May 29

Loney Was Best Possible Available Option For Mets

James Loney might not have been the best player the Mets could have gotten to replace Lucas Duda at first base for the next two months, but considering how they do things he was the best possible option.

The Mets considered several internal options – including Wilmer Flores – but acted with unusual swiftness for them by getting Loney, 32, from San Diego for cash.

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

LONEY: Best available choice. (AP)

I would have preferred Adam LaRoche, but the speculated cost in coaxing him out of retirement from the White Sox would probably have been too high. However, I definitely prefer Loney over a mix-and-match platoon of Eric Campbell and Flores. He’s also a better option than moving Michael Conforto or David Wright to new positions.

“Loney was an immediate, obvious possibility in terms of ease of acquisition and a variety of things,” GM Sandy Alderson told reporters. “We had someone go and look at James a couple of games last week and earlier in the month. We felt this was the right move for us at the moment.

“We felt we needed another left-handed bat. James doesn’t have a lot of power. He hasn’t demonstrated that, but we’ve got that elsewhere in the lineup. He’s someone who hits from the left side, a contact hitter, doesn’t strike out a lot. He could be a nice fit for us.”

Manager Terry Collins, whose roots are in the Dodger system as are Loney’s, has known him for 15 years.

“He’ll add a nice dimension to us,” Collins said. “He’s a very good first baseman. He’s a good offensive player. He’s not necessarily a big power guy. He’s a tremendous guy in the clubhouse.”

Loney was released by the Rays this spring and had been with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in El Paso, Texas, where he was hitting .342 with two homers and 28 RBI in 158 at-bats.

Loney was to make $9.6 million this year, but because he was released by the Rays, the Mets are responsible for the pro-rated major league minimum for him.

All in all, it was the best possible deal the Mets could have made.

 

May 28

Mets Wrap: Plenty Of Deserving Fingers To Be Pointed In Syndergaard Fiasco

The Mets ignored the ancient Chinese proverb, “when pursuing revenge remember to dig two graves.”

The Mets finally chose Saturday night to seek retribution against Chase Utley for his hard take-out slide during last year’s NLDS against the Dodgers that resulted in a broken leg for their then shortstop Ruben Tejada.

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Payback is a bitch. (AP)

The only grave filled was by the Mets and Noah Syndergaard.

The Mets eschewed retaliation against the Dodgers for the rest of the playoffs; during the four-game series in Los Angeles earlier this month; and Friday night. One school of thought was the Mets would continue to let Utley wonder, which would have been the best choice.

Instead, Syndergaard threw behind Utley’s back with one out in the third. Plate umpire Adam Hamari booted Syndergaard before the ball stopped rolling at the backstop. Utley calmly kept his head down and smoothed the dirt with his foot.

Utley homered in the sixth. If that wasn’t enough to rile Mets’ fans, then surely his grand slam in the seventh that sealed the Dodgers’ 9-1 blowout win should have been.

Utley maintained a stoic look throughout the game showing zero emotion. None.

Hamari had no choice but eject Syndergaard because whenever a pitcher deliberately wants to hit a batter he throws behind him, the thinking being the hitter will step back into the pitch.

Please, let’s not insult our intelligence by saying the ball got away because he had only walked nine hitters entering the game. Please, also don’t blame our intelligence, as SNY did, by saying Hamari didn’t have a handle on the situation because he is only a third-year umpire.

Since it’s all about blame these days, my finger is pointed at three parties for Syndergaard’s ejection.

First, let’s look at Syndergaard, who should be smart enough to know that after the buildup there would be no way he could go after Utley and skate. He’s young, but not naïve.

Second, there’s manager Terry Collins, who is not having the good start to this season. Collins has to understand the ramifications of losing Syndergaard. He made a big deal of wrongly justifying his poor decision to bring in Jeurys Familia in a non-save situation Friday because he wanted to win the game.

Don’t you think the Mets’ chances to win are enhanced with Syndergaard? When the teams played in Los Angeles, Collins warned his team about retaliation, saying he didn’t need to have anybody hurt or suspended. He didn’t have a similar message prior to this series.

For his efforts, Collins was also tossed. Collins said he was “surprised” Syndergaard was ejected so quickly without a warning. Seriously? Hasn’t he been paying attention?

Finally, Major League Baseball needs to take a bow for totally screwing up this whole situation. Here’s how:

* The umpires have discretion for ejecting a player they believe intentionally tried to injure a player. They did not.

* In response to the uproar from media and Mets fans about the play, MLB feared an incident at Citi Field when the NLDS moved to Citi Field. MLB suspended Utley for two games not because they judged it a dirty play, but because they feared an ugly scene. Joe Torre, who handles these decisions for MLB, should know more than most that is not the basis for a decision.

* When Utley’s appeal was heard this spring the original suspension was not upheld. MLB would say it was because of a new rule change, but the incident was committed under the old format.

* Finally, knowing the tension heading leading into the series – surely, the Commissioner’s office reads the New York papers – it would have been prudent to issue a warning.

This has been a total screw up from the beginning, and if Syndergaard is suspended – as Collins fears – it will only get worse.

METS GAME WRAP

May 28, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #48          Score:  Dodgers 9, Mets 1

Record: 28-20     Streak: L 1

Standings: First, NL East, four percentage points ahead of the Nationals.  

Runs: 187    Average:  3.87   Times 3 or less: 23

SUMMARY: Syndergaard’s retaliation attempt at Utley failed and resulted in his ejection. The Dodgers homered five times, including two by Utley, who drove in five runs.

KEY MOMENT:  Syndergaard’s ill-fated attempt to put the hammer down.

THUMBS UP:  At least they didn’t need Familia. … Juan Lagares homered for the second straight game. … Nobody got hurt. … The Nationals also lost.

THUMBS DOWN:  The whole night. … Now they have to face Clayton Kershaw. … Just three hits. … They gave up four homers. … They still don’t have a clue as to how to pitch to Utley. … The bullpen gave up nine runs and the hitters struck out ten times.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play because of pain in his neck. There exists a possibility he could be placed on the disabled list Sunday. … Wilmer Flores could be activated from the DL Sunday. … The Mets sent cash to San Diego for first baseman James Loney.

QUOTEBOOK:  “It would be fair.’’ – Collins on if he was upset with the decision to eject Syndergaard.

BY THE NUMBERS:  34: Pitches thrown by Syndergaard.

NEXT FOR METS:  Bartolo Colon against Kershaw Sunday night.

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May 27

Where Were You Went The Ball Got By Buckner?

The Mets are honoring their 1986 championship team this weekend. That World Series had numerous moments capable of being etched into our memories forever, but one clearly stands out: Mookie Wilson’s ground ball that scooted between Bill Buckner’s legs.

I was in the family room of my ex-wife, watching the game with her and my father-in-law. It was pretty quiet.

METS' SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

METS’ SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

Anthony Arthur was a Mets’ fan and he took me out to Shea that summer. The game, and what had been a marvelous season, were slowly and agonizingly slipping away in the tenth inning of Game 6 with Boston holding a 5-3 lead.

After Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Well, they had a great season. Maybe next year.”

Gary Carter singled, and Kevin Mitchell followed with the same. As ’86 Mets lore has it, by this time Keith Hernandez was in manager Davey Johnson’s office, his feet propped on the desk as he sipped a beer.

I wonder if it was a Reingold?

Ray Knight singled and it was 5-4.

Enter Bob Stanley, who threw a wild pitch and all of a sudden the game was tied. Technically, it was tied, but we all knew the game was over. And likely the World Series.

I always wondered, as those in New England probably still do, why Roger Clemens wasn’t called in to pitch?

Wilson was up and after fouling off six pitches, dribbled a ground ball towards first on the tenth pitch of an epic at-bat. VIDEO OF VIN SCULLY’S CALL.

It might be the most memorable moment in Mets’ history. VIDEO OF BOB MURPHY’S CALL.

I wonder, where were you when “the ball gets by Buckner?’’

I’d love to know.

 

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.

May 24

Mets Wrap: Time To Send Out Harvey; A Dozen Reasons Why He Stinks

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

HARVEY: Send him down. (AP)

The question regarding Matt Harvey is basic: What next?

It would be a controversial decision, but should be a very simple one for the Mets. Either the Mets stick with Harvey to let him work his way out of this – even if it means taking more lumps – or he should be sent to the minor leagues or disabled list to rediscover himself.

“We’re not going to do anything rash tonight,” manager Terry Collins told reporters. “We’re going to sleep on it and discuss it tomorrow.”

Harvey had nothing to say because in a bush league move he bolted after the game without speaking and left it up to Collins, catcher Kevin Plawecki and his teammates to speak for him.

Twice Plawecki told reporters, “you watched the game.”

Previously, I advocated sticking with Harvey, but after giving up three homers in Tuesday night’s 7-4 loss at Washington, I’ve gone to the replay and upon further review think a change of scenery is the best option.

Going to Las Vegas should be seriously discussed, but the Mets have always gone out of their way to massage Harvey’s fragile ego, so they could manufacture a reason to put him on the disabled list, which eliminates the stigma of the minor leagues.

Either one should be GM Sandy Alderson’s choice for a variety of reasons:

* They can send him down to Triple-A Las Vegas or Double-A Binghamton if they want a closer look and let him work on everything, from conditioning to mechanics. The disabled list accomplishes the same objective. It’s the best option in it enables him to pitch without costing the Mets games.

* Harvey’s brief outings deplete the bullpen.

* It eliminates the between-starts distraction Harvey has become. What’s wrong with him? Will he make his next start? What’s wrong with him? And, another question: What’s wrong with him?

The answer could be one of many or a combination of a several. His velocity is down and command is off, but why?

Here are my theories, which I call “Harvey’s Dirty Dozen,’’ to explain why Harvey is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA:

* Not enough work in spring training: Collins suggested Harvey’s early sluggishness was because the Mets reduced his workload to almost half of what is considered normal for a starter. That’s on Collins and Alderson. This would partially explain Harvey’s mechanical issues.

* Innings workload in 2015: This is on Collins and Alderson for not developing a definitive workload or program. It’s also on Harvey for continually pushing the envelope. Even his agent, Scott Boras, said Harvey wanted to pitch

* He’s hurt: Harvey denies this, but considering his history of withholding physical ailments, this option can’t be ignored.

* He’s out of shape: Yes, there have been cases with Mickey Lolich and Sid Fernandez, but there’s his growing paunch. His stamina is down and his mechanics aren’t crisp, so his conditioning must be considered. How can that not be a factor in his inability to make through the middle innings?

* Overcompensation for Game 5: He continually says he has no regrets for arguing with Collins to stay in the game and imploded in the ninth. How can he not think back on that game?

* Jealousy in the rotation: In 2013 Harvey was deemed the clear cut ace, but for all the talk of this being a close knit group that thrives on the competition, how can Harvey realistically ignore he’s fifth behind Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon? As a competitor, how can it not eat at him he’s not “the man,’’ anymore?

* Lack of run support: He’s 2-7 this year with less getting five runs support. But, how does that explain his 6.02 ERA in those games? Bottom line, if you’re a stud pitcher, you have to suck it up and figure out a way to win those games.

* He buys into the hype: It’s not the media or fans that wrongly placed Harvey on a pedestal, but for him believing he’s a superhero beyond reproach. After Tuesday, Harvey is 28-25 lifetime so let’s go easy on calling him great.

* He’s too sensitive: Harvey has openly clashed with the media to the point where he had a snow globe of a hand extending a middle finger, unquestionably directed at the press. He also had a photo taken of him in his hospital room flashing the bird. He couldn’t handle the innings flap last year or his urinary infection this spring.

* He thinks he knows it all: From withholding his physical problems, which was the first step towards Tommy John surgery. Then there was the arguing over his rehab, and where it would take place, to him forcing his way to the mound. He’s not shy in letting it known he doesn’t trust those around him.

* Tommy John let down: Sometimes a pitcher hits a wall in the second year following Tommy John surgery. Harvey didn’t  just hit a wall, but ran into it head first.

* Supernova: I floated this idea after his last start against the Nationals and it still applies. Maybe this is a good as it will get for Harvey. Maybe Harvey is not the ace the Mets thought. Maybe that’s something we should get used to.

Harvey said the simulated game over the weekend helped, but he gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings against the Nationals. He’s given up 14 runs in his last two games. He’s not close to figuring things out.

Collins gave Harvey the option of skipping Tuesday’s start, but he wanted the ball, which is to be applauded. However, leaving the ballpark without talking was classless.

Maybe he’ll post something on The Player’s Tribune.

METS GAME WRAP

May 24, 2016, @ Washington

Game: #45           Score:  Nationals 7, Mets 4

Record: 26-19     Streak: L 1

Standings: Second, NL East 1.5 games behind Nationals. Playoffs Today: First WC vs. Philadelphia

Runs: 178     Average: 3.95  Times 3 or less: 21

SUMMARY:  The middle innings did in Harvey again. After opening the game with three scoreless innings to provide a glimmer of optimism, but he gave up five runs in the fourth and fifth innings, including homers by Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon and Daniel Murphy.

KEY MOMENT:  Back-to-back homers by Zimmerman and Rendon in the fourth erased a brief Mets’ lead.

THUMBS UP: Asdrubal Cabrera’s homer in the fourth. … Two more hits from Yoenis Cespedes. … Eric Campbell’s two-run homer. … Kudos to SNY’s Nelson Figueroa and Gary Apple for taking Harvey to task for not talking after the game. Also to Ron Darling for suggesting the minor leagues was the best option. … Neil Walker’s diving stop saved Harvey a run in the second.

THUMBS DOWN:  Harvey gave up three homers and the bullpen gave up two more. … Stephen Strasburg and two relievers struck out 15 Mets. … Just five hits. … Lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo gave up a homer to lefty hitter Revere.

EXTRA INNINGS: David Wright did not play, but is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. … Ty Kelly went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his major league debut.

QUOTEBOOK: “It is what it is,” Plawecki commenting on Harvey leaving him to answer questions.

BY THE NUMBERS:  15: Strikeouts by the Mets for a season high.

NEXT FOR METS:  Matz starts Wednesday afternoon for the Mets.

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