Apr 11

Today In Mets’ History: Grote Homer Beats Reds

Not known for his power, on this day in 1971 Mets catcher Jerry Grote’s homer in the bottom of the 11th was the difference in a 1-0 victory over Cincinnati at Shea Stadium.

Batting eighth, Grote homered off Wayne Granger to lead off the inning. Grote homered twice that season and 39 times during his 16-year career, which included 12 seasons with the Mets where he carved a reputation as a defensive specialist with a strong throwing arm.

GROTE: Mets' best defensive catcher. (AP)

GROTE: Mets’ best defensive catcher. (AP)

Grote was a National League All-Star in 1968 and 1974. In those days, the NL was strong behind the plate with the likes of Johnny Bench, Tim McCarver and Randy Hundley.

How good was Grote defensively? Bench once said: “If Grote and I were on the same team, I’d be playing third base.”

Tom Seaver started that day and pitched nine scoreless innings. He was relieved by Tub McGraw, who worked two innings for the victory.

Grote also played with Houston (1963-64), the Dodgers (1977-78, and 81), and Kansas City (1981).

Grote was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame in 1992.

He is 73 and lives in San Antonio, Tx.

ON DECK: April 11, Mets’ Lineup Against Miami

Please follow me on Twitter.

Jan 23

Examining Nuances Of Cespedes Deal

I would be lying if I said I saw this coming. The Mets’ bringing back Yoenis Cespedes was not as predictable as say, the whiny LeBron James acting to get coach David Blatt fired.

CESPEDES: Coming back. (Getty)

CESPEDES: Coming back. (Getty)

I wrote the Mets could get Cespedes back if they let the market come back to them. That didn’t happen, but Cespedes playing in Citi Field in 2016 was made possible because the Mets made two huge financial concessions. The Mets agreed to terms with Cespedes on a three-year, $75-million, with $27.5 coming in the first season, after which he can opt out.

The Mets refused to go more than three years with Cespedes, but in essence gave him the money he’d get with a four-year deal.

The Mets made this deal simply because they couldn’t afford not to. The Mets have seen the Cubs, Nationals, Giants and Diamondbacks all improve, and the St. Louis Cardinals are always good. The Mets are banking on their young pitching to carry them, but those arms need runs.

New York surprised a lot of people when it reached the World Series last year, but there won’t be any shocking this summer. Everybody knows the attendance ramifications aren’t felt until the next year. The Wilpons couldn’t afford in letting the Mets regress to the point where they wouldn’t taste the benefits of last year’s success.

Without Cespedes, and David Wright a physical question, the Mets would be taking a gamble they could repeat with a stagnant offense similar to the one they had in June and mid-July before the trade was made. It is a gamble they would likely lose. All it would take to re-affirm that was to look at Wright’s career, After 2006 there was the prevailing feeling the Mets would live in the playoffs.

That wasn’t to be.

As far as the economics of the deal, the Mets have to look at this as a one-year, $27.5 million contract because if Cespedes produces you can surely expect him to opt out. And, it not, then they Mets would have him for three years and not have to pay a monster contract.

Actually, it is a win-win for both sides.

Too bad this couldn’t have been done sooner, at least before I wrote yesterday’s headline.

 

 

Nov 17

Collins Deserves Manager Of Year Award

The popular choice is Joe Maddon of the Cubs, but the right choice for NL Manager of the Year has to be the Mets’ Terry Collins. Considering all he went through this summer, and the preceding four years, how can it be anybody else?

Seriously, how can it be?

COLLINS: Deserves Manager of Year Award. (AP)

COLLINS: Deserves Manager of Year Award.

In normal seasons, Maddon is a great and easy choice, but the Cubs were consistently good this summer, and he is the popular, sexy pick because of the history of his team. But, what about Collins?

The Mets kicked away an 11-game winning streak to fall below .500. With David Wright out for over four months; Travis d’Arnaud also out for an extended period; there was a patchwork bullpen; and a team last in scoring in the NL at the trade deadline; and a young rotation, including Matt Harvey coming off Tommy John surgery, there were few that had the Mets finishing .500, much less reaching the World Series.

Yet, with their season crumbling and rumors Collins’ job was in jeopardy, he held his team together. Unlike other losing teams where players don’t hustle and point fingers, Collins’ players played hard for him, which is the ultimate sign a manager has their respect.

This award is voted on prior to the playoffs, so the Mets’ sweep of the Cubs can’t be considered. All too often, this is a popularity contest, which is why I can see Maddon getting this. But, the expectations of Collins’ Mets were low. He kept his team together and playing hard. He had the Mets overachieving, if there is such a thing.

Maddon and the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny also had outstanding years and normally would be deserving. But, this year, Collins deserves it most.

 

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.

Mar 30

Mets Add Lefty Reliever

The Mets addressed their need for a lefty-handed reliever today with the acquisition of Alex Torres from San Diego for Cory Mazzoni and a player to be named later. Time will tell whether they definitively answered the question.

Torres is 27, which is a good sign, and went 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA last year. However, it is interesting to note he held right-handed hitters to a .209 average (sixth best in the NL among lefty relievers), but left-handed batters hit .256 against him.

A very promising stat is he stranded 39 of 44 runners, which was the fourth-best percentage in the majors.

Torres was a rookie in 2013 with Tampa Bay and went 4-2 with a 1.71 ERA.

His numbers and age appear to be positive. However, with the Padres figuring to be competitive, what’s wrong with him if he’s traded twice in his first two years in the major leagues?