Mets Merized Online » John Bernhardt http://metsmerizedonline.com Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:11:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 What Does A Mets “Core Four” Look Like? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/what-does-a-mets-core-four-look-like.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/what-does-a-mets-core-four-look-like.html/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:05:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161512 wright harvey

It’s a fascinating query, a paradox of sorts, a question with no easy answer.  That fact speaks more to the New York Mets lingering status in baseball Nowhere Land than anything else.  No matter, identifying four core or foundational players of the New York Mets can be a real baseball brain teaser.

The concept of the ‘core four’ evolved from our pinstripe rivals across town when four homegrown prospects; Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, became the foundational pieces of sustained baseball excellence in the Bronx.  The Yankee core provided the Bombers a talented baseball foundation, a core of hungry consistent, relentless baseball exemplars Yankee management could build around to keep the Yankee machine running in high gear for much of two decades.

Building comparisons to the Yankee ‘core four’ is an impossibility.  Few could have predicted the success of these four Yankee prospects when they were signed.  Only Jeter was highly rated and considered a can’t miss pick.  The other three were signed in the 22nd and 24th rounds and as a free agent of the amateur draft.  Their legend as the indefatigable core of the Yankee success, as the unmovable granite on the pinstripe roster evolved over time.  That’s not a scenario that meshes well with the current standing of our New York Mets.

Stop the procrastinating and select four players Met management could use as the centerpiece of even  a short run of baseball success in Flushing.  Okay, here goes.

  1.  Matt Harvey  – In some ways selecting Matt Harvey is a no brainer, yet in some ways picking Harvey is a leap of blind faith.  After his arm surgery last summer, no one can really be sure what the Mets will have in Matt Harvey when he returns to the mound next spring.  What we know for certain is that Matt Harvey is a unique baseball talent, a rare combination of intelligence, bravado, authenticity, chutzpah, and baseball skill that can transform the culture of a baseball franchise.  The 2013 Mets that took the field when Matt Harvey pitched were a different animal than the squad that played working through the other four days of the starting rotation.  Harvey is the type of guy who simply won’t accept losing, the iron willed like persona needed in a baseball core.  Until he proves otherwise, Matt Harvey is the only non-negotiable member of my Met core four.
  2. David Wright – As it stands, David Wright is the cornerstone of the New York Met franchise, destined to become the greatest player to ever wear the New York Met orange and blue.  David Wright bleeds Mets blue.  He grew up near Norfolk Virginia watching and rooting for the Tides, the Mets Triple-A franchise located in Wright’s home town.  Wright is proud to wear a Met uniform and willing to personally sacrifice for the chance to play for Met fans in Citi Field.  Fred Wilpon once called David Wright a really good kid, a very good player, but not a superstar.  Based on NY Met standards, David Wright is a superstar, the pick of the litter, a border line Hall of Famer.  Wright, a career .300 hitter, is the all-time Met leader in a host of offensive categories which will soon include home runs.  It’s a shame, the Mets fell into franchise disarray during peak years on David Wright’s baseball arc.  But, loyal to a fault, David Wright always remains on script for the NY Mets, a solid baseball fixture for some time to come in Flushing and reliable source as one of the four core to build a baseball franchise around.

Naming a ‘core two‘ was not that difficult.  From here the chore becomes almost ominous.  What players on an underperforming baseball team or unproven but highly regarded prospects in a vastly improved player development system could be included in a core four?

A rabid Binghamton Met baseball fanatic, I have watched almost all of the most promising Met prospects for extended stays playing Double-A ball in Binghamton.  My interest in minor league baseball has taught me predicting the success of developing baseball players is an inexact science at best.  Had I evaluated Matt Harvey’s value purely based on his minor league performance in Binghamton it would be preposterous to include him as part of a ‘core four‘ baseball gang in Flushing.  For those reasons, the final two players of my ‘core four‘ would need to come from the players currently on the Met roster.

  1. Curtis Granderson – At face value, judging only by baseball statistics, Curtis Granderson is an unlikely candidate to be included in a New York Met ‘core four.‘  But the bigger the sample size of Curtis Granderson baseball in Flushing, the more Met fans are coming to appreciate his baseball contributions.  Intelligent and adaptable, after a horrid debut in Flushing, Granderson  is proving once again he can mold his hitting approach to fit the venue where he plays and the batting demands for who he plays for.  With the Yankees, Granderson’s contact swing disappeared replaced by a pull hitting approach to take advantage of the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.  When that approach was a dismal April failure at Citi Field, Granderson went about the hard work of adapting once again and the results have been satisfying.  Granderson adds a desperately needed home run threat to the Mets line-up.  His production at the top of the Met line-up helps fill a huge void in the lead-off spot.  Equally important, Granderson has a great clubhouse presence and is a badly needed positive voice for the Mets.  Granderson gives the Mets a bonafide outfield major league presence in the everyday line-up.
  2. Juan Lagares, Travis d’Arnaud or Jeurys Familia?  Who do I choose.  Lagares gives the Mets a defensive outfield presence that is difficult to replace.  d’Arnaud provides heaps of untapped promise, a polished defensive catcher with a huge offensive upside.  And, with his nasty stuff and near triple digit fastball, Familia could be the sleeper in the group, the right-handed relief arm that someday could evolve to become a prized stopper in the Met bullpen.

I’l give the nod to Lagares.  With the Mets poised to stage a pitching first reinvention, defense becomes more important than ever and Lagares brings an elite glove to center field for the Mets.  Lagares’ defensive play is rare and special.  Baseball Reference labeled his 2013 defensive play in center field as the ninth best defensive performance by a baseball center fielder of all time.  Although the Mets were slow to appreciate the value of just what that means, defensive play at that level is almost irreplaceable.  And, Lagares shows signs of developing into an average to above average stick at the plate.  That’s the kind of performance a baseball team can build around.

Harvey, Wright, Granderson, Lagares, my Met ‘core four,‘ a tough call indeed. If you were asked to determine four players in the Met organization, not more, not less, to become a core to build anchor future Met baseball success, who would you choose?

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Lucas Duda: The Mets Most Pleasant Surprise in 2014 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/lucas-duda-the-mets-most-pleasant-surprise-in-2014.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/lucas-duda-the-mets-most-pleasant-surprise-in-2014.html/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:36:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161428 Nobody wanted Ike Davis patrolling the first base bag at Citi Field this year more than me. In several posts over the off-season I outlined my arguments why I believed that if the Mets chose to go within the organization at first base it made baseball sense that Davis was their man.

lucas duda home runRecent history with losing Beltran and Reyes and Dickey readied me to lose Ike as well. Making the sting more painful was the fact that I had watched Lucas Duda over long stints in Binghamton and I just didn’t believe he had the baseball skills or the internal compass to fill the first base void.

Based on the first half results of 2014, it’s looking more and more like I’m due a healthy serving of ‘crow.’

There can be no argument Lucas Duda for the Mets has outplayed Ike Davis for the Pirates. And, although Davis seems stuck in first gear in Pittsburgh, Duda seems to be growing in confidence in his unchallenged role as the Met first baseman. From what I understand, crow is a foul tasting bird. It always makes one queasy admitting that strong felt beliefs just may have been wrong, but my serving of crow will only leave a tinge of aftertaste should Duda continue his solid play at first base for the Mets.

After initially, starting very slowly at the plate, Duda has recently settled in. The Met first baseman is tied with Curtis Granderson for the most home runs on the team with 14, leads the team with 49 runs batted in, leads the regular position players with a .356 on-base-percentage and has the highest slugging percentage among all of the Met regulars.

Going into this series against the Mariners, Duda has reached base safely in 20 of his last 22 games, hitting .307 (23-75) during that span with a .409 on-base percentage. He has been very adept at driving in runs this season, and is seventh in the NL with an RBI every 5.9 at-bats.

In addition Duda has been surprisingly nimble around the first base bag.

That produces an output that was totally unexpected by me, thus my ‘crow dinner’ and Lucas Duda’s designation as the New York Mets most pleasant surprise in the first half of the 2014 baseball season.

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The Braves Retool Blueprint http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/the-braves-retool-blueprint.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/the-braves-retool-blueprint.html/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 17:02:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160887 atlanta-braves-1995

Of Mikes and Men, the autobiography of Atlanta Braves long time and beloved broadcaster Pete Van Wieren is a fascinating read. Van Wieren grew up in upstate New York and cut his teeth as a baseball broadcaster in Binghamton covering the play-by-play for the Triplets. In fact, a few summers back I sat in the stands at NYSEG Stadium as Pete Van Wieren was inducted into Binghamton’s Baseball Shrine. Like every baseball broadcaster who works for the same franchise for several decades, Pete Van Wieren is a baseball historian, a curator of the Atlanta Braves baseball past.

Of course any tome addressing the history of the Atlanta Braves is historically interwoven with our New York Mets. As I dove deeper and deeper into Van Wieren’s work, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the early Braves and the current status of our Mets.

The Braves have been positioned as a National League power for so long, it’s easy to forget that at one time they were an abysmal baseball mess. In Van Wieren’s first 15 seasons manning the mike in Atlanta the Braves had just three winning campaigns and finished in last place eight different times.

Things began to change for the Braves when they rehired former manager Bobby Cox to be their General Manager. Cox had skippered the American League’s Toronto Blue Jays to a 99 win 1985 season before rejoining the Braves. And, Cox was blunt about the retooling task that faced him in Atlanta telling everyone who would listen it would take five years to reshape the Braves organization. As Van Wieren emphasizes, Cox was right.

And, ironically during those 5 building years, Cox was unable to field a quality Braves baseball product on the field at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. What he did do was build a foundation that would help shoulder 14 consecutive division winning baseball seasons, seasons he would enjoy from the Braves dugout after he was moved down from the front office to take the reins of the Atlanta team as manager.

Bobby-CoxIn some ways, Cox’s strategy closely resembles the Sandy Alderson game plan put into place in Flushing to retool the Mets. Cox understood if the Braves were to become successful they needed to overhaul their player development system to establish a pipeline to bring quality young baseball talent through the Atlanta farm system to the major leagues. Sound familiar?

According to Van Wieren, Cox immediately added minor league affiliates and hired more minor league coaches and baseball instructors. The size of the Atlanta scouting team grew proportionately and trades were made with an eye on the future with Cox moving established major league pieces on the Braves roster for talent he believed would be part of a brighter Atlanta baseball future.

Of course, the most significant of those moves came when Cox sent an aging, 36-year old Doyle Alexander to help the Tigers chase a pennant for low level minor league prospect John Smoltz. Lesser productive trades during that 5 year retool brought guys like Lonnie Smith, Francisco Cabrera and Charlie Leibrandt, all players who would factor into the early Brave renaissance when things shifted in a positive direction in the early 1990’s.

In some ways, I saw a lot of Sandy Alderson in Van Wieren’s description of Bobby Cox’s years as the Braves GM, the building block years of Atlanta’s baseball reawakening. Yet, it wasn’t until Cox moved back to the dugout and Atlanta brought John Schuerholz from Kansas City as the team’s new GM that the Braves employed the daring and risk taking to fit all the pieces together into a championship baseball product.

Schuerholz was wildly busy in his first off-season as the Braves GM. The new Braves boss understood much of the heavy lifting had been done by Cox and the Braves farm system was packed full of promising home grown talent. He also understood, it was imperative to use some of that talent to leverage trades as well as to be active in the free agent market to bring in vital pieces to anchor a Braves championship run. Significant Schuerholz moves brought Terry Pendleton from St. Louis and Sid Bream and Rafael Belliard from Pittsburgh.

Appreciating the value speed adds to a roster, Schuerholz also signed Deion Sanders and moved two minor leaguers to Montreal to pick up Otis Nixon. The new GM found Juan Berenguer, ‘Senior Smoke,’ who saved 17 games out of the pen for the championship 91 Braves.

Pendleton would become the National League’s MVP in Schuerholz’s maiden season as the Braves GM. Nixon would set a club record with 72 stolen bases. More importantly, the Braves would finish first in the NL’s Eastern Division beginning an incredible 14-year run. And, attendance at Fulton County Stadium exploded growing from 980,129 in 1990 to 2,140, 217 in 1991 then surging to just under 4 million the following summer.

Bringing winning baseball to Atlanta and bringing the fans to the Stadium locked in a revenue line that allowed Schuerholz the flexibility to strategically wheel and deal to keep the post season train in motion. Never complacent, Schuerholz signed ’92 Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux before the 1993 season. Maddux would go on to win the Cy Young award in each of his first three seasons in Atlanta.

Even with Maddux leading a star studded pitching staff, Schuerholz feared the Braves roster might not have enough to repeat in ’93. On July 18 with the Braves at 54-41 but still 8 games behind San Francisco (63-32), Schuerholz pulled the trigger on a pennant shaping move, sending three minor leaguers to the Padres for ‘The Crime Dog,’ Fred McGriff. With McGriff pounding 19 HR’s, knocking home 55 runs and with a slash line of .310/.392/.612, the Braves caught the Giants and moved to the post season once again. Of course, that pattern of strategic decision making was repeated over and over again much to the distress of all New York Met fans.

But, it’s exactly that daring, insightful and bold decision making that, so far, is missing from the Met rebuilding blueprint. Like Bobby Cox, Sandy Alderson has laid a solid minor league foundation, a pipeline to add important roster pieces in Citi Field for some time to go. But, like John Schuerholz, will Sandy take the next step; bold and brass free agent signings sprinkled with the strategic trades that see the Mets rise to the next level, post season baseball play? We’ll see.

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Great First Impressions on Brandon Nimmo http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/great-first-impressions-on-brandon-nimmo.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/great-first-impressions-on-brandon-nimmo.html/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 16:08:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160172 brandon-nimmo-2

He’s one of the most talked about Met prospects, a subject of heated debate ever since he was selected with the Mets’ top pick in 2011. After getting my first extended live look at Brandon Nimmo during Saturday’s doubleheader at Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium, I think most Met fans are going to be impressed and pulling hard for our top outfield prospect.

At the center of the storm is a baseball neophyte.  After chatting with the guys sitting in front of me and telling them a little about Nimmo when he moved to the on-deck circle as he prepared to hit, one turned and said, “Wow, he really does look young doesn’t he?” as Nimmo approached the plate. Yes, Nimmo looks young and exudes an excitement and passion for baseball.

Watching Brandon Nimmo com to bat, dispels any argument about the fact that he is developing a plate discipline beyond his 21 years of age. Nimmo knows the strike zone. In seven plate appearances on Saturday, Nimmo worked three base-on-balls. Nimmo worked a ten pitch walk in his first at bat of the double header.  Even his strikeout in his last at bat of the opener forced Erie’s Tommy Collier to use 9 pitches.  Nimmo fouled off 9 of the 19 pitches he saw in those two at bats.

That profile is consistent with Nimmo’s St. Lucie Met stats this spring before his elevation to Binghamton and a huge part of his impressive on-base-percentage at the high-A level.  In 279 plate appearances in Florida, Nimmo worked 50 base-on-balls, one less than his strikeout total helping him build a .448 OBP.  That same command of the strike zone is taking shape in Binghamton where Nimmo has already walked a dozen times in 66 plate appearances.

And, Nimmo hustles. Nimmo doesn’t jog to first base after working a base-on-balls. He sprints. I’d always read Nimmo lacked speed. You would have fooled me making that claim watching the kid yesterday. After walking to open the second game of the double header, Nimmo stole second base easily on the next pitch then later raced home to score the B-Mets first run of the day when Brian Burgamy singled.  A second walk to lead off the third turned into Binghamton’s second run with Nimmo scoring when Dustin Lawley singled to left.  Later in the second game, Nimmo would pull a 76 mph curveball to right field for a single.

Nimmo’s all out hustle provided some anxious moments in the late innings of the nightcap.  Playing left field NImmo was off in full speed pursuit of a foul ball that floated near the stands on his side of the field.  Barely breaking stride, Nimmo smashed into the tarp stored along the outfield fence, the contact bringing gasps from the Binghamton crowd.  The young outfielder returned to his position apparently unmarred from tangling with the tarp.

Above all else Nimmo brings a refreshing enthusiasm to the baseball diamond.  He approaches the batters box with a big smile on his face, sometimes exchanging pleasantries with the umpire.  Nimmo runs all out on the bases and plays the game with a bounce in his step.

Brandon Nimmo didn’t do anything spectacular at NYSEG Stadium on Saturday.  He went a combined 1-for-4 at the plate, walked three times, stole a base, and scored two of the B-Mets 4 runs in the double header.  With that said, doing all the little things that help baseball teams win games, Brandon Nimmo was impressive.

And physically, Brandon Nimmo has a huge upside.  It’s pretty obvious Nimmo is far from filling out his tall, athletic frame.  There is a lot of growing and a lot of maturing still to come.

As it is with many youngsters tabbed with the label of baseball prospect, no one really knows what kind of major league baseball player Brandon Nimmo will be.  If Nimmo contines to approach the game like he showed me this weekend, I’m hoping when all the evidence is in the verdict will be a good one for Nimmo and New York Met fans.

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Sell, Sandy, Sell http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/sell-sandy-sell.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/sell-sandy-sell.html/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160271 The current standings for the Mets comes as no real surprise. I predicted on the air the Mets would win 78 games this season while losing 84, a modest improvement over recent years. In doing so, I also admitted I might be caught up in preseason hype because a serious analysis of the roster left me suspicious the 2014 Mets could be any better than the 2013 edition.

ColonYes, we added Bartolo Colon, a move I endorsed, but I was hard pressed to believe he could replace Matt Harvey’s outputs. Yes, we added Curtis Granderson, a move I heartily endorsed, although I couldn’t speak with confidence that coming off a season of injury he could replace the outputs of Marlon Byrd. And, yes, Travis d’Arnaud was our everyday catcher, another move that excited me, but I could only hope a young Travis would put up offensive numbers like those of a seasoned veteran. As for the rest of the position players, they were pretty much the same.

The one area of our roster where we have made significant improvements is the bullpen. But, at the time we made preseason predictions, our bullpen looked nothing like the pen waiting in the wings at Citi Field. In fact, one of my biggest frustrations in the early season was all the talk of the experience of Valverde and Farnsworth over the power arms and potential of Black, Familia, and Mejia. Rejoice, Met fans, at least we seem to have that part of the game moving in the right direction.

If the Mets are sincere about their rebuilding plan, we have to be sellers as the trade deadline approaches. That means wearing long-term lenses to consider any moves that might help our chances of fielding a competitive team in the future.

I understand, this is not what Met fans want to hear. And, playing the part as sellers, not buyers, or not holding pat, reinforces the perception that the Mets are locked into always being a ‘one year away from the turn around year’ team.

But, Met fans would like to hear it straight. If we have a plan, tell us clearly what it is. And, if that plan has to do with stockpiling young prospects who might be used to obtain future major league ready serviceable pieces, tell us so. Then don’t squander a chance to move personnel in a lost season to accelerate the timetable in executing that plan to provide a competitive major league baseball team.

Don’t patronize. Tell us what it is you are trying to do and then get busy doing it.

daniel murphyBeing a seller does not necessarily mean moving Daniel Murphy. Murphy is a proven major league hitter, one of the few position players who uses the dimensions of Citi Field as a hitting advantage, a steady, consistent threat at the plate. In addition, Murphy is homegrown, a guy who has done whatever the organization has asked playing at least four different positions as need dictated. Murphy is a guy with a work ethic who makes the most of his talent. Modern baseball reality is you will need to pay for the services of a player with Daniel Murphy’s profile.

If $8 or $9 million dollars is beyond the Mets financial capacity, and they think Wilmer Flores is ready to provide adequate major league play at second base thus freeing the budget to spend in other areas to build the team, tell us. Understand, we won’t like it. A New York City team in the NYC market has a fan base that believes we should be able to afford a second baseman in the Daniel Murphy price range. If that’s not the case, tell us. We’ll scream. We’ll shout. We’ll curse your name, but in the end we will appreciate the candor.

As sellers, moving Bartolo Colon and/or Bobby Abreu would be our most likely move. I loved the Colon signing for three reasons. First, I figured Colon would be a stabilizing fixture in the starting rotation in the beginning of the season. If somehow we were in the playoff picture in 2014 by mid season, a wily, veteran like Colon would be a huge asset. Finally, if by the all-star game we were out of contention, which is the case, Colon could prove to be an enticing option for pitching starved postseason contenders, allowing us to move him for pieces that might better fit into a long-term plan.

Understand, it is only a contending team that would take a flyer on Colon. At his age, Colon is not a player to build a future around. That means we could only receive a highly rated prospect or two in moving the veteran pitcher. Any talk of obtaining a major league ready position player for either Colon or Abreu is pure fantasy.

Looking forward I would take the prospects. This is the area where Sandy Alderson has worked the best in the past and I’m hopeful he moves aggressively once again. Although he has struggled in an up and down season, Zack Wheeler, a pitcher obtained in just such a previous move, is part of a longterm Met improvement plan. Vic Black and Dilson Herrera are also key clogs in the Mets’ efforts to move forward. Every Met fan understands the potential Black adds to our bullpen, and first impressions of Herrera at the Double-A level are very promising.

Yes, you’ll be ridiculed. Prospect Park, the AAAA Mets, and all the rest. Don’t pretend. Don’t placate. Buck up! Follow the plan. Go out and bring in some additional future talent.

Sadly, it does not look like Chris Young can be moved, although his name should certainly be on the table. We have already spent one-half of his salary. If you can bring in a future prospect worth a look, buck up, admit you made a misjudgment and agree to pay 70-80 percent of the remaining salary commitment and move Young to bring in some potential future talent. Once again, shout “I told you so” but appreciate the candor.

As a mid-season seller, the only possibility of bringing in a major league ready position player would come by dealing with another team far removed from the pennant chase, a team with a similar long range plan looking to move one of their few proven major league players on a poorly performing team for a prospect or two that might point to a better future. That is, a team like us.

The first half of the 2014 Met baseball season has been very difficult to take. More and more I find myself paying attention to the play in Las Vegas and Binghamton. Thank heavens I have the B-Mets.

I never believed the Mets were a contending team going into the season, so that’s not really the issue. It’s the pretending we’re something that we know we are not that drives me insane.

The time for a steely backbone is upon us. If there is a plan, this is no time to waver. Don’t pretend we are what we are not. It fools no one and erodes confidence and trust.

We are sellers, so sell. Opportunity awaits. Bring in some prospects that will increase the flexibility to make the low cost moves that a franchise of limited resources must make to someday become competitive.

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Matz Delivers Another Strong Performance http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/matz-delivers-another-strong-performance.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/matz-delivers-another-strong-performance.html/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:32:30 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160169 steve matz

Sometimes it’s not just the win or the loss that’s the best indicator of a starting pitcher’s effectiveness and overall pitching performance. That was the case Saturday in Binghamton where the Mets’ highly touted left-handed prospect Steven Matz dropped a 2-0 decision against the Erie Sea Wolves.

Matz pitched brilliantly for Binghamton, tossing a seven inning complete game, using 92 pitches, scattering four hits, striking out seven and walking none. The two runs he allowed were both unearned. Of the 21 outs Matz recorded in the game, 18 of them were confined to the infield.

Yet, it was watching Matz work out of trouble, trouble not of his own making, in the Erie fifth that spoke volumes about this young man’s pitching pedigree.  Erie first baseman Aaron Westlake  opened the fifth by grounding a single up the middle just beyond the reach of B-Met second baseman Rylan Sandoval.  Asked to bunt, Dixon Machado chopped the ball directly in front of the plate with Binghamton catcher Xorge Carrillo pouncing quickly. With a possible double play option in front of him, Carrillo fired high to second forcing B-Met shortstop T.J. Rivera to leap high in the air to bring down the ball allowing Westbrook to slide in safely.

Erie catcher Craig Albernaz placed a perfect bunt between home and third that Matz played skillfully to nip Albernaz by a hair.  That left runners on second and third with only one out and the game hanging in the balance.

Binghamton drew the infield in and Matz went to work. Matz used two 78 mph curveballs to run a 1-1 count on leadoff hitter Jason Krizon before, the Erie center fielder tapped a 94 mph fastball to second baseman Sandoval for the second out with no damage done.

After getting a called strike on first pitch curveball to Corey Jones, the Erie left fielder grounded a second breaking ball to Sandoval’s left that the B-Met second baseman played cleanly with a backhand.  Matz appeared to be out of the inning.  But, Sandoval launched his throw to first high, the ball sailing into the stands with both runners scoring and Erie now in the lead, 2-0.

Matz’s reaction went from elation when Sandoval backhanded the ball to dejection when the throw sailed high.  This was my first opportunity to watch the highly regarded Met prospect pitch, and I mentioned to the guys sitting in front of me, that controlling his emotions at this moment would be a great test for the B-Met left-hander.

Matz, passed that test with flying colors.  The lanky left-hander gathered himself, sighing as he drew in air with a deep breath and went to work on the Erie hitters.  Matz allowed only one baserunner the rest of the way, a lead-off single in the Erie sixth, while striking out three of the final four batters he faced.

The only indication Matz was a tad flustered with the events of the fifth came after the leadoff single in the sixth.  Matz induced Erie’s 20 HR slugger Steven Maya to hit a fastball in the air over the pitching mound, and Matz called everyone away to make the catch himself rather than turn the chance to his third baseman charging from deep behind the third base bag.  I liked that Matz decision.  He was clearly in the best position to field the ball and wanted the responsibility that comes with making the putout.

In Matz, the Mets have an athletic left-handed pitcher, a kid with an effortless fastball with that lefty’s tail.  Matz threw 63 fastballs with a range of 91 mph to 96 mph.  Here’s a breakdown of his pitching effort

Total Pitchers: 92, Strikes: 63 (65%), Balls: 29 (35%)

Full Wind-up: 57, Strikes: 38 (67%_, Balls: 19 (33%)

Stretch: 35, Strikes: 25 (71%), Balls: 10 (29%)

First Pitch Strikes: Total Batters 28, Strikes 20 (71%)

Strike Breakdown:  Total Number of Strikes:  63

Called: 21 (33%)

Fouled: 7 (11%)

Missed: 15 (24%)

In-Play: 20 (32%)

Matz’s sparkling pitching performance was overshadowed by an even more impressive performance by Erie’s righthander Tommy Collier. Collier carried a no-hitter through two outs of the final inning before Darrell Ceciliani slammed a sinking line drive to right field. Erie rightfielder Steven Maya launched his 6’7” frame into the air trying to snare the ball off the ground, but the ball deflected off Maya’s glove and Ceciliani had the only B-Met hit of the game.

In three starts since his promotion to Double-A, Matz has a 2.41 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18.2 innings pitched.

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Lagares’ Rehab Takes Him To Binghamton http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/lagares-rehab-takes-him-to-binghamton.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/lagares-rehab-takes-him-to-binghamton.html/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 16:00:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=159136 don juan lagares

Juan Lagares, returning from an oblique injury, got his rehab off to a roaring start at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton on Monday.  Lagares showed no ill effects from his muscle strain, and reached base safely the first three times he stepped into the batter’s box.  Lagares hit at the top of the B-Mets order, drawing a first inning walk and would later score on Jayce Boyd‘s RBI single.

Largares singled to lead off the second inning.  Probably the best indicator that he is healthy and ready to roll occurred as he led off first base.  Reading’s left handed pitcher Jesse Biddle, tried to pick him off but his errant throw ended up going down the right field line.  Lagares kicked it into high gear peeking over his outside shoulder as he advanced to second never slowing down ending up at third base.  He was driven in when Dilson Herrera doubled off the right-center field wall.

Coming to bat again in the third inning, Lagares drove in a run with a single into center.  After the success in his first three at-bats, Lagares would be retired in his final two times at the plate.

It was a pedestrian sort of night for Lagares in center field.  The Binghamton Mets fans were deprived of his normal theatrics in the field that he has flashed from time to time at Citi Field.  There were two hit his way but they were of the routine variety.

The B-Mets beat Reading 12-8, winning for the 12th time in their last 14 games.

 

magic button mmo

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Darin Gorski Showing He Belongs In Vegas http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/darin-gorski-showing-he-belongs-in-vegas.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/darin-gorski-showing-he-belongs-in-vegas.html/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 20:00:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158958 Darin Gorski

I’m sitting here smiling at 12:40 in the morning, knowing I have to get up early for today’s radio show.  Yes, a little part of the smile is for Zack Wheeler and his brilliant three-hit complete game shutout, the first in his career.  But, the biggest part of my smile points towards Las Vegas where Darin Gorski turned in his second quality start in a row, allowing five hits and only one run while striking out 11 in 6.1 innings of work.

I like Darin Gorski.  For parts of three seasons I’ve watched him work in Binghamton, always impressed by his work ethic, his bulldog determination, yet calm poise he brings to the mound.  Several times I’ve written posts expressing my hopes Gorski would get a call to Triple-A and believing the kid had more than earned a shot at a higher level.

With the lack of left-handed starting pitching in the Met organization, I’m hoping Darin Gorski continues to shine.  Thursday night’s performance lowers Gorski’s ERA a whisker below 4.00 in over 24 innings in Vegas.  That’s a great start when you consider some of the other earned run averages of the 51′s starters; Logan Verrett’s 4.59, Noah Syndergaard’s 4.78, and even Rafael Montero’s 3.75.

Because Gorski doesn’t throw a power heater, I often think he gets overlooked.  Instead, based on his body of work, Darin Gorski deserves a second look.  Gorski’s the kind of a kid who grows on you.  Darin may not blow you away the first time you see him pitch, but the more you get a chance to watch his approach on the mound, the more you come away impressed with his pitching instincts.

Part of my Las Vegas smile has to do with Travis d’Arnaud’s numbers on Thursday.  The 51’s catcher had three more hits, all of the extra base variety, two doubles and a home run.  Travis is 3-for-5 raising his batting average to .432.  D’Arnaud his hit six doubles and six home runs during his short stint in Vegas with an incredible 15 RBI’s.

I don’t care how light the air is or how friendly the hitting conditions are in Vegas.  To hit like d’Arnaud is hitting you have to be squaring up on the ball.  If you square up on the ball consistently good things happen.  I read somewhere the folks in Vegas have simply been trying to clear d’Arnaud’s head from over thinking, while helping him find an approach based on a simple principle – hit the ball up the middle.  Good things happen when you hit the ball up the middle.  Go, Travis!

mmo always believe

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Brian Burgamy Getting the Job Done in Binghamton http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/brian-burgamy-getting-the-job-done-in-binghamton.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/brian-burgamy-getting-the-job-done-in-binghamton.html/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 14:00:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158835 binghamton b-mets

The New York Mets have struggled to cash in with bases loaded all year long.  Perhaps the Mets could steal a page from Binghamton third baseman Brian Burgamy to learn how it’s done.  With two out and B-Mets dancing off every base in the bottom of the sixth inning, Burgamy greeted Richmond reliever Josh Osich, by sending the big left-hander’s first pitch 400 feet over the left field wall for a grand slam.

To say Burgamy has been red-hot in the current home stand would be an understatement. Here is his sizzling batting summary during that span:

  • Game 1: 2-for-3 with a double
  • Game 2: 3-for-3 with a home run and a double
  • Game 3: 3-for-4 with a double
  • Game 4: 2-for-3 with a home run and a double

Burgamy got things going in the Binghamton first, doubling with one out, advancing to third when Matt Reynolds took an outside fastball to right field for a single, then eventually scoring on a Kevin Plawecki sac-fly.  He would have another chance to capitalize with bases loaded in the second inning, but would come up short flying out to right field.

Matt Bowman received some breathing room in the sixth with Burgamy’s grand slam.  Bowman had a brilliant outing on the mound throwing six shutout innings, while allowing only three hits with four strikeouts.  Bowman was ahead of the count all night long.  He threw 86 pitches with 55 strikes.  Of the 23 batters he faced, he delivered first pitch strikes 78% of the time.

Working with catcher Plawecki, Bowman used a healty pitch mix.  He depended primarily on fastball the first time through the order ranging in speed from 88 to 94 MPH, staying mostly in the low 90′s.  Of his 38 pitches the first time through the order, Bowman fired heat 31 times, complimenting his fastball with four sliders and three change-ups.

The pitch mix changed the second time through the order.  This time, the B-Mets aced used only 16 fastballs out of his 34 pitches. He threw six slider, five change-ups and seven curve balls.

Bowman and Plawecki kept the Flying Squirrels on their heels and guessing all night long.

The only trouble Bowman found himself in was during his last inning of work.  The crafty B-Met pitcher got the first two batter out on the inning, before Kelby Tomlinson put a perfect bunt down the first base line.  Bowman elected to allow the ball to roll hoping it would go foul, but it stayed inside the lines for a single.

The next play had an element of a baseball’s version of the Keystone Cops with Burgamy the potential defensive foil.  Matt Duffy ripped a Bowman pitch down the third base line.  Burgamy attempted to make a backhand stab, but the ball caromed off the heel of his glove towards the shortstop.

Spinning quickly, Burgamy was in hot pursuit stabbing the ball out of the air.  The third baseman realized he had no play and failed to put on the breaks allowing his momentum to carry him a good distance from the third base bag.

A heads-up Tomlinson bolted from second towards third catching the B-Met infield napping.  By the time the short stop Reynolds realized what was unfolding, Tomlinson was a step ahead in the race for third.  Ryan Sandoval joined Reynolds in his desperate race to out hustle Tomlinson to third.

No dice, and in doing so, Sandoval abandoned second with Duffy catching on before Binghamton’s Jayce Boyd did, which allowed him to move into scoring position.  It was a bizarre sequence that was difficult to score.  The box credited Duffy with a rare infield double.

After intentionally walking Jarrett Parker, Bowman threw a slider to Devin Harris who in turn hit a comebacker which ended the inning.

Chase Hutchinson and Ryan Frasier, each pitched perfect inning in relief in the seventh and eighth innigns.  Jack Leathersitch surrendered the only run of the night for the Mets pitching staff.

The game ended with another unusual play.  With runners at first and second with one out, Tyler LaTorre laced a hard grounder to first baseman Jayce Boyd who executed a sweep tag of the runner advancing to second, and completed the play outracing the runner to first for the double play.

Matt Reynolds continues to rake at the plate going 2-for-4, including reaching base on an error.  His average is now .356 which is leading the Eastern League.

The Top Ten finalists of the 2014 American Idol were in the house signing autographs, singing the national anthem, and throwing out the first pitch.

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Collin Cowgill – A Mets Offensive Measuring Stick http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/colin-cowgill-a-mets-offensive-measuring-stick.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/colin-cowgill-a-mets-offensive-measuring-stick.html/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:00:58 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158436 collin cowgill sage

Collin Cowgill, remember him?

Cowgill was the starting Met center fielder for a brief time last season– the opening day starter who hit a grand slam home run. I noticed a headline in the MLB Morning Line Up the other day, “Cowgill’s Walk-off in 14th Gives Halos Fifth Straight W” and wondered what was going on with the gritty Cowgill.

A check of Cowgill’s statistics proved amazing. So far in 2014 Collin Cowgill is putting together a career year. Who’da Thunk? In 162 plate appearances, Cowgill has a .289 batting average. Not bad. 16 base-on-balls have helped Cowgill amass a .369 on-base-percentage. Not too shabby. Tack on five home runs that help give Cowgill a .437 slugging percentage.

Put it all together and Cowgill’s .806 OPS bests every position player on the Met roster. Say what? That’s right, through one-third of the 2014 season former Met Colin Cowgill’s OPS bests that of any New York Met position player.

Ouch! I knew things were bad but this seems more than ridiculous.

Thoughts from Kirk C.

It’s great to see Cowgill playing well, as I’ve always liked him as a player. However, I don’t think a good 56-game stretch is enough to make me think he’s anything more than a part-time/platoon type player. I think as the season progresses you’ll see those numbers come down. His current BABIP of .388 would be more than 50 points higher than his career norm, and his 14.3% HR/FB is well above his career mark as well. So while it’s encouraging, and all together possible that the 28-year old is coming into his own, I would bet against it carrying forward. That said, it would be nice to have had the 1.7 WAR (which would be 2nd on the Mets) he’s contributed to the Angels thus far.

MMO footer

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Mets Fans Deserve Better Than This http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mets-fans-deserve-better-than-this.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mets-fans-deserve-better-than-this.html/#comments Sat, 07 Jun 2014 15:48:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157956 travis d'arnaud angel pagan

It doesn’t take much to placate a Met fan. After winning four games of five in Philadelphia and moving within one game of .500 Met fans were ecstatic. I heard Evan Roberts of WFAN fame say he was prepared to celebrate by popping champagne and tossing confetti when his beloved Mets reached the .500 plateau by taking at least two of three in Chicago. Met fans everywhere relished the thought of watching relevant baseball in JULY.

Forget about it! When your everyday roster lacks relevant pieces the chances of playing sustained relevant baseball is a pipe dream. And, in 2014 a pipe dream is all New York Met fans are going to get. “Wait Till Next Year” the time worn refrain of the old Brooklyn Dodgers is now the sole property of the Mets with Met fans singing it’s refrain before spring turns to summer each June.

Really, I shouldn’t be a wimp. I don’t know why I’m complaining. On June 7 of 2013 our Mets were already 10 games under .500 at 23-33. Five games down at 28-33 has to be considered forward progress, right? Somehow it just doesn’t feel that way.

I’ve listened as some Met comrades have argued that we’re almost there, that this year we’re losing more competitively, that in most cases it would take only one hit or one flip-flopped play to turn things around. They’re right. 18 of our 33 losses have come by two or fewer runs. Turn around just 6 of them, one out of every three, and we’e be sitting at 34-27 in first place, one game ahead of the Braves.

That only makes the pain more acute for me. It makes our lack of situational hitting, our butchered defensive fundamentals, and our simple lack of grit at the plate in clutch situations more acutely painful and sometimes almost too hard to stomach.

I know the pain and the suffering and the annual unfulfilled expectations are all part of the DNA that comes with being a Met fan. I know that rooting for the Mets is supposed to help you ‘buck up’ and develop the toughness and resiliency to face all the challenges and all the crap that comes with life. It doesn’t help.

Simply stated, Met fans deserve better than this.

MMO

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Shortstop Matt Reynolds Batting .365 To Lead Eastern League http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/shortstop-matt-reynolds-batting-365-to-lead-eastern-league.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/shortstop-matt-reynolds-batting-365-to-lead-eastern-league.html/#comments Thu, 05 Jun 2014 19:18:58 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157755 MiLB: April 28 - St. Lucie Mets at Tampa Yankees

He’s the Eastern League’s top batter with a .365 batting average. He’s second on the Eastern League’s leader board in on-base-percentage at .445. Matt Reynolds continues to rake near the top of the Binghamton Mets lineup.

After missing a handful of games with back issues, B-Met fans had to be concerned if the layoff and troublesome back problems would slow down their middle infielder. Not so. In his two starts since his return to the lineup Reynolds is 7-for-10 at the plate, scoring two runs, and driving home a run.

An all around versatile athlete, Matt Reynolds almost decided not to play professional baseball. Leaving high school, Reynolds, a gifted basketball point guard, was drawing some attention from college basketball schools; places like Iowa State, Furman and Butler. At one time, Reynolds wasn’t sure about what direction he might choose.

But, life is about choices and Reynolds eventually decided to pursue a career playing baseball. Here’s what he told Adam Rubin in a piece Rubin did for ESPN in 2013. “I loved both sports. Both of them were my passion. It was a tough decision to give up basketball. And, if I decided to play basketball, it was going to be a tough decision to give up baseball. But, I realized baseball was where my future was at, and I loved it equally.”

Good choice. Reynolds first took his baseball game to the University of Arkansas. A high school shortstop, Reynolds played the same position for the Razorbacks his freshman year. But, when the regular third baseman was injured, Reynolds moved to the hot corner as a sophomore.

The Mets liked what they saw in the versatile infielder and drafted Reynolds in the second round, moving him back to shortstop in his introduction to professional baseball. Reynolds was projected as an above average fielding infielder with a powerful arm and a good contact hitter at the plate.

Reynolds matched that profile defensively at the lowest levels of the Met farm system but his offensive game was slow to evolve. Reynolds hit only .259 in Savannah in 2012 and .226 in St. Lucie last summer.

But, the kind of batter the Mets foresaw has emerged this spring in Binghamton, a solid contact hitter, patient at the plate. Reynolds shows little power with only 8 of his 66 hits of the extra base variety in 2014. But, a team leading 27 walks adds to the overall contribution Reynolds makes to the B-Met batting order.

In some ways the 2014 season posed a ‘make-or-break’ kind of challenge for Matt Reynolds. So far, the B-Met shortstop has met that charge. With the shortstop position one of unending uncertainty in Flushing, Reynolds’s all-around skill set and his dynamic start in 2014 places his name amongst the contenders of shortstops who someday might become an everyday option at Citi Field.

MMO

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Double-D Getting Opportunity To Show His Stuff http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/double-d-getting-opportunity-to-show-his-stuff.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/double-d-getting-opportunity-to-show-his-stuff.html/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 15:51:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157643 Den Dekker rips his 20th double and is batting .336/.395/.563 for the B-Mets.

At NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton we called him Double-D. After Matt den Dekker joined the Mets Double-A roster, it didn’t take long for a B-Met mainstay, a fan who dutifully mans a seat behind home plate a nudge to the third base side, to shout out, “Come on Double-D, hit it hard somewhere,” when den Dekker strode to the plate.

That Binghamton fan, a guy who each year comes up with nicknames to greet the new B-Mets players as they approach the batter’s box, only had to peek at the Binghamton scorecard to come up with Double-D. But, after watching MDD man the outfield for parts of two seasons in Binghamton, Double-D for B-Met fans grew to have more to do with the double dose of defense the B-Met outfielder provided in centerfield than the double-d’s found in his name.

Consider this. When Matt den Dekker played centerfield at Binghamton his outfield skill set was so strong, Juan Lagares was often delegated to take a corner outfield spot, most often right field because of Lagares’ incredible throwing arm.

You could argue about which Binghamton outfielder should have been starting in which outfield spot and why, but watching these guys patrol the outfield at NYSEG Stadium left little debate about the defensive assets they brought as an outfield tandem to a baseball team.

As great as the B-Met defensive whiz kids were, they had distinctive styles that set them apart. In Binghamton, it was Double-D who often came up with the circus like catches, those eye-popping hard to believe athletic oddities that looked like impossible chances when the ball left an opposing batter’s bat. In contrast, the Lagares outfield modus operandi, although not devoid of the spectacular grab, was more about an instinctive jump on the ball at the crack of the bat and a graceful glide that often made very difficult outfield chances look almost easy.

matt den dekkerAs a former guy who loved to pitch, I used to watch B-Met games and wonder what it would be like to pitch with two guys behind you in the outfield with Lagares and den Dekker’s skill set.

A pitcher’s confidence to make certain pitches in different situations would have to soar knowing that the outfielders behind him could track a ball, make a catch and throw to a base like these guys did. I couldn’t wait to see these guys stationed together as part of an outfield trio at Citi Field some day.

Of course, stellar defensive play is only part of the major league baseball skill set. A guy has to produce at the plate, too. den Dekker and Lagares each showed offensive promise, MDD with flashes of power, but questions still remained. Both struggled some with off-speed deliveries, both were learning to master command of the strike zone, and both struck out too much. To some degree those questions remain.

My heart sunk a bit when I learned Juan Lagares suffered an intercostal strain and was headed to the disabled list. Lagares was one of the Met bright spots this season, some times a singular reason to continue to watch a baseball game. But, my spirits jumped to learn den Dekker would be taking Juan’s place on the roster until his return.

It only took den Dekker two innings in his first start to show Met fans his defensive play continues to be something special. His leaping snare of what looked to be a surefire Ryan Howard home run saving a run in the first and his gunning down a Phillies runner at the plate from centerfield in the second was the kind of outfield play we came to expect from Double-D in Binghamton.

I’m hoping Terry Collins gives Matt an extended chance to prove what he can do as a major league outfielder in Lagares’ absence. Matt den Dekker isn’t getting any younger, and it would be wise for the Mets to learn if and where he fits into their long-term planning.

With his bat blazing, the Mets have to continue to regularly play Bobby Abreu. Although a 40-year old outfielder doesn’t have a place in a long-term plan, baseball’s parity and the absence of power teams mean that even though it’s a long shot, the Mets are still in contention for a wild card spot. Abreu needs to play.

A day after his dazzling grab, MDD went 2-for-5 and scored the Mets’ only run in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss at Wrigley.

Logical thinking says, that unlikely Wild Card chase or not, Chris Young has no real place in the Mets long-term thinking. Young has struggled mightily in his introduction as a Met. It would be prudent for the Mets to give Young ‘spot check’ opportunities to prove he can recover from his several season swoon, but while Lagares is gone, let’s give Double-D a sizable chunk of time to show us how he can contribute on a baseball diamond.

The kid sure won’t hurt us on defense.

MMO

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The Dual Nature Of Jack Leathersich http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/the-dual-nature-of-jack-leathersich.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/the-dual-nature-of-jack-leathersich.html/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 16:53:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157449 jack leathersich st. lucie

He’s a New York Met pitching prospect enigma, at times an untouchable strikeout machine and at times a guy who struggles to get the ball over the plate. Jack Leathersich is a perplexing Met pitching puzzle, a pitching paradox that often lands him at one end or the other of the effectiveness spectrum; overpowering brilliance, or a maddening inability to throw strikes.

Good news for Met fans. Recent indicators out of Binghamton seem to suggest that Jack Leathersich has found the strike zone. Check out his pitching comparisons below

First 9 outings: 11.0 IP, 5 ER, 10 H, 9 BB, 18 K

Last 8 outings: 10.2 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 3 BB, 21 K

A deceptive delivery, not a triple digit power arm make Leathersich’s deliveries difficult to hit. Opposing batters call his pitches the ‘invisi-ball,’ Zack Wheeler told John Harper of the New York Daily News this spring, that Leathersich’s pitch is tough to detect as it approaches home plate.

In 2013, the 5-foot, 11-inch Leathersich led all professional pitchers in strikeout ratios fanning 15.7 batters in every nine innings he pitched. But, a base-on-ball average of one walk per every inning in Las Vegas impeded his progress with the Mets sending him back to Binghamton for the start of the 2014 campaign.

It’s not that Triple-A batters proved they could handle his stuff. The lefty reliever sent muttering Triple-A batters walking back to the dugout after an at bat at a sparkling 14.6 per 9 inning clip, but Leathersich’s issues with command prevented him from becoming something special.

The Mets have always liked what Leathersich brings to the mound in the late innings. That’s why they selected the lefty in the fifth round out of Massachusetts-Lowell, a Division 11 College where his strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings were both school records.

Leathersich started on a fast track through the Mets minor league ranks, dominating in Brooklyn in his first taste of professional ball in 2011 fanning 26 batters in 12 2/3 inning so work with a 0.71 ERA. Savannah proved much the same at the start of 2012 where Leathersich amassed 37 strikeouts in 24 innings with a 0.75 ERA.

After a promotion to St. Lucie for the second half of the season in 2012, Leathersich has been on a roller coaster ride, at some points his pitching stellar at the crest of the pitching curve and at others points middling, spiraling downward due to a lack of command.

In the piece this spring in the New York Daily News, former Met 20-game winner and a minor league pitching coach in the Met farm system Frank Viola talked about Leathersich.

“The first report I ever wrote on him I remember writing that I thought he could be a late inning guy at the major league level, because of his arm and his deception,” Viola recalled. “At Triple-A, he finally couldn’t get batters out just by throwing up in the strike zone, and now he has to adjust. He has to get a little mentally tougher and attack the strike zone.”

Back in Binghamton in the first half of the 2014 campaign, after a slow start, it seems Leathersich is doing just that. Leathersich understands his ability to locate pitches in and around the strike zone is the golden ticket that could take him to the big leagues. The entertaining left-hander has much still to prove and his next stop in Las Vegas could prove pivotal. I’m rooting for Leathersich to punch that golden ticket on a station to station jaunt to the majors.

MMO

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A Revolutionary Bullpen Model http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/a-revolutionary-bullpen-model.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/a-revolutionary-bullpen-model.html/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 13:20:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157533 syn-er-gy n. The increased effectiveness that occurs when two or more people or elements in a system produce and effort different from or greater than the sum of the individual effects.

* * * * * * * *

The most recent turn of events in a topsy-turvy New York Met baseball season has infused new energy in the team and their fan base. Three young power arms in the Mets bullpen have turned the late innings of Met games from a baseball horror show to must-see-tv.

jenrry mejiaJeurys Familia, Vic Black and Jenrry Mejia are showing the Mets that with dynamic outputs from its bullpen, any baseball team, even a team with less than average offensive outputs, can achieve unexpected performance results. You just need high octane fuel in the bullpen gas tank to have the right key to turn performance around.

The evolution of the young Met bullpen guns, especially the transformation of Jenrry Mejia from a starting pitcher to a late game reliever and the elevation of Black from Triple-A, blurred the traditional roles mapped out for relievers in the bullpen. The Mets temporarily sidestepped naming seventh and eighth inning bridges to the ninth inning closer, instead electing to address the needs of each game utilizing whatever resource was rested, ready and available even if that sometimes meant stretching a reliever’s outing to two innings instead of the standard one.

Reviewing the Mets recent relief pitching success, I hope Terry Collins continues to show flexibility in his use of his bullpen working under the premise that the Mets are a better team when the best individual performance of one of their relievers in the bullpen does not outperform the team’s performance.

There is something almost magical about the mindset that comes with three young guns taking on all challengers by pooling their talents to flexibly addresses any situation and any obstacle. “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back,” becomes a team norm as team members begin to take more pride in the achievements of the group than in their individual accomplishments.

jeurys familia

A collaborative bullpen model has the advantage of building strong emotional bonds, a common characteristic of highly successful teams.

Strong emotional bonds fortify connections between the people on the team, the results you hope to achieve and you’re identity as a team.

The third connection is something I would love to see of the young Met relief corp, a sense of pride and a swagger that says working together as interchangeable parts Familia, Black and Mejia together equal more than three.

The use of dual closers is not something new to the Mets, even though a trio of indistinguishable power pitchers to set up and close out games would be unique. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and then again in the mid 1980’s the Mets used a pair of closers. The idea then was to utilize a right handed and left-handed specialist; a Ron Taylor and Tug McGraw or a Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco. Taylor and McGraw almost split saves equally in 1969 and 1970 before McGraw became the primary closer in the ’72 season. McDowell and Orosco followed the exact same script in 1986..

My idea is to go beyond that, to utilize the young Met bullpen guns so each builds the confidence and swagger to take the call to fill any role when needed, a synergistic model that supports a more empowered way of working that promotes a sense of achievement, a sense of invincibility and camaraderie that’s the stuff of a team that consistently performs when it matters the most. That’s the perfect prescription for a championship bullpen.

MMO

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Bunting Is Making A Comeback http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/bunting-is-making-a-comeback.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/bunting-is-making-a-comeback.html/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 04:14:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157447 Bobby Parnell

In the yesteryear of baseball, bunting was an art form. Every bunt type employed by a batter bunting the ball; the sacrifice, the squeeze, the drop bunt or drag bunt were part of the arsenal a batter brought to the plate.

The advent of baseball’s sabermetric era and the analytics it provides have almost delegated bunting to the scrap heap of baseball strategies. Analytics and their expected run differentials build a strong case that the sacrifice bunt, in particular, is statistically self-defeating. Common modern baseball wisdom says utilizing all three outs by swinging the bat trumps giving up an out to move a baserunner by utilizing a sacrifice bunt.

In minimizing the positive effects of the sacrifice bunt, baseball has seen a steep decline in every type of bunting. And, with bunting becoming a sparsely used offensive tool, the bunting skill set of professional baseball players has visibly fallen making those times a manager employs a sacrifice bunt to advance a runner as a late inning one-run production strategy, an arduous adventure at best.

But, with baseball’s defensive shifts becoming more and more pronounced in the game, maybe bunting, specifically, bunting for a base hit will make a comeback. The bunt hit is actually a pretty good baseball bet, an offensive ploy rewarding batters with their highest average on balls put in play. Batters who bunt for hits at the highest averages are successful near or better than one-half of their bunt attempts.

Watching Lucas Duda bat against exaggerated defensive shifts in recent Met games got me thinking ‘why not bunt?‘ Everybody knows on-base-percentage is a baseball analytical golden ticket. It makes sense to me, that situationally driven, bunting for a base hit against drastic overshifts maximize a batter’s chances of reaching base safely with a hit.

No, it doesn’t make sense to see Duda drop down a bunt with two outs and the bases cleared or even a single runner on first, but when the big guy leads off an inning or comes to the plate late in the game with a tie score and less than two outs, why not use one-half of the field manned by a single defender to drop down a bunt to reach first safely?

To his credit, Duda is not adverse to situational bunting. When Duda bunted for a hit in the opening game of the current Philly series, the Met broadcast team chatted about the fact that Lucas has recently spent additional time in the batting cage working on his bunting skills. Apparently, it was bench coach Bob Geren who suggested to Duda that at certain times during a baseball game bunting might be a winning strategy for the big guy.

Baseball dinosaurs like me still consider bunting a valued part of the game, a ploy that can confuse an opposing defense and win games. I loved Texas manager Ron Washington’s take on bunting when recently asked at a press conference whether anyone had ever shown him the analytics that show bunting might not make sense.

“When I feel it’s necessary, not when the analytics feel it’s necessary, not when you guys feel it’s necessary, not when somebody else feels it’s necessary,” Washington sputtered. “It’s when Ron Washington feels it’s necessary.”

Washington was referring simply to the sacrifice bunt and his explanation shows just how complex that form of bunting can be. “I look at the opposing pitcher, the guys at the plate and the situation and I’m saying, ‘How can I give us an opportunity to get this runner where I want to get him?’ If I’ve got the right person at the plate, I’m going to make him bunt. If it’s a situation where we have runs already and we’ve got a decent lead early in the game, I’ll probably let him hit. But if we’re in a situation where the game is close … I’m going to make him bunt. It’s simple.”

To my way of thinking, Washington has analyzed the analytics well. There’s room for argument on both sides of the sacrifice bunt issue. But, with lopsided defensive baseball schemes becoming more and more common in the professional game, the time could be ripe for a ‘bunt for a hit’ bunting comeback.

MMO

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After Spinning A Gem, Gorski Promoted To Triple-A Las Vegas http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/after-spinning-a-gem-gorski-promoted-to-triple-a-las-vegas.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/after-spinning-a-gem-gorski-promoted-to-triple-a-las-vegas.html/#comments Wed, 28 May 2014 15:17:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156973 Darin Gorski

May 28

As we speculated yesterday in the below article, lefthander Darin Gorski has been promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas.

It’s perfect timing for the 26-year-old, coming off his most dominating start of the season.

Gorski had a 2.22 ERA for Binghamton with a 1.006 WHIP and a 9.2 strikeout rate.

Congratulations Darin!

May 27

I try to see every home game that Darin Gorski pitches in and it’s well worth the trip. He is a great thinking pitcher who uses a terrific change-up and on Monday he was masterful and just keeps getting better.

Gorski capped off a brilliant month of May pitching a two-hit, complete game, Memorial Day masterpiece to help Binghamton past New Britain, 5-0, at NYSEG Stadium. Gorski faced just three batters over the minimum.

The outing didn’t start smoothly for the B-Met ace, when Corey Wimberly ripped Gorski’s first pitch of the game into the left field corner for a double. That pitch, an 89 mph fastball arrived at the plate too high and too tight; a perfect pitch for a batter hitting from the right side, to pull.

But, Gorski is a fast learner. The tall lefthander retired the next 14 batters in succession. Gorski, noted for inducing batters to hit the ball in the air, was in almost perfect form on Monday. Thirteen New Britain batters hit fly balls to the outfield, three to B-Met left fielder Kyle Johnson, four to right fielder Cory Vaughn and six to center fielder Darrell Ceciliani. Ceciliani made an outstanding running grab to almost straightaway centerfield, with with his back to home plate in the second inning.

Gorski got some sparkling defensive help from other teammates, as well. Wilfredo Tovar stabbed a backhand deep in the hole between shortstop and third base and gunned down Tony Thomas in the fifth. After Gorski surrendered a one out walk in the eighth, his only free pass of the contest, Dustin Lawley made a dazzling play moving from third base toward short. With his momentum spinning him off balance, Lawley somehow flipped the ball from his glove hand for the force at second with second baseman Rylan Sandoval completing an acrobatic double play.

Binghamton skipper Pedro Lopez allowed Gorski to finish what he started with the B-Met ace turning in a rare complete game and finished with 112 pitches.

Unlike many of the Met pitching prospects, Gorski does not have a fire-balling power arm. He threw one pitch today that reached 90 mph, but, Gorski is a thinking pitcher who spots his fastball where he wants it and uses a resourceful pitching mix. Gorski’s change-up is his signature pitch, and he uses it liberally and to great success.

Gorski now has a 2.22 ERA for the season with a 1.006 WHIP and a 9.2 strikeout rate. He’s footsteps away from a promotion to Las Vegas.

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More Mets Static http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/more-mets-static.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/more-mets-static.html/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 18:28:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156956 jose valverde

It was almost miraculous. I turned on WOR coming home from watching Darin Gorski throw a masterful two-hit, complete game in Binghamton and the reception was crystal clear. Learning Jacob deGrom had left the game with a 2-0 lead I was elated. First Rafael Montero‘s 10 strikeout performance and now deGrom, both pitching like the frontline starters we hope they will be in back-to-back days.

Then came the bullpen. When Terry Collins went with Jose Valverde I almost drove off the road. Not again. Use anybody else, heck, “I’ll pitch” I pleaded to deaf ears. As the meltdown started Ike Davis was due to bat in the eighth. The Mets announcers went on to explain that over the last three weeks in major league baseball only Yasiel Puig has batted better than Davis. Then I wanted to scream, cry and pull my hair out.

Several times this winter I wrote posts about the folly of the Mets selecting Lucas Duda to play first base over Ike Davis. If the Mets were not going out of the organization to get a first baseman, it was only logical the decision about who should man the duties around the first base bag needed to be based on which guy had the best long-term POTENTIAL Which player in the best of situations had the greatest possibilities of more positive outcomes. The answer to that question was all too clear to me. Forget what either had done as of late (neither did particularly well in 2013,) but to my way of thinking Davis had far greater potential than Duda both offensively and defensively. The Mets sliced away a piece of my baseball soul when they moved Ike. Can anyone tell me if we even know the Player to be Named Later in that trade. If the answer is no, how long is later?

Earlier in the holiday weekend on Saturday I was also in the car, trying to catch patches of the game though the static when Lucas Duda came to the plate with the bases loaded. Everything that is wrong with Duda was exemplified in his at bat. Bases loaded and two outs with a power hitting left-handed batter coming to the plate. What pitch would you be looking for?

During an SNY broadcast this year, I heard Keith Hernandez explaining the basic hitting philosophy he used over his major league career. It was simplistically eloquent. Hernandez said he went to the batter’s box looking for and prepared to hit only one pitch – the fastball. With less than two strikes, Hernandez was ready to drive the FIRST fastball he saw. That’s because it might be the only fastball he saw in that at bat. With two strikes, he still looked fastball and tried to fight off other pitches knowing that in almost every at bat at least one fastball would come.

So, Lucas digs in, and I’m literally praying out loud, “Think fastball.” The first pitch as the Met announcer explained it, “A fastball, knee high down the center of the plate.” Of course, likely looking for a walk, our power hitting first baseman takes the pitch. ARGGHHHHHHHH, I nearly drove out of my lane. Listening to Met broadcasts when driving a car can get dangerous. “Think fastball,” I begged out loud. The second pitch, a fastball on the outside part of the plate.

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGHHHH! He watched it go by again.

It was over. Case closed. Opportunity wasted. At 0-2 Duda had entered the statistical graveyard of batting, the spot that generates the lowest batting average and on-base-percentage of any other count. And, Duda watched two fastballs travel through the strike zone without moving his bat off his shoulder to get to 0-2.

Without ever seeing or hearing the game, you know the results as well as I. The mighty Lucas Duda struck out.

I’m not diametrically opposed to the patient, plate discipline approach currently in vogue in baseball. But, like most things in life there is no set rule, it’s a guide line to be situationally applied throughout a baseball contest, not to be used as a bible in every at-bat. That’s especially the case if your a power hitter who steps into the batter’s box with the bases loaded.

When I’m driving in the car and switch on WOR I’m beginning to think maybe I should be rooting for the static.

iheartnym

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Does Management Understand Who The Mets Are And What They Can Be? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/does-management-understand-who-the-mets-are-and-what-they-can-be.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/does-management-understand-who-the-mets-are-and-what-they-can-be.html/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 18:26:51 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156543 terry collins

I’m not convinced the Mets really understand their strength and potential as a baseball team. Everybody talks about the Met pitching potential and the fact our current team and our teams in the future are and will be built around pitching. I love that fact.

But, I’ve always been told that teams built around pitching need to be strong defensively, especially down the middle of the field. That’s right, draw a line straight down the middle of the diamond and make sure that at least one player who mans each position near that line excels with the leather. That’s catching, shortstop and centerfield.

I was excited about the potential for the Mets to put together an iron rod down the middle of their defense to match some solid mound work heading into the 2014 season. Juan Lagares was a lightning bolt providing perhaps the best centerfield defense in baseball in the second half of 2013. Pitchers have to love pitching with a guy like Lagares running down balls in centerfield.

Then there was Travis d’Arnaud. Many Met fans were sorely disappointed with d’Arnaud’s introduction to the major leagues late last season. Not me. The disappointments were purely based on d’Arnaud’s struggles at the plate. But, d’Arnaud was more than satisfactory calling a game, framing pitches and catching a game behind the plate. To my way of thinking, d’Arnaud showed the stuff needed to become a second notch in a Met iron defensive rod.

Then there was shortstop. We all know Daniel Murphy is average at best as a defensive second baseman. But, Murphy is a professional hitter, something we badly lack, and a guy who works doggedly on improving his defensive game. We can live with that.

Murphy’s lack of defense made it common baseball sense, logical baseball thinking, that the Mets needed a stellar defender at shortstop to complete the iron wall of defenders down the middle of the field that their pitcher’s deserve. And, Stephen Drew, a noted defensive shortstop was available.

The potential of a Drew signing was immense. Drew hits better than the other Met options at shortstop and is a valued major league defender at this critical position. All winter long I believed we were playing possum, positioning ourselves to bring in Drew at the eleventh hour to lock down a credible defensive wall through the middle of the diamond.

It never happened. And then, at the first sign of trouble, with our team struggling mightily scoring runs, the Mets lose faith in Lagares and remove him from the line-up in four of five games. Why? We were seeking offense, even when Juan Lagares had been the most productive offensive outfielder in our everyday line-up by far.

Other than driving me almost to the edge, the moves the Mets have or have not made, and the their failure to clearly understand what they have in Lagares makes me believe our management has yet to clearly understand who the Mets are, or can be, as a baseball team. It’s Baseball 101. Look at the history books. Analyze 1969. Study 1973. Figure it out.

addicted to mets button

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Memo To Terry Collins: Never Take On Your Fan Base http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/memo-to-terry-collins-never-take-on-your-fan-base.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/05/memo-to-terry-collins-never-take-on-your-fan-base.html/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 21:17:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=156209 terry collins

Terry Collins take heed: NEVER TAKE ON YOUR FANS! The Collins reaction to Met fans reaction to his benching of Juan Lagares will not serve TC well. A manager never wins when he takes on his team’s fan base. And, many times doing so is an ominous sign.

In the business world it’s called ‘the customer is always right.’ In professional sports, a baseball manager has to know his fan base is often fickle, impatient, emotional, and after too many consecutive losing seasons in a row, especially, in New York City, sometimes, downright disagreeable.

Even so, even when you believe in your heart of hearts the fan base is wrong, it’s critical for the long term survival of the person who sits in the manager’s chair to speak and behave as if the fans are spot on accurate.

The wringing of hands, the gnashing of teeth, and the tremendous fan clamor over the benching of Juan Lagares is symptomatic for a very unhappy, immensely disgruntled, bordering on angry New York Met fan base. A fan base that right or wrong is hardening in their belief that the team that they love is insensitive to their needs and treating them unfairly. For a manager to even suggest the spontaneous fan uproar over a managerial decision is overblown, is at its best shortsighted judgment and at its worst suicidal.

I consider myself to be a passionate, yet reasonable and fairly balanced Met fan. When it was announced Terry Collins was the new Met manager a few years ago, he was not my choice. But, I’m a Met fan and I hoped TC would find success and do well.

Over his three+ years as the Met skipper, I have never blamed Collins for the Mets win/loss predicament or their standing in the National League East. I have never joined the growing chorus of Met fans calling for Collins’ head. Yes, there are instances when I don’t agree with Collins’ on-the-field decisions, but I try to understand a plausible rationale to explain why TC made the baseball decision he did.

For the most part, I have admired Terry’s persistent optimism and his unwavering faith that he can make lemonade out of the lemons he has on his roster. I also admired his almost miraculous transformation from a guy who used to lose his cool in the clubhouse and frequently blow his top, to a gracious elder statesman who appears to be having the time of his life as the manager of the Mets.

That was until Terry Collins benched Juan Lagares.

For the first time, I was angry. Try as I might, I could not find even a rudimentary argument that could support TC’s decision to bench Juan Lagares. And, Collin’s explanation both before the extended benching, and after Lagares played magnificently when he was released from his holding cell and returned to the field only increased my ire.

Whether right or wrong, baseball fans always know what they see and hear what they hear. Passionate New York Met fans know that Juan Lagares has been an almost single beacon of hope from his centerfield position over the last year. They see the almost impossible plays he makes supporting his appreciative pitchers every day. They calculate the runs Lagares has saved them with his electric outfield play and turn to applaud him as Bartolo Colon did on Saturday. They have also watched him continue to mature as a major league batter. Actually, all of us have.

Met fans are not dumb. We know an outfielder with the highest batting average by far, the highest on-base-percentage and the highest slugging percentage of all New York Met outfielders is not the cause of our inept performance scoring runs at the plate.

Met fans can read a box score. They know a .216 batting average of Bobby Abreu, a .236 batting average of Eric Young Jr., a .222 batting average of Chris Young and a .194 average for Curtis Granderson are all contributing factors to our troubles at the plate. At least equally as much as the far elevated hitting statistics of Juan Lagares.

If Terry Collins does not understand the growing angst of the Met fan base he is not the man to lead our team through the final stages of the team’s rebuild. The comments reported by Daily New reporter, Mike Puma, in today’s paper make me feel Collins simply may not get it.

“It’s not like I sat him for six or seven days,” Collins said at a press conference. “We get a little carried away here. Somebody gets a day off here and it’s like the sky is falling. It’s not. He’s the center fielder.”

Slow down Terry, breathe. Sometime it’s best to leave fan unhappiness alone and allow things to simmer down on their own. Not TC.

“This is what the market is here,” he continued. “If I give Curtis Granderson a day off, he’s benched. If I give Chris Young a day off, he’s benched. If I give Juan a day off, he’s benched. That’s not really the case, but I know you’ve got to sell newspapers so do what you’ve got to do.”

Well, Terry is partially right. But the word is ‘rested’ and not benched. Major league managers give starting players a day off to rest them not to bench them. Terry has rested Curtis Granderson and Chris Young a day here and a day there over the season. He benched Juan Lagares confining him to the bench for a majority of the time over several days, in fact four of five games – not two. Reading the Collins remarks only inflamed an already combustible situation.

In my heart of heart, I think Terry Collins’ issue is a communication issue as much as anything else. Many times Terry jumbles his words and murders his syntax. That’s why WFAN often uses Collins’ comments after games as a comedy piece. That’s not fair, but, hey, this is New York City.

Collins’ post-Lagares benching argument tries to sell the notion he extended Lagares stay on the bench for corrective batting instruction with the Mets assistant hitting coach Luis Natera. Natera and Lagares are close, and Natera has worked extensively with Juan on his batting mechanics during Lagares’ stay in the minor leagues. Apparently, Natera had detected an issue with Lagares’ swing involving his hand path to the ball that was contributing to a recent batting slump and wanted more than one day to correct the issue.

I can buy that argument, but it has to be sold in a way that shows respect for a testy but incredibly loyal fan base. It was not.

Imagine the fan reaction had Terry Collins told the press,” I understand why our fans were so upset when I decided to have Juan take a few days off. I really didn’t communicate my thinking about this situation very well. Juan Lagares was and still is a terrific young center fielder and our choice to man that position. Recently, Luis Natera, our assistant hitting coach, a guy who has worked extensively over several years to develop Juan as a major league batter, detected a flaw in Juan’s swing. It’s something familiar to Juan and something he and Luis have worked on in the past. The time Juan spent out of the line-up was spent with Luis working on making a correction. We value Juan’s contributions at the plate as well as in center field and thought a chance to work immediately on the issue would be to the team’s long-term benefit. Once again, I apologize for the confusion I caused by not communicating the reasons Juan was out of the line-up well.”

It’s possible that even Terry Collins detractors may have given him a pass on this one had he explained himself in this way. I know I would have.

Instead, the Collins response keeps the issue on the front burner and calls to question whether he really understand the passions and doubts of the Met fan base or cares what Met fans think one way or another.

I know I had the benefit of time to pre-think my words and prepare a response Terry might have used to slow down a tsunami of growing Met fans unrest. Terry Collins, too, had time to prepare his words. His words were delivered in Terry’s pre-game press conference with the media.

Take heed Mr. Collins: Words are important. A baseball manager can never win when he takes on his fan base.

And we oughta know, we’re Metsmerized.

MMO

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