Aug 22

August 22 lineup at Philly

It’s always interesting when the Mets play the Phillies, but unfortunately since the teams are at the opposite end of the spectrum there’s little steam to the rivalry.

The Mets make their final trip to Philly beginning tonight, with Dillon Gee going against Cliff Lee.

Here’s the Mets’ batting order:

Angel Pagan, CF

Justin Turner, 2B

David Wright, 3B

Jason Bay, LF

Lucas Duda, 1B

Scott Hairston, RF

Ronny Paulino, C

Ruben Tejada, SS

Dillon Gee, RP

Comments: Once again, Lucas Duda is at first base instead of right field. Assuming Ike Davis is healthy next season, he’ll play first base. However, the Mets do not have a right field option.

Terry Collins has hinted, but won’t pull the trigger on Duda playing right field for the rest of the season. Why? I don’t know.

With the competitive part of the year over, this is when the Mets should be looking for some answers, and one of them is where Duda should play.

I’d also like to see Jason Bay in the second spot of the order, as Collins also suggested earlier this year, but never tried.

 

Aug 20

Bay remains enigma

Jason Bay is back in the lineup for today’s game against Milwaukee following a one-day benching on the heels of an 0-for-20 funk. He might hit a home run today, or two. Or, he could have another 0-for-4 with three punchouts. Not that it matters anymore.

Several months ago, when there was still a worthwhile part of the season left and Jose Reyes at the top of his game, Terry Collins suggested moving Bay to second in the order to get him more fastballs. Collins never moved on it and now that boat has sailed.

Even when Reyes returns his legs won’t be the same and the experiment will be a moot point. The Mets have tried everything with Bay, but his mechanics are so fouled up right now that it seems nothing will work. Maybe Bay will snap out of his funk. Maybe it won’t, but for now it seems no other conclusion can be drawn other than this signing was a bust.

And, there are two more years at $16 million per to endure. Sandy Alderson managed to get takers for Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. Maybe next year he’ll get lucky again. One can only hope.

Aug 11

Liking how Collins handled Niese

After winning the first two games of this series, coming away with a split is definitely disappointing. It’s not as if the Mets had a realistic chance to catch the Braves for the wild-card, but after losing seven of their last 10 they are now 10.5 games behind Atlanta.

NIESE: Keeps on growing.

After another one-run loss this afternoon (that’s 18 on the season), they are headed to Arizona and San Diego, where it won’t be easy. The Mets are at their point of the season where the goals are fundamental, such as finishing above .500 and making value judgments on the future.

With the latter, I liked how Terry Collins handled Jonathan Niese this afternoon. Collins gave Niese 122 pitches worth of rope and stuck with him in the eighth when most managers would have been seduced by the pitch count and gone the conventional route.

Most managers would have yanked Niese after Cameron Maybin’s leadoff single, and definitely after the stolen base. Then, after an intentional walk and double steal, Jerry Manuel might have been on his second reliever.

With runners on second and third, Collins gave Niese a strong vote of confidence and allowed him to pitch to Aaron Cunningham. Perhaps it was a vote of non-confidence in the bullpen, but this was important to Niese’s development.

Cunningham grounded a ball to Ruben Tejada, who, instead of getting in front of the ball, tried to one-hand it. The ball went off the heel of his glove and Niese was on his way to becoming the hard-luck loser.

Even so, Niese got the ground ball he needed, indirectly rewarding Collins’ confidence.

A couple of years ago teams called the Mets asking for Niese and they wisely eschewed. It was one of Omar Minaya’s better decisions.

Niese still has a way to go, but this was definitely something to build on.

 

 

Aug 05

Today in Mets’ History: A reason to watch.

The Atlanta Braves are in town and not too long ago that was a big deal. As the Yankees and Red Sox go at it in Fenway Park for first place – it’s a worn story, but it’s real baseball – the Mets are clinging to what is left of their season.

After two disheartening losses to Florida, the Mets are 16.5 games behind first-place Philadelphia – noting for the record – and eight games behind wild-card leader Atlanta. They are also 2.5 games out of last place.

At 55-55, the Mets have exceeded most expectations to the point where the losses to the Marlins were anguishing. There was a moment this week when I actually looked at the scoreboard for the Braves score and did some quick wondering math.

The math is quite simple this weekend: Win or go home. Nothing short of a sweep will do.

For those who can’t dream of the impossible, remember on this date in Mets history they were in last place in the National League East by 11.5 games with a 48-60 record.

The Mets have the same record today as they did last season after 110 games, but even with their financial problems, there isn’t the same train wreck scenario.

Last year at this time we wondered about the job stability of Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel, and there was the lingering stagnating cloud that was Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

All that negativity is gone, and with Sandy Alderson there is the hope of a rebuilding process heading in the right direction. And, considering what he was dealt, how can you not be impressed with what Terry Collins has brought to the party?

Carlos Beltran is gone, but we knew all along that would happen. We also knew this would be a season without Johan Santana. We aren’t surprised Jason Bay isn’t hitting. We can’t also be surprised by a fall off from R.A. Dickey and the bullpen lapses.

But, we didn’t expect to be without David Wright for two months and not have Ike Davis, and we thought Mike Pelfrey would take another step.

And, quite honestly, when Beltran was here, few expected him to play as well as he did.

There are still a myriad of questions and issues surrounding this team, not the least of which is its financial structure and what will become of Jose Reyes.

All that and there’s still reason to watch.

For the most part the Mets are playing hard, aggressive and interesting baseball. Not always spotless, but there is a grit about them that is appealing. Last year, mostly because of its leadership and the Perez mess, the Mets were an easy team to dislike.

However, there is a likeable quality about this group. They play with an integrity that for one more weekend at least, there is reason to watch them and wonder what if.

 

Jun 22

Today in Mets’ History: Franco climbs save list.

John Franco has always been one of the more popular Mets. You can catch him on SNY from time to time.

FRANCO: Hall worthy?

On this date in 1994, Franco passed Dave Righetti for the most saves by a lefthander with 253 in a 5-2 victory at Atlanta.

Franco finished with 424 saves, an average of 26 per season playing for the Reds, Mets an Astros. He had eight seasons of 30 or more saves – five of them with the Mets – with a career best 39 with Cincinnati in 1988.

That season was one of three times in which he led the National League in saves.

Franco is fourth on the career list behind Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith, but has received little consideration for the Hall of Fame, largely because he has one save in 15 postseason appearances.

Franco has always been a straight shooter, which accounts for much of his popularity among Mets fans.

During the summer of 2009 when the Mets were hit hard by injuries and struggling, Franco wanted to hear none of the excuses and pointed in a different direction.

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