Oct 11

Utley Slide Helps Tie NLDS And Ends Tejada’s Season

Cal Ripken Jr., said it was a “hard, clean’’ play, but not dirty, and if anybody should know about take-out slides it is him. That’s not to say others didn’t have their own opinion. Chase Utley took out Ruben Tejada to break up the double play in the seventh inning Saturday night, and in doing so knocked the Mets’ shortstop out of the playoffs with a fractured right leg.

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

UTLEY SLIDE: Fuels Mets emotions. (Getty)

Not only did the game-tying run score on the play, but when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appealed Tejada never touched the bag, Utley was ruled safe, and with the out taken off the board, it enabled Adrian Gonzalez to hit a two-run double that lifted the Dodgers to a 5-2 victory to change the complexion of the series.

Mets manager Terry Collins said the umpires made the right call, and added his players were an angry bunch.

“You have to take the emotion and keep your focus,’’ Collins said. “You can’t lose control.’’

Instead of returning to New York with a chance to finish the sweep behind Matt Harvey, the NLDS goes back to Citi Field tied at a game apiece.

Until then, there will be continued debate on the nature of the slide – clean or dirty?

“Only Chase knows what the intent was,’’ Mets captain David Wright said. “My opinion is he wasn’t close to the bag.’’

Utley, known for being a hard-nosed player, defended his actions.

“It was one of those awkward plays,” Utley said. “There was no intent to injure Ruben, whatsoever. My intent was to break up the double play.”

Speaking of Harvey, what immediately came to mind with the Utley slide was of him getting plunked by the Mets’ Game 3 starter before he was traded by the Phillies. Utley wasn’t thinking that when he slid into Tejada, but if there wasn’t bad blood between Utley and the Mets before, there probably is now.

One thing for sure, what has been a compelling series by its stellar pitching, now has an edge to it.

Oct 09

DeGrom Brilliant In Win Over Dodgers; Gives Us Glimpse Into Future

This one didn’t disappoint. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw against the Mets’ Jacob deGrom was to be special. It was going to create an October memory, but it turned into something we’ll  never forget.

The Mets’ indisputable ace threw over 120 pitches – who would have thought it? – over seven scoreless innings in a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS. Kershaw and Zack Greinke were to slice through the upstart Mets, but they didn’t buckle.

DeGrom was beyond special, and it wasn’t just because he struck out 13. The Dodgers had numerous opportunities, but deGrom refused to cave. As aces do, he didn’t just close the door on the Dodgers, he slammed the door on them.

Daniel Murphy, whom the Mets aren’t expected to bring back next year, homered in the fourth, and David Wright broke the game open with a two-run single to chase Kershaw in the seventh.

Game 1 gave us an glimpse into the Mets’ future.

The Mets can only hope deGrom, Saturday’s starter Noah Syndergaard and Monday’s starter Matt Harvey, will be here in five years. Wright will be at the end of his contract, and Murphy – whom the Mets are expected to lowball as they did Jose Reyes – will be gone.

You had to feel good for both of them. The Mets have alternately tried to trade and find a position for Murphy for years. The Mets made a big splash at the trade deadline, but that doesn’t mean they’ll spend this winter. If they have any hope of bringing back Yoenis Cespedes, it will cost them Murphy.

As for Wright, he has been waiting for another postseason since 2006, when the Mets lost the NLCS to St. Louis. Even through the disappointment of watching Carlos Beltran take that called third strike, Wright admitted he thought the Mets would be a postseason fixture.

Instead, they became an annual disappointment, and Wright had been beset with injuries. He missed over four months this summer with back issues, and the thought of whether he’d ever play again had to creep into his mind.

His two-run single turned out to be the difference.

Michael Cuddyer, signed last winter to provide a veteran presence, misplayed two fly balls to left into doubles, but deGrom picked him up. Cuddyer’s role is expected to be reduced next year to coming off the bench, as Michael Conforto will be the every day left fielder.

But, that’s next year, and next year can wait. These Mets are about taking care of business, and that’s what they did Friday night.

 

Oct 08

Darling Misses Plate On Latest Harvey Mess

Normally, I enjoy Ron Darling’s insight on baseball and the Mets. I think he’s one of the best in the business. However, this time we deserved better from him when it came to weighing in on the latest Matt Harvey fiasco.

I thought Darling and his mates on SNY – Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez – let Harvey off easy during the innings limit drama by taking the path of least resistance and blaming agent Scott Boras. However, Boras wasn’t a factor in Harvey being late to Tuesday’s workout at Citi Field, but what do you know, Darling again passed on blasting the Mets’ diva ace.

DARLING:  Should have told us more.

DARLING: Should have told us more.

“It’s really hard for me to criticize [Harvey],’’ Darling told Newsday. “Half our team didn’t make the [1986 World Series] parade. … We had guys who barely showed up to games. … To me it’s not such a big thing because he’s not pitching for so many days.’’

But, it is a big deal. Harvey’s job required him to do one thing that day, and that was to show up to work on time. And, it wasn’t as if he had to be there at 9 and fight rush hour traffic. He had to be there at noon. He still could have slept in and been there on time.

In fairness, at the time Darling might not have heard several reports Harvey had been out partying, but does it really matter? Darling saw how partying destroyed the careers of Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. Cocaine was their drug of choice; for Harvey, it is alcohol. Harvey relished talking about his drinking and nightclubbing in a national magazine article. He boasted of wanting to be a womanizer like Derek Jeter.

If you’re the Mets, how do you not connect the dots between that and being late? How does Darling, educated at Yale and in the major leagues, not see that coming?

Especially when it came to the conflicting stories.

On Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said Harvey called to say he was stuck in traffic and turn around and go home. However, Harvey showed up anyway and took the questions. He admitted to screwing up and I wrote he was stand-up and was willing to let it go. However, Harvey didn’t get his story straight with Collins and said he lost track of time.

Huh? You tell us pitching for the Mets in the playoffs is important to you and you’re late? Did you forget your statement after the innings mess? I didn’t, and Darling should’ve remembered, also.

Harvey wrote in early September: “Right now we’re hunkered down in a fight to make the postseason. All of our efforts are focused on that task. As a team, we understand that there’s still a lot of baseball left to play. The chance to make a run in the playoffs will require our full dedication, energy and passion. This is an incredibly exciting time to be part of the Mets.’’

“All of our efforts.’’ “our full dedication.’’

Once there are conflicting stories there will be digging. And, it didn’t help Harvey’s cause any when David Wright expressed his controlled annoyance.

How could Darling overlook all that? He’s better than that, and as a New York athlete who saw first-hand the falls of Gooden and Strawberry, he had to know it wouldn’t end with a lame story or Collins’ weak jokes.

During his career, Hernandez hit whistling line drives, and did it again when he told the newspaper: “I’m astounded after all that’s gone that this happened. I’m flabbergasted about it. But, as my father used to say: `You make your bed, you’ve got to sleep in it.’ I just think at this particular point of the season it’s really, really not good.’’

That is, of course, unless Harvey has Darling to fluff up his pillows for him.

 

Oct 07

Sandy Says He Missed On Turner

justin turner

On December 2nd, 2013 the New York Mets decided to non-tender then-utility infielder Justin Turner. Essentially, the Mets front office decided to release Turner because he was due a raise in arbitration that would have paid him $750 thousand dollars.

However, after a tide of shock and dismay by Mets fans on social media, two days later the team leaked rumors that the real reason they cut Turner was because he was “lazy” and “didn’t hustle.” Fans didn’t buy it.

“That caught me off guard. It was something I wasn’t expecting. I’ll tell you what, that was probably the worst offseason I’ve had – not knowing where or if I was going to be playing the next year. That was hard.”

On Monday, Mets GM Sandy Alderson spoke about that decision with Bill Shakin of the Los Angeles Times,

“He was always sort of a marginal 40-man roster guy,” Alderson said. “We gave him more of an opportunity than he had elsewhere, and he did a nice job for us. But you’d have to say we missed on him.”

 

In 36 at-bats against the Mets, Turner has tagged them for five doubles, two home runs, five runs, five RBIs, a .583 slugging percentage and .938 OPS.

Since leaving the Mets Turner has emerged as one of the Dodgers’ top hitters slashing at .314/.384/.492 with 47 doubles, 23 home runs to go with a 145 OPS+ and 8.4 fWAR over 675 at-bats. With runners in scoring position this season, Turner is batting .322/.404/.556.

“He brings that college mentality of ‘do anything’ to a big league clubhouse,” said Mets third baseman David Wright on Monday. “He’s an excellent defender, can play a number of positions, give you a great at-bat, great situational hitter, good in the clubhouse.”

“I’m happy for him,” Wright said. “I’m not going to be happy if he plays well against us in the playoffs. But he’s one of those guys you genuinely root for.”

Terry Collins also weighed in saying, “He’s gotten his opportunity. A lot of times, guys who get the opportunity to be an everyday guy don’t run with it. He has. I salute him. He’s one of my favorite guys.”

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Sep 27

Niese Volunteers For Bullpen; Could Be Future With Team

Figuring he wouldn’t be in the Mets’ postseason rotation, left-hander Jon Niese volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen, which is manager Terry Collins‘ primary concern for the NLDS against the Dodgers. Collins said Niese approached him ten days ago with the suggestion.

Collins said NIese’s willingness to pitch in relief typifies the attitude of his team.

NIESE: Goes to bullpen. (Getty)

NIESE: Goes to bullpen. (Getty)

“The entire clubhouse was caught up in winning,” Collins said. “They weren’??t caught up in their own stuff. They worried about doing what they thought they needed to do to help the club.”

The bullpen is the Mets’ Achilles Heel heading into the playoffs, in particular, the lack of situational left-hander. Citing an injury history and inability to get loose after his starts, Collins said he didn’t like the idea of using Steven Matz in that role. Today marked the first time the Mets addressed the idea of Matz in relief.

“It’??s one of those things where I wanted to do anything to help the team,” Niese said. “As the season progressed there at the end, there was a need down there.”

It could end up being Niese’s future with the team if he’s not traded.

A Met since 2008, Niese’s time in New York has been one of unfulfilled potential and injuries. At 28, he’s 61-61 lifetime and has two more years left on his contract. However, projecting ahead to next year, the Mets’ rotation figures to be Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matz and Zack Wheeler expected to come off the disabled list in July.

The Mets tried to trade Niese last winter, and might try again this offseason if they can can obtain a bat. In the back of GM Sandy Alderson’s mind is if Niese pans out in the bullpen, perhaps he can secure a spot there.

The plan is to use Niese in relief this week, with Logan Verrett getting his start Thursday in Philadelphia. What is undecided is where Bartolo Colon will work in the playoffs. Speculation is Colon will go to the bullpen, especially considering what Collins said Matz working in relief.

As a starter, Niese is adept at working to righties and lefty hitters. He has thrown only one relief inning during his career.