Yesterday, it was announced that with the Nationals season on the line, Stephen Strasburg was not going to take the ball in Game 4. There were a number of reasons cited for him missing the start on normal rest from his being off his routine, his being sick, and his not feeling prepared to pitch.
It is astonishing that Strasburg isn’t taking the ball in this spot. It was his opportunity to exercise the demons of 2012 when he was shut down on the eve of the postseason because he hit his innings limit. It was his opportunity to help save his team’s season when arguably he was the best pitcher suited to it.
The optics of the moment certainly aren’t good. That goes double when you consider an injured Max Scherzer is chomping at the bit to get into the game to help his team get to the NLCS. On top of that, Scherzer will only be on just one day of rest.
Again, Strasburg looks bad here.
Now, there is the caveat that Strasburg could really be that sick, or the team could be concealing some type of injury. Time and again, we have all been given lessons why we shouldn’t question an athlete when they say they can’t go. The most tragic of those circumstances was J.R. Richard. People questioned Richard and derided him, and so Richard pitched. That is until Richard suffered a stroke.
Still, even with the lessons we have learned with Richard, we all question Strasburg because there is a history here. Seeing what is happening with Strasburg, Mets fans should appreciate their pitchers all the more.
Back in 2015, with the same agent and predicament as Strasburg, Matt Harvey took the ball. He won a pivotal Game 3 in the NLDS. He set the tone in the NLCS with a dominating Game 1. He came so close to forcing a Game 6 with a brilliant Game 5 performance. Ironically, one of the lasting images of that postseason was Harvey demanding the ball.
It’s something we have seen with this entire Mets staff. Noah Syndergaard refused an MRI and instead insisting on pitching against the Nationals. Jacob deGrom ignored the pain as long as he could until he had to have season ending surgery. Steven Matz has done nothing but pitch through pain and injury in his Mets career.
Each one of these Mets pitchers demand the ball even when they should have taken a step back and done what was best for their careers. Who is to say the Mets pitchers are right and Strasburg is wrong. Players only have a limited time to play professional baseball and by extension to earn money. With each injury, their earning power goes down. Strasburg, who took the time off, received a seven year $175 million contract extension. There were at least discussions whether Harvey would be non-tendered.
So, maybe Strasburg is in the right here for doing what is best for him physically. However, while that may be true, it could go a long way in explaining why he’s never been out of the NLDS. It’s why he may never experience the glory we have seen Harvey experience in the postseason.
Yesterday, Odell Beckham, Jr. broke his leg as the Giants lost to go to 0-5. It doesn’t matter how optimistic a Giants fan you are, the season is over.
The Rangers still have a talented group, but they got off to a 1-2 start. One of the “highlights” of the young season is Alain Vigneault benching promising young player Filip Chytil for no other reason than he’s a young player. There is still reason to believe the Rangers can make a run, but any excitement you would have is tempered by Terry Collins, sorry, AV, leading the way.
The Knicks, well, they are the Knicks.
If things continue this way, it promises to be a long winter until Spring Training begins.
Unless Sandy Alderson gets to work, it’s going to be a full year without hope. He needs to build a bullpen beyond AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia. There needs to be more on the infield than Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario. There needs to be more starting pitching depth due to the injury histories of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
There’s a lot to do here. Hopefully Sandy does it. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year in the New York sports scene.
When I was talking with my Dad about the postseason, we were prattling off how most of the teams in the postseason haven’t won in quite some time:
- Astros – Never
- Nationals – Never
- Rockies – Never
- Indians – 1948
- Dodgers – 1988
- Twins – 1991
- Diamondbacks – 2001
- Yankees – 2009
- Red Sox – 2013
- Cubs – 2016
Just go back over that list again.
For nearly a century, the dream World Series matchup was Red Sox-Cubs. 1912 versus 1908. The Curse of the Bambino versus the Billy Goat Curse.
Then there was all of the Hall of Famers on both sides who never won a World Series. For the Cubs, you had absolute legends like Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins. The Red Sox had Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
Throw in Fenway and Wrigley with the Green Monster and the ivy, this was the World Series to end all World Series because these were two teams pathologically incapable of winning World Series.
We know it all changed for the Red Sox with a Dave Roberts stolen base propelling the Red Sox to overcome an 0-3 ALCS deficit. It would be a Kris Bryant homer to start the game winning rally in Game five of the World Series. Before each of those moments, these were two franchises who seemed incapable of winning a World Series. There was also a time the Mets would take full advantage.
Now, the Mets are behind both the Red Sox and the Cubs. Now, it looks like the Mets who are the team that can’t win a World Series.
In 1988, Mike Scioscia hit a grand slam against Dwight Gooden. In 1999, Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded. In 2000, Timo Perez didn’t run out a Todd Zeile fly ball that landed on top of the wall. In 2006, So Taguchi homered off of Guillermo Mota, and yes, Carlos Beltran struck out looking against Adam Wainwright. In 2015, Jeurys Familia blew three saves with the help of Daniel Murphy overrunning a grounder and a way offline Lucas Duda throw. Last year, it was Conor Gillaspie who hit a three run homer in the Wild Card Game.
In reality, the Mets aren’t cursed even with all that ensued after the Madoff scandal. However, with each passing year, you can forgive fans for starting to feel this way. It’s been 31 years since the Mets last won a World Series. In those 31 years, the Mets have reached the postseason six times, and they were eliminated in excruciating fashion each time.
Again, the Mets are not cursed. Still, it is depressing to now live in a world where the Red Sox and the Cubs have won a World Series more recently than the Mets.
Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting. He will not be returning as Mets manager. While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring. The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.
In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started. The Mets were bad and injured. It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag. What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.
Part of being human is being emotional. We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences. And yes, we’ve seen him cry. Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality. In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory. In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.
He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title. He left Santana in for that no-hitter. He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult. Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.
Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players. It would be the source of much consternation among fans. This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto. What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.
In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed. You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop. Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.
But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers. It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players. Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner. It wasn’t just those players. Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.
With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets. Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets. Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.
Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see. A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young. A Mets player won a batting title. There was actually a Mets no-hitter. Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.
Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that. Collins got the best out of his players. It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.
And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans. More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect. He returned their affection. That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) October 22, 2015
It was more than the celebrating. Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants. At his core, Collins is a good and decent man. It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.
Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake. Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers. This was just one aspect of his poor managing. There were many times where he left you scratching your head. It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.
However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins. To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season. We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.
He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history. When he was hired no one expected him to last that long. Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure. In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.
I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him. My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man. Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled. Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.
The one thing we never got to see with Generation K was Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson in the same rotation. In fact, we have never seen them all in the same pitching staff. That never happened because of all the injuries they suffered. Then we saw Isringhausen and Wilson traded in successive years to help the Mets chances of winning a World Series instead of them pitching the Mets to the World Series.
Whatever you want to call the group of Mets young starters (most seemed to like the Five Aces), they never appeared in the same rotation. The closest we got was seeing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in the same rotation in 2015. Coincidentally, that was also the year the Mets went to the World Series on the strength of their pitching.
The reason Zack Wheeler was not a part of that group that went to the postseason was because he suffered an injury in Spring Training. In fact, Wheeler would be gone for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For a moment, it seemed as fait accompli the group would never pitch in the same rotation because Wheeler was almost traded to the Brewers with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez. In fact, if not for Gomez’s hip, the dream would have died there.
Still to this day, we have never seen the five in the same rotation. However, we have seen them all pitch in the same season in the rotation. It may not seem like much, but it’s something. It’s also a step closer to seeing them all in the same rotation. It may finally happen next year.
Matz should be ready for Opening Day after the surgery to repair his ulnar nerve. This was the same surgery deGrom had last season, and he was able to last the entire season injury free. Both Harvey and Syndergaard were able to return and pitch before the season was over. Like in 2015 and 2016, the only question is Wheeler.
In the end, the Mets are a step closer to having all five of their proverbial aces in the rotation. At a minimum, they are a step closer to seeing them all on the same pitching staff. If it does happen, one of the open wounds Mets fans have suffered will close a bit. Howeve,r that wound will not fully heal until we see this group pitch the Mets to a World Series title.
Matt Harvey put it best tonight in his post-game presser when he said:
Matt Harvey: "The positive is that this nightmare of a season is over for me."
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 30, 2017
It really has been a nightmare season where you didn’t know what was going to happen next for Harvey. Just when you thought nothing worse could happen, Harvey balked:
Matt Harvey, 2017 pic.twitter.com/81YeBdSgjW
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) September 30, 2017
That third inning balk would force in the Phillies fourth run of the game giving them a 4-1 lead.
Harvey would last one more inning. His final line was 4.0 IP, seven hits, four runs, four earned, three walks, and three strikeouts.
We can talk about a number of improvements Harvey made, but he struggled again. At the end of the day, he finished the season with a 6.70 ERA, which is the highest ERA ever for a Mets pitcher with at least 15 starts.
Harvey would also suffer his seventh loss of the season because the Mets offense could only muster two runs off a pair of solo shots. The first was a Jose Reyes first inning home run. The next was a Dominic Smith fifth inning homer.
The Smith homer brought the Mets within two. After Hansel Robles struggled in his second inning of work, the score was 6-2, and the game was well out of reach.
Watching this game, there seemed to be a malaise over this team. That should come as no surprise in the aftermath of the article wherein unnamed players are front office people trashed Terry Collins.
In the end, it took David Wright, someone who has not played a game all year to say what needed to be said:
David Wright: "For a player to not put his name on the quote and to bash Terry, who has a lot of success. …that is cowardly and lazy."
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) September 29, 2017
Game Notes: Jacob deGrom will not make his last start as he is suffering from gastroenteritis.
Yesterday, the Mets sold us own Noah Syndergaard making his first start since April followed by a “relief appearance” by Matt Harvey. T0day, the selling point was to see Jacob deGrom try to get t0 200 innings for the first time in his career and to see him get his 16th win of the year.
While the Mets largely disappointed, deGrom didn’t. Despite experiencing flu like symptoms, not too long after Amed Rosario had to be hospitalized, deGrom took the mound and gave his team every chance to win. However, deGrom would not get that win.
Part it was his giving up a two run homer to Trea Turner turning a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 deficit. Another part was his teammates really let him down today. To that end, it was not much different than most deGrom starts this year.
Things were really bad in the fifth. Michael Taylor led off the inning with an infield single to third that Phillip Evans couldn’t quite make a play on. Taylor then attempted a steal of second base, and he found himself on third after Travis d’Arnaud threw the ball into center field. A Jose Lobaton RBI single later, and the Nationals had an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
It was insurmountable because the Nationals had Max Scherzer going. As such deGrom’s final line of six innings, five hits, three runs, two earned, no walks, and 11 strikeouts wouldn’t be good enough for that win.
Really, after a Brandon Nimmo first inning home run, the Mets offense couldn’t get anything going. More than that, this offense was inept. This was apparent in the seventh when Victor Robles caught a Rosario liner in right and picked Evans off first.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) September 24, 2017
The play helped kill what could have been a game tying rally. That play was even more magnified in the eighth.
With three straight singles, the Mets pulled within 3-2 with one out.
After a Nimmo strikeout and a d’Arnaud walk, the bases were loaded for Dominic Smith. It was a big moment for a big Mets prospect. The only problem is the Mets manager is still Terry Collins, a manager who has shown zero interest in developing these young Mets players.
Plawecki got ahead 3-1 in the count, but Solis would get back in the count and strike him out.
That ended the Mets last chance to beat the Nationals. Not just today, but the season.
Game Notes: Nimmo has struck out in 14 straight games.
Since Citi Field opened, I’ve been to a countless number of games. It’s fewer than the games I’ve attended at Shea, but still I’ve attended many games at Citi. Tonight, I made the conscious decision to enjoy the park.
Honestly, I made that decision based for two different reasons. The first was the lineup was Nori Aoki–Jose Reyes–Asdrubal Cabrera. Once again, that lineup signals the Mets have completely lost focus on their primary objective, which is to develop and find out about their young players.
The second was when I entered Citi Field with my son, and he was interviewed by SNY:
After that, I made it to the starts because I wasn’t going to miss Noah Syndergaard‘s first “start” off the Disabled List.
It was a glorious return with him hitting 99 MPH on the gun while facing the minimum. Once Daniel Murphy grounded into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play, Syndergaard’s night was over.
He looked great, and he left the game without issue. It was certainly a highlight.
From there, the Mets went to Matt Harvey. It was Harvey’s first career relief appearance even if he was really the scheduled starter.
In Harvey’s first inning of work, he looked like the Harvey of old. The velocity was there. The slider was moving. It was great to watch, but knowing how he’s pitched this year, I knew it was fleeting, so it was time to re-embark and walk around the ballpark starting with the dunk tank
Of course, that made him want a snack, so we continued our tour around the ballpark.
Before grabbing his snack, we settled on popcorn in a helmet.
After watching a few innings, we ventured back out because he wanted an Amed Rosario shirsey. Even though Yoenis Cespedes is his favorite player, he reminded me he already has a Cespedes shirt. Because I was swept up in the moment, and I had a coupon, I got swept up in the moment
Rosario shirsey in tow, my son not only wanted to play baseball again, but he was feeling a bit cocky:
We were in our seats for the next few innings including the seventh inning stretch. With all the running around and with it being well past my son’s bedtime, he only made it through the ninth.
He was drifting, and I thought it cruel to have him awoken by fireworks. As I entered the car, I did hear the fireworks start. Unfortunately, it was in the form of a Murphy 10 inning game winning off Jacob Rhame.
Overall, I really appreciated going around the park with my son. Citi Field really is a great place to take a kid to a game. It would be even better with a better team or with an organization that cared about developing their young players in times like these.
It was one thing to let Matt Harvey start the season in the Opening Day rotation. It is another thing all together to let Harvey take the mound right now. It really only serves to embarrass him. That’s certainly how he felt after he struggled last night:
Harvey upset again. pic.twitter.com/Jihb1sfLX8
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) September 19, 2017
Once again, you have to question why he is even pitching in these games.
In his first season back from TOS surgery, Harvey had an atrophied muscle in his right shoulder. His rush to pitch under these circumstances led to a stress reaction. Even if he’s healthy, he’s still not ready to pitch.
He didn’t look good in his rehab starts. He didn’t even last five innings in any of those starts. Since coming back, he’s only lasted five innings once. Other than that, it’s been four innings or less with five earned or more.
What does this accomplish? Make him more humble? Reduce the numbers he could get in arbitration? Find a way to justify non-tendering him? Seriously, what’s the end game here?
You have to ask because the Mets are not going to accomplish anything by putting Harvey in there game after game. Actually, that’s not true. With each and every start he makes, he becomes more and more dejected in front of his locker. Ultimately, that’s what’s accomplished. The Mets are just stripping out the last thing that makes Harvey great – his confidence. Once that’s gone, you can then really question whether the Dark Knight will ever truly return.
Amed Rosario was scratched from the lineup with an upset stomach. For all we know, it happened when he saw the lineup.
Even with all that, I still tuned it because Matt Harvey was the starting pitcher. Admittedly, I still believe he has a second act. He just needs to get healthy, get stronger, and figure things out.
Sadly, that wasn’t tonight. Sure, there were signs of improved velocity. He even had some movement on his fastball. His slider was the best we’ve probably seen it all season.
It didn’t matter because he still hasn’t put it all together. A level of inconsistency remains. Perhaps, it is because he’s still not ready to be on the mound.
That certainly became apparent when Giancarlo Stanton hit his 55th home run of the year to give the Marlins a 5-1 lead in the fourth.
Actually, it wasn’t apparent to Collins who didn’t take Harvey out of the game.
Harvey’s final line was four innings, 12 hits, seven runs, seven earned, two walks, and two strikeouts.
At this point, the Mets had no realistic hope of coming back in a season where the Mets are playing out the string. With the Giants playing a fairly important game against the Lions, I checked out on the Mets.
Not too dissimilar from Collins who has abdicated his duties as manager by focusing on his dwindling chances to earn wins than to actually develop young players.
Game Notes: Gavin Cecchini, who replaced Rosario in the starting lineup, knocked in the Mets lone run with a fourth inning RBI single.