Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ike's off the interstate

The Mets went to Chicago and dropped 2 of 3 in disturbing fashion. They played poor defense, ran the bases equally poorly, and looked lethargic in the process. In today's blowout win (17-1), Ike had two hits, including a 3-run bomb. All of this got him off the interstate and all the way up to .201. This is certainly a positive sign, as the Mets will need a strong second half from Ike if they're to stay in the race.

Speaking of staying in the race, here's what's on my mind today. Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Mets might be interested in adding bullpen help. But, according to the Mets, it's "too early." This begs the question, "When is the right time?" Should they wait until they're...what...10 games out? Don't they see that the bullpen is costing them games (17 blown leads) and that by waiting, they may soon be beyond help? Or do they see this? I have a conspiracy theory. I think the Mets were not expecting to be competitive this year, despite the pre-season bravado. And because of that, they certainly did not see themselves adding payroll. If anything, they saw themselves selling a piece or two at the deadline. Fast forward to late June. Lo and behold, the Mets are in the thick of it. But to show a true commitment, they need to add a piece, and take on money. So the front office tells the public they're "looking at the market, but it's too early." And privately, on some strange level, they hope they aren't forced to make a tough decision and add a piece. Poke at it if you wish, but they could make a move now if they wanted to do so. The price will go up later when more teams are jockeying for position. I think they could get K Rod for nothing right now, as the Brewers don't need an expensive set-up guy. But that would cost money, right?

Other thoughts:

Kirk needs to work on the strikeouts. I want him to play everyday, but he's on pace for 200 Ks over a full year. Oy vey.

The hero today, IMO, was Jon Niese. Yes, they hit the ball incredibly well. But Niese was the stopper, and man, did they need that.

Another perhaps "under the radar" point today-Ramon Ramirez was outstanding over 2 innings. This was the guy the Mets thought they were getting. Let's hope he keeps it up.

Chris Young starts tomorrow night against Capuano. Two Mets reclamation projects going at it. I just hope Young continues to pitch well. How could you not root for this guy?

10 more until the break. 5-5 gives them 45 wins at the break, on pace for 88 or so. I never thought they could do it. I'm starting to think that the front office didn't think so either.

Monday, June 25, 2012

It felt like this

After being swept by the Yankees two weeks ago, the Mets lost 2 of 3 at Citi this weekend. Last night was a "matchup to die for" with Dickey against Sabathia. As these things can do, this one did not live up to its billing. RA just did not have it, and that was evident in the first when he almost hit A Rod in the head. That lack of control was not the 2012 RA, and was the pretense to a bad night. RA gave up 5, with the big one being a 3-run shot by Swisher. The Mets tied the game at 5 and had the bases loaded for Kirk, who promptly struck out in the sixth. The Mets had the tying run on on the 8th and 9th, but could not get the job done, with Ike hitting a nice shot to right to end the game.

Today's story is why TC left Batista in to face Cano in the 8th. Cano hit an HR that decided the game off of Batista, who was pitching his second inning. I have no issue with TC's decision. Cano was leading off the inning, and TC wanted to save Byrdak for a potential 9th inning matchup. Think about it. Cano is less dangerous leading off the 8th than Granderson could have been as the 4th hitter in the 9th (assuming a 1-2-3 8th). The Mets, at best, may have had a lead going into into the 9th. I also would have saved my only lefty for Granderson. The problem is that Batista just didn't execute the pitch. TC said today that he was okay with giving up a single to Cano, but the pitch was middle-middle, and the rest was history.

Back to NL ball, and the Mets went through their 25 "tough" games at 12-13. They're still 5 over .500, and 3.5 out. For perspective, they'e 4 games off the pace of having the best record in the NL. Who knows if it could last? We all know that the bullpen needs work, especially with Francisco on the DL. At least there's another lefty with major-league experience in the pen now. Parnell has been set up to close. This has not worked in previous attempts, and I'd be lying if I said that I was confident this time around.

Last note on Swisher. This guy is a slightly above average player, generally around .250, 25, 90. He benefits from being in a great lineup, and parades around like he's the reason they have 27 rings. As I've always said, he'll get his. It won't be the Mets, but this game polices itself quite well. Keep smiling, Nick. Let's see you smile when you're lying on the ground with a baseball imprint among your many tattoos.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Looking at you, Lucas Duda

The Mets lost to the Yankees 4-3 last night. But of course, it wasn't that clean. Chris Young was pitching beautifully, and even had an RBI, and the Mets were up 3-0 in the 7th. After a questionable walk to Horse Face, everyone's favorite Yankee, Swisher, hits one in the air to right. Duda breaks back, is unable to recover and the ball drops in front of him. The ball then scoots behind him, but that's irrelevant. Ibanez follows with a 3-run HR, and it's tied. Swisher's ball HAS TO BE CAUGHT. It would have changed the inning. It's these things, that may seem "incidental" to the game at the time, these plays that are not made, that can really hurt a team.

I've written here before that playing guys out of position is a bad idea. I've made the point that playing Duda in RF was especially bad, since he does not have speed to overcome his mistakes. You never know when it will bite you, but it will. It always does. Duda has hidden effectively all year, making only a few notable misplays. But all it takes is one. This one cost the Mets a game, a game that was painful to lose, and we all know why. If nothing else, I pray that Sandy Alderson has the feeling that going forward, there needs to be an athlete in RF, and natural OF. You can only hide for so long.

Tonight's hyped game with Dickey and CC begins in about 8 hours, and then inter-league play and the subway series are over. I am not a fan of either, and yes, I know there will be more inter-league play next year. In his book, Dickey talks about the "different" treatment of knuckleball pitchers. He discusses how they're not trusted as much as conventional pitchers. He's right. The guy is 11-1 with a 2 ERA, and yet, I keep telling people, "I just tonight isn't the night he loses it". I would never have said that about Seaver or Doc, and Dickey may be on a better roll than either of those guys ever had.

Just go get 'em tonight, RA. Baffle their sluggers, and if you have the lead, kindly consider drilling Swisher. Thanks. And by the way, you have such good control of that pitch, please don't let them hit it to RF.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Reds Series Made Us Angry

After sweeping the Rays, the Mets were swept at home by the Reds. In the process, Jason Bay sustained another concussion, and this time he may be out for a long time. Say what you will about the guy's production, Bay hustles and gives all he has. He hurt himself diving headlong into the wall, and some fans booed him as he wobbled off the field. This is deplorable. I believe it was a very small minority, despite Mark Malousis's take on Saturday on WFAN. "Moose", the Yankee fan, said more were booing than cheering, and that Met fans had hit a new low. Mind you, this coming from a guy who was not at Citi. Also, Mark, weren't Yankee fans spitting at Cliff Lee's wife in the 2010 ALCS? Was it all of them? Oh, you see sometimes a few people act like idiots.

Back to the series. The Mets lost to a better baseball team. The Reds out hit, out pitched, and out executed the Mets. And maybe this is why I (and I assume we) are mad. It's not so much losing 3 in a row. That happens. For me, it was a stark reminder that the Mets still have some distance to travel to get to the "contender" level. The Mets are doing what mediocre teams do. They win some, and they lose some. When they encounter a talented team that want to win, the mediocre team generally loses. This si what happened this weekend. One sore point in Sunday's game-the Reds scored all 3 runs with 2 outs in the 5th. The rally started after Zack Cozart appeared to have struck out on a curve, but Chris Young did not get the call. Some teams overcome this type of thing. Mediocre teams often do not.

Closing thoughts:

I'm happy Chris Young is doing well. He's an easy guy to root for. His 84 mph "heat" that they pop up is fun to watch.

Murphy is dreadful. His OBP is around .310. When you don't run, field, or hit for power, you OBP needs to be close to .400. It's fine by me, it's getting PT for Valdespin, who should be the future 2B.

Ike is coming back. He ws 11 for his last 23 coming into tonight. I'm not ready to check the box near his name on the all-star ballot, but progress is progress.

Back to tonight's game. RA has a no-no through 4. Another no hitter will help make the mediocrity a little more palatable.

Friday, June 15, 2012

That's baseball, Suzyn

What an interesting week this has been for the Mets. After a distressing weekend against the Yankees (as Keith would say, "get your heads out of the ovens, Mets fans"), the Mets go down to Tampa and sweep the Rays. They do so by scoring 29 runs in 3 days against an excellent pitching staff. They do so with a combination of power, two-out hitting, and pitching, highlighted by RA's one hitter on Wednesday. All was well once again in Met-land (except that the Nationals swept the Blue Jays at the same time). Tonight, Gee was flat, as the Reds took the opener of the weekend series. More importantly, Jason Bay suffered an ugly incident that resulted in a concussion. Time will tell if the frequency of concussions will be hard for Bay to overcome, but he sustained the injury through hustle in the field. Some idiots actually booed him as he left the field. This behavior is embarrassing to be associated with as fans. We can only hope that Jason realizes that most fans appreciate his hustle and wish him well.

When the Mets left for their 9-game trip against Washington, NYY, and Tampa, I was pessimistic. I was willing to sign for 3-6, losing 2/3 in each series. The Mets delivered 4-5, one game better than I expected. Yet, I found myself saying that I'd have taken the 3-6 over the 4-5, if it meant not being swept in the Bronx. Funny, isn't it? Sometimes we let emotion (being swept) replace logic (4-5 is obviously better than 3-6). Please let me know if you felt the same way. I bet some did.

The rough patch is not over. There are 2 more with Cincinnati, 3 with the Orioles, and 3 more with the NYY. What's acceptable over these 8? 4-4? But the trouble doesn't end there. After the Yankee series, the Mets go to Chicago (Cubs are pretty bad), but then off for 4 in LA against the best record in the NL. June has been, and will continue to be, rough. So add in the 6 against the Cubs and Dodgers, and what would we take for the next 14? 7-7? If the Mets did that, they will close the stretch from 6/1 to 7/1 just one under .500, and 5 over .500 overall. I'd say that's navigating some treacherous waters!

Other thoughts:

Appealing the Dickey one-hitter for an error on DW to give Dickey the no hitter? DUMB AND EMBARRASSING!

What to do while Bay is on the DL? Hairston/Torres? Other thoughts?Maybe Valdy gets some PT in LF?

Murphy is in a brutal slump. When you have no power and are defensively challenged, slumps are not a good idea. Wake up, Daniel!

Ike is still on the interstate. Is he coming around and has he earned the right to fight out of this thing in the big leagues? Interesting question...My informal poll suggests that most of my fellow fans are cautiously optimistic, very few think Ike is back.

The last 2 weeks have been telling. The next two will be equally so. How will they emerge? Who can predict that? They've been so inconsistent all year, not even John and Suzyn can predict Mets baseball.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Goliath beats David

For many Met fans, these are the most frightful words. "Swept by the Yankees." I'd argue that these words send more trembles down our spines than "Reyes signs with Marlins" or "Seaver traded to Reds." We know why. We now have to live with the taunts, the 27 ring mantra, the "we knocked you down when you thought you were getting up" crap. We have to listen to know-nothing callers to radio stations, and know-less hosts. And the fact is that we did think we had the start of something special, and we were reminded how far away we actually are. But they reminded us. Them. The bloated payroll team. Yes, them.

Friday's game was "eh, the guy threw a no-no, he ain't perfect". It was easy to wash away the 9-1 loss. Saturday's game was the tale of one pitch, a 2-strike curve (that didn't) from Gee to Horse Face. Today, Sunday's game however, this one left a lot to talk about. So I'll spend my time on the 5-4 loss.

Niese was outstanding. Good job, Jon. We'll take that effort every time out. The Mets went up early on Petti...I can't say his name, that's how much he disgusts me. Mets had a 3-0 lead, with the bases loaded and 1 out. Bay and Wright strike out. Is there a Met fan alive who was not 100% convinced that this one would end as an "L"? The question was, how. Enter the pain. DW makes a two-out error in the 7th, with the Mets still up 3-0. This opens the door for an extended inning, Martin HR, 3-2. Now here comes Parnell for the 8th. Yes, there was a series of miscues and bleeders. But Parnell has to, HAS TO, close that down right there. He did not. His 98 mph heat did not get the job done, end of story. But we're not done, then there's the ninth. Yankees up 4-3.

Duda smokes one over Granderson, and Ike doubles in the gap. Tie game, no out. Here's where it turned. Ike tries to get to third on a grounder toward the middle. He's thrown out. Ike, you're slow. You're beyond slow, I'm not sure about that. After a Murphy single, first and third, one out. Thole, a double play waiting to happen, is sent up for Valdespin. I don't get it. If Valdy can start against a lefty, he can hit against the lefty on the mound here. Perhaps he can bunt, and if he hits it on the ground, it may not be a DP. But Thole comes up, and TAKES a called third strike. After a Kirk ground out, we go to the bottom tied. Rauch serves an HR to Martin, and those words pop up, "swept by the Yankees." Man, this hurts. Here are some other thoughts.

The weakest spot in this organization is catcher. Thole is a poor defensive catcher and a .280 singles hitter. This is not Alderson's type of player. I hope Sandy finds a new home for Thole, and finds us a catcher.

Parnell, I don't give a damn how hard he throws, is not effective. He cannot handle pressure spots, so why is he in those spots? Further, why is he on the team at all? I'd LOVE to see him go.

I may be the last Bay defender, but even I'm giving up. This guy is a liability.

The Mets have no stand-out part of their offense. They don't hit HRs, and they have no speed. Something has to be done about this, you can't win with that. I'd play Valdy at 2B to at least add some speed. What is Murphy giving the team? Horrible defense, and a .280 powerless average. Murphy is AL trade bait, until then, a pinch hitter. He also is not an Alderson player. I think (hope) he's being showcased.

FInal thought-this weekend exposed the Mets' flaws. That's what happens when you play a better team. Sandy was in the stands, so he saw it. I wonder if, on some level, Sandy would be relieved if the Mets fall out of it. There's no way he was planning to add players this year, and maybe he won't have to do so. However, as fans, this weekend hurt. We were reminded that our journey is far from over. And they reminded us.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Good Cause, Good Night

I'm a little late with this post, as the GKR event was Sunday. If you have never been to one of these events, do yourself a favor and go next year. Ron and Gary were approachable and friendly, signing autographs and posing for pictures. Dillon Gee stayed until everyone had a photo and autograph. The seats in section 142 were terrific, and the money went to a great cause. And by the way, the Mets won, and got to see Coop and Kranepool. Talk about a perfect night!

On to more current business...The Mets lost 2 of 3 to Washington, in disturbing fashion. The Tuesday game was epically bad, with the Mets losing leads in the 8th, 10th, and 12th, and eventually losing the game. The worst part of that game was the horrific defense that led to that loss. In the 8th, Murphy and Ike kicked grounders, opening the door for the Nats. The 10th will live next to the Castillo drop among the most painful innings in recent memory. The inning started with a boot  by Valdepsin, then with first and third and one out, Valdespin booted a tailor-made DP ball that would have ended the game. Scotty H. homered in the 12th, only to watch Elvin Ramirez give it away in the bottom of the inning. On Wednesday, the Mets played with a hangover, seemingly lifeless and wasting a decent start by Hefner. That brings us to today. RA did what needed to be done, throwing 7 1/3 shutout innings in the Mets 3-1 win. The offense did just enough in this game (Duda with a huge HR), and the defense turned in some nice plays. Frankie surrendered an HR to Zimmerman in the 9th, but then got the next 3 to seal the much-needed W. RA is now 9-1 and if he is not on the all-star team, I'll boycott the game on tv.

What have we learned about our team?

You can't put makeup over a bad defense. If your team can't make the plays, it'll bite you in the rear. We (as I have written over and over) knew the D would be bad this year, so this comes as no surprise. But it may mean the difference when the dust settles-this worries me.

The Mets are reliant on their starting pitching. They win behind Johan and Dickey, and sometimes behind Niese. They struggle behind Schwinden (he's gone) and Hefner, and even behind Gee.

The offense never gives up, but is full of holes. Ike shows an occasional sign of life, but it's short-lived. Ike needs to go down, Duda needs to go to first. This opens an everyday spot for Kirk now that Bay is back, makes the outfield D better, and gives Ike a chance to get straight. Make it happen, Sandy, despite what you said last week. Speaking of Kirk, he and the Mets lead the league in Ks. The bench is short after Scotty H (due to injuries), I never thought I'd miss Turner so much.

What more can you say about the bullpen? They're short an arm, with Rauch's elbow barking. Who knows what his future may be in terms of health? They're moving people in and out, but still have a bullpen ERA around 5.50. This and the defense may be the factors that spoil the season.

We know what's next. The subway series and the beginning of inter-league play for the next 2 weeks. I'm not a fan, never have been, never will be. The games are too intense for the middle of the season. Inter-league play also imbalances the schedule, and this will be even more pronounced with 2 wildcards. Teams should play the same schedule-end of story. I guess that since attendance goes up, inter-league is here to stay. Hurts the baseball purist in me.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

No Hitter, No Words

What can I say that has not been said in the last 14 hours? This man above is a stud, a mench, a warrior, a leader, call him what you will. It could not have happened to a more-deserving pitcher. I've been watching games since 1969, as a 5-year-old. I thought I'd never see a Mets no hitter. Then I thought, if I did see it, it would be non-descript pitcher doing it with 9 walks (like AJ Burnett). But it happened. It happened on 6/1/12 with our modern-day ace on the hill, the man who should share a "C" with DW. I got to enjoy it with my mom and my daughter, since it was my mom's birthday and we were all over at her house. I'll never forget it. Thanks, Johan.

I'm intrigued by something I saw on Twitter last night. The Mets had 8 runs on 8 hits, and Johan threw 134 pitches (1+3+4=8). Was "Kid" looking down on the Mets last night? Maybe he was.

The love fest among fans carries on today. People are making ring tones of Howie's call. WFAN has devoted the morning to the no-hitter. Gary, Howie, Doc, they've all been on. It feels little, a little, like October 28, 1986, the day after, you know. It's a celebration of the New York Mets. There haven't been many lately, and it feels great. Has the organization turned the corner? Maybe. Is this going to be a special season? Maybe not. But we, all fans, can enjoy this. We can be proud. We can celebrate something we now have, that we've waited patiently for. Maybe we've exorcised the 2006 demon, having this happen against St. Louis. And maybe none of this matters, let's just enjoy the moment that was 50 years in the making.