Collins Again Inept On National Stage

After an abomination of tactical performance in the World Series, Terry Collins was rewarded with managing the National League All-Stars in last night’s game in San Diego.

I’ve gone into enough detail in the past on my feelings on the deficiencies of Collins. He was supposed to be the guy to just steward a ship of kids until they were ready for a real manager. He’s proven time and again that he’s not the guy to guide this team to the next level and last year’s ride into the World Series was more in spite of him than because of him.

But last night should have been too easy to screw up.

And it would have been, too…for everybody except Terry Collins.

The Mets are a franchise with very little in terms of positive history. So when there’s an opportunity to add something fun to the ledger for both the team and the fans it has to be capitalized upon.

While the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals were once again stealing the headlines, Clueless Collins did his best to hide his players, his team and leave his fanbase frustrated and disappointed by not inserting either of the available Mets players (Bartolo Colon and Jeurys Familia) into last night’s All-Star game.

Collins apparently had his script for if/when to use both players, but – shockingly – the game didn’t play out like the one he had written on paper and what should have been a proud moment for Familia to participate in his first and Colon in probably his last All-Star event instead ended with a lot of angry people turning off TVs in New York after being unable to cheeer for their own players.

Look, I get it: The All-Star Game is a pretty pointless exhibition and at least nobody on the Mets had an arm amputated during the 7th inning stretch. But this was supposed to be a moment for the Mets to once again take another step as one of the better franchises in the league in front of a national audience. It was supposed to be a moment for fans to be excited to cheer on THEIR All-Stars from THEIR defending National League champions.

Instead, it became a giant “fuck you” from Tone-Deaf Terry to his fanbase. Collins is a baseball lifer and this blatant exhibition of ignorance from the man is abhorrent. The reports from the Mets’ beat writers after the game had both Familia and Noah Syndergaard both unwilling to give interviews and apparently the mood amongst the players was rather dour.

It would take the Mets to fuck up such an easy opportunity to do something easy and great for the franchise and fanbase. Thanks to Terrible Terry they were able to not only do it, but do it spectacularly.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or email: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com

No Move May Be Right Move For Mets

David Wright is done for at least the remainder of 2016, Lucas Duda is waiting for his back to regenerate into one piece again, Travis d’Arnaud always seems a strong gust of wind away from another extended stay on the DL, Neil Walker has battled back spasms, Michael Conforto is nursing a tender wrist, Juan Lagares has hit the DL because of a bum thumb and Wilmer Flores just took an up-and-in fastball off his hand and wrist and is day to day.

The Mets are and have been dropping like flies except flies seem to have a longer life-expectancy these days.

Following up a World Series appearance, the Mets were expected to once again compete for the National League crown and now find themselves in a state of limbo, not knowing who will flush out a lineup or in what position they’ll do it in.

While there’s always a need to have quality depth players on your bench, it is simply impossible to stock the quantity of depth needed due to the volume of injuries the team has suffered. Maybe you think Sandy Alderson and company should have had a better feel for just how affected David Wright would be by his spinal stenosis and should have had a better fallback option, but truth be told, there’s not a team in all of baseball that would have sufficient stock in the cupboard to replace all the of the names listed and not miss a beat.

Fans and media alike have clammored for the team to make a trade, but not just any trade. They want the same type of impact deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes here from the Tigers last year. The cost was a steep, but fair price of a couple of prospects headlined by Michael Fulmer who – now in the Detroit rotation – is currently turning in one of the strongest rookie campaigns in the league, but it’s hard to get upset over a trade that, essentially, got you to the World Series.

So, it’s easy then, right? Make a few calls, get a brand new superstar to Queens and get back to the World Series. Not quite.

While fans are salivating over the possibilities, the Mets are hamstrung but a combination of roster construction, contracts, availability and a thin amount of desired minor league prospects due to the dual-barrel end game of major-league promotions and trades over the last 12 months.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at New York Mets
Kelly Johnson: the super-utility player the team hoped Wilmer Flores could be. Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Truth be told, the Mets may have to settle for another player cut from the Kelly Johnson cloth in lieu of the superstar the fans want to see. Johnson isn’t the sexy, game changer you necessarily want, he’s a solid major leaguer, familiar with the team after last season and provides flexibility of being able to play multiple positions while swinging a left-handed bat.

Let’s go over some of the options being bandied about to see which, if any, make sense for the Mets:

lucroy

Jonathan Lucroy, C Milwaukee Brewers

With Travis d’Arnaud looking more fragile every minute and Kevin Plawecki being unable to hit or throw at the big league level, the case for Lucroy has gone from “not even a thought” in March to “you know, that would be a nice upgrade” now. The problem is that Lucroy would be a huge upgrade for a lot of teams and is signed through the end of next year at a very reasonable dollar figure. The Brewers are going to want a huge return on him and it would start with the names “Syndergaard” or “Matz” and not “Wheeler” as a lot of people seem to think. The Mets are out of this before it even begins.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Longoria is the face of franchise no matter how unstable.

Evan Longoria, 3B Tampa Bay Rays

Longoria is basically the only homegrown player in Rays history that hasn’t been traded before hitting his arbitration years which makes him the all-time greatest Ray ever. After down years because of injuries and declining power numbers, Longoria has had a bit of a resurgence this year. Longoria’s quiet, confident demeanor, bat and plus glove would be a perfect replacement for recently-deceased David Wright. Except for a few things: Wright isn’t dead, Longoria has already shown signs of decline, the Rays would expect a hefty haul back and Longoria begins a contract extension next season that has him signed through 2023 at a cool $100m. With Wright sure to attempt to return next season added to the cost in players and dollars, Longoria is a certain pass.

bruce

Jay Bruce, RF Cincinnati Reds

Whereas the slugging outfielder made a lot of sense of the Mets when they were supposedly close to landing him last year, the same cannot be said for him now. Bruce has had a terrific 2016 thus far, but with Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Juan Lagares (now injured, but we’ll wait to see if he’ll need surgery as well) already in the fold, the Mets don’t have an obvious spot for Bruce to play. The Reds will most likely move Bruce this season and his value hasn’t been this high in a while. Another case where the cost would be prohibitive for the Mets with a thinning farm system.

reyes

Jose Reyes, SS Colorado Rockies (only in name, will be a free agent in a few days)

Look, I get it. We all used to love Jose Reyes. Remember we all did that “Jose, Jose, Jose” chant? So good. Remember when Professor Reyes taught us Spanish between innings? AZUCAR! That is not Jose Reyes anymore. As much as we would all like to think we’d be getting that fun loving, top of the order sparkplug from yesteryear back, Reyes is a slowed, flawed player at this point who probably shouldn’t be playing shortstop any longer. Oh, and there’s that whole beating up his wife thing hanging over him now too. So, no. No, no, no, no, no, no. No.

trout

Mike Trout, OF Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

We get Trout for a package of like Eric Campbell, TJ Rivera and Eric Goeddel. Who says no?

But seriously, the point of this is that the Mets are lot more likely to see a deal for a Luis Valbuena or Yangervis Solarte than they are a game changer. Even then, are those the types of players worth deal prospects for? In my opinion, we may be better off playing the cards already dealt and hoping the team can just stay close while guys work their way back.

I’ve emphasized all season about how important it is to stay close and beat the teams you’re expected to beat because of the huge discrepancy between good and bad in the NL. Last year, the Mets had a chance to pull away in a weak division and the front office went out and got Cespedes who single-handedly carried us through the remainder of the regular season and turned it into a race we won by quite a few strides.

I’m not protesting against a deal, merely stating that the costs may be prohibitive against making one. Either way, with Sandy’s history and track record, I do believe that if there is a deal out there to be made, he’ll do it. He understands the pulse and sees that the Nationals can’t just be expected to fall apart this year. Right now the team has done a pretty impressive job of keeping their heads above water despite the weak lineup they’re sending out on most nights and it’s a wonder that they ever thought they’d be able to have a chance this year without Cespedes in the middle of the order.

Hopefully, they can keep that up until Lucas Duda returns and then make a good evalution of where things stand going into the deadline. The window for the Mets to be a top-level team is open now and they need to capitalize while they can. But they shouldn’t empty out what’s left of their farm system to plug a square peg into a round hole.

 

Contact: ShoesOnSports@gmail.com, Twitter: @MaximusSexPower

Noah Syndergaard: Hero or Menace?!

What in the blue and orange fuck went on last night?

What started as a wonderful tribute to the last Mets team to win a World Series championship devolved into a sideshow of rulebook quoting, chest pounding, embarrassing baseball that will taint the great moment of seeing such an awesome 1986 team reunion beforehand and turn last night into “The Utley Game, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo”.

If you’re reading this, you know the deal. Last season, professional douchenozzle, Chase Utley, broke the leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada during the NLDS with what wasn’t so much of a slide as much as it was some kind of rolling tackle that had plenty of intent to injure and was beyond dirty.

MLB ended up changing a rule regarding the process of sliding into the bag during the offseason to help protect middle infielders largely because of the blowback of the Utley slide. The rule is even commonly known as “The Utley Rule”. For his part, Chase Utley received a suspension that was later rescinded by MLB which meant that for doing his part in deliberately injuring another player to the point that they were forced to modify a rule, Utley received zero punishment.

Fast-forward to last night where Noah Syndergaard threw behind Utley and was immediately ejected by home plate umpire, Adam Hamari which directly led to an embarrassing Mets loss by the score of 9-1 to the Dodgers on the strength of two homers (including a grand slam) from Utley, of course.

Twitter and the baseball media erupted in the immediate aftermath that featured the hottest of takes from all angles that way anybody with any blog ever (hey, boo 😉 ) could pump their clicks and get in on the action as quick as possible.

Look, you can get facts and quotes from any number of bloggers and actual reporters. If you’re here, you are interested in what I have to say. Obviously, Thor is my guy. He’s my favorite current player on the team so I’m not without bias, but I have a really hard time believing that pitch “just got away” as he says. His control is far too good to just uncork a fastball that wildly.

So, figuring the pitch was purposeful, I like the fact that it was thrown behind Utley. It was away from him enough to never put him in danger, but sent a message at the same time. That’s fine. Nobody gets hurt and we move on. It certainly seemed like Utley understood (as he really always does, credit where its due) and was preparing himself for the next pitch as Thor was being ejected.

I have a problem with the ejection. As Utley’s slide was done with purpose and reckless intent to injure (nowhere near the bag and didn’t even slide so much as crouching chopblock), this pitch didn’t hit or injure. A warning would have sufficed and everybody could have been done with this. The ejection just further reinforces the small portion of people’s beliefs that the league is out to fuck the Mets (which I disagree with, but people say what they say). Ejection without warning basically just poured lighter fluid on a fire almost ready to expire.

Finally, and this needs to be said, the Mets came off completely bush league last night. Utley is a dick and always has been. Yeah, I get it. But if you were going to retaliate, why the fuck did you wait so goddamn long?

I understand not doing anything in the remainder of the NLDS. Stakes are too high. But if you wanted to do something, it should have been in LA last week where you played a four-game series and not wait until you had the coziness of a sellout crowd in your home park to try to impress the group of fiery brawlers from yesteryear who were being honored.

The 86 Mets pissed off everybody and for good reason, but the times and game have changed. Whether Collins called for this or if it was something Syndergaard did on his own, the fact is that it makes the Mets look like a group of whiners who then – poetically – got their shit pushed in by Utley anyway.

Noah Syndergaard is too talented – and too important to this team – to risk putting in a situation where someone can charge the mound seeking retribution and rip his right arm clear out of the shoulder socket. There is no reason to create an issue when the time has passed.

The Mets are a team that could and should be competing for a playoff spot and giving away games because of some misguided grudge isn’t going to do anybody any favors.

If this was on Syndergaard, then he needs to be pulled aside immediately. We love his talent, his personality and the way he’s able to project the aura of warrior one minute and fun-loving fan of life the next. But this episode makes him look less like Thor the future king and more like the petulant child who attacks Jotunheim and the Frost Giants in a fit of misplaced pride.

We can argue all day about the ejection being warranted or not, but the sad truth is that the Mets and Noah Syndergaard put themselves in a situation they didn’t need to be in and got son’d for it.

Contact: Twitter: @MaximusSexPower or via email: elshoeshatemail@msn.com

Ballpark Experience: Cleveland’s Progressive Field

Sorry I’ve been quiet for the past week. Between traveling and work and basic adulting, I haven’t had much time to come here and give you my expert analysis of a sudden offensive juggernaut of a baseball team.

One of my favorite things about baseball is the ballparks. Each stadium has its own quirks and personality that make it distinctly different than the other parks around the league. Whereas an arena housing basketball or hockey or even a football stadium are pretty much interchangable, baseball stadiums stand out for their idiosyncrasies and can become – to people like me – tourist attractions.

Each year, I try to get to a few new stadiums. Usually, it’s just a day trip so as to not burn vacation time from work, but in cities where I have friends or there’s other things I’d like to do, I can and have made it a couple of days. I don’t always pick my visits just to see the Mets, but I will admit that I do make more of an effort to see them just because it gives me more reason to be invested in the game.

That being said, a weekend series in Cleveland against the Indians immediately caught my attention when the schedule was released. How often do the Mets play in fucking Cleveland? It seemed like a mighty good excuse to knock Progressive Field off my list.

A few weeks ago, I grabbed a great seat off StubHub. Three rows off the field on the Mets side, just a couple of sections down the right-field line. I paid $47 once taxes and fees and all that bullshit were included. That’s pretty good value.

IMG_2491

Gates only open one hour before first pitch except for the Right Field Gate which opens two hours early. It gives you the opportunity to catch what’s left of batting practice, but most of the ballpark is still closed off to foot traffic and you’re pretty limited to just the Right Field bleachers and food court area behind.

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I was one of the first people in the building and was able to grab a spot against the rail and saw basically all of Mets’ warmups. The fun part about this is meeting all of the other Mets fans who made the trip as everybody was more than happy to share their story of where they traveled from, where in NY they or their family was originally from and how they still keep in tune to the team while living in another market. Obviously, I was too happy to join in these reindeer games as living in Tampa, FL makes me ready-made for these types of conversations.

Now besides the game, the best part is exploring the culinary offerings provided by each park. I contacted the one person I know in Cleveland, Impact Wrestling Knockout, Marti Bell. She is actually a pretty frequent attendee at Progressive Field, but alas, would not be here this night because she was actually in Tampa to work for Shine Wrestling that night. Irony at its finest. But she did tell me that I had to eat at a spot called Melt and that I would thank her for it.

As batting practice wound down, I headed behind the seats in RF to what is apparently a newly-designed food court and found the Melt stand. After perusing the menu for a minute, I went with a BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese and a beer.

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I very rarely say nice things about Marti in public, but this was the best advice she has ever given me. This was goddamn delicious and, there was almost zero spillage from the bread which is a big deal when having a sandwich. In the words of Jeff Spicoli, “awesome, totally awesome.”

OK, so back to the stadium. Progressive Field has the look of being smaller than almost any other stadium I’ve been to. The outfield doesn’t seem very spacious, but the building has a nice, homely feel where the seats seem to hover over the field allowing for a lot of good views throughout various sections.

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I found the Indians fans to be very friendly. I kind of expected that as there’s no rivalry between the teams, but I was able to be engaged in night-long conversation as basically anybody within three rows all jumped in to talk about our run to the Series last year and – especially – the Indians teams of the 90s when they were just a powerhouse.

From what I’ve read online, they’ve done some serious upgrades to concessions since last year and the offerings and beer selections were pretty good. Bathrooms were relatively clean and walking areas were spacious and unconstrictive.

While Progressive Field isn’t one of the better parks I’ve been to, it definitely made for a fun night at a ballgame with reasonable prices on tickets and concessions. The biggest drawbacks are the views and setting (San Francisco is just on another level than everybody else when it comes to that) and the fact that, as an excursion destination, there just is many attractive tourist spots to hit in Cleveland. I did consider going to the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame before my flight the next day, but decided I can see much of the same memorabilia at the various Hard Rock Cafes around the country and ended up going to see a movie to kill time instead.

I give Progressive Field a 5/10. It lacks in aesthetics and has an almost “small-time” vibe to it, but does provide good value for your dollar and features a race between a hot dog with ketchup, a hot dog with mustard and a hot dog with onions that is exactly as creepy as it sounds. I’d recommend it, but it’s not one of the stadiums you have to put on a bucket list.

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Seriously…creepy AF.

 

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com

 

 

Game 8: Logan Becomes Weapon-X,Terry Collins is Still a Moron

Welcome, everybody, to another Mets recap of the game you read about on 25 other sites first. For that reason – and also because there’s no sense in going into a full blown book report on a very uninspiring game – let’s break down the highlights into list fashion and then I’ll expand upon some things that stuck out.

  • Logan Verrett started in place of Jacob deGrom (who still hasn’t been put on the DL or the Paternity list which means the Mets are, essentially, playing down a man) and was excellent throwing six innings of shutout ball. Verrett has been pretty good when thrown into that spot starter role and it’s great that we were able to get him back from the Rangers last season after losing him in the Rule V Draft.
  • Terry Collins is a bumbling fool who is trying to destroy shoulders and elbows with no regard for humanity. He is the Son of Sam-equivalent for relief pitchers.
  • The Mets again did basically nothing on offense. But they were tremendous at finding not-fun and non-exciting ways of leaving runners in scoring position when they got them there.
  • Last week, Jim Henderson looked like he may have been a shrewd under-the-radar bullpen signing. Yesterday, he looked like his arm was going to fall off.
  • Jeurys Familia pitched in his third straight game, but to make matters even better, was asked to get a five-out save. No big deal.
  • Kevin Plawecki drove in both Mets runs with a late-inning single that felt as if it was never going to happen. Runs are good.

OK, so there we have it and you’re all caught up. But let’s talk Terry Collins. Colactus, The Devourer of Teams. Anybody that knows me knows just how much I disdain Terry Collins. I firmly believe that the team achieved what they did last season in spite of him as opposed to because of him.

He’s shown no ability to manage a bullpen. He’s consistently failed at further developing young position players at the big league level (the pitchers don’t count, that’s all Dan Warthen), he’s been too reliant upon preferred veterans when there’s clearly better options and he’s so stuck to a “script” of how he thinks he should manage a game that he has no ability to adapt and make in-game adjustments to his strategy.

Need examples? How about giving a washed-up Michael Cuddyer three at-bats in game one of the World Series instead of the much more productive Juan Uribe? Or trying to push Steven Matz through a sixth inning in Game Four when he clearly was losing his command through the fifth? And then burning through his two long relievers in Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon to bail out Matz of that same sixth inning so he could go to the storyboarded Addison Reed/Tyler Clippard/Jeurys Familia frame that he had mapped out which saw Clippard unable to find the strike zone and Familia put in a horrible position with men on base in the 8th to try to hold everything together.

Terry Collins’ ideas are held together with bubblegum and hope. And just like Roddy Piper, he’s all outta bubblegum.

After using the past few post-game press conferences telling the fanbase not to worry and to hold off on loading the moving truck to Panic City, Collins himself became the mayor of said city using his bullpen in a way that was both irresponsible and shameful.

After getting six shutout innings out of spot-starter Logan Verrett, Collins elected to bring in reliever Jim Henderson. Before making the Mets out of spring training, Henderson had not pitched in the majors since early in the 2014 season because of shoulder problems. He had been great through his first couple of appearances this season, but the night before had thrown a career-high 34 pitches to get through just one-third of an inning (mostly due to a 16 pitch at-bat to Dee Gordon). Seeing as how this was a day game after a night game and considering Henderson’s injury history, this is absolutely the type of game he should have been sitting out of.

The bullpen has been taxed heavily lately due to Steven Matz’s abysmal outing on Monday, but the Mets had called up Rafael Montero to supply depth to said relief corps. Collins decided against using Montero in what was, at the time, a scoreless game. If it’s a matter of trust (fuck you, Billy Joel) then perhaps Montero shouldn’t have been the man brought in from Las Vegas and the Mets could have gone the Sean Gilmartin route instead.

Henderson’s first pitch was a fastball that clocked in at 89 MPH, far short of the 95 MPH he had been averaging. After a hit and two walks, he was mercifully removed and Hansel Robles and Jerry Blevins got the team out of a bases loaded, no out jam without sacrificing a run.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Collins, intent on setting fire to every reliever in his path called upon Jeurys Familia to record a five-out save in his third consecutive day of pitching. Familia had been a godsend for the Mets last year after inheriting the closer role once Jenrry Mejia failed the first of his 46 drug tests and was dominant. Gary Cohen and Ron Darling in the broadcast booth kept hammering home the point that Familia only gets stronger as he gets more work which pretty much goes against everything we’ve been told about arms, shoulders and elbows over the last few years.

The Mets can simply not afford to lose their closer because an inept manager panicked and felt the need to show fans they “mean business here.”

Thankfully, the team has today off for travel as they head to Cleveland for a weekend interleague match-up with the Indians. To be honest, I’m over the whole novelty of interleague play (which I’ll probably address in a future post), but the one thing I do enjoy is that it gives me a chance to visit a new stadium to see my team instead of watching two teams I otherwise don’t care about.

As long as I’m able to get on my flight tonight, I’ll be there tomorrow for my first visit to Progressive Field which will become my 15th ballpark. Pics and stories to come.

Thanks for reading. Bye, love you, mean it.

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com

 

Game 7: Thor Can’t Defend Midgard Alone

Noah Syndergaard is really good at baseball. We can agree on that, right? The rest of the Mets right now, however, are not on the same level of performance.

The team dropped their fourth straight last night – this one by the score of 2-1 to the Miami Marlins – and wasted an absolutely scintillating performance from the 23 year-old fireballer in the process. Thor went 7 innings, allowing just one run and striking out 12 Marlin hitters in the process.

Syndergaard was on fire right out of the gate, sporting his trademark high 90s fastball and his array of low to mid 90s breaking and offspeed stuff. Two starts into the season and you can already see the dramatic improvements he’s made since last season. He hasn’t sacrificed velocity, but has refined his complimentary pitches which include a 95 MPH slider that is just absolutely unreal. It’s even more impressive when you realize that Thor didn’t really have a slider at all last season.

He was dominant, but got into trouble in the 4th inning thanks to our old friend, BABIP. If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re my mom and don’t have a clue as to what BABIP is. It stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play and is exactly what it says it is. Obviously, you have a better chance of getting a hit if you actually make contact and the Marlins did exactly that. They hit nothing solid off Syndergaard, but a couple of soft grounders JUST out of the reach of infielders and a lobbed dinker into right field led to a run that would be the only one Noah would surrender.

Unfortunately – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – the Mets weren’t able to do anything with the bats despite having Miami starter, Jose Fernandez, in plenty of trouble early in the game.

They got on the board early with a run-scoring single from Lucas Duda, but ran themselves out of a potentially big inning when Duda was thrown out at second trying to stretch said single after a bobble in right field by Giancarlo Stanton. They followed up the first inning by loading the bases in the second, but David Wright hit a routine fly ball to Stanton ending the threat.

Fernandez then settled in and retired ten in a row before being removed after 5 innings and 90 pitches by manager, Don Mattingly, as he is still in the early stages of recovery from Tommy John surgery and isn’t being overextended especially on a particularly chilly evening in Queens.

Bottom line, the Mets haven’t been good. You can say it’s early and you can say the schedule was odd, but at some point, you can’t just keep making excuses. The Royals (the same Royals that beat us in the World Series last November) had the same schedule to start their season and they’re 5-2. Every day that goes by means we’re one more day removed from it being early. Seven games turns into 15 in the blink of an eye. And before you know it, 15 turns into 50 games. They need to get their shit together and quickly.

Remember, we’re not just competing against the Nationals here. In a short, postseason series or even a one-game Wild Card play-in, the Mets have a great chance because of the pitching staff they’ve assembled, but first, they have to get there. They currently have the second-worst record in the National League and, though I obviously expect that to change, we’re looking at an expected seven teams (Mets, Nats, Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers and Giants) competing for five playoff spots. That doesn’t even include any kind of Cinderella team or a better than expected season from a team like the DBacks that could throw even more chaos into a race.

The point of this? While it may not yet be time to jump off a bridge, this is not something you want to see for very much longer. After the getaway game with Miami this afternoon, the team heads out on a 9 game road trip. They cannot still be playing this brand of baseball by the time they return home.

It’s not like it’s one player’s fault either. The offensive ineptitude is a complete team effort as there hasn’t been anybody in the lineup that has established anything resembling and consistency through the first 10 days.

If you’ve read my stuff back into last season, you know my feelings on Terry Collins. I don’t like him. Players have to play, but it’s his job to put those players in the best situation to succeed. I don’t believe for one second that he does that and can point to numerous examples (in just the World Series alone [and no, I actually give him the benefit of the doubt on the Harvey call in game 5; he was screwed no matter what he decided]) where he’s made very questionable tactical decision that have cost runs, innings or games.

While I’m not going to kill Terry quite yet, I do question the lineup he’s rolling out everyday right now. It comes off awkward and inefficient to me. Right now, this is what TC seems to be attached to:

  1. Granderson (L)
  2. Wright (R)
  3. Cespedes (R)
  4. Duda (L)
  5. Walker (S)
  6. Conforto (L)
  7. Cabrera (S)
  8. d’Arnaud (R)

I’m not a fan of that construction. Neil Walker is not a prototypical run-producer and seems out of place in the five-hole. By the same token, Travis d’Arnaud has shown an ability for power and potential and we all came into this season expecting him to take the next step in his growth by becoming the impact bat he’s been projected to become for years.Burying him in the 8th spot in front of the pitcher isn’t doing anybody any favors right now especially when there’s nobody on base in front of him. If I had my way, I’d roll out the following:

  1. Granderson (L)
  2. Wright (R)
  3. Conforto (L)
  4. Cespedes (R)
  5. Duda (L)
  6. d’Arnaud (R)
  7. Walker (S)
  8. Cabrera (S)

You’ll notice that the first thing I did was go lefty-righty-lefty-righty the whole way through. I don’t swear by that manipulation, but I do think it’s appropriate for the talent we have available.

I assume that most people would question my usage of Michael Conforto in the three-hole most. He’s young and while he LOOKS like a future star, he doesn’t have the track record to back it up yet. It’s a fair point, but Conforto has a good understanding of the strike zone, handles the bat well and does have pop. Plus, hitting in front of Cespedes should give him an opportunity to see more fastballs with men on base. I don’t think of Conforto as a 30 homer guy, but a consistent 15-20 is a very real possibility and with his gap-power could become a 100 RBI guy in the mold of – wait for it – Keith Hernandez. Keith was an MVP and a case can be made that he should be a Hall of Famer and I’m not saying Conforto is a future that, but their swings and ability to split gaps with some pop seem comparable.

I also like Walker and Cabrera near the bottom. Both are consistent, professional hitters. At this point, you’re not projecting anything with either of them. You’re getting what’s on the back of their baseball cards. They’re steady. Walker’s talents are put to better use in the 7 where he’s not expected to be an RBI man. Asdrubal Cabrera can be useful in a few spots (I wouldn’t hesitate him to use him at 2 depending on other players’ days off and such), but in the 8, he rounds out what looks to be a balanced lineup that takes advantage of the talent at hand.

We have a few hours to go before the getaway game with Miami. Hopefully, we’ll pick one up before hitting the road.

Also, the NHL Playoffs start tonight: LET’S GO PENS!

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com

 

Game 5: Don’t Worry, It’s a Long Season

I hate being the negative guy. I genuinely do. And usually, I never am. I’m always happy and excited for the season to start and have found ways to enjoy even some really bad seasons on the field.

This year is supposed to be different. Like I’ve said multiple times, there are real and genuine expectations for this team this season. And a pair of lifeless, flat performances against a shitty team aren’t exactly encouraging signs.

If you’re reading this, you know what happened. The Mets lost in a very similar fashion to the way they did yesterday. Matt Harvey wasn’t amazing, but he wasn’t horrible either. The bats are still stuck in a deep, winter slumber.

Yoenis Cespedes did hit a two-run homer to make it a one-run game in the sixth and temporarily wake up the crowd, but that was as close as they would get as they went down quietly and without fanfare.

With that being said, here are some notes and takeaways from a game I can’t wait to forget:

  •  Curtis Granderson has had an awful start to the season. He’s now 1 for 20 with that singular hit coming last Sunday night in Kansas City. He did look to have a few good swings today so maybe he’s getting his timing back or whatever, but this team leans heavily on Granderson who single-handedly kept them afloat offensively last year when he was pretty much the only competent big leaguer in the lineup until the end of July.
  • There is one more year left on Grandy’s deal after this season and, while some regression is expected as he gets older, you hope it’s not too drastic. The lineup isn’t perfect (although, it is improved from even the end of last season), but Granderson does represent their best option in the leadoff spot. With the roster as currently constructed, I don’t even know who you would in that spot should some kind of shake-up be required.
  • David Wright had a couple of hits today giving him 1750 for his career and moving him into a tie for 413th on the all-time hits list with the immortal Deacon McGuire. That’s kind of nice. I think we’re pretty much all cheering for David, but watching him – even on a good day – makes you wonder how much longer his body will allow him to continue to do this. He did make a nice play barehanding a dribbler early in the game, but his throw had zero zip on it. The team has a lot invested in him between dollars, history and future marketing, so he’ll be given every opportunity to do as much as possible, but it’s not crazy to think that his time as an everyday player may be coming to an end a lot sooner than any of us had expected.
  • Addison Reed did a helluva Mel Rojas impersonation today.

Look, losing two of three to the Philthies isn’t the end of the world. But I expected more from these guys coming out of the gate. Maybe it’s the scheduling or the cold weather, I don’t know, but you have to take advantage of the – as Keith would say – second-division teams. Last year, the Mets took 8 of 9 from the Phils at home. They’ve already given away two.

This is going to the theme for the season. There is absolutely no excuse to lose a series to these horrible teams that are doing their best to tank as hard as they can this season.

Life and baseball shall go on, however. We welcome the Marlins to Citi tomorrow in yet another series that they Mets should win. You want to be a contender? You have expectations. Time to meet them.

Feel free to reach out: @MaximusSexPower on Twitter or elshoeshatemail@msn.com

Neil Walker Paying Early Dividends

After spending over seven seasons with the Mets and putting together one of the most historic runs in postseason history, Daniel Murphy was allowed to walk by Sandy Alderson and the front office during the offseason choosing instead to swap problematic lefty, Jonathon Niese to the Pirates for Neil Walker to fill the void at second base.

I was never the biggest Murphy fan, but he definitely had a solid, dedicated fanbase. I loved his intensity and that he seemingly loved being a Met, but his defensive shortcomings and mental lapses on the bases left something to be desired.

It is not my intention to slam Murphy as it wouldn’t be fair to do so to someone who literally left everything on the field night after night, but the Mets had a clear desire to upgrade the middle infield after a lack of range and defensive ability was exploited at the hands of the Royals in the World Series. Murphy signed a three-year deal with the division rival Washington Nationals for considerably cheaper than originally projected and, while it sucks to see him playing for the enemy, the Mets were able to upgrade at second base and receive a compensation pick for losing Murph.

The value of the 31st overall pick in the draft won’t be known for a few years, but to replace Murph, the Mets worked out a deal for longtime Pirates second baseman, Neil Walker. I loved this trade for two reasons: 1.) Walker is comparable if not slightly better than Murphy with the bat and a definite improvement with the glove. 2.) It finally allowed us to rid ourselves of Jon Niese who had never been able to make the move to anything above being mediocre while apparently thinking he was awesome and blaming everything on the defense.

While obviously only three games into the season, Walker has already been as advertised with five RBI thus far while showing a smoothness around the keystone that we haven’t been accustomed to seeing from our second basemen for quite some time.

He’s not a Gold Glover by any means, but he’s sure-handed and exhibits a competency while turning a double play (with SS Asdrubal Cabrera) that has been desperately needed by the team. The Mets gave away a ton of outs last year by not being able to turn routine double plays so this not only helps to keep runs off the board, but conserves precious bullets from our pitching staff who has consistently had their pitch counts grow quicker than needs be because of defensive incompetence.

Walker has never been an All-Star (whereas Murphy did once represent the Mets, but let’s be fair; it was only because every team needs to have a rep), but already shows to be providing the steadiness and consistency the Mets desired when making the switch away from the streaky Murphy.

While obvious to just about everybody that Walker is just keeping the seat warm for for Dilson Herrera to replace him next season, he does allow to Mets to double-dip, in a sense as they will be able to give the qualifying offer after the season and receive another sandwich pick in the draft if/when he signs elsewhere.

With 159 games to go, Walker at his average should play a vital role for a team looking to return to the postseason. It’s the famous “small sample size”, but the hot start has backed the Murphy diehards down and should allow him to settle in and get acclimated to his new surroundings.

No need to make any sort of prediction, but just want to see him continue to be a steady presence in the lineup and a net positive to up-the-middle defense. So far, so good.

 

Follow on Twitter: @MaximusSexPower

E-Mail: elshoeshatemail@msn.com

Expectations Are Fun!

I love baseball. I love the Mets. And every year as players are reporting to camp and intra-squad games are beginning, I’m excited to have baseball back as part of my daily existence.

But this year just feels a little…different.

Not a bad different. Just different.

See when I say I love the Mets, I mean that. Good or bad. But usually bad. Usually non-competitive. It doesn’t affect the amount of games I watch or attend, but as the season is beginning, I’m already hoping for the next prospect to develop or checking who will be available in next year’s free agent crop and could provide value to the team next season.

Sure, every season will have its moments of triumph. You’ll have some exciting games and moments. Maybe even seem fun storylines to follow throughout a full season (think RA Dickey in 2012. That was hella fun.), but, for basically a decade, I’ve come into this season already thinking about next season.

And that’s what’s different this year. This isn’t about next season. This season is actually about THIS season. That sounds and feels insane. I’m a Mets fan. Who am I to be excited about anything? But I am. And I have every right to be.

Coming off a surprise World Series appearance (and don’t kid yourself…you didn’t fucking see that coming either, dick) and an offseason in which ownership put up mucho US greenback (a reference that only Meatball will get) to the shock and surprise of anybody with two ears and a heart, the Mets have a deeper, better team and look to be primed to compete into the postseason once again.

Spring training has begun and we’ve had our eyes filled with the bedazzled exploits of Yoenis Cespedes’ fleet of high-end automobiles, the first BSOHL (best shape of his life) story in Juan Lagares and, most recently, Yo and his sidekick, Noah Syndergaard riding horses to camp the other day.

hawses

The players are seem to be having fun. I’m certainly having fun watching and reading about them having fun. The spring, thus far, seems to be – dare I say it – drama free. There aren’t many spots on the roster open for competition. There’s no harping on the Wilpons being a couple of cheap fuckbois. Carlos Beltran isn’t already criticizing the medical staff.

beltran

What the fuck is happening to my Mets?

Sure, the Cespedes stuff may be a little (or a lot for the “Get off my lawn” crowd) much for some, but I love it. The dude is a millionaire, young and enjoying his life. As long as he works when he’s supposed to work, I don’t give a fuck how many cars he owns or how many award-winning hogs he buys at auction.

The Mets are the complete opposite now of what they were for so long. They have character. They have personality. They have swag. And they have expectations to repeat as division champions and make another run in the postseason. Whereas the team was bland and apathetic for so long, the mood has changed (copyright Tazz c.2000) and this team seems aware and ready to embrace its no position as favorites.

tazz

It’s different, but it’s a nice different. The team (and fans) gained great experience during last year’s run and now we’re all back to recreate some magic. Sure, divisions and postseason games aren’t won on paper, but with expected improvements from some of the younger guys, consistency from the veterans and the added improvements made this offseason, you can’t help not just getting hyped, but staying hyped (second horrible wrestling reference in this post) as we get closer to opening day.

mojo

If all goes right, March will fly by and we’ll be in Kansas City for Opening Day in no time to – hopefully – get off to a good start where last season got off to a bad end. There is truly nothing I enjoy more than a fresh baseball season and with a new energy and attitude, it’s probably safe to say I’ve never been as excited for any season to start as I am for this one. Sometimes change can be good. This is one of those times.

4Baggers: Four Reasons the Mets’ Dynasty May Be Already Over

This one hurt.

It’s taken me a few days to decompress and think rationally, but losing to the Royals on Sunday night absolutely destroyed me.

Sure, it was a great run in a surprising season and was a fun, exciting ride to a championship series that ended at the hands of a better team, but it also may have been the worst outcome possible for the Mets going forward.

I’ve taken a few days to collect and put together my own thoughts as well as reading and listening to bloggers, mainstream media and other Mets fans. The overwhelming feeling is that this is just the beginning of a long, sustained run of success for the team and that getting back to the World Series is all but guaranteed.

As for me? Well, I just don’t see it.

Now, now. Don’t rush to judgment! Hear me out first. I’m not trying to be “that guy” and troll for the sake of it, but when objectively looking at the situation the team is in, I can see it becoming very difficult for the Mets to have this opportunity in the near future.

Which is why a I took losing a very winnable World Series to a better team so hard. Had the breaks gone the Mets’ way, we could have been partying Sunday night instead of mixing booze with prescription medication in an attempt to forget what had just happened.

Sometimes you only get once chance. One opportunity. To do everything you ever wanted. One moment. Yo, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” is fucking great. But, honestly, as much as it pains me to say, the Mets not only didn’t capture it, but the future does not necessarily set up favorably. We examine the reasons:

1. The Rest of the League Will Not Continue to Suck

The Mets were, at best, the fifth best team in the National League and that’s not even counting the Nationals who were superior on paper, but were a trainwreck and couldn’t get anything going in the right direction for any period of time.

The Pirates added another early exit in the Wild Card game. The Cardinals were the most consistent team in the league all season, but were beaten handily by a young and sure to improve Cubs team. The Giants couldn’t force their way into the dance, the Dodgers engaged in their annual disappearing act and the Cubs, who had gone 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season, fell victim to an historic offensive performance by Daniel Murphy, a collection of unhittable flamethrowers and, finally, the bad luck of being BABIP’d to death (which ended up haunting the Mets against the Royals).

Simply put, it’s unreasonable to expect the better teams to have repeat performances. Everything came up Mets-house from the Nationals folding, to favorable match-ups against the Dodgers in lieu of an opening round showdown against any of the Central teams, then finally getting past a young Cubs team that couldn’t catch up to the Mets’ arsenal of arms.

Call it fate, destiny, whatever you will. Whatever you choose, remember that getting all those ducks in a row twice is unlikely if not impossible.

2. “Terrible” Terry Collins

The Mets just gave their manager a two-year extension coming off the first postseason run of his managerial career. It’s not surprising. Getting your team to the World Series – on paper – does look like quite the achievement.

Except it was the way he got them there. His inability to manage innings for his starters, define roles for relievers, be able to set a competent and consistent lineup, stick to his own decisions or (in something that isn’t being talked about enough) position his fielders late in close games to prevent extra-base hits. (This is in reference to Collins and his staff not positioning Michael Conforto to “no-doubles” depth in the 9th inning of Game 5 which led to Eric Hosmer’s drive becoming an RBI double instead of the inning’s first out.)

Collins came into the job as a placeholder for when a serious manager could be identified. His history as a minor league coordinator and developer of talent seemed like it would be useful as the Mets were entering a period where they would depend on a number of young players to mature into everyday regulars at the big league level.

Pitching coach, Dan Warthen has, to this point done a terrific job with the young arms he’s be required to helm. Collins, Tim Teufel and Tom Goodwin have not exactly had the same luck with the position players. Consistent inconsistency and lack of progression have hampered more than a handful of players and led to a lineup dependent on mediocrity.

My feelings on Collins went from indifference his first two years to downright disdain over the last two. This team went on the run they did IN SPITE of their strategy-challenged manager and it’s very reasonable to say that they’re not World Series champions today because of him.

Did I mention that Michael Cuddyer got three at-bats in a World Series game instead of Juan Uribe? Because that happened.

3. Pitchers Get Hurt. It’s Science.

We all hate Scott Boras and the influence he exuded over Matt Harvey at the beginning of September when Harvey went from the Dark Knight to Two-Face overnight, but taking our fandom out of the equation…he wasn’t exactly wrong.

Because of all the mediocrity and failings around the rest of the National League, the Mets went on a deep playoff run probably a year (or more) ahead of Sandy Alderson’s even best expectations.

The result of this is that – with the exception of Steven Matz who missed a significant amount of time with injuries – the Mets’ young starters all saw very significant jumps in the number of innings they pitched this year. While we will have to wait and see the effects, if any, all these extra inning and pitches will have had on the staff, injuries to pitchers are now to be expected and not the cause of surprise.

Zack Wheeler is on schedule to return from Tommy John early in the 2016 season and he may be needed to help lighten the load on the rest of the rotation if they don’t react well to having a shorter offseason than normal to rest those troublesome elbows and shoulders.

Regardless of age, strength or mechanics, we’ve learned – especially over the past few years – that pitchers sometimes just break without warning and it would be unreasonable for the Mets (with their history of bungling injury prevention, diagnosis and treatment) to all of a sudden set the bar for pitcher health.

4. The Wilpons Are Still Broke

You would think that a World Series run and all the tickets, merchandise, food, beer and excitement money raked in by the team would be the jolt the franchise needed to get back to black ink to maybe even dream about sniffing green again.

The narrative that the Wilpons finally doubled-down and spent the money necessary at the trade deadline to bring in the pieces needed to solidify the roster is simply untrue. Sure, they did take on some salary commitments, but the money used to cover those was easily found in the money from the insurance payout the team received due to David Wright missed such a large number of games after being diagnosed with Spinal Stenosis earlier in the year.

Winning has a way of blinding the truth. Or at least being able to mask the taste of lies, but with a payment to the Madoff trustees of $30M looming for the Wilpons along with their regular debt payments to MLB and Bank of America, it’s hard to see the team going out and spending to improve upon a roster with some glaring needs and holes.

While the team will be forced to makes moves with the likely defections of Yoenis Cespedes, Murphy, Tyler Clippard, Bartolo Colon, Juan Uribe, etc, adding salary above anything already coming off the books could prove to be troublesome for an ownership group that should have been forced to sell in the immediate aftermath of the Madoff mess.

We also have to remember that every year that passes by brings that collection of starting pitchers one year closer to arbitration raises and free agency and, at some point, they’re going to need to get paid. All of them. And that just looks impossible by current Wilpon expenditure.

I’m not hoping for any of this to happen, mind you. I’m just uber-aware that all of these points exist and are distinct possibilities. I would love for this team to all of a sudden turn into some kind of superpower, but there just seems to be too much in the way for this to turn into something lasting.

I would love to be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But if I’m not, it makes blowing this opportunity against the Royals even more distinct. Nobody is ever guaranteed a second chance. Eminem never had to sing “Lose Yourself Again” because he slayed Papa Doc the first time around.

There were entirely too many comparisons of this team to the 1986 team, but, in reality, this year’s Mets were – more likely – the 2006 team. On a date with destiny until they got in their own way. Hopefully, this team will get another shot at Papa Doc, but it is nothing close to a sure thing.