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.’’

Aug 06

Mets In Nationals’ Heads

The Mets aren’t saying, but I would guess they were thrilled to hear of the comments made by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth this week.

On the heels of being swept by the Mets, Nationals outfielder – and NL MVP frontrunner – Harper, when asked about the Mets, snapped: “I don’t give a crap about what the Mets are doing.’’

CLiTBzaUMAE6ODqHarper is diving into braggadocio, but with the Nationals trailing the Mets by two games, he sounds like a man trying to quell his own doubts.

Same goes for Werth, who all but discounts the Mets when he said the NL East still belongs to the Nationals, that it is their division to lose.

“I think it’s a matter of time really,’’ Werth said. “We’re a great second-half team. … Half our team has been hurt all year. That’s the reality of it. When we all get back, we’re right there, in first place.

“We’re [two games out] But I think going forward we can get all back healthy and get rolling and it’s our division to lose.’’

He might end up being right, but pennants aren’t won in the papers; they are won on the field and currently the Mets have the Nationals’ attention, regardless of what their players say.

Both Harper and Werth speak with a sense of entitlement, that all they have to do is show up. It is reminiscent of the Nationals’ front office when it shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the 2012 season, acting under the assumption the playoffs were a given.

They are not.

It doesn’t work that way, and the mere fact they are commenting about the Mets, seemingly by-passing them as threats is interesting. The Mets, wisely haven’t responded. Nor should they.

That the Nationals are talking tells me the Mets are in their heads. And, will stay there for a while.

The teams have six games remaining with each other, Sept. 7-9 in Washington and Oct. 2-4 at Citi Field.

Interesting doesn’t begin to describe it.

Jul 19

Did Mets Save Their Season Sunday?

Let’s assume the Mets find their way into October. If so, they might look at Sunday as a watershed moment to their season.

The Mets outlasted St. Louis 3-1 in 18 innings, but played poorly enough offensively to lose three games. Their hitters struck out 15 times, went 1-for-26 with runners in scoring position and stranded 25 runners.

iThere was a time this afternoon when I thought Cardinals manager Mike Matheny would better off just intentionally walking the first two hitters of the inning and going from there.

If nothing else it might have cut the time of the game to a brisk four hours.

But, how the Mets responded after losing the first two games of the series – including being pasted Saturday night – to avoid totally limping into Washington tomorrow was essential to their season.

And, it all began with the pitcher the Mets were almost desperate to unload, Jon Niese, who has given up nine runs over his last six starts. He’s also gone at least six innings in each of his last eight starts.

Part of the reason why the Mets toyed with a six-man rotation was to showcase Niese, and he’s pitched like a beast the past two months. He’s as much a reason as anyone as to why the Mets are just two games behind the Nationals.

Sometimes when a team makes a run at a season they need to steal a game like today and have an all-but-dismissed player like a Niese provide a lift.

The Mets seem to have more issues than a dozen years of Sports Illustrated, but they’ll wake up Monday morning in Washington exhausted – but in a pennant race.

And, isn’t that what we all want? And, if it stays that way, today could be the reason.

 

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.

Jul 03

Alderson’s Strategy To Improve Offense Is Hope

The Mets are falling fast in the NL East as management, led by Sandy Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager, as his biographer proclaims – sits idly by utilizing his favorite strategy, which is to cross his fingers and hope.

Nobody likes the chances of the Mets, once ten games over .500, to get past Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in the first two games of their series at Los Angeles. With a brutal July schedule, it isn’t a reach to think the Mets could be cooked by the All-Star break.

Alderson, who gave manager Terry Collins a “vote of confidence,’’ prior to Friday’s game, has three options to snap the Mets from their offensive funk.

The first is hope, which means to stand pat and hope one or two players snap out of it. Notably, the Mets need Lucas Duda, who is hitting .172 with one homer over the past 27 games. They also need the return of David Wright, but nobody can say with any degree of certainty when that could be.

The second is to trade one of their four young stud pitchers for a bat, but Alderson has shown no inclination to deal from the group of Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom or Steven Matz. Instead, Alderson prefers to trade either Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon. Niese and Colon have pitched well lately, but not to where they are drawing substantial interest.

Ideally, I would prefer Alderson hold onto that group and stack their rotation with Zack Wheeler next season. But, how often have the Mets had a chance to compete for the playoffs since 2006, the last year they saw October? It’s not unrealistic to think this could be their best chance for awhile. After all, Harvey missed last year with Tommy John surgery. Wheeler had it and won’t be back until next July. Matz and deGrom also had it. Nobody knows when the next injury will occur.

Finally, the Mets could bring up prospects Matt Reynolds or Michael Conforto, which he also is reluctant to do.

Frankly, Reynolds isn’t burning it up down below to warrant a promotion. The Mets’ thinking on Conforto is to keep him down because they are concerned about his psyche. But, if his psyche is so fragile to where he could be damaged by not producing then maybe he’s not as good as the Mets are talking him up to be, and perhaps they should learn that now.

Other teams, such as the Nationals with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, the Giants with Matt Cain, the Dodgers with Kershaw and the Cubs with Kris Bryant have done. These organizations are considerably more proactive than the Mets.

However, keeping Conforto down has more to do with economics than it does psychology. As they did with their young pitchers, the Mets want to delay starting the clock on their major league service time.

So, not knowing the economic landscape of the game or their budget five years down the road, the Mets are making a financial decision for the future over a possible chance to improve themselves now, a year in which they pledged to compete.

Just not smart, but nobody said hope was a brilliant strategy. So, Sandy break out the rabbit’s foot.