Sep 23

Mets Magic? To Be Determined

Greetings on the day after the latest Mets’ miracle. There have been times in my coverage of the Mets – which began in 2006 (and since 1998 overall of New York baseball) – where I have been called a curmudgeon, which is not entirely untrue.

I try to take more of a down-the-middle approach in my emotional perspective of the team. I don’t get too high or too low, and believe I’ve fulfilled my responsibility if there’s a balance between those who like my stuff and those who hate me.

COLLINS: Will he be smiling in a week? (AP)

COLLINS: Will he be smiling in a week? (AP)

There are times, I admit, when I take the hatred as a compliment.

Either way, after the Asdrubal Cabrera’s game-winner last night, the bottom line is the Mets remain tied with San Francisco and hold a slim lead over the Cardinals for the wild-card. Cabrera’s moment in Mets’ history is contingent on how this all plays out.

Will it be a Super Nova or a star that forever burns bright, like the ball that got by Bill Buckner?

It’s just stardust if the Mets fade and don’t make it; it’s special if they go on to win the World Series. The moment loses luster if they don’t run the table.

Can we agree this business of the Mets’ schedule giving them an advantage is nonsense if they don’t capitalize? Let’s face it, without Cabrera last night, and what Jose Reyes did shortly before, they would have lost four straight home games to sub-.500 teams.

The remaining schedule is largely irrelevant because: 1) those teams would love nothing more than to put it to these uppity New Yorkers; 2) those players are competing for 2017 jobs; 3) September call-ups add an unknown element to the stew; and, 4) after this weekend the last six games are on the road.

For those who insist the schedule means something, if the beginning of this week didn’t convince you, try this, if the Mets don’t make the playoffs, the biggest statistic working against them is that 26 of their 72 losses (36 percent) have been against sub-.500 Atlanta (10), Colorado (6), Philadelphia (5) and Arizona (5).

They lost another six to Miami, whom they play three games next week on the road.

Perhaps the Mets were due to win last night. Sometimes the odds work in their favor. But, was it magic? I wouldn’t go that far.

After all, there have been several times this season when it would have been easy to conclude they turned it around.

After a sluggish start, they closed April by winning 11 of 12 games, but limped through May with seven losses against cupcakes Atlanta, San Diego and Colorado.

They lost five games in June to the Braves and were swept in a three-game series in Washington to finish that month only four games over .500. The Mets appeared to turn it around with a four-game sweep of the Cubs in July, but gave up that momentum by losing three of four at home to the Nationals heading into the break.

You’ll recall manager Terry Collins saying it was “essential we play well,” in the stretch entering the break and coming out for the second half. They entered the break six games over .500 but ended July only four games over.

The Mets nose-dived to two games under in mid-August before Bartolo Colon stopped the hemorrhaging by beating the Giants in San Francisco. They went 9-2 to close August to give their season alive.

Unquestionably, the Mets have been snakebit with injuries to their young, vaunted rotation. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are all gone. But, for all their bad luck, they’ve been kept afloat by Colon, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and tonight’s spot starter Gabriel Ynoa, and the bullpen duo of Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia. Today we learned Saturday’s starter, Noah Syndergaard, will be scratched in favor of Sean Gilmartin because of a strep throat.

No doubt, the baseball Gods are toying with Collins.

Bad luck offset by good? Perhaps. But, Lugo has been brought down a peg and Reed and Familia have taken their lumps.

Wilmer Flores helped carry the team for a while, but hasn’t played in over a week because of a bad wrist (Collins took the hit for that by saying he should have used a pinch-runner). The Jay Bruce trade did not work out, but was offset by the resurgence of power from Curtis Granderson.

Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes spent time on the disabled list, but came off smoking. Cespedes is now mired in a slump, although he came through with a big hit last night.

Matt Reynolds, James Loney, Brandon Nimmo, Rene Rivera, Reyes and T.J. Rivera have either come up from the minors or were rescued off the scrap team to produce big moments. However, Michael Conforto was sent down and this season has been a bust for him.

A lot has gone wrong for the Mets – I didn’t even get to the injuries of David Wright, Neil Walker and Lucas Duda – but the flip side is a lot went right to put them where they are today.

Was last night magic? I don’t think so. It was a magical moment but means nothing if not sustainable.

For every reason why I could write them off, there are reasons I can give why they are still alive. Through it all, like they were last season, resiliency is their greatest attribute.

They are alive with nine games remaining, and considering all that has gone, maybe that’s their magic for this year.

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Sep 18

Three Mets’ Storylines: Makeshift Starter Saves Day … Again

When the final chapter of the 2016 Mets is written, it will be about pitching. The central theme will be about those lost and those who stepped into the breach. With Jacob deGrom scratched from Sunday’s start with an elbow injury that will require season-ending surgery, Gabriel Ynoa became the latest to help keep the Mets in the center of the wild-card race.

YNOA: Makes key start. (AP)

YNOA: Makes key start. (AP)

Personally, I was disappointed manager Terry Collins didn’t give Ynoa one more batter, but it worked out for the best and the Mets went on to complete their sweep of the Minnesota Twins, 3-2, to move into the lead wild-card spot, one game ahead of San Francisco and two over the Cardinals.

Ynoa gave up four hits and struck out eight in 4.2 innings, and from there manager Terry Collins turned to his “plethora of pitchers,” to complete the sweep. Five Mets’ relievers limited the Twins to a pair of runs.

While Ynoa was done when the game was decided, his contribution was vital – and worthy of another start with deGrom for the year – he personified the overriding storyline of this season (even more than their average with RISP) of the success of their emergency starters.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and deGrom lost for the year, Seth Lugo, Logan Verrett, Robert Gsellman, Ynoa and Rafael Montero – all of whom were not in the Opening Day rotation – have combined to give the Mets 25 starts (seven defined as quality) and 10 victories. Another pitcher who was supposed to be out of the rotation in early July – 43-year-old Bartolo Colon – has 14 victories in 30 starts (18 defined as quality).

That’s 24 victories in 55 starts (25 quality), which is the difference between having something to keep playing for this season and thinking about spring training.

“Hey look, somebody else has got to help,” Collins said. “When you are called upon and it’s your chance, make the most of it.”

This issue will undoubtedly be raised again in the Mets’ remaining 13 starts, as Colon is slated to get three more starts, while the Band-Aid of Lugo, Gsellman and Ynoa are anticipated getting seven more.

That was today’s main storyline with Neil Walker‘s future with the team and more injury updates the others.

WALKER WANTS TO RETURN: The Mets are where they are in the playoff hunt in large part because of Walker, who hit .282 with a career-high 23 homers and 55 RBI, before being lost for the season to undergo season-ending back surgery.

Prior to Walker’s injury, GM Sandy Alderson said he’d talk with Walker’s agent about an extension, something which obviously hasn’t happened. Walker’s leverage on the free-agent market was compromised by the surgery. That explained Walker’s interest in returning.

“This is a good fit,” Walker told reporters. “This looks good, but we don’t know what else is out there. We don’t know where teams might be coming from. The free-agent market this year is kind of weak, especially at the infield position, so you never know what good happen.”

INJURY UPDATES:  Evidently, the Mets didn’t learn from their recent experience with deGrom. Why else would Collins say today Matz could come back “with an opportunity to pitch,” at the end of the week?

Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a month because of a shoulder impingement and is coming off a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday, could pitch Friday

When it comes to Mets’ injury news, I’ll believe it when I see it, which is why I have no faith in what Collins said.

Matz was 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA when he was sidelined. The long-term goal would be to have him a viable option to pitch in a possible postseason.

“We have no plans yet,” Collins said, almost backtracking. “Nothing’s written. Steven Matz’s name certainly will be in the mix,” Collins said. “But Steven, when he gets here, is going to be a guy with a limit in workload that he has. So to get him built up and get him where we want, I am not sure we have the starts available.”So, why

So, why float the idea in the first place?

Meanwhile, Wilmer Flores‘ sore right wrist has kept him out of the lineup since it was injured in a home-plate collision with Braves’ catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Collins took responsibility for the injury saying he should have run for Flores.

Lucas Duda started for the first time since May. He was activated from the DL Saturday after being on the disabled list with a stress fracture in his lower back. … Yoenis Cespedes left the game in the sixth inning after feeling ill. … Walker said he’s feeling better after having surgery on a herniated disk in his neck.

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Sep 14

Three Mets’ Storylines: Gsellman Hope For Future, And Present

The Mets got all they could have hoped for this afternoon – and season – from Robert Gsellman. The Mets’ rookie, who along with Seth Lugo kept them in the wild-card race and was again superb Wednesday afternoon.

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

GSELLMAN: Hope for future, and present. (AP)

Gsellman threw 5.2 scoreless innings with four strikeouts, but couldn’t overcome his anemic offense in the 1-0 loss to the Washington Nationals.

“We didn’t lose any ground,” was manager Terry Collins’ backwards logic because the National League’s wild-card race remained stagnant because both St. Louis and San Francisco also lost.

“I thought he threw the ball very well,” Collins said. “He threw strikes. He had the sinker working and had worked both sides. He didn’t have anything to work with.”

Gsellman and Lugo weren’t on the Mets’ radar entering the season, but have kept them afloat with Jacob deGrom (forearm) and Steven Matz (shoulder) went on the disabled list.

Their performances should give the Mets a sense of comfort heading into the offseason and next year, but it is somewhat limited considering the myriad of pitching questions they’ll have this winter:

* How well will Matt Harvey recover from his shoulder surgery?

* As well as Lugo and Gsellman have pitched, has their window been open enough to give the Mets a definitive idea of what they can expect in 2017, and in what roles?

* How well will Matz recover from his expected elbow surgery?

* Will Noah Syndergaard’s bone spur require surgery, and if so, how will he recover?

* With all this in mind, will they bring back Bartolo Colon?

While the Mets’ pitching questions for 2017 was a storyline, the others today were their anemic offense and Wilmer Flores’ injury.

ANEMIC OFFENSE: Three hits won’t cut it most games and it didn’t today.

After back-to-back singles from Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera to open the game against Tanner Roarck, the Mets eventually loaded the bases but came away empty.

The Mets’ only other hit was Jay Bruce’s single in the sixth. He was erased on a double-play and the Mets didn’t have another runner the rest of the game.

FLORES HURTING: Flores hasn’t played since injured in a home plate collision Saturday in Atlanta. Collins assumed responsibility for not running for Flores.

Flores said what is keeping him out isn’t his neck or head, but his right wrist.

“My wrist is bothering me,” Flores said. “I can’t swing the bat. The neck is fine. I could play with the neck. It’s just the wrist.”

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Sep 06

Promotion Suggestion To Mets, SNY

Although the Mets trail both St. Louis and San Francisco for a wild-card berth, they still control their own destiny if they run the table.

Neither the Cardinals nor Giants can do the same because they have a four-game series with each other, Sept. 15-18, in San Francisco.

Because or the time difference, it gave me a promotion idea for either the Mets or SNY, both, if they are so inclined.

The 15th of September is Thursday, and with the Mets off that day, why doesn’t SNY arrange to get either the St. Louis or San Francisco feed and show the game that night?

One reader – named AV – just messaged me saying: “I think the Giants feed could be doable if they wanted to do it. The Cardinals games are carried by Fox Sports Missouri but the Giants are on CSN Bay Area, which is a SNY affiliate since Comcast has partial ownership of both channels.”

On the 16th and 17th, after the Mets are done playing the Twins, SNY can again pick up the feeds. At the same time, perhaps the Mets can invite the fans to stay and watch the game on the Citi Field video board, which by the way, has a pretty decent picture.

Keep some of the concessions open and make a party of it. Who knows, perhaps the can arrange for some of the players to stay behind and sign autographs. Cleveland has a postgame autograph signing for its season-ticket holders. I think Tampa Bay has the same.

It sure beats running the bases.

I believe once the Mets invited  fans to camp out on the field. A huge slumber party. If the weather is good, why not try it again?

The 18th is a Sunday, and again SNY can pick up the game. If the standings remain as they are, it could create some compelling viewing.

Just a suggestion.

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Aug 29

Mets Today: Montero Starts Against Fish

How many crucial series can a team have in one season? I’ve lost track, but tonight starts another for the Mets, who’ll begin a four-game series with the Marlins.

The Mets go into the series two games above .500, and one game behind the Marlins in the wild-card race; two behind Pittsburgh; 2.5 games behind St. Louis and five behind San Francisco.

MONTERO: Tonight's starter for Mets. (AP)

MONTERO: Tonight’s starter for Mets. (AP)

Pitching was supposed to be the Mets’ strength this season, but you don’t hear too many people lately saying they should sign any of those arms to a long-term contract. The only arm considered to be a significant part of the Mets’ future that is starting in the series is Steven Matz, who’ll come off the disabled list Thursday.

Tonight the Mets will go with Rafael Montero (0-0, 11.57 ERA), up from Double-A; Seth Lugo (1-2, 2.91), who’ll be making his third start of the season; Bartolo Colon (12-7, 3.44) on Wednesday on short rest; and Matz (9-8, 3.40).

Matz, who will be coming off the DL with a mild shoulder strain, threw without discomfort Sunday.

Jose Fernandez (13-7, 2.91), Tom Koehler (9-9, 3.85), David Phelps (7-6, 2.52) and Jose Urena (2-5, 5.83) will start for the Marlins.

Fernandez is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts against the Mets.

Just as the Mets needed to win in St. Louis, they must win three of four against Miami. Splitting won’t do them much good, and if they lose three of four, or get swept, the ground might be too much for them to make up.

INJURY UPDATES: Three significant Mets are injured and might not play tonight. Asdrubal Cabrera (left knee), Yoenis Cespedes (right quad) and Neil Walker (lower back).

Meanwhile, the Marlins are without Giancarlo Stanton (25 homers) and Justin Bour (15 homers). However, the Marlins got Dee Gordon back from the suspended list, July 28, and he’s hitting .287 with nine steals.

The Marlins also got closer A.J. Ramos (fracture of right middle finger) back from the DL, Aug. 21.

ON DECK: Jose Reyes answers third base questions.

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