This Is Wild

Hearing Curt Schilling talk about waking up the Mets’ fan base brought me back to 1993. It was a great time to be a baseball fan, except if you were a New York Mets fan. The Mets finished the season with a 59-103 record, good enough for seventh (last) place in the NL East. 

Seventh?  Yes, seventh. This was the last year of divisional baseball. It was known as the last great pennant race as the 104-58 Atlanta Braves won the NL West on the last day of the season over the 103-59 San Francisco Giants (who lost to the Dodgers on the last game of the season). Naturally, the Braves would go on and lose to the NLCS to the Phillies, while the Giants were playing golf. 

That’s right. The Giants didn’t make the playoffs. I remember hearing this on the radio. My Dad thought it was ridiculous the Giants missed the playoffs while the Phillies made the playoffs. Sure enough, my Dad and most baseball fans got their wish with the institution of the Wild Card in 1994. We don’t need to talk more about that season right now. 

If the current rules were in place, the Giants and Braves would’ve coasted to division titles. The Cardinals would’ve won the Central (what else is new?). The Phillies would’ve played the Wild Card Game against the Montreal Expos. It’s strange to think how different things wer back then. 

It also made me think about this year. The Mets are not in seventh; they’re in first. However, what if this season was played under the 1993 format?  Here’s what it would look like:

  1. Cardinals 67-38
  2. Pirates     61-43  
  3. Cubs         57-47
  4. Mets         56-50
  5. Expos       54-50
  6. Marlins     43-68
  7. Phillies      41-65

Wow!  This suddenly fun season would’ve been completely different. The Mets would’ve been seen as a .500 team with promising pitching. The Mets also would’ve been without Yoenis Cespedes. Why make the trade?  It would’ve had no impact on the Mets playoff chances. 

Instead, the Mets are ahead in sole possession of first place over the Nationals. If the Mets weren’t in first, they’d only be two games out of the second Wild Card. 

People ask all the time, “how do we get more young fans interested in baseball?”  The Wild Card and current divisional format allows for more excitement. I’m excited about baseball. By extension, my son is excited. There’s also interest in D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. 

This is good for baseball. This is good for Mets’ fans. I’m happy the Mets are in the middle of a pennant race rather than languishing in the middle of a .500 season. Also, we would’ve missed out on the 1999 and 2000 playoffs. Teams like the Pirates and Royals would still be without a playoff berth. 

Twelve years ago, there wasn’t much hope. Now because of the change in format, the Mets have hope. Lets Go Mets!

FIRST PLACE!

This is season is becoming magical. In another year, this would’ve been a major let down loss . . . especially against the Marlins. I still have the scars from 2007 and 2008. 

This is a different team. The Mets came in rolling from the sweep of the Nationals and treated the Marlins’ arms like they were batting practice pitchers. Even Bartolo Colon got a hit. 

Michael Comforto hit his first major league homerun. Yoenis Cespedes hit three doubles that would’ve been homeruns in any ballpark other than the originally designed Citi Field.  Everything was so great, the Mets didn’t even need a Lucas Duda homerun. The Marlins offense was so bad, they barely scored a run off Bartolo Colon. Overall, their offense was so bad the Mets got away with starting Wilmer Flores [insert obligatory standing ovation] without incident. 

Side note: can you imagine how unwatchable this game would’ve been had Sandy Alderson not made those trades?  

With the Nationals losing to the Diamondbacks, the Mets are in first place by themselves. I have a feeling that they’re pulling away from the Nationals. It’s incredible!  It’s great!  

IT’S AMAZIN’

Mets Make Wrong Move in Calling up Conforto

When I first started this blog, much of the focus at that time was on why everyone thought Michael Conforto should be called up to the majors. Back then, it was assumed the Mets were not going to add offense thereby making him the only source of offense available. We’re not in this world right now. 

After the trade deadline moves, the Mets now have a major league roster of major league hitters.  So far, Terry Collins has shown he intends to play the following everyday: Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Ruben Tejada. Curtis Granderson, and Yoenis Cespedes. Prior to the Cespedes trade, he seemed to have a Kirk Nieuwenhuis/Juan Lagares platoon, but he seems to have done away with that. 

Once the Cespedes trade was completed, Granderson and Cespedes have played CF. In turn, Lagares and Nieuwenhuis have been on the bench.  Kelly Johnson has played a corner outfield position in those games. These are the games Nieuwenhuis would’ve started as the Nationals were throwing righties. We now know Nieuwenhuis is injured

However, what we don’t know is if Collins has eschewed the CF platoon for more offense. If so, I’m not sure that was the right move with the return of Duda’s bat, Granderson continuing his good year, and Cespedes’ bat. They are  no longer as desperate for offense as they used to be. Now, they need to sure up their outfield defense, especially when their pitchers give up a lot of flyballs. To his credit, Collins is using Lagares as a late inning defensive replacement. 

With Nieuwenhuis going on the DL, his spot on the roster has gone to Conforto, who must play everyday. If he’s not playing everyday, he needs to be in Las Vegas. This means the Mets OF for two weeks, minimum, must have Conforto in left, Cespedes in center, and Granderson in right (barring Michael Cuddyer coming off the DL). At the very least, Conforto is a step up from Johnson defensively. However, it is nowhere enough of an upgrade to justify sitting Lagares’ glove. 

The natural question is who should the Mets have called up, if not Conforto. That’s the problem. For all the moves, there are still some holes in this organization, especially from a depth perspective. Begrudgingly, I would’ve called up Darrell Ceciliani. You don’t need him to play everyday, and he can play all three OF positions. 

I would further endorse this decision as it seemed the Mets were fine with Johnson playing the corner outfield positions during the biggest series of the year. Let Ceciliani be the 25th man while the major leaguers play everyday. Let Conforto play everyday in the minors and come up in September for the stretch drive (like they should do with Kevin Plawecki). 

So while I initially endorsed calling up Conforto, I am now against it. My opinion has nothing to do with his 0-12 streak. He looks like he can play. I was very impressed with him.  I’m just saying the dynamic of this team has changed and so has the need for him. I only wish the Mets would change their mindset. 

Biggest Trade Deadline Acquistion: Mets Fans are Back

Say what you want, but I’m the biggest Mets fan there is. Some may have been fans longer. Some may have gone to more games. Some may spend more money on paraphernalia, but there is no bigger Mets fan than me. 

You know what’s great though?  I just wrote that, and there are people legitimately angry at my statement. There are about a million other Mets fans who legitimately feel the same way. Despite what a garbage analysis says, Mets fans are incredible. 

Just look at the way we treated Wilmer Flores after the Carlos Gomez trade disintegrated. We gave Mike Piazza a curtain call when he was a visiting player. The fans gave Carlos Beltran a standing ovation at the 2013 AllStar  Game, and he was wearing a Cardinals uniform. If you don’t think the Mets’ fans register with the players, you’re wrong. 

Back in the old message board days, Todd Pratt would interact with Mets fans under the user name “Tank.”  If you’re a Mets fan on Twitter, Paul Lo Duca will follow you. Mike Piazza himself acknowledged the fans yesterday during the Mets game:

Last night, the fans were great. You could feel the excitement through the television. It was apparent to everyone. Curt Schilling, who  pitched in the NL East when the Mets were very good and very bad, summed it up best when he said, “[s]peaking from experience, this is a not a fan base you want to wake up.”  

That’s the thing with those of us who miss Shea. There were memories there. The baseball at Citi Field has not been good. Aside from the Johan Santana no-hitter, there have been no signature moments. But Shea?  That’s where we saw our first game. That’s where 1969 and 1986 happened. That’s where Piazza seemingly healed New York for one night:

Look at those fans. The whole country was hurting.  At that time, we questioned if it was too soon to come back to New York. We questioned if it would be safe to play a game in New York. They played, and the fans came. They roared as Mike Piazza may have hit the most important homerun ever hit. 

Guess what?  These Mets fans are back.  Like me, we’re bringing our kids with us. I know my son has been getting swept up in the excitement of these games. When I ask him if he wants to watch, he now runs so we can watch it together. He cheers the homeruns. I could not get him to sleep after the three third inning homerun innings last night. He was that excited. 

I’m more excited. I’m dreaming of an NL East title. I’m dreaming of a pennant. I’m dreaming of being able to see a World Series game with my Dad and son. That would be a dream come true. 

This season and team has momentum. I know Mets fans want to and will ride it into October.   David Wright, and to a lesser extent Daniel Murphy, knows how Mets fans can get. I’m excited to show how great we are to a whole new generation of Mets players and fans. If Matt Harvey thought the fans were good during his breakout year, he’s seen nothing yet. 

I can’t wait to see the stands as we begin to get some signature moments at Citi Field. We can finally make this place feel like home. It’s going to be a fun ride. 

Lets Go Mets!

Terry Collins: Manager of the Year Candidate?

I know this is premature, and no, I’m not jinxing anything. I just believe it is time we take stock in how Terry Collins has performed, especially in light of the revelation he was almost fired last year. Obviously, I thought about this today as this is the first time I woke up with the Mets in first place in August in eight years. 

First, let’s start with the pure subjective (it is a subjective award). The Mets were not ideally put in a situation to succeed to start the year. He had the news about his speculated firing. He was handed a miscast SS in Wilmer Flores. Zack Wheeler has not thrown a pitch this year and had Tommy John surgery. There was a weak bench. He lost his closer on Opening Day to injury and a PED suspension. 

There was the David Wright injury.  The team was built without depth and the Mets have effectively gone without their best player for the whole year. There was the Michael Cuddyer ineffectiveness and injury. There was the stop and start if the six man rotation on two separate occasions. There was a historically inept offense and bench. There was a second Mejia PED suspension. 

Through all of this, he kept the Mets close enough to permit Sandy Alderson to add Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, Tyler Clippard, and Yoenis Cespedes. Everyone would’ve understood if the Mets fell apart. Sure, they would’ve been angry, but that anger would’ve been directed at the front office, not Collins. 

Onto more “concrete” analysis, the Mets’ Pythagorean current expected win-loss record is 51-53. They’re outperforming their expected record by four games.  There are some who believe this is more than luck and could be the result of managerial experience and getting the right people in the lineup. We know about the former, but it is questionable how much Collins could’ve done the latter with his old collection of sub-Mendoza line players. Those four games right now are enough for a virtual tie for first place. 

I still think he’s a poor in game manager. Plus, right now, he’s playing his OFers out of position willingly.  However, there’s no denying that he somehow kept this thing together. When the season was on the brink right before the All Star Break, the Mets had a 4-2 trip against the Dodgers and Giants. I think he forced the Mets to get players with how he got this team to keep playing and win enough games. 

Collins deserves recognition now. He was one of two managers the disfunctional Angels forced him into a resignation. He was the Mets’ minor league coordinator when some of these players were working their way through the system. He hasn’t complained with the rosters he’s been given. Overall, he’s been a good man in a tough job. 

His competition right now seems to be Matt Matheny, Clint Hurdle, his former bench coach Joe Maddon, Don Mattingly, and Bruce Bochy. Given the circumstances in which Collins managed, he’s done a much better job than the aforementioned managers. If the Mets make the playoffs, he should be a lock for the award. 

Did the Mets Just Duda That?

On Friday at 3:00 P.M., things were about as bleak as it could be this season. The Carlos Gomez trade fell apart, and there seemed to be bickering as to whether it was due to Gomez’s hip or the Mets’ finances. On Thursday, the Mets’ bullpen inexplicably blew a six run lead

Then it seemed the Mets would add Jay Bruce until they didn’t. It sure looked like the Mets were never going to add a bat. Worst yet, the Nationals were coming into NY after previously taking 2/3 from the stud muffins. This was a Nationals team that went 15-4 against the Mets last year. 

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Mets acquired Yoenis Cespedes. The attention around the Mets changed from despair to hope. This hope continued to grow throughout the weekend. 

On Friday, it was a dominant Matt Harvey and an emotionally satisfying Wilmer Flores’ walk off homerun. On Saturday, it was the Lucas Duda Fireworks Show. Tonight, Thor was once again the story. Thor went eight innings with two two earned and nine strikeouts. 

Thor made the homerun barrage in the third to stand up. On back-to-back pitches, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy homered. After Cespedes’ first hit as a Met, Duda capped off the five run inning with a homerun of his own. Tyler Clippard, in for Jeurys Familia (who pitched two days in a row), recorded his first save as a Mets. 

The Mets have flipped the script. They swept the Nationals and are now tied for first place in the NL East. I’m so excited that I’ll ignore they’re one behind in the loss column. The Mets are now 38-18 at home. Surprisingly, they’re 7-6 against the Nationals this season.  

The Mets are in a dead heat with the Nationaks and have six head-to-head match ups with them. They have an easy second half schedule. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the Mets are in the driver’s seat in the NL East. We’ve waited seven years for this, and so far, it’s been worth the wait. Lets Go Mets!

Plawecki Catching On?

Yesterday, the Mets activated Travis d’Arnaud from the DL, and they surprisingly optioned Anthony Recker to the minors (I guess Bartolo Colon has an excuse again for his poor performance). I was surprised about this because it means Kevin Plawecki is staying on the Mets roster.

I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised because this is what happened the last time d’Arnaud was activated off of the DL. Look I understand the Mets’ reasoning in wanting to ease d’Arnaud back.  He’s an important part of the lineup.  However, if he needs to be eased back, why are they rushing him to the majors?  We know the answer is his bat, but if his elbow is not healthy, he’s not going to hit.  If this isn’t a case of rushing his bat back to the majors, then why did the Mets pick Plawecki over Recker or Monell?

The reason is simple. None of the Mets catchers are hitting. Plawecki is hitting .212/.257/.212 over the past two weeks. Anthony Recker is hitting .123/.254/.228. Al Leiter hit better than that as a 36 year old pitcher.  I know I’m cherry picking there, but I should not be able to pick out any of Leiter’s offensive seasons and compare them to a major league hitter. The last option is Johnny Monell, who is hitting .178/.245/.222. So you could argue, the Mets are going with the option that gives them a chance to win now. However, we should really be asking ourselves if this is the best option for the team.

Kevin Plawecki is a 24 year old catching prospect, who should be playing everyday. While d’Arnaud has been on the DL, Plawecki has been playing everyday. However, now that d’Arnaud is back, I do not see how sitting on the bench is going to help him. Plawecki has been up in the majors for 59 games worth of action. This is more than a cup of coffee. Normally, I would agree that sitting on a major league bench is good exposure for a rookie. However, he’s already done that. Whatever benefit that may have for his has or at least should have sunk in already.

Furthermore, last year when d’Arnaud wasn’t hitting, he was sent down to the minors. Plawecki is in the same situation d’Arnaud was in last year.  When d’Arnaud went down to AAA, he found his stroke. This season he’s hitting .296/.338/.535, albeit in very limited action.  With Plawecki currently struggling at the plate, shouldn’t the Mets consider sending Plawecki down to get him right? Seriously, at this point what’s the difference between Plawecki’s bat and Monell’s bat? If you want to sit d’Arnaud a little, let Colon have Recker as his personal catcher for now. You can always recall Plawecki in September when the rosters expand. God willing, you can have him on the postseason roster over Recker or Monell.

Overall, the Mets’ three priorities right now are: 1) make the postseaon; 2) build a team that can win in October; and 3) don’t do anything that can harm the future of the team. With respect to making the postseason, I don’t see a Plawecki being a difference maker over Recker or Monell in the limited action he’s going to see with d’Arnaud up. With respect to winning in October, I’d rather see Plawecki in the minors getting his swing right and being an option off the bench in September and October. Lastly, having him in the majors right now prevents him from really working to get better.

While I appreciate the Mets are trying to do everything they can to win, I think they are being extremely short sighted with Plawecki right now. He needs to be sent down to the minors to improve for the stretch drive and for seasons to come.

A Cespedes for the Rest of Us

As the strikeouts rained down upon the Mets’ outfielders, Sandy Alderson knew there had to be another way. A new Met would be born, “a Cespedes for the rest of us!

Here’s everything you need to know about Cespedes:

CESPEDES POLE

First, there’s a bat. For Cespedes, we use maple bats. Aluminum bats are too distracting. Just make sure the bat has a very high strength to weight ratio. 

 

THE THROWING OUT OF BASERUNNERS

Yoenis has a lot of problems with baserunners trying to take the extra base, and they’re going to hear about it:

After Yoenis is done with them, these baserunners “couldn’t smooth a silk sheet if they had a hot date with a babe.”  And now as Cespedes “rolls on, we have the Feats of Strength.”  

THE FEATS OF STRENGTH

“Let’s rumble!”

If all comes according to plan, come October, Mets’ fans will see a CESPEDES MIRACLE!

Lucas Duda Provides the Fireworks

In case you didn’t know, Lucas Duda made sure you knew tonight was Fireworks Night. I told you Duda is awesome

His first homerun broke up the no-hitter. The second homerun let deGrom off the hook. deGrom deserved to be let off the hook too. He didn’t have his best stuff, and he was fighting it all night. However, he gave the team six solid innings, allowed only two runs, and gave the team a chance to win. Duda took advantage of that chance. 

As if the two homers weren’t enough, Duda also doubled in Curtis Granderson in the eighth. In this inning, we saw the impact of Yoenis Cespedes’ presence in the lineup. After Granderson’s double and Daniel Murphy grounded out to the pitcher, Cespedes was intentionally walked. Before tonight there was no one in the Mets’ lineup who would’ve merited that. Instead of now feeling pressure to be the entire offense, Duda was able to relax and deliver . . . and boy did he deliver. 

After Hansel Robles shut the door in the right and Duda single-handedly carried the offense to a 3-2 lead, Jeurys Familia slammed the door shut in the ninth. This looked like the Familia of the first half. 

My only qualm tonight was the lineup. It looked like Terry Collins was still drunk from celebrating last night’s win and the Cespedes acquisition. I know we all love the Wilmer Flores’ story, but this is a pennant race, and you need to field your best team (even if he almost hit a HR). That team has an outfield alignment of Cespedes in left, Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Juan Lagares in center, and Granderson in right. The only time you want Kelly Johnson in RF right now is when he’s signing autographs before the game. 

Luckily, this didn’t hurt the Mets. Also, it was good to see Collins put in Lagares late for defense.   It was better to see Duda’s offense and Familia’ dominance again. It’s even better to be a game out with Noah Syndergaard tomorrow. Lets Go Mets!

More Homerun Please Daddy

Normally, when my son sees a television, he starts asking for Elmo. When you don’t acquiesce, he begins to become upset. As you don’t want to upset your child, you usually relent. 

Yesterday, I didn’t immediately relent. I just wanted to finish watching the highlights of the Wilmer Flores’ walk off homerun before putting in that little monster. Before my son could protest, he saw the ball leave Flores’ bat.  First, he let out a “Whoa!” when he saw it go over the left field wall. Then he yelled “Yay!” when he saw the Mets players and coaches celebrating. We shared a high five. 

Now, he wasn’t asking for Elmo. He was asking me to replay the homerun. Thank God for the Roku and You Tube. After each time we saw it, he would say “more homerun please daddy.”  We must’ve watched that homerun 15+ times in a row yesterday. 

Then I took out his Little Tykes’ baseball set. After he hit the ball off the tee (we alternate sides of the plate), he ran around the house screaming homerun!  Apparently, both 20 month olds and chicks dig the long all.  This went on seemingly forever, and I loved every minute of it. 

Last night during the game when everyone came up, he said, “homerun please!”  Lucas Duda was the only one who obliged. Although we missed the first one to bath time, he saw the second. He was excited. Remember, Duda is his favorite player

I used to be happy just because he showed an interest in the game. Now that he knows what a homerun is and he wants to see one is all the more awesome. The fact that he created the moment in our living room still astonishes me. While Duda’s two homeruns were key in the Mets’ win, my favorite homeruns yesterday were the ones hit in my living room.