Sep 28

Believe Mets Will Stand In The End


                                         REMEMBER HIM?

Greetings Mets fans. As a tribute to my good friend, Joe DeCaro, I am truly Metsmerized today.

My background as a beat reporter make me jaded to some. That’s all right, I can live with that label. As a beat writer for over 20 years, I consistently question things, as that is my training and lifelong habits are hard to break.

I see things more skeptically than most, but this morning, with just four games to go, I can now envision the light at the end of the tunnel known as the 2016 season. The oncoming light isn’t of a train, but one flashing orange and blue, or if you prefer, blue and orange.

The wild-card race remains tight with the Mets holding a half-game lead on San Francisco and full game over the Cardinals.

All three won Tuesday night, and perhaps as an omen this will be decided Sunday, if not beyond, all three scored 12 runs. You can cue up Twilight Zone music.

However, I believe the Mets will be in the wild-card game. They have overcome so much and gone too far to trip at the finish line.

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Sep 27

Good Postseason Signs For Mets In Rout

The Marlins would have been hard-pressed to continue to ride the emotional wave from Monday’s ceremonies and victory over the Mets following the tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez.

That would be hard to do when you run into the kind of pitching they faced against Noah Syndergaard. It also didn’t hurt their offense resurfaced with a pair of two-run homers from Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes in Tuesday’s 19-hit, 12-1 mauling of the Marlins.

SYNDERGAARD: Good sign. (AP)

SYNDERGAARD: Good sign. (AP)

It was the first time since Bruce was acquired that he and Cespedes homered in the same game.

As the Mets look ahead to a possible postseason appearance, they took numerous positives from the game.

The most important, of course, was Syndergaard, whose last start was scratched because of a strep throat. Syndergaard last pitched, Aug. 19 in a loss to Atlanta, gave up a run on five hits with eight strikeouts.

“It was huge,” Syndergaard said about getting back into a groove. “I tried to keep each pitch simple. I felt I could locate my sinker on both sides of the plate.”

It was a smart move by manager Terry Collins to pull him when he did after 93 pitches. Syndergaard is next in line to pitch Sunday in Philadelphia. If the Mets don’t need that game, Collins will undoubtedly hold him back to start the wild-card play-in game, Wednesday, perhaps against San Francisco.

Maybe in a match-up against Madison Bumgarner at Citi Field? Or, perhaps in St. Louis against Adam Wainwright?

If there’s a three-way tie, it is presumed Syndergaard would start Sunday, which would probably leave the start to Seth Lugo.

There aren’t any questions about Syndergaard’s health or endurance, which considering the announcement earlier in the day that Steven Matz will have elbow surgery and be lost for the year.

If the Mets are to go anywhere in the playoffs, a lot will fall on Syndergaard.

After Syndergaard, the other key storylines were Bruce and Lucas Duda and the lengthening of the Mets’ batting order.

Bruce, who has started three straight games, has five hits in that span, including two homers. His two-run homer in the second put the Mets ahead for good.

After a dreadful slump sent him to the bench and raised questions about his spot on the playoff roster and even if the Mets would bring him back for 2017.

“It’s been very encouraging,” Collins said of Bruce’s resurgence. “If he’s back, we’re going to have a different line-up.”

Bruce said the slump was a difficult stretch, but he never lost faith of his talent.

“I feel comfortable at the plate,” Bruce said. “I just kept preparing and kept working. I just focus on preparing and always think today is the day I’ll come out of it.”

Curtis Granderson, who drove in three runs on two hits, is now entrenched in the clean-up spot with Bruce hitting fifth.

Duda drove in three runs on two hits and again played the field. At first, the Mets thought Duda would only be used as a pinch-hitter. That notion could be gone now, which could make it a Duda (two hits and two walks) vs. James Loney battle for a playoff roster spot.

“It’s definitely tough,” Duda said of his return from back surgery. “The more I play the more comfortable I get. It’s a work in progress. From rehabbing to here is a pretty big jump. The speed of the game, both offensively and defensively, is faster.”

While these were positive signs as the Mets gear for the playoffs, one negative is Wilmer Flores’ wrist, which could sideline him for the rest of the regular season and put his spot on a playoff roster in jeopardy.

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Sep 27

Matz Done For Year; What Took So Long?

It wasn’t too long ago the Mets boasted having the best young staff in the sport, one that would return them to the World Series. With the postseason a week away – with no assurances of them getting there – four of the five are done for the season because of surgery.

MATZ:  To have surgery. (AP)

   MATZ: To have surgery. (AP)

ESPN’s Adam Rubin reported today – later confirmed by several media outlets – Steven Matz will be shut down for the remainder of the season to undergo surgery almost immediately on a bone spur in his left elbow. Matz is also down with an impingement in his shoulder, but surgery is not planned for that injury.

What took Matz so long to elect to have surgery? The 25-year-old Matz has had the spur for much of the season, with GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins insisting it was a “pain tolerance issue” and he couldn’t risk further injury.

However, it hasn’t been addressed whether the shoulder impingement irritating the rotator cuff was caused by an altering of Matz’s mechanics caused by the pain in his elbow. It’s worth exploring, especially considering the Mets’ history of handling injuries.

Matz hasn’t pitched since mid-August. Surgery should have been performed then, and possibly on his shoulder, also, to give him the maximum time for recovery and rehab. The current timetable is a three-month recovery period, which means he won’t pick up a ball until January.

Will he really have enough time? Had this been done a month or two ago, there wouldn’t be any doubt.

I would have thought with Matt Harvey out for the year (to remove a rib and alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome) and Zack Wheeler (ulnar nerve in elbow) that to hedge their bets they would have encouraged Matz to have the surgery weeks ago – at least when the shoulder issue surfaced. Instead, the last six weeks have been squandered.

Making this even more disturbing is Jacob deGrom had surgery last week to repair the ulnar nerve in his elbow. Also, Noah Syndergaard has been bothered by an elbow bone spur issue for several months. The Mets are saying surgery isn’t planned for him, but wouldn’t they want to get it addressed sooner than later?

With the others easing their way back next spring, the last thing the Mets would want is surgery for Syndergaard.

Fortunately for the Mets, they remain in the race because of Bartolo Colon, who has been pitching with a foot injury (he left Monday’s game after 2.1 innings), and the Band-Aid of Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

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Sep 26

Three Mets’ Storylines: Marlins Won Emotional Battle From Start

Unquestionably, the Miami Marlins played – and won – the emotional card Monday night in beating the Mets. The pre-game ceremonies honoring Jose Fernandez were touching and emotional; not a dry eye in the house.

The trumpet solo of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,’’ was beyond belief. Who would have expected that? Then there was the emotional meeting of the Mets and Marlins at the pitcher’s mound, reminiscent of the night of Mike Piazza’s homer when the Mets and Braves embraced.

“This is bigger than baseball,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “This kid touched a lot of people. They jumped on us early and took the air out of the balloon.”



While it had to be tough for them, the Mets’ players conducted themselves with class and dignity and understood the anguish of the Marlins and let them have their moment.

“This team is first class,” Collins said of his players. “Our organization is first class. … They respected the night.”

None of that can be planned. That has to come from the heart.

“There’s no script for this,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly.

Dee Gordon immediately captured the hearts of the crowd by leading off the game with a home run. He first honored Fernandez by taking the pitcher’s right-handed stance and wearing his helmet. After one pitch, he switched to his normal left-handed stance and homered and broke down in tears when he reached the plate.

The game was emotionally over then, but the Marlins put a nice touch on the night when they circled the mound and left their caps on the rubber that was Fernandez’s domain.

Collins understood the emotion of the night, that didn’t but didn’t share the fans’ enthusiasm with the Marlins’ 7-3 victory.

“It’s hard,’’ Collins said. “It’s always for Jose, but I like to win. … I said yesterday I would be glad when this day is over, and I’m glad it is over.’’

Through it all, the Mets caught a break when Cincinnati routed the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Emotions, of course, was the main storyline. The others were Bartolo Colon’s short night and the Mets’ listless offense.

COLON DIDN’T HAVE IT: Colon flexed his legs that made us wonder if something is physically wrong with the Mets’ only remaining healthy pitcher.

Colon gave ups seven runs on eight hits in 2.1 innings. He hadn’t had a start this poor since only four innings, Aug. 15, in Arizona.

“He didn’t have his good stuff tonight,’’ Collins said, adding he hopes it is different Saturday in Philadelphia.

Collins thought something was wrong with Colon’s calf, but said the pitcher is fine.

THE OFFENSE DISAPPEARED: The Mets scored 44 runs in their four games against the Phillies, but came up empty tonight.

The Mets produced only seven hits against nine Marlins pitchers.

Jay Bruce started again and got another hit. Perhaps he’s turned it around.

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Sep 26

Mets Face Emotional Night As Marlins Honor Forever Young Fernandez

Given the volatile nature of emotions, it is hard to project how the Mets – and especially the Marlins – will react tonight in the first game following the death of Miami ace Jose Fernandez.

Will the Marlins be so drained and subdued they wilt under the pressure? Or, will they respond the way the Mets did on Sept. 21, 2001, in the first game in New York following the terrorist attacks? Who will be their Mike Piazza?

FERNANDEZ: A smile nobody will see again. (WPTV)

FERNANDEZ: A smile nobody will see again. (WPTV)

Will they respond the way the Yankees did, Aug. 10, 1979, when they flew to Canton for Thurman Munson’s funeral, then back to beat the Orioles on national television?

Bobby Murcer, Munson’s longtime friend, drove in the winning run in the ninth inning. Will the Marlins have their own Murcer?

Fernandez’s death was tragic, yet ironic, and as reports gradually come in, it was avoidable. Fernandez was supposed to pitch Sunday but was pushed back to Monday to face the Mets. Had his start not been changed, it is hard to imagine he would have been out in the black night, after reportedly partying, speeding into the jetty at three in the morning when he would have taken the mound in ten hours.

Then again, it is also to comprehend why the 24-year-old father-to-be, could have been so reckless at a time when he meant so much to his future child, girlfriend, teammates, and Miami’s Cuban community.

Why would he be on a speeding boat in the middle of the night, knowing there were dangerous jetties off Miami Beach?

It’s easy to call Fernandez irresponsible, and 20/20 hindsight says he was. However, when you’re a professional athlete, strong and young, there’s a sense of invincibility. However, nobody is invincible. Nobody is immune to death.

Death has its own timetable, and it doesn’t matter how young, rich or talented you might be, when it knocks on your door, you answer. Death took some athletes because of failing health. Others were taken by violence. It took others because of their own actions, such as drugs and foolish decisions.

Whatever was on Fernandez’s mind when he got onto that boat, we will never know. Certainly playing it safe wasn’t present.

What we know is Marlins Park will be overcome by emotions tonight it never experienced before and hopefully never will again. There will be a video tribute, choked up eulogies from teammates, a moment of silence. There will countless tears and invasive camera shots of Marlins’ players overcome with emotion.

Every Marlin will wear Fernandez’s No. 16 jersey, and the club said it will retire the number.

The Mets will again display a Mets jersey with Fernandez’ No. 16, a gesture Collins applauds and credits Jeff Wilpon for initiating.

“I thought it was it great,” Collins said. “I thought it was a true, genuine, heartfelt respect for what Jose meant to the game.”

By all accounts, Fernandez was a gritty competitor and a giving, humble teammate. I never knew him other than in a pack interview, but he was always gracious and humble. He came across likeable.

Mets’ hitters say Fernandez gave no quarter on the mound, that he played the game the right way. His numbers projected forward – and barring injury – had him on a path towards greatness, perhaps Cooperstown worthy.

That’s what Collins reminded his players of this afternoon.

“He epitomized what the game is about,” Collins said. “He played the game correctly. Our game is bigger than a lot of things, but it will always go on. We will play the game and play it the right way.

“We are all devastated by what happened. It tells you how short life really is. You have to press forward and get through some troubled times.”

The Mets have gone through troubled times this season, but nothing like the Marlins are going through now. It also must be remembered the Marlins are still mathematically eligible for the wild-card. If they run the table, it could be done. It would be a story for the ages.

Maybe the Marlins will be emotionally spent and fade away. Regardless of how this season plays out for them, the words of their club president, David Samson, will ironically ring true that Fernandez will remain a Marlin forever.

The enduring image of Fernandez will be of him whipping a fastball with that special arm; it will be his enduring smile we’ll never see again.

In the words of Bob Dylan, he’ll stay, “Forever Young.”

“May God bless and keep you always

May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young.

When the winds of changes shift

May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young.”

Staying forever young sounds appealing until you realize what is lost.

He’ll never experience a Hall of Fame career, but that’s not tragic. The tragedy is he’ll never look into the eyes of his girlfriend and unborn child and tell them he loves them more than anything, including baseball.

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