Jul 31

Mets Wrap: Limping Into The Dog Days

Just as the Mets closed June so too did they end July by winning at home in the month’s final game to snap a four-game losing streak.

WALKER: Is he back? (AP)

   WALKER: Is he back? (AP)

It’s an oversimplification to suggest the Mets kept their playoff aspirations alive with Sunday’s come-from-behind, 6-4, victory over the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field. Sure, they could go on to win ten in a row, even if their reported trade offer of Travis d’Arnaud and Brandon Nimmo – plus a third player – for Milwaukee’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy falls through.

In avoid being swept by the Rockies, the Mets salvaged Mike Piazza Weekend in time for their four-game stretch with the Yankees. What they couldn’t avoid was losing another player, this time it is shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera with a strained left patella tendon when he awkwardly twisted his knee rounding third.

“I’m very concerned about it,” manager Terry Collins told reporters.

With the trade deadline extended a day, the Mets have until 4 p.m., Monday to decide whether to go for it or pack it in for another year. There are compelling reasons in support of both positions. On the go side, at 54-50, they are in fourth place in the wild-card standings behind Los Angeles, Miami and St. Louis, but only 2.5 games behind the Marlins for the final spot. On the nay side they trail NL East leader Washington by seven games, plus have a long list of injuries.

Plus, despite winning Sunday and Neil Walker suddenly hot again, the Mets’ offense has been in a three-month slide.

Who cares if the Mets are third in the NL in homer with 132, when in the 15-team league they are 11th in on-base percentage (.305), 13th in RBI (365), 14th in runs (375) and 15th in average (.238). And, if you’re into the new-age numbers, they are 11th in OPS (.714).

There’s still time for the Mets to make a run, even if they don’t make a splash at the deadline.


James Loney has been a terrific replacement for Lucas Duda, whose return timetable is uncertain. His defense has been magnificent, and he’s been a presence at the plate, hitting .282 with six homers, 21 RBI and a .337 on-base percentage. And in July, when both Yoenis Cespedes and Walker struggled, Loney hit .291 with three homers and 11 RBI.


Addison Reed has arguably been one of GM Sandy Alderson’s best acquisitions. He leads the NL with 26 holds, including 10 for July along with a 0.00 ERA for the month. He struck out 16 in 12 innings, and gave up only four hits. Overall, he has a 1.81 ERA and 0.45 WHIP.


There have been several significant games, and but I’m leaning toward Friday’s 6-1 loss to the Rockies in which the Mets had two on with nobody out and reliever Scott Oberg entered to get three outs on three pitches. I could have gone with any of Jeurys Familia‘s two blown saves, or even Sunday, but I chose this one because of Collins’ post-game message.

“We have a good team,” Collins said. “We’re going through a rough time right now. We’re not dead. We’re still in the hunt. We need to lighten it up and have some fun. … We have to stop worrying about some of the bad things and concentrate on some of the good things.”


When Walker was in the midst of a horrid slump, Collins opted to sit him down for a couple of games. The turnaround wasn’t immediate, but he is 12-for-22 so far on the home stand., including a three-run homer Sunday.


Both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz have been pitching with bone spurs in their elbows. Both have had rising pitch counts, but so far they haven’t missed any time, although Syndergaard was scratched from the All-Star game.

Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen are experimenting by cutting their between-starts sessions and pre-game warmups. So far, so good.


I don’t know what Alderson will do Monday, but to date, he’s done a good job of plugging holes with Loney, catcher Rene Rivera and Kelly Johnson. Jose Reyes was a temporary fix, but he’s on the disabled list.


Look for Cabrera to go on the disabled list and replaced by Matt Reynolds. He’ll join Reyes and Juan Lagares, who went on the DL last week. … Yoenis Cespedes has a strained right quad. Frankly, I’d put him on the DL now and see what two weeks rest might do, rather than have him go at half-speed and risk losing him at the end of August or September. … Syndergaard and Matz are dealing with bone spurs and bear constant watching. … Matt Harvey is gone for the year and nobody knows when Zack Wheeler will return. … We see David Wright watching games from the bullpen. … The speculated return date for Duda keeps being pushed back, … Remember reliever Jim Henderson? Still no word when he’ll return.


Will the Mets make a deal at the deadline?

How long will Cabrera and Reyes be out?

How long will Matz and Syndergaard hold up?

How long will the ride last with Loney?

After coming back, will Nimmo and Michael Conforto start hitting?

Is Bartolo Colon slowing down?


2: Blown saves by Familia after converting 52 straight.

3: Players put on the DL (Reyes, Lagares and Harvey).

13: Games during the month in which they scored three runs or less.

8: Victories by a starting pitcher for the month.


It doesn’t get any easier for the first week with four against the Yankees, who are now without Alrodis Chapman and Andrew Miller, then three in Detroit. From there they have six games against Arizona and three with San Diego, then four at San Francisco and three at St. Louis. They close the month with three at home against Philadelphia and three with Miami.



Jul 23

What I Will Always Remember About Piazza


                                         PIAZZA AND SEAVER

In thinking of my favorite Mike Piazza memory, I always go back that one swing against the Braves, Sept. 21, 2001, in the first professional sports event in New York City following the terrorist attacks that leveled the World Trade Center.

I was in Baltimore at the time, covering the Yankees and Orioles, and in the back of the press box was a television tuned to the Mets and Braves. The pregame ceremonies were moving, and like most of the Yankees writers, my eyes kept darting back to the game at Shea Stadium.

After all, this was our city, and history was being made at the stadium whose parking lot a few days before was used as a staging ground to shuttle food and other supplies to the hundreds in need in lower Manhattan.

During such times it is cliché to say sports are insignificant, but they also have a way of diverting our attention and making us feel good when things are black. Piazza’s dramatic home run off the Braves’ Steve Karsay didn’t heal New York’s pain, but for one moment it made things seem normal.

It wasn’t the greatest moment in franchise history, but it definitely was one of the most significant. For that reason, it is my favorite Piazza memory.

The following are my other most memorable Piazza moments:

Piazza vs. Clemens: This was more a soap opera than a singular event and the first domino was a grand slam the one-time 62nd-round draft pick Piazza clubbed off Roger Clemens in June of 2000.

A month later, in one of the classic punk moves of all time, Clemens hit Piazza in the head with a fastball in a night game at Yankee Stadium.

Then, in Game 2 of that year’s World Series, Clemens’ broke off Piazza’s bat, and grabbed the barrel end and disgustedly threw it at the Mets’ catcher.

A few days ago, former Yankees manager Joe Torre said he doesn’t believe Clemens threw the bat at Piazza intentionally.

I covered that game and couldn’t believe not only what I saw, but that Clemens wasn’t ejected. Knowing what I know now, a case can be made for steroid rage.

Of course, Torre wouldn’t throw a former player of his under the bus. However, as somebody who oversees disciplinary cases for Major League Baseball, what Torre would do if faced with a similar incident?

In the end, Piazza’s career numbers off Clemens were 8-for-22 (.364) with four homers.

A footnote to all this was Shawn Estes’ lame attempt at payback when he lobbed a ball behind Clemens’ back. To this day when I think of that pitch, I just shake my head.

Mauling Mendoza: The year before Clemens, on July 10, 1999, Piazza hit a three-run homer off Yankees’ reliever Ramiro Mendoza that measured 482 feet and hit a party tent behind the visitor’s bullpen at Shea Stadium.

Piazza’s swing uncoiled into a ferocious crack when bat met ball. This might have been one of the hardest hit, if not longest, of the 427 homers Piazza hit during his career.

Letting go – twice: Funny, considering the debate as to which cap Piazza would have on his plaque – Dodgers or Mets – is both teams let him go.

Piazza was in the prime of his career, and there was already talk of him being the best hitting catcher of all-time, when the Dodgers foolishly traded him to the Marlins in May of 1998.

The Dodgers and Piazza were in negotiations to keep him from leaving after the season as a free agent. That a contender such as the Dodgers would trade a marquee player like Piazza was beyond stupid. However, in hindsight, it must be remembered Piazza was traded not by the O’Malley family, but News Corp., which helped run the team into the ground.

A week later, the Marlins, in a salary dump, traded Piazza to the Mets for Preston Wilson and Ed Yarnall.

Piazza’s good-bye at Shea: On Oct. 2, 2005, it was clear Piazza’s eight-year run with the Mets would not be extended. As it usually is with the Mets, it was about money.

He went 0-for-3 in his final game with the Mets, but we all knew he wasn’t going to return and finish his career in New York. The crowd would not let him go and gave him standing ovations throughout the game.

Really saying good-bye at Shea: On Aug. 9, 2006, the Mets were on their way to the playoffs, but the sellout crowd couldn’t resist showing its love for Piazza one more time.

In a 4-3 victory over San Diego, the crowd roared the way it used to for Piazza when he hit a pair of solo home runs off Pedro Martinez. It was fun to see Piazza unload off Martinez in the fourth, but to see him do it again in the sixth was surreal.

Setting the HR record for catchers: Piazza set the record for most home runs by a catcher with 396. The former record was 351 by Carlton Fisk, which Piazza passed on May 5, with a blast by San Francisco’s Jerome Williams, at Shea.

Saying good-bye with Seaver: The Mets know how to throw a party. There was that sensational night against the Braves, and there was also the final Sunday afternoon of the 2008 season when they closed the doors at Shea forever.

All the greats were trotted out, but watching Piazza walk through the center field gate with his arm wrapped around Tom Seaver is something I will never forget.

Treated unfairly by the press: I covered Major League Baseball for over 20 years, and usually support that profession.

However, two things made me ashamed.

The first was the crass and obnoxious articles questioning Piazza’s sexuality, which is nobody’s business.

The second were the persistent, unfair attacks and insinuations of PED’s.

My basis in voting for the Hall of Fame is: 1) Has he ever failed a drug test administered by Major League Baseball? 2) Was he ever named in an official document such as the Mitchell Report? 3) Did a player, manager or coach ever accuse him on the record?

The answer to those questions have always been NO.

Piazza was again asked that question by long-time New York baseball writer who has an unreasonable vendetta against Piazza based on a few pimples. It was embarrassing to hear the issue raised again, but Piazza answered with class, as he usually did.

That he would be treated so shabbily by the New York press, and yet still want to be inducted representing the Mets is a testament to how you treated him for eight wonderful years.

I only wish it could have been longer.

I hope you’ll share your favorite memories and thoughts about Piazza.

Jun 22

Mets Need To Be Cautious Regarding Gourriel

The Mets working out Cuban defector Yulieski Gourriel is one thing. Signing him to a multi-year, exorbitant salary is another, regardless of Yoenis Cespedes‘ endorsement. The Mets are among a half-dozen, major league teams interested in the 32-year-old infielder. The group includes the Angels and Dodgers, Giants, Astros and Yankees.

Gourriel is MLB’s latest flavor of the month in its voyage into international waters. He’s a hot name, but that doesn’t mean he’s the right fit for the Mets. It also doesn’t mean he isn’t the right fit.

“We’re going to do our due diligence on that player,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson told reporters. “So we’ve made arrangements to do that. At the same time, this player hasn’t seen live pitching for weeks if not months. It’s not clear how long a player in that situation would take to be ready. And, of course, there is the investment and all the other issues – and making an evaluation currently of the player based on workouts and not game competition. But we’re going to go through that process.”

Here are the red flags in signing Gourriel:

* The Mets are without David Wright for an undermined period, and while Gourriel could plug the hole at third base, a quick sign smacks of panic. Nobody knows if Gourriel is the right answer. By the same token, nobody knows if Wilmer Flores won’t develop into the right answer.

* Regardless of what numbers Gourriel put up in Cuba, it wasn’t against major league pitching. Nobody knows for sure how good he can be. To compare Major League Baseball to leagues outside the United States falls under the guise of political correctness. It’s baseball, so isn’t it all the same? Not even close. On that note, that’s why it is insulting to suggest Ichiro Suzuki should be the all-time hit leader. Nope, that’s Pete Rose. Period.

* As good as Cespedes has been, remember the world was once Yasiel Puig‘s oyster, too That quickly soured. There are no sure things when it comes to Cuban shopping. Speaking of Cespedes, what’s his endorsement really worth if he’s able to walk after this year? If he said, `Sign him and I’ll stay,’ that would mean something more.

* Gourriel is listed as 32, but as often the case with Latin players reported age is often not accurate as there are widespread incidents of them lying about their age, stating they are younger as to not scare away major league scouts. Birth records, when available, aren’t always accurate.

* There’s been nothing reported as to Gourriel’s salary expectations, but we can assume it won’t be cheap. If the Mets are willing to shell out big bucks, I would rather they spend it in two ways: 1) to lock up some of their young pitching, and 2) on proven bats in the free-agent market on players with proven talents.

Clearly, there’s a lot for the Mets to consider in signing Gourriel. In the big picture, I don’t know how good Gourriel can be. Nobody does. Signing him is akin to walking down a flight of stairs in the dark. Better be careful.

Jun 03

Wright To DL; Here’s Appetizing Options To Replace Him

The anticipated is now reality and for the second straight season the Mets will place David Wright on the disabled list for an extended period. They are saying possibly six weeks, which could mean a return in late July or August, or maybe not at all this year.

WRIGHT: Who is behind him? (AP)

WRIGHT: Who is behind him? (AP)

Knowing Wright’s condition entering the season, the Mets had to have several contingency plans, including Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell – enter your scream here – or possibly moving Neil Walker to third and bringing up Dilson Herrera.

Those don’t sound appealing, but how excited are you at giving Matt Reynolds a real chance? I’m warmer to that because I want to see if Reynolds can be a viable player. Wright’s injury seems the only way he’ll get a chance.

The trade market includes getting Kelly Johnson back from the Braves – they should have re-signed him in the first place – or going after Milwaukee’s Aaron Hill, San Diego’s Yangervis Solarte or the Angels’ Yunel Escobar.

* Hill, 34, is making $12 million and is a free-agent after the season, so there won’t be a long-term commitment. He’s hitting .274 with six homers and 21 RBI.

* Solarte, 28, is making $525,500 and is arbitration eligible this winter. He’s hitting .339 with three homers and 13 RBI.

* Escobar, 33, is making $7 million this year with the Angels holding a team option of $7 million (with a $1 million buyout). He’s hitting .306 with three homers and 13 RBI.

All are serviceable and none should be too expensive.

Thinking outside the box, the Yankees would probably love to unload the underperforming Chase Headley, who making $13 million this year in exchange for hitting .232 with three homers and 11 RBI. However, scuttling any chance of him coming crosstown is that he’ll make $13 next year and in 2018.

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May 04

If Issue Is 2015 Innings, Harvey Deserves Responsibility

I couldn’t help but laugh after hearing Terry Collins last night talking about Matt Harvey’s problems.

Collins, who admitted the Mets don’t have a real answer as to Harvey’s mechanical issues, but threw out it could be “one of those years where it’s due to all of the innings last year, we’re going to see the effects of it.’’

HARVEY: Must accept responsibility. (ESPN).

HARVEY: Must accept responsibility. (ESPN).

Apparently, one of the effects is a loss of memory, at least by Collins.

If we can rewind a moment to the end of last spring training, I wrote how the Mets needed to come up with a definitive innings plan for Harvey and offered a couple of suggestions, none of which they adopted.

Instead, GM Sandy Alderson – echoed by Collins – a “fly by the seat of his pants,’’ approach. Their approach was to acquiesce to Harvey’s whims, from where to do his rehab and delaying when to have surgery.

I made a big deal about this at the time how important it was to have a concrete plan, which included limiting his innings in blowout games, skipping occasional starts, and definitely pulling him out of games in which he was hurting or ill.

Do you remember the start against the Yankees when he insisted on going after a complete game shutout when he had a huge lead?

And, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten the strep throat game when he wanted to pitch and Collins gave in when the smart thing would’ve have been to skip him.

Then, fast-forward to late August when agent Scott Boras leaked out the limit was 180 innings. Harvey first said he would follow his agent, then after the backlash against him he said wanted to pitch.

This made everybody connected with the Mets look bad.

Neither Alderson nor Collins had the backbone to stand up to Harvey, which ultimately brings us to the ninth inning of Game 5.

Harvey threw 216 innings last year – 36 more than Boras’ number. I estimated skipping one start a month would have saved Harvey at least that number, and even more if they pulled him early from blowout games.

So now, Collins is telling us Harvey threw too many innings in 2015. Well, whose fault is that? If Collins stood up to Harvey, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Now, we learn Harvey was ill before he pitched Tuesday night. Didn’t Collins learn anything from last year?

Obviously not.