May 17

Murphy Didn’t Leave; He Was Pushed Away

Regardless of what happens this week, you should cheer Washington’s Daniel Murphy every chance you get, just the way he was honored tonight. Make no mistake, although the Mets honored Murphy before the game with this video tribute, he is Washington’s now because he was pushed away. (NOTE:  You must scroll down to load the video).

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

MURPHY: Gets cheered in return. (Getty)

The Mets made Murphy a $15.8-million qualifying offer which he crushed much like all those home runs during last year’s playoffs. Murphy was a lifelong Met and wanted to stay here, but the Mets made it clear they didn’t want him. That’s why he’ll be coming out of the third base dugout.

A qualifying offer is much like getting a sympathy kiss on a date. Hell, if your heart isn’t in it, then why bother? The Mets extended that offer just to cover all their bases.

While their open flirtation with Ben Zobrist after the playoffs was obvious they wanted to move on, the Mets also made clear their intentions when they shopped him the previous winter. They also made it clear they preferred another when they squawked about his defense in left field and when he first started playing second, and that he didn’t have the power to play first.

The Mets stuck with Murphy simply because they didn’t want to spend the money in the free-agent market. Not insignificantly, money might have played a part in the Mets letting him walk away because it enabled them to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. But, it is an oversimplification to say it was Murphy or Cespedes because the latter was close to signing with the Nationals.

Frankly, the Mets were lucky they were able to trade for Neil Walker. They were further lucky in that it only cost Jon Niese.

Murphy wasn’t great on defense – especially in the outfield – but worked hard and made himself into a decent second baseman. Yes, he had his lapses in the field and on the bases, although his first-to-third sprint in the playoffs was as heads-up a play the Mets have had in years. And, yes, he’s not a power hitter in the classical sense.

However, I liked watching him play because he always hustled and played hard. I liked watching him because unlike a lot of players who passed through Flushing, he loved being a Met and he wanted to be here.

Murphy was unfairly criticized in the press for how he played and even his political views, but he loved playing for you folks.

If nothing else, no matter if he rakes or not this week, he deserves your cheers and appreciation. The crowd got it right tonight.

 

May 17

May 17, Mets-Nats Lineups (Updated)

NOTE: Tonight’s Mets’ lineup has been updated to reflect David Wright being scratched. He was originally scheduled to bat second.

Well, it’s here. What we’ve all been waiting for this spring is a few hours away at Citi Field when the Mets host the Nationals. It is the first of 19 games between the teams, which figure to battle for NL East supremacy this summer unless the Phillies prove to be no fluke.

Tonight we’ll see a classic pitching duel between the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard and Washington’s Max Scherzer, the latter who is coming off a 20-strikeout performance in his last start. Of course, Syndergaard has the stuff to reach that plateau some day.

The game will also feature the return of Mets’ 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy back to New York and the inevitable question of whether New York will pitch to Nationals’ MVP outfielder Bryce Harper.

Lucas Duda is not playing for the Mets because of a sore lower back.

Here are the lineups for both teams:

Mets

Curtis Granderson, RF

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Michael Conforto, LF

Yoenis Cespedes, CF

Neil Walker, 2B

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS

Kevin Plawecki, C

Eric Campbell, 1B

Syndergaard, RP

Matt Reynolds, 3B

Nationals

Ben Revere,  CF

Jayson Werth, LF

Harper, RF

Murphy, 2B

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B

Anthony Rendon, 3B

Wilson Ramos, C

Danny Espinosa, SS

Scherzer, RP

ON DECK: Murphy deserves your cheers this week.

May 16

Mets Should Skip Matz Against Nats

Steven Matz’s sore left forearm will be examined today, if it hasn’t already, at The Hospital of Special Surgery. If he gets a good review, he’ll throw off the mound Tuesday and possibly pitch Wednesday or Thursday.

I’m guessing Wednesday, because unless there is something wrong with him, I don’t see manager Terry Collins bumping Matt Harvey. Harvey is a basket case now and there’s no telling what demons would pop into his head if he’s skipped against the Nationals. If anything, after Harvey’s last start, he must get back on the mound. The last thing the Mets need with Harvey is for him to think more than he’s already doing.

MATZ: No need to rush. (AP)

MATZ: No need to rush. (AP)

I don’t see the urgency for Collins to juggle his rotation for the Washington series, regardless of what happened in Denver. The Mets are 1.5 games out of first place, and even if Washington sweeps them that leaves them 4.5 games behind with 16 games remaining against the Nationals to be played over 121 games with over four months to go in the season.

There’s plenty of time.

Frankly, juggling the rotation for one Matz start against Washington smacks of panic. The Mets had a plan with their pitching that until the weekend had them in first place, so there’s no reason to deviate now. Although Colon and Harvey were hit hard in their last starts, the problem is the offense.

The Mets are coming off a 4-7 trip, including being swept in Colorado. They scored 32 runs during the 11 games (2.9 average per game), and scored less than three runs six times. They were shutout twice.

They are playing poorly and this isn’t the best time to face the Nationals regardless of whom the Mets start. This series won’t make or break the season, but that’s the impression the Mets are giving by pushing Matz. If this is that crucial a series they should have skipped Jacob deGrom Sunday, or bring him back on three days rest.

If you recall, Harvey’s problem first stemmed with a sore forearm he tried to pitch through. The best option would be to continue with Colon and Harvey, skip Matz and go through the rotation one more time before going with him. They should put Matz on the disabled list, backdated to May 11, the day after his last start, and re-insert him into the rotation on May 25, which coincidentally enough, is at Washington.

The Mets played short since Matz’s injury, and putting him on the disabled list would enable them to add a bench player, preferably, one who can hit.

Matz needs to rest and take his time with this. The Mets don’t need Matz this week, they need to score some runs.

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May 13

Mets Considering Pushing Matz Up

Terry Collins reminds me of the weekend griller who can’t help poking at the coals – whether they need it or not. The Mets’ manager told reporters in Denver Friday they might bring left-hander Steven Matz prior to his next turn.

Matz will be skipped Saturday against the Rockies because of a sore forearm, which would put his next start Thursday against Washington.

As of now, Noah Syndergaard, Bartolo Colon and Matt Harvey are scheduled to start against the Nationals from Tuesday through Thursday. The Nationals are scheduled to go with Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and either Stephen Strasburg or Tanner Roark.

The Mets would clearly not skip Syndergaard or Harvey, but wbump Colon.

Yes, it’s Washington and the teams enter Friday’s schedule tied for first place in the NL East, with today’s game being the 35th of the season for the Mets. The speculated Matz start would be the 40th game of the season, or 25 percent into the schedule.

Is one game that important?

The division could boil down to one game, but for Collins to juggle his rotation this early in the season smacks of panic to me. All games are important, but it is way too early for this kind of move.  Even if Matz wasn’t nursing an injury, altering the rotation wouldn’t be a good move.

From his batting order to moving Michael Conforto around, Collins can’t resist poking the coals. Now, it’s the rotation.

It’s not even the middle of May and we’re already talking about the Mets screwing around with their rotation, placing ultra importance on a single game. Maybe if the Mets had Matz examined in Los Angeles, or sent him home early to be checked, I’d think differently, but the plan is for doctors to look at him on Monday.

Why is there such a rush to pitch Matz? The Mets won’t win the pennant in May, but their chances of winning could be compromised if they push the envelope and he’s re-injured.

Yes, when it comes to pitcher’s arms I am ultra conservative. I just wish Collins and the Mets were, also. That approach would serve them well.

But, they don’t and Collins keeps fooling around with the coals. That’s how you get burned.

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May 08

Mets Wrap: Harvey Comes Up With Best Effort Of Year

HARVEY: Best start of the year. (AP)

HARVEY: Best start of the year. (AP)

Matt Harvey touched 97 on the radar gun and struck out ten as the Mets beat San Diego, 4-3, Sunday afternoon. Couple that with the Cubs completing a sweep of Washington and the Mets are back in first place.

Seems like all is well again for the Mets.

A lot went right for the Mets, including another home run from Yoenis Cespedes, Kevin Plawecki is starting to hit, they were on the receiving end of a blown instant replay ruling, and Antonio Bastardo escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the eighth.

However, unquestionably the best thing that happened for the Mets was Harvey (3-4) coming up with his best outing of the season.

And, he knew it, too.

“I finally felt for the majority of the game a lot more comfortable,’’ Harvey told reporters. “I was able to pound the zone and throw all of my pitches.

“Mechanically it felt great. I just have to keep working on it. Everything felt good today.’’

In his four losses, Harvey’s fastball velocity was down to the low 90s and his breaking and off-speed pitches were off. Harvey knows he’s on his game not so much when he’s throwing in the high 90s, but “ when I can go inside and throw a change-up to a right-handed hitters.’’

Again Harvey stumbled in the fifth when he left a mediocre fastball over the plate Christian Bethancourt took deep into the second deck. However, unlike in previous games, Harvey rebounded in the sixth.

Harvey gave up two runs on four hits with two walks and ten strikeouts in six innings. Again, his pitch count was too high at 102.

Sunday was a definite positive for Harvey, but he knows for him to reach the level expected of him he has to give the Mets more innings for all those pitches.

However, on this day the concern level on Harvey was low. Just the way the Mets want it to be.

METS GAME WRAP


Game: #30   Record: 19-11   Streak: W 2

Standings: First, NL East

Runs: 133     Average per game: 4.4    Times scoring 3 runs or less: 12

SUMMARY: Harvey pitched his best came of the season, and was backed by Cespedes’ homer and a pair of two-out RBI singles by Asdrubal Cabrera.

KEY MOMENT: The Mets received a controversial replay ruling in their favor in the fifth inning when the review upheld the original decision that Andrew Cashner was out at the plate. Had the call been reversed the Padres would have pulled within 4-3 and had a runner on third.

THUMBS UP: Bastardo entered the game in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs, and proceeded to strike out Derek Norris, got Melvin Upton on a pop-up and struck out Alexei Ramirez. … Three two-out RBI. … Cabrera continues to excel. … Two hits by Eric Campbell, who started in place of David Wright. … Ten saves in as many opportunities for Jeurys Familia.

THUMBS DOWN: The offense stranded 11 runners on base. … Jim Henderson balked a runner home. … Addison Reed was off, giving up two hits and not retiring a hitter.

EXTRA INNINGS: The Mets bussed to Los Angeles after the game. … Neil Walker did not start because of a bruised right shin, but pinch-hit and struck out. … Cespedes hit his 11th homer. He didn’t hit his 11th last year until July 6. … The Dodgers will use three lefties against the Mets. … TOPPS will put out a special edition baseball card commemorating Bartolo’s homer Saturday night. It will cost you $9.99.

QUOTEBOOK: “It’s only May,’’ – Collins in response to a question of the Mets jumping the Nationals for first place in the NL East.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-for-19: Walker’s current slide.

NEXT FOR METS: Steven Matz starts Monday night for the Mets in Los Angeles.