Mets Merized Online » John Bernhardt http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 21 Feb 2017 01:19:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.18 T.J. Rivera Is Making Believers Out Of Everyone http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/09/t-j-rivera-is-making-believers-out-of-everyone.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/09/t-j-rivera-is-making-believers-out-of-everyone.html/#comments Mon, 19 Sep 2016 16:30:09 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=223267 t-j-rivera

T.J. Rivera continues to hit major league pitching.” That was the ending of Howie Rose’s radio call of Rivera’s second major league homer in Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Twins.

Rivera has now had 6 multiple hit games in the 13 games he has started as a New York Met and is hitting .344. A big surprise?

Hardly. At least for the Met fans lucky enough to have watched Rivera bat over the last four years as he worked his way up the Mets minor league ladder.

When I interviewed T.J. last season, you may recall I asked him what the secret to his success was and why he has always raked at every level.

“With a strike or two strikes my approach will change a little bit. My swing doesn’t change but my approach does. With two strikes, I’m going to let the ball get a little deeper. The pitcher’s got a different approach, too, he’s trying to extend the zone a little. So, I have to change my approach and work a little harder to compete.”

“I don’t want to just put the ball in play with two strikes, I want to put it in play hard and make something happen. Obviously, everything changes with guys on base.”

Those present in the park on dozens of occasions watching this kid’s approach in the batter’s box knew he would hit major league pitching.

No, he wasn’t always patient, and he wasn’t always content to draw a base-on-balls. But, the kid knows the strike zone and was ready and eager to drive his pitch. Always a terrific contact hitter, and always a cut above the typical guys playing at his level.

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There were always rationales from the doubters, people who had never watched Rivera play. He’s older than the guys at this level. He doesn’t hit with enough power. His on-base percentage isn’t high enough. On and on, the doubts of the skeptics never ended. Now they can’t stop jumping on his bandwagon, a bandwagon that started here on MMO four years ago.

T.J. Rivera has always stayed focused. Even as he was continuously overlooked as one player after another, guys whose minor league credentials paled when matched with his, were getting the call. T.J. just rolled with it and kept doing what he always does – hit.

When Rivera finally was called to Citi Field, his bat did not go unnoticed. With an injury riddled pitching staff, T.J. was shipped back to Vegas where he continued to hit becoming the Pacific Coast League batting champion. It’s difficult to simply discount a guy who out-hits every other guy in the league. Again and again.

Now, as Rivera becomes a more constant presence in the lineup as the Mets make their push to reach the post season, his backers and doubters unite as one, each pulling for one of the newest Mets to continue to contribute to the playoff push.

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What will it mean going forward for Rivera? Who knows. At the moment Rivera is focused on doing whatever he can to help the Mets reach the post season.

One would think Rivera’s consistent performance has to improve the chances the Mets will give him a shot next year to make the Varsity squad.

At the very least we know the Mets won’t leave him exposed to the Rule 5 draft again. Can you imagine if he had been scooped up last Winter?

Even a home run powered roster can use a guy who can set the table and drive home a run with a base hit. T.J., a great baseball story, is a guy who has earned a serious look.

I’m reminded of another exclusive interview I had with Jim Weed, the general manager of the Binghamton Mets. He has watched a lot of top MLB prospects over the years make their way through the Eastern League. I asked him about T.J. after he was promoted to Double-A in 2014. “If this kid ever gets a look in the majors, I know he’s going to hit.”

Back then, not too many people believed in T.J. Rivera, but over the last few weeks T.J. has gained a ton of new believers including everyone in the Mets clubhouse and manager Terry Collins as well.

Read More from MMO on Rivera Over the Years:

Where is the Love for T.J. Rivera?

T.J. Rivera Keeps Hitting and Waiting For His Chance

MMO Exclusive: Meet Hit Man T.J. Rivera

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T.J. Rivera Named Player of the Month http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/t-j-rivera-named-player-of-the-month.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/t-j-rivera-named-player-of-the-month.html/#comments Tue, 07 Jun 2016 22:06:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=213795 t.j. rivera

And of course the Pacific Coast League has named Las Vegas 51s infielder T.J. Rivera Player of the Month for May. Because, why not?

Rivera, 27,  batted .373 in May with five home runs and 31 RBI, and currently leads the Pacific Coast League with 48 RBI.

He is batting a team leading .358 with a .398 on-base and .912 OPS for the season, and is a career .322 hitter in six minor league seasons.

Original Article – June 2

Maybe it’s time for the Mets to try on an unconventional hat. For many individuals and even for some sports teams, success comes as a result of taking a risk, of thinking out of the box, of being true to themselves. How else would you explain R.A. Dickey’s Cy Young success for the Mets several years ago?

It’s human nature sometimes to be cautious to overly analyze all the reasons something may not work choosing to stay with the original plan without taking the risk of making changes. Yet history shows when people find the courage to dare, the ability to take a “leap in faith” and pursue an unconventional path, great things sometimes happen.

Our New York Mets have reached a challenging juncture in the current baseball campaign. The Mets team was built around solid pitching and the home run power to score runs. That plan has worked admirably throughout the first quarter of the baseball campaign, but injuries shelving three of the eight original position players threaten to derail the Mets baseball train. It’s not time for “Panic City” but to steady a rocking ship. The Mets need some offensive support.

Is it possible that help already exists in the Mets system? What would be the harm of finally giving T.J. Rivera a chance to prove that he can hit at the major league level? The kid has hit at every level he’s played in professional baseball, and he’s simply ripping it up in Las Vegas. Concerns about his lack of defense range are secondary if Rivera is given a shot to prove his worth at third base.

But let’s not pretend that spinal stenosis has not already reduced David Wright to a shell of his former self on the defensive side of the field in the first place. It’s Rivera’s bat that we could use at the moment.

I am aware that if Rivera is elevated to the big squad, someone currently on the 40-man roster becomes vulnerable. There is an old saying that growth and comfort do not coexist. Sticking with the plan as originally devised is not the answer when aggressive risk-taking behaviors positioned us for success in the first place.

The Mets could easily make room on the 40 by removing Akeel Morris, Eric Campbell or if the news on Wright is true, put him on the 60 day DL or Lucas Duda for that matter. The point is the 40 is a weak excuse for not bringing up Rivera.

In just under 200 at-bats this spring in Las Vegas, T.J. Rivera has a .365/.399/.531 slash line. A proven contact hitter, Rivera has 12 doubles, 6 home runs and leads the team with 45 RBI’s, the top RBI total in the Pacific Coast League.

A recent PCL Player of the Week, Rivera recently led the conference in batting average although currently he has dipped to second in the batting title race. The Las Vegas infielder might provide the Mets with some small ball run production during a time when their HR production is lagging.

In an ESPN story on Rivera Adam Rubin wondered if there might be something in Rivera’s swing that is blocking his final step to the big leagues.

But, a National League scout threw water on that fire quickly:

“No there is not,” the scout told Rubin in reference to a possible flaw in his swing. “He just needs and opportunity. The kid hits and keeps hitting.”

In the spring it was Kevin Plawecki who marveled at Rivera’s work in the batter’s box and wondered out loud what it would take for someone to recognize that this kid could hit in the major leagues.

Even Ty Kelly, who recently got his major league shot with the Mets, heaped praise on Rivera to Rubin and was shocked he was promoted over Rivera.

“He swings at everything and hits everything, basically. One of the first basemen in the last series asked if there was a magnet on his barrel. He’s one of those guys. He doesn’t ever have to take pitches. He’s going to get hits because he can hit from his eyes to his ankles.”

For his part, Rivera keeps a bulldog mentality confident that if he continues to do what he always does – hit – his dream of becoming a major leaguer will come true.

When you look at the batting average numbers over other 51’s who got at least a cup of coffee at Citi Field over the past two seasons, you have to scratch your head at why TJ hasd’t received a shot.

T.J. Rivera .322
Dilson Herrera .301
Eric Campbell .288
Darrell Ceciliani .287
Ty Kelly .280
Kirk Nieuwenhuis .276
Matt Reynolds .275
Danny Muno .274
Johnny Monell .270

But, it’s not just about T.J. Rivera earning his shot. It’s more about the Mets utilizing a tool available in their own system to combat a troubling offensive drought.

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B-Mets Ace Robert Gsellman Keeps Dealing Despite Lack Of Run Support http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/b-mets-ace-robert-gsellman-keeps-dealing-despite-lack-of-run-support.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/b-mets-ace-robert-gsellman-keeps-dealing-despite-lack-of-run-support.html/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 18:06:48 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=211624 robert gsellman

It’s sometimes part and parcel with becoming a pitching ace. Throughout the ages, New York Met pitching aces have learned to survive and even thrive with little to no run support. Many a time a starting pitcher has to carefully navigate through a game knowing that the outcome might unravel based on the results of a single pitch. Against that backdrop, Robert Gsellman is getting on the job training as the ace of the staff for the Binghamton Mets.

On Saturday night, Gsellman was impressive again on the hill for the B-Mets throwing six innings and allowing just one run, his only mistake a home run pitch to Akron’s Bradley Zimmer in the fifth. Gsellman exited the contest with Binghamton and Akron locked in a 1-1 tie, a game Akron would eventually win, 2-1, in 11 innings.

In his six starts, Gsellman has surrendered a lone run on four occasions, and just three runs in each of his other two starts for Binghamton. All told, that gives the 6-foot-4 right-hander a sterling 1.77 ERA so far in 35.2 innings of work in 2016.

Gsellman has shown improved command this spring only walking 12 batters against 28 strikeouts with a 1.01 WHIP. Opposing batters are hitting just .194 against the B-Met ace.

All those impressive pitching statistics have only translated into one win so far for Gsellman. His teammates have scored two or fewer runs while he was pitching in 5 of his 6 starts, only plating single runs when he was on the mound on four separate occasions.

As he hones his pitching craft in Binghamton, Robert Gsellman is learning to survive on the mound by living on the edge without the luxury of even modest run support. He is coming to understand you can’t allow the score to dictate your frame of mind and how you pitch. Ironically, that’s not uncommon for any New York Met pitching ace.

Gsellman will be on the mound tonight in Portland as the B-Mets take on the SeaDogs in a 6:00 PM contest. Here’s hoping for 3-4 runs of support for Robert. but regardless he’ll be on the mound dealing as usual. And isn’t that what a true ace is supposed to do?

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Mets Minors: T. J. Rivera Still Hustling For An MLB Opportunity http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/mets-minors-t-j-rivera-still-hustling-for-an-mlb-opportunity.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/05/mets-minors-t-j-rivera-still-hustling-for-an-mlb-opportunity.html/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 18:34:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210920 t.j. rivera

Minor Leaguer T.J. Rivera is doing what T.J. Rivera always does – hit the baseball like crazy. Rivera, an unsung infielder in the Met farm system is blistering hot going 14- for-36 in his last ten games hitting .389 with two home runs and 8 RBI. On the season, Rivera is batting .338 with a team high 15 RBI and .538 slugging percentage. He is currently second on the team in hits and doubles and third in runs scored and total bases.

Rivera’s offensive explosion is no surprise to me. Over parts of the last two seasons in Binghamton, he never let B-Met fans down in the batter’s box. A consistent contact hitter, the 27-year old Rivera batted .358 for the B-Mets in 2014 and .341 the following year. The kid has a lifetime .319 minor league batting average covering 2.075 at-bats as a pro. B-Met fans understand you get the same focused, hard nosed, day of work every time T.J. steps on the baseball diamond.

That same hard-nosed consistency makes Rivera a versatile asset on the defensive side of the ball. As injuries and roster demands dictated in Binghamton, he was asked to play third base, shortstop and second base. Rivera lacks range but makes up for that with great hands, acute baseball instincts and steady play wherever he’s asked to handle the glove in the infield.

Undrafted entering professional baseball, Rivera understood climbing the Met minor league ladder would be difficult. But he is determined to prove himself as a worthy piece in a major league dugout someday.

Undeterred, Rivera has earned the respect of his teammates wherever he’s played. Current Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki, spoke to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News last month about his gritty teammate.

“He rakes, it’s as simple as that. He’s hit everywhere he’s gone and it’s kind of made a lot of us scratch our heads as to why it’s taken so long to climb the ladder for him. He never lets that get to him and grinds every day. It’s been fun watching him have success.”

B-Met skipper understands Rivera’s value telling MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo that Rivera gave his team a professional at-bat time after time. It appears that’s exactly what Las Vegas skipper Wally Backman is getting from Rivera this spring in the Pacific Coast League. Hopefully, one day soon, T.J. Rivera will get that chance to prove he belongs in the major leagues to fill a key utility role.

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Mets Minors: Smith Homers, Lara Shines, B-Mets Win Sixth Straight http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-smith-homers-lara-shines-b-mets-win-sixth-straight.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-smith-homers-lara-shines-b-mets-win-sixth-straight.html/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 04:38:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210769 Rainy-Lara

Strong starting pitching did it again for the Binghamton Mets (10-9) as they won their fifth consecutive game 4-1 on Friday night over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Rainy Lara tossed seven inning of one hit ball – his only mistake a Rowdy Tellez’s solo home run to lead off the fifth inning. Lara was perfect through the first three innings, walked the lead-off batter to open the fourth, but erased the runner via a line drive double play. Lara struck out three and walked two in the outing.

Beck Wheeler threw two scoreless frames, fanning three to earn his second save of the season. Both Wheeler and Lara combined on the two-hitter.

For the second game in a row, Binghamton scored early, a Dominic Smith first inning home run plating the games first two runs. Niuman Garcia’s two-out single set the table for the Smith blast. Garcia figured in the B-Mets third run of the game, his two out single in the third scoring Jared King.

A Maikis De La Cruz one out double followed later in the inning by a Matt Oberste single contributed the final Binghamton run.

Binghamton amassed nine hits in the contest with De La Cruz, Garcia and Oberste each collecting two hit games. Smith’s two-run shot gives him 16 RBI’s in the young season tied for third best in the Eastern League.

Binghamton’s starting pitchers have gone 22.1 innings in the last three games allowing just three earned runs. Mickey Jannis will get the start tomorrow night as the B-Mets attempt to push their win streak to six games.

For the best coverage of Mets prospects, there’s only one MetsMinors.net.

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Mets Minors: First Impressions Of Mets Prospect Dominic Smith http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-first-impressions-of-mets-prospect-dominic-smith.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-first-impressions-of-mets-prospect-dominic-smith.html/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:20:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210628 dominic smith swings

I was eager to see top prospect Dominic Smith during the current Binghamton Mets home stand. It was my first look at the kid and he certainly passed the eye test.

The return of more winter weather to upstate New York and the fact that I’m coaching a high school baseball team, delayed my first visit to Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium. That made me chomping at the bit to finally see the team on their current homestead.

My curiosity was high to finally get a look at Dominic Smith, the Mets number one pick in the 2013 draft out of Junipero Sierra High School in Gardena, California. I had read a good deal on MetsMerized about Smith, but was surprised to discover just how big the 20-year old first baseman really is. This kid is huge, a wide-bodied force in the batter’s box.

Smith didn’t disappoint. Over my first four trips at the park, Smith smacked a total of 8 hits. The kid entered the homestead batting a paltry .174. His two-hit effort in Wednesday night’s 3-2 B-Met victory had boosted his batting average 92 points over the last six games to a more respectable .266 with more room to grow.

Smith has a short, compact swing and laces the ball to all fields. The kid has hit well in the clutch knocking home seven runs in the first six games of the home stand, the last ribby a game winner in last night’s victory.

Driving in runs is not uncommon for Smith. The big first baseman led the entire Mets minor league system with 79 runs batted in last season playing in only 118 games for Single-A St. Lucie. He posted an impressive slash line of .305/.354/.417 and was named the MVP of the Florida State League. Smith continued his offensive onslaught in the Arizona Fall League batting .362/.483/.511.

Although Smith has not yet shown the home run pop many expected, he did lead the Florida State League with 33 doubles last season, and I’m sure many of those will eventually translate into home runs as he fills out.

Some say “first impressions are lasting.” If that’s the case, I’m going to enjoy watching Dom Smith wearing orange and blue for a long, long time.

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Mets Minors: Pill Fires Eight Scoreless Innings In 6-0 B-Mets Win http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-pill-fires-eight-scoreless-innings-in-6-0-b-mets-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-pill-fires-eight-scoreless-innings-in-6-0-b-mets-win.html/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 12:10:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210670 pill1

The Binghamton Mets got just what the doctor ordered last night at NYSEG Stadium when Tyler Pill tossed 8.0 innings of shutout baseball as the B-Mets downed Portland, 6-0, to complete a three game sweep.

Pill, historically a dependable starter for Binghamton, had struggled in his first two outings, but seems to have turned things around in his last two trips to the hill. That’s a positive sign for Binghamton’s rotation moving forward.

A pitcher with a surgeon’s precision, Pill brought his A-game on Wednesday limiting the Sea Dogs to just four hits while striking out seven, walking one, and hitting a batter.

Reliever Kelly Secrest followed Pill and fanned two more Sea Dogs working a scoreless eighth for the B-Mets.

Binghamton scored all the runs they would need in their first at- bat. Derrick Gibson led off with a double and scored when Kyle Johnson reached base on an infield error.

After Niuman Garcia walked, Dominic Smith continued his hot hitting, singling to drive Johnson home. With another two hit night – Smith has added 106 points to his batting average during this home stand lifting this batting average from .174 to .280.

Later in the inning, L.J. Mazzilli laced a double to left-field driving home Garcia and Smith and providing Pill with all the firepower he would need.

Smith led off the home fifth with his second hit of the night and scored when Victor De La Cruz doubled.

Binghamton added their final tally when Mazzilli lined a one-out single to centerfield, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on an infield error. Mazzilli had a three-hit night for Binghamton.

The B-Mets ended their homestead at 9-9 and travel to New Hampshire to start a seven game road trip on Friday night.

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For more of last night’s action and the best Mets minor league coverage, go to MetsMinors.net and add them to your favorites. 

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Mets Minors: With Sandy Alderson On Hand, Binghamton Ekes Out 3-2 Victory For Third Straight Win http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-with-sandy-alderson-on-hand-binghamton-ekes-out-3-2-victory-for-third-straight-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-with-sandy-alderson-on-hand-binghamton-ekes-out-3-2-victory-for-third-straight-win.html/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 10:00:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210583 dominic smith swings

Unlike their parent squad who uses the long ball as the primary tool in their offensive toolkit, the Binghamton Mets used small ball to eke out a 3-2 decision over Portland in an ice box called NYSEG Stadium. Binghamton totaled only three hits on the night, but used head’s-up base running and timely Dominic Smith hitting to squeeze out the victory.

Binghamton’s first two scores came without a hit. L.J. Mazzilli drew a walk to leadoff the home third. The B-Met second baseman advanced to second on a wild pitch. When Xorge Carrillo pulled a ground ball to third, Mazzilli challenged the Portland defense by trying to advance to third on the throw to first drawing a return throw from Portland first baseman Tim Roberson. The throw went wild with Mazzilli scrambling home for the game’s first score.

After Portland scored twice to grab a 2-1 lead, the B-Mets scored again without a hit. Kyle Johnson was hit by a pitch to lead off the sixth. The speedy center fielder then stole second. When Maikis De La Cruz tapped a squabbler on the first base side and in front of home plate that was played by the Portland catcher, the alert Johnson raced home with the tying run when the Sea Dog staring pitcher Teddy Stankiewicz failed to cover home on the play.

Johnson drew a base-on-balls to open the eighth. This time B-Met skipper Pedro Lopez chose to advance the winning run with a sacrifice bunt and De La Cruz delivered. After Derrik Gibson fanned, Dominic Smith laced a clutch line drive into left-center field for the game winner. Smith’s game winner came against Portland left-handed reliever Nik Turley and was his second opposite field single in the contest.

B-Met pitcher Andrew Barbosa, a 6’8” giant from Puerto Rico, was brilliant on the pitching mound, a strikeout machine who worked quickly and efficiently all night long. Not a high velocity pitcher, Barbosa mixed his pitches masterfully and used a lethal curveball and a devastating change-up to keep Portland batters literally waving at his pitches. Barbosa worked 7 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and fanning 10 while walking only one Sea Dog.

Barbosa threw 96 pitches in his outing, 69 for strikes a 72 percent ratio. Nearly 1 of every 4 (17 of 69) his strikes was a swing and a miss, testimony of the big right-hander’s ability to mix his pitches. Portland batters fouled off just over 30 percent of his strikes.

Akeel Morris pitched 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief to pick up the save. Morris fanned three of the five batters he faced with the other two Sea Wolves hitting the ball to second base.

The win was the B-Mets’ third straight and improves their Eastern League record to 8-9 on the young season.

New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon and General Manager Sandy Alderson were at NYSEG Stadium and brought the New York Mets National League Championship Trophy with them for all to see. Then they presented championship rings for Akeel Morris and select B-Met front office personnel.

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For more of last night’s action and the best Mets minor league coverage, go to MetsMinors.net and add them to your favorites. They work hard, cover every minor league game, and post only original content and analysis which you can’t get anywhere else. Give them a shot!

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Mets Minors: Solid Pitching Staff Bolsters B-Mets’ High Expectations http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-solid-pitching-staff-bolsters-b-mets-high-expectations.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mets-minors-solid-pitching-staff-bolsters-b-mets-high-expectations.html/#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2016 10:00:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=209348 robert gsellman

Change is the only constant for a minor league baseball fan. Rosters come and rosters go as the needs of the major league club are tended to. Just when a minor league fan gets familiar and comfortable with their team’s roster, they arrive at the park to discover key personnel have been elevated. It’s a way of life in the minor league game.

In Binghamton, recent minor league seasons have been a pitching bonanza. Every season a different Mets phenom has anchored the B-Mets rotation. Matt Harvey in 2011. Zack Wheeler in 2012. Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard in 2013. Steven Matz in 2014. And even though he is no longer in the Met system, the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year, Michael Fulmer in 2015.

In fact, 2015 was a banner year for Binghamton pitchers. The B-Met staff finished 4th out of 12 Eastern League teams in ERA, 3rd in WHIP, tied for 2nd in saves, 4th in strikeouts and they allowed the 4th fewest hits. In Binghamton’s Pedro Lopez era, B-Met fans have come to expect their pitching to rank towards the top of the league every season.

With all that B-Met pitching excellence as a backdrop, I ventured to Binghamton’s Welcome Back Dinner last week filled with a sense of foreboding that the 2016 staff would simply pale in comparison against the mound work we have come to expect in recent seasons. I left the dinner pleasantly surprised that at least for the first part of the season, pitching once again should be a Binghamton strong point.

I found myself smiling in the autograph line to see Jacob deGrom’s ‘hair apparent’ sitting with the pitchers signing baseballs. Robert Gsellman had returned to Binghamton as the ace of the B-Met staff.

Pedro Lopez handed Gsellman the ball on Opening Night and the big right-hander showed why media reports have projected him as a future back of the rotation starter in the major leagues. Gsellman retired the first seven batters he faced, three with swinging strikeouts, before New Hampshire’s Melky Mesa lifted a solo home run to right-center field. That was the only nick in Gsellman’s armor with the B-Met ace going 5.2 innings allowing 2 hits and striking out 7 while walking two.

Historically, Gsellman is more noted for enticing batters to ground out than strike out. Gsellman’s combined ground ball rate last season pitching at St. Lucie and Binghamton topped 50 percent. At 6’4” and with an over the top pitching delivery. Gsellman’s 91-93 mph fastball arrives at home plate on a downward plane making it more likely batters will hit the ball on the ground.

Rainy Lara, another right-hander returns to Binghamton. Facing elimination in a 2014, opening play-off round in Portland, Lara earned a win, to keep the B-Mets season alive, a season when they would win an Eastern League championship. Last season, Lara had a steady hand in the B-Met rotation going 9-5 on the year.

One of my favorite B-Mets Tyler Pill is starting the new season again in Binghamton. Pill compiled 15 consecutive victories over the course of two seasons in the B-Met starting rotation. A two-way college starter at Cal State Fullerton, Pill outsmarts, not overpowers batters. After going 9-5 as a B-Met and winning his final nine decisions in 2014, Pill rejoined the team once again during last season’s pennant race and won all six of his decisions finishing toward the top of the Eastern League in several pitching categories.

Pill, who batted .354 with 7 home runs and a .535 slugging percentage in 2010 at Cal State credits much of his pitching success to the lessons he learned in the batter’s box. And, Pill can still hit going 19-45 at the plate during his minor league career good for a .422 batting average. And, get this, 5 of those 19 hits have been for extra bases with Pill holding an eye popping 1.004 OPS.

Rounding out the starting rotation, Pedro Lopez is expected to use veteran knuckleballer Mickey Jannis,  6’8” left-handed free agent Andrew Barboas, and right-hander Logan Taylor. Taylor pitched an inning of relief during Friday’s B-Met opener to pick up the save.

Lopez has to be excited about his options in the bullpen beginning with the athletically gifted Akeel Morris. Morris, 23, made one appearance with the Mets last season and struck out 81 batters in just over 61 innings at two levels of the minor leagues while registering a 2.05 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.

Another right-hander, Luis Mateo has racked up big strikeout totals over his minor league career fanning 212 batters in 181 innings pitched. At 6’6” right-hander Mike Hepple paints an imposing picture on the pitcher’s mound. In his first two seasons of professional baseball Hepple’s ERA is a stingy 2.34. Opposing batters hit only average .227 against the new B-Met right-hander.

Lopez can call on a trio of left-handers; Kelly Secrest, who has never allowed a home run in 82 innings of work, David Rosebloom with a career 9.9 strikeout rate per 9 innings, and Kyle Regnault who saved 7 games last year for St. Lucie in 8 chances. Right-hander Beck Wheeler, 5-1 last season in Binghamton, is back hoping his nasty curveball will mean more pitching success.

Weather permitting, the B-Mets are itching to get back to work squaring off against New Hampshire again on Sunday.

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A Christmas Carol: The Sandy I Met http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/12/a-christmas-carol-the-sandy-i-met.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/12/a-christmas-carol-the-sandy-i-met.html/#comments Sun, 20 Dec 2015 19:11:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=136501 Actor Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge

Pen went to paper way back in 1843. Even so, the classic holiday novella, “The Christmas Carol” resonates with readers today as one of Charles Dickens’ most important literary contributions. No other character in the beloved novella captures the fascination of readers and viewers like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Many times, my mind shifts to Ebenezer Scrooge when I hear New York Met fans and members of the media characterize Met General Manager Sandy Alderson. For me, it’s almost like many who root for or write about the Mets, have stolen a page from Dickens when they reference the Met GM.

Think about it. Like Scrooge, Sandy Alderson is often vilified as a cold, reclusive figure, a definitive “low temperature guy,” stoic and self-contained. Dickens painted a portrait of Ebenezer Scrooge as a Victorian like miser, a character who symbolized the rich, the elite, protecting only their interests at the expense of the suffering poor.

Fast forward to modern times and consider how many Met fans depict Sandy Alderson. Ditto. In their world view, Sandy Alderson was planted in the Met front office by Commissioner Bud Selig to protect the interests of his friend, multi-millionaire Met owner Fred Wilpon. Like Scrooge, Alderson is presented as shrewd and cunning, a tight-fisted, emotionless hoarder, a guy fixated on protecting the interest of his boss while at the same time immune to the suffering of fans who live and die for the Mets.

To read some comments on Met blogs and fan sites it would be easy to come away believing Sandy Alderson is a synonym for a covetous, grasping, possessive guy with no soft edges. A man who defers to logic and sabermetrics to avoid the warmth that comes with feelings and emotion.

The Sandy Alderson popularly typified by many Met fans and the press is not the Sandy Alderson I met at a Binghamton Met game in early September of 2011.

It was the final weekend of Double-A baseball, and I was in a foul and Grinch-like mood myself. Hurricane Irene had just devastated the tiny Catskill Mountain town where I lived, Binghamton Met baseball would soon be ending, and I was in desperate need of a mental reprieve. I hunkered down in a seat in the top row behind home plate and went about my pre-game statistical recordings that come with keeping score at a baseball game.

I’m obsessive about keeping score when watching a ballgame. Batting and pitching statistics are recorded before the game and then every pitch and every play is charted. For the most part, I’m not approachable as I madly jot down notes in the moments before a baseball game begins.

On this particular day, I was aware someone had appeared in the aisle outside my row. I was sitting in the third seat and glanced up to note a gentleman studying his ticket stub, clearly deciding where he was supposed to sit. An odd feeling of recognition flooded my senses, but I struggled to match a name with the face. This stately fellow sent a ‘hello’ my way as he settled into the aisle seat, which I returned with a nod. Deferring to my statistics, I decided to try and figure out if I knew who this Met fan might be when the final pre-game stats had been logged.

scroogeTurning back toward the stranger I was certain I should know who he might be. He was clearly a man who cared about his appearance, trim and neat as a pin. He traveled without scorebook, notepad or camera, somewhat unusual for a solitary fan sitting in the part of the park where scouts representing major league franchises often assemble. He was busy on a cell phone, tweeting I assumed.

Age has a way of slowing name recognition, but it wasn’t long before the name Sandy Alderson surfaced. Oddly, that presented a dilemma of sorts. I have always followed a belief that people of celebrity deserve some privacy in public venues. Sandy Alderson was at NYSEG Stadium to watch Met baseball prospects not to engage in conversation with me. Yet, it’s always my habit to introduce myself to the folks who sit around me at a baseball game. The social aspect of watching baseball is one of the pleasures of the game. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to handle that divergence.

It was a Juan Lagares at-bat in the bottom of the first inning that was the icebreaker. The B-Mets were playing the Fighting Phils from Reading, and Lagares was the B-Met rightfielder that night. Lagares was on a tear, ripping Double-A pitching at a .370 clip after his arrival to Binghamton. I would later come to believe it was Lagares and Reese Havens that Sandy had really come to see.

Lagares pieced together an uncanny at-bat that lasted 13 pitches with the outfield prospect flying out to the warning track in left field on the final pitch. I leaned towards Sandy and said, “Now that was a major league at-bat.” Knowing what I know now about the Met organizational approach to hitting and the role average number of pitches in an at bat means when evaluating prospects, I would have predicted Sandy’s response to my comment. It was like the flood gates opened and conversation flowed easily between the two of us for the rest of the night.

I made a conscious decision that night not to broach controversial topics swirling around Met land at the time, the hottest issue whether Sandy would resign Jose Reyes. I wasn’t a reporter looking for a sports scoop. My goal was to enjoy Sandy’s company as I enjoyed the company of any new neighbor at a baseball game.

Far from self-contained, Sandy surprised me by peppering me with questions. He had a curious mind and wanted to know everything he could about me. His first line of questions concerned my relationship with the B-Mets. How often did I attend games? Was I a season ticket holder? When Sandy learned I had purchased a game pack, he wanted to know how that worked. What kind of statistics did I take? Did I do anything with them after the game? Where did my interest in baseball and the Mets originate from?

When Sandy learned I lived some two hours from Binghamton and the town where I lived had been hit hard by Irene, the line of questioning shifted. Sandy had seen news clips about the devastation and was clearly concerned. There was much he wanted to know. Was anyone lost? Were folks displaced? What was the extent of the damage? His questions addressed the clean-up, possible damages of my home and property, lodging and provisions for people effected by the storm, anything and everything related to the storm and its impact.

Before long word spread that the Met GM was in the house. A steady stream of Met fans stopped by to chat with Sandy or hawk an autograph. Sandy couldn’t have been more accommodating. He treated each Met fan with the same curiosity and graciousness he showed in his conversations with me, asking people their names or asking questions about them, always obliging, always amenable. I was struck with the sharp contrast between the image of Sandy painted by his distractors and the guy seated alongside me at this B-Met game.

1450639240454I laugh when I read frustrated Met fans accusing Sandy Alderson of not caring about the team he puts on the field. That is not the Sandy I met. Sandy wasn’t shy about asking my opinions about B-Met prospects. He chatted about some of the younger players in the system, and we talked in general about the Mets. The Met GM was constantly on his cell phone getting Met game updates, reporting the score to me with any commentary that had been passed his way. I remember Sandy was especially pleased to report rookie pitcher Josh Stinson had registered an inning of scoreless relief toward the end of the game.

The things about Sandy that most impressed me that night were his wit, his dry sense of humor, and his genuine appreciation for all the unusual things that take place at a minor league baseball park. No two minor league baseball venues are the same. Every minor league park is distinct. Each minor league franchise has it’s own discrete culture with during the game entertainment events that help define what makes them special.

In Binghamton’s case three between innings game events come to mind. Binghamton is a city nicknamed the “Carousel Capital of the World.” To celebrate that fact, the B-Mets have a Carousel Horse Mascot ridden by a Cowboy who throws hot dogs over the screen to screaming fans. “I remember telling Sandy to prepare himself for something he had never seen at a baseball park before and unless he returned to Binghamton would likely never see again.” He laughed heartily at the mayhem that followed.

With a twinkle in his eye and a smile from ear to ear, Sandy was riveted during a mid-game break when a gate in the fence along the left field stands was opened and hundreds of kids poured out on to the field racing across the outfield to exit through another gate on the right field side. Sandy talked about how important it was to connect baseball with young people and you could tell he approved of the youngster’s lap in the outfield.

The clincher came during the seventh inning stretch. I whispered to Sandy that he was in for a real Binghamton treat. During almost every B-Met home game since the franchise began in Binghamton 21 years ago, an elderly gent called ‘Jingles’ dances to his own lively signature song during the break between the halves of inning seven. Jingles stage is located directly behind where Sandy and I sat. Sandy loved it, clapping to the rhythm and cheering loudly with all the other B-Met fans when ‘JIngles’ completed his jig.

In fact, Sandy was so inspired, as he sat back down in his seat, I watched him fish around in a pocket and pull out his ticket stub. Sandy jotted something down on the stub, turned to me and said, “Here. Take this. If you ever get to New York City call this number, and I’ll make sure you have a good time.”

Stunned would be an understatement. By the time the game had ended, Lagares would add a basehit to his 13-pitch at bat. And Reese Havens went 2-5 with a double and RBI. Sandy and I shook hands and headed our separate ways.

Tiny_timUnlike the cold, solitary, uncaring Sandy Alderson portrayed in print, I experienced the polar opposite. The Sandy Alderson who watched a baseball game with me at NYSEG was curious, welcoming, fun-loving, and generous, nothing like Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge.

Oh, you probably want to know if I ever called the number on the ticket stub. Not during the remainder of the 2011 season. The Mets were limping along at the end of the year, so I reasoned I might make better use of Sandy’s offer early in the 2013 campaign.

As luck would have it, my son who resides in Los Angeles, came east for a cousin’s wedding. I hadn’t seen him in a year and asked if he would like to catch a game at Citi Field. A huge Met fan, who only sees his team on west coast swings, my son had never visited the Mets new ball park and was eager to make the trip.

I called the number. It hooked me with Sandy’s office. His secretary was great. She made the arrangements for us to see the game. When my two other children learned they hadn’t been included they were not too pleased with Dad. So, tail between my legs, I called back and inquired if there was a chance that there might be four tickets instead of two.

The end result – a magical night for me and my family. The Mets rolled out the red carpet, and we had a blast. It was an evening none will forget.

When we returned home I wanted to do something personal for Sandy in way of thanks. The Catskills and our mountains are famous for maple syrup. I sent Sandy and his secretary containers of home made syrup with a lengthy hand written thank you letter explaining how much the night meant to me and my family and, of course, expressing my thanks. Like the first President Bush, famous for his hand written thank you notes, Sandy impressed me as a similar kind of guy.

Several days later, when I returned home from my morning errands, I had a message on my answering machine from Sandy’s secretary to call his office. I did. After a pleasant chat, she told me how much she appreciated the maple syrup. She added that I had not left a return address on the package, and Sandy had asked her to call and get my address. I chuckled not expecting a thank-you for a thank-you, but sent along the information.

Not long after, a handwritten thank-you from Sandy on New York Met stationary arrived. It read:

John,

Thanks for your letter and the maple syrup! Both will help me through the month of September as we try to get back on a positive note here at Citi. I’m glad you enjoyed the trip here and look forward to seeing you again in Binghamton when I return there.

Regards, Sandy

I hope good fortune brings me together with Sandy Alderson again some day. Far from the Ebenezer Scrooge-like character unhappy Met fans portray him to play, the Sandy Alderson I met is everything Scrooge is not; a self-confident, fun-loving, genial, and generous guy. In the spirit of the Christmas season, I wish Sandy good fortune and good health and the joy that comes with a winning Met baseball season in New York.

An MMO Flashback from December 24, 2013.

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Terry Collins Honored By Manager of the Year Chatter http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/terry-collins-honored-by-manager-of-the-year-chatter.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/terry-collins-honored-by-manager-of-the-year-chatter.html/#comments Wed, 23 Sep 2015 16:25:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=194209 terry collins

Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports says Terry Collins has done enough to merit the Manager of the Year award in the National League.

“In a league of Joe Maddon, Clint Hurdle, Mike Matheny and Don Mattingly, who’ve won their games and will get their Manager of the Year votes, nobody’s done more and put up with more and bled more freely than Collins. For a summer, he’s been the best of any of them.”

Collins told reporters that he is honored by all the Manager of the Year talk.

“I will tell you, it’s always nice to get an award,” Collins said. “It always is. But those kinds of things, it’s all about the players, believe me. I’ve talked to a lot of great managers in the game that have won this award hundreds and hundreds of times, and I will tell you what: very few of them have ever said, ‘Boy, I managed my butt off.’ They put the right names in the lineups is what they’ve done, and let them go play.”

Collins has waited a career to manage a team in the position of his current Mets. It’s too bad he can’t enjoy it. For Collins guiding the Mets to a Division title must seem like one of those pop-up games where you yield a hammer and try to hit objects scattered before you. Every time you connect with one object, another one pops up somewhere on the board.

With every game taking on monumental proportions for Collins and his Mets, managing the young Met pitching staff has to be just about driving Collins to insanity. Terry Collins has been around the barn. He’s seen and worked with all kinds of baseball pitchers including workhorse pitchers, anchors of a pitching staff, top pitching prospects, etc.

Collins knows at heart that’s what he has in his Met ace Matt Harvey. “I want you to understand something,” Collins told the press after Sunday’s Yankee game. “This kid is still a tremendous competitor. Tremendous. Regardless of what he’s been told to say, what he’s been told to do, he’s a tremendous competitor.”

But, in a day and age of blown out arms, pitch counts and innings limits, the world continually shifts beneath the Met manager’s feet. That was on full display Sunday night in front of a national baseball audience when Harvey threw five dominating innings with the Mets nursing a 1-0 lead over their crosstown rivals, the Yankees.

And, after their pitching ace threw only 77 pitches, Harvey was removed from the game, the Mets bullpen imploded, and Collins watched his team suffer an embarrassing 11-2 defeat.

Here’s Collins carefully trying not to explode after the game as reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports:

“It’s hard for me to get it. I am at heart an old school guy, but I understand where it’s coming from, therefore you adjust to it. You either adjust to it or get out. I might get out pretty soon, but I’m adjusting to it right now.”

In some ways what the Mets are asking of Collins must feel like being asked to lead his men to the front lines of the most important two week battle of his life, with water pistols as weapons.

On Tuesday, Collins will use Logan Verrett in place of Jacob deGrom in the starting rotation. It’s possible Collins will have Harvey for only three or four innings a start down the stretch prior to the final weekend against the Nationals.

“It’s hard. It’s hard. We’ve waited five years to be in this situation. And now you’ve got you’re # 1 pitcher, you’ve got to worry about what he does. You’re # 2 pitcher, we’re skipping. The # 3 pitcher, we’ve already skipped, in a pennant race.”

For five years, Terry Collins has been a good soldier. He’s prodded, he’s nurtured, he’s hemmed and he’s hawed, sometimes biting his tongue but always optimistic.

Now on the verge of attaining a success many predicted Terry Collins would never be around to see, the Met manager is being asked to get it done in the most unconventional of ways. In his day starting pitchers were the ultimate warriors, today they are pampered, protected and swaddled in bubble wrap.

“It’s for the best of them. It’s for the best of the organization. And, so you suck it up, and move on, and get ready for the next day.”

Terry Collins, an old school warhorse, yet so too is an organization guy who knows the ropes. With his eyes fixed on the finish line, Terry Collins soldiers on.

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Would You Trade Matt Harvey for Xander Bogaerts? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/would-you-trade-matt-harvey-for-xander-bogaerts.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/would-you-trade-matt-harvey-for-xander-bogaerts.html/#comments Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:34:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=193682 World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four

A topic being discussed recently in the Boston area in sports media and sports talk radio involves Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. The question they are asking Red Sox fans is:

Would you trade shortstop Xander Bogaerts for New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey?

Red Sox beat writer Peter Abraham himself actuality posed the question to his readers in the Boston Globe on Sunday.

Abraham noted the topic was first raised by his Globe colleague Nick Cafardo several weeks ago, but no one really took Cafardo’s scenario very seriously. But, when Scott Boras lowered the boom on Met management accusing the Mets of placing his pitching client’s future in doubt, Abraham wondered aloud whether, perhaps, the landscape may have changed making a Bogaerts for Harvey swap a possibility.

Bogaerts, 22, is slashing at .321/.352/.415 with 30 doubles, 3 triples, 5 homers, 70 runs and 72 RBI with 110 OPS+ and 4.6 WAR.

From a Met perspective, would you trade Matt Harvey for Xander Bogaerts? You have to admit the possibility could have legs. Here’s why…

The Red Sox are desperate for starting rotation help and simply can’t head south in February with the same cast of characters who started games in 2015. Boston will be looking to wheel and deal to bring in pitching help, so why not Matt Harvey?

The Sox recently hired Dave Dombrowski as their new President of Baseball Operations. That’s the same Dave Dombrowski that sent Yoenis Cespedes ito the Mets for Michael Fulmer. That trade seems to indicate Dombrowski and Met GM Sandy Alderson have a good working relationship. Personal dynamics between key personnel in baseball operations of two teams can create the environment to get things done.

The Boras/Harvey brouhaha badly eroded the Harvey warrior persona of toughness. Adored by Met fans and credited with helping reshape a laissez-faire Met clubhouse attitude, when Harvey backed up Boras and validated the Boras contention that a 180 hard innings cap had been established by his surgeon, his credibility with Met fans plummeted almost overnight. The thought of trading Harvey, once considered preposterous by most Met fans now actively received support.

The Red Sox are stacked at the middle infield slots. Deven Marrero, the Sox’s number one draft pick in the 2012 draft, started this season at shortstop for Triple-A Pawtucket. The athletic Marrero profiles as an elite defensive shortstop who makes handling play at the position look easy. The kid, who recently turned 25, has gold glove potential and is considered to have at least average major league batting potential.

And, Marrero might be a place holder for ‘off the charts’ Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada. Moncada is uniquely gifted physically with a build more like a football defensive linebacker than a baseball infielder. Although he doesn’t necessarily profile with the defensive deftness of Marrero, he shows soft hands, better than average range and a strong arm. And, it is expected Moncada will hit with power.

If the Mets moved Harvey to bring in Bogaerts, Wilmer Flores could be moved to second base to replace Daniel Murphy. The 16 home runs and 59 RBI’s this year for Flores validate the confidence baseball people like Wally Backman had evaluating his potential as a major league hitter. Defensively, Flores would be an upgrade at second over Murphy. In fact a Met infield with Bogaerts at shortstop and Flores at second would be pretty tight. Dilson Herrera, who hit .327 at Triple-A Vegas and smacked 10 HR’s would compete with Flores for the second base position and provided much needed depth. Flores would be an insurance policy for David Wright should he experience issues with his spinal stenosis condition.

Moving Murphy would save a large chunk of salary that when added with the salary saved by severing service, or dramatically reducing the cost of service, with Bartolo Colon would provide a healthy kitty to allow the Mets to compete in the sweepstakes to retain the services of Yoenis Cespedes.

Harvey hails from Connecticut and would be an instant hit in Boston, meaning the Mets might leverage a deal to obtain additional prospects in a deal for Bogaerts.

For me, the jury is still out on the idea of trading a guy like Matt Harvey. Harvey has been a beast on the mound for the Mets. From the moment Harvey first stepped on the Citi Field mound, his bulldog mentality has helped change the Met narrative. Harvey turned the hope of a Mets turnaround into a reality.

But, is Bogaerts the kind of talent the Mets would want to obtain for someone of Harvey’s baseball ilk? I watched this kid play for Portland at the Double-A level and fell in love with his play. His 2013 post season splash (.296 BA) had Bogaerts on almost every baseball fan’s radar. Bogaerts is having a breakout season in 2015 hitting .320 for the Sox. Although Bogaerts has hit only 5 HR’s, his doubles production has slightly surpassed that of his rookie season, and the Red Sox shortstop has knocked home 71 runs. Bogaerts has also reduced his strikeout percentage, is only 22 years old and doesn’t become a free agent until 2020.

Yet, the fact the Boston media is openly asking Sox fans whether Xander Bogaerts could be traded for Matt Harvey made me wonder what Met fans would think about the possibility of trading Harvey for Bogaerts. Met fans, what do you think?

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MMO Exclusive: T.J. Rivera Just Keeps Hitting and Hoping http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/mmo-exclusive-t-j-rivera-just-keeps-hitting-and-hoping.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/mmo-exclusive-t-j-rivera-just-keeps-hitting-and-hoping.html/#comments Wed, 09 Sep 2015 15:00:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=192610 t.j. Rivera

When his baseball playing days are behind him, T.J. Rivera wants to be remembered as a grinder, a guy who didn’t simply go through the motions but played with 100 percent effort every time he stepped on a baseball diamond.

“That’s something I’ve always tried to live up to, going out there and playing hard every pitch,” Rivera stated in his final response during an interview I conducted with him on our WIOX, Tip-Off Sports radio hour.

You won’t get an argument about Rivera’s work ethic from Binghamton Met baseball fans who have watched the popular B-Met play three of the four infield positions during parts of the past two baseball seasons. Going into the final weekend of the regular season, Rivera leads the B-Mets in batting with a sparkling .350 batting average.

Amazingly, Rivera’s lofty BA is actually 8 points lower than his team high mark in the batter’s box in 2014. Over two seasons, in 415 B-Met at-bats, Rivera has 147 hits. That’s a combined two year Double-A batting average of .354.

And, in nearly 200 at-bats for Triple-A Las Vegas this summer Rivera was slashing at the plate. On July 18th, Rivera went 3-for-5 against Albuquerque raising his batting average to .327. A mini slump, 3-23, in the 8 games before his recall to Binghamton, dropped his Triple-A hitting stats to .306.

Putting it simply, T.J. Rivera can hit. With numbers echoing the batting line outlined above on every rung of the Met’s minor league ladder, it’s not surprising Rivera takes a bit of swagger into the batting box. I asked T.J. about his batting approach.

“It really depends on the situation,” he began. “With a guy on third base, you’re trying to do something different to what you’d do with no one on. You’re also just trying to hit the ball hard.”

Rivera went on to say that in every at bat he’s trying to compete with the pitcher. “Early in the count, I’m just trying to find a good fastball in the middle of the zone, something I can drive and something I can really put a good swing on and hopefully hit the ball in a gap somewhere.”

“With a strike or two strikes my approach will change a little bit. My swing doesn’t change but my approach does. With two strikes, I’m going to let the ball get a little deeper. The pitcher’s got a different approach, too, he’s trying to extend the zone a little. So, I have to change my approach and work a little harder to compete.”

“I don’t want to just put the ball in play with two strikes, I want to put it in play hard and make something happen. Obviously, everything changes with guys on base.”

Since T.J, has played at every level in the Mets minor league system, I asked him if there is a specific batting approach or philosophy emphasized in the Met farm system all the way up the minor league chain.

“I wouldn’t say anything too crazy that other teams are not doing. They do like us working the count. They like us to swing at pitches in the zone, and I think any club would probably think the same thing, because you don’t want to help the pitcher out.”

“They’re trying to teach us to find the pitch we like to hit and where in the zone we like to hit the ball best. Then try to hit that pitch and that pitch only until you get two strikes. You don’t want to swing at the pitch the pitcher wants you to. That ends up in a weak ground ball that you’re not looking to do.”

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Hitting the way he has year after year, apparently, T.J. Rivera is an attentive student. I asked him too about the difference in the pitching he has experienced as he climbed the Met minor league ladder.

“As you move up to Double-A and Triple-A you’re not going to get as many hitter’s counts where you can get the pitch you’re looking for, So, selective hitting plays a bigger role, because now if I don’t get the pitch I’m looking for and I swing at a pitch too low, I’m not going to do what I want at the plate.”

As Rivera sees it, stronger bullpens at the upper minor league levels also add to the batting challenge. “The bullpens get a lot better, too. It’s like every team has a lot of hard throwers and good arms in the bullpen. Other than that, pitchers at the upper level know how to pitch, so as you get older, you have to get smarter.”

Rivera said that the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez is one of the toughest pitchers he has faced so far in the minors. “You kind of knew he was going to be special.” Ironically, although he has faced some outstanding minor league prospects, it’s many times those crafty pitchers that change speeds in different ways that give him the most trouble.

As far as strong pitchers go, Rivera likes the guys in the Mets system most. “The guys on my teams, they’re the ones who impress me more than anybody, a guy like Steven Matz. I had to face him in spring training and that’s not fun. Noah Syndergaard, I had to face him, too.”

“Guys like that are overpowering. They throw the kind of stuff you’re expecting to see in the ninth inning from a closer, but they’re throwing it for 6 or 7 innings.”

T.J talked about the subtle differences in playing the various infield positions. At shortstop he said he has to remember to move his feet, to get to the ball with his feet because his throw from short is the longest you will make in the infield. Manning third base is about reflexes and handling the hot stuff and knowing the speedsters most likely to place a bunt perfectly down the line. He finds second base a bit easier because of the added time, but coming across the bag and throwing across your body with a sliding runner coming at you makes the turn on a double play an added challenge.

I mentioned that the middle infield slots seems to be the strongest position spots in the Met farm system and asked T.J. to talk briefly about some of his teammates who have played there. Here’s what he said.

Matt Reynolds – Consistent defensive play. He has a nice swing, but he really impresses me defensively at short.

Dilson Herrera – He’s an animal. That kid is a little ball of fire. He’s kind of like Darrell Cecilaini in that he ignites a team because he plays so hard. Sometimes you see a top prospect who kind of goes through the motions. He’s not like that. You’d never think he’s a top prospect because of the way he plays. You’ve got to love the way he goes about his business.

Wilfredo Tovar – Great hands. Smooth defensively. He’ll do some things with his glove that kind of wow you on the field and you’ll think – did that just happen? Great hands.

Daniel Muno – Nothing phases him. He’s the type of guy you can put in a tough situation because nothing phases him.

Gavin Cecchini – He’s impressed me with his stick, and he goes about his business the right way. He plays the game pretty well, pretty hard, and he’s impressed me this year a lot.

L.J. Mazzilli – He’s my roomie, a grinder on the baseball diamond. He knows how to play the game. He hits the ball consistently, and he’s got a really good swing. He hits the ball hard all over the place. He knows how to hit the ball hard to right-center field. That’s impressive.

Met fans always mention that Rivera went undrafted. T.J. told me the Mets called about a week after the draft to discuss his signing on. His humble introduction to professional baseball is a motivator. “There’s a lot that motivates me. For guys that went undrafted, it would be nice to show, we can play the game, too, and to never give up hope.”

Chatting with T.J. on the air and briefly following him this week at NYSEG Stadium, I can only hope he gets a shot and gets a chance at the big leagues. He’s earned it.

“If this kid ever gets a look in the majors, I know he’s going to hit,” said B-Mets GM Jim Weed, who has watched a lot of prospects over the years at Binghamton and the rest of the Eastern League. My sentiments exactly.

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A Different Take On Harvey Who Will Have His Next Start Skipped http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/a-different-take-on-harvey-who-will-have-his-next-start-skipped.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/09/a-different-take-on-harvey-who-will-have-his-next-start-skipped.html/#comments Wed, 09 Sep 2015 14:52:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=192959 matt harvey

Logan Verrett will start for the Mets on Monday, in place of Matt Harvey in an effort to limit his innings before the playoffs.

You may remember that Verrett tossed eight innings of one-run baseball in his last spot start, on August 23 in Colorado, so no need to panic.

The Mets expect to pitch Harvey again against the Yankees at Citi Field. After that depending on whether or not the game has any significance, he could pitch against the Washington Nationals in the last series of the season also at Citi.

A rattled Matt Harvey appeared more like the Joker than the Dark Knight on the mound in Washington last night. Harvey got in early trouble allowing three runs in the first two innings, settled down over the next three then struggled mightily in his final frame in the sixth. With runners on first and second and no one out, Harvey rushed to make a play to third on a Washington bunt, bobbling the ball with everybody safe setting up the disaster that followed.

But, Harvey’s teammates had his back, rallying from a 7-1 deficit sending 10 straight batters to the plate with two outs in the seventh to score 6 times knotting the score at 7’s. Then it was a riveting Kirk Nieuwenhuis home run in the visitor’s eighth that put the Mets on top for good with Clippard and Familia shutting the door on the Nats.

Harvey’s fall with the Mets surviving to add another game to their Eastern Division lead was the exact prescription that many Met fans had been hoping for. It’s a natural reaction after the Met ace offered support to his agent Scott Boras when the conniver threw a curveball of his own into the late season pennant race, calling for the Mets to shutdown his client after reaching a hard cap of 180 innings.

Like every Met fan, the Boras snipper attack was maddening. But, unlike so many Met fans I place a target solely on Boras’s back, not on Harvey. Boras set Harvey up and then left him to withstand the public scrutiny on his own. And, try as he might to deflect the probing entreaties of a hungry press, Harvey proved far less adept at getting out of that jam than is generally his custom when facing dangerous hitters in the batter’s box.

Recently, when my Met friends have raged at the fallen Met hero, I have countered with a simple request. “Take a step back for just a moment and try to wear someone else’s socks and shoes,” I ask.

“Pretend for a moment you are Matt Harvey’s father. A forlorn Matt comes to you asking for your counsel. ‘What should I do, Dad’ he wants to know. My surgeon is worried by the number of innings I’ve pitched and says throwing too many more this year might jeopardize my reconstructed elbow. My team is on the cusp of entering the playoffs for the first time in years and the city is alive and expecting me to lead the charge. What do you think I should do?”

In every case but one, and he was an 80-something former college baseball coach, my angry Met fans greeted my query with long pauses. Many times the pauses turned into cockeyed smiles.

You see, it’s not an easy question. Trying to think of yourself as Matt Harvey’s father advising his son on what’s best for his future moves most from reacting as a fan to reacting as a parent. The prospect of your son risking the security of a $100 million dollar plus payday, a life altering event that would provide lifetime financial security, helps me understand just how complex and how difficult this issue really is.

In no way am I advocating the manner in which this thing played out. Boras has been disingenuous, almost devious. He blames Met management for caring more about winning than the long term health of his client, when during spring training when the Chicago Cubs made a financial decision to extend their control over their slugging prospect Kris Bryant by keeping him in the minors for the first few weeks of the season, his agent, the same Scott Boras, went postal accusing the Cubs of not wanting to win. You can’t have it both ways.

And, in no way am I blaming the Mets for the way they have handled Harvey’s return. The moves the Mets have made in trying to monitor Harvey’s pitches per outing and the overall total of his innings were made in their pitching ace’s best interest. Starting at the close of the 2014 season, the Mets have been extremely cautious in managing Harvey’s progress and patient, too, in showing calm when Harvey pushed back against the strategies they employed to protect him.

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Too often, it seems Americans are losing the ability to consider things from someone else’s point of view. Looking at the Harvey dilemma from the vantage point of his father, or his mom, if you wish, helps me process the recent events differently.

Want as I do, as a passionate Met fan, for Harvey to continue as part of the Met rotation through the pennant stretch and throughout the post season, role playing Matt’s Dad, if I’m honest, turns my outlook in a different direction. As Matt’s Dad, if Dr. Andrews has really recommended that Harvey stop pitching at 180 innings, even though I don’t feel there is a proven science involving a pitcher’s elbow issues, I’d have to advise Matt to follow his surgeon’s advice.

It was Keith Hernandez who once said, pitchers have been blowing out their arms forever. In his day, a time before MRI’s, the unfortunate ones simply disappeared. They went back home and drove a mail truck or worked in a lumber yard.

Dark Knight or not, Matt Harvey belongs on a pitching mound in a baseball uniform for a long, long time. Hopefully, it’s a uniform with Mets written across the front.

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Mets Minors: Wally Has Team Running To Another First Place Finish http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/mets-minors-wally-has-team-running-to-another-first-place-finish.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/mets-minors-wally-has-team-running-to-another-first-place-finish.html/#comments Sun, 23 Aug 2015 14:47:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=191167 Wilfredo Tovar

‘Put on your running shoes’ could be the motto for Wally Backman’s Las Vegas 51’s this summer. The scrappy 2014 PCL Manager of the Year has used the running game as a weapon in leading his team to a possible first place finish in the Southern Division.

Las Vegas ranks fifth out of sixteen PCL teams in stolen bases this year, a huge leap over the previous two seasons when the club finished second to last in pilfering bases.

Second baseman Wilfredo Tovar symbolizes the running nature of Backman’s 2015 squad more than anyone else. He has stolen 30 bases, third best in the PCL and two behind Jonathan Viler and Darrell Sweeney, both tied for the league lead. Perhaps Tovar, long rated has the best defensive infielder in the Mets minor league system, decided he needed to emphasize another part of his game to finally get a shot in the major leagues.

Tovar’s 30 stolen bases represent pronounced improvement and a career high. The 24-year old infielder has swiped double digit bases in every minor league season since 2009, but never more than the 17 bases he robbed in that campaign. The deft fielding infielder is having another solid season in the batter’s box hitting .283 following a .288 season in his first Triple-A campaign.

Perhaps Brandon Nimmo’s brief stint in Las Vegas is indicative of Backman’s running emphasis this year for the 51’s. Nimmo who spent the lion’s share of his time in Double-A Binghamton in 2015 (68 games) did not steal a base for the B-Mets. In 22 games under Backman, the future Met outfielder has already swiped 5 bases.

Nine 51’s have stolen five or more bases this season with Darrell Ceciliani trailing Tovar with 16 and Matt Reynolds also reaching double-digit totals with a dozen. Dilson Herrera is one shy of the double-digit mark with nine stolen bags.

Wally has the 51’s running all the way to another regular season Pacific Southern Division title and perhaps another Manager of the Year award for his trophy case.

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An MMO Original: Losing Streaks Are Part of the Game http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/an-mmo-original-losing-streaks-are-part-of-the-game.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/an-mmo-original-losing-streaks-are-part-of-the-game.html/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 18:26:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=190727 bartolo colon

Three losses to the Pirates at Citi Field ignited a case of the jitters throughout Met land. The unbridled euphoria Met fans had experienced over a recent winning streak and their teams ascent to the top of the National League’s Eastern Division dimmed some over the weekend.

Based on our most recent experiences and stretching back for almost a decade, it’s totally understandable that the newly found ‘swag’ of long suffering Met fans might waver watching their team drop three in a row, two in extra innings, in their home park. A gnawing in the stomach continued to grow as the weekend unfolded turning into outright angst during the Mets ugly meltdown on Sunday afternoon.

Take a deep breath fellow Met fans. Losing streaks during the dog days of August over a long, hard baseball season are hardly unique. In fact, every noteworthy Met team of yesteryear suffered through similar lapses.

Baseball’s 1969 darlings, those 100 win World Champion Miracle Mets had a mid August swoon. A three game set with the Astros that began on August 11 and ended on the 14th went sour with Houston sweeping away the Mets 3-0, 8-7, and 8-2.

In 1973, the Mets reached the seventh game of the World Series, but the regular season was hardly stellar with our Metropolitans suffering several losing streaks. Once again the Ides of August began on the 11th of August that year when the Mets feel to the Giants 8-7. The Mets fell 4-1 to San Francisco the following day, then lost 3-2 and 9-0 to San Diego on August 13 and 14.

Met fans knew they had something special during the 1985 season when the Mets finished in second place behind the Cardinals but still won 98 games. Early in ’85, the Mets dropped six consecutive games. This time the August performance dip happened later in the month. The Mets dropped back-to-back games on August 26 and 27 to finish a series with the Dodgers, then fell to the Giants the following day in the first game of the next series.

Even the record setting Mets of 1986 slumped in August. Once again, August the 14th was the day when the mischief began. The Mets lost 5-1 to the Cardinals that day in the second game of a doubleheader, then dropped three more to the Cards over the next three days to close out a disappointing series. And, those ’86 World Champs shouldered another four game losing streak in the month of September.

The 2000 Subway Series Mets got through August unscathed, but almost fell off the table in early September losing 7 of 8 games to start the crucial month of September. The Mets dropped a close contest to the Cardinals on September 1, then lost two more one run outcomes to the Redbirds on the 2nd and 3rd. Cincinnati won the opening game of the following series going away at 6-2. The Mets rallied for a tight 3-2 victory, then lost the getaway game to the Reds, 3-2. The Phillies extended the 2000 Mets September misery winning 2-0 and 6-3 on September 8 and 9.

The 2006 Mets had a horrid run beginning in mid September, September 15th, in fact. Starting on September 15, the Mets lost 10 of the next 13 games including two, three game losing runs and one streak that stretched four games.

This is baseball. Good teams suffer losing streaks all the time. In late August of 2010, the San Diego Padres went from contenders to pretenders when they lost 10-games in a row beginning in the last days in August and stretching into the month of October.

The ’82 Braves won 89 games but had a wretched baseball month of August. The Braves lost 11 times in a row and went 2-19 and lost 14.5 games during a run that started on July 30 and ran through August 18. Atlanta still won their division that year.

Baseball losing streaks, small or large, are never recommended, definitely during a pennant race during the months of August and September. But, they happen all the time. After the 2007 and 2008 seasons Met fans might appreciate that fact better than most. That’s why the Bucs weekend sweep left us gasping.

No one knows how the 2015 NL Eastern Division pennant race will end. Our three game Met losing streak to the Pirates might have us squirming, but the six straight games the Nationals dropped to the Dodgers and Giants have Nat fans begging for relief of any kind.

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MMO Exclusive: Paul Sewald Just Keeps Throwing Strikes http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/mmo-exclusive-paul-sewald-just-keeps-throwing-strikes.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/mmo-exclusive-paul-sewald-just-keeps-throwing-strikes.html/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 01:04:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=190662 paul-sewald-arizona-fall-league-scorpions-mets

He is part of a crop of young baseball players who grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, a class that includes the likes of Bryce Harper, Joey Gallo and Kris Bryant. He’s thoughtful, strategic and articulate and made a perfect guest on a recent WIOX, Tip-Off radio show. I’m talking about Paul Sewald the current closer out of the Binghamton Mets bullpen.

Paul Sewald comes from a baseball family. His Dad was drafted out of high school by the Boston Red Sox but choose instead to go to college as a scholarship baseball player at Loyola Marymount College. Paul and his younger brother Johnny were impact players at Bishop Gorman high school, a Las Vegas school that had not won a baseball State championship in 52 years. Bishop Gorman won their first state title during Paul’s sophomore season, followed that up with two more during his junior and senior years, then took four more in succession when Paul went off to San Diego University and his young brother Johnny was a high school baseball star.

During Paul’s senior year at San Diego and Johnny’s senior year at Bishop Gorman the talented brothers were drafted on the same day, Paul by the Mets, and Johnny by the Baltimore Orioles. Johnny choose college over professional baseball accepting a scholarship to attend Arizona State and was drafted by the Houston Astros in the spring of this year.

We asked Paul to think forward and describe what a future pitching/hitting matchup with Paul Sewald on the mound for the New York Mets and Johnny Sewald in the batter’s box for the Astros might look like.

“I know it would be pretty hard for me to keep a straight face. It would be pretty funny to face your younger brother in a major league baseball game. I haven’t faced him in years. There would be a lot of pressure on both of us for bragging rights because I’m sure into the future that matchup would come up lots. I’d like to say I would get him out. Maybe he could hit a hard line drive ball caught in the outfield so it could be a 50/50 proposition.”

On the pitching hill, Paul Sewald has been nothing short of fantastic working his way through the Mets minor league system. Out of SD University, Sewald pitched in Brooklyn for the Cyclones in his first professional season. According to Sewald there is not better baseball setting for a young prospect to begin his professional baseball career than Brooklyn’s MCU Park.

“It was pretty incredible the environment at MCU Park with all those Met fans coming out to every game. 8,000 fans consistently packed the Stadium making it exciting to come to the park every day.”

Sewald worked in 16 NY Penn League games that summer of 2012 pitching 28.2 innings with a 1.88 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP while striking out 35 and walking only 2. That’s a pretty impressive professional start, yet, amazingly, Sewald’s results have improved each year as he’s advanced up the Mets minor league ladder.

As part of Savannah’s 2013 South Atlantic League championship squad, Sewald pitched 56 inning out of the bullpen with a 1.77 ERA and the exact same 0.98 WHIP. Once again, Sewald used impeccable pitch location and control as a foundation of his pitching success fanning 67 batters while walking only 7.

That pattern of pinpoint control has held over each of Sewald’s four professional seasons. In 36 games so far in Binghamton this season, Sewald has a 3-0 record and has recorded 20 saves in 21 save opportunities with a 1.71 ERA and a minuscule 0.88 ERA. Sewald has only allowed 7 free passes while striking out 44 Double-A batters in Binghamton.

Sewald was emphatic during the interview that throwing strikes is the most important part of pitching.

“If you walk a batter, you have a zero percent chance of getting them out. You’ve handed a hitter a free opportunity to get on base,” Sewald replied with passion.

“If you watch batting practice, they throw the ball right down the middle at 72 miles per hour every single time and the batter knows what’s coming and they know where it is coming and they still hit the ball for outs. So, why wouldn’t I throw the ball in the strike zone and make a hitter prove that he can get a hit?”

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“The best hitters in baseball make outs 7 out of 10 times. Those are pretty good odds if I’m on the mound. I want to make them prove they can get a hit. I don’t know if you’ve stood in the batter’s box and tried to hit a 90 mph fastball. It’s not easy, so why wouldn’t I try to throw the ball over the plate and get outs?”

Sewald talked about the importance of control and location to pitching success. He gets a little more specific when passing along advice for youngsters wanting to learn to pitch.

“Obviously there is a little bit of difference if you throw the ball down the middle or throw it to the corners of the plate. But, if you first learn to throw it down the middle you can begin to expand a little bit and start to throw quality pitches.”

“But, for me, it’s simply throw strikes and make a hitter prove that they can hit me. For the most part, guys don’t hit a lot of doubles and home runs very often, so if you don’t walk anyone, it takes 3 singles in an inning to bring in a run.”

I told Sewald I had read where his manager in Brooklyn called him a tiger on the mound and Danny Muno emailed a friend saying they had a kid who was an animal on the mound the first time he watched Sewald pitch. I wanted Paul to respond on the importance of a mental approach for a professional baseball pitcher.

“I pride myself on that,” Sewald said. “You have to feel like – ‘I’m the best pitcher in the world’ – or how can you be. I try to go out there with a frame of mind that nobody can hit me. You’ve seem guys who go out there on the mound and they look like they’ve defeated you already by just being there. Well, maybe if I pretend to look more intimidating than I actually am, I may gain a slight advantage over hitters.”

We discussed the fact that two pitching styles dominate the mechanics pitchers use on the hill, the more old fashioned ‘drop and drive’ style of yesteryear and the more prevalent ‘tall and fall’ style of the modern age.

I told Sewald that I had watched him pitch many times in Binghamton and his style appears solidly in the ‘drop and drive’ camp. In fact, I told him his delivery made me think of Tom Seaver every time I saw him pitch, staying low and thrusting his body forward toward the plate from that low position.

Sewald had never seen film of Seaver pitch. But, when someone from college who had watched him told him that his pitching style reminded him of Seaver, he decided to find some film and check it out.

“Don’t get me wrong, i don’t throw 97 miles per hour like Seaver. But, watching the film of Seaver I can understand how people might think my delivery is like the drop and drive style that a lot of guys from that era used. I use it to my advantage. It’s very deceptive. I step across my body, and have a low three-quarter arm angle. It can be very difficult for hitters to pick up the ball. I don’t throw 94-95 mph. I throw in the low 90’s. I have to throw the ball at the knees and in and out to the edges of the plate.”

Sewald started the season as Pedro Lopez’s eighth inning bridge to closer Jon Velasquez. When Velasquez got the call to Las Vegas, Sewald took over the closer duties. Later, Sewald was chosen to pitch for the USA national team in the Pan Am games that lasted for nearly a month.

When Sewald finished his time in Toronto and returned to Binghamton, Lopez handed him the ball again in the ninth inning. I wondered if Sewald saw those roles differently.

“I try not to view them as different. Throughout my professional career I have pitched anything from the 6th to the 9th and I try to treat each situation in a similar way. The most important thing is to make sure no runs get on the board. If it’s the ninth inning and i’m pitching for a save or its the sixth inning and I’m pitching for a single out, my focus is getting the next guy out.”

“As a relief pitcher your job is to come in, throw strikes, get quick outs and make sure no runs cross. So, I try not to think about if it’s a closer’s spot versus the set-up guy. I try to make the best pitch I can to every single hitter and try to get quick outs so I’m ready to go the next day, if they need me. For me, no matter what the situation, it’s about making the best pitch, getting the quick out, and if that’s at the end of the game when I’m done, then that’s the end of the game.”

Sewald uses both a four and two seam fastball that he likes to throw to both sides of the plate. He considers his slider as his best pitch.

“I’ve gotten good enough where I can maneuver it into something that looks like a curve and something that looks more like a cutter. I use that against both lefties and righties. The change is a work in progress because sometimes its great and sometimes its terrible. It’s inconsistent. That’s something I need to work on to be a successful major league pitcher some day.”

My favorite part of the interview came at the end. I had just completed reading a book from the Clair Bee Chip Hilton sports fiction series, a gift someone had given me a few years back that I never got around to reading. Chip Hilton first appears in the book working as a relief pitcher out of the bullpen. I would read Sewald a short piece from the book and ask him to respond. Here’s an example:

My Question: Early in the book Clair Bee is describing Chip Hilton as a pitcher. Here’s what he said. “The tall, blond freshman had blinding speed, a wicked screwball, a good curve, and unusual control of a deceptive knuckleball. More importantly he had poise, confidence and self-control. Explain the role poise, confidence and self-control play in important pitching results.

Paul’s response: “They’re huge. You have to have good mound presence. Any coach I’ve ever had told me you have to work on your mound presence. Obviously, when you’re a kid you’re not as good about it – having a bad attitude, pouting, that sort of thing. But, I feel that I’ve learned to go out there with a poker face. You can’t tell whether I’m doing well or I’m doing poorly. I try to keep and even keel attitude and show self-control no matter how things are going.”

“Then I try to look confident, and I do feel confident. I feel great when I go out there. I know I’m going to dominate because I feel like the best pitcher in the world every time I go out there. I use my poise to give off a sense that I know I’m better than a hitter. And, I try to walk around and use that confidence to my advantage.”

Over four minor league season’s Paul Sewald has thrown 183 innings, all out of the bullpen in the Mets minor league system. His combined ERA is an impressive 1.82 with a 0.981 WHIP. Opposing batters have hit only .219 against Sewald over his career. The future Met reliever has struck out 215 batters while walking only 35.

Paul Sewald is a great interview, bright and articulate, a kid who brings a well defined pitching concept and approach to the mound. Poised and confident, Sewald has met every challenge presented in the Mets minor league system so far. He is eagerly looking ahead for a chance to pitch for the 51’s in front of his girl friend, family, friends and his home town Las Vegas fans. But, first comes the business of defending the Eastern League championship in Binghamton.

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MMO Exclusive: Sandy Discusses Team Chemistry, Conforto, Plawecki (Part 3) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/mmo-exclusive-sandy-discusses-chemistry-intangibles-conforto-plawecki-part-3.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/mmo-exclusive-sandy-discusses-chemistry-intangibles-conforto-plawecki-part-3.html/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 17:14:44 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=190381 sandy-alderson

Here is the final part of my exclusive interview on Friday morning with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson who was a guest on my Tip-Off Show. You can read Part One of Sandy’s interview by clicking here and Part Two here.

Huge thanks to Mets media relations vice president Jay Horwitz for putting this together and Joe D. who laboriously did all the transcribing so that this could be presented to you.

John: How important are the intangibles that a player possesses, including resilience, makeup or character in the decisions you make when you’re evaluating a player that your interested in acquiring?

Sandy: I think those things are vitally important. You know we have so much emphasis on the game today being placed on analytics and numbers. But those numbers are more easily realized or exceeded if the culture in the clubhouse or the chemistry in the clubhouse and the relationship with players is constructive.

Sometimes the relationship isn’t always friendly or professional and it’s difficult to predict what will be the outcome when you’re putting together 25 different players. What we try to do is make an attempt to have the right blend.

In our case we have some great veteran leadership in our clubhouse, but we’ve also got a lot of young and highly motivated players as well. It’s very nice right now because we have leadership in many different places. We have leadership among our position players, leadership among our starting pitchers, and leadership in the bullpen. Hopefully that’s a formula for getting as much out of our players as we possibly can.

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John: Rookie outfielder Michael Conforto has moved through the Mets system in record speed, what makes him so special?

Sandy: It’s a couple of things. First of all, he’s a very polished and advanced hitter both from the standpoint of his mechanics as well as his approach. One of the reasons that we were comfortable with promoting him from Binghamton, despite having very little experience above Single-A and no experience in Triple-A, was knowing that he had that solid approach from his amateur days and that it would serve him well and that he would be fine.

Conforto is a very mature player that fits in very well with any group, and he’s been taken under the wing of many of his peers at the major-league level who really like him. He’s done an excellent job for us… he’s not hitting .400 but he’s had some big hits for us, and some great at-bats, and that’s really our point of emphasis right now with him.

John: How about Dominic Smith? He was the FSL player of the month in June and he’s another number one draft pick, can you share some insights on him?

Sandy: Dom’s a left-handed hitting first baseman, and a pretty good defensive player. He’s also a very patient and selective player who is always looking for good pitches to hit.

The knock on Dom is that he doesn’t hit for much power, but he’s in the Florida State League which is a very tough hitter’s league. I think he’s third or fourth in OPS. So while he may only have four or five homeruns, he has lots of doubles and is proving to be a solid run producer. He’s having a very solid year hitting a little above .300 and his slugging percentage is excellent.

As I said he’s an exceptional defensive first baseman and a run producer who is still young, and I believe that Mets fans are going to like what they see from Dominic Smith when he eventually comes up.

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John: You recently demoted Kevin Plawecki and promoted Anthony Recker to the major-league squad. The injury to Travis d’Arnaud allowed you to get an extended look at Plawecki. Can you tell us what you saw and what he needs to do to continue his development as a major league catcher?

Sandy: He did an excellent job for us defensively when we lost Travis. He stepped right in and did the lion’s share of the catching and was excellent. It’s not just our pitchers that create the great pitching environment that we have, it’s also the catchers and he did an outstanding job in that regard.

The reason that we sent him to Las Vegas was just to get him more at-bats, because with Travis coming back he was going to be sitting on the bench most of the time. We felt it was important that he go back to Vegas and get some at-bats on a routine basis. We hope to see him again sometime around September 1.

If you look at Kevin’s history, he has the kind of approach at the plate that we like. But anytime you’re a young player when you come in at the major-league level for the first time – particularly when you have to play every day – it becomes kind of a sink or swim proposition.

It’s not always easy to just fall back on that foundational approach you have, as Michael Conforto has also shown so far. But we like how Kevin Plawecki has come along, we believe in him, and we will see him again very shortly.

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We hope you enjoyed this exclusive interview with GM Sandy Alderson, his fifth with the gang at MMO. We thank Sandy for his generosity, openness, and allowing us to pick his brain and being very cordial and sincere about it.

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MMO Exclusive: Sandy Discusses Cespedes and Tigers Unwillingness To Budge (Part 2) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/exclusive-sandy-discusses-cespedes-and-tigers-unwillingness-to-budge-part-2.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/exclusive-sandy-discusses-cespedes-and-tigers-unwillingness-to-budge-part-2.html/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 17:01:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=190354 Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta visited MCU Park Wednesday night, likely to check out first-round pick Michael Conforto. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Here is the second part of my interview this morning with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on me weekly Tip-Off Show. You can read part one of Sandy’s interview by clicking here.

John: I’m a gigantic Michael Fulmer fan, I’ve watched him pitch six times this season. I have to ask you, please tell me just how difficult it is to trade a guy like that? It seems to me like you were holding off until the last possible second of the trade deadline before you actually pulled the trigger on that deal.

Sandy: It’s very true, we spent the whole day Friday trying to keep Michael Fulmer out of the deal. Then we looked at the clock and we only had 15 minutes left until the deadline and we realized that the Tigers were not going to budge. We even offered them more players just so we could hang on to him.

But at the end of the day, they just sat firm the whole time and they basically got exactly what they wanted. In retrospect we’re very happy that we did it, and we know Michael is going to be an outstanding pitcher.

John: Sounds like both teams got what they wanted. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Yoenis Cespedes.

Sandy: We’ve been very fortunate that he’s been able to play some centerfield for us. Originally one of the reasons we went after Carlos Gomez was because he could play centerfield and give us some flexibility at the corners.

But Cespedes has allowed us to do the same thing. Plus I think Juan Lagares has responded positively in what’s now a part-time role. He has been able to focus and work on some things without worrying about his results on a day to day basis. It looks like some of those things he’s applied immediately and it has already paid some dividends. So having Cespedes available to play centerfield has been a real plus for us.

John: You have received a lot of high praise and acclaim for how you were able to retool and replenish the Mets farm system. Because of that, you were able to make those pre-trade deadline deals that seemed to have made a real impact on the major-league roster. What kind of organizational emphasis and initiatives are involved in shaping our minor-league system?

Sandy: Every organization says that they’re going to build their team through their minor-league system, but it really comes down to execution. You start by retaining all of your draft picks, and this year we knew this season was going to be different for us when we gave up a draft pick to sign Michael Cuddyer. That’s something that I don’t foresee us doing again in the future. I think that was the first indicator that we expected this season to be a little bit different.

Retaining your full capacity of drafted players as well as signing them from the international market is just part of it as having a top development team is also a big part of that. Eventually you have to turn that highly regarded talent into professional baseball players.

I’m a big believer in organization and having a systematic approach to things. You know Paul DePodesta and Dick Scott run our minor-league system and they’ve done such a tremendous job of keeping things well-organized from a training standpoint as well as from a performance standpoint.

We have organizational philosophies on hitting and pitching and we try to be consistent in applying those philosophies throughout the system.

The goal of our player development system is to improve the players, but it’s always critical as well to get good talent into our system. We focused on being systematic and well-organized and having coaches who can teach as well as just running games. Those things have been very important.

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Stay tuned for our final installment of our three-part exclusive interview with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, which we will post very shortly.

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MMO Exclusive: Sandy Talks Leadup To Trade Deadline and Impact On Team (Part 1) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/exclusive-sandy-talks-leadup-to-trade-deadline-and-impact-on-team-part-1.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/exclusive-sandy-talks-leadup-to-trade-deadline-and-impact-on-team-part-1.html/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 17:00:39 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=190331 1439556199758

I was fortunate enough to have another exclusive interview with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson again on Friday morning during my weekly Tip-Off show.

With the New York Mets in first place atop the NL East and opening up a 4.5 game lead over the Washington Nationals, fans are salivating at the thought of postseason baseball for the first time since 2006.

After a torrid start to the season in April that included a season-high 11 game winning streak, the Mets quickly stagnated to a .500 level team as the offense averaged just 3.2 runs per game from May through July.

However all that changed after Sandy Alderson made a series of bold moves highlighted by the trade for All Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Since that day the Mets are 10-2, but more importantly they have scored more runs than any team in the majors and averaging 5.6 runs per game.

Here is what the architect of the 2015 Mets had to say on a number of topics, most of which focused on player development and building a strong system that would produce a pipeline of top talent to the big league roster.

John: At the trade deadline you decided to go big and make several moves to bolster the New York Mets roster for the home stretch of what’s turning out to be an incredibly exciting pennant race. Those moves have been symbolic and strategic and have really charged up the players and the fans alike. Explain for us how all of that happened.

Sandy: You’re right, John. I think those moves were both symbolic and strategic. I think at that point of the season we acknowledged that we had some great pitching, that we were in a race, and that we clearly had some deficiencies and parts of our roster that we needed to improve. You can’t do that without having access to players outside of the organization, especially when you approach the trade deadline.

We acquired Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe a week or so before the deadline and that was really intended to upgrade the overall offense and give Terry Collins some more options and a little more depth on the bench.

We felt it was very important to add some veteran experience and both those players have been very good and have made an immediate impact. And a nice thing especially is that Kelly Johnson can play so many different positions and Juan Uribe has always been a very clutch player and is terrific in the clubhouse. We’ve seen that in the last few games.

We also felt we needed to improve the bullpen, especially with the loss of Jenrry Mejia. We thought we needed to provide some additional experience for the bullpen and we added Tyler Clippard who has been an excellent setup man. We knew that he could play in this environment and that he could exceed in that role as he did when he was with the Washington Nationals. Interestingly, he’s the only bullpen arm we have with any playoff experience, and I think that Bartolo Colon is the only other pitcher we have who’s been in the postseason. We felt that that was also important.

It’s still left us with a need to provide the team with some quality offense. We spent a lot of time for the three days leading up to the trade deadline and exploring many different possibilities. Everybody is now aware of the ill-fated Carlos Gomez trade, but we are very happy that we ended up with Cespedes and that Wilmer Flores is still with us. So all in all everything worked out pretty well.

So far all of those guys have really done well, and they’ve been a big boost for us. It also freed the rest of the roster to do what they do. Rather than having only three or four guys who we could count on to produce in the lineup we now have tremendous depth and solid options up and down the lineup.

We shouldn’t overlook the fact that we also called up Michael Conforto as well and traded for Eric O’Flaherty to give us another left-handed reliever. We’ve made a lot of different and significant roster changes over the last couple of weeks that we are very pleased with.

John: And the energy level surrounding this team has just been so astounding since those moves. The dramatic change and positive energy, not just with the players and the team but also the fans and the city, has been so incredible to see. People all over the town are now wearing Mets stuff and talking about Mets stuff it’s pretty amazing.

Sandy: That’s been very exciting and rewarding. We had a rough 4-5 days there where we lost a pitcher to a full year suspension, and then we had that Gomez thing which was very public and negative. Then we lost a very tough game on the Thursday following that aborted trade, so by the time we got to the trade deadline, things had gotten a little exhausting. So you make the trades hoping that things will improve but you never really know.

At the point we made the Cespedes trade we were three games out for the division lead and even more than that for the wild-card spot. But you do what you have to do and hope that things will improve and luckily they have. It ended up costing us some young players that we liked and one of them has been pitching very well and was very prominent in Michael Fulmer. But sometimes you have to do what you gotta do.

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Read Part Two of this interview where Sandy discusses Cespedes, development and organizational philosophies.

Stay tuned for part three of this exclusive interview on Saturday.

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Lefty Reliever Josh Smoker Working His Way To Citi Field http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/lefty-reliever-josh-smoker-working-his-way-to-citi-field.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/08/lefty-reliever-josh-smoker-working-his-way-to-citi-field.html/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 15:36:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=189698 josh smoker

In 11 appearances for Double-A Binghamton, Josh Smoker has made a positive impression on B-Mets baseball fans. Smoker, has struck out 16 batters and walked just three in 12.0 innings while posting a brilliant 1.50 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

The fireballing left-hander pitched another scoreless inning of relief last night as Binghamton defeated Bowie 9-2.

Smoker, 26, pitched for both Savannah and St. Lucie this spring dominating Florida Coast League batters with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.844 WHIP in 14 relief appearances. He struck out 26 FCL batters in 21 innings of work.

So, what’s the story with Josh Smoker? He has experienced the thrills and downturns that baseball can present to even the most promising prospects.

Signed out of high school from Calhoun, Georgia, as a supplemental first round pick, Smoker entered professional baseball with a left arm destined to see him reach the major leagues.

However, two arm injuries later, Smoker was reeling when the Nationals gave up on him. With no professional baseball affiliation his baseball career was on hold.

But he loved the game and was not willing to abandon his chances to play until he had exhausted every opportunity to make a return to the game. Smoker swallowed his pride and attended showcase events targeting high school aged pitching prospects, and last season signed to play baseball for the Rockford Aviators of the Independent Frontier League.

It was that experience that proved to be a turning point for Smoker. During his stay in Rockford, he was able to tuck away all the disappointments, all the pressure, and rediscover the fun that comes with just playing baseball.

“The guys on the team at Rockford were hands on the best group of guys I ever played with, no egos, no cliques. Baseball became a game again,” Smoker told a reporter from Jupiter, Florida.

Smoker’s time pitching for Rockford was a turning point of sorts, in particular his work with Aviator manager James Frisbee. The B-Met pitcher credits Frisbee for helping to save his career, crediting him with keeping baseball fun and helping to reshape his mindset about his place in the game.

As for Frisbee, he couldn’t be more thrilled that Smoker used Rockford and the Frontier League to restart his baseball career. “Josh worked really hard to not only get back his health but his confidence as well, and I’m happy he’s getting the chance to get back into affiliated ball.”

The Frontier League is a pipeline of sorts for long shot baseball opportunity as Frisbee noted that 50 players who played in the Frontier League in 2014 were signed on professional baseball rosters alone one year later, including 6 from his Aviators.

“I feel as an organization, we are doing what’s right for our kids. My number one priority is to get these guys to the next level and hopefully someday to the Majors,” Frisbee explained.

At first glance, Smoker’s build and power fastball remind you a lot of Josh Edgin. Smoker relies heavily on a four-seamer, a pitch I saw clocked as high as 99 mph in the three times I have seen him work. He includes a few off-speed pitches in his tool kit but their effectiveness is connected with his ability to command his hammer. So far in Binghamton, Smoker has harnessed the power of his number one pitch.

The Josh Smoker story is a great story, and an unfinished story at that. And based on the buzz we’re hearing at Binghamton, and after zooming through three levels this season, don’t be shocked when you see him pitching on a mound in Citi Field sooner rather than later.

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