Dec 28

Top Six Mets’ Storylines For 2016

The season didn’t turn out the way for the Mets the way many hoped. Too many injuries and too few hits with runners in scoring position will do that to a team. There were numerous storylines from this summer, but I’ve narrowed it down to five. I’m sure you have others, but these are mine:

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

SYNDERGAARD: Pitched big in WC Game. (FOX)

Mets lose wild-card heartbreaker: San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard were brilliant in one of the most well-pitched games in Wild-Card history. Syndergaard threw seven scoreless and Bumgarner went nine in the Giants’ 3-0 victory won by Conor Gillaspie three-run homer in the ninth.

The loss prevented a playoff rematch between the Mets and Cubs, and of course, kept them from returning to the World Series.

Injuries derail rotation: The highly-anticipated return of Zack Wheeler to the rotation in July and switch of Bartolo Colon to the bullpen never materialized. One by one they went down until three more went down with surgery: Matt Harvey (shoulder), Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz (elbows).

Syndergaard was also hindered with an elbow spur. Injuries always produce opportunities, and this time Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman took advantage.

Piazza enters Hall of Fame: Catcher Mike Piazza was clearly the summer’s feel-good moment with his induction into the Hall of Fame. While there have been many players with links to the Mets that are in Cooperstown, Piazza and Tom Seaver are the only ones who went in as Mets.

Wright’s back limits him to 38 games: For the second straight summer, David Wright’s injured back scuttled his season that put his career in jeopardy.

Wright is progressing on schedule, but we’ll not know about him until spring training.

Cespedes and Walker power offense: Bringing back Yoenis Cespedes and signing Neil Walker were the Mets’ two biggest off-season moves last winter, and together they combined for over 50 homers.

The Mets will bring both back for next year (Cespedes is signed for four years), which just about completes their off-season shopping.

Mets trade for Bruce: With injuries sapping the Mets’ offense – including those to Cespedes and Walker – GM Sandy Alderson pulled the trigger and traded for Reds outfielder Jay Bruce.

Bruce struggled for most of the second half, but finished with a strong ten-day to close the season. Alderson made a big thing of having Bruce as insurance if they couldn’t bring back Cespedes, and if they could they would deal him.

Well, they signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110-million package, then turned around to find no interest in Bruce and might not be able to deal him until spring training, if at all.

Dec 27

Familia Awaits Suspension Verdict

Since his assault charge was dropped, Jeurys Familia has been working out and throwing live batting practice in the Dominican Republic.

FAMILIA: Waiting on suspension verdict. (AP)

FAMILIA: Waiting on suspension verdict. (AP)

However, Familia awaits word from MLB on a possible suspension. I can’t help but think if Familia were not facing a suspension, he wouldn’t be playing in a winter league and instead be easing his way into spring training.

Being realistic, Familia can’t help thinking he’ll skate on this, even though his fiancé opted not to press charges. The scratches and bruises on her body just didn’t get there.

Based on previous cases – Aroldis Chapman sat for 30 games and shots were fired then and Jose Reyes sat for 52 games and his wife also declined to press charges, so that’s a moot point – MLB will certainly impose some sanctions.

Clearly, spousal complaints matter little in these cases.

The Mets and Familia can’t be thinking he’ll get less than 30 games. So, Familia is doing the smart thing and getting work in now before the hammer comes down. But, what are the Mets doing?

They’ve already said set-up reliever Addison Reed will step in as the closer and the Mets signed several non-descript middle relievers.

Considering what Chapman and Andrew Miller did in the World Series – when they were required to work multiple innings, unless they sign or trade for an established (read: expensive) middle reliever, their best bet will be to go with Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman in the set-up role.

It’s the path of least resistance – and least investment – so figure that’s how the Mets will proceed.

 

Nov 25

Mets Give Us Many Reasons To Be Thankful

As Mets fans, we have had a lot to be thankful for over the years. First and foremost, we have a team we care about deeply. They give us a release from our daily trials and pressures.

If you’re a shut-in, they give you entertainment and a sense of belonging to a greater entity. They make your day.

MARVELOUS MARV

MARVELOUS MARV

They are our team, unlike any other, and we are thankful for the passion in our hearts whenever we find our seat at Citi Field or turn on the television. For the next three hours, they entertain and sometimes frustrate us. But, we’ll always watch.

I don’t believe in the term “die hard Mets fan,’’ because dying means you eventually turn away from them. If you’re a fan, you always stay. Once you give your heart to them, you don’t take it back.

I also don’t believe in “long suffering Mets fan.” They might frustrate us, but we don’t watch to suffer. We watch in hope.

It’s why, on the day after Thanksgiving, you’re reading Mets blogs, you’re waiting for the Winter Meetings and the hope they’ll do something big, and you’re waiting for spring training.

Quite frankly, the Wilpons and GM Sandy Alderson, from their lofty perches, don’t understand what we do about the team they run.

It’s the holiday season and the order is Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Opening Day. Aren’t they the ones that really matter?

As a Mets fan, what are you most thankful for?

How about William Shea, who when the Dodgers and Giants left the city, fought to bring National League baseball back to New York?

You’re thankful for:

Catcher Hobie Landrith, the first player taken by the Mets in the 1961 expansion draft.

Casey Stengel, the Old Professor was the Mets’ first manager. His words made us dizzy as we watched that 120-loss team in 1962.

Don Zimmer, a Brooklyn Dodger who became an original Met.

Frank Thomas, the Mets’ first star and Ron Hunt, the first All-Star.

We’re thankful for the legends of Marvelous Marv Throneberry; Choo Choo Coleman; Al Jackson; Roger Craig; Jim Hickman; Roy McMillan and his specs; Jay Hook, the winning pitcher in the club’s first victory.

We’re thankful for the former stars who became Mets for a brief time: Richie Ashburn, Gus Bell, Duke Snider, Yogi Berra, and, of course, Gil Hodges.

We’re thankful the Mets let us watch baseball once again in the Polo Grounds. And, we’re thankful for Shea Stadium, that when it opened in 1964 brought a bright and shiny toy for our team to play in.

Once state-of-the-art, even when Shea Stadium became cold, drafty and leaky, we’re thankful because it was our home.

We’re thankful for Hodges’ steadying hand that brought us the Miracle Mets of 1969, with the celebration at Shea Stadium. We’re thankful the Mets became baseball’s best “worst-to-first story.’’

We’re thankful for 1969, and the brilliance that was Tom Seaver, a future Hall of Famer and the franchise’s greatest player.

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

SEAVER: The Franchise. (Mets)

We’re thankful that season also showcased Jerry Koosman’s guile; Jerry Grote’s toughness; Bud Harrelson’s steadiness at shortstop; Ed Kranepool, who struggled through the hard times to taste champagne; for Tommie Agee’s glove and power; for the addition of Donn Clendenon; and for the steady bat of Cleon Jones.

We’re thankful Hodges had the backbone to publicly discipline Jones, a turning point to that season.

We’re thankful we saw a real team in 1969, with many non-descript players had their moments. Al Weis, Ron Swoboda, Don Cardwell, Ken Boswell, J.C. Martin, Joe Foy, and so many others.

We’re thankful we got to see Nolan Ryan in his Hall of Fame infancy that year.

We’re thankful for organist Jane Jarvis, sign-man Karl Ehrhardt, Banner Day, and the guy we sit next to for nine innings and talk Mets.

We’re also thankful for the second championship season, 1986, when victory was expected and featured one of the game’s greatest comebacks.

We’re thankful the immense talent that wooed us that summer: the brashness of manager Davey Johnson who predicted domination; Keith Hernandez’s leadership, a nifty glove and timely bat; the captaincy of Gary Carter that put the team over the top; the grit and toughness of Len Dykstra, Wally Backman and Ray Knight; the prodigious power of Darryl Strawberry; and, of course, Mookie Wilson.

We’re thankful for Dwight Gooden’s mastery and the K Corner; Sid Fernandez’s overpowering stuff; and the calmness of Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda. We’re thankful for the deepest rotation in franchise history.

We’re thankful the “ball got through Buckner.”

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

WRIGHT: The Captain. (AP)

Although they didn’t win, we’re thankful for the World Series runs in 1973, 2000 and 2015. Because, even in defeat, those teams brought thrills, joy and pride.

We’re thankful for so many more stars thrilled us, even if it was for a brief time: Lee Mazzilli and Rusty Staub; Jon Matlack and Al Leiter; John Milner and Carlos Delgado; Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco; John Stearns and Felix Millan; Tug McGraw and David Cone; Howard Johnson and Edgardo Alfonzo; Jose Reyes and Daniel Murphy; Hubie Brooks and Jon Olerud; Rey Ordonez and John Franco; Dave Kingman and Rickey Henderson.

There are so many. You think of one and another comes to mind.

We’re thankful we got to see Willie Mays one more time in a New York uniform. He wasn’t vintage, but the memories of him were.

We’re thankful Carlos Beltran always busted his butt for us, even playing with a fractured face.

We’re thankful for Johan Santana’s willingness to take the ball and the might he finally gave us a no-hitter.

We’re thankful to have a player who embodies the word “class,’’ and that is David Wright. We’re thankful we saw his development from prospect to All-Star. He means so much to us that we hurt when he hurts.

We’re thankful the game’s greatest hitting catcher, Mike Piazza, thought so much of his time here that he chose to wear a Mets’ cap into the Hall of Fame. There’s no greater honor a player can give to his city and fan base.

We’re thankful for the great rotations we’ve had, and for the future of the rotation we have now: Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. They give us dreams.

We’re thankful for scintillating moments veteran journeymen pitchers R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon gave us. They gave us a chance to win every fifth day.

We’re thankful for Citi Field, one of baseball’s jewel stadiums. Hopefully, it will bring us the great moments Shea Stadium did.

We’re thankful for so many great plays, from Jones’ catch to end the `69 Series to the plays made by Agee and Swoboda that year. … For Staub playing with a busted shoulder in `73, and, Endy Chavez’s catch in the 2006 NLCS.

We’re thankful for the summer Yoenis Cespedes gave us in 2015 and wonder if he’ll be back for more.

We’re thankful for the enduring pictures and images spun by the words of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson. We’re thankful for Kiner’s stories and malapropos; Nelson’s sports coats and the soothing voice of Murph, especially after that win over the Phillies: “and the Mets win it … They win the damn thing.”

We’re thankful for that great broadcasting team, and the one we have now in Gary, Keith and Ron. We’re thankful Gary Cohen is staying.

We’re thankful for the voices when we’re in our cars or grilling on the deck: Howie Rose and Josh Lewin bring us to the game.

We’re thankful for so many memories and for the memories to come.

Yes, with Thanksgiving gone and Christmas approaching, the Mets give us so many reasons to be thankful. Not the least of which is hope for 2017.

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Nov 08

Amazing Alderson Still Needs Clarity On Cespedes

I do not accept the term “undecided,” whether it be at the voting booth today or Mets GM Sandy Alderson’s stance on whether to bring back Yoenis Cespedes.

After all this time, you can’t honestly say you flipped a coin at the voting booth. Just the same, I don’t buy for a second Alderson needs more clarity on whether the Mets should bring back the high maintenance Cespedes.

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

ALDERSON: Needs to take control of Cespedes talks. (AP)

The Mets didn’t reach an agreement with Cespedes last year until Jan. 26, and that resolution meant giving him an opt-out after one season.

Here’s what Alderson told reporters at the start of the general manager’s meetings in Arizona: “I think realistically, from our standpoint this year, things will probably have to resolve themselves a lot sooner than they did last year.

“But it’s hard to predict where things will go. Things could go quickly. Things could linger. But certainly, from our standpoint, between now and the winter meetings, and through the end of the winter meetings, would be the right time to get some of these issues resolved. But that doesn’t mean it will happen.”

What Alderson is saying is so far all the leverage in these negotiations belongs to Cespedes. These meetings will linger if Alderson doesn’t take control of the negotiations.

Alderson admitted he long thought Cespedes would opt out of the contract and test the market. Hell, he should have figured it when he signed him in January. Alderson is a smart guy. If he knew Cespedes was leaving, then he could also forecast the financial market for him and what teams might be interested. Above all, he should know by now whether the Mets can live with Cespedes’ antics and if they can afford him.

Alderson should already know the answers to the following questions:

* One, do the Mets want Cespedes back?

* Two, are they willing to put up with the negatives Cespedes brings to the table, which includes stunting the opportunity for Michael Conforto?

* Three, how much money are they willing to throw at him at the expense of their other issues?

If Alderson doesn’t know the answers by now, he’s not doing a good job. It’s not all that hard to figure out.

Alderson met with Cespedes’ representatives last week, but said salary was not discussed. Why the hell not? Alderson said the meeting was to inform Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, of the Mets’ interest.

Reportedly, the Mets are concerned about giving a contract of more than four seasons because, 1) they aren’t sure Cespedes will give maximum effort after getting the security blanket, and 2) Cespedes’ injury history last year (only 132 games played).

If they are worried about injury and effort, they why are they going through this? Those are serious red flags.

If the Mets really want Cespedes back they have to assume control of the negotiations. They have to play hardball. The $17.2 million qualifying offer given Cespedes and Neil Walker was to assure receiving a compensatory draft pick. That’s the first step and it was to protect themselves.

The key to is for Alderson to get Cespedes’ demands now and not wait for the market to develop. Don’t dance with this guy. Alderson needs to set a deadline, tell the Cespedes camp what his best offer is, and other issues, such as playing center field, receiving rehab and golfing.

The Mets have a myriad of issues to address this winter and dancing with Cespedes into the new year will hamper those efforts. Fixing their bullpen which they must assume will not include Jeurys Familia for at least the season’s first 30 games; upgrading their catching; and ascertaining the health of their young rotation are all more important issues than Cespedes. They can always get a cheaper right-handed bat in the market and figure a refreshed Jay Bruce will fill the offensive void left by Cespedes leaving. That void can also be further filled with Conforto playing more.

Frankly, Alderson’s most important offseason decision is to decide just how good are the Mets. Was the World Series in 2015 a fluke or are they an 87-win team, capable of contending but not going much further than the wild card?

If you think the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, think again.

Cespedes was hot in August of 2015 and surely the Mets wouldn’t have reached the playoffs without him. However, it was Daniel Murphy and solid pitching that took them to the World Series.

Cespedes disappeared that posteason, much as he did for much of this September when he hit .214 with a .297 on-base percentage, four homers and 18 RBI. Unquestionably Cespedes had glittering moments, but it must be remembered in the second half of the season, with every game important, he hit .246 with ten homers and 34 RBI.

If you believe the Mets can’t win without Cespedes, ask yourself what have they really won with him? Is getting to the World Series and losing that big of a deal?

So, if Cespedes still is a Met priority, Alderson has to set the financial parameters early, making sure the numbers – both money and years – is in the form of a take-it-or-leave-it format. And, when the deadline date is reached – perhaps at the end of the Winter Meetings – walk away.

Like I said, the Mets have a lot of work to do and they can’t afford to let Cespedes impede what must be done.

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Nov 05

Cespedes To Opt Out Today

By midnight today, Yoenis Cespedes will tell the Mets he is opting out of his contract to pursue the riches of free agency.

The Mets have expected him to leave since they gave him the opt-out clause after one season of a three-year, $75-million contract. In reality, they never him to come back after he was close to signing a five-year, $110-million deal with Washington.

CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

    CESPEDES: Where is he running to? (AP)

Somehow, Cespedes eschewed that contract for the Mets. Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the World Series experience.

I’ve written several times how the Mets would be better off letting Cespedes go and spend the money elsewhere. I know that it is an unpopular position because we’re supposed to be enamored with Cespedes’ power, but frankly, he’s too high-maintenance for the money.

I’m annoyed he hustles when the mood strikes; that he played golf when he should have been rehabbing his quad; and he couldn’t play centerfield, which pretty much ended Michael Conforto’s play in left field.

If he comes back and has to play left, it stunts Conforto’s development. I certainly don’t want the Mets to fool around with Conforto at first base just to placate Cespedes.

The Mets will make a qualifying offer, which Cespedes will reject to accept a $100-million package with somebody else.

There are a handful of teams Cespedes where could land, but remember the Nationals were the only team to make an offer last year.

The Nationals could go after Cespedes again, which would entail Bryce Harper moving to center and Jayson Werth going to right. An outfield of Cespedes, Harper and Werth could be imposing.

San Francisco, which needs offense and with left fielder Angel Pagan to become a free agent, could be a player. Another possibility is Toronto, which might lose Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, will certainly have the money.

Another option could be the Yankees. They have long-term outfield commitments to Jacoby Ellsbury and Bret Gardner, but with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez gone, they have a designated-hitter opening.

Conventional wisdom has Cespedes seeking a five-year contract, but last year’s leg problems must concern the Mets, and a DH position has to be appealing to him.