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.
 

Jul 18

Mets In Dire Straits; Chris Young Gets The Ball

Every season has one, a stretch of games defining how the year plays out. The Mets are in such a stretch and it is all right to wave the red flag.

Their losing streak is at five after last night’s devastating loss at Washington. They’ve lost eight of 11. Eight games over .500 is down to a shaky two. All season there was a nagging feeling the Mets were playing over their heads.

Could it be true?

The Mets are in the midst of 20 straight games without an off-day, including five more games with the Nationals and a West Coast trip to Arizona, San Francisco and San Diego, places they traditionally have not played well.

It also includes the trade deadline and whether the Mets will add pitching. They need a starter with Dillon Gee out. And, of course, you didn’t need to see last night’s game to know they need bullpen help.

The Royals designated Jonathan Sanchez for assignment. If the Mets have a chance to sign him they should. He’s still a raw talent, one with a no-hitter on his resume.. A change of scenery and return to the National League could be what he needs. And, it allows Matt Harvey more developmental time.

Reportedly, the Mets are considering Royals closer Jonathan Broxton. Perhaps the most important number regarding to Broxton is the roughly $2 million they’d have to pay him for the balance of the season. That’s a very affordable price for a chance to salvage a season.

Will the Mets get both or either? Should they regroup, beginning with Chris Young’s start tonight, and get on a roll in the two weeks left before the deadline, there’s still a chance for this to be a fun year. But, for that to happen, they must add pitching.

What was it Tug McGraw once said?

“You Gotta Believe.” It doesn’t matter if we do. It only matters if they do, and play like it.

 

 

 

Jul 04

Fourth Of July Good Omen For Mets

History dictates that whoever is leading on July 4th will make the playoffs. That’s a good omen for the Mets, who lead in the wild-card chase. By the end of the month, if there are trades, then the Mets will be buyers.

Their top priority is the bullpen as they have enough offense, despite limited power, to get the job done.

Let’s look at the other playoff contenders.

Washington has the best record in the National League and with its pitching could sustain it into the playoffs. The question here is what will happen if, and when, they shut down Stephen Strasburg.

Atlanta could make a run, but the Marlins and Phillies have too many issues.

In the Central, it would be nice to see Pittsburgh hold on, but the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers are still close. This division should be a scramble until the end.

In the West, it is the Dodgers and Giants, with Arizona 5.5 games out.

Things seem more definitive in the American League. I expect the current leaders to hold on, with Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Angels the prime wild card contenders.

Jun 21

Jason Bay Injury Could Benefit Mets

Nobody wants to see a player injured, and despite his lack of production I haven’t heard anybody say a negative thing about Jason Bay.

However, in the wake of his latest concussion, which could keep him out indefinitely, this could turn out to be one of the best things to happen to the Mets.

If Bay was hitting as they hoped, things would be different. However, this is a young team that is winning and developing a chemistry. They’ve stumbled at times, but find themselves over .500 heading into the Yankees’ series.

Having an unproductive Bay in the lineup, just puts a damper on things. And, at his salary they’ll play him and keep somebody more deserving on the bench (Kirk Nieuwenhuis?).

These Mets, with the mediocrity of the National League and wild card) has a chance to compete. And, should they not win, they have shown the mettle to remain competitive.

If Bay can’t earn his keep, then I’m for letting this team develop without him and continue to build.

May 18

David Wright Continues To Shine

National League fans have known for years how exciting a player David Wright can be. This weekend, Toronto gets to see the National League’s best third baseman, and arguably the best in the majors.

WRIGHT: On fire. (AP)

At least this year he has been. Another day, another key hit by Wright, who is in one of the hottest stretches of his career. His average is over .400 and his on-base percentage is over .500. Terry Collins wasn’t just blowing smoke when he compared Wright to Barry Bonds.

While Wright hasn’t hit with Bonds’ power, he is displaying the a similar plate presence and patience. Wright is laying off the down and outside pitch; he’s going the opposite way when he needs to; and he’s yanking the inside pitch down the line. And, when the pitch isn’t to his liking, he’s taking the walk.

Today, he had three of them in reaching base five times.

I watched a SNY special last night on the 50 greatest Mets. Wright was in the top ten, ahead of Jose Reyes. Before his career is over, and I’m betting he’ll finish it in Flushing, he could be second or third behind Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden.