Oct 16

Mets’ Top Three Surprises And Disappointments

Over the course of 162 games, there will be surprises and disappointments and the 2016 edition of the Mets was no exception.

CONFORTO: Big disappointment. (Getty)

CONFORTO: Big disappointment. (Getty)

I’ve narrowed it down to three of each:


Bringing back Jose: When the Mets broke camp, Jose Reyes as starting his suspension and nobody expected him to end up playing third base by season’s end. With the uncertainty of David Wright’s health, it’s a no-brainer to bring him back.

Keystone Karma: When the Mets traded for Neil Walker and signed Asdrubal Cabrera it was assumed they upgraded up-the-middle. Both exceeded their offensive expectations. Cabrera is arguably the team’s MVP. Walker was an unexpected power source until he was injured and needed back surgery. It is uncertain whether the Mets bring him back.

Rotation relief: When their highly touted rotation was torn down by injuries, the Mets’ season was literally saved by Bartolo Colon – who continued to amaze – and the additions from the minor leagues of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman. Without them, there would have been no wild-card game.


Injuries: It’s a long season and players get hurt. Wright being injured could have been anticipated, but for three of their young pitchers to have surgery – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz – and a fourth in Zack Wheeler to have complications couldn’t have been projected.

Performance setbacks: Michael Conforto was supposed to continue his development into a star, but regressed and spent a lot of time on the Vegas Shuttle. Center field or first base and some of his speculated landing places for 2017 if the Mets keep Yoenis Cespedes. Curtis Granderson didn’t turn it on until late in the season and trade-deadline acquisition didn’t start hitting until the final week.

Catching vacuum: For the second straight season Travis d’Arnaud was injured and didn’t hit when he did play. The Mets have to be seriously thinking what their catching options will be in 2017.

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Sep 02

Murphy Decision Will Haunt Mets For Years

It’s ironic even beyond Metsian standards to have Neil Walker announce his decision to have season-ending back surgery the day before Daniel Murphy comes to town with his first-place Washington Nationals.

I like Walker. A lot of us do. However, he’s a hired gun who could be on the road again after he heals. But, who doesn’t love Murphy – and cringes whenever he comes to the plate against his former team?

MURPHY: Got last laugh. (AP)

              MURPHY: Got last laugh. (AP)

Regardless of what GM Sandy Alderson said last winter, the Mets could have afforded both Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes, but for whatever reason didn’t want to come up with the coin to pay the homegrown player. Surely, the Mets could have matched the $37.5-million over three years the Nationals gave Murphy.

Whether it was his comments about having a homosexual teammate – Murphy said he could embrace him as a teammate but not the lifestyle – or that he wasn’t a great defensive player, or whatever other reason, he didn’t fit into Alderson’s “mold.”

Yes, Murphy had flaws defensively. Yes, he had mental cramps on the bases and in the field. But, then again, isn’t that a big part of Cespedes’ resume?

One thing you can say about Murphy over Cespedes is the former always hustles and plays hard. Murphy’s attention was never split between baseball and the golf course.

Of course, Cespedes has the greater athletic skills, but if he doesn’t always use them, what’s the use? Cespedes has the physical make-up of being a superstar, and as he proved last year the potential to carry a team.

Then again, something clicked between Murphy and hitting coach Kevin Long, and didn’t he carry them in the playoffs? And, it isn’t a fluke because hasn’t Murphy carried the Nationals this year to the point where he’s a serious MVP candidate.

The Mets searched for years to find a position for Murphy, who is a natural third baseman. They tried left field. They tried first base before settling on second base. Murphy has his head scratching moments at second, but worked to harness his talent. He made his fair share of head turning plays as well.

Conversely, Cespedes said he’d play center field – it was reportedly a key in signing him – but now it is left field or bust. Murphy did whatever he could to fit in and do whatever the Mets needed. It seems Cespedes can’t be bothered at times.

Infatuated with what Cespedes might become, Alderson opted to let Murphy go – they made a token qualifying offer they knew he couldn’t accept – and offered the mercurial outfielder $75 million over three years. That’s double what Murphy will get from the Nationals.

Because Alderson deals with Sabremetrics and prototypes he doesn’t see or acknowledge the rawness of what Murphy provides. Had Sabremetrics and Alderson been around in another era, would he have overlooked Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Brooks Robinson, Jerry Koosman and Mike Piazza?

Hell, he may have even bypassed Babe Ruth.

Now, with one month left in this season, it is clear Alderson made the wrong decision on Murphy, and not solely because Walker will have season-ending back surgery and may never play for the Mets again.

The Mets got a good year from Cespedes, but not exceptional because of his quad injury, made worse by them delaying a month to put him on the disabled list. By the way, he’s still not 100 percent.

Alderson doesn’t get a pass because of David Wright. After last season there should have been some reasonable expectation Wright could be injured again. So, with the Nationals set with Murphy for the next two years, the Mets will be searching for a second baseman and possibly a third baseman.

What about Wilmer Flores, you ask?

Flores is the Plain Jane you don’t want to take to the prom; he’s not the flashy platinum blonde homecoming queen Alderson lusts after for a player. I feel the Mets will underappreciate and eventually ditch Flores the way they did Murphy.

And, Cespedes?

Well, they gave him the option to opt out after this year. Instead of spending to plug the holes in their rotation, the bullpen, first, second and third, and in the outfield, the Mets will instead throw even more money to keep Cespedes.

In doing so, they will be stunting the development of Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo. They also have the decision on what to do with Jay Bruce and possibly Curtis Granderson.

And, no matter how much money they are willing to give Cespedes, there’s a good chance he’ll leave anyway and they’ll lose out on making deals to improve, elsewhere.

But, Murphy will be settled in with Washington.

Letting Murphy go was the lead domino in a series of moves that could haunt the Mets to the point where even all that great young pitching – with has three studs lost for the year – can’t carry the load.

Nice job.

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Jul 09

Three Mets’ Storylines: Murphy Deserves This

Daniel Murphy is just piling it on the Mets now. The one-time Met turned Mets tormenter with Washington stuck it to his former team again Saturday night.

Murphy drove in four runs on three hits – including a homer; missing a second by a few feet – in a 6-1 Nationals’ rout that opened their lead over the Mets to a comfy five games in the NL East. Murphy is a big part of that lead. Had he stayed with the Mets and produced the same numbers, you can make an argument the standings could be flipped.

MURPHY: Easy to root for. (AP)

MURPHY: Easy to root for. (AP)

Ask GM Sandy Alderson why they are not.“It’s always nice to beat a divisional opponent,” said Murphy as he suppressed a smile when asked if he took any pleasure in beating the team that shunned in the free-agent market.

“It’s always nice to beat a divisional opponent,” said Murphy as he suppressed a smile when asked if he took any pleasure in beating the team that shunned in the free-agent market.

Murphy is batting .437 with six homers and 19 RBI against the Mets. Overall, he’s hitting .349 with 16 homers and 64 RBI and if the season ended today, and it’s getting close to that feeling with the Mets, he would be a MVP frontrunner.

And, I couldn’t be happier for him. As a sportswriter, I root for good stories and Murphy is a good story. He was a great story last October, and before that was always an interesting story for the Mets.

For some reason only Alderson and the Wilpons know – but haven’t been forthcoming about – the Mets didn’t want him back, only giving him a $15.8-million token qualifying offer.

Maybe his politically-incorrect statements was the decider. Definitely, he didn’t fit Alderson’s Sabremetrics profile, which I always felt was overrated. His defense was never top drawer, but the first-place Nationals don’t seem to have a problem with his glove.

Murphy was a homegrown Met who always busted his hump for the team. He had some brain cramps, but there was never a problem with his heart.

I always liked Murphy when he played with the Mets and wanted him back, although I never believed Alderson would pull that trigger. The kicker is Murphy, after working with Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, showed the power stroke last year in the second half in the playoffs he’s flashing now.

One of the things I always liked about Murphy is he’s not a chest-thumper. When asked if he’s having fun, especially in the park where he blossomed last year in the playoffs, Murphy said: “We’re playing well. [Being called a] post-season hero is humbling, but there were 25 guys over there last year.”

Last year seems like a long time ago, and with each Murphy at-bat it’s getting further away. I don’t know if the Mets can regroup and challenge Washington after the break, but I am happy to see him thriving.

Murphy deserves to be a headliner, and could be one through 2018 with the Nationals, while the player they replaced him with – Neil Walker – could walk after this season.

Murphy was the main storyline Saturday. The two others were the Mets’ continued inability to hit with RISP and how Antonio Bastardo adds nothing to the bullpen.

METS WITH RISP: The Mets’ inability to hit with RISP has been a significant issue all season. They were 0-5 with RISP and stranded seven runners. If there was a turning point in the game it came in the first when the Mets had runners on second and third with no outs and came away with only one run.

Max Scherzer, who no-hit the Mets last year and has 29 strikeouts in three starts against them this season, struck out Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Nimmo to get out of the inning.

“It’s an age-old story,” Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters. “When you have a pitcher like [Scherzer] on the ropes early, you’d better get him.”

All season Collins said the Mets are built on power, which is not the optimum way to construct a team. Of all the telling stats about the Mets, perhaps the most significant is they have won only five games in which they did not hit a homer.

BASTARDO BOMBS OUT: Bastardo is not why they lost tonight, but continued to be a weak link in the bullpen.

Murphy took him deep tonight and also on Thursday. He has a 4.91 ERA and as simply not produced as the situational lefty.

The Mets enter the break with no shortage of needs, and a lefty in the bullpen is one of them.


Oct 03

Scherzer’s Brilliance Overshadows Syndergaard And Harvey

Outstanding pitching was the story in the Mets’ doubleheader loss Saturday to the Nationals. Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey were brilliant, but paled in comparison to Max Scherzer, who struck out 17 in no-hitting the Mets, 2-0, in the second game.

In doing so, he became the fifth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season, and first since Nolan Ryan in 1973.

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

SCHERZER: Simply outstanding. (Getty)

“I felt great tonight,” Scherzer said. “I had command of all of my pitches. These things are special. To do it twice in one season, my gosh, it doesn’t seem possible.”

Scherzer lost his perfect game bid in the sixth on Yunel Escobar‘s throwing error. He struck out nine of the last 10 Mets, with the game ending on a pop-up by Curtis Granderson. He also lost a perfect game chance when he hit a batter in the eighth inning of his June 20 no-hitter over Pittsburgh.

“He made every pitch he had to make,” said Mets manager Terry Collins, whose team has lost five straight and scored only nine runs in that time. So weak has been the Mets’ offense that it has scored one run in the last 35 innings.

In being swept, and with the Dodgers beating San Diego, the Mets kicked away home field, and Game 1 will begin Friday in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw. Sunday’s starter, Jacob deGrom, will pitch Game 1 for the Mets.

With several key injuries and a struggling offense, the Mets have their issues entering the playoffs. Syndergaard is not among them. Overpowering isn’t an adequate enough description of what Syndergaard was to the Nationals. In the final start of his rookie season, Syndergaard gave up two hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts in getting a no-decision in the Mets’ 3-1 loss in the first game.

Earlier this year, there was concern about Syndergaard’s ability to win on the road, but seeing how he stuffed Cincinnati last weekend, that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

Another positive was Harvey, who gave up one run in six innings with 11 strikeouts in an impressive tune-up for the pivotal Game 3. Harvey finished the season with 189.1 innings, 9.1 more than the proposed hard cap.

The flip side is Steven Matz, the projected Game 4 starter, who took an injection for his sore back. Matz’s start this week in Philadelphia was scratched and it was hoped he would throw several innings this weekend.

Now the thinking is the Mets will send him to the Instructional League this week. The better thinking would be to hold him off the NLDS roster, knowing they could bring him back in the proceeding rounds. Why take the risk of a re-injury, especially with a five-game first round the Mets have depth in Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese? They would lose that advantage in a seven-game NLCS and World Series.

Actually, the best decision could be to shut him down for the year.

Matz isn’t the Mets’ only injury concern.

Utility infielder Juan Uribe has a slight cartilage tear in his chest and might not be ready for the first round. Uribe has been a spark on the field and calming influence in the clubhouse. His absence was felt in the second game when Kelly Johnson – who hasn’t played third for the Mets – committed an error in place of David Wright to set up the Nationals’ first run.

Yoenis Cespedes, who has two bruised fingers on his left hand after being hit by a pitch, returned and went 1-for-3 in the first game. Cespedes appeared in the ninth inning in the second game as a pinch hitter and was Scherzer’s 16th strikeout victim.

Infielder Wilmer Flores has been bothered by back spasms. He didn’t play in either game and has missed seven of the last nine games.

Collins is not happy with how the Mets are closing.

“We’ve got to get the edge back,” Collins said. “We got to get the focus back, the concentration back. Those are the things that when you clinch early, you can lose. And those are the things we’ve got to regain.”

How long their season lasts depends on it.

Sep 09

The Dream Continues

Not only did the Mets sweep the Nationals for a second straight series, all three games this time were done in come-from-behind fashion. Not only that, the Mets’ pitchers in the first two games – Jon Niese and Matt Harvey – were torched, and Jacob deGrom was off Wednesday night.

None of that mattered as the Mets found away to win because they willed the outcome. As good as Stephen Strasburg was, you never had the feeling the Mets were out of it, but instead, it was only a matter of time.

“ I love where we’re at. We’re rolling,” said Kelly Johnson, who tied the game with a pinch-hit homer off Strasburg in the eighth. And. of course, Yoenis Cespedes, continued his push for MVP consideration, with a game-winning homer in the eighth.

That roll included Michael Conforto driving in an insurance run and making a run-saving catch. It seems like a long time ago that the Mets were reluctant to bring up Conforto as not to damage his confidence. It doesn’t seem like anything can phase Conforto these days.

And, for the third straight night, the bullpen pitched well, despite Bryce Harper‘s cosmetic homer in the eighth.

The Mets left Florida Sunday night having lost two walk-off games to the Marlins and their lead down to four. The Nationals were hot, having won five straight.

For those who remember the titanic collapse of 2007, when they blew a seven-game lead with 17 to play, there’s the thought that these are the Mets so anything can happen. However, it’s a different year with different players, and above all, a different chemistry.

For the past several years, the Nationals simply bullied the Mets. But, this year, the little guys have the muscle.