David Cone

I Tuned In to Watch Terry Collins Manage

Given the fact that the Mets weren’t going to have any players playing tonight, I wasn’t as excited for the All Star Game. However, it was still a baseball game with the best players in the game, so naturally, I tuned in to watch. Here are some quick thoughts:

Very cool to name the AL & NL batting champs after Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. Even better to do it at the San Diego All Star Game. 

Am I the only one who thought Collins was sitting Michael Conforto because the American League started a left-handed starter in Chris Sale?

The Terry Collins getting tired of the Royals’ hitters jokes after the Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez homers were about as funny as Sophie’s Choice and as original as Carlos Mencia’s standup. 

I still can’t believe Collins let Jose Fernandez pitch to David Ortiz after Fernandez said he was going to groove one in to Ortiz in a game with World Series homefield advantage on the line. Fortunately, he didn’t, and Ortiz walked. 

Speaking of Ortiz, just go away already. I double down on those feelings after seeing how Tim Duncan retired today. 

love how Terry Collins lifted all the Cubs starters – Anthony RizzoBen ZobristKris Bryant, and Addison Russell – as the game got close and late. You don’t want the Cubs playing with the World Series on the line.

By the way, remember when the Mets announced to everyone they were signing Zobrist – even after he already agreed to a deal with the Cubs?

As I learned during Game 3 of the World Series, the home team tapes the Stand Up to Cancer signs to each seat with a generic statement like “Survivors.”  During the World Series, you could fill-out your own in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. I was shocked there weren’t any “Tony Gwynn” signs in San Diego. 

Speaking of the signs, it was classy for Collins, Tim Teufel, and other members of the Mets to hold up signs for Sandy Alderson. I did wonder where the signs for Shannon Forde were. By the way, it was really classy for Daniel Murphy to hold up a sign for “Sandy Alderson” with the way Alderson let it be known he didn’t want Murphy around:

  
Speaking of Murphy, that Net Negative saved a run with a nice defensive play that Neil Walker doesn’t make. Just saying. It should be noted Murphy reached base in all three at bats, including being the first ever batter to be awarded first base after a replay in the All Star Game, as he’s clutch in the biggest moments. 

It was fun being able to root for Murphy again. It was also great seeing Carlos Beltran appear in the game in what is likely to be the last one for the future Hall of Famer. He joined David Cone as the only players to appear for the Mets and Yankees in an All Star Game. Note, remember this on Friday

Seeing the Jacob deGrom GEICO commercial reminded me of how great deGrom was in last year’s All Star Game

I was shocked Mark Melancon wasn’t wearing his Mets hat when Collins brought him into the game in the seventh. 

Nice to hear the blurb about how Terry Collins wanted to get at least one representative from each team in the game and then not pitch Jeurys Familia or Bartolo Colon. Apparently, he thought Mets fans were content seeing just him. But hey, at least the fans of the other 14 teams were upset with him. 

And that’s the thing, in essence, I tuned in to watch Terry Collins manage and try to figure out again why the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy. In the process, the National League lost the game and homefield advantage in the World Series in a game that saw them leave 10 runners on base. 

In that sense, the game wasn’t too dissimilar than watching a Mets game. 

The Mets Have Four Aces

Lost in all the offensive struggles is the fact that this Mets team is built upon pitching.  As a franchise, the Mets always have and always will be built upon pitching.  It started with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack in the late 60’s.  It was continued in the 80’s with Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, and David Cone.  The mantle was supposed to be picked up this year by the Mets young rotation.

However, the rotation has had some struggles.  Matt Harvey struggled mightily going 2-4 in May with a 5.91 ERA.  To a lesser extent, Jacob deGrom struggled in May going 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA.  The concern with deGrom was not so much the results but the seemingly precipitous drop in velocity.  These were to the two aces the Mets road all last year and into the postseason.  These were supposed to be the two aces this year leading the team while the younger starters developed.  Instead, the reverse has been true.

Noah Syndergaard has taken the next step this year.  He is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA and a 0.958 WHIP.  He is throwing fastballs up and over 100 MPH, and more impressively, he is throwing sliders around 95 MPH.  He is as dominant a pitcher as there is in baseball right now.

Steven Matz was named the National League Rookie of the Month for the Month of May.  It was a well deserved honor after going 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.757 WHIP.  In fact, if you take away his first nightmare of a start, a start he made after a long period of inactivity, Matz is 7-0 with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.932 WHIP.  Matz has been the pitcher everyone has imagined he would be and more since he burst onto the scene last year beating the Reds from the mound at the plate.

Overall, Syndergaard and Matz have taken the next step.  On almost any other rotation, they would be the unquestioned ace. That was the same thing that has been said for Harvey and deGrom.  On that front, there is some great news as well.  In Harvey’s last start, he went seven innings allowing only two hits, no runs, and one walk with striking out six.  In deGrom’s last start, he went seven innings allowing five hits, one run, and two walks while striking out 10.  More importantly, deGrom’s velocity is returning with him getting his fastball up to 96 MPH.

So yes, it appears like the 2016 Mets are continuing the franchise’s legacy of having great pitching.  With Syndergaard and Matz being ahead of schedule in their development coupled with Harvey and deGrom starting to return to last year’s form, the Mets rotation is stacked with four aces.  If you’re a baseball player or a poker player, you know four aces is next to impossible to beat no matter whatever else you have in your hand . . . even if that hand contains the deuce that the Mets offense was over the month of May.

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com

Retire 17?

You know sometimes we forget about the impact Keith Hernandez had upon his teammates. 

After Hernandez left the Mets, David Cone switched his number from 44 to 17 to honor his former teammate. He would wear it again with the Royals. His fellow color commentator, Ron Darling, wore 17 while a member of the Athletics. Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell did the same with their future teams. In fact, they occupied the number during Mike Piazza‘s early tenure with the Dodgers. This is interesting because Piazza wanted number 17:

When Piazza joined the Mets, John Franco gave him his number 31. It was a terrific gesture that was part of a full court press to make Piazza comfortable and to get him to resign with the Mets. Piazza’s chosen number,17, was taken by Luis Lopez. He’s one of the many who have had the number that drives Hernandez nuts. I’m assuming Piazza never asked for the number. 

With Piazza on the verge of being elected to the Hall of Fame, I presume the Mets would retire his number during the following season. We know that number will be 31. While Franco was a fine Met and a good closer, I’m sure there will be no groundswell to retire the number in his honor as well. 

Now if Piazza wore 17, I’m assuming the Mets would’ve told Luis Lopez to find another number. If Piazza’s number 17 was retired, there would’ve been a major groundswell to retire the number in Hernandez’s honor as well. We know there is one already amongst the fan base. Retiring Piazza’s number might’ve created an avenue to retire the number of a popular player and broadcaster. However, Piazza never got to wear 17, and it’s Hernandez’s fault. 

He left a tremendous impact with the fans and his teammates. The fans and his teammates wanted to honor him. It’s ironic this impact is what is preventing him from having his number retired. 

I Want it That Way

Somewhere in my house, I have a “Mojo Rising” t-shirt featuring the greatest infield ever. It became the anthem of the 1999 season. After Kenny Rogers forgot how to throw a strike, there was no more “Mojo Risin.”  I also stopped wearing the t-shirt. 

The following season seemingly every team adapted “Who Let the Dogs Out?” as their rally cry. I don’t know that I ever got that song out of my head. I knew something bad was going to happen when the Baha Men performed before Game Four of the 2000 World Series. My fears were realized when I watched David Cone struck out Mike Piazza. Luckily, after the 2000 World Series went away, so did the Baha Men. 

Speaking of the 2000 World Series, N’Sync performed the National Anthem at Game Three of the World Series. It was the wrong boy band. Clearly, this wrong choice set forth a catastrophic chain of events which led to the Yankees winning the World Series. That’s right. I’m blaming N’Sync. 

It seems Juan Uribe wants to right that wrong. He started blasting and dancing to the Backstreet Boy in the locker room. This is one of the reasons why Uribe is such a great addition. He keeps things loose in the clubhouse, and he keeps things fun. We all laughed when we saw it. It was fun. I can see this Backstreet Boys being a thing. 

Why not?  The dumbest things become a thing during a time when your team is winning. Earlier this year, it was the Citi Field raccoon:

 

Then, it was Yoenis Cespedes and the “Rally Parakeet“:
  
Finally, it was David Wright and his cookies:

  
These things take on a life of its own. Personally, I like the Backstreet Boys meme. First, it doesn’t seem as forced as the other ones. Second, it’s fun, and the Mets can have fun with it by blasting it on the loudspeakers. I think we should petition Uribe and the other Mets to use the Backstreet Boys for their walk-up music. It’s as organic as Robin Ventura playing “L.A. Woman” in the clubhouse leading to “Mojo Risin” t-shirts. Finally, the Backstreet Boys are there at the promised land:

Let’s let the Backstreet Boys lead us to heaven. They already seem to know the way. Lets Go Mets!