Nov 26

Who Is The Mets’ True Rival

It was rivalry weekend in college football, and while watching Ohio State-Michigan, I couldn’t help but wonder about the Mets’ greatest rivalry. From Day One, there hasn’t been one team that cause Mets’ fans blood to boil over the decades.

A rival is one where the teams compete for the common prize year after year. Often there is bad blood and geography often plays a role. Sometimes there’s a historical event that triggers the rivalry.

The Yankees and Red Sox are a prime example, with the tensions ignited by Boston selling Babe Ruth to New York. Although the Yankees dominated for decades, there was the element of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. In fact, the two superstars were briefly traded for each other in 1947 during a drinking binge between the two owners one night at Toots Shore’s saloon in Manhattan, but was called off the following morning when Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey called the Yankees’ Dan Topping and backed out.

Yawkey did say he’d go ahead with the if the Yankees threw in their rookie left fielder: Yogi Berra.

New York consistently beat out the Red Sox until the Yankees’ historic collapse in the 2004 ALCS. The rivalry still sizzles today, as does Dodgers-Giants and Cardinals-Cubs.

Nothing the Mets have comes close.

With the Mets’ roots planted from the Dodgers and Giants, I wonder wasn’t the interest primarily about fans of the two teams coming out to Shea Stadium to see their old favorites rather than a disdain for either?

Coming into the National League in 1962 with Houston, one would have thought Mets-Astros would materialize, but the teams were so bad until the Mets came out of nowhere in 1969 to win the World Series. That was the same year Major League Baseball realigned into two divisions.

The Astros were just another stop on the schedule until they played in a dramatic NLCS in 1986, won by the Mets. But the sparks from that series turned to be dying embers.

However, Mets’ rivalries varied by the decade.

In 1969 into the early 1970s it was the Cubs. It was the Cardinals in the 1980s. There was compelling baseball played against the Barry Bonds’ Pirates in the early 1990s, but later in the decade and into the 2000s until now the Braves and Phillies created the most tension.

However, the temperature against the Braves and Phillies mostly depended on who is hot at the time. With all three playing under .500, are you really hooked when they play? The same goes for Washington. It’s been ten years since the NL East went down to the final weekend.

What about the Yankees, you ask?

The Yankees’ “rivalry’’ is a manufactured product created by interleague play. They don’t compete in the same division, just in the same city and for the back pages on the tabloids.

Interleague has run its course. It only matters against the Yankees in the World Series.

Let me ask you: When the schedule comes out which games do you circle?

Oct 01

Collins’ Era Over, But Not Career With Mets

A season that began with high expectations, mercifully ended today for the Mets with an 11-0 rout by the Phillies, and with it the anticipated announcement of manager Terry Collins future.

With both Collins and GM Sandy Alderson saying the time was right for a change, the longest-tenured manager in franchise history at seven years announced he was “stepping down’’ to take an undefined role in the organization concentrating on player development and working with the managers in the minor league system.

COLLINS: Still with Mets (AP)

COLLINS: Still with Mets (AP)

As the Mets played out the string to finish a dismal 70-92, speculation of Collins’ future raged and boiled over in a vicious Newsday article that featured numerous anonymous quotes ripping the manager.

Through it all, Collins insisted he wouldn’t resign and wanted to stay in baseball. There was a tremendous negative backlash against Alderson and Mets’ ownership that makes me wonder what the Mets’ true motivation is in this decision.

Collins spoke with owner Fred Wilpon and COO Jeff Wilpon prior to the game and it is then that it is believed the advisory role in the front office was offered.

“I don’t know if I had it in me right now,’’ Collins said, fighting back tears when asked if he would have accepted an offer to continue managing the Mets.

“But right now, I am going to get some rest and figure out how to help out down the road. … It’s been a blast, but it’s time. This is one of those years you want to forget. There’s a sour taste, but it’s in the best interest of the organization and I’ve always been a team player.’’

In this case, being a team player prevented the ugly scenario of Alderson having to fire Collins. You could tell what happened today was orchestrated, and if not offered a position Collins would have forced ownership to fire him.

So instead of falling on the sword to protect the emperor, Collins looked after himself. He wants to stay in baseball and he’s going to do that with the Mets in a teaching capacity. It’s not managing, but he’s still in the game.

It’s not what he wants, but it’s what he needs.

Speaking in his finest legalese, Alderson said: “From our standpoint, I think we are at the end of a seven-year run and we need to make a change in direction. That’s often a code phrase for changing positions and jobs and that I think is what we foresee here.”

Alderson said he’ll begin the interview process immediately from the pool of Robin Ventura, Kevin Long, Joe McEwing, Alex Cora, Bob Geren and Chip Hale.

But first, he’ll purge Collins’ staff, beginning with pitching coach Dan Warthen.

“That’s the unavoidable fallout from a change in manager is that coaching positions become question marks,’’ Alderson said. “Then we will start in earnest over the next few days [interviewing managerial candidates]. We certainly don’t want to waste any time.’’

That’s because Alderson has a lot of work to do beginning with the pitching staff decimated by injuries. Without those injuries, and those to David Wright, Michael Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, there could have been the playoffs for the third straight season and Collins might have been given an extension and a chance to improve on his 551-583 record with the Mets.

“It’s baseball,’’ Collins said. “I have spent my whole life in it, and there’s good days, bad days, good weeks, bad weeks, good years and bad years. You have got to be able to deal with them all. You can’t just ride the wave all the time, so we’ll move on.”

Sep 05

Mets Should Skip DeGrom’s Next Start

With the Mets’ season long since over and Jacob deGrom almost a certainty to get his 200 innings, it might not be such a bad idea to have him skip a start. After getting shelled tonight, 9-1, by the Phillies, deGrom is 2-6 in his last eight starts.

DE GROM: Skip him. (AP)

DE GROM: Skip him. (AP)

DeGrom gave up a career-high nine runs on ten hits in 3.2 innings. He’s given up at least five runs in three of his last five games. Something isn’t right with the Mets’ ace, and don’t forget he’s coming off surgery, so what’s the problem?

Of course, deGrom will want to pitch, that’s the kind of pitcher he is, but if he’s fatigued, that’s how he could re-injure himself, so, is it worth it to push him?

I’m thinking not.

“That’s always the possibility this late in the year,’’ manager Terry Collins said when asked about fatigue. “He couldn’t get the ball down. It was not a typical Jacob deGrom start.’’

DeGrom, as is always the case, was stand-up.

“I wish I knew,’’ was deGrom’s response to if he knew what went wrong. “Everything was flat and up in the zone. No excuses, I was terrible tonight. Everything feels good. I just wasn’t making pitches. It’s unacceptable.’’

Collins said nothing about skipping deGrom. He has enough on his mind trying to figure out who will pitch tomorrow, as after the game he announced Matt Harvey would be skipped.

Sep 04

Wright Facing One More Surgery

It isn’t as if David Wright has many other options. At 34, and having played in just 75 since 2015, the Mets’ team captain will undergo right rotator cuff surgery Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to save his career.

“They just thought this was the only thing they needed to get done, to take care of, so he could get back on the field and continue the process of trying to get back,’’ manager Terry Collins said prior to today’s game against the Phillies.

Then, Collins added what was on everybody’s mind associated with the Mets: “It’s really tough to watch.’’

It is because Wright’s heart is still in his comeback; he’s not ready to call it a career.

Wright has three seasons and $47-million remaining on his contract, but insurance will cover much of his salary.

The odds are getting longer Wright will ever play again. But, based on what he’s meant to the Mets, he deserves the opportunity to get one more chance.

Aug 13

Mets’ Bright Spots In Lost Season

There are always a few rubies that can be found in this garbage dump of a Mets season. This year, the shiniest of the gems are Michael Conforto’s emergence of being a star and Jacob deGrom’s recovery from surgery to being an All-Star caliber starter.

The other highlights have been the production of traded Mets Jay Bruce and Addison Reed; the professionalism of Curtis Granderson; and promotions of Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith.

Once a question to even make the Opening Day roster, Conforto began the season in a pinch-hitting role, but his success, coupled with Granderson’s slow start and injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, increased his playing time and subsequently run production to the point where he made his first All-Star team.

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

CONFORTO: Huge bright spot. (AP)

Conforto’s two-run homer gave him his 26th of the season, but more importantly, the Mets a two-run lead in the first inning, one they never relinquished in today’s 6-2 victory over the Phillies.

Conforto hit 12 homers last season, so his home run ceiling was just a hunch. Now, with 26, you would think 35 could be within reach with 47 games remaining.

I’ve long advocated Conforto should hit third in the order, ahead of Cespedes, and hopefully manager Terry Collins will keep him there. I also like that even with the trade of Bruce, Collins is keeping Conforto in center field. If the rest of the season is about laying the foundation for 2018, then hit Conforto third and in center and leave him there – hopefully, for the next dozen years.

Conforto’s last five hits have been homers, and since the All-Star break has 12 homers with 23 RBI.

As for deGrom, he took a line drive off his pitching arm Thursday, but all indications are he’ll make his next start, Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. DeGrom is 13-5 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The word “ace,’’ gets thrown around a lot, but it’s clear cut when talking about deGrom, who works fast, and despite an overpowering fastball, more importantly has excellent command of all of his pitches.

With Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey on the disabled list, and Steven Matz struggling and winless in over a month, deGrom has been the rotation’s workhorse

The Mets are clearly in a rebuild, salary dump mode, which is why Bruce, Reed, Lucas Duda and Neil Walker are gone, and Asdrubal Cabrera and Granderson could soon follow. Jose Reyes will stay to be Rosario’s caddy.

Bruce hit 29 homers with 75 RBI to lead the Mets, and has already made an impact with the Indians, going 5-for-12 with three RBI. You can describe Bruce, Reed, Walker and Granderson as consummate professionals.

Rosario booted a play in his debut that cost the Mets a game, but Bruce and Walker were seen in the dugout giving him counsel on what he should have done differently.

As for Granderson, he’s still being shopped, and maybe raised his value with three more hits today, including a two-run homer. He won’t be re-signed for 2018 and it is puzzling why there isn’t more interest. Granderson has four homers and nine RBI over his last ten games.

With Granderson, Bruce and the other veterans with expiring contracts assuredly not going to be here next season, the future belongs to Conforto, Rosario and Smith.

They, along with deGrom, give the Mets something to build on for next year.