Aug 24

Astros, Mets Kindred Spirits?

They were born the same year, 1962, as expansion teams, and in the Houston Astros’ final National League appearance against the Mets in New York, both teams are playing like expansion teams.

Although linked by their entry, the Mets and Astros never developed an substantive rivalry in these 50 years. Playing in different divisions dulled the potential of a rivalry.  Both had long stretches of mediocrity, or worse, and there were few times they were good at the same time.

Then there was 1986.

The Mets rolled through the regular season. They dominated as manager Davey Johnson boasted at the start of the season. But, the Astros wouldn’t cave and made it a memorable series.

The Mets prevailed, 4-2, but needed 16 innings to oust the Astros in Game 6. They were on the brink of elimination in the ninth inning but rallied for three runs to force extra innings. The teams traded runs in the 14th inning. The Mets scored three in the top of the 16th, but the Astros’ rally fell a run short.

With the win, the Mets avoided facing Astros ace Mike Scott in a Game 7. The Mets could not touch Scott and to this day Keith Hernandez admits he was in their heads. The Mets were convinced Scott was scuffing the ball, but never caught him.

The series that begins tonight is the last time time the Astros will play here as a National League team as they will move to the American League in 2013.

I don’t like the idea of the Astros leaving the league. It will be odd not playing them, but then again things have been odd since interleague play and the unbalanced schedule. It’s just not the same race for every team.

As bad as the Mets have been since the break, going 11-28 and having just been swept by Colorado, the Astros have been a horrid 6-33. Part of it is playing poorly and going with young, inexperienced players, but a lot of that has to do with gutting their team in a July fire sale.

While the Mets have played some incredibly horrid baseball in August, the month did produce a bright spot in the emergence of Matt Harvey and yesterday’s stunning debut by Collin McHugh.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll look back at this month as the time when the Mets found the core of a new pitching rotation.
 

Aug 23

Mets Face Bleak Offseason

How could anybody be anything but enthused about the Mets for 2013?

With GA Sandy Alderson telling us the budget hasn’t been set but don’t expect it to be much higher than it is now. Then he said trades might be the way to go. But, if the Mets aren’t willing to part with Matt Harvey or Zach Wheeler, will they purge the rest of their farm system? History says it isn’t likely.

A quick glance at the major league roster tells us there’s little to trade of value outside of David Wright, R.A. Dickey and Jon Niese. I like the potential of Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis, but outside of that, who would anybody want?

You’d love to trade Johan Santana and Jason Bay, but nobody wants those contracts, plus their limited production and injury histories.

There’s simply little of any value other teams would want. We are talking about a team that is ten games below .500 and facing another losing season. This is a team that since its last World Series appearance in 2000 has had five managers and four general managers. The latest, Alderson, is a fixer, brought in to clean up a mess brought on by the owner’s financial distress and hopefully field a competitive team in the process.

Considering all that, of course there’s limited talent available. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in this mess.

It wasn’t going to be pretty work, nor was it going to be easy. So far, Alderson has sliced nearly $50 million in payroll and said good-bye to Jose Reyes. He also cut ties with Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, players with bloated contracts brought in when the team considered itself a contender.

The Mets have a myriad of issues they must face with limited dollars:

1.  Re-sign David Wright: He’s had a solid season and deserves it. Plus, if you let the face of the franchise leave who is going to want to come here? After losing Reyes it would be a disastrous decision. Wright will be a FA after 2013, so any dealing of him would be limited for the fear of him leaving. There is the possibility of next year being a huge distraction if there’s an unsigned Wright at the trade deadline. Talk about a potential mess.

2. A starting pitcher: The Mets got more from Santana than they could have hoped but eventually shut him down. They have to go under the assumption he’s a health question. Also, Jon Niese has not performed as hoped and is it realistic to think they’ll get a similar year from Dickey? No. They likely won’t bring back Mike Pelfrey – remember him? – and while there’s optimism, the Mets still don’t know what they have in Dillon Gee, Harvey, Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia.

3. The bullpen: This was Alderson’s area of concentration in the offseason and it blew up on him. Frank Francisco is a disaster and Bobby Parnell has yet to grasp a role. Maybe the Mets have run their course with Dan Warthen as pitching coach, I don’t know. But, that must be examined. Are their any viable pieces? Doesn’t look that way.

4. Outfield: Bay will be back because of his contract, but I’d eat it and start fresh. Lucas Duda will get a shot in left then, but they need power from the right side. They aren’t getting it from Andres Torres or Jordany Valdespin, both of whom aren’t any better than bench players.

5. Catcher: Josh Thole has not progressed either offensively or defensively as hoped. But, he’s a healthy body right now and for the Mets, that’s a positive.

When you come down to it, that’s an impressive shopping list to fill on a limited budget. It looks as if next year’s team will look similar to this year’s Mets, with the hope for improvement coming from more production from their current roster. They need breakout years from Davis, Duda, Thole, Harvey and either Wheeler or Mejia.

They need a monster year from Wright and more power from Daniel Murphy.

They need a hell of a lot.

 

Aug 17

Matt Harvey Gives Us Something

I’ll admit, there are two things I want to see from the 2012 Mets. The first is to finish over.500, which, while demonstrating a strong positive step, is becoming more remote. The second is for R.A. Dickey to win 20 games.

While watching Dickey get hammered earlier this week I started to wonder if 20 wins was a long shot and whether there was anything interesting and compelling to concern myself with this team.

Matt Harvey answered that question last night in a scintillating performance against the Reds, perhaps the NL’s best team.

Harvey ended a personal three-game losing streak with 7.2 strong innings iced by hitting a two-run double as the Mets salvaged the series. In this recent stretch of their second half freefall, the Mets have lost eight of their last 12 games.

Yes, it is one start, but for the most part he has been solid in each of this first four starts. Last night was easily his best. Since 2006, when the Mets last saw a meaningful October, the Mets received similar strong glimpses from guys such as Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, but there’s something different about Harvey, a first-round pick from North Carolina.

He just seems polished beyond his experience.

Unlike some of the previous flashes mentioned, Harvey leaves the impression of working with a plan. Maybe there was a chemistry click with Kelly Shoppach, and Terry Collins needs to pair those two again. It is fun watching Harvey work quickly and pound the corners for strikes. He’s not afraid to go inside on a hitter, works efficiently and with poise.

Maybe Harvey won’t be electric like Doc Gooden, but he doesn’t figure to be an enigma such as Pelfrey, either.

 

Aug 16

Dickey Seeing Red After Losing Bracelet In 6-1 Mets Loss

R.A. Dickey‘s quest for a Cy Young hit a speed bump Wednesday night in a bizarre 6-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

But Dickey will have to wait at least five more days to bolster his credentials. The knuckleballer served up a season-high three home runs to the Reds on Wednesday, dropping the Mets to a 6-1 loss.

Dickey may have been thrown off his game when the umpires forced him to cut off a bracelet that his daughter had given him when he made his climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. Dickey was visibly pissed, and had worn that bracelet all season long without any previous gripes by the umpires. Terry Collins confirmed it was the umpires who ordered Dickey’s bracelet cut and that it was not requested by Reds.

The Reds tagged Dickey five earned runs on ten hits including three home tuns in six innings of work. The home runs were definitely not cheapies especially Todd Frazier‘s which was estimated at 475 feet. Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce walloped the other two. He did strike out ten, so there’s that…

The Mets only had four hits in the games, two each by Mike Baxter and Ruben Tejada who batted first and second in the order.

The Mets are 9-22 since the all-star break and now seven games under .500 for the season.

Bobby Ojeda says the Mets now have a growing reputation in the league that they are passive offense and that teams are pounding the middle of the zone because they know the Mets batters are not going to swing.

The Mets will try to avoid the sweep in tomorrow’s finale as rookie Matt Harvey (1-3, 3.63 ERA) faces Cincinnati right-hander Homer Bailey (10-7, 4.08).

Aug 06

Analyzing Mets’ Road Trip

After winning three of four in San Francisco, dropping a series at San Diego is a let down. But, the flip side is you have to be a little high to get down.

Considering they lost 11 of 12 on their previous homestand, I’ll take the 6-5 and be happy. Who among us was brimming with optimism when they took off for the West?

Obviously, the most important development on the trip was Matt Harvey, regardless of yesterday’s game. The Mets now have an arm they can be hopeful of giving them six. They can build from there.

Ruben Tejada and Ronny Cedeno are playing well, making up in part for David Wright’s slump. Yes, Jason Bay is still on the team, but Ike Davis flashed a glimpse of why we should be excited about him and Bobby Parnell threw an inning in San Francisco that was cause for some optimism. That might be a stretch, but look at the whole bullpen picture.

Sometimes you can get in trouble when you big-picture things, but in that vein, the Mets are giving us reason to hang around and watch. I didn’t say “get excited,” but keep us interested in their development.

Many of us got too excited from the first half and those two weeks in July were deflating. However, considering their inactivity in the offseason and dismal spring training, if you were told the Mets would be knocking on .500’s door a week into August, wouldn’t most of you have taken it?

I mean, given Johan Santana’s uncertainty, not to mention stint on the DL, and losing Mike Pelfrey for the season, I’d venture most would have jumped at it.

We all knew going in this was a building season and we’ve seen some good things. This trip helped remind us of them. I would be interested to see what September brings, and I really never thought I’d write that line in March.