Apr 27

Fast Start Has Saved Mets

We always knew this day would come, Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who was hired in large part for his optimism, will now be forced to put into practice. Once 11-1, the Mets limp into San Diego tonight with a 15-8 record, having lost their last three series and their closer Jeurys Familia having blown three of his last five save opportunities.

Still, Callaway doesn’t appear flustered.

MATZ: Struggling.. (AP)

                             MATZ: Struggling. (AP)

“It would be frustrating if we weren’t where we’re at in the standings,” Callaway said after Thursday’s 4-3 extra-innings loss in St. Louis. “We’re still in a pretty good spot. What has happened the last week, or week and a half or whatever is not going to continue to happen. It’s just not going to happen.”

Keep a good thought, Mickey.

On a positive note, the best way to stop a fall is with your best pitcher and that’s Jacob deGrom.

On the flip side, the Mets are developing a staggering list of negatives, primarily with their pitching, considered to be their team strength entering the season.

Matt Harvey, 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA, is already out of the rotation, and Steven Matz (1-2, 4.98) and Zack Wheeler (1-1, 4.24) haven’t pitched well enough to stay in.

Closer Familia is floundering and AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins have done nothing worthy of replacing him.

Should the Mets opt to promote Robert Gsellman and/or Seth Lugo from the bullpen to the rotation, that would consequently weaken the pen.

Offensively, the Mets are down to their third and fourth catchers and combined they are hitting less than .125.

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .203. Yoenis Cespedes hit a 463-foot homer in St. Louis and is on pace to hit 34 homers. Big deal, he’s also on pace to strikeout 277 times. Not even his projected 155 RBI can make up for that many wasted at-bats.

 

Mar 31

No Problems With Mets’ Lineup Change

Two Mets who were hot Opening Day – Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki – are sitting today, and it was another good move by manager Mickey Callaway.

“I don’t want guys to sit around for five days,’’ explained Callaway as to why Travis d’Arnaud is catching and Juan Lagares is in center. “I have faith in every player here and guys should play.’’

That’s not to say Callaway will ignore the hot hand. For example, Amed Rosario had two hits batting ninth and Yoenis Cespedes drove in three runs in the second spot. In theory, it is supposed to give Cespedes more RBI opportunities. Now, if Rosario doesn’t hit or gets a day off, that might change.

It’s only the second game of the season so it is too early to make any judgments. Let’s hope this makes it easier for Rosario and he adapts to hitting in the majors.

Mar 29

Syndergaard, Small Ball Offense Get Season Off To Good Start

New Mets’ manager Mickey Callaway has to know they all won’t be this fun – or this easy. Everything fell into place for the Mets this afternoon in a 9-4 victory over St. Louis, just the way it should be on Opening Day.

“It feels great,’’ Callaway said. “What a ballpark. All of us, the coaches, were sitting there going, man, this is something special. This is a different place than most.’’

SYNDERGAARD: Ten strikeouts in opener. (SNY)

SYNDERGAARD: Ten strikeouts. (SNY)

A day that began with the sad news of the death of franchise icon Rusty Staub began with everything breaking right for the Mets, who lost their first eight Opening Days, but have gone 37-12 on the season’s first game since.

At 37-20 (.649) they have the highest Opening Day winning percentage in the Major Leagues. So much went right for the Mets today, beginning with Noah Syndergaard, who struck out ten and didn’t strike out a hitter for the seventh time in his career, second only to Tom Seaver in club history.

Despite the numbers, Syndergaard wasn’t happy with giving up four runs on six hits in four innings.

“I thought it was a great team win. A lot of fun,’’ Syndergaard said. “Kind of kicking myself in the butt for allowing that (Jose) Martinez guy to get a little too comfortable, but that won’t happen again. … I didn’t have command. In the last game (of) the spring I was comfortable, so I don’t know what happened.”

Syndergaard had thrown a manageable 52 pitches entering the fifth inning, but finished with 85, which is too many for a starter who wants to pitch deep into games.

Twice the Mets gave Syndergaard a lead he gave up, something else he vowed to improve on.

Complementing Syndergaard was an offense that proved power isn’t the only way to win.

“I just wanted to make sure the guys were in a good position to succeed,’’ Callaway said of his batting order featuring Syndergaard batting eighth, Amed Rosario ninth, Brandon Nimmo leading off and Yoenis Cespedes second. “We wanted to just make sure that we thought everything out when we set that lineup. We’ll try and do that every single time.’’

Callaway’s thinking was to stack the Mets’ speed – Rosario and Nimmo – in front of Cespedes.

“It made sense,’’ Callaway said. “It’s not as much about the pitcher as it is who’s hitting at the top of our lineup, and who’s going to hit ninth for us. It’s not going to be something that happens every game.’’

Rosario responded with two hits, including a two-run single and Nimmo reached base four times on two walks and two hits.

“It was a blast,’’ Nimmo said. “I was anxious to get into this game. Whatever they give you, take it. I think that’s the mentality of this team right now.’’

Mets’ hitters struck out eight times, but more importantly, drew nine walks. They also went 5-for-15 with RISP and drove in six runs with two outs.

Coming through were Cespedes (three RBI on two singles); Jay Bruce (RBI single), Kevin Plawecki (two hits and an RBI) and Adrian Gonzalez (two hits and two walks).

“I put our lineup against anyone,’’ said Bruce spouting Opening Day confidence. “We have veteran guys. We have young guys with so much talent.’’

And, today it panned out.

Mar 03

Prayers For Rusty

I knew Rusty Staub wasn’t in good health since his heart attack in October 2015 on a flight home from Ireland. Now, I read in The Post where he is battling kidney failure.

He’s not responding to dialysis and that’s not good at all. When his friends are requesting prayers, it’s chilling news, as a matter, of fact.

STAUB: Prayers for Rusty.

STAUB: Prayers for Rusty.

“Fred and Jeff Wilpon have been in contact with Rusty to wish him well,’’ the Mets said in a statement. “In addition, multiple people in our organization have also been in contact with Rusty. All of us wish Rusty and his loved ones well in his courageous battle.’’

We all have our own memories of Rusty. I have two, one as a player, and one of him personally.

As a player, I always knew he was a great hitter. Not a power hitter, but a somebody you always wanted up in the clutch.

It was during the NLCS in 1973 against Cincinnati – the one with the Bud HarrelsonPete Rose brawl – but my enduring memory came in the 11th inning of Game 4 when Staub crashed into the right field wall to rob Dan Driessen of extra-bases.

Staub sustained a separated shoulder that kept him out of Game 5 of the NLCS and Game 1 of the World Series against Oakland. Despite playing in considerable pain and unable to throw, he managed to hit .423 with a homer and six RBI in the Series and needed the center fielder and/or second baseman to take his weak throws.

It was one of the most remarkable performances while playing injured in franchise history.

I always admired him for that, for his help and financial aid to first responders, plus his expertise as a wine sommelier. Oh yeah, I always liked his ribs.

But, I covered the Yankees at the time and never had an opportunity to cross paths with him. Anyway, I was at Logan Airport one day waiting to board a flight that was delayed when I looked up from my paper and noticed Staub buried in a magazine.

I walked up to him, introduced myself and told him how much I admired him for his performance in the 1973 Series. I only wanted to say hello, but he was so gracious and we wound up talking for the rest of the delay about a myriad of topics.

Of course, I had a lot of questions for him but didn’t gush over him, but he also had many for me. I’ve seen him at Shea Stadium a number of times since and he remembered and was always gracious.

One of my favorite Mets, most definitely, and he’s in my prayers. I hope he’s in yours, too.

 

Jan 10

Bruce Agrees With Mets

I am pleasantly surprised, no, make that floored the Mets finally signed a free agent, and glad it was outfielder Jay Bruce. Primarily, because I didn’t want to see him traded in the first place.

Multiple media outlets reported Bruce agreed to terms on a three-year, $39-million contract. The deal is pending a physical and it is not immediately known if it contains a no-trade clause. Presumably, it does considering the Mets had previously dealt last year for minor league pitcher Ryder Ryan.

The Mets acquired Bruce, now 30, from Cincinnati in 2016. He struggled with the Mets initially but found his stroke in late September. I never bought into the nonsense that he was overwhelmed by New York, and proved that with 29 homers with the Mets before GM Sandy Alderson’s fire sale last season.

Bruce finished 2017 with a career-high 36 homers and 101 RBI in 146. He also hit two homers with four RBI in the AL Division Series.

I’ve always liked Bruce, but don’t think he’ll make the Mets appreciably better unless they are willing to make additional moves. Bruce is scheduled to make $13 million this year, which is only slightly more than the $10 million they were reportedly believed to have budgeted for 2018.

Initial speculation had Bruce seeking $80 million over four years, but there was little interest outside of the Mets, who as of last week hadn’t made an offer. Outside of familiarity, also tipping the needle in favor of the Mets is willingness to play first base in case things don’t pan out with Dominic Smith.

With Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto recovering from injuries, the outfield is considered to be a need.