Jul 15

Three Mets’ Storylines: Walker The Difference

On a day the Pittsburgh Pirates demoted Jon Niese to the bullpen and their general manager Neal Huntington lamented the trade that brought him from the Mets, the player they surrendered, Neil Walker, hit a three-run homer for the difference Friday night in Philadelphia.

“In hindsight, maybe the two fringe prospects and trying to figure out where to re-allocate the money might have been a better return [for Walker],” Huntington told a Pittsburgh radio station.

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

WALKER: Powers Mets over Phils. (Getty)

I applaud honesty – the trade has not worked out for the Pirates – but it’s pretty stupid to trash Niese, whom he admitted he’s trying to deal. As a GM you can’t devalue the product you’re trying to unload. That’s GM 101.

Sandy Alderson did the same thing with Ike Davis, and also wasn’t shy about ripping Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy.

Walker’s opposite-field homer to left in the sixth powered the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Phillies and kept them six games behind Washington. It was Walker’s 16th homer – he had 16 last year – to give him 40 RBI. He made an immediate strong impression with nine homers in April.

Walker has played well but hasn’t made Mets’ fans forget Murphy. And they certainly won’t if Walker leaves after this season while Murphy plays two more years with Washington.

Then again, and here’s a wild thought, what if the Pirates DFA’d Niese? With Matt Harvey gone for the year, and health questions with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, would the Mets bring back Niese? They did with Jose Reyes, so why not?

However, on this night Walker was the Mets’ main storyline.

The other two are:

BULLPEN BAILS OUT COLON: Bartolo Colon (W, 8-4) started strong, but gave up three unearned runs on four hits in the sixth.

Hansel Robles, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia combined to strike out five and give up one hit in 3.1 scoreless innings. Reed worked 1.1 innings, which I like. He’s strong and if the bullpen is a concern, manager Terry Collins shouldn’t be afraid to give him the extra out.

For Familia, he is 32-for-32 in save opportunities. Earlier this year Familia got his saves, but not without angst. He’s slider has a lot more bite and the confidence level is a lot higher with him now.

The Mets entered the second half with their bullpen a priority and one game won’t alter that thinking, but until those moves are made, this is what they need.

LAGARES SHINES: Juan Lagares homered, stole a base and manufactured a run with a strong slide, and made an outstanding catch in right-center.

Collins told reporters “that’s the kind of player he can be.’’

A Gold Glover two years ago, he was out of shape and a bust last season, but is playing with an aggressiveness the Mets should continue to expect.

May 08

Will Matt Harvey Ever Get That Great Moment?

Alex Rios’ two-out infield single was the only thing that stood between Matt Harvey and a perfect game.

Managers don’t usually say these things, but Terry Collins thought in the fifth inning Harvey was heading toward history. Even Harvey knew he was on Tuesday night.

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

HARVEY: Sniffs perfection. (AP)

“Everything was obviously working,’’ Harvey told reporters last night. “When I can throw my slider for a strike and also bounce it when I need to, that’s when it starts getting fun. That was definitely the best I felt all year.’’

He was that on and didn’t get it. The way baseball works, and Harvey understands this, is he could get it on a night he feels awful.

While we are engrossed in the no-hitter pursuit, they are rare because of the nuances in the game. Jim Qualls broke up Tom Seaver’s perfect-game bid in 1969 with a clean single, but as Rios showed they all aren’t line drives.

Rios beat out a dribbler in the shortstop hole. Other no-hitters have been broken up by broken-bat bloops or balls lost in the sun, or bunts. And, who doesn’t remember how Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game on Jim Joyce’s blown call?

Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone threw no-hitters with other teams, when their electric stuff lost some voltage.

No-hitters are flukes, thrown by forgettable names, and not thrown by the greatest arms the sport has ever witnessed. That Nolan Ryan threw seven and Sandy Koufax threw four, and Johnny Vander Meer had them in consecutive starts is incomprehensible. They had skill and stuff, but perhaps it was a matter of the Baseball Gods smiling on them those days.

Harvey has already lost two no-hitters after seven innings this year, so we know the stuff is there, but it isn’t always about stuff. Hey, if a guy swings a bat anything can happen.

What I liked about Harvey was his stuff, his demeanor and his concentration. Do you know how hard it is to breathe and focus when you nose is stuffed with cotton? Harvey started the game with a bloody nose that continued in the early innings.

His focus only sharpened.

What I also liked about him was his acceptance in losing the perfect game. He didn’t regret the slider he threw Rios, and praised Ruben Tejada’s effort.

“In that hole it’s tough,’’ Harvey said. “Obviously anything going away and then making that long throw, I knew it was going to have to be absolutely perfect. He made an awesome attempt.’’

Harvey remains at 4-0 after three straight no-decisions. His 58-12 strikeouts-to-walks ratio illustrates dominance on both the stuff and command levels. What can you say about a 1.28 ERA?

One more number about Harvey is intriguing, and that is his “24 Hour Rule,’’ in which he gives himself a day to relish in a good start or lament something negative, such as losing a perfect game.

Then, it is back to work. On Thursday he will start focusing on Sunday’s start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yes, Harvey has no-hit potential. No, I can’t say he will ever throw one, but I don’t care. Harvey might not ever get that great moment, but he’s on the way to a great career, and I don’t want to miss a start.

Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

 

 

 

Dec 22

Mets Outbid For Liriano And Ross

It has come to this, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks have outbid the Mets.

The now pitching-deficient and long-time outfield void Mets had their sights on left-hander Francisco Liriano and outfielder Cody Ross, but lost them to the Pirates and Diamondbacks, respectively, who offered multi-year deals they wouldn’t have dreamt of giving.

The Pirates, who were a feel-good story for much of the season before fading late because of their pitching, gave Liriano a two-year, $14-million deal.

Ross, who hit 22 homers with 81 RBI last year for Boston, was given a three-year, $26-million contract.

The Mets are interested in retaining outfielder Scott Hairston, but are reluctant to go longer than two years or more than $2 million, so there’s no chance they could have signed Ross.

As far as Liriano, they could have easily signed him with the money they saved by not bringing back R.A. Dickey.

But, neither happened, and signing Hairston probably won’t happen, either.

Aug 10

Today in Mets’ History: Remembering Don Cardwell.

Tom Seaver always said Don Cardwell was always one of the more important, yet under appreciated pitchers on the 1969 staff.

CARDWELL: Appreciated by his teammates.

On this date in 1969, Cardwell replaced Nolan Ryan in the third inning and went on to pitch four scoreless innings as the Mets defeated Atlanta, 3-0.

Cardwell offered professionalism and leadership to a young, talented staff. That season Cardwell was a study in perseverance. After a 3-9 start, starting in late July, Cardwell reeled off five straight wins, including a 1-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second game of a doubleheader, Sept. 12.

Jerry Koosman won the first game, 1-0, and in a rarity, both Koosman and Cardwell drove in the runs.

The victory was the Mets’ ninth straight, and came two days after the team moved into first place for good in the NL East.

Cardwell, the prototypical journeyman pitcher, compiled a 102-138 record with a 3.92 ERA pitching for Philadelphia (1957-60), Chicago Cubs (1960-1962), Pittsburgh (1963-66), the Mets (1967-70) and Atlanta (1970).

Cardwell has the distinction of becoming the first major league pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his first start after being traded. After the Phillies traded him to the Cubs, on May 13, 1960, he no-hit St. Louis at Wrigley Field.

That season Cardwell won nine games for the Cubs, but he also hit five home runs.

Cardwell retired in 1970. He eventually returned to his hometown of Winston-Salem, NC, where he died at age 72, Jan. 14, 2008.

BOX SCORE

CARDWELL CAREER

 

Jun 13

Today in Mets History: Strawberry delivers vs. Pirates.

Championship teams find a way to win and that’s the way it was for the 1986 Mets, a team loaded with stars and role players.

STRAWBERRY: Clutch in 86.

The Mets won with power and pitching, speed and defense. They were fundamentally sound, and played with grit and guile, but always with a confidence that they knew they were going to win.

On this date in 1986, they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-5, at Shea Stadium. Dwight Gooden gave up three runs on three hits, but didn’t coast because he walked five. Mookie Wilson and Keith Hernandez homered of Rick Reuschel, but the Mets needed Darryl Strawberry’s RBI single off Pat Clements in the ninth inning for the game-winner.

After Pittsburgh tied the game with two runs off Jesse Orosco in the ninth, the Mets turned to small ball. Wilson singled with one out, advanced to second on a grounder, then after an intentional walk to Hernandez – the Pirates, like most teams then, feared Mex in the clutch – Strawberry delivered.

And, Strawberry did it frequently. Of his 93 RBI, 19 came in the seventh inning or later when the score was tied or the Mets were ahead or behind by a run. He drove in 28 total when the game was tied at any time.

BOX SCORE