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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 15:32

So far it’s been an exciting and interesting postseason. I have to say, though, I’m surprised that both the Nationals and Dodgers are sitting home, as they seemed to me to be the best two teams in the NL — on paper.

Maybe there are advanced stats that disagree with my thought that Los Angeles and Washington were the cream of the National League. But gee whiz, the Dodgers appeared to fit in with their Hollywood digs — a star-studded cast. Even the often unpredictable and occasionally disinterested Hanley Ramirez stepped up his game when the postseason began (maybe he was reminded he was playing for a big winter payday?), and, Matt Kemp was once again Matt Kemp in the final weeks of the season (1.047 OPS in September), and Carl Crawford was perhaps the best he’s ever been heading into the playoffs (.473 OBP and 1.187 OPS in September!). With those three surrounded by the likes of Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Juan Uribe, and Dee Gordon, and led on the mound by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the NLDS should’ve been a slam-dunk.

What the heck happened?

Similarly, how in the world did the Nats lose to the Wild Card Giants? Again, when you look at the two clubs on paper, it seemed like no contest — the Nats should’ve swept. The usually pitching-rich Giants were not looking marvelous, other than Madison Bumgarner. Then former Met Yusmeiro Petit comes out of nowhere and Brandon Crawford turns into the 1969 postseason version of Al Weis and next thing you know, the Nats are sent home for the winter.

I look at both the Dodgers and the Nationals and think, “what could they have done, who could they have added to better prepare for the NLDS?” I’m at a loss. MAYBE the Dodgers could have added another bullpen arm, so that Kershaw and Greinke didn’t have to feel like they needed to go 8 innings every time out? What could Washington have improved going into the postseason? I can’t think of one position player, bench player, or pitcher I would’ve switched out from that team. For pete’s sake, Ryan Zimmerman was relegated to pinch-hitting and he wasn’t missed!

But to me, that’s what makes baseball so beautiful — you never know what’s going to happen on any given day. If there’s a stud on the mound, a college team can beat a MLB club. In a short series, a lesser team can get hot and take games from champions. A team full of sluggers can be hoodwinked by a team that scraps and executes. The littlest things can turn into the biggest things. David can beat Goliath. No matter how many stats are analyzed, they can’t necessarily predict what will happen over the course of a week — weathermen are more reliable.

Along the same lines, for the first time in many years, I’m watching the playoff games played by the teams in the Adulterated League. Why? The Orioles. A team of no-names that ran away with the AL East and swept the previous class of the AL, the Detroit Tigers. And they did this despite losing star catcher Matt Wieters early in the season and star infielder Manny Machado halfway through. And despite big free-agent signing Ubaldo Jimenez being a complete bust. And they keep rolling without slugger Chris Davis. How did the Orioles do it? Smoke and mirrors?

No. They execute. They’re fundamentally sound. Everyone “buys in” to the goal. Manager Buck Showalter instituted a winning program in 2010. There wasn’t a “rebuilding.” There wasn’t any talk about payroll flexibility nor fiscal responsibility. There wasn’t an expectation of losing seasons while they got their s*it together. There wasn’t any yakkety-yak about building from within nor over-hype of prospects to placate the fan base. Rather, Buck Showalter joined Baltimore and changed the focus of the organization. It was not unlike Vince Lombardi’s influence on the Green Bay Packers way back when — winning was the goal, and winning isn’t an outcome, it’s a process, it’s a habit. Yes, the Orioles had one rough year in 2011 while making the conversion from whatever was happening before to winning. Now, though, they’re a juggernaut, despite a cast of characters that changes every year, every month, and every week. Parts are interchangeable because everyone knows the goal, knows what they need to do, and are put into situations in which they can succeed. Pitchers make pitches, fielders execute, batters put the ball in play. It’s baseball at its simplest, much like we witnessed in Atlanta during the Bobby Cox years.

I’m sure someone will want to point out one stat or another that explains why the Orioles are so good this year. Maybe it has something to do with Nelson Cruz being a beast. I’m not terribly interested in paper-based arguments, mainly because I believe that the on-paper, measurable, individual results may not have just “happened,” but because those individuals were put into optimal situations, were properly motivated, and well-handled (these are all things that successful business managers do). How did Yusmeiro Petit come out of nowhere? Were the Orioles really “lucky” to have received great performances from Steven Pearce, Cruz, and, most recently, Delmon Young? Why do so many has-beens rekindle their careers when they put on pinstripes? I sincerely believe it has something to do with the environment, the attitude, and the process. I have to believe that, otherwise baseball becomes a soulless, black and white form of entertainment.

OK, I’ve gone off someplace far away from Flushing — my apologies.

What’s your thought on what’s happening thus far in the postseason? Are you enjoying it?

Sound off in the comments.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "14-15 Offseason"
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Date: Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 09:58

I was watching the Mets-Marlins game last week when retiring commissioner Bud Selig stopped by the Mets’ broadcast booth to chat about the state of the game and, briefly, the state of the Mets. Bud basically repeated his standard spiel about how the game has thrived under his stewardship, how competitive balance is bringing hope to more fans than ever before, and how he has total confidence in his buddies the Wilpons. I’d heard it all before, but in this new context, hearing it while watching the small-budget Mets pitch and hit, it finally dawned on me: Bud is right. By not acting in the best interests of their own fans, the Mets ARE acting in the best interests of Baseball.

It is the Mets and Cubs who allow fans of small market teams to have hope. Not everyone can just buy their way to a title. The Yankees and now the Dodgers get to be the loathed over-spending juggernauts that make even other big spenders look out-classed, and Rays fans won’t grumble about the payroll advantage of the Orioles and Blue Jays.

If ALL the big market teams bought themselves all-star lineups, fans in Miami and Milwaukee might not buy their owners’ promises of contention. Look how attendance declined in Baltimore when Ripken retired and the Yankees and Red Sox were leading the game in payroll dollars and wins every year. But in 2012 the O’s did a few smart things, caught a ton of breaks, were incredibly clutch, and all the fans came back to watch them make the playoffs. All without the team breaking the budget.

This is Selig’s plan for the Wilpons:

Don’t be the Yankees. Don’t be the Angels. Don’t act like any rich team that can afford to spend first to win and THEN draw fans. Instead, join the ranks of the un-privileged. As long as you give your fans hope, as long as you’re close enough that a 2012 Orioles miracle run is at least possible, then you’re doing your job. And if that miracle run ever actually happens, well then, you’ll make a tidy profit at the gate, and can reinvest some of that into your payroll because you’ve earned it The Right Way. The proud, gritty, clutch, home grown way. The not-inflating-FA-salaries way. The way plenty of other teams HAVE to do it.

If I were from Milwaukee, I might not want any New York team to have a big payroll either. The more teams my Brewers could face on a level financial playing field, the happier I’d be.

We Mets fans: although, in the context of NY sports, all we’re asking from ownership is a good faith effort… in the context of BASEBALL, we’re actually asking to be SPOILED. And Baseball isn’t interested in accommodating us. Every season needs its feel-good stories, its Royals and Pirates. One day, that’ll be a small-budget Mets team. Until then, we just have to wait our turn.

Yes, I am a Mets fan, and no, I’m not actually cool with this. I’d rather be a LITTLE spoiled. But Selig’s perspective does make sense to me (from where he’s standing), and I suspect we should steel ourselves for the Wilpons to behave accordingly as long as they own the team.

Author: "David Berg" Tags: "14-15 Offseason, bud selig"
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 10:53

It’s a trade that has haunted the Mets for decades: looking for solution to their third base woes, they drew from their surplus of starting pitching and traded Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi. Ryan went on to a Hall of Fame career, while Fregosi didn’t even last two seasons with the Mets. Although the trade was made in 1971, it took until 1984 and the arrival of Doc Gooden for the wound to stop bleeding. Time has dimmed the memory of it somewhat, with flare-ups in 1999 and 2004, along with the Mets (not surprisingly) picking at the scab themselves with a Ryan bobble head giveaway recently.

Fast forward to the present. As they did in the early 1970’s, the Mets once again have a seeming surplus of prospects. They also have several holes. Alderson has frustrated Met fans with long stretches of inactivity, especially during the offseason, when fans are desperate for any type of news. Imagine for a moment however, if Alderson had succumbed and made a trade like Lucas Duda to Tampa Bay for Matt Joyce. A move that would have been hailed as a triumph in March would have resulted in Alderson’s resignation, rather than his contract extension, in September. What’s that old saying about listening to the fans and eventually sitting with them?

This concept was already covered here, but where past Met GMs like Steve Phillips or Frank Cashen were bold, occasionally getting burned but also with spectacular successes, Alderson makes his moves from a defensive position. Credit where it is due, he made the right decision with Duda. The Mets have to hope that this season was the start of something big for Lucas and that they aren’t being fooled the way Ike Davis fooled them in 2012.

This also means that Alderson is likely to give Wilmer Flores and Matt den Dekker the starting shortstop and right field jobs, respectively next year. Not that either is underserving of the opportunity, as both showed flashes in their extended 2014 trials. This is a high-risk/high-reward proposition for the Mets. If both players (and Duda) are successful in 2015 and enough pitchers stay healthy, it isn’t too hard to picture the Mets as contenders. If however, they falter, the rebuilding is dealt a serious setback and yet another year of David Wright’s prime and cheap young pitching has been wasted.

One name that will no doubt come up frequently in the off season (at least until he is traded) is Yoenis Cespedes. Two things to remember: we’re in a post-PED world and power hitters are the new young pitchers, that most coveted of resources. Second, Boston traded Jon Lester to get Cespedes, so it is very unlikely they are going to accept a package of Daniel Murphy or Dillon Gee and a few “B” prospects for him. This all means that Boston is going to want at least one of the Mets late inning bullpen power arms, plus Kevin Plawecki and at least Steven Matz. Just because Ben Cherington wants to remind us how smart he is, he’s also going to demand a lesser-heralded, but intriguing arm like Matt Bowman. Would you make that trade for one year of Cespedes? More importantly, would Alderson?

Instead, the narrative will be something like this: “We’re getting a returning Matt Harvey, Bobby Parnell and David Wright. We’ll also have a full year of Travis d’Arnaud, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia. We played at partial strength last year and still won 79 games. We waited on players like Duda and Familia and they have delivered, we expect the same from Flores and den Dekker. Moving the fences in will increase our team power. We’re at least ten games better than that to start the season and we can always add players if we (wink, wink) want to.”

We covered this also last year, but all of these Five-Moves-the-Mets-Should-Do-This-Offseason-themed posts aren’t even worth clicking on. So, take my advice and lower your expectations this winter. You’ll feel better and hey, you never know…

Author: "Dan Capwell" Tags: "Featured"
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 19:17

Mets 8 Astros 3

Mets 2 Astros 1

Astros 3 Mets 1

Here’s what I wrote for ESPN’s final “Power Rankings”:

The Mets finished with 79 wins for the first time since 2010, winning seven of their last 11 games and going 14-10 in September. Their 31-22 record in day games was sixth-best in the majors, and only the A’s won more games (eight) when trailing after eight innings (the Mets won six).

They were the only team with a positive run-differential (plus-11) and a losing record.

That last sentence is quite the head-scratcher.

Mets Game Notes

Bartolo Colon finished the year with 15 wins. Lucas Duda finished with 30 homers, the first Met to do so since Ike Davis mashed 32 in 2010. Duda’s #29 was quite dramatic, for those who weren’t busy pouring wine in Atlantic City with famous wine people.

The Mets finished 38-38 vs. teams in the NL East, for whatever that’s worth. More importantly (to Mets management), their attendance of 2,148,808 was 13th of 15 in the NL. The team had a 15-10 record in three separate months — April, July, and September. What does that mean in the grand scheme of things? A team that was collectively 15 games over .500 in three months yet finished four games below the mid-water mark?

They had 7 walkoff wins, 11 walkoff losses. They were 26-29 in one-run games and 7-8 in extra-inning games. Is that indicative of the bullpen, which by all accounts seemed to be a strength? Or the management of the team in late innings?

They finished the second half 34-33, so I’m sure the spin doctor will make hay of that winning record, in addition to the team’s tie for second-place finish.

The most games over .500 they ever stood was four — on Tuesday, April 29.

The most games below .500 was 11, on July 5.

The Mets never spent one day in first place for the entire season.

The Mets were shut out 12 times, and shut out opponents 11 times.

The Mets’ longest winning streak was four games. Huh. Their longest losing streak, six.

Next Mets Game

God willing, the Mets face the Nationals on April 6, 2015 in Washington, D.C. First pitch is TBD but Joe Namath Matt Harvey has already guaranteed a win.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Friday, 26 Sep 2014 15:59

Nationals 3 Mets 0

Mets 7 Nationals 4

It’s official: the Mets will finish the season with a losing record. However, there is still a very good chance they will win 80 games — and that’s only 10 off from their preseason goal.

Mets Game Notes

I saw neither of these games, not even one pitch. I probably will miss tonight’s game as I’ll be on the road on my way to a weekend in Atlantic City to work at the DO AC Boardwalk Wine Promenade. If you’re going, be sure to attend the Italian wine seminar at 3 PM (both days) and look for me. I might miss Saturday’s game as well, and almost assuredly will miss Sunday’s game (though I may watch it on the DVR when I get home that night). Please, no need for a Derek Jeter-like send-off — I’m not planning to retire (yet).

But back to the baseball …

More news on Travis d’Arnaud — it’s been reported he has an “elbow injury,” whatever that means. However, the injury won’t impact 2015, according to an unidentified source. Unless that source is a doctor, I’m not giving it any credence one way or another. Perhaps this is Anthony Recker‘s opportunity to shine. Or Juan Centeno‘s. But not Kevin Plawecki‘s, as he’s not on the roster. However, Bobby Abreu is, and he can provide veteran guidance to the youngsters through these final three games.

It just occurred to me that there is a very real possibility of the Mets, Braves, and Marlins finishing in a tie for second place. That would be AMAZING. Imagine, all three teams would be both tied for second and tied for second-to-last. Has that ever happened before? I’m rooting for it to happen, only because it seems so bizarre to me. How would such a second-place finish sit with you, as a Mets fan?

Next Mets Game

Mets and Astros do battle on Friday night beginning at 7:10 PM. Jon Niese faces Brad Peacock.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 19:04

David Wright has strained ligaments in his shoulder that may or may not require surgery. That’s the big injury news coming out of Metsville. Or is it?

We already knew Wright was done for the year, and now we know he might need surgery. Will it have any effect on Wright’s 2015 campaign? The year the Mets finally are postseason contenders? Who knows? Probably not, if I had to guess.

More quietly, it was announced that Travis d’Arnaud would also be “observed” by a doctor. Why? That’s not been disclosed. The public explanation is that he’s “banged up.” Another unidentified spokesperson mentioned that d’Arnaud had flu symptoms. And there’s speculation that the Mets don’t want to “tip off” the Astros on d’Arnaud’s injury. What? Does that make any sense at all?

The theory is that if the Astros know d’Arnaud is hurting, they’ll run all day on him. Well, maybe so, but won’t they be able to figure that out on their own? And MLB teams don’t prepare quite like NFL teams — it’s not like Houston will be practicing a custom running game all week to expose d’Arnaud’s issue (whatever it is). It’s pretty simple in baseball — you see the catcher can’t throw you out, so you run. Ask Mike Piazza how that works.

Here’s my conspiracy theory: d’Arnaud may have a serious arm injury — one that will require, say, Tommy John surgery. Or worse. Never mind the Astros finding out and leveraging the information in the last three games of a meaningless season — the Mets wouldn’t want ANYONE in MLB to know d’Arnaud is damaged goods, because then he’s untradeable (and teams would have that info as leverage in trade talks regarding catchers going to the Mets). Further, they don’t want fans to know, either, because that could affect season ticket sales.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe d’Arnaud is indeed, simply “banged up” or not feeling well due to a stomach bug. But when you combine his poor throwing in the second half with this new non-information and secrecy … and knowing the Mets’ past history in publicly dealing with bad injury news … well, it makes one wonder.

What do you think? Are the Mets hiding something big regarding d’Arnaud’s health? If there IS really bad news about d’Arnaud — such as something that could keep him out for a bulk of, if not the entire, 2015 season — how might it affect the Mets’ offseason planning? How do you think not having d’Arnaud would affect the Mets’ hopes in 2015?

Post your thoughts in the comments.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets Injuries"
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Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 03:04

Nationals 4 Mets 2

One team played a very crisp, clean, fundamentally sound game, while the other, didn’t. Which was which? Check the final score.

Congrats to the Mets for clinching their sixth consecutive non-winning season.

Mets Game Notes

Maybe I’m crazy (who are we kidding? there’s no debate), but it seems that every time Carlos Torres entered a ballgame, someone in the SNY booth praised him for a “yeoman’s job,” being a “pleasant surprise,” “quietly” being a key component of the Mets’ staff/bullpen, and being “an unsung hero” (or terms to that effect). I agree that Torres has been extremely valuable. However, how many times can you praise someone for being “unsung” or “unrecognized” before it’s an incorrect comment? I think Carlos Torres is the most sung-about unsung hero since Jose Valentin. Or maybe Fernando Tatis.

In a somewhat similar vein, every time Bartolo Colon has made a defensive play, much hay was made about his being “athletic” despite his girth. It must be the end of the season, because that story has worn old as well. Yeah, Colon is a grossly overweight guy. But he’s still one of the 750 best ballplayers on the planet, and you don’t get into that stratosphere without being a world-class athlete. So yes, it would be surprising if the portly butcher down the street made a remarkable play on a rocket hit back to him in a Sunday softball game, but it shouldn’t be THAT surprising to see a tremendous but obese athlete do something athletic. Yeah, it must be the end of the season.

Why was it announced that Terry Collins would return in 2015? Didn’t he have a contract for 2015, or did I miss something? Was it because Wally Backman was in the dugout, that the Mets felt the need to make clear Collins was / would still be the manager?

Congratulations to Sandy Alderson, who, in true Mets fashion, was rewarded for four years of losing and dwindling attendance with a three-year extension to his contract. Many of us wish we could be as ineffective in our jobs and get not fired but rewarded. Fits perfectly into Bud Selig’s grand plan of MLB parity / socialism. Oh crap did I go too far? Never mind, back to the baseball …

Is it me, or does Daniel Murphy look refreshingly comfortable / not awkward at third base? It’s too bad he couldn’t have had a larger sample there, as he might draw more trade interest from other clubs if he could prove that, in fact, he DOES have a position after all. Hmm … maybe instead of dumping Murphy before he gets another raise, the Mets can find a taker for David Wright‘s big contract …

I’m still liking both Matt den Dekker and Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and believe both should be at minimum be valuable platoon players for someone over the next 3-5 years. They kind of remind me of Gary Roenicke / John Lowenstein when those two played for Earl Weaver in Baltimore — players who have some flaws but can play the entire game, and can be really effective at a championship level when used properly and not over-exposed. I get the feeling, though, that their best years won’t happen with the Mets.

Every once in a while, Bobby Ojeda exasperates me with his talk about pitching mechanics. Usually, though, I thoroughly enjoy his postgame comments, and after this game in particular he was spot-on in so many areas. What struck me most was his explanation of Nationals manager Matt Williams‘ desire to keep his team in the right frame of mind — despite already clinching the division — and doing everything possible to win this game. The Nats were playing with an intensity we have not seen by other Mets opponents of late, and, as Ojeda pointed out, were taking nothing for granted in this final week of the regular season. Every player was going all-out, their focus was sharp, and execution mostly stellar (save for one mistake by Bryce Harper). I’m excited to follow the Nats as they go forward in October.

Speaking of that missed fly ball by Harper … hmm … on the one hand, the fact he jumped toward a ball that went off the wall, it’s hard to give him an error. At the same time, shouldn’t a MLB outfielder make that catch? I’m kind of torn, but fine with the official scorer’s decision to grant Travis d’Arnaud a triple. Oh, and how often do you see a catcher hit a triple in consecutive games?

It was also announced that Jacob deGrom has made his last start. I need to ruminate on this, and maybe write a separate post as I think it deserves its own discussion.

I’ve never, ever liked Drew Storen‘s mechanics — from the time he was a rookie — though I’ve always liked his competitiveness and stuff (I also loved his dad on XM’s MLB Home Plate back in the day). Though he’s been effective lately, Storen reminds me a bit of Jorge Julio, in that he seems to be winding up on egg shells, thinking too much about his mechanics, and appears to be one brain fart away from going completely Rick Ankiel at any moment. If the Nats don’t get to the World Series, I’m betting it’s because Storen craps the bed and Rafael Soriano is equally unreliable.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Nationals do it again at 7:05 PM on Wednesday night in Washington, D.C. Dillon Gee faces Gio Gonzalez (or Mr. Hyde) (or Oliver Perez?).

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Sep 2014 15:04

Mets 10 Braves 2

Mets 4 Braves 2

Mets sweep the Braves in Atlanta for the first time since 2007, and are now threatening to finish second in the NL East. Who’da thunk it?

Mets Game Notes

Late, I know. But I haven’t been motivated to write. I don’t know what to think about what’s happened over the past three weeks — it’s a mirage, I’m sure of it. The Braves shouldn’t be this bad. The Mets shouldn’t be this “good.” I don’t remember teams completely giving up like this before — though I’ve certainly seen spirited September teams filled with youngsters vying for jobs playing a little over their heads.

Looking at the rest of the season, the Marlins and Phillies will beat each others’ brains in, then the Marlins have a four-game set against the Nationals while the Phillies and Braves beat each others’ brains in. The Mets have three against the Nats and then three against the Astros. You do the math. It looks like the Mets are going to finish second place, and it’s going to be hyped to the max — never mind that their second-place finish did not make them any closer to being a postseason contender. Maybe the Mets still would have finished third, even if the Braves didn’t completely collapse.

Surely there are Mets fans who will be thrilled to see their team finish in second. That’s exactly how Mets management would like their fans to respond, as it will give them every reason not to fill the holes that need to be filled in the offseason. Why go out and spend a little money on free agents to play, say, left field and shortstop? The team finish SECOND! Sandy Alderson’s long (long, long, long) range plan is working! These guys are really coming together, and are only going to get better in 2015! And Harvey will be back! And David Wright will be healthy! Don’t fix what ain’t broke! If we have money to spend, let’s give it to Sandy!

Heck yes, Sandy should get an extension for the amazing work he’s done. Everything is working exactly per the plan he put in place half a decade ago. This is like the 1984 Mets, right on the cusp of awesomeness. Only one Gary Carter deal away from NL dominance.

Except, there won’t be a Gary Carter deal. There will be a Daniel Murphy deal, and maybe a Jonathon Niese one as well. More shedding of contracts for “payroll flexibility” (a.k.a., paying down debt). Bud Selig approves. Why wouldn’t he? A New York team with a small-market payroll keeps down ALL payroll salaries. It’s a win for owners everywhere. (Oh, and Bud seems also to approve of other things, as well; funny, he’ll no longer be commissioner by the time THAT stuff hits the fan.)

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Mets really ARE this “good.” Maybe they will go out and get the big-name player that sends them over the top (if indeed they’re only one player away). Maybe 2015 IS the year they finally become legitimate postseason contenders.

Just don’t be fooled about 2014. Even a second-place finish doesn’t make the Mets any closer to the playoffs than if they finished last. It was yet another season of mediocrity and meaningless September games, no matter how the message from Flushing is spun.

Next Mets Games

Mets take on the Nationals in a three-game set beginning Tuesday night at 7:05 PM. Bartolo Colon goes to the hill against Tanner Roark.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Saturday, 20 Sep 2014 02:54

Mets 5 Braves 0

Mets win but are mathematically eliminated from the postseason. Thus, the rest of September will be filled with officially meaningless games.

Mets Game Notes

The Braves really stink. When did that happen? Hmm … it started around the time Bobby Cox retired and the club was put into the hands of Fredi Gonzalez, who may be one of the most ineffective managers in baseball. Say what you want about stats, but I believe that the man in charge can have an effect on a team’s performance; strangely enough, many CEOs of businesses large and small agree with me — why should athletics be any different? The Braves are one of the most laid-back, impassive teams I’ve seen in a long time — not since the Marlins were still identified by their state rather than their city. Who was the manager back then? Right. It didn’t help that the Atlanta front office brought in dispassionate players such as the Upton brothers, who I used to think were better. I’m now convinced they’re both dogs, and I don’t care what David Wright nor their youth coaches have to say. They’re dogs, and it’s a crime, because they’re incredibly talented.

Zack Wheeler is one of those rare pitchers who seems to struggle, yet walks off the mound with six shutout innings. Maybe it had something to do with the anemic Atlanta offense, but Wheeler did have a great curveball working. He threw far too many pitches, though — this start recalled the John Maine foul-off marathons.

Lucas Duda demolished a flat change-up by Julio Teheran into the popcorn bucket, and that was the difference in the ballgame. Daniel Murphy slapped about seventeen singles, and scored the other Mets run.

I hope Duda can keep this up in 2015, he’s become enjoyable to watch.

Keith Hernandez was fixated on “drop and drive” for the first few innings of the game, letting us know which pitchers did NOT “drop and drive.” News flash, Keith: very few, if any, MLB pitchers practice the “drop and drive” method made famous by Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman but not used successfully by anyone else in the history of baseball. It’s an ineffective and inefficient style that robs pitchers of velocity — which is not opinion, but scientific fact. And for the record, there is nothing to be gained by “pushing off” the pitching rubber — most of the lower half power comes from the planting and pulling of the front leg, and this is also a scientifically proven fact.

I don’t know how a MLB pitcher who throws 99 MPH walks a .180-hitting rookie to force in a run with the bases loaded. But it happened in this game.

Do I sound bitter? I am. MLB overall stinks. We’ve reached parity, via mediocrity, and we’re paying MLB prices for minor-league quality. Thank you, BeelzeBud Selig, you’ve succeeded in your communist mission.

With teams like the Braves playing out the string, and most of the young Mets playing to impress for 2015 jobs, it’s really hard to evaluate what the heck is happening right now. I THINK Matt den Dekker deserves consideration, for example, but Dilson Herrera? I’m not sure. Can we trust anything we see by Mets pitchers against the Braves? Then again, maybe the Braves will be even worse next year, especially if they continue building a culture and philosophy that is far from the Bobby Cox Era.

I find it funny that the Mets (and many other teams) are limiting pitch counts on their young pitchers in September as a precautionary measure. Because why? Because human arms have only a certain amount of “bullets” in them? Because arbitrary innings limits and pitch counts have prevented injuries to MLB pitchers of any age? How about practicing proper rest and recovery guidelines from Opening Day? And/or making mechanical adjustments that ensure deliveries are efficient and safe? Nah, let’s not trust evidence-based research, let’s instead just come up with some theory out of our backside that everyone else is doing to, ironically, publicly cover their backsides.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Braves play again at 7:10 PM on Saturday night. Jon Niese faces Mike Minor.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Friday, 19 Sep 2014 22:55

Marlins 4 Mets 3

Mets 9 Marlins 1

Mets follow up Wilmer Flores Day with loss to the Fish, losing the series and dropping to fourth place in the NL East.

Mets Game Notes

Excuse me for not posting sooner, and for posting so little. It’s September, which means that my job in the wine industry has become incredibly busy (about half of our revenues are generated in the final quarter) and the Mets are playing meaningless games.

Was it just a week ago that some Mets fans were dreaming of seeing a Wild Card miracle? Mathematically, it’s still possible, but the Mets are 9.5 games behind in the Wild Card race with 9 games to play. So, the Pirates would have to lose all 10 of their final games, and the Mets would have to win all 9 of theirs, AND the Mets would also have to jump over the Brewers, Braves, and Marlins, in order to gain that second Wild Card spot.

After Wilmer Flores went ape on Fish pitching, there was noise about him being an option at shortstop next year, supported by Terry Collins‘ positive statements about Flores’ defense and hype from spin doctor Sandy Alderson. In the past two days, nearly every Mets-centered media outlet has discussed the “possibility” of Flores being the “answer” at shortstop. Really? Is that what happens when someone hits two homers against a struggling pitcher in late September? Flores has played 49 games and 429 innings at shortstop in MLB this year. There were times when his defense was passable. There were times when he embarrassed himself. He’s made a few diving plays to draw oohs and aahhs. Has he looked like he can be an everyday MLB shortstop? I will be really, really nice and say that there isn’t clear and convincing evidence to say one way or the other; the sample size is too small. Certainly, there isn’t a Gold Glove in his future. I don’t think the vague comparisons to Jhonny Peralta are fair to either player. Peralta has posted a UZR in the double digits in three of the last four years — he’s not nearly as bad as people make him out to be. To be fair, Flores’ UZR/150 at shortstop this year is 12.8 — but again it’s a really small sample size. My eyes are seeing slow feet and a lack of athleticism for the position. I think Flores would have to be a 25-HR, .825 OPS hitter to make up for the subpar defense. Maybe he will be — we’ve been hearing comparisons to Miguel Cabrera for years. Color me pessimistic.

One “talent evaluator” in the NY Post article was quoted as saying “… they have bigger issues than shortstop. Left field is probably their biggest need.” I’d love to chat with that talent evaluator — if you’re out there, please connect in the comments section. For the last 35 years I’ve been under the assumption that shortstop is one of the most important positions on the baseball diamond, with left field one of the least important — which is why the very best athletes are always placed at shortstop (from little league on up), and the worst athletes are sent out to left field. But I guess if you think Flores is a great athlete and can handle shortstop for a championship club, then, yeah, maybe left field is more of a “need.” Here’s an idea: how about trying Flores in left field? At the very worst, a Flores platoon with Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Matt den Dekker could prove productive. And if Flores is enough of an athlete to be an everyday MLB shortstop, he should be athletic enough to play passable defense in left. He’ll have to hit like a left fielder to stay at shortstop, so …

Hey, Bartolo Colon has 14 wins. He’s had 26 decisions among his 29 starts. That’s a large number of decisions in this day and age.

Interesting factoid: the Mets are 39-60 against teams not from Miami, Philly, Texas, Colorado or Arizona. Well, games against those teams count too, but, it makes you wonder how the Mets will do next year against the better clubs.

Next Mets Game

Mets begin a three-game series against the Braves on Friday at 7:35 PM. Zack Wheeler faces Julio Teheran. Atlanta has lost 8 of their last 10, and suddenly has a .500 record. Four of those losses came to Nationals, and another three the result of being swept by the lowly Texas Rangers. The Bravos have scored 22 runs in those 10 contests, so their offense is slumping mightily.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 03:54

Marlins 6 Mets 5

The game couldn’t have started out better for the Mets, and couldn’t have finished much worse.

Mets Game Notes

Jacob deGrom tied a modern record by striking out the first 8 batters of the ballgame, and the Mets jumped out to a 2-zip lead in the initial lead. With deGrom cruising through six frames, it seemed the game was in the bag for the Mets. Certainly, no one would have predicted the eventual final score based on what was seen in the first six frames. But, that’s the beauty of baseball, right? Anything can happen, and things can change in an instant.

Of course Jordany Valdespin hit the two-run single to tie the ballgame in the 7th. Of course Reed Johnson hit the sac fly to untie the game a few minutes later.

Credit the Mets for fighting back after the Fish took over the lead in the 7th, though, much of their success was due to a rare off-night for A.J. Ramos. Unfortunately for the Mets, Jeurys Familia also had a rare off-night. Though, it’s not like the Marlins were crushing Familia; rather, they poked a bunch of Daniel Murphy-like hits against him. They merely stuck out their bats and made contact, and the ball found spots to fall safely. It happens.

Are the Mets the only team in MLB who are shorthanded in the bullpen right now? How is that possible? Rosters can expand to the full 40, yet the Mets don’t have any extra arms. Is this because they are nickel-and-diming and not calling minor leaguers up to avoid paying them a MLB salary? Is that really possible? Can’t be.

Josh Satin still thinks he has a better view of the strike zone than the home plate umpire. Does he realize it’s embarrassing to strike out looking on a pitch over the middle of the plate, and then bark at the umpire?

Can we all agree that the camouflage Mets uniforms are not just ugly, but downright FUGLY? For the kids, what I mean is “Frankenstein ugly.” For the adults, you know what I really mean.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Marlins do it again at 7:10 PM on Tuesday night. Bartolo Colon faces Nathan Eovaldi. For what it’s worth, the Fish have lost Eovaldi’s last six straight starts.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 16:22

Nationals 3 Mets 0

Nationals 10 Mets 3

Mets 4 Nationals 3

The Nationals mathematically eliminate the Mets from winning the NL East. At least the Mets didn’t get swept.

But before we go any further, a question: have you already formulated an opinion on the Mets season? Or do you need the final 12 games to judge 2014?

Mets Game Notes

Friday night I was busy pouring wine in Boston. Saturday I was driving back from Boston and then working another event that evening in NJ. Sunday afternoon I chose to spend the gorgeous afternoon on a bike ride rather than sit inside and watch a Mets game (I guess I wasn’t buying into the idea that these were meaningful games). So there isn’t anything for me to discuss specifically about what happened in the ballgames.

With a dozen games left — half of which are against the Nationals and Braves — the Mets are 72-78. There’s a really, really good chance they win at least two of those final twelve and at least match last year’s 74-88 record. If they go at least 6-6 through these final two weeks, their record will be 78-84. If they go 12-0, they’ll finish 84-78, which could mean a second-place finish but might not mean a Wild Card spot (though, the possibility does remain).

There are a number of different ways these final dozen games can go for the Mets, and I’m curious: will you judge the club based on what happens between now and the end of the season, or have you already formulated your opinion?

Let me put it this way: let’s say the Mets completely tank and lose all 12, or at least 9, of these final games — will their resulting losing record change your perspective on who they are and what they accomplished (or didn’t accomplish)? And in the reverse, if the Mets win 10-12 of their final games, and finish with a winning record, will it change your view of the season compared to where they are today?

Or, have you already decided what this club is / was in 2014, based on the first 150 games?

Sound off in the comments.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Marlins begin their final series against each other of the season at 7:10 PM. Jacob deGrom faces Jarred Cosart.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Friday, 12 Sep 2014 05:47

Nationals 6 Mets 2

Mets play a team that doesn’t stink.

Mets Game Notes

There was a brief discussion by GKR about open and closed stances, and Gary Cohen asked why closed stances were so common back in the day, while today we see more open stances. Keith Hernandez‘s theory was that people are more cognizant of getting their dominant eye facing the pitcher, and also that open stances tend to promote pulling the ball, ergo, more homeruns. I agree with Keith re: the dominant-eye issue being part of it. However, I also feel that stances today aren’t so much “open” as they are “even,” and that’s a function of what we’ve been able to learn about the most efficient swing over the past 30 years, thanks in part to slow-motion video technology. Further, the reason we saw so many closed stances in the old days is because it was a way for batters to protect themselves — remember, ear-flap helmets didn’t become required standard issue until 1983, and helmets of any kind weren’t popular until the late 1960s / early 1970s. Back in those days of flapless helmets, hitters learned — at a very young age — how to get out of the way of the baseball. The safest, most efficient technique is to turn the head back toward the catcher and squat down, if there’s time. Pitchers threw inside MUCH more often prior to about 1990, so needing to get out of the way of pitches was as much a skill as knowing how to bunt or hit and run. With an open stance, it’s harder to make that turn back to the catcher. With a closed stance, you’re already halfway there.

Speaking of hit batters, considering the way the game is run today per the instruction of BeelzeBud Selig, I didn’t see a problem with Bartolo Colon getting ejected for plunking Jayson Werth — mainly because Colon ALSO plunked Ian Desmond (which looked to me like it was intentional) in the first inning immediately after Adam LaRoche‘s two-run homer. Further, home plate umpire John Tumpane made Terry Collins‘ job easy by tossing Colon — he was not pitching effectively, and likely was leaving the game soon, anyway. Instead of thanking Tumpane, Collins had himself ejected, to show that he was standing up for his pitcher.

Does Anthony Recker hit a home run every single time he starts? He reminds me of Todd Pratt in that way.

Dario Alvarez reminds me of Pedro Feliciano, circa 2004. I could see him hanging around as a LOOGY if he throws a slider every single pitch.

In other baseball news happening in New York, former Met Chris Young broke up a no-hitter and hit a walkoff, three-run homer to push the Yankees over the Rays. Of course he did.

Do we need to discuss much else? I’m tired.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Nationals do it again at 7:10 PM on Friday night. Dillon Gee faces Gio Gonzalez.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 16:03

Leigh Castergine’s lawsuit against Mets COO Jeff Wilpon is unlikely to be settled quickly. We may be looking at the beginning of a long, financially draining case.

There are at least two interesting stories written today, one by Jeff Passan and another by Craig Calcaterra. Calcaterra’s take is particularly interesting because he is a former attorney who specialized in employment cases (hat tip to MetsToday reader “Matt T“).

After reading the Calcaterra piece, I reached out to a currently practicing attorney specializing in employment law and discrimination cases — Robert Tandy, Esq., who handles all aspects of employment law litigation, from the initial stages of investigation and discovery through trial. He has extensive experience in a wide variety of employment law issues, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, whistleblower rights, retaliation, and wage & hour issues. Robert represents employers and employees providing him with significant insight to the decision making processes of both groups. He regularly provides training for supervisors and managers, as well as non-supervisory employees in all areas of employment law.

All that said, I think he’s qualified to answer a few questions related to this story. Here is the quick Q&A:

JJ: Do you agree with Calcaterra’s opinion that “…this suit looks like it could be a big, big problem for Jeff Wilpon and the Mets.”? Why or why not?

RT: Any lawsuit has the potential to be a “big, big problem” for a defendant. This lawsuit may create, however, a larger public relations problem than your typical employment discrimination lawsuit based simply on who are named as Defendants.

JJ: In your experience with this type of lawsuit, do deposed witnesses tend to tell the truth when put on the stand, as Calcaterra asserts?

RT: Credibility of witnesses is crucial in “he said she said” type lawsuits, which, to a large part, this case appears to resemble. Beyond credibility of witnesses, however, one needs to examine the factual circumstances surrounding her claims, i.e., it may prove difficult for Mets’ management to assert that her individual performance was the legitimate non-discriminatory justification for her termination given she had, if proven true, received substantial increases in her compensation structure during her tenure of employment with the Mets as alleged in her Complaint.

JJ: Do you see any major holes or issues in the filed complaint that could make it difficult for Castergine to prove her case?

RT: At this stage, only a complaint has been filed. Thus, it is only a small glimpse what Plaintiff asserts she will be able to prove at trial. It is way too early to tell whether there is any factual merit to her claims and whether Defendants have a legitimate non-discriminatory basis for taking the adverse employment action against her in this matter. I will say, however, in my experience, if an employer is going to proffer that an employee’s performance was the legitimate cause of the termination, they best have documentation establishing negative performance. Juries do not like to simply hear allegations of poor performance after the fact. Juries tend to want to see documents establishing poor performance. Documentation becomes more important when you have allegations of substantial salary increases and bonuses in the months leading up to termination.

JJ: Do you expect this to be a long, drawn-out affair, or something that can be quickly handled with a settlement fee?

RT: In general, litigation takes 1 1/2 to 2 years to complete. At any point in time, however, the parties are free to enter into a settlement agreement to resolve the matter. Typically, each party conducts a cost benefit analysis to determine if it is in the party’s best interest to settle the matter. I expect the back pages to be active for a long time in this matter given the nature of the allegations already asserted in the Complaint.

JJ: According to the complaint, Castergine went to the Mets’ HR department several times to report the way she was mistreated, but HR officers allegedly did nothing other than suggest that she quit. Is that a common response for a HR department of a company the size of the Mets? Was there a legal process that should have been executed by the Mets HR department upon hearing Castergine’s complaints?

RT: Pursuant to the law, all employers are faced with an affirmative obligation to act in the face complaint of discrimination by an employee. It is not unusual for an HR Department to conduct an “investigation” into the allegations and advise the employee of its findings. Unfortunately, however, it has been my experience that HR Departments typically provide the allegations have been determined to be “Unsubstantiated” — leaving an employee with limited recourse and forced to seek legal counsel. This is especially true when allegations of discrimination are made against high level executives in a company.

JJ: Do you have any advice for women who may be experiencing similar disrespect / discrimination in their workplace? Is going to HR a
necessary first step, or is it better to go directly to a lawyer? In other words, what would be the proper legal process?

RT: If you are experiencing discrimination, harassment or retaliation in the workplace, you should seek the assistance of experienced legal counsel.

If/as this story drags on, I may check in with Rob for more insight. In the meantime, feel free to post any questions or reactions in the comments.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "News Notes Rumors"
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 03:58

Mets 2 Rockies 0

Jenrry Mejia didn’t provide quite the same excitement as the evening before, so the entertainment value of this game was a little lower, but in the end the Mets swept the Rox and that’s all that matters to Mets fans.

Mets Game Notes

This didn’t feel like a “pitchers’ duel,” but rather, just a boring ballgame. Though, I do admit to my attention being divided thanks to the news that our country is now on record with going to war. Or maybe it had something to do with the Rox being a really, really crappy team right now.

Rafael Montero earned his first MLB win. He reminded me of a poor man’s Orlando Hernandez, in that he seemed to purposely keep the ball outside of the strike zone most of the time, looking to get strikes from swings and misses at breaking pitches and sinking fastballs off the edges of the plate. It worked well enough, as he no-hit the Rockies through four and two-thirds innings. However, that strategy also ran up his pitch count to 90 through five frames.

I nearly fell off my chair when the word “kinesiology” was uttered in the SNY booth by Ron Darling — that may have been the first time ever. However, it was unfortunately referenced to former MLB pitcher Mike Marshall, who created an entirely new way to toss a baseball, which has nothing to do with what scientists describe as the “overhead throwing motion.” It’s truly a shame that the rare times anyone in baseball mentions kinesiology, they can’t help themselves but to mention Marshall, whose theories, research, and methods remain questionable and not accepted by the majority of the scientific community despite over 30 years of experimentation. Why can’t baseball people mention kinesiology and talk instead about the many years of evidence-based research that has been proven to keep arms healthy? Is it because the evidence is not worthy of baseball’s attention unless it’s “discovered” by a former MLB pitcher? Sure seems that way. Maybe some day a former Cy Young Award winner will make a second career in science and be the “prophet.” And please don’t mention Tom House in the comments — his doctorate is in nutrition, and has only very basic surface knowledge of human kinetics; in other words, he knows enough to be dangerous.

Not sure I agree with giving Drew Stubbs third base with two outs in a 2-0 game and Jeurys Familia on the mound, considering Stubbs’ speed and Familia’s habit of spiking pitches. I understand the short backstop argument, but also know that a spiked fastball tends to jump high and unpredictably. As it turned out, the steal by Stubbs was moot as Familia didn’t throw a wild pitch, but I’m going on record with my opinion despite the benefit of hindsight.

Next Mets Game

Mets next host the Nationals in Flushing on Thursday night at 7:10 PM. Bartolo Colon faces Tanner Roark.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 20:01

Oh my … following up on the Leigh Castergine story, it turns out that the investigative journalists WERE in fact doing their due diligence — it just took a week to gather the facts.

According to The New York Post, Jeff Wilpon fired Leigh Castergine because “he was morally opposed” to her out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

Wow. Just, wow.

I’m not sure how the Wilpons will be able to keep the Mets, considering the recent bad PR situations created by the owners of the NBA Clippers and Hawks. But this will be an interesting story to see develop.

You can read the entire filed complaint by Castergine vs. Wilpon and the Mets here.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Shea What?"
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 02:42

Mets 2 Rockies 0

Mets win another heart-stopper against the Rockies as they move to within 5.5 games of a Wild Card berth. Ya Gotta Believe!

Mets Game Notes

Jacob deGrom was again awesome. In my book, he’s the ace and he’s the guy who gets the ball in the one-game elimination on October 1.

However, I might move Jeurys Familia — or maybe Zack Wheeler — into the closer’s role for that Wild Card, all-hands-on-deck contest.

Why didn’t deGrom remain in the game to the end, by the way? I agree with Keith and Ron, in that when a pitcher dominates a team through 7-8 innings, it doesn’t matter who is brought in — the opposing club is thrilled to see someone different, and their confidence perks up.

One of the discussions in the booth by GKR was whether Terry Collins / the Mets might push Jacob deGrom a bit past their arbitrary (and illogical) innings limit if it will help his chance to be voted Rookie of the Year. Keith Hernandez‘s stance was that you want deGrom to be a healthy contributor for 8-10 years. Gary Cohen brought up the fact that in today’s game, most teams are “protecting” their young arms by limiting innings. Ron Darling‘s take was much the opposite — he would like to see deGrom keep pitching as long as he remains in a groove, and let him finish out the year.

So my opinion is in line with Darling’s — let the kid pitch, let him finish the year. Why not? Is there ANY valid, proven evidence, anywhere — as in, from the scientific community, rather than unofficial “studies” and theories by lay people — that suggest limiting innings somehow keeps a pitcher safe? If such research exists, please point me to it. Jacob deGrom is going to blow out his arm at some point, probably sooner rather than later, and it has very little to do with his pitch counts or his innings load. He’ll injure his arm because he has a flaw in his mechanics that was never corrected after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010, and because MLB imposes upon starting pitchers a dangerous routine of throwing off a mound within 48 hours after a 90+ pitch start. This idea that a pitcher has “only so many bullets” is nonsense if/when pitchers are properly trained, watched, corrected, and maintained, but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy when rules and proven scientific research are completely ignored. I know there are skeptics out there who poo-poo my incessant diatribes on using science to keep pitchers healthy, but guess what? What MLB is doing now ain’t working, and all the “right things” that are applied and considered are NOT based in science but rather are a patchwork of theories from people who are mostly unqualified to speak on the subject of human kinetics and position-specific strength and conditioning.

Because in baseball there is a complete misunderstanding and hardheaded blindness to the facts, the Mets are damned if they do, damned if they don’t in regard to deGrom and all of their young pitchers, for that matter. If deGrom is shut down after some arbitrary innings level is reached, they’ll be criticized for not giving him the chance to get the Rookie of the Year. And if they push him to get to 10 wins or whatever magic number earns him RoY votes, and he blows out his UCL in 2015, people will point to the decision to push him. It’s not unlike the Johan Santana no-hitter argument — one which I admittedly have a different opinion than I did two years ago, thanks to keeping my mind open and having an eagerness to learn. The notion that pushing Santana through a 130+ pitch effort was the reason he blew out his shoulder for a second time was completely unfounded. The thing about that performance that was detrimental to his shoulder was that his “extra rest” came at the wrong end of the rest period — it should have happened in the first 96 hours after his start, not 24 hours prior to his next. You can’t let the body’s healing process start, and then put it on hold until you’re ready to rest it later — which is essentially what MLB pitchers do by taking a day off after a start and then throwing a bullpen on day 2 and/or day 3. Once the healing is interrupted, the healing stops. This is basic anatomical / muscle tissue stuff that is completely ignored by everyone in MLB.

So, I’ve gone a little off course … but in my opinion, sure, let deGrom pitch as long as he’s not showing fatigue. It makes little difference toward what happens in the future.

Another discussion by GKR was in regard to Wilmer Flores at shortstop. The general consensus was that Flores’ defense was “acceptable” on an everyday basis IF he could be “an offensive-mined shortstop,” with Jhonny Peralta provided as an admittedly not-great example. Hmm … is it me, or was this a talking point devised by the Mets front office and sent down as a directive to the SNY producer? This discussion came off the heels of Sandy Alderson’s warning that the Mets were unlikely to spend big bucks on a big-name free agent in the coming winter — so you see why I’m suspicious, and developing a conspiracy theory. But then, my profession is in public relations, my job is to spin stories — the same as Alderson — so I look at news and actions much differently than the average bear. Can’t you just see SNY and the Mets selling Flores as a legit everyday shortstop through the final weeks of September, and using it as a “viable” excuse not to go after free-agent Hanley Ramirez or trade for Troy Tulowitzki? We’ll keep an eye on whether this story develops and compare to the messages we hear in December and January.

Maybe it’s time to make room in the booth for Mike Shannon. Michael Cuddyer made an impressive diving catch in right field early in the game, and it was barely described with a yawn. Gold Glove Candidate Juan Lagares makes an equally impressive running catch in the eighth, and the GKR gushing flows. Hey, I was impressed with both catches, and not annoyed with the Lagares gushing — more annoyed with the lack of recognition for Cuddyer’s effort. Every day the SNY booth gets more and more annoyingly “homer.” Sorry, it’s a turn-off for me.

On another note, David Wright is out for the season. Does this affect the Mets’ playoff hopes? I don’t think so.

Next Mets Game

Mets look to complete the sweep of the Rox beginning at 7:10 PM on Wednesday night. Rafael Montero takes the mound against Tyler Matzek.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 10:47

Briefly, the song “Crimson and Clover” went through my head. I prefer the Joan Jett version, to Tommy James and the Shondells’ and in fact, would likely prefer anything Joan Jett covered. Oh, and for whatever reason I sometimes confuse / combine Tommy Dorsey and Henry James with Tommy James, even though Frank Sinatra never sang with the Shondells — though Frankie may have covered some of the same Christmas songs as the Shirelles.

Oh my, I digress … “Dilson or Daniel, over and over” … maybe it’s the Murphy/Irish thing. Get it? Clover, as in four-leaf? Yes, it’s September, I’m as shot as second-division MLB clubs, deal with it.

Anyway …

Daniel Murphy is scheduled to return from the DL today, which means there isn’t room for Dilson Herrera. That may be the best thing in the world for the New York Mets.

When we didn’t know the severity of Daniel Murphy’s calf strain, there were hints that his 2014 season could be over — especially considering Murphy’s all-out hustle, which would make him more susceptible to a re-injury if he returned too soon. As it turns out, Murphy’s back sooner than expected. Is that a good or bad thing?

For sure, the flash of Dilson Herrera we’ve enjoyed has been just that: a flash. A very small sample size. But it was enough for us to see the possibilities — like looking into a crystal ball. No doubt, the just-turned-20 Herrera has exciting defensive skills, speed to burn, and showing a bat with surprising pop, discipline, control, and clutchness (for those who don’t believe in “clutch,” pretend I mean he seems to be relaxed/calm in stressful situations).

Many Mets fans, I’m sure, would love to see more of Dilson Herrera at second base — in fact, many may have secretly wished that Murphy would be out for the year, so that Herrera could be observed for a full month. With Murphy back, no one wants to see Herrera on the bench, but, in the end, things couldn’t have worked out better for the Mets. How so?

First off, Daniel Murphy proving he’s healthy makes him more attractive as a winter trading chip. Probably, a season-ending injury to something as seemingly harmless as a calf strain shouldn’t have much effect on a player’s value in the offseason — it’s not like a hip reconstruction or an achilles tear. But, it’s a little thing that can mildly affect trade negotiations, and when a player can come back from any injury and prove to be 100% when the season ends has that much more value, and quell any concerns about a chronic issue.

Along the same lines, Dilson Herrera showing he’s near-ready for MLB makes him a much more attractive trading chip. At the same time, he wasn’t spectacular enough to put the Mets into a position where they’d be perceived to be desperate to move Murphy. That theoretically means the Mets should be able to get a bit more for Murphy than if teams knew they were itching to move him. (On the other side of that argument, of course, is that teams know the Mets want to move Murphy regardless, because of the huge pay raise due to him this winter.)

Another thing to consider is that Herrera, at a very young age, showed he could handle MLB pitching and promise in the field in a small sample size. Might his flaws become more glaring with more play at the big league level? Limiting Herrera’s exposure and cutting him off when he’s performed positively can only increase his trade value. It doesn’t hurt the Mets’ negotiation with Murphy, either, and, further, helps quell / placate the fan base in the event the Mets jettison Murphy this winter. After all, the Mets’ PR message / selling point in the Sandy Alderson era has been “homegrown” players and focusing on youth. How perfectly fitting would it be to get fans exciting about young (and cheap) Dilson Herrera at the exact moment Daniel Murphy becomes prohibitively expensive?

Even with the spirited play of Herrera, the Mets are probably a better team over the final three weeks with Murphy’s bat in the lineup. And the Mets want to win as many games as possible, so as to avoid having their first round pick protected. Wait, what? Oh, that conspiracy theory will be revealed in an upcoming post.

What’s your thought? Do you prefer to see Dilson Herrera or Daniel Murphy playing second base through the end of this season? Do you see Herrera’s performance thus far playing into the financial side of the Murphy situation in the offseason? Sound off in the comments.

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Featured, Opinion and Analysis"
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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 03:47

Mets 3 Rockies 2

Were you like me, and just waiting for the Mets to win this game from the get-go? I don’t know why, but it just felt like the Mets would win this game.

Mets Game Notes

It was an exhilarating win for the Mets and their three dozen loyal fans. Tons of excitement and emotion after Wilmer Flores hit a shallow sacrifice fly to score speedy Curtis Granderson from third to win the ballgame against 2013 Mets closer LaTroy Hawkins. Thrilling. #buytixsavethewilpons

This was a game the Mets should have won, and needed to win. And they did. Who cares if it looked like they might not until the 9th inning? A win is a win, right? Sure. Bask in the afterglow. You deserve it, for paying attention this long. At this point, though, I’d like to push the focus more to the process rather than the outcome. I don’t really care about the Mets “finishing strong” blah blah blah. They’re not going to the postseason and they’re playing a terrible team. If you watched this game to bring brief happiness to your life on a Monday evening, super. Otherwise, you’re probably indifferent and thinking about next Sunday’s Jets or Giants game. Amiright?

Granderson, by the way, is Cholula-hot right now. Where was that in the first 140 games of the season? #septemberbaseball

Jon Niese plowed through 6 2/3 innings with nothing — absolutely nothing — and left the game allowing just one earned run. Mental toughness? Competitiveness? Batters who can’t hit in thick air? September swooning? Combination of all three?

Is it time to seriously consider Kirk Nieuwenhuis as a regular? The Mets are now 16-2 when Captain Kirk is in the starting lineup, and that’s not necessarily a coincidence considering that he had a .915 OPS as a starter going into this ballgame (he has a 1.029 OPS when participating in all Mets wins in all roles, for whatever that’s worth). Why might the Mets win so often when he’s playing? He does strike out a ton, but he also does everything well; he’s a “ballplayer.” Nieuwenhuis always makes a positive contribution, even when he doesn’t hit, because he runs the bases with excellence, he fields very well, he hustles all the time, and he rarely makes mistakes. He’s a winning ballplayer, plain and simple. All the little things add up in today’s post-PEDs, post-homerun-derby game. I don’t buy into the excuse that Nieuwenhuis is more valuable off the bench because he’s been so effective coming off the bench — a.k.a., Gates Brown Syndrome. He’s valuable because he does everything well, and he has some occasional pop. Just a theory, of course, that putting winning ballplayers into action could result in winning games — a theory toyed with by Vince Lombardi.

David Wright hit his first “triple” of the season in the third. If you missed it, it was a dying quail that caught the right fielder “in between” — he wasn’t sure whether to dive in to make a highlight-reel catch, or to field it on a bounce. The indecision resulted in an awkward attempt to scoop the ball after it hit the ground, and it bounced by and rolled to the wall. The home-team official scorer ruled it a triple instead of a single and a two-base error. Inconceivable! Hey, it’s September, it’s a meaningless game between two terrible clubs, so who’s paying attention, right? Right. But how can you trust ANY statistics when this kind of thing happens all the time? That’s one reason why I trust my eyes more than the numbers when making evaluations — I don’t necessarily trust stats based on other people’s eyes.

Why was Josh Rutledge bunting with none out, tie ballgame, and a man on second in the top of the third? It looked like a drag bunt for a hit, but still — not bright, not good baseball, and indicative of a second-division club. It was clear early on that Jonathon Niese did not have great stuff, was getting hit hard even when the Rox were hitting into outs, and that made the decision to bunt all the more mind-boggling. Swing away there, for goodness sakes!

Not for nuthin’, but Colorado pitcher Jordan Lyles should probably bat much higher than ninth in the lineup — especially when the Rox are away from the thin air of Coors Field. That guy is a hitter. What a concept — a pitcher who can hit. #killtheDH

Another example that the Rockies are a terrible club: Michael Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario completely botching an easy foul pop-up up the first base line off the bat of Dilson Herrera in the seventh. Herrera wound up striking out, so it didn’t matter all that much, but still. Kiddies, this is the way it works: if you are the catcher, you really need to go aggressively after any popups you can chase after. If you have trouble seeing the ball, and an infielder calls for it, yield to him/her. If you see it fine, can set your legs and feel confident catching the ball, you call off anyone and everyone else immediately — it’s your job to be the leader and trump all others. Sorry, Keith Hernandez — I disagree that the catcher should always peel off if someone else calls for the ball. ONLY if the ball is outside the catcher’s range, and/or the catcher lacks confidence he can catch it, for whatever reason. Otherwise, the catcher should be calling for the ball immediately and with gusto. In that particular case, maybe Rosario lost the ball in the lights, but I doubt it — it looked to me like he was deferring out of lack of desire or laziness; he didn’t seem to WANT to catch the ball from the get-go, which was why Cuddyer took charge of the situation and called for it first. Certainly, it was within his reach, as the ball wound up falling safely about 15 feet away from home plate.

While I’m in an instructional mood … for the second time in the past week, I heard GKR discuss Travis d’Arnaud‘s “wiggle” when he throws the ball to second base, how that’s wasting precious moments, and that’s a big reason why he’s not throwing anyone out. Furthermore, it’s been expressed by both Keith and Ron Darling that the fix for d’Arnaud is to “go directly to the ear and throw from there.”

OK. Please erase all of that from your memory and let’s start from scratch.

First off, I’m a catcher who teaches catching. The techniques I teach come from long discussions and experimentation with multiple people who have advanced degrees in kinesiology (the study of human movement). Through the first 15-20 years of my catching career, I knew only the hearsay that’s been handed down from former professional catchers — who had zero qualification to talk about efficient movements by the human body. That’s not to say I’m an expert — I’m not. But I do feel that the scientists provide better information than those who relay on hand-me-down guesswork.

With that out of the way …

Yes, d’Arnaud’s “wiggle” is a time waster, and the movement itself is part of the reason he’s not throwing out baserunners. If you’re not sure what the “wiggle” is, it’s this: when he brings the ball out of his glove and back, he hesitates for a split second and executes an extra movement of cocking his wrist before moving his hand forward. It’s not efficient, and it’s throwing off his timing, but it’s not where I’d start in the correction process. Rather, I’d go all the way back to his footwork, which puts him into a less-than-efficient, imbalanced, and not-so-powerful position. The movement and placement of the feet are the key to throwing the baseball regardless of the position, but because of the short amount of time a catcher has to throw out a runner at second, it’s all the more vital to be precise. Travis d’Arnaud is not throwing out runners because his first movement with his right foot is going too far to his left — he’s “shuffling” his foot about to the spot where his left foot was originally placed. That’s too far — the right foot should move to below the exact middle of the body, just below the belly button (or bits and pieces, as my cockney friends like to refer). By traveling too far with his right foot, he’s putting his entire body out of balance, and when the lower body is out of balance, the upper body, to compensate, has to do something to put the body back in balance and make up for the timing as well — in d’Arnaud’s case, it is by wiggling. He’s wiggling / cocking his wrist because his lower body is not getting into position quickly enough, so his arm action is slowing down to give his feet/legs a chance to catch up (the hands always move much more quickly than the legs, in EVERY athletic movement).

Now, here’s the good news: I’ve been watching d’Arnaud intently for the past month, and his footwork in this game was much better than I’ve seen previously — he was shuffling/sliding MUCH further before, as well as a little backward, which was why his throws were flying up and away and toward right field. I don’t know for sure if he knows what he’s supposed to be working on, but he looked better in this game, and if he can shorten his right foot shuffle just a bit more, he’ll be in perfect position.

One more thing: don’t ever, ever listen to the nonsensical “instruction” of throwing the ball “from the ear.” It’s absolutely inefficient, deprives the catcher of his full strength, and puts undue strain on both the elbow and the shoulder. There is ZERO gain in efficiency between taking the ball directly next to the ear compared to putting the ball and arm in the correct position — which is with the forearm at closer to a 90-degree angle to the ground. I don’t know where, why, or when the idea of throwing like a shot putter was made popular in catching instruction circles, but it’s been taught for decades and it’s completely illogical. It doesn’t matter what position on the field you play, the throw should be pretty much the same in regard to where the ball should be and the arm angulation when the front foot comes down.

You know it’s a meaningless game in September between two sorry teams when you hear silly remarks exclaimed such as “Josh Rutledge had no chance against Buddy Carlyle and his fastball!” Buddy Carlyle’s simmering 92-MPH fastball? Yes, it should overmatch a 16-year-old in American Legion, but one of the best 750 players on the planet? Hmm …

Do I sound bitter? Maybe it was those awful camouflage uniforms the Mets wear too many times (once is too many). How can Keith Hernandez disparage the green Irish heritage uniforms worn by the Cincinnati Reds yet remain quiet every time the Mets wear these atrocious camo unis?

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Rockies do it again at 7:10 PM on Tuesday night. Jacob deGrom faces Christian Bergman at 7:10 PM

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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Date: Monday, 08 Sep 2014 16:10

Mets 4 Reds 3

Reds 2 Mets 1

Mets 14 Reds 5

Mets win a weekend series in Cincinnati to remain two games over .500 for the month of September.

Mets Games Notes

Mixing it up for a change today; instead of intensive, thoughtful, precise notes in response to individual ballgames, I decided to do relay mundane thoughts in a series wrap. Why? Perhaps I’m taking a cue from what I’ve been seeing so far in September from “Major League” teams — playing out the string. That’s not specific to the Mets games, either — it appears rampant from the small sample of games seen in the past week.

Maybe this happens every year and I don’t notice it as much for one reason or another. Or maybe it doesn’t really happen, and I’m hyper-sensitive to what looks to me like “mailing it in.” But there must be something to it, otherwise the baseball idiom “don’t trust what you see in March or September” wouldn’t exist.

And that’s what makes this past weekend so difficult to evaluate, isn’t it? The Mets looked like world-beaters, crushing the ” Big Little Red Machine” on Friday night, very nearly beating one of the best pitchers in baseball on Saturday, and then coming away with a one-run victory on Sunday. Suddenly, everyone on the team is hitting — even Curtis Granderson, who had been seen only on the side of milk cartons since late June. With the way Grandy has been swinging the bat of late, there’s a really decent chance of him reaching the 20-homerun milestone before season’s end — something Jason Bay never did (hmm … why would I bring up Bay?).

Fellow veteran-counted-on-to-be-slugger-but-failed-miserably David Wright also has been swinging the bat well of late — among his singles he’s sprinkling in a dash of a double here and there. Heck, he looks right now like he could hit his first homerun since July 11th any at-bat now. And don’t look now, but Travis d’Arnaud is finally fulfilling the offensive promise that convinced the Mets to part with a Cy Young Award winner and cult hero. Do you know d’Arnaud leads all NL rookies in homers, is 19 for his last 51 (.373), and is hitting .286 with 10 homeruns and 29 RBI in the 57 games he’s played since returning from Wally Backman‘s care (a complete coincidence, I’m sure)? Oh, young Travis is also LEADING THE METS with a .500 slugging percentage since the All-Star Exhibition. (Bet you would’ve banked on that being Lucas Duda.) There’s been buzz about Jacob deGrom winning the Rookie of the Year, but if d’Arnaud keeps hitting this way through the end of the month, he just may sneak himself into the conversation.

Speaking of rookies, is it truly possible that Mets fans would rather see Dilson Herrera than Daniel Murphy play the rest of the season at second base? My, how quickly things change, even for the Golden Boy. Murphy is having a career year, yet I’d bet 7 Mets fans out of 10 were secretly hoping he’d played his last game of 2014.

In addition to Juan Lagares campaigning for a Gold (or Platinum?) Glove, he’s become Rickey Henderson at the top of the lineup — taking pitches, getting big base hits, and, most surprisingly, stealing bases with such deftness and efficiency that he’s gained the attention of Danny Ocean.

Wilmer Flores is 9 for his last 27 with a homerun and two doubles, and hasn’t botched a game with his glove in two weeks. Anthony Recker seems to hit a home run every time he starts behind the plate. No one can touch Jeurys Familia — or deGrom, for that matter. The pitching looks so good right now, in fact, that no one’s clamoring for Noah Syndergaard. Lagares, Matt den Dekker, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis just might be one of the best outfields in baseball.

Yes, the Mets look like world-beaters right now — so much so, it seems implausible that they’re in a three-team race for bottom, rather than the top, of the NL East. And hot off their two wins in Cincy, the Mets next face the lowly Colorado Rockies — one of only three clubs in MLB with less than 60 wins. And they’re playing the Rox in Flushing. The Rockies have a .290 “winning” percentage away from Coors Field. That’s not a syntax error — they’ve won only TWENTY-NINE PERCENT of their road games. August was the first month since May that they reached double-digits in wins (they were 10-18). So it seems that the Mets momentum could keep on rolling.

But, wait … the Rockies are 5-1 so far in September. Hmm …

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Something strange about September. Can you trust what you see this month, from anyone? Answer in the comments.

Next Mets Game

Mets and Rox fight it out as the US Open Men’s Finals concludes. Jon Niese faces Jordan Lyles on one side of the 7 Train tracks, while Roger Federer does not face Novak Djokovic on the other at 5 PM. That’s right: two relative unknowns smashed their way into the finals — Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic. Perhaps the strangeness of September extends beyond MLB?

Author: "Joe Janish" Tags: "Mets 2014 Games"
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