Oct 09

Mets A Team To Embrace Destiny

Can the Mets beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, two of the best pitchers in the National League in the first two games of the Division Series?

Hell yes. They can do it because they are throwing Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, who are also two of the best pitchers in the National League. They also have Matt Harvey going in Game 3.

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight.  (Getty)

DeGROM: It begins with him tonight. (Getty)

The Dodgers have been in the playoffs in recent years and made early exits, and they’ve done it with Kershaw. There’s nothing new about them that suggests this year will be any different.

The Mets on the other hand have been on a roller coaster ride this season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. I’ve written it several times this summer – when I’m not tweaking Harvey (yeah, yeah, I know I get on him a bit) – that this can be a team of destiny.

Think about how many significant players who’ve been out at times because of injuries: David Wright, Lucas Duda, Travis d’Arnaud, Zack Wheeler, Josh Edgin, Jerry Blevins, Michael Cuddyer and Bobby Parnell.

All important players they couldn’t afford to lose, yet here we are, hours away from Game 1 of the NLDS.

How many playoff teams entered the season without a commitment to a shortstop? I can only think of one, and that’s the Mets. Yet, here we are. Wilmer Flores took to the position, was almost traded, and then captured our hearts with his tears.

The Mets lost their closer Jenrry Mejia to suspension, yet Jeurys Familia stepped in to tie a club record in saves. He could be the team’s MVP. That stuff doesn’t usually happen.

The Mets don’t have a traditional lefty specialist, yet they are finding a way.

This is a team that didn’t have a leadoff hitter, yet Curtis Granderson stepped in and produced to the point where he could be the Mets’ MVP, if not Familia. Championship teams always have that one player who expands his role, that for the Mets, that’s Granderson.

They lose Wright for nearly five months, yet in his first at-bat off the DL he hits a homer. You don’t call that storybook?

To get to the playoffs this year, the Mets needed to play even with the Nationals. I don’t want to hear that the Mets backed in because the Nationals choked. The Mets kicked the stuffing out of them to the point where the likely NL MVP, Bryce Harper, said he wants to win.

When the Mets were floundering in July, there was an infusion of new blood when Michael Conforto was called up, and the trades for Yoenis Cespedes, Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and Tyler Clippard.

There’s something special about this group that through the injuries and changing roles of players that it has persevered.

Special teams find a way to get it done despite the obstacles and that’s what this team has done.

So, to answer the first question, yes the Mets can beat Kershaw and Greinke. And, for that matter, they can beat anybody else, too.

 

Sep 24

What’s Mets’ October Thinking On Matz?

The Mets’ magic number is down to three games following tonight’s victory in Cincinnati, but getting a step closer to the postseason for the first time since 2006 doesn’t mean they are any closer to setting Steven Matz‘s playoff role.

Matz hasn’t lost in six career starts, but hasn’t been as good as he was prior to going on the disabled list in early July. Tonight the Reds hit him for three runs on 10 hits in 5.2 innings, in which he threw 93 pitches. The damage against him would have been greater had he not struck out eight.

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

MATZ: How will he be used? (Getty)

Matz has a power left arm and a bright future, but does that future include a spot in the playoff rotation? He’ll make the playoff roster, but his role hasn’t been announced. We just know he’ll be there.

I’m thinking there are four potential roles for him:

* He could be one of four starters, with the others being Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. This would leave bullpen roles for Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese.

* Because of the uncertainty surrounding Harvey with his innings, Matz could be in the rotation along with Niese or Colon, with Harvey coming out to the bullpen. This would work when Harvey would come out to start an inning.

Because of the mystery surrounding this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mets already know they might leave Harvey off the playoff roster, and in that case Matz would likely get the starting spot.

* Again, because of Harvey’s innings issue, if he is to pitch half-games in the playoffs, perhaps he could be used as the second arm in the game to pitch in short relief.

* Finally, because of injury questions with relievers Carlos Torres and Tyler Clippard, Matz could be utilized as a situational lefty or as the seventh inning specialist.

The wild card in all this is Harvey’s innings. Even without Harvey, or with him in a reduced role, the Mets have more of a need in the bullpen than in the rotation.

 

Sep 11

Don’t Figure Cespedes Returning

Count me among the group wanting the Mets to bring back Yoenis Cespedes, although I’m not confident in their ability to do so. They have the money, but I don’t see them going $150-million over seven, which would be the starting point.

The Mets won’t bring back Daniel Murphy or Bartolo Colon – which could come back to bite them – and Michael Cuddyer will be gone after next season and Curtis Granderson will be out after two more years.

CESPEDES: Want him back. (AP)

CESPEDES: Want him back. (AP)

I see the Mets making an offer, but not going all out. As good as Cespedes has been, I see the Mets falling short. Somehow, I see this going the way of Jose Reyes.

Another thing I don’t see is Cespedes winning the NL Most Valuable Player Award. As somebody who has voted for these awards, the thought process of most voters is to look at the entire body of work, and for Cespedes, that will be only two months in the National League.

Cespedes’ season has been terrific, but the award is for what he did in that league – hence, NL MVP. Bryce Harper, despite his team falling, still had the best season of anybody in the National League. Even Cespedes’ yearlong composite numbers for both leagues aren’t as good as Harper’s in the National League.

The Mets could have two postseason awards, and it’s not something anybody could have envisioned. GM Sandy Alderson for Executive of the Year and Terry Collins for Manager of the Year.

At one time I briefly thought Noah Syndergaard had a chance for Rookie of the Year, but that faded, and Michael Conforto, in case you’re wondering, hasn’t been around enough.

Of course, isn’t the important thing the World Series trophy? That’s the prize and it is within sight.

Aug 08

Want Mets To Go For The Throat

Let’s not have any of this wild card talk, it’s up to the Mets to go for the throat, and as Bob Murphy once so eloquently said, “win the damn thing.’’

For the first time in franchise history, the Mets overcame deficits in each of the last three innings to beat Tampa Bay last night.

MURPHY: ``Win the damn thing.'' (Mets)

MURPHY: “Win the damn thing.” (Mets)

It was an effort manager Terry Collins correctly labeled “pure character,’’ as the Mets increased their winning streak to seven straight.

Noah Syndergaard takes the ball tonight with the objective of putting the Mets games over .500, where they were when they won 11 straight games.

The Mets have won 18 of their 59 games – tied for eighth with the game’s best record – in those two winning streaks. It’s numbers like those that win pennants.

With things going their way and their lead over the Nationals now up to 2.5 games, the Mets want to win this thing going away as to avoid the wild-card play-in scenario and to set their rotation as they please. Honestly, I never thought I would write those words this year.

If the season ended today, the Mets, Cardinals and Dodgers would be the division winners and Pittsburgh and Chicago would be the wild cards.

Things frequently fluctuate this time of year and there’s so much more of the season to be played. The Mets are starting their push down the stretch at a good time, and they are gradually improving on some important team stats. They’ve now won four straight on the road to improve to 21-32 (still the worse among those National League teams that would qualify for the postseason) and their runs differential is now plus-16.

In addition, Lucas Duda is hitting homers; David Wright could begin a rehab-assignment on Monday; and the team was energized by the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.

The Mets still have issues, including their bullpen (which is always critical in the playoffs), but as they were in April they are again a thrill to watch.

But, let’s not have them be content with playing well, but let’s have this be like the college football rankings and go heavy on the style points. Let’s have them put this away and “win the damn thing.’’

Jul 17

Oddsmakers, And Numbers, Don’t Like Mets

Last year’s National League champions, San Francisco, won 88 games to qualify as a wild-card entry. For the Mets to win that many games, they must go 41-32, nine games over .500.

Oddsmakers have the Mets at 33-1 to win the World Series, this after being 25-1 on July 1. Evidently, that four-game winning streak entering the break carried little goodwill.

We shall see what the Mets are made of after the first three series of the second half – at St. Louis and Washington, and home to the Dodgers.

The Mets are stacking their rotation for the Washington series, with Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. And, since Syndergaard goes tonight at St. Louis, it computes to the five-man rotation.

That means Harvey will get his way, for at least for the near future. You wanted it big boy, now just pitch.

“For us to stay in this race, we’ve got to beat Washington,’’ said Collins. “That is why we aligned the rotation the way we did.’’

Sure, the Washington games are important, but if the Mets lose in St. Louis but beat the Nationals, what have they gained?

The bottom line is all the games are important to the Mets, who will attempt to reach the postseason for the first time since 2006, but with an offense ranked 28th in scoring at 310 runs, which is roughly 3.5 a game.

With a 3.23 ERA, there is virtually no margin for error, and making it all the more difficult is there’s no imminent help on the horizon, whether from outside the organization; in the minor leagues; or from the return of the injured David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets’ primary competition for the wild-card at Pittsburgh, Chicago and San Francisco. They currently trail the Pirates and Cubs, but are one game up on the Giants. Also, all three teams are .500 or better on the road while the Mets have been dismal away from home. And, of course, the Giants have a championship pedigree.

GM Sandy Alderson has taken heat, and deservedly so, for not being aggressive in the trade market.

He did an admirable job cutting payroll and jettisoning the likes of Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo and others, but somewhere in his contract his job description there needs to be a clause about putting a winning team on the field, not a cheap one.