Jun 13

These Mets Made You Watch

Yoenis Cespedes has turned out to be one of those hitters, the kind that grab your attention and keep your eyes transfixed to the plate, whether you’re at the ballpark or watching on television. When he steps up, whether you’re heading to the concession stand or the refrigerator your heads turn to him like a rubber necker staring at a highway accident.

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

STRAWBERRY: Stirred us. (AP)

Everything can wait until you see what Cespedes does. It could be another home run; a line drive into the gap; or he could screw himself into the ground striking out. It doesn’t matter because it was an event.

Cespedes is one of four Mets that I believe who mesmerized us with their power.

Dave Kingman was the first. He was long and lean, once a pitcher. But, strong and launched 154 homers in his six years in two stints with the Mets, most of them high, arching moonshots.

Kingman came to the Mets from San Francisco, purchased for merely $150,000. He was the total all-or-nothing slugger with 442 career homers and 1,816 strikeouts.

Another was Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, who hit 220 homers eight years with the Mets. Piazza came to the Mets from the Dodgers – after a week layover in Miami – and lead them to the 2000 World Series. Piazza’s swing uncoiled, almost in slow motion, but the ball jumped off his bat.

Piazza authored arguably the most memorable homer in franchise history with his game-winner over the Braves in the first pro sports event in New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Others hit longer or higher home runs. Others hit them in October. But, Piazza’s was undoubtedly the most emotional and will never be forgotten,

Finally, there was Darryl Strawberry, the only one of the group who was home grown. He hit 252 homers in eight years with the Mets, and things froze at Shea when he came to the plate. Strawberry played for the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Giants – all four of New York’s baseball teams.

If there was one Strawberry blast that defined his power and strength, it was his blast off the scoreboard clock in old Busch Stadium.

There were other Mets who hit significant, if not dramatic, home runs. David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Lenny Dykstra, Rod Swoboda and Tommie Agee also hit memorable home runs for the Mets.

But, Strawberry, Piazza, Kingman and Cespedes made us stop and watch.

 

Jun 07

Lagares Injury Shows Lack Of Depth

What does it say about the Mets that they are willing to play shorthanded for the rest of this week in order to give Juan Lagares‘ partial tear in his left thumb a chance to heal?

For one thing, it says they aren’t comfortable with their outfield depth on the bench. For another, it says they don’t have anybody in their minor league system they are comfortable promoting now.

The Mets’ thinking is they want to see the inflammation go down and if he’s capable of gripping a bat. If he’s not by the time the Mets go to Milwaukee, a DL decision will be made then. Assistant GM John Ricco said Lagares will likely have offseason surgery.

“Because it’s on his glove hand and bottom hand on a bat, there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play with it,” Ricco told reporters in Pittsburgh. “We won’t know until some of the swelling gets out of there and he has a chance to see how it feels. … You’ve seen guys play with this and have surgery after the season. I would guess that would be the normal course.”

Against left-handers Jonathan Niese in one of the games tonight and Francisco Liriano tomorrow, Lagares would typically be playing center and Yoenis Cespedes would move to left.

Lagares was injured diving for a ball in the outfield Saturday in Miami. He didn’t play Sunday – TV cameras on him in the dugout showed he couldn’t get his glove on – and the Mets were fortunate they didn’t play Monday night.

As for Cespedes, he didn’t start the last two games in Miami because of a bruised right hip.

Alejandro De Aza represents the Mets’ outfield depth on the major league level, and there’s nobody the Mets are comfortable with in the minors to bring up now.

This isn’t a good time for the Mets to be playing shorthanded because the Pirates represent probably their closest competition for a wild card berth.

 

 

Jun 04

Hoping Flores’ Opportunity Is Legit

I am on record as being an advocate of Wilmer Flores long before the tears. He’ll be getting his second straight start Saturday in Miami as David Wright‘s replacement at third base. Here’s hoping this opportunity is legitimate.

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

FLORES: Be patient. (Getty)

By that, I mean if he goes hitless for two or three games that he goes out there for a fourth game. He played a lot last year when Wright was injured and Terry Collins needs to keep him in the lineup now. It has to be Flores’ job to lose.

Pulling him after a week for Eric Cambell or Ty Kelly isn’t a good idea. If they can pull off a solid trade now, go for it, but it really is too soon for a major trade.

I floated several trade options Friday, among them getting Kelly Johnson back from the Braves, Milwaukee’s Aaron Hill, San Diego’s Yangervis Solarte or the Angels’ Yunel Escobar. All are making more than Flores, but honestly, are any of them that far superior they should get the job instead?

Probably not.

It is also premature to move Neil Walker off second base and bring up Dilson Herrera. The latter has done nothing to prove he’s more deserving of a full time shot than Flores.

The Mets will never learn of Flores’ true abilities – and value – if he’s not given a long-term opportunity. If he’s not adding something offensively by the All-Star break, then explore other options before the trade deadline.

If the Mets appear too eager now in the trade market, they could overpay, so it’s in their best interests to stay with Flores right now.

Please follow me on Twitter

Jun 02

Mets’ May Review And Looking At June

Considering all that went wrong for the Mets in May, ranging from key injuries to slumps to Matt Harvey’s horrendous pitching, they were lucky finish the month at 14-15 and two games behind Washington.

The Mets ended the month by losing four series, but they enter June with the expected news third baseman David Wright will be placed on the disabled list for an extended period with a herniated disk in his neck.

CESPEDES: Mets May MVP. (AP)

CESPEDES: Mets May MVP. (AP)

June starts with a ten-game road trip, beginning with consecutive three-game series at Miami and Pittsburgh, places where they have struggled. It ends with four games in Milwaukee.

Noah Syndergaard (5-2), Bartolo Colon (4-3) and Harvey (4-7) will start against the Marlins.

MAY MVP

It has to go to the only batter who hit with any consistency, which would be Yoenis Cespedes, who hit .342 with eight homers and 14 RBI for the month. Making that more impressive is he’s entering the Miami series on a 1-for-22 (.045) slide. It should also be noted Michael Conforto, Lucas Duda and Wright didn’t offer much protection.

PITCHER OF THE MONTH

Despite spitting the bit in his last start, Steven Matz was named the NL Rookie of the Month by going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA for the month. He leads all rookie pitchers with seven victories, a 2.60 ERA and 53 strikeouts.

KEY GAME OF THE MONTH

There were several notable games and moments, beginning with Colon’s homer in San Diego and Harvey’s hoped-for turnaround victory on Monday. However, there’s really only one game that ratcheted everybody’s emotions, and that was when Syndergaard threw out Mets’ nemesis Chase Utley. Syndergaard was ejected in the in the third inning which disrupted the Mets’ bullpen for a week and Utley responded with two homers, including a grand slam.

KEY MOVE OF THE MONTH

The Mets had several options as what to do with the frustrated and struggling Harvey, but opted to give him one more start. Harvey responded by pitching the Mets to a 1-0 victory over the White Sox.

RED FLAG ENDURED

After losing Travis d’Arnaud to the disabled list, but Mets brought up catcher Rene Rivera, who has been impressive with his defense and throwing.

KEY ISSUE RESOLVED

The Mets traded for James Loney to replace Duda, who went on the disabled list with a back issue.

HEALTH ISSUES

Wright will be on the disabled list with a herniated disk for an indefinite length of time. … Duda and d’Arnaud are on the DL with no timetable for their return. … Hansel Robles has a sprained ankle.

SIX QUESTIONS RAISED

Will they generate any offense outside of hitting home runs?

How long will they be without Wright, Duda and d’Arnaud and can their replacements pick up the slack?

Will the new guys, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera, keep hitting?

Was Harvey’s start Monday a fluke or a sign of things to come?

Can the bullpen pull itself out of its funk?

BY THE NUMBERS

1-4: Harvey’s record for May.

3-3: Record in May vs. Nationals.

5: Homers given up by Robles this season.

5: Third baseman used so far.

6: Extra-base hits by Conforto for May.

33: Strikeouts by Curtis Granderson in May.

.208: Mets’ average with RISP.

3.56: Bullpen ERA in May after it was 2.71 in April.

LOOKING AT JUNE’S SCHEDULE

It begins with ten games on the road, including three at Pittsburgh, where they have not played well. Perhaps Walker can catch a Penguins’ game.

They return home for three games each the Pirates and Braves, and two against World Series opponent Kansas City.

They end the month with four games in Atlanta and three more in Washington, before starting a four-game series at home against the Cubs that extends into July.

Jun 01

Mets Wrap: Mets’ Lousy Hitting Wastes Another DeGrom Start

DeGROM: Great start wasted. (Getty)

DeGROM: Great start wasted. (Getty)

The Mets’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position, and manager Terry Collins’ insistence they are a home run-hitting team is beyond aggravating. It has gotten tiresome. Unless there’s a reversal in this trend, forget about reaching the World Series, much less getting there.

I don’t know how many times Collins said this year the Mets “don’t play small ball,” that “this team is built on power.”

Collins was at it again after Wednesday’ 2-1 loss in 13 innings to the Chicago White Sox, telling reporters: “We’re not a small ball team. We don’t steal bases. We don’t hit-and-run. To ask them to do something to do that they aren’t used to doing you’re asking them to fail.”

That’s blue-and-orange colored crap. Collins said the Mets work on their situational hitting all the time in batting practice.

“Every team talks about situational hitting,” Collins said. “Now it has to be applied.”

Now it has to be applied? It should have been applied since spring training.

Collins said it should be noted the team is without David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud, all now injured, and Yoenis Cespedes, who asked for the game off.

While that’s fair to note, it should also be remembered Wright is hitting .226 with 14 RBI; Duda .231 with 19 RBI; and d’Arnaud .196 with one RBI. The three have a combined 94 strikeouts. Cespedes appeared as a pinch hitter and struck out for the 45th time.

The power-laden Mets lost two games each to the Dodgers and White Sox. They scored only six runs during the Chicago series.

The Mets’ situational hitting wasted a superb outing by Jacob deGrom, who is winless in his last six starts, including a loss and five straight no-decisions. Three of those no-decisions turned into a one-run loss by the Mets.

Today they had 20 runners, but only one scored. They went 1-for-8 with RISP and stranded 14 runners. Also horrible were 12 strikeouts and scoring just one run after getting 13 walks.

Today was a microcosm of how off-base Collins’ reasoning is, and if correct, how poorly this team has been constructed by GM Sandy Alderson.

Yes, the Mets’ 73 home runs are great, but they are an aberration. Everything has to be perfect to hit a home run. The stride, the swing, making contact at the precise split second all have to come together. It might be the most perfect moment in sports.

But, you can’t live off swinging for perfection. History is full of powerful teams that didn’t win a World Series. Take a walk and advance the runner; bunt; steal; hit-and-run; get the clutch hit; and don’t strike out.

A more important and telling stat is in half their 52 games the Mets scored three runs or less.

METS GAME WRAP

June 1, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #52          Score:  White Sox 2, Mets 1 (13)

Record: 29-23     Streak: L 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 2.5 games behind Washington prior to the Nationals’ game Wednesday night.  Playoffs: Second, half-game WC behind Pittsburgh.

Runs: 195    Average:  3.75   Times 3 or less: 26

SUMMARY:  It just goes to show you can never tell what might happen in a major league game. Relief pitcher Matt Albers doubled off Logan Verrett to lead off the 13th inning – his first hit in nine years – took third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.

KEY MOMENT:  The Mets left the bases loaded in the sixth. Hell, they Mets left a lot of men on base all day. … Albers double was pretty big, also.

THUMBS UP:  DeGrom was superb and deserved better. He struck out ten. … Two hits by Rivera. … One run in six innings from the bullpen. … Two walks each by Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Juan Lagares.

THUMBS DOWN:  Hansel Robles left the game with one out in the 11th inning with an injury. Jerry Blevins came out but Collins wanted Verrett instead. … The Mets grounded into five double plays. … Michael Conforto struck out four times while going 0-for-6. That includes grounding into a double play. He could use the off day. … DeGrom’s bad pitch to Todd Frazier resulting in a home run.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Wright will get more treatment and One join the team in Miami. …

QUOTEBOOK: “He really battles. When you’re living on the edge, it takes a lot out of you.’’ – Collins on deGrom.

BY THE NUMBERS:  .208: Mets batting average with RISP in the last ten games.

NEXT FOR METS: They are off Thursday, then start a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins, with Noah Syndergaard starting.

Please follow me on Twitter