Jul 11

Top Ten First-Half Positives For Mets

As tempting as it might be to want to throw the first half of the Mets’ season into the dumpster because injuries and Daniel Murphy are forcing them in that direction, not everything has been a negative.

Since I’ve always been a beacon of positive thoughts when it comes to the Mets, I thought I’d open the break with the ten things that went right in the first half.

CESPEDES: First half Mets' MVP. (AP)

CESPEDES: First half Mets’ MVP. (AP)

1. It could be worse: That’s probably the biggest positive. They trail the Nationals by six games, but Washington also had its bumps to keep the Mets within spitting distance. From June 18-25, while the Nationals lost seven straight, the Mets won four of seven.

2. Replacing Murphy: Despite Murphy’s gaudy numbers, especially against the Mets, let’s not forget the power Neil Walker provided at second base with nine homers and 19 in April. Walker can leave after the season, but has been a reliable and productive bat.

3. Plugging the shortstop hole: Perhaps the Mets’ most important offseason acquisition has been the signing of Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year, $18.5-million contract. Nobody expected 12 homers and 29 RBI in the first half.

4. Resiliency: One of the Mets’ most important characteristics last season was their ability to adjust on the fly, especially with all their injuries. There have been no shortage of injuries this year, but the Mets plugged with Rene Rivera (for Travis d’Arnaud), James Loney (for Lucas Duda) and Wilmer Flores (for David Wright). The Mets also inserted Logan Verrett into their rotation and added Jose Reyes and Kelly Johnson, both of whom have already paid dividends.

5. A strong closer: Jeurys Familia has been spotty at times, but converted all 31 of his save opportunities. Addison Reed has also been a reliable bridge to Familia.

6. Bringing back Cespedes: Where would the Mets be without Yoenis Cespedes? Perhaps in a double-digit hole behind the Nationals. Cespedes has 21 of the Mets’ 122 homers, but pulled out of the All-Star Game with a strained right quad. Cespedes has had several brain cramps, but the Mets are contenders because of him.

7. Jacob deGrom finding it: It was a rough start for deGrom, which included ten straight winless starts. However, he’s back in a groove, which is imperative considering the loss of Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard’s health status entering the second half. Of course, Syndergaard’s All-Star first half was a positive.

8. Bartolo Colon never losing it: The 43-year-old Colon was named as a replacement to the NL All-Star team, and it is well deserved. The plan was to move him to the bullpen when Zack Wheeler is promoted. However, that won’t be until mid-August.

9. Promising young outfielders: Michael Conforto dazzled us in April, but sputtered and was sent to the minors. However, instead of sulking he appears to have regained his stroke. When Conforto was optioned Brandon Nimmo was promoted and excited us with his enthusiasm. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t see them together in the second-half outfield, but they will be paired soon enough.

10. Battling the Central Division: Last season the Mets were swept by both the Pirates and Cubs, but this season they are 3-3 against Pittsburgh and 4-0 so far against the Cubs. And, for good measure, they won two of three in Cleveland.

 

Jul 03

Today in Mets’ History: Mets, Straw, outlast Astros.

Resiliency was one of the best descriptors of the 1986 Mets. They dominated with an attitude that they were never beaten.

STRAWBERRY: Big in the clutch in 86.

On this day against future playoff opponent Houston, the Mets overcame two two-run deficits to beat the Astros, 6-5, in 10 innings.

Down 2-0 with Ron Darling pitching, the Mets tied the game, 3-3, in the fifth inning on Darryl Strawberry’s two-run homer off Jim Deshaies.

Houston regained the lead, 5-3, in the 10th against Jesse Orosco on Phil Garner’s two-run homer, but the Mets came back with three on Strawberry’s two-run, game-tying homer and Ray Knight’s game-winner off Frank DiPino.

BOX SCORE

Strawberry was such a clutch player that season, driving in 24 runs with two outs and runners in scoring position and 60 runs with the game within two runs either way.

 

Jul 15

Second-half opens with questions.

The Mets open the second half of what has been a surprising season tonight in San Francisco a team with confidence and resiliency – just four games behind Atlanta despite several questions.

Many of those questions were only partially addressed and remain to the point where they are issues.

Here’s the top five questions for the Mets entering the second half:

BELTRAN: Back tonight, but at what percent?

1. QUESTION: How healthy is this team?

ASSESSMENT: The Mets will get Carlos Beltran back tonight, but don’t know how he’ll respond to a heavy workload. For now the plan is to juggle playing time between Beltran, Angel Pagan and Jeff Francoeur, with the latter’s time reduced the most. Beltran returns to center and the clean-up, but don’t expect him to immediately be in All-Star form.

Another pressing issue, or at least it’s turning out that way, is Jose Reyes, who strained his right oblique muscle, June 30. Reyes sat out a handful of games before the Mets foolishly let him return only to bat right-handed, even against righty pitchers. Had Reyes been placed on the disabled list originally, or continued to sit until he was 100 percent, he might be fine today.

Instead, Reyes is still ailing and considered day-to-day. The Mets are still toying with him batting right-handed exclusively and not waiting until he’s 100 percent. Reyes aggravated the injury and the Mets are pushing their luck.

Also, Mike Pelfrey, after a string of non-descript to poor starts, says he might have a dead arm, although not an injury it is physical related.

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Apr 18

April 18.10: About Last Night: Will it spur the Mets?

Not all games are created equal, either in consequence or drama. Yesterday’s 6:53, 20-inning endurance test sent Jose Reyes’ spikes and bat to the Hall of Fame, an indication of something special.

There are dozens and dozens of numbers spawning from this game, and an equal number of snap shot memories, beginning with Alex Cora’s sprawling catch into the stands to rob Matt Holliday (pictured).

Take away that catch, and maybe you take away 10 innings of history.

They will be talking about last night for years, but what remains uncertain is how the victory will play out this season for the struggling Mets.

The attributes of grit and resiliency, patience and perseverance, hustle and clutch, all surfaced last night – for both teams – and for the Mets they had been qualities lacking.

“This game] was big for us…We needed to win this game,” Jerry Manuel said. “They were fighting all day to stay in the game. Hopefully, that’s a sign of things to come for us…We were able to hang around, hang around, hang around…Lay on the ropes for about nine innings and then waited for all the other guys to get out of the game.”

It’s an oversimplification to suggest the Mets have turned around their season, but it is not a reach to say last night might be the spark they needed.

When the Mets were in Colorado they took in the Nuggets came. It was to be a bonding exercise. They promptly lost two of three to the Rockies. It’s impossible for a team to bond more than in a game like last night.

The starter, Johan Santana, pitched seven brilliant innings, and 13 innings later was on the bench in uniform wearing a rally cap. Every Met, save Oliver Perez, played and contributed something. Perez, in fact, was ready to pinch hit.

The bullpen gave up one run in 13 innings, but despite all the walks issued it continually refused to yield. Three times in extra innings the Cardinals left the bases loaded.

The offense didn’t get its first hit until the sixth inning, and consisted of strikeout after strikeout from David Wright and Jason Bay, until Jeff Francoeur and Jose Reyes delivered sacrifice flies.

The Cardinals had a half-dozen chances to win, but the Mets found a way to deny them until like a child confronted with a math problem, figured out a way.

It remains to be seen whether the Mets found an answer they can build on, but the opportunity is there.

Oct 22

Talkin’ World Series Baseball: Game 1.

World Series Chat

World Series Chat

Every World Series has its storyline, but when was the last time we had a really compelling Classic? Probably Angels-Giants in 2002. Yankees and D-Backs in 2001, for sure.

This one has that capability as it pits two gritty teams, clubs with resiliency to match their talent. Tampa Bay has that karma thing going for it, but let’s not overlook the Phillies, no matter how much you hate them.

They also can make a destiny argument.

Both teams can mash, but the Phillies have Ryan Howard, capable of controlling a Series. The Rays have a young, talented staff, but Philadelphia probably has the best pitcher in Cole Hamels and the dominant closer in Brad Lidge.

I believe the Rays shook the jitters when they blew Game 5 at Boston and hung on to win. They won’t be rattled. I think they’ll prevail in seven.

And if they don’t? Well, I’m happy if it goes seven.