Mets 2 Brewers 0
Is it appropriate to say that Lucas Duda is carrying the Mets?
Mets Game Notes
Jacob deGrom hurled yet another stellar ballgame, shutting out the Brewers through 6 1/3. Good job by the bullpen to hold it up.
Interesting to see every Brewers hitter prior to Jean Segura hack at the first pitch offered by Jenrry Mejia in the ninth — especially since they were down by two runs. I wonder if that was simply an indication of the Brewers’ aggressiveness, or if it was a strategy based on a scouting report. I was especially surprised to see Jonathan Lucroy roll over the first pitch leading off the inning — even if he hit it out, they still would’ve been one run down.
Have to be happy to split against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
Next Mets Game
Brewers 5 Mets 2
This time, K-Rod gets the job done.
Mets Game Notes
Tough break for Jonathon Niese, who pitched well through the first four frames and two outs in the fifth before the wheels came off. With a two-zip lead going into the fifth, Jean Segura reached on a on almost-double play, stole second, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a two-out, two-strike single by Carlos Gomez — after Niese started Gomez 0-2. Then Niese lost control of the ballgame, as Jonathon Lucroy followed with a double to score Gomez (also on two strikes, and also after falling behind 0-2), and then Lucroy scored on a Ryan Braun single to give the Brew Crew a 3-2 lead. Niese was removed from the game for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth when the Mets mounted a mild two-out rally. Niese was in the #8 spot of the lineup, by the way; had he been batting ninth, he might have remained in the ballgame. Not that it mattered, since the Mets didn’t score again.
Speaking of, does anyone know the Mets’ record this year when batting the pitcher eighth? I’m curious.
Chris Young erupted with two doubles to keep the tease going. However, because he was not Juan Lagares in center field, the Brewers scored at least two runs. That said, his offense didn’t quite make up for his less-than-outstanding defense.
And while I’ve brought up Lagares … did I really hear a discussion in the SNY booth suggesting that Ruben Tejada might be a better consideration to lead off the 9th inning as a pinch-hitter? Does anyone remember when we were discussing Lagares as a bonafide one-through-three hitter in the lineup, and on the verge of stardom because his bat was coming around in a very big way? That was as recent as June 1, just prior to his injury. How quickly and massively he’s fallen since, and we can only hope it’s somehow due to a correctable bad habit somewhere in his swing that may have resulted from his rib injury. Sure, on paper, Ruben Tejada has a nice OBP (that seems to be at least slightly padded by batting in front of the pitcher), but it’s astonishing to realize that Lagares has dropped that much in such a short period of time. Things move fast, and can change very quickly, in MLB.
Carlos Torres threw 46 pitches in relief in this game, so let’s hope he gets the prescribed two days off a mound that are required after a game stint of 45 or more pitches. Two days off, by the way, is not the same as one day off followed by facing one batter and throwing five pitches on the second day because the Mets really need to get a righthanded hitter out, and then giving him two extra days of rest after that.
Lucas Duda remains hot — he drove in the Mets’ first run with a sharp single to center in the third inning.
The rest of the Mets were not so hot. Duda’s single was the only hit they had with a runner in scoring position, as the team went 1-for-11 with RISP.
Gary Cohen pointed out that the Mets as a team have only 8 triples this year, the lowest total in MLB (they’re tied with the Orioles, who also have only 8). Shocking, considering that the Mets’ home park is made for triples. Yasiel Puig hit three triples in one game, for comparison. Also for comparison — 21 other clubs have at least twice as many triples so far this year, and 24 clubs have at least 15. For what it’s worth, 5 of the Mets’ 8 triples have come in Flushing.
There were a bunch of called third strikes in this ballgame, against both clubs. I just don’t get that, especially with so many coming with RISP. Yes, it’s indicative of a home plate umpire with a large strike zone, but whatever happened to swinging at pitches that are “too close to take” with two strikes? You can’t drive in a runner from second or third by taking pitches, unless the bases are loaded. The ultimate goal of an offensive inning is to score runs, and when a batter has two strikes, he can’t be too picky in general, and certainly can’t be picky when there’s an ump who is ringing up guy on called third strikes. If there are two strikes, a runner in scoring position, and you can reach it, swing the gosh-darned bat!
Next Mets Game
Mets 3 Brewers 2
So much for my theory that Lucas Duda doesn’t hit big homeruns. But glad to see he reads MetsToday, and that it inspires him. Glad something finally does.
Mets Game Notes
Zack Wheeler struggled a bit in the initial frame, partially due to uncontrollable circumstances, but also, he simply looked — to me — like he was having a hard time getting comfortable. I was surprised that he was able to get out of the first without allowing a run, and thought for sure he was going to have a rough night. Everything changed in the second, and he proceeded to absolutely dominate the Milwaukee hitters through the sixth inning.
As soon as I saw Murphy dunk that double down the line in left, I also saw the David Wright single and Lucas Duda blast. I’m sure you did, too. Not because we’re psychic, but because we know Francisco Rodriguez all too well, and we’ve seen that body language before. Had he retired Murphy, things may have turned out differently, but once Murphy reached, K-Rod’s face and body changed. It has nothing to do with stuff, previous success, or anything else — it’s what happens to some people, at some times, in the moment.
If you’re a Mets fan, I bet you were especially happy to see K-Rod blow the game (personally, I’m always happy to see a parasite/social leper/despicable human being fail). But I doubt it’s possible you were as happy as Gary Cohen. Does he bring a change of shorts to the broadcast booth for situations like that, I wonder? I mean because it sounded like he spilled his cup of coffee on himself in the excitement — what the heck were you thinking? This is a family-friendly blog, for goodness sakes!
Although he had three hits, including the big leadoff double in the top of the ninth, it was not a great game in the field for Daniel Murphy. To the Murphy apologists out there, may I please comment? First off, the two errors on the scoreboard were only the tip of the iceberg. He nearly threw another ball away that could’ve resulted in more trouble, he was too slow in turning two “coulda-been” double plays, and he was lucky to be bailed out of just about all of his miscues. Mainly, though, I want to point out the sixth-inning routine double-play grounder that went through the wickets, as it offers a teaching moment. As you probably know, I am a catcher, and on the rare occasions a coach put me in an infield position, I would not be confused with Mark Belanger. However, from what I know from colleagues who are former professional infielders, one action an infielder should NEVER do is back up on a ball. In other words, when a ground ball is coming directly your way, you either hold your feet or charge in a few steps. Backpedaling is a bad idea. I’m not entirely sure why, but I believe it goes hand in hand with “play the ball / don’t let the ball play you,” and I imagine it has to do with being on your heels and therefore in a nonathletic, unbalanced position. From what I understand this is a very basic fundamental that I’ve heard over and over again. (If you are someone who played or coached at a high level, and/or know why backing up on a grounder is bad, please explain in the comments.) On that sharply hit grounder to Murphy, he backed up, and I’m guessing it’s because the ball was hit so hard (and it WAS scorched), he felt he was going to be handcuffed and/or didn’t have enough time to charge. So what should he have done, and what should YOU do, if put in a similar position? My limited knowledge suggests that you hold your ground, stay balanced on the middle of your feet, and therefore have a strong foundation underneath you, which will allow you to better react with your hands. You can’t be quick with your upper body unless the lower body is planted, no matter what sport or athletic movement you’re making. Even race car drivers need to firmly plant their left foot against the floor so that their hands are supple and quick to steer.
The Mets won, though, so we can glaze over Murphy’s miscues, right?
I was absolutely astonished to see Logan Schafer bunting with two strikes in the ninth, in part because it was clear he was uncomfortable bunting against Jenrry Mejia, and also because he’s pretty fast and unlikely to hit into a double play. Oh, and also because it’s always a bad move unless you have a bad-hitting pitcher at the plate. I do understand attempting a sacrifice in that situation, and would have made the same call. But regardless of how accomplished a bunter Shafer has been in the past, it was crystal-clear he wasn’t going to get one down against Mejia, so let him swing away. A team cannot be giving away an out when down one in the bottom of the ninth.
Is anyone else wondering why Bobby Abreu (and Chris Young, for that matter) are still getting Major League at-bats while Kirk Nieuwenhuis is back in Las Vegas? If the Mets are serious about winning games in 2014, then Nieuwenhuis should be on the roster instead of either of those two veterans. If the Mets are serious about building a winning club in future years, then Nieuwenhuis should be on the roster instead of either of those two veterans. So, again, why? Only The Shadow knows …
Carlos Gomez doesn’t kiss his bat before at-bats any more, does he?
During a random discussion about the Phillies, Gary Cohen described Ryan Howard‘s performance over the past two years as “below replacement level.” I thought that was cute.
By the way, would you trade Lucas Duda for Ryan Howard right now, straight up? I might, and I don’t think that’s crazy, especially if the Phillies were willing to eat some of Howard’s contract. Check the numbers and be careful to check your emotions before answering. Sure, right now Duda has the better AVG, OPS, and OBP, but Howard has more RBI and runs scored (granted, Howard also has about 60 more plate appearances) on a team that has more difficulty scoring than the Mets (believe it or not). Howard very well could be at the “Mo Vaughn as a Met” point in his career, but then again, he could be a half-year away from “Justin Morneau as a Rockie.” Much depends on whether you believe Duda is for real, and will keep it up over the next 2-3 years. But if you think there’s ANY chance that Howard can return to the beast he was prior to his achilles injury, you might think twice. Food for thought.
Hey, another one-run game won by the Mets. Channeling Mel Allen …
Was it really a “huge win” by the Mets? Because it saved Terry Collins‘ job for another day? Because it may help them move toward being “buyers” at the trade deadline? Because it may spark another big winning streak that may lead toward “meaningful games in September”? Or just because it was entertaining for Mets fans, and the Mets need to be entertaining in order to generate more revenue and keep the current ownership in place? Choose carefully before answering.
Mets Game Notes
The Mets and Brewers do it again on Saturday night at 7:10 PM ET. Jonathon Niese takes the mound against Wily Peralta.
Brewers 9 Mets 1
The Mets were one game away from another winning streak. All good things must come to an end.
Mets Game Notes
Not a good night for Dillon Gee. In fact, a bad night for the righthander, who was pummeled by the Brew Crew. He didn’t necessarily have the wrong idea — he was clearly trying to entice the aggressive Milwaukee lineup to chase pitches out of the zone to fall behind on the count, but they weren’t biting on his pitches that were just a few inches off the edges. As a result, he fell behind nearly every batter, had to come back with pitches that got too much plate, and the Brewers teed off. It happens.
As it turned out, the Brewers didn’t have anything personal against Dillon Gee — they pounded Daisuke Matsuzaka similarly. Seven of Milwaukee’s ten hits in the game were for extra bases.
Hmmm … were the Brewers “hunting for strikes”?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
While the Brewers hitters were crushing the ball, the Mets were doing the opposite. They had exactly two hits, walked twice, and sent only 28 batters to the plate, one over the absolute minimum. On the bright side, they were only 0-for-1 with RISP.
One of those two hits was another massive homerun by Lucas Duda — a prodigious blast well over the fence in dead-center, that came after the Mets were down 7-0. His homeruns are beginning to remind me of Mike Cameron‘s 30 homers in 2004. As a friend once commented to me: “That was the lightest 30-HR season I ever saw.” Hey, hitting a 420-foot+ homer in MLB is impressive regardless of the situation. But how many of Duda’s dingers have come when they were truly needed? In the words of Warner Wolf, “let’s go to the videotape!” Duda hit a couple big ones early in the season, he had one that turned out to be important against the Rangers, and another against the Mariners a few days ago that turned out to be big … but it seems like his homer total is padded a bit by circumstances. Maybe all players’ homerun total are similarly padded. Maybe my opinion is clouded by still not being sold on him as an everyday first baseman. Though, I’m pleased to see he’s finally taking steps forward after years and years of unfulfilled hype and an obvious lack of confidence. Part of it, too, is that people in the Mets organization have gushed about Duda like he would be another Adam Dunn, and he’s yet to come near that expectation.
I’m not being fair to Duda, I know. Cameron’s ’04 season was ridiculous. He hit 30 taters and drove in only 76 runs. That’s hard to do. In contrast, this year Duda is driving in runs with his non-homers, and if he were to reach 30 homers I imagine he’d have at least 90 RBI. In fact, there’s a decent outside chance he drives in 90 anyway. Though, rib-eye steaks don’t mean anything any more, right? Their importance has gone the way of wins by starting pitchers, I understand. Runs, wins … what silly things to count! Thank goodness we have much more complex and informative data such as VORP, WAR, wOBA, BABIP, and FIP … I’m not sure what drivel we’d babble about at the bar over beers if not for these advanced metrics!
Next Mets Game
Mets and Brewers do it again at 8:10 PM on Friday night. Zack Wheeler faces Yovani Gallardo, who has struggled mightily in three of his last four starts — maybe the Mets are facing him at just the right time.
Mets 3 Mariners 2
Mets win a one-run game — how about that?
Mets Game Notes
I was sitting in traffic on the Long Island Expressway during the bulk of this contest, so didn’t see the action.
Bartolo Colon was perfect through six and and two-thirds, retiring 20 batters until Robinson Cano reached on a single. Could Colon have performed better in one of his last auditions before the trading deadline? Did he impress the Mariners enough for them to consider plucking him from the waiver wire in August?
I heard that Ruben Tejada was beaned in the fifth and had to leave the ballgame. He was also hit by a pitch on Tuesday. Are the baseball gods sending a message? How many more times does Tejada have to be struck before the Mets consider adding a real, actual backup middle infielder to the roster? Though, from the boxscore it appears that Eric Campbell did not make an error in his four innings at shortstop, so I guess that means he’s capable.
Next Mets Game
Mets 3 Mariners 1
Mets top Mariners to reach one win away from being .500 in the second half.
Mets Game Notes
In truth, there’s far less than a half-season left after the All-Star Exhibition — why is that? Currently 47-53 in their first 100 games, the Mets can reach their 90-win goal by going 43-19 through the final 62 ballgames. Impossible? Heck no. Difficult? Yes. That would be a .693 winning percentage; or, they’d have to win roughly 7 out of every 10 games going forward. It would be a heckuva run.
They might have a shot if Jacob deGrom can pitch once every three days, and continue to perform as he has in his last three starts. The young righthander went seven frames again, holding the M’s to one run on five hits and a walk.
I have to admit I fell asleep at some point in the third or fourth inning. I vaguely remember an errant Daniel Murphy throw before fading away into the night. Or maybe that was a dream. Travis d’Arnaud continuing to hit the ball with authority is also stuck in my head.
Fill me in on the rest, OK?
Next Mets Game
Mariners 5 Mets 2
Mets pitchers were much more efficient than Seattle’s (123 pitches to 164), and the Mets offense collected at least one hit in every single inning. However, the final score numbers are the ones that matter most.
Mets Game Notes
Jon Niese did not pitch well, and, his line would’ve looked a lot uglier had it not been for a few excellent defensive plays behind him, combined with some aggressiveness by the Mariners hitters. Niese’s command was far off — to be expected from a pitcher who was out for over two weeks — and his velocity was startlingly low, as he struggled to keep his fastball in the 87-88 MPH range; I think he might’ve touched 89 once or twice. Wait, wasn’t the time off supposed to rejuvenate Niese, and help him to regain his strength — like the DL stint last year did? Huh, strange it didn’t work out that way. Niese looked like he was running on fumes.
Oh, what a can of worms we have there … if it weren’t beyond 1 AM and me working on 5 hours’ sleep, I’d be ripping the Mets a new one on the Niese DL debacle. Perhaps another day …
Just one thing, first: does anyone on the planet agree with me that it is incredibly alarming that Niese, at age 27, should be in the very best condition of his life and experiencing an INCREASE in velocity, rather than a marked decrease? Is no one else concerned by this development? Does no one else see this as a bright red flag? Is everyone else completely blinded by his excellent numbers, and/or buying into the “he’s learned how to dial it back to pitch more effectively” BS? Because it IS bovine defecation, to the highest degree. A 27-year-old who previously touched 93-94 and regularly hung around 91, should at the very least be maintaining that level.
I love Travis d’Arnaud‘s body language and confidence since his return from Las Vegas. He’s swinging the bat well and was robbed of a homerun in this game by Dustin Ackley, who made a remarkable catch over the wall to steal the dinger away from d’Arnaud. Ackley also went 3-for-4, and was in a run with Kyle Seager and Willie Bloomquist for the game ball.
I don’t love Daniel Murphy‘s body language. As mentioned in the previous post, he looks exhausted. But as has been pointed out in the comments, the Mets don’t have a legit backup middle infielder (other than starting shortstop Ruben Tejada) — which is mind-boggling. At the very least, can the Mets coax Mike Phillips or Tim Bogar out of retirement? (I’m not even sure Bogar ever officially retired, so the paperwork could be easy in that case.)
Mariners starter Roenis Elias pitched well enough until leaving the game with a “forearm cramp,” which Ron Darling jokingly derided. I hope no young pitcher took Darling’s joke seriously, because ANY kind of cramping, strain, pain, or other discomfort in the forearm is an immediate red flag that could very quickly lead to elbow problem. Quickly as in, the very next pitch, and knowing that, I was astonished that the Mariners medical staff allowed Elias to finish pitching to Lucas Duda. Forearm issues should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be taken seriously, and treated with extreme caution. Don’t be surprised to see Elias go down with a UCL injury before the end of this season.
The Mariners have posted losing seasons in 8 of their past 10 seasons. Right now, they’re 6 games over .500. The front office, coaching staff, scouting department, and roster are littered with former Mets personnel. Are they good this year because they were bad for six straight years? Are they good because of Robinson Cano? Can you see any comparison or contrast between the Mariners and the Mets over the past several years? Hmmmm …
It’s kind of funny that Chris Young is still a Met, isn’t it? And now whatever leg injury took him out of the game will likely land him on the DL, which means there’s no chance of him getting suddenly hot and becoming trade bait for a 19-year-old middle reliever toiling in the low minors.
Next Mets Game
Padres 2 Mets 1
At least they weren’t no-hit.
Mets Game Notes
Hey! Look who’s back! Didja miss me? I had not watched a baseball game — of any level — since Mets Game 90. Due to business travel, the All-Star Exhibition break, and a hint of vacation mixed in between, I went without baseball for nearly two weeks — perhaps the longest in-season break in my life in about 15 years. Not that you care, and not that it matters. But, funny how quickly things can change. Prior to my hiatus, the Mets were on their way to yet another awful season, poised to finish the year far below .500, with Terry Collins seemingly on the brink of unemployment. I return, and what do you know? Sandy Alderson is quoting Tug McGraw, the Mets are on a 8-2 streak, and Mets fans are starting to believe that the boys from Flushing just might play interesting games in September. Further, the team went on this wild run going into the AS Exhibition, and would be playing perhaps the worst team in MLB after the break — a perfect way to keep the momentum going in the second half.
The Mets success train didn’t exactly start up again in San Diego. Don’t blame me — if I had that kind of power, I’d use it for far more worthwhile causes than helping the Mets win (world peace, for example). Though, the train hasn’t run off the rails, either. Starting the second half 1-2 isn’t the end of the world, but it’s not the ideal way for a previously hot team to begin, either.
There are three ways to look at this particular ballgame. First, the Mets’ fan viewpoint: “Ugh, what an awful way to lose!” Second, the Padres’ fan perspective: “Gee whiz, it was about time they came through with a run-scoring hit!” Then, the neutral baseball fan: “Finally, the agony is over!”
It was agonizing — truly — to watch the offensive ineptitude of these two clubs. Nearly every time the Padres got something going, it happened with two outs and the pitcher coming up to the plate. The Mets, meanwhile, didn’t get anything going until the eighth inning, when they finally managed to collect a base hit. Odrisamer Despaigne — btw, I couldn’t possibly pronounce his first nor last name, and wasn’t able to type out either without help — no-hit the Mets through 7 2/3, until Daniel Murphy finally broke it up by rapping a double into the left-center alley. David Wright followed with a ground-ball single that bounced through the infield and “poof!” the Mets tied the ballgame. Honestly, I didn’t believe San Diego would win this game. Looking at their stats and watching their horrendous collection of “hitters,” it seemed that one run was their absolute peak. This was my feeling particularly after Despaigne was removed from the game — I thought for sure the mental state of the Mets would change to a much more positive frame of mind, and they’d manage to score at least one run, if not several, against a Padres pitcher without the name “Despaigne” on his back.
Instead, it was the Padres who continued to mount fruitless threats, until finally breaking through with the winning run in the ninth — thanks primarily to two poorly handled balls back to the pitcher. Were those lucky? I guess, sure. Might you also blame the Mets pitchers — Vic Black and Josh Edgin — for not being able to field their position? Well, yeah, and then luck doesn’t enter the picture (#littlethings). Oh, and then there was the issue of walking the leadoff batter (#littlethings) to start the ninth.
The Mets actually got away with a number of #littlethings, thanks mainly to the Padres inability to hit with RISP (or hit, in general). There was the ground-rule double by Chase Headley, on a ball that appeared to bounce off of Bobby Abreu‘s toe (and why were neither Abreu NOR Ruben Tejada running full-out for that pop-up? Do they both fear collision? We know Abreu’s history with walls …). There was the leadoff triple by Will Venable that resulted in no runs scoring. There was the botched relay by Daniel Murphy on that triple by Venable. There was the nearly botched double-play by Murphy in the ninth. There was the Padres going 1-for-11 with RISP and leaving 11 on base. So while it was a “tough way to lose” if you were only living in the final moment of the game, at the same time, there were several situations when the Mets barely squeaked out of trouble. A team can live on the edge only so many times before it finally falls over.
Despaigne was impressive, though I wonder how much of his success was due to the magic of mystery / unfamiliarity. To his credit, he threw a ton of strikes, and he changed both speed and location on every single pitch. He reminded me a bit of fellow countrymen Orlando Hernandez and Luis Tiant in that regard (and his leg kick also is reminiscent of El Duque). It will be interesting to watch how his career continue — will he be another El Duque or Tiant, or more like Alay Soler or Yunesky Maya? We’ll see …
Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler pitched well enough to win — but didn’t. It happens, though it shouldn’t happen against the Padres.
I’m well aware it was Daniel Murphy who broke up the no-hitter, but he didn’t look great at the plate in this game prior to that at-bat. He looks tired, and his back side is dipping again, and he’s rolling over on pitches he should be driving. Looking at the game log, his batting average has dropped from .303 on June 30 to .289 after this ballgame, with his OBP going from .353 to .336 over the same time frame. So far in July, he’s hitting .204 with a .232 OBP. Ouch. Is it possible that he’s wearing out? Should he have been given a few more breathers in the first half? He’s played in all but four games this year, and two of those games came at the very beginning of the season, when he took off on paternity leave.
One last thing: how is Chris Denorfia still in MLB, and, for that matter, starting in RF and batting 6th in a MLB lineup???? I get that it was a Sunday afternoon ballgame, and that’s when the scrubs get their chance. But is it truly possible that Denorfia is the 25th-best player in the Padres’ organization? There’s not ONE player in AAA or AA who is better? There isn’t someone on the waiver wire who is better than Denorfia? Denorfia was kind of fun and interesting about six years ago, when he was a surprising, blue-collar, hustling, everyman super-sub in the Joe McEwing mold. But now he’s 33 years old and has no business starting in right field and batting sixth for even the worst team in MLB. People wonder why I believe MLB talent is watered down today, and here is a prime example. Denorfia should have a hard time finding his way into the starting lineup on a Sunday afternoon for a AAA club, much less one that plays in the Major Leagues.
Next Mets Game
The Mets move on to play the Mariners in Seattle on Monday night. Game time is 10:10 PM Right Coast Time. I can’t promise that I’ll give you a good recap, as I’ll likely be asleep by 11. Jonathon Niese returns from his mysterious DL stint to face Roenis Elias — yet another Cuban pitcher.
I never thought I would be typing these words this year, but I actually set time aside on Sunday to tune into the Mets-Marlins game. It didn’t hurt that my new favorite Met was taking the hill, but also after catching the final few innings of Saturday’s come from behind win, I wanted see what they could do for an encore.
The Mets didn’t disappoint, erupting for nine runs in convincing thumping of the Marlins, a team that less than one month ago, appeared poised to leave the Mets floundering in their wake. With the win and the series sweep, the Mets have moved into third place in the National League East, and left me saying “who are these guys?” to myself.
And then, as if the day couldn’t get any better, I got back from my announcing gig in time to see Noah Syndergaard get the save in the Futures Game.
The last few years have been brutal, just as bad IMO, as the late 1970’s. Self-preservation and advancing age have made me reflectively cynical about anything Mets. For example, this ESPN piece on Sandy Alderson looking for a shortstop and a leftfielder at the trade deadline struck me as an outright lie, calculated to build website traffic and fan interest. After all, the Wilpons still own the team, Alderson is still the GM and Terry Collins remains the manager.
I still think that when the Mets do finally get good again, that most of roster will have been turned over. But, I am softening my stance a bit in that the turnover percentage may be lower than what I thought it needed to be during May and June. While the Mets will likely not make the playoffs, there is still half a season left and I believe that there is a way for them to stay interesting without having to Kazmir-Trade the (hopefully) near future away.
They have most of the pitching they need. The next step is to get a day-in-day-out starting lineup and batting order. Collins may have stumbled over/awoken to something with the batting order during the Miami series. Starting this Friday in San Diego, this should be the Mets regular lineup:
1. Curtis Granderson: I mocked it at first, but inserting Granderson in the leadoff spot may end up being Collins’ best move all season. Granderson could only lead off once per game, but it’s those extra at bats this affords him that are benefiting the team. Plus—it gives everyone else a “spot.”
2. Daniel Murphy: Speaking of spots, Daniel was really jerked around, both in the field and the lineup for several years. I wonder just how much he has benefitted from a consistent place in the lineup. Yes we know all about Wilmer Flores (more on him shortly) and Dilson Herrera, but there is no way the Mets should part with Murph at the trading deadline. I know that I am writing this on a blog that has historically been more empirical rather than anecdotal, but Murphy seems to really “get it” and I think the Mets would greatly miss him.
3. David Wright: Will success spoil him? Will he walk around a champagne-soaked dressing room with a smug “I told you so” look on his face? Wouldn’t we like to find out?
4. Lucas Duda: With every passing game, it looks ever more certain that Alderson guessed right in keeping Duda over Ike Davis. If Lucas has finally realized that there is also a left field and if he can consistently drive balls that way, then he may be changing the course of his career.
5. Travis d’Araund: Like the Granderson move, I wasn’t crazy about d’Araund in the five hole, but upon further reflection, this is the type of trial that a team like the Mets should be taking. Instead of babying him any further, they need to be tossing him into the mix, so they can find out by the end of the season if Travis can cut it. He certainly has looked like a new man since his return from Vegas.
6. Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Saturday’s Chris Young heroics aside, my sense is that left field and the six spot need to go to Kirk for the remainder of the second half. Kirk may prove to be at best a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he has shown just enough flashes in all aspects of his game, that like Duda and d’Araund, he should be afforded a longer look. There have been plenty of upper cut swings and misses to keep me skeptical, but barring any trades, the alternatives here are the Youngs and we know what we are getting from them.
7. Juan Lagares: Defensively, he’s the goods. They need to keep him healthy. Also keep him low in the order Terry! Remember how he batted fifth all those times last year?
8. Ruben Tejada: Ugh. I am still not a fan. I would rather bring the hot-hitting Flores back up and insert him a little higher in the order. But I will give Tejada his due, he has been playing better. While he is only 24 (the youngest Met regular), I get the feeling that he has peaked already. He doesn’t do any one thing particularly well. But if I can get the other seven in, I guess I will take Ruben.
Just entertain me for the next ten weeks, that’s all I ask. (Unless they keep winning, then I’ll want more).
So how goes your fandom?
In Joe’s absence, I will attempt to keep the lights lit around here.
The Mets took three of four from the Braves this week. Dillon Gee pitched well and Travis d’Araund extended his coming out (no not that type of coming out) party. On the down side, Juan Larges’ offensive struggles continue and most disturbingly, Jeurys Familia couldn’t get loose while warming up and wasn’t used in either game.
The Mets wrap up the first half of the season against the fading Marlins, starting tonight. They travel to San Diego after the All-Star break. After a three-game stop in Seattle, they face the Brewers in Milwaukee and the Phillies at home to wrap up July. This is the stretch that will determine the course of the 2014 season—as with the exception of the Mariners, the Mets have been playing better recently than the next few teams on their schedule. This is their opportunity to win each series and at least pull within hailing distance of the .500 mark. Respectability is the first step back, right?
While it seems that WFAN has become all-Yankees, all-of-the time, I had the somewhat good fortune to be tuned in when Mike Francessa broached the subject of trading Gee. Francessa favors moving Gee over one of the Mets younger arms, a notion that I tend to agree with him on. Like most fans, I would rather trade Bartolo Colon and hold on to Gee, but I sense that Gee’s value is very high right now and I would attempt to move him this month.
Humor me for a moment and project a Met starting rotation, circa 2015-2017…
You probably have some combination of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard and Jon Niese, yes? That leaves Gee, Jacob deGrom and the intriguing Steven Matz as the main competition for the 5th spot, along with the still-time-to-develop Rafael Montero. Who would you take from those four? (My pick is deGrom). Colon has value in that, if needed, he could do next year what he has done this year: hold down a spot if one or more of the young arms proves to be unready at the start of 2015. Yes, so could Gee, but trading Colon (plus his salary) would only get them the type of return that Ike Davis did. It wouldn’t help them this year and doesn’t really make them better during this supposed window of opportunity either.
For the first time in decades, the Mets farm system is moving in the right direction; however the top position players in the system are currently blocked by players who could (or should) remain Mets for a while. Moving Gee, who is under control until 2017, along with Carlos Torres and maybe Bobby Abreu to a team like Seattle, Kansas City, Cleveland or St. Louis, teams much closer to a playoff spot than the Mets are, should be able to garner a package that includes either the power or the speed prospect that their offense needs and the farm system currently lacks.
What do you think? Help keep the site active—sound off below!
Mets 8 Braves 3
Mets lambast Braves, and well on their way toward sweeping the series and making a big run for the postseason.
Mets Game Notes
I have to admit that work prevented me from seeing all but the final six outs of the ballgame, so you’ll have to fill me in on all the good stuff. But I have a funny feeling that one day, late in September or early October, we’ll be looking back at this series as the turning point in the Mets season — the series when the magic returned, they became amazin’ again, and stormed their way into the postseason.
Or not. We’ll find out eventually.
By the way, there’s a good chance I don’t write any post-game recaps until after the All-Star Exhibition, as my job is my priority right now and I’m busy first with a national sales meeting and then a business trip. However I will try to post something somewhat relevant, if not brief recaps. I appreciate your patience and even more appreciate your filling in the gaps in my semi-absence.
Next Mets Game
Mets 4 Braves 3
Mets avoid the possibility of being swept at home by beating the Braves in game one of a four-game set.
Mets Game Notes
Prior to this game, Terry Collins said this series was “huge.” I guess most things are huge to Terry Collins, especially lately.
Great game by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was nearly matched pitch for pitch by Mike Minor. Dice-K couldn’t win, though, because the Mets bullpen shat the bed. Thankfully, though, Curtis Granderson made up for the firemen throwing gasoline on the fire and in the end, it was Ruben Tejada who came through with yet another walk-off game-winning hit.
Tejada clearly was motivated by being snubbed from the All-Star game roster — he’s playing like a man on a mission, laser-focused on proving Mike Matheny wrong.
Mets were handed a gift in the bottom of the ninth, when the umpires misinterpreted a neighborhood play and put it under replay review. Per the newfangled MLB rules, the neighborhood play is not subject to replay review. Hmm … Anyway, the play was reversed, I’m guessing because the on-field umpires decided that it was NOT a neighborhood play, and therefore, the play was judged by the replay umpires as something else. Once the play was overturned, the Mets had men on first and second and no outs. So what does Terry Collins do with this gift from the gods of baseball? He sends Lucas Duda out to pinch-hit and swing away. Hmm … No bunt there, Terry? Really? Nope. Three outs later the Mets returned to the field and the Braves came to bat to start the top of the tenth.
What I liked about that ninth inning: the Braves playing it straight — in other words, not intentionally loading the bases to create a force at home, which some (many?) teams might have done. As you know, I hate, hate, hate putting runners on base, and really hate putting the pitcher into a situation where he cannot make a mistake.
From the Gee I Wonder Why There Is A Tommy John Surgery Epidemic? department: Carlos Torres pitched the top of the tenth, with only two days’ rest after tossing 81 pitches on Friday night. Huh. ASMI recommendations, based on hard scientific evidence, insist on a minimum of three days’ rest after a pitcher throws at least 62 pitches. In fact, the cutoff for four days’ rest is 89 — only 8 away from Torres’ last outing. So it’s not like Collins / Dan Warthen were bending the rules a little bit — they were bold-face spitting on them. So, again, why is there a rash of pitching injuries lately? Well, it can’t have anything to do with breaking rules, because rules were made to be broken, right? And/or, Major League pitchers are not human, and therefore not subject to rules for humans based on decades of evidence-based research. Nah, let’s just keep twirling our thumbs and coming up with nonsense theories based on nothing but opinion, such as, “pitchers throw too hard,” or, “youngsters should be playing other sports, not baseball all year,” or, “the mound is too high.” Gee whiz. Is MLB EVER going to wake up? Nah.
Since Torres pitched well through his 22 pitches / two innings, the science is worthless, right? Of course. Torres obviously has a “rubber arm” and doesn’t have to follow the rules. Thank goodness!
Ironically, one of the reasons Torres was in the game was because Collins was trying his best to keep Jeurys Familia out of the contest. Familia threw 12 pitches on Sunday, and 45 pitches on Friday. For those unaware, a 45-pitch effort requires a minimum of TWO days rest; Collins gave him one. Where’s the irony? Had Collins given Familia the requisite two days rest after Friday, he would’ve been fresh and ready for this game. But the Mets won so what’s the difference?
Collins mentioned in the postgame that “… yesterday when we brought him in, his velocity was down … I talked to the pitching guys today and they said, ‘listen, if you can give him a night, give him a night, because he can use it’ … if you think about it, he didn’t pitch much in April, now he’s like third in the league in appearances, so I’ve been pitching him like crazy and I have to back off a bit … he didn’t say anything, but when he’s usually 96-97 and yesterday he was 94 …”
Hmm … sounds pretty loosey-goosey to me. No rules at all, just some vague suggestions by “the pitching guys,” who I suppose are checking the pitchers’ horoscopes or biorhythms (or maybe The Farmer’s Almanac?) to figure out when to rest guys. My guess is that most other MLB pitching staffs are run similarly.
Collins is right in that Familia was used quite a bit after April — he appeared in 18 games in June. But it’s not necessarily about the volume over a period of time — it IS about how much rest and recovery a pitcher is given after outings. If a pitcher throws less than 20 pitches, he can throw every day, without rest. But once he gets to 27, one day of rest is needed. At 45, two days. 62, three days. 89, four days. These numbers were not picked out of a hat.
By the way, the Mets added reliever Buddy Carlyle to the roster when they put Jonathon Niese on the DL. Carlyle did not pitch in this game.
Pedal to the metal, baby!
Next Mets Game
And then, there are weekends like this past one, where you start to think maybe, just maybe. When Juan Lagares throws out another runner at home, Travis d’Araund comes up big late in the game, when the quartet of Vic Black, Josh Edgin, Jeurys Familia and Jennry Mejia look like world-beaters and when Zack Wheeler matures before your very eyes. A weekend when down on the farm, two top prospect pitchers twirl gems and the middle infielder your GM swiped from a team starving for a post-season berth hits and fields like a young Robbie Alomar (that was the good version of Robbie). You forget that the Wilpons are the owners, that your manager has never won anything and that the GM will probably snooze through another trade deadline. You forget that your ace pitcher is still recovering from serious arm surgery and that your top lefty has just gone back on the DL.
This is the beauty of baseball, that the game is always right in front of you and that when played well, the possibilities seem endless. In one of the most brilliant pieces of prose ever written by an American writer, the great William Faulkner described how every southern boy 14 years old can always get to the place just before two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, when the charge hasn’t happened yet and there is still all that much to gain. Baseball can be like that too.
Speaking of the south, I think that the Atlanta Braves will march in and ruin this feeling and we will soon be back to fire Terry, cut Chris Young and why don’t they make a trade for one of those Cub shortstops.
Meantime, savor the feeling.
Mets 8 Rangers 4
Mets win a series!
Mets Game Notes
This game, to me, resembled a AAA game. Mediocre, dumb hitters overmatched by mediocre pitching – but a few mistakes hit out of the park. Ho hum.
To Terry Collins, this game must have resembled the World Series. That’s the only way I can understand some of the micromanagement and panic moves made.
Surely, there are game recaps published elsewhere lauding Zack Wheeler’s performance. He did, after all, post a great line and kept his velocity up through 100+ pitches. What I saw, though, was a pitcher struggling somewhat with command, yet facing hitters who were intent on retiring themselves. Plenty of bad swings on counts and pitches that displayed lack of thought / approach. Yes, Wheeler on occasion made very good pitches, but more often than not, Texas hitters put themselves into tough positions to succeed.
Meanwhile, Nick Tepesch was terrible. Considering he’s a control pitcher, and had zero command in the first three innings, I’m guessing he’s injured, not used to pitching in the daytime, was hung over from a wild night in the big city, or a combination of all three.
Like much of what we’ve been seeing in MLB, the Rangers hitters are a collection of thoughtless hackers. Down by five early on, just about every Ranger was swinging from their heels on first pitches and on 1-0 counts – and it wasn’t as though Wheeler was throwing delicious pitches. Adrian Beltre reached for a slider off the plate and in the dirt to start his 4th inning at-bat, and jammed an inside pitch to bounce out on a 1-1 count. Then in the sixth, down by four, no one on base, Beltre got ahead 2-0, and got jammed again in flying out to left. Really? What’s the strategy there? How about taking a strike and making the pitcher work a bit? Wheeler was far from sharp, despite the lead and a home plate umpire calling everything from the bottom of the knees to the top of the letters. If the Rangers simply took a strike once down by five, they might have knocked Wheeler out by the fifth based on pitch count. Robinson Chirinos hit a solo homer hacking away later that inning, so I guess that was Texas’ plan – to hit six solo homers to win.
Baffled by the decision to have Wheeler sacrifice bunt Ruben Tejada to third with one out in the 4th and Mets up by 4. Wheeler is a decent athlete, Tepesch was awful all afternoon, and there’s little benefit in moving the runner to 3B with two outs. One out, sure, but two? Because he might score on a wild pitch? At a park with very little room between home plate and the stands? Let Wheeler rip there – if not there, then in what situation will he have an opportunity to swing away? But who cares? The Mets won, right?
Even though there was a four-run gap going into the ninth, I feel like Jenrry Mejia should get a save. After all, a four-run Mets lead is not as safe as it is for other teams. And lack of a save makes Mejia’s emotional outburst after notching the third out on a strikeout seem overindulgent.
Next Mets Game
Mets host the Braves on Monday night at 7:10 PM. Daisuke Matsuzaka might take the mound against Mike Minor.
Rangers 5 Mets 3
Mets lose to Rangers but remain .500 over their last two games.
Mets Game Notes
Another game of which I witnessed little. Seems I’ve had other (better?) things to do this weekend. My apologies.
Bartolo Colon was beat up again, but hung in there long enough to eat up innings. The Mets offense was again ineffective, going 3-for-13 with RISP and leaving 8 runners on base. But, there’s Travis d’Arnaud continuing to hit the ball after his Las Vegas stint under the guidance of Wally Backman. Rumor has it, Wilmer Flores is mashing the ball out there, too. Must be the thin air.
Fill me in on what I “missed” in the comments. Thanks.
Mets 6 Rangers 5
Mets finally win a one-run game.
Mets Game Notes
I saw about ten minutes of this game, so don’t have much to say. It seems the Mets caught Yu Darvish on an off night and found a way to overcome an early injury by Jonathon Niese. Lucas Duda continues to insist on hitting the way a Major League first baseman should. Travis d’Arnaud stays hot. Eric Campbell goes 3-for-3, which, on Planet Collins, means he’ll sit the next game.
Please post your notes in the comments.
Next Mets Game
Braves 3 Mets 1
Mets swept by Braves and are oh-for-July. At least it wasn’t another one-run loss(?).
Mets Game Notes
Jacob deGrom very nearly worked out of a very difficult initial inning, and in fact, seemed to have ended the frame unscathed on a two-out, two-strike curveball to Chris Johnson that just missed the outside corner. Moments later, Johnson ripped a hot shot down the third base line that skipped past Eric Campbell and cleared the loaded bases. Might David Wright have stopped that ball? Maybe? Maybe not. It’s why they call it the “hot corner,” and it would’ve taken excellent reactions to glove that scorcher. It’s a game of inches, as evidenced by the near-strike-three and that batted ball.
What needs to be pointed out, however, is not how those inches went the wrong way, but how the inning started. As deGrom began delivering his first pitch of the game, Ruben Tejada had his back to home plate, seemingly looking at or talking to Eric Young, Jr. in left field. By the time Tejada turned around, the pitch was on its way to the plate and hit by B.J. Upton. Of course, Upton grounded the ball in Tejada’s direction — what are the chances? Out of position and not properly set, the grounder barely eluded Tejada’s backhand stab. Would he have fielded the ball cleanly had he been set? I sure think so. The inning fell apart from there, and you have to wonder what might have transpired had deGrom began the inning with an out. #littlethings
Other than that rough first frame, deGrom pitched well. Can’t really blame him for the loss, but unfortunately, he gets another “L” added to his record.
Eric Young, Jr. and Juan Lagares combined to go 4-for-8 at the top of the lineup, setting the table for the big bats down the order. Unfortunately, only one other Met collected a hit. Difficult to win with that kind of offensive showing.
Brilliant, web-gem-worthy, clutch play by Tommy La Stella to get a fielder’s choice and the second out of the 8th inning on a bounding ball that could have leaked into the outfield and created a one-out, first-and-third situation. Instead, it was almost an inning-ending double play. La Stella dove to stop the grounder just behind the second base bag, then flipped it directly out of his glove without an exchange to Andrelton Simmons to retire the lead runner. #jerseystrong
What else to say? I got nuthin’.
Next Mets Game
Mets get a day off on Thursday, then head home to host the Texas Rangers in a weekend series. Game one begins Friday night at 7:10 PM, and features Jonathon Niese vs. Nick Tepesch (no relation to Vlad).
Quick question for you: are the Mets buyers, or sellers, with the trade deadline looming? Why or why not?
I’m asking because my boss at ESPN has asked that I provide a short post for the SweetSpot Network on whether the Mets are buyers or sellers, and an explanation. I imagine that any outsider would take a quick look at the Mets’ record, roster, and the NL East and guess that they are sellers, but those who are closer to Flushing might see things differently.
That said, I pose the question to you, in the hopes you can help me put together this piece for ESPN. Let me know what you think in the comments, with supporting reasons. Thanks very much — the article will be up on ESPN on Thursday, so it’s a quick turnaround. I sincerely appreciate your input!
Good news, Mets fans: after being the worst team in MLB in May, the Mets were NOT the worst team in June. In fact, they weren’t even the worst team in the National League.
That’s right — the Mets’ 11-17 record in June was a far cry from Colorado’s 8-20. But, the bottom four teams beyond the Rockies were neck and neck; see the “race to worst” standings for the month of June below:
Race To Worst: June
Wow, not much separating numbers two through six, eh?
Again, what jumps out at me is the run differential — the Mets are the only team in the race-to-worst standings with a positive integer. What does that mean? So strange.
It’s too early to start posting race-to-worst standings for July, but the Mets are already a leg up (or under?) by dropping the first game of the month. Luckily, the Mets move on from Atlanta to play the similarly struggling Texas Rangers, have a three-game set against the Marlins, and also meet the patsy Padres and the phading Phillies before the end of this month, so they have a decent shot at not being the worst team in July. But who knows what might happen, especially considering the trade deadline. What do you think? Will the Mets be better in July than they were in May and June? Why or why not? Answer in the comments.
Braves 5 Mets 4
The final score reflects a one-run game, but for some reason, it didn’t feel that close.
Oh by the way, the Mets are now 10 games under .500.
Mets Game Notes
Against the best pitching in the league, the Mets scored runs. Then, Daisuke Matsuzaka would render the scoring useless by letting the Braves score.
Not sure why Chris Young was throwing home on a two-out Christian Bethancourt single that easily scored B.J. Upton in the bottom of the fourth. As a result of the throw going home, Bethancourt was able to get to second base, and while he didn’t score, it’s the process with which I take issue — the ends do not justify the means. Keith Hernandez was asking “where is the cutoff man?” but where Young picked up the ball, to me, was too shallow to warrant a cutoff man — Young needed to make the decision to throw the ball to second base in that situation.
Daniel Murphy genuinely made me laugh when he tried to deke B.J. Upton on an overthrow by Travis d’Arnaud in the fifth, prompting Keith Hernandez to call Murphy “a bad magician.” I’m not saying that to be mean at all, I swear — he really did make me laugh and I thought it was great. Murphy constantly tries to deke runners ALL THE TIME, to the point where it could be considered “bush league,” but, what the heck? He has nothing to lose other than respect, right? Who knows, one of these times he might fool someone and get an out, and it’s little things that can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Hey, you know I get on Murphy constantly for his baserunning gaffes and brain freezes — the little things that regularly prevent the Mets from winning — and many of you think that I’m a “hater” as a result. I’m not, and for the umpteenth time, my criticism for Murphy is the curmudgeon in me striking out against ALL young, fundamentally challenged ballplayers we see today — Murphy is my poster child for a lost generation of wonderfully gifted, offensively polished, but otherwise awful ballplayers. At the same time, I can and do recognize Murphy works his butt off, wants to do well, and occasionally practices winning habits. Unfortunately, that’s the problem with today’s ballplayers — the “occasionally” part. To quote Vince Lombardi, “you don’t do things right some of the time, you do them right ALL of the time.”
Another thing that made me laugh was Gary Cohen gleefully bringing up the fact that Stephen Drew is currently hitting “a buck forty” while Ruben Tejada “has turned his season around,” and asked if people advocating for Drew all winter should be apologizing. Oh, boy, Gary, don’t go there just yet. Tejada’s been decent at the plate for what? Ten games? During which he’s made nearly as many mistakes in the field as excellent plays? And Drew — who didn’t have the benefit of spring training — has played 19 games and made less than 70 plate appearances? Tread carefully with that talking point, it may bite you in the butt before long. Particularly of note is the fact that Drew has historically been a slow starter, and in years where he’s been healthy enough to play a second half, has almost always put up better numbers after the All Star Exhibition.
Nice catch by Juan Lagares on a Justin Upton deep drive to the left-center gap in the bottom of the seventh to save a run. Or as Gary Cohen said, “Lagares’ glove — where extra-base hits go to die.” Nice one.
I agree with Keith: how the heck did Jordan Walden learn to “pitch” like that, leaping two feet off the rubber before foot strike? Gary wondered aloud why/how he gets away with it, and it’s probably because many (most?) pitchers’ back foot is disengaged from the rubber prior to release — it’s not as unusual as you might think, because it’s not as obvious without the help of slow-motion video. If umpires started calling balls or “no pitch” (?) on Walden for releasing the ball when his back foot was off the rubber, they’d have to do the same to dozens of other MLBers — only, it would be more difficult to detect in real time. Regardless, Walden’s style is bizarre, and not something that youngsters should emulate.
Remember how people used to gush over Ike Davis‘ defense, and particularly, his ability to scoop balls in the dirt? (Personally, I never thought he was special in that regard compared to average everyday MLB first basemen.) Well, have you yet seen Lucas Duda muff a bad throw in the dirt that he should’ve handled? Hasn’t he been doing a pretty solid job of digging out short throws from his fellow infielders? I think so. Though, I suppose Duda needs to dive into the stands a few times to catch foul balls before people will start anointing him a Gold Glove. In all seriousness, Duda has been nondescript on defense — meaning, unnoticeable, which is a good thing, as he’s made all the plays he’s supposed to make, and what more can you ask of a first baseman?
Does Craig Kimbrel normally hum his fastball at 98-99 MPH? I remember him being more 95-96 with a 97 mixed in, but according to the gun displayed on the SNY telecast, he was flirting with triple digits on every fastball. Whoa. Then he mixes in that slider? Not fair. Reminds me of Goose Gossage back in the day.
The Mets have had 30 games decided by one run this year — by far, the most in MLB (next-closest is 25 by the Royals) — and have Ylost 20 of them. Gee whiz, how does that happen? #smallthings #badmanaging
Not for nuttin’, but we’ve been discussing the little things here at this blog for how long? Eight years? Yeah. Shall I quote Vince Lombardi again, or are we going to whine about the Mets’ lack of “one more bat”?
Speaking of bats, during the postgame, Bobby Ojeda touched on the fact that Terry Collins tends to “play the hot hand” when it comes to making out the lineup. Earl Weaver was a master at this, as was Gil Hodges. Collins? Not so much, at least from what we’ve seen — though maybe there are advanced metrics that may prove that theory wrong?
I’m starting to feel bad for Collins during the postgame press conferences. If nothing else, he’s been handling three and a half years of failure with aplomb, and keeping his cool. Maybe that’s why the Mets front office picked him in the first place — because they knew tough times were ahead, and they’d need someone adept at handling the daily grind of answering the same depressing questions about why the team was losing more games than they win. A truly fierce competitor — someone hell-bent on winning — would not have done well in this job over the past three and half years. Look at how Willie Randolph — someone who expected to win — evolved as things became more dire. Jerry Manuel was a fairly adept loser for a while, until he just couldn’t bear it any more. Collins is doing a yeoman’s job of handling the inevitable — kudos to him for keeping it together this long.