Jun 01

Mets Wrap: Mets’ Lousy Hitting Wastes Another DeGrom Start

DeGROM: Great start wasted. (Getty)

DeGROM: Great start wasted. (Getty)

The Mets’ inability to hit with runners in scoring position, and manager Terry Collins’ insistence they are a home run-hitting team is beyond aggravating. It has gotten tiresome. Unless there’s a reversal in this trend, forget about reaching the World Series, much less getting there.

I don’t know how many times Collins said this year the Mets “don’t play small ball,” that “this team is built on power.”

Collins was at it again after Wednesday’ 2-1 loss in 13 innings to the Chicago White Sox, telling reporters: “We’re not a small ball team. We don’t steal bases. We don’t hit-and-run. To ask them to do something to do that they aren’t used to doing you’re asking them to fail.”

That’s blue-and-orange colored crap. Collins said the Mets work on their situational hitting all the time in batting practice.

“Every team talks about situational hitting,” Collins said. “Now it has to be applied.”

Now it has to be applied? It should have been applied since spring training.

Collins said it should be noted the team is without David Wright, Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud, all now injured, and Yoenis Cespedes, who asked for the game off.

While that’s fair to note, it should also be remembered Wright is hitting .226 with 14 RBI; Duda .231 with 19 RBI; and d’Arnaud .196 with one RBI. The three have a combined 94 strikeouts. Cespedes appeared as a pinch hitter and struck out for the 45th time.

The power-laden Mets lost two games each to the Dodgers and White Sox. They scored only six runs during the Chicago series.

The Mets’ situational hitting wasted a superb outing by Jacob deGrom, who is winless in his last six starts, including a loss and five straight no-decisions. Three of those no-decisions turned into a one-run loss by the Mets.

Today they had 20 runners, but only one scored. They went 1-for-8 with RISP and stranded 14 runners. Also horrible were 12 strikeouts and scoring just one run after getting 13 walks.

Today was a microcosm of how off-base Collins’ reasoning is, and if correct, how poorly this team has been constructed by GM Sandy Alderson.

Yes, the Mets’ 73 home runs are great, but they are an aberration. Everything has to be perfect to hit a home run. The stride, the swing, making contact at the precise split second all have to come together. It might be the most perfect moment in sports.

But, you can’t live off swinging for perfection. History is full of powerful teams that didn’t win a World Series. Take a walk and advance the runner; bunt; steal; hit-and-run; get the clutch hit; and don’t strike out.

A more important and telling stat is in half their 52 games the Mets scored three runs or less.

METS GAME WRAP

June 1, 2016, @ Citi Field

Game: #52          Score:  White Sox 2, Mets 1 (13)

Record: 29-23     Streak: L 2

Standings: Second, NL East, 2.5 games behind Washington prior to the Nationals’ game Wednesday night.  Playoffs: Second, half-game WC behind Pittsburgh.

Runs: 195    Average:  3.75   Times 3 or less: 26

SUMMARY:  It just goes to show you can never tell what might happen in a major league game. Relief pitcher Matt Albers doubled off Logan Verrett to lead off the 13th inning – his first hit in nine years – took third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.

KEY MOMENT:  The Mets left the bases loaded in the sixth. Hell, they Mets left a lot of men on base all day. … Albers double was pretty big, also.

THUMBS UP:  DeGrom was superb and deserved better. He struck out ten. … Two hits by Rivera. … One run in six innings from the bullpen. … Two walks each by Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker and Juan Lagares.

THUMBS DOWN:  Hansel Robles left the game with one out in the 11th inning with an injury. Jerry Blevins came out but Collins wanted Verrett instead. … The Mets grounded into five double plays. … Michael Conforto struck out four times while going 0-for-6. That includes grounding into a double play. He could use the off day. … DeGrom’s bad pitch to Todd Frazier resulting in a home run.

EXTRA INNINGS:  Wright will get more treatment and One join the team in Miami. …

QUOTEBOOK: “He really battles. When you’re living on the edge, it takes a lot out of you.’’ – Collins on deGrom.

BY THE NUMBERS:  .208: Mets batting average with RISP in the last ten games.

NEXT FOR METS: They are off Thursday, then start a three-game series in Miami against the Marlins, with Noah Syndergaard starting.

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May 27

Where Were You Went The Ball Got By Buckner?

The Mets are honoring their 1986 championship team this weekend. That World Series had numerous moments capable of being etched into our memories forever, but one clearly stands out: Mookie Wilson’s ground ball that scooted between Bill Buckner’s legs.

I was in the family room of my ex-wife, watching the game with her and my father-in-law. It was pretty quiet.

METS' SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

METS’ SHINING MOMENT. (AP)

Anthony Arthur was a Mets’ fan and he took me out to Shea that summer. The game, and what had been a marvelous season, were slowly and agonizingly slipping away in the tenth inning of Game 6 with Boston holding a 5-3 lead.

After Calvin Schiraldi retired the first two Mets, I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Well, they had a great season. Maybe next year.”

Gary Carter singled, and Kevin Mitchell followed with the same. As ’86 Mets lore has it, by this time Keith Hernandez was in manager Davey Johnson’s office, his feet propped on the desk as he sipped a beer.

I wonder if it was a Reingold?

Ray Knight singled and it was 5-4.

Enter Bob Stanley, who threw a wild pitch and all of a sudden the game was tied. Technically, it was tied, but we all knew the game was over. And likely the World Series.

I always wondered, as those in New England probably still do, why Roger Clemens wasn’t called in to pitch?

Wilson was up and after fouling off six pitches, dribbled a ground ball towards first on the tenth pitch of an epic at-bat. VIDEO OF VIN SCULLY’S CALL.

It might be the most memorable moment in Mets’ history. VIDEO OF BOB MURPHY’S CALL.

I wonder, where were you when “the ball gets by Buckner?’’

I’d love to know.

 

May 06

Today In Mets’ History: Happy Birthday Willie Mays

In 1969, the 100th Anniversary of Baseball, Joe DiMaggio was voted the game’s greatest player. That was wrong then and certainly was for the next 30 years of DiMaggio’s career. The voters slighted Mays.

You could make valid arguments for Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Hank Aaron. You might also lobby on behalf of Willie Mays, who on this day in 1931 was born in Westfield, Ala.

My vote goes to Babe Ruth as the greatest player in history, with Mays second. In addition to his prodigious power and five tools, Mays will always be remembered for his catch in the 1954 World Series (video) against Cleveland.

Mays’ professional career began in 1947, the same year Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. His major league in 1951, the year DiMaggio retired. They faced each other in the World Series that season.

Mays is first, and foremost, a Giant. He became a Met in 1972 when he was traded for Charlie Williams (perhaps the ultimate trivia question answer) and $50,000 in cash. The driving force behind the trade was, of course, money.

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

MAYS: Not the best memory. (AP)

Giants owner Horace Stoneham, who moved the Giants to San Francisco, was operating a team hemorrhaging money. Mays was nearing retirement and the Giants could not guarantee a job when he stopped playing. The Mets could and brought the icon back to New York.

/a>Mays played a year-and-a-half with the Mets, appearing in only 133 games, but played in the 1973 World Series, in which in went 2-for-7, but is best remembered for falling down in the outfield and his plea after being called out at the plate.

Mays looked like he was playing hurt, and later said, “growing old is a helpless hurt.’’

Mays’ last at-bat was grounding into a force play in Game 3. He retired after the season with a career .302 average with 660 home runs. He appeared in a record 24 All-Star Games. He was a 12-time Gold Glover and three-time MVP.

Mays was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, the first year of his eligibility, but amazingly didn’t appear on 23 ballots.

Apr 30

Revisiting Top 20 Mets’ Questions

Entering the season I suggested  20 questions the Mets would need to answer in the positive for them to return to the World Series. From performance to health to various intangibles, every team faces important questions and they don’t disappear just because it played in the World Series the year before.

At the time, I wrote I would periodically revisit those questions to measure how the Mets are progressing.

Here’s how they are doing:

Q: Will they have a World Series hangover or let down?

A: There were a few red flags and a 2-5 start, but they closed the month with a power surge, clubbing 31 homers in their last 14 games. Last April they won 11 straight. They closed the month winning eight straight and 13 of 15. There’s no appearance of any hangover and it looks as if we’ll have our Mets-Nationals pennant race.

WALKER: Mets' player for April. (AP)

WALKER: Mets’ player for April. (AP)

Q: How will manager Terry Collins respond to being a favorite?

A: So far, so good. I wasn’t crazy about him calling the eighth game of the season “must win.” And, I didn’t like him playing David Wright for the whole game Friday with the explanation he wanted him to face the Giants’ lefty relievers in preparation for facing Madison Bumgarner Sunday. What, Wright has never faced a lefty before? But, I do like him moving Michael Conforto to the No. 3 hole, which was the catalyst for the offensive surge. I also liked how he let Hansel Robles face Freddie Freeman when he could have played the lefty-righty percentages. Best of all, I liked how he admitted the Mets might have made a mistake in not giving his starters enough work during spring training. Overall, he’s done a solid job worthy of his extension.

Q: What’s going on with Matt Harvey?

A: After a 7.50 spring training ERA and 0-3 start, there were understandably questions about Harvey. A lot is always demanded from Harvey, and after making it through last season without any problems following Tommy John surgery, the expectations are even higher. He’s pitched better in his last two starts, both wins. No reason for concern right now.

Q: Will Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard pitch to ace status?

A: Syndergaard has been incredible consistently throwing in the high 90s. His secondary pitches have also been dominant. DeGrom missed time with a strained lat muscle and tending to his family because of complications following the birth of his son. Both child and lat are doing fine. He didn’t have a smooth start Saturday against the Giants, but as usually the case with him, he finds a way to pitch through trouble.

Q: What can we expect from Steven Matz?

A: I would say an awful lot. He was hammered in his first start, but won his last three. Matz has been terrific, but like deGrom and Harvey, he’s throwing too many pitches for the innings he works. That eventually could catch up to the bullpen.

Q: How long can the Mets ride Bartolo Colon?

A: Nothing has changed, the plan remains for him to be in the rotation until Zack Wheeler is brought up, which should be around July 1. He would then move to the bullpen.

Q: How thick is Jeurys Familia’s skin?

A: So far, it has been like leather. Familia recently has worked his way out of a tough stretch. He’s converted all seven of his save opportunities with a 2.45 ERA.

Q: How sturdy is the bridge to Familia?

A: This might have been the Mets’ most important pre-season issue, but the bullpen has been solid in all phases. Addison Reed has been a very capable set-up reliever and Antonio Bastardo has pitched well despite a poor spring training. Jim Henderson and Logan Verrett have been more than pleasant surprises. Robles is getting more chances to shine and he’s delivering.

Q: Paging Travis d’Arnaud, are you there?

A: Nope. Once again, he’s on the disabled list, this time with a strained rotator cuff. The Mets still don’t know what he can produce over 500 at-bats and might not find out this year, either. He wasn’t hitting or throwing well at the time of the injury.

Q: Will Lucas Duda be more consistent?

A: When Conforto was moved to the No. 3 hole, Yoenis Cespedes went to clean-up and Duda was dropped to fifth. He’s hitting .240 with four homers and 14 RBI, and again has proven streaky. Four homers a month will give him 24 for the year, which is short of his expectations. Also short of what the Mets want from him.

Q: Will Neil Walker make people forget Daniel Murphy?

A: Walker has been the Mets’ Player of the Month for April with nine homers, tying him with Dave Kingman (1976), Carlos Delgado (2006) and John Buck (2013) for the club record. Sure, Murphy was a terrific month, but Walker has been better than advertised. The question now is: How hard will the Mets try to bring him back?

Q: Is Asdrubal Cabrera an upgrade over Wilmer Flores at shortstop?

A: Cabrera has done it both in the field and at the plate. There’s no uneasiness when a grounder is hit to him.

Q: What can we expect from Wright?

A: Still nobody knows. It takes him two hours to get ready for a game and his back is always a question. Which is why it was foolish to let him play nine innings in a blowout game Friday night. Why push the envelope? Wright has two homers and only five RBI hitting mostly in the second spot in the order. He’s only hitting .143 (3-for-21) with RISP. It’s not about hitting for power, it is about hitting a single when you need it.

Q: One and done for Cespedes?

A: That’s the chance the Mets took when they gave Cespedes an out clause after one season in his three-year deal. If it does happen that way, it has been a fun ride. Cespedes still has his lapses in the field, but he’s locked in at the plate with seven homers and 23 RBI for the month. However, he is on pace to strike out over 200 times.

Q: A breakout year for Conforto?

A: it is sure looking that way. Conforto lit the offense on fire since moving to the No. 3 hole. He closed the month reaching base in 17 straight games and tying a club record with doubles in six straight. He has four homers in his last 14 games. Everything he hits seems to be hard and on a line. Plus, he’s making the plays in the field. He’s not a star in the making. He already is a star.

Q: Will we get another 90 walks from Curtis Granderson?

A: After a slow start Granderson is on a roll. He’s scored 15 runs in his last 13 games and has a .350 on-base percentage. He also has four homers. Granderson still strikes out a lot and isn’t trying to steal anymore.

Q: How deep is the bench?

A: Kevin Plawecki is now a starter with d’Arnaud’s injury. Collins needs to find a way to get Alejandro De Aza and Flores more at-bats. Eventually, the Mets will need them. Rene Rivera is now the backup catcher.

Q: Who gets injured?

A: That’s always the wild card. Right now it is d’Arnaud. Cespedes missed several games with a bruised right leg, then hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie a game this week against Cincinnati. Harvey entered the season a question because of a bladder infection. He’s fine now. DeGrom’s lat was a scare, but he’s also fine. Wright, of course, is always a concern.

Q: What’s going with the Nationals?

A: The Nationals sprinted out of the gate and opened up a five-game lead on April 16 that is now down to a half-game. MVP Bryce Harper is playing as if he wants to win it again. Their pitching has also been strong and Murphy is playing well.

Q: Can the Mets get off to another fast start?

A: An 11-game winning streak keyed a 15-8 April record last year and gave them a buffer to overcome injuries and a drastic hitting slump. The Mets had another strong April this year at 15-7, which they needed to keep pace with Washington. The Nationals come to town for a three-game series, May 17-19, and the Mets are in Washington, May 23-25.

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Apr 22

Mets List: Mets-Braves Magic Moments

Unlike the Yankees, who always had the Red Sox as a historical sparring partner, the Mets haven’t had what you’d consider a for-the-ages rival. In their infant years, they had the Dodgers and Giants for obvious reasons, then in 1969, they developed a brief rivalry with the Chicago Cubs. Later, it was the Pirates, then the Cardinals, and eventually the Braves.

I have always wanted to run a weekly Mets List feature and plan to do so on Friday.

NO STRANGER GAME

NO STRANGER GAME

With the Mets in Atlanta today for the start of a three-game series, I have come up with five of the most memorable Mets-Braves moments. If you have others, please share.

Post Sept. 11 homer: On Sept. 21, in the first professional sporting event in New York following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the Braves were in town. Emotions ran high, but boiled over when Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead homer off Steve Karsay.

The Mets trailed by a run entering the eighth when Piazza delivered.

The 1969 NLCS: The Mets’ reward for overtaking the Cubs was to face the powerful Braves in the first year of divisional play.

The Braves were loaded with the likes of Hank Aaron, Rico Carty and Orlando Cepeda, but the Mets swept the series, winning 9-5 and 11-6 (at Atlanta) and 7-4 (at Shea Stadium).

Tom Seaver, Ron Taylor and Nolan Ryan were the winning pitchers. From there, the Mets continued to stun the sports universe by beating Baltimore in the World Series.

The Grand Slam single: The Mets trailed in the 1999 NLCS 3-to-1 in games and 3-2 entering the bottom of the 15th inning. The Mets tied it, 3-3, when Todd Pratt drew a bases-loaded walk.

Robin Ventura followed with what appeared to be a grand slam, but was only credited with a single when the Mets stormed the field to congratulate Ventura. In the process, Mets’ runners passed each other on the bases necessitating the call. VIDEO

The Mets would lose Game 6, 10-9, when Kenny Rogers issued a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth.

The Subway Series against the Yankees would have to wait another year.

Late night fireworks: On July 4 and 5, 1985, the Mets had one of those games. The Mets tied it, 8-8, in the top of the ninth on Lenny Dykstra’s RBI single off closer Bruce Sutter.

The teams slogged around for several innings before Howard Johnson’s two-run homer off Terry Forster in the 13th inning. However, Atlanta tied it, 10-10, on Terry Harper’s two-run homer off Tom Gorman. The Mets regained the lead in the 18th on Dykstra’s sacrifice fly off reliever Rick Camp, but the Braves tied it again on Camp’s homer off Gorman.

The Mets seemingly blew open the game with five runs off Camp in the 19th, but pesky Atlanta pulled within 16-13 off Ron Darling.

The game ended shortly before 4 a.m., but the Braves went ahead with their fireworks night. That prompted many calls to police claiming their neighborhood was under attack.

Double-header treat: In a night that might have symbolized the passing of the torch was near, Mets started prize pitching prospects Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler combined for a double-header sweep on June 18 in Atlanta.

Harvey, who would pitch in the All-Star Game that year but eventually wind up on the disabled list and need surgery, won the first game, 4-3. Wheeler, who grew up near Atlanta, won the second game. 6-1.

Rarely had the Mets won in Atlanta, but sweeping a double-header was unfathomable.

ON DECK: Matt Harvey Tinkers With Mechanics

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