). More consistency would be better, but I’ll take the 27 homers any way I can get them.

9. They have deeper catching:

Kevin Plawecki is here to stay, but could he force Travis d’Arnaud out of town? That will be interesting situation that could play itself out. d’Arnaud showed offensive promise when he came off the disabled list, but his inability to throw out base runners in the playoffs proved to be a glaring weakness. Having Plawecki around for an entire season will give Collins a chance to platoon him, especially against teams that like to run.

10. The kid in left:

Or, should I say that “budding star” in left? I’m among the many who are high on Micheal Conforto. Hopefully, Collins won’t fall into the trap of sitting him against lefties. He needs to play against everybody. If he’s the real deal, the Mets have something special.

 

Nov 10

Cashman Playing The Game; Murphy To Yanks Makes Sense

Despite a $15.8-million security blanked in the form of a qualifying offer, second baseman Daniel Murphy is not expected to re-sign with the Mets. He has until Friday to make his decision.

Speaking to reporters at the GM meetings in Florida, Mets assistant John Ricco said.: “In making the qualifying offer, you always have to anticipate he’s going to accept. Otherwise, I don’t think we would have done it. It’s very early in the signing season. I’m sure what he and his representatives are trying to do right now is trying to get a gauge.

MURPHY: More bad luck

MURPHY: Pinstripes make sense. (AP)

“It’s hard for me to speculate whether the market is going to be there. We made the offer with the idea that we’d like to have him back. We’ll see how it plays out.”

The reported current market for Murphy includes both Los Angeles teams, Houston, and of course the Yankees.

As Ricco said it is early in the process and nobody wants to tip their hand. That explains why Yankees GM Brian Cashman downplays interest in Murphy.

“We have to offensive-profile players already at that position,” Cashman said. “So, I think if we did any changing there it would be seeing more balance on both sides of the ball.”

The Yankees’ current second base candidates are Rob refsnyder and Dustin Ackley. They are projected to be offensive-oriented players, although neither is in Murphy’s class.

Murphy-to-the-Yankees makes sense, because in that bandbox of a stadium he could hit at least 25 homers. He could also get some designated-hitter at-bats, but most of them would go to Alex Rodriguez. And, as he would with the Mets, Murphy could also back up at first and third base.

Cashman has to feign interest because he knows every agent will parade his client through the Bronx to prime the bidding pump.

Nov 06

Mets Make Qualifying Offer To Murphy

The Mets’ first order of postseason business was extending manager Terry Collins for two years, and their second step was to make Daniel Murphy to a one-year, $15.8-million qualifying offer. He has a week to respond.

As with Collins, the Murphy deal was a no-brainer for the following reasons:

MURPHY:  Mets expected to make offer. (Getty)

MURPHY: Mets expected to make offer. (Getty)

1) If Murphy rejects the offer the Mets would receive a compensatory draft pick from the team that signs him.

2) The Mets are currently reluctant to give Murphy the reported figure of $50 million over four years. Before going long-term with Murphy, the Mets must first figure out if his post-season power run was an aberration or a sign of things to come.

3) That question could possibly be answered this year. Keeping Murphy around for another year could also enable them to figure out David Wright’s physical status and bide time for Ruben Tejada to heal.

If those two health issues are realized, Murphy would be a capable insurance policy.

If Murphy’s power surge is not a fluke the Mets will probably have to cough up more than if they signed him to a multi-year deal now, but that’s a gamble they would have to take.

Should the Mets be willing to go long-term on Murphy, he could give them a home-team discount.

“I like it here, and I’d like to come back,’’ Murphy said after the World Series. “I feel blessed to have been a Met this long.’’

Murphy was a 13th-round round pick of the Mets in 2006.

Among the teams that might have interest in Murphy are both Los Angeles teams, San Francisco and the Yankees.

NOTEBOOK:  The team said center fielder Juan Lagares will not require surgery on his right elbow. Lagares had a breakout season in 2014 and was rewarded with a multi-year contract, but regressed this season and had difficulty throwing. … Outfielder Michael Cuddyer underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury. He will make $12.5 million in 2016. … LH reliever Josh Smoker was added to the 40-man roster. … A published report from Washington said the Mets could be interested in outfielder Denard Span, who was not given a qualifying offer by the Nationals.

Oct 17

Murphy And Harvey Lead Mets In Game 1

Matt Harvey was brilliant, while Daniel Murphy was spectacular from the beginning – and at the end – and together they combined to give the Mets a 4-2 victory in Game 1 of the NLCS over the Chicago Cubs at a frigid Citi Field.

The Mets were 0-7 against the Cubs in the regular season, but one more time, this isn’t the regular season. It is rapidly becoming a special offseason for the Mets, after their scintillating performance in disposing of the Dodgers in the NLDS and what we saw tonight.

MURPHY:  Does it again. (Getty)

MURPHY: Does it again. (Getty)

Harvey put down the first dozen Cubs he faced, and after taking a line drive in the back of his pitching arm in the sixth, worked into the eighth.

Here is how fortunate Harvey was … after the ball hit his arm it floated into the air and bounced off his back. Without that bounce, the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler would have beaten Harvey’s throw to first.

“I wanted this game bad,’’ Harvey said. “The most important thing was starting this thing right. I knew I had to set the tone early.’’

Working on regular rest, Harvey gave the Mets 7.2 innings, and gave up only four hits and struck out nine. He is expected to start Game 5 when the NLCS returns to New York.

Meanwhile, Murphy who accounted for all three runs in the Mets’ Game 5 win in Los Angeles, put the Mets on the board with first-inning homer off Jon Lester. Murphy has hit four homers this postseason, one of Jake Arietta and Lester, and two off Clayton Kershaw.

Murphy then ended the game when he robbed Tommy La Stella of a hit with a diving stab.

Of course, Murphy credited everybody but the hot dog vender after the game before charming us with his typical Gomer Pyle “aw shucks’’ attitude.

“This is a lot of fun,’’ Murphy said. “I like doing these interviews because it means we won. What a nice start to the series.’’

As Murphy continues to rake, so does the storyline of his pending free-agency. The Mets aren’t likely to sign him to a multi-year deal, but they could lock him up with a $16-million qualifying offer. If they don’t, GM Sandy Alderson will be hard-pressed to explain his reasoning, especially if the Mets go on and win the World Series.

Meanwhile, considering the Mets built a three-run lead, it is curious as to why, considering their lead, the cold and the bruise on the back of Harvey’s arm, why manager Terry Collins let him work into the eighth before going to closer Jeurys Familia.

If this goes seven games as many expect, Collins will have to use his normal regular season relievers.

Doesn’t he?

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Oct 15

Mets Advance To NLCS Behind DeGrom And Murphy

Jacob deGrom has been more overpowering, but never has the Mets’ ace been more impressive. And, Daniel Murphy, quite simply, has never been better.

Together “The Mane’’ and “The Beard’’ combined to give the Mets an unlikely 3-2 victory over Los Angeles to send them to the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. At the start of the season, nobody, and I mean, nobody, would’ve bet that scenario.

MURPHY: Carried Mets' offense. (AP)

MURPHY: Carried Mets’ offense. (AP)

After Clayton Kershaw stuffed the Mets in Game 4 to send the series back to Los Angeles and another meeting against Zack Greinke, the Mets were heavy underdogs.

However, as they have all season, the Mets found a way to persevere. They overcame injuries, slumps and losing streaks, and today find themselves getting ready to host the NLCS come Saturday night.

With David Wright and Lucas Duda not giving the Mets anything offensively in this series, they somehow found a way.

“This team has tremendous fight,’’ said joyous manager Terry Collins. “It’s been that way all season. Whenever we have a tough game, we’ve been able to bounce back.’’

DeGrom struck out 13 Dodgers in Game 1. It seemed as if he stranded that many Dodgers. It was only seven, but five in scoring position. The game could have been over by the fifth. Game 1 was all about stuff; tonight it was guts.

The Mets gave deGrom a 1-0 lead in the first on Murphy’s RBI double, but the Dodgers came back with two in their half of the inning. The Dodgers could have blown the game open, but deGrom never cracked.

“People ask me, what kind of make-up does he have?’’ Collins said. “He had command of nothing and battled and battled and battled. There were about four times he was a batter away from coming out of the game.’’

“That’s why he is who he is,’’ Wright said.

“Unbelievable,’’ Murphy said. “That was more impressive than in the first start because that one could have gotten away from him.’’

That man Murphy tied the game in the fourth. After a leadoff single, Duda walked and Murphy casually jogged to second. With three Dodgers bunched around second – courtesy of the shift – Murphy took off for third, where he scored of a foul-ball sacrifice fly.

“Any time somebody shifts, it doesn’t leave them in position to defend that,’’ Murphy said. “I didn’t want to give it away.’’

Then, in the sixth, Murphy, who will be a free-agent this winter, cranked his third homer of the NLDS; two off Kershaw and one off Greinke.

“He’s been unbelievable,’’ Wright said. “I’ve seen him locked in before, but he’s as locked in as I’ve ever seen him.’’

Murphy is as understated a player as the Mets have, and he quietly said, “sometimes the blessings come.’’

Just how well the Mets will be blessed in the coming weeks remains to be seen, but so far it has been a joyous ride.

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