Mets Merized Online » MMO Exclusives http://metsmerizedonline.com Mon, 01 Sep 2014 13:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 Wright ‘Excited’ To See What Herrera Can Do http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/wright-excited-to-see-what-herrera-is-can-do.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/wright-excited-to-see-what-herrera-is-can-do.html/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 00:17:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164666 DSC_0398

Citi Field is quiet; there is not a soul in the stands, say for an usher catching some shut-eye before the gates open up.

Nearly four hours prior to first-pitch Friday, a handful of personnel remain on the field, finishing their first round of batting practice.

Among those taking there cuts, wearing a grey “Mets Baseball” tee, is the organization’s longest tenured player, David Wright. Looking on, already in uniform, is the newest–and youngest–addition to the big leagues, Dilson Herrera.

Now more than a decade since his own debut, Wright said he looks forward to getting a look at what Herrera can do.

dilson herrera fielding practice

“It’s exciting seeing these players you read about and hear about come up and see what they’re all about,” Wright said.

Herrera collected his first major-league hit Saturday, going 1-for-3 in his second game in Flushing. Terry Collins said that although Herrera faces a level of competition he has never seen before, the Mets skipper is confident in his new second baseman’s abilities.

“He’s coming with really, really outstanding reports on how he plays, the way he plays, intelligent kid; all the things you want to hear,” Collins said.

The 20-year-old Colombia-native was called up from Double-A Binghamton late Thursday night after Daniel Murphy was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right calf injury. Once upon in time in baseball, the young-bloods coming up were not always greeted positively. Nowadays, rookies are treated as part of the team, something Wright said he feels is important.

dilson herrera wilmer flores sandy alderson

“One of the biggest things to feel comfortable and confident on the field is being welcomed and feeling comfortable in the clubhouse,” he said. “I think that is part of my responsibility and part of everyone’s responsibility.”

Collins admits that skipping Triple-A and going straight to MLB is a difficult transition, but cites past players he sees as similar to Herrera, namely Steve Sax, as examples that it can be done. Collins went on to say that he believes in the minor league coaching staff who have recommended he make the jump.

“I trust them,” he said Friday. “And like everyone else, I am anxious to see him play.”

Photos By Clayton Collier, MMO

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DeGrom Remains In Rookie of the Year Hunt http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/degrom-remains-in-rookie-of-the-year-hunt.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/degrom-remains-in-rookie-of-the-year-hunt.html/#comments Sat, 30 Aug 2014 12:07:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164571 jacob degrom

Jacob deGrom tossed seven strong innings against the Phillies on Friday, scattering four hits, allowing one unearned run and striking out five.

The young right-hander didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and was at his best during any hint of trouble when he’d reach back and pitch with some extra zip on his fastball. He recorded 16 of his 20 outs with his two and four seamer and commanded the lower part of the strike zone all night long. The kid has a lot of moxie.

“The location was really good all night with all of my pitches,” said deGrom who won his seventh game of the season and remains a top contender for the league’s rookie of the year award.

DeGrom has pitched at least six innings in 14 of his 18 starts this season, allowing just three runs or fewer in 13 of those contests. 

Boasting an ERA+ of 119 and a 3.07 FIP, deGrom also leads all rookies in innings pitched and strikeouts while checking in with a 1.196 WHIP and a 2.94 ERA for the season.

It’s been quite a debut for deGrom who continues to shine and has entrenched himself in what’s shaping up to be a very formidable and young Mets rotation in 2015 and beyond.

(Joe D.)

August 29

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said Jacob deGrom‘s stuff was not the issue in Saturday’s 7-4 loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles, but rather the overuse of his fastball.

“I’m very happy about the way he threw the baseball in LA,” Warthen said. “I wasn’t happy about his pitch selection.”

deGrom surrendered five runs and five hits over six innings of work in his return from the disabled list after battling rotator cuff tendinitis. The Rookie of the Year candidate threw 86 pitches, allowing a three-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez, inflating his ERA from 2.87 to 3.13.

Warthen explained that deGrom getting carried away with his fastball was “understandable” as he was throwing harder than he ever had in his career–topping 97mph–but said the key for the 26-year-old tonight is to utilize all of his pitches. He has no other concerns regarding deGrom.

“His stuff was better than it had been all year,” Warthen said. “He just kind of forgot how to pitch, and we talked about that.

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MMO Exclusive: Dilson Herrera Goes From Big Dreams To Big Leagues http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-exclusive-dilson-herrera-goes-from-big-dreams-to-big-leagues.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-exclusive-dilson-herrera-goes-from-big-dreams-to-big-leagues.html/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:34:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164538 herrera

Wow, what a dramatic change of events for the Mets on Thursday night, first Daniel Murphy goes on the DL and then the Mets catch everyone off guard and call up top prospect Dilson Herrera.

When I first heard the news, I was shocked and not because Herrera does not deserve the opportunity, oh he definitely does, but because the Mets actually thought enough of his amazing season to jump him straight from Double-A.

I spoke with Dilson last night after finding out the news and he was just so thankful that his dreams are finally becoming a reality. But from what I have witnessed from spending time with him and just chatting about baseball and life, was that he has a confidence that I have never seen before in a player so young and he knows in his mind that he belongs in the majors.

The Mets bring up a player that has played exciting baseball in both Advanced-A St. Lucie and then got better at Binghamton. For his reward, he’ll now showcase his amazing talent on the big stage and what better place to do that than New York City.

What he isn’t is a flashy player. What he is is a player with a solid bat that can turn on a fastball and drive it. He can also take the ball the other way and knows how to get on base. He plays good defense, gets the job done, and has proven to be a winner.

I am very excited about this move and looking forward to seeing him perform in the show. Also with Herrera being the first Colombian native to don a Mets uniform, Citi Field should be rocking again very shortly.  The team will not be in contention this season, but with a few more moves the future is going to be brighter than ever.

Below is an interview I conducted with Herrera this past season..

When the Mets knew that their 2013 season wasn’t going anywhere, they decided to unload two main players, Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pittsburgh Pirates, hoping that in return they would receive some future value to the organization. What they did receive would not pay any dividends for years to come, but it was a way to continue to solidify their farm system with additional talented ballplayers.

In last summers trade with the Pirates, the Mets brought in relief pitcher Vic Black and middle infielder Dilson Herrera, and even though Black may have been the player to make an immediate impact to the big league roster, Herrera could actually be the most significant part of the deal.

Herrera signed an international contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates at 16 years old. I asked him if they were the only team that showed interest in him, “I tried out with a few organizations and wasn’t sure who I would sign with, but the Pirates showed the most interest, so I decided I would sign with their organization,” he says.

While growing up in his native land of Colombia, both his father and grandfather played baseball and he tells me that he owes his talents to his upbringing, “My family has always loved baseball, and because my father played the game, he was able to show me how to play the right way.”

Before signing a contract to play professional baseball, Herrera was molded to be a shortstop and he even emulated how Jimmy Rollins played the position. But the Pirates had other plans and decided to sign him to play third base. But then after one season they moved him to second base.

Even though Herrera preferred to play short, he tells me that the move to second was a better fit.

“I felt that I was more comfortable playing second base, because shortstop was a bit more difficult to get adjusted to early on and the throws were much longer. But now, I have shown that I am capable of adjusting and playing both positions very well.”

In 2011, the he played his first pro season in the Venezuelan Rookie League for the Pirates and he hit .308/.413/.472 with 19 doubles, five triples, two home runs, and 27 RBI’s. The following season he was promoted to the Pirates’ Gulf Coast team and in 53 games, he batted .281/.341/.482 with seven home runs, and 27 RBI’s. Herrera finished out the 2012 season with a bump to Low-A State College in the NY Penn League and in seven games batted .321/.345/.536.

Herrera would call the South Atlantic League home in 2013, and in 109 games for Single-A West Virginia he batted .265/.330/.421, with 27 doubles, 11 home runs, and 56 RBI’s. His prospect status was on the rise.

During that summer, Herrera represented the Pirates in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field, and became the second-youngest player to ever play in the game.

“It was an amazing experience to be in New York and have an opportunity to play at Citi Field. It was very special to me to be chosen for the game and something I will never forget,” says Herrera.

When the Pirates decided to part ways with the young infielder, initially he says he didn’t take it too well.

“I was a bit confused and down when I was traded to the Mets, because I didn’t understand why the Pirates would trade me especially since they were the first team to sign me. I felt like they were my team.”

For a young kid from another country who was still not comfortable with the English language, leaving the only organization he ever knew was a shock to the system. But the one of the good things that came out of it was the immediate connection he made with the Mets organization.

Pedro Perez, a player within the Mets farm system, knew Herrera from their homeland of Colombia and he played a big part in helping Herrera to adjust to his new organization.

“Pedro was the first person to contact me and welcome me to the Mets and I was very thankful that I had a friend that understood me and could help me feel comfortable in my new surroundings.”

After the trade, Herrera was assigned to Single-A Savannah for the last seven games of the season. He batted .316/.417/.316 with his new club. The move also allowed him to be a part of a team that would capture the 2013 SAL Championship.

“When I arrived in Savannah, the players, especially our manager Luis Rojas welcomed me and instantly made me feel like a member of the team. It was a great feeling to play with a group of guys that were good enough to win the league championship. I was very grateful for the opportunity to not only play but help the team win.”

For a player that is 5’10”, Herrera has displayed some surprising power, belting 22 home runs in three minor league seasons. But his plate approach is not about hitting home runs, but as he says, playing the game the right way. “I like to drive the ball the other way, and I don’t focus on hitting home runs, I just focus on putting the bat on the ball and making things happen,” says Herrera.

Dilson  Herrera Bunting

Herrera oozes with confidence and focuses on producing the best he can from day to day. He tells me that he doesn’t worry about things beyond his control. “My main focus is to do what needs to be done on the field. I can only control that part of my game and I know that in time I will get my opportunity.”

Herrera, who is now playing with Advanced-A St. Lucie in his first full season with the organization, started the year 3-for-17 (.176) in his first five games. But since then he reeled off an 11-game hit streak in which he batted .391 (20 for 51), with three doubles, a triple, home run, five RBIs and four walks.

Overall this season, he has been a catalyst, batting .333/.389/.432, with eight multi-hit games. After seeing his hitting streak come to an on Monday, he started a new one on Tuesday with three hits and one more hit in Wednesday night’s game.

This exciting infield prospect has solidified himself in the lead-off spot for St. Lucie and he is one of the main components in a potent lineup that leads the Florida State League through Wednesday games with a .283 batting average, 99 runs, 190 hits, 92 RBI’s, 267 TB, and a .356 OBP.

“I feel very comfortable playing with St. Lucie and we have a very good team with a great group of talented guys that go out each and every night and compete.”

I had a chance to watch Herrera play from April 17-19, when the Mets visited the Miracle in Fort Myers, and what I witnessed was a very talented ballplayer that could turn on any fastball and drive it with power. His range at the shortstop and second base were flawless and his throws to first were very strong and accurate.

Only 20 years old, Herrera has had an incredible minor league career thus far, producing at every different level he’s played. He’s been dynamic both at the plate and in the field. In a few short years I can see him becoming an impact player on our big league roster. I’m excited for the day he makes his debut and electrifies our lineup.

Interview was conducted in Spanish and translated into English for our readers to enjoy.

mmo always believe

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MMO Exclusive: Dillon Gee Discusses Pitching, Outfield Defense, Having A Solid Bullpen http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-exclusive-dillon-gee-discusses-pitching-outfield-defense-having-a-solid-bullpen.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-exclusive-dillon-gee-discusses-pitching-outfield-defense-having-a-solid-bullpen.html/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 19:28:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163616 dillon gee

A couple weeks ago, I reached out to Mets pitcher Dillon Gee for an interview, and Dillon was kind enough to let me do an online Q&A with him. Gee had the 7th-lowest ERA in baseball from the end of May 2013 to the time at which he was placed on the DL in May 2014. The righty missed a couple months, but is now back in action and starting to round back into form. Check out what Dillon had to say!

Tommy Rothman, MetsMerized Online: How did you get started playing baseball? What made you fall in love with the game?

Dillon Gee, New York Mets: I have an older brother that played, and I just always wanted to do whatever he did. Not sure [if it was] one thing that made me fall in love, [I] just have always loved playing!!

Tommy: What’s it like to be a member of the New York Mets?

Dillon: It’s awesome. The Mets are a great organization and treat you like family. The future is bright here.

Tommy: You got off to a nice start as a Met, but in July of 2012 a season-ending, career-threatening and potentially life-threatening blood clot was discovered in your right shoulder. What were the 9 months between your diagnosis and your return to the MLB like? Baseball is obviously such a huge part of your life; how did it feel not knowing for sure whether you would ever throw another pitch? Please tell us a bit about that period in your life.

Dillon: It’s a scary feeling not knowing how you will bounce back from an injury. Especially one as weird as that was. But instead of fretting about it, I decided all I could control was my attitude about it and how hard I would work to come back strong. Everything else just happens.

Tommy: Fortunately, you were able to return to the mound for the 2013 season. However, you struggled early in the year and as the month of May drew to a close with Zack Wheeler‘s MLB debut, there was a lot of speculation about whether your spot in the rotation was secure. On May 30th, in Yankee Stadium (the last place a pitcher wants to be), you threw a gem, and since that point, there is no way around it: you have statistically been one of the very best pitchers in baseball. What do you think was responsible for the turnaround? Is there something you started doing differently? Or was it just a matter of needing some time to regain your form after the surgery?

Dillon: I think it took me a while to find myself after being out so long. That night in Yankee Stadium I was aggressive and challenged hitters with all my pitches. That’s my game, and even though I still forget that sometimes, I have maintained that for the most part during that good stretch.

Tommy: What’s your gameday routine like, when you are the starting pitcher that day? Walk us through a “#GeeDay”.

Dillon: Wake up and have some breakfast. Go walk around and get the body going for an hour or so. Then maybe take a little nap before lunch. Head to the park about 3-3:30. Try and relax and really not think about much. PB&J at 5 then start getting ready about 5:45. Head out to the bullpen at 6:35.

Tommy: Let’s talk about the Captain. David Wright may not be having an “amazing” season so far, but most hitters in baseball would still gladly take the numbers he has right now. When David is raking, his contributions are obvious. But of course, David has responsibilities other than driving in runs. What kind of impact does he have on the rest of the team, apart from his tangible production?

Dillon: David does a great job of leading by example. He shows people what it’s like to prepare like a professional.

Tommy: MLB Pitchers don’t tend to do very well at the plate. But in the National League, they make you guys hit anyway. With the exception of bunting practice, do you spend any time practicing what to do with the bat in your hands? Or do you just go out there and try to get the bat on the ball, and keep all of your focus on what you do on the mound?

Dillon: We try to take BP when we are at home the days you’re not pitching. But it’s still tough to get ready for live big league pitching. Hitting against live pitching once every five days is very hard.

Tommy: Another thing pitchers tend to have trouble with is throwing to the bases when a ball is put in play. Obviously, your career depends on your ability to throw a ball at high speeds and with a lot of movement into a very small “strike zone”, and most pitchers don’t have a problem with this. But when asked to make the more relaxed throw to a bigger target at 1st base (or any other base), pitchers often struggle. Why is that? Is it just psychological?

Dillon: I think sometimes guys are just used to throwing at 90-100% down the mound. All [of a] sudden you get a comebacker and just need to toss it, [we] ease up and arm angles change. You see the same thing with intentional base on balls. A lot is mental too. If you mess one up, then the next time, that’s what you think about.

Tommy: A lot of fans don’t understand the role of coaches in baseball. For instance, some people might wonder how Dan Warthen can give advice to a pitcher who is already at the top of his profession. Granted, Warthen was a major league pitcher for couple years, but he was no Johan Santana, or Matt Harvey, or Dillon Gee. Can you explain to us how the coaching staff works with the players and how they aid in your development?

Dillon: They have been around the game a long time and know pitching. It’s also nice to have another set of eyes on you all the time that may be able to pick up subtle changes that you might not feel or realize. They also help with scouting reports, teaching how to read swings, etc. There is a lot of knowledge they have from just being around the game for a long time.

Tommy: From a pitcher’s perspective, how has it been working with Travis d’Arnaud over the past year? People talk endlessly about his hot and cold streaks at the plate, but how is his relationship with you and the other pitchers as a battery-mate?

Dillon: Travis is great to work with. He takes his job behind the plate seriously and has done a great job learning the staff. He does a great job receiving the ball too.

Tommy: In the past, outfield defense and mobility has been a problem. But this year, with guys like Curtis Granderson, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Matt den Dekker, Chris Young, and especially Juan Lagares, the Mets have had some very athletic gloves out there patrolling the gaps. Heck, even Bobby Abreu ran into the wall to catch one a couple weeks back. How important is it for you on the mound to know those guys have your back if one of your pitches gets a bit too much of the plate? Also, does Juan have superpowers? Asking for a friend.

Dillon: I don’t think Lagares has superpowers [Editor's note: I think Dillon was fibbing here. -Tommy] but sometimes it seems so. It is great knowing guys are out there who can all run down some fly balls.

Tommy: When a starter gives up a late home run, everybody says he was left in too long. When the reliever gives up a big hit, everybody says the starter should have been left in. But hindsight is 20-20. How does fatigue impact a starting pitcher over the course of a game? Can you feel it setting in gradually from the first pitch onward? Or do you just hit a “wall” at some point, where your body tells you you’re almost out of gas?

Dillon: You know, I think it gradually sets in, and before you know it, your release point starts to falter and you lose command. But the only way to get better at pitching [while] tired late in a game is to be out there doing it more often. You’re right though. Someone is always going to point fingers when it doesn’t work out. There is no clear-cut answer.

Tommy: You’re only 28, but after Bartolo Colon, you’re the oldest guy on the staff. When you first came up, guys like Johan Santana were presumably there to offer some guidance. Do you feel some responsibility, now, to be a mentor to guys like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero, and the other young pitchers in the organization?

Dillon: I feel a responsibility to offer help [to those guys] if they want it. I don’t like to act like I have it all figured out, cause I don’t. We are all continuing to learn in this game.

Tommy: Coming into this season, a lot of people saw the bullpen as a question mark. However, the relievers have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2014 campaign. Does it help you when you’re out there on the mound to know that you don’t necessarily need to go 7 or 8?

Dillon: It’s great knowing you have a bullpen out there that can get you out of a jam. But as a starter, I always want to go as deep into the game as possible.

Tommy: You’re now a veteran who has had a good amount of recent success. So what’s the next step? What specific parts of your arsenal have you been working on, as you try to keep improving and maintain that success?

Dillon: It’s an ongoing process to just keep getting better all around. Sometimes we get into bad habits and struggle for a bit. It’s about trying to right the ship as quickly as possible, and keep the down spells few and far between. Being consistent is the goal, and that’s not always easy to do.

Tommy: What advice do you have for young athletes?

Dillon: Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something. Dream it and believe it. I was told by many I would never pitch in the big leagues. Well those people haven’t said much lately. Find what motivates you.

Tommy: You’ve recently been working on a campaign to ‘K Cancer’. Can you just explain a bit about that to our readers?

Dillon: I was approached by the Jason Motte Foundation to help with the “K Cancer” campaign. I was able to choose the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a charity to receive some of the proceeds. That meant a lot to me, because that hits close to home for my family. I also think the shirts are awesome.

*End of Interview*

Thanks to Dillon for taking some time out of his busy day to answer some questions for me. Dillon will be taking the hill tonight against the A’s in Oakland.

MMO footer

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Video: Gil Hodges Once Again Up For Hall of Fame Election http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/video-gil-hodges-once-again-up-for-hall-of-fame-election.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/video-gil-hodges-once-again-up-for-hall-of-fame-election.html/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:04:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163311 I’m sure it’s been something that has been debated quite often on this site as to whether Gil Hodges should be enshrined along with his legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ teammates in Cooperstown.

Well, Gil will be up for election again this December at the Winter Meetings.

To increase awareness of Gil’s cause, here is a television segment I put together. Please share it out, so that Gil rightfully takes his place this winter alongside baseball immortals.

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MMO Exclusive: Pitching Prospect Rob Whalen Is Coming On Strong http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-exclusive-pitching-prospect-rob-whalen-is-coming-on-strong.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mmo-exclusive-pitching-prospect-rob-whalen-is-coming-on-strong.html/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 14:23:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162797 robert whalen

Strap yourselves in and enjoy an interview with pitching prospect Rob Whalen, fresh off of his stellar performance on Wednesday night, tossing 5.1 shutout innings to collect his seventh win of the season and improve his record to a perfect 7-0 for the Savannah Sand Gnats.

The 20-year old righthander has not allowed an earned run in his last 12.1 innings pitched and on the season he has a pristine 1.42 ERA and 0.974 WHIP for Class-A Savannah.

You may remember Rob as the 2013 Sterling Award winner, recognized for being one of the Mets’ top pitching prospects after a big campaign in Kingsport where he allowed just one home run all season and owned the second best ERA in the entire Mets system among starting pitchers.

Enjoy…

Joe: Rob, it’s great to catch up with you again… What a year it’s been for you. After a breakthrough season in 2013 where you posted a 1.87 ERA AND 0.926 WHIP in 12 starts for Kingsport, here you are in Savannah, having skipped a full level and posting an even better season than last year. What’s been the biggest difference going from rookie ball to the Sally league?

Rob: This season has been a wild one that’s for sure. Coming into spring training this year I had a goal to make a full season team. I believe I have good enough stuff and I think I proved last year that I know how to pitch and can do it at a higher level. So not to knock on Brooklyn or anything, but I definitely believed I was ready for a full season league and I’m glad the organization agreed.

But honestly, there hasn’t been a huge difference, I’m not really doing anything drastically different than last year. Unfortunately, this season has been cut short due to the infection I had from a small cut on my hand, just a freak thing that cost me 2 months. It stunk not being able to pitch especially because I was throwing the ball so well at the time, but it is what it is. I just wanted to come back and finish the remainder of this season strong and help make a serious run in the playoffs.

Joe: Noah Syndergaard may have the “hook from hell” but Baseball America rated your curve as the best in the Mets system. Is that your primary weapon?

Rob: To be recognized as having the best curve meant a lot to me because we got some great pitchers in this system with some filthy stuff. Only thing is, yes I throw a curve, but I think they are referring to my slider. My curve has been my bread and butter pitch since I was little, I’m able to get a true 12-6 with it that I mostly throw early in the counts for strikes. My slider though has been my strikeout pitch. It’s been “slurvy” at times so I can see why people might think it was a curve, but I’ve worked hard this season on trying different grips to try to tighten it up and get a little more on it.

I saw an article on another site from a writer that said I worked with Frank Viola on tightening it up, that’s false. I wish Frank had the time to work with me, but obviously he’s not here in Savannah anymore. But really it was talking to our pitching coach Marc Valdes and teammates about different grips and testing them out.

Joe: Is there a particular pitch or pitches that you’re trying to improve this year? How’s your changeup coming along?

Rob: You always want to improve all your pitches. I’m extremely comfortable with my sinker that I throw 90% of the time when I throw a fastball. It’s gotten me early count outs and a ton of ground balls. Like I said I’ve worked on tightening my slider and being more consistent and aggressive with my changeup. Not pushing it or babying it, but getting that fastball arm speed and really finishing it and it’s coming along well.

Joe: What’s your mentality on the mound?

rob whalen cardRob: My mentality on the mound is just that I’m going to attack the zone and I’m going beat you. I’m going to execute my pitches and get you out. I believe you should always be confident in your abilities and at times be cocky. Not arrogant, but have a little cockiness out there. I expect to win every time I step on the mound. Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen but that’s what I expect from myself.

Joe: Who are some current major league pitchers you admire?

Rob: There isn’t really anyone that I admire due to us never really having a chance to watch big league games because in full season our schedules are similar. I’ve said before that I like watching Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey pitch. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting both of them while I was rehabbing and they are both great guys.

Joe: You are now just three more levels away before fulfilling your dream and playing for the team you grew up rooting for all your life. Can you describe what that feels like?

Rob: I’ve actually never thought of it that way. Savannah isn’t that far from the bigs. A lot of people know how big of a fan I am of the Mets and everyday I’m able to put a jersey on for them is a blessing. I’m just trying to take it one start at a time and enjoy the ride.

Joe: Do you still follow the Mets daily? Do you have any favorite current players that you root for? Are you happy with the direction of the team?

Rob: I still follow the team as much as I can. I’ll watch the highlights on my phone and read Metsmerized at night. David Wright has been my favorite player since Mike Piazza retired but I’m a fan of a lot of the players on the current team as well.

Am I happy in the direction that the team is going? (laughs) Haha that’s putting me in a tough spot. As a fan? I think we are only a couple pieces away from being a really good team. There’s always moves that I wish we would make but I understand how it works now that I’m in professional baseball. Every fan plays GM but there’s so much to it. As a player, there are a lot of great players coming up that fans should be excited about and I just hope I can be one of those guys that gets there soon and can help contribute at the big league level.

Joe: What has been the most exciting moment since turning pro?

Rob: My most exciting moment since turning pro has probably been winning the Sterling Award while with Kingsport last year. Just being around all the big leaguers at Citi Field and hanging out in the clubhouse with them and being out on the field for BP, kind of felt like home. Not as if I should be there now, but as in “this feels right, this is possible”. It really motivated me even more.

Joe: You have a bunch of talented young players like yourself in Savannah including a couple of first rounders. Which player has impressed you the most and can you tell us a little about him?

Rob: We definitely have a talented roster. I think we have a deep pitching staff, everyone fills it up well and has great stuff. Our lineup has been solid all year, but if I had to pick 1 guy, I would probably say Akeel Morris. He has been unbelievable all season. His stuff is electric. When he comes in, you know the game is over. He has been nearly untouchable all season. Been really fun to watch him.

Joe: I love that kid too, interviewed him back in April. Okay, lightning round… What’s your favorite meal?

Rob: I’m simple, I love a good homemade plate of Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Joe: Favorite recording artist or band?

Rob: I’m a big fan of Florida Georgia Line, not too many songs of theirs that I don’t like. I listen to just about everything though.

Joe: Do you enjoy Twitter or not really?

Rob: I love Twitter. I enjoy interacting with the fans and having them get to know me. At the end of the day, I’m still the same kid from the Northeast that grew up rooting for the Mets, I just have the privilege of playing for them now!

Joe: Designated Hitter – Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Rob: This is another one that I’m torn on because I’m a player. As a fan, I like the DH. But as a pitcher, I’m glad I’m in the National league because I love to hit.

Joe: Is there anything you’d like to tell Mets fans?

Rob: Nothing in particular other than letting them know how much I truly appreciate the love and support I’ve gotten from a lot of the fans. It feels good to have people believe in you. The Mets have a bright future ahead. Just keep the faith and Lets Go Mets!

Joe: Let’s end it at that… As always, it’s been real…

Rob: Joe, thanks for having me man!

Follow Rob on Twitter @RobWhalen38
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Conforto Discusses Approach; Not A Candidate For Arizona Fall League http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/conforto-discusses-approach-not-a-candidate-for-arizona-fall-league.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/conforto-discusses-approach-not-a-candidate-for-arizona-fall-league.html/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 20:30:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162580 michael conforto Patrick E. McCarthy

Update: According to Adam Rubin Michael Conforto is not a consideration for the Arizona Fall League. The Mets will not announce their contingent until late this month, but Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini are candidates.

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The Brooklyn Cyclones burst out of the gate this summer season to the tune of an 11-4 record in their first 15 games.

However, over the next three weeks, the team struggled offensively after its fast start to come back to the pack in the New York-Penn League.

But on July 19, the Cyclones finally received the consistent offensive punch the lineup lacked in the form of Mets first-round draft pick Michael Conforto.

Signing Conforto proved to be a lengthy process, but judging by his first 16 games for Brooklyn, it seems the organization’s patience has certainly been worth the wait.

In these games, the lefty-swinging Conforto is hitting .362 (21-for-58) with five doubles, two home runs and nine RBI. He’s homered in each of his last two games, including an absolute bomb into the right-field bleachers on Saturday – where long drives typically get gobbled up by the Coney Island wind – and an opposite field shot on Sunday.

IMG_8348Right away, it seemed that Conforto had an idea in each at-bat of what he wanted to do at the plate.

“I’m very comfortable,” the first rounder said. “I think I’ve just kind of settled into a mode where I’m seeing the ball well and I’m in a rhythm. I’m getting a lot of pitches to hit, so I’m just doing what I can with them and hitting the ball where it’s pitched.”

The Cyclones are 11-5 since Conforto joined the team, and the team’s offensive attack has picked up significantly. With his presence in the lineup, the other hitters have undoubtedly been getting better pitches to hit.

“A lot of guys have really stepped up swinging,” Conforto said. “I think it is fair to say that maybe me being there in the middle of the lineup helps other guys and maybe I’m protecting some people, but I wouldn’t be taking all that credit. We’ve just been playing really well together as a team.”

Cyclones’ manager Tom Gamboa has praised Conforto’s approach offensively and said he hopes the other Cyclones players are paying attention when Michael is at the plate or even taking batting practice.

Conforto said he credits the coaches and players at Oregon State University for helping him develop his patient approach – that seems to fit in very well with the Mets’ current hitting philosophy.

“Out of high school, I wasn’t the hitter I am now at all,” he said. “They (college coaches) really stressed the importance to me of swinging at high percentage pitches for hitters and letting the pitches that are low percentage go, which are out of the strike zone anyways. You take those balls, you get on base, you walk, and you’re also getting better pitches to hit as a hitter. There’s really no down side to it.”

It seems like every Conforto at-bat is pre-scripted. He’ll get up there and take a few pitcher’s pitches – even if they wind up being called strikes – until he a gets pitch he can handle. And when he does, he usually hits it hard somewhere.

“My hitting approach is fairly simple: I’m hunting for fastballs,” Conforto said. “Something straight is the easiest ball to hit, and I’ve been getting a lot of those lately, and that’s why the results have been showing up. Staying to the opposite field has helped me with the off-speed stuff because I’m still staying back long enough to get the bat on the ball when it’s coming in slower.”

As for his defense, the knock on him when he was drafted was that he wasn’t exactly a prototypical Major League outfielder. But he seems to be on a mission to prove the naysayers wrong.

Already he has four outfield assists and has made several acrobatic plays in left field. He said he kept his arm in shape while he was at home prior to reporting to Brooklyn and that the Cyclones’ coaching staff has helped him work on some little things to help refine his defense.

“That (defense) is something that I think was out there as a question mark, and I took that as a challenge personally,” Conforto said. “I made it a priority to work on that part of my game. I can see where that might come from to be honest. Maybe I had a bad couple of games in the outfield that some people saw, so any of that criticism is constructive for me, and I take that and use it to make myself better.

“I definitely have worked at it, and I will still work on it. You’re never perfect in this game, and so I’ll keep working on it and practicing. Repetition makes you as good as you could possibly be.”

IMG_8381It’s this sort of hardworking attitude that has made Conforto an instant fan-favorite in Brooklyn. He said he loves interacting with the fans before and after games.

“It’s really cool hearing them call my number and my name,” the 21-year-old said. “It’s pretty awesome that so quickly they’ve taken to me, and I enjoy it and that’s why I’m out there signing autographs.

“I like signing stuff for kids. It’s a lot of fun for me. As a kid, I was always asking for autographs, and I remember not getting them and being upset about it. I like to sign as many autographs as I can.”

Here’s a note to Cyclones’ fans that still haven’t gotten Michael’s autograph: You better hurry up!

If Conforto keeps hitting at his torrid pace, the Mets may be wise to promote him to Savannah. Sure, there’s no rush in his progression through the system, but he eventually needs more of a challenge than Single-A short season pitching.

But meanwhile, the Cyclones are in the thick of a playoff race, and it’s no secret that Conforto is a major factor in the team’s postseason hopes. Winning a New York-Penn League title maybe isn’t tops on the Mets’ priority list, but getting Conforto some seasoning in big spots – like a meaningful playoff series – could pay dividends in his development.

For now though, Conforto seems content with raking for the Cyclones, and Gamboa is happy to pencil his slugger’s name into the lineup each day.

Here’s hoping for continued success, and of course a clean bill of health, for the Mets first-rounder.

Photo Credits: Jim Mancari, MMO, Patrick E. McCarthy

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MMO Fan Shot: Trading Murphy Would Be The Smart Move For The Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-trading-murphy-would-be-the-smart-move-for-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-trading-murphy-would-be-the-smart-move-for-the-mets.html/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:00:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=161867 wright murphy

An MMO Fan Shot by Quinn Barry

Daniel Murphy has been one of the best hitters on the New York Mets this season. Murphy is batting .293 with 7 homers, 11 Steals, 57 runs scored, and is second in the National League with 125 hits. However, the time to trade Daniel Murphy is now.

As the focal point of the Mets’ offense, Daniel Murphy’s trade value has never been higher. Plus, Murphy is becoming increasingly more and more expensive. According to ESPN.com, Murphy is making $5.7 million this season. Next year, his final year of arbitration, Murphy will earn upwards of $8 million dollars. That’s not exactly cheap for a Mets team that ranks 25th in league payroll, according to Deadspin.

Adding on to that, Murphy will be a free agent following the 2015 season, where he could presumably walk if the Mets don’t extend him, leaving the Mets with zero compensation.

Finally, trading away a player with an extra year of team control would maximize the Mets’ return. Moving on from Murphy now would allow the Mets more financial flexibility and greater value from the incoming prospects/players they would receive in a potential trade.

wilmer-flores-2013-bmPutting the money and trade value aside, the Mets would be able to rebound from trading Murphy, as they have a glut of second base prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues.

Perhaps the most MLB ready replacement is Wilmer Flores, who was recently called up from Triple-A Las Vegas. Prior to receiving the call, Flores hit .323 with 13 home runs and sported an incredible .935 OPS in just 55 games. While many question Flores defensively, scouts say he has the arm strength, range, and hands to play an adequate second base.

Looking beyond Flores, 2012 second-rounder Matt Reynolds provides another intriguing option at second. Although he doesn’t hit for much power, the 23 year-old dominated the competition at Double-A Binghamton this year, hitting .355 with a .430 OBP, and earning a call-up to Triple-A Vegas. However, since arriving at Triple-A Reynolds is only hitting .285, and his on-base percentage is down almost .100 points from his Double-A clip. These struggles suggest that even though Reynolds is not big-league ready like Flores is right now, he could become a legitimate option down the road.

herreraAnother option and one that may have more potential than both Flores and Reynolds, but will need a bit more time to develop first. is Double-A second baseman Dilson Herrera. He has been a highly-touted prospect ever since the Pirates signed him out of Colombia in 2010, and has only seen his stock rise since he came over to the Mets in last August’s Marlon Byrd trade.

Herrera was raking at Class-A St. Lucie, hitting .307, before getting promoted to Double-A. Since arriving at Binghamton, Herrera has hit .353 with a .412 OBP and a ridiculous .978 OPS. For a twenty-year-old kid, those are some pretty impressive numbers. Herrera has a chance to become an impact bat in the Mets’ lineup as early as 2015.

A Murphy trade would save the Mets financially, bring back valuable talent, and open up a spot for one of their young second baseman to shine. If a trade centered around Murphy brought back a power-hitting left fielder, it should be a no-brainer for the Mets’ front office. It’s time to trade Daniel Murphy.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader and die-hard Met fan Quinn Barry. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Fan Shot: An Analytical Look at the Mets at the All-Star Break http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-an-analytical-look-at-the-mets-at-the-all-star-break.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-an-analytical-look-at-the-mets-at-the-all-star-break.html/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 14:30:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160797 wright mets win d'arnaud

An MMO Fan Shot by Josh Eichenbaum

The New York Mets enter this year’s All-Star Break with a 45-50 record, which, at first glance is not terribly impressive. A deeper look, however, reveals a Mets team that has suffered a good deal of bad luck and may be primed for a post-break run.

Pythagorean Record

A team’s Pythagorean Record is often more indicative of a team’s performance than its actual record is. The formula for the Pythagorean Record was developed by Bill James and uses the amount of runs scored and runs allowed to determine how many games a team “should” have won. The formula is designed to adjust for any good or bad luck a team might have. A team with good luck and a winning record might have a losing Pythagorean Record while the opposite could be true for a team with bad luck. The Mets fall into the latter category, as they sport a 45-50 record in reality but a 50-45 Pythagorean Record. This would indicate that the Mets have had plenty of bad luck this year, which is supported by the fact that the Mets have blown 15 saves this year and own an abysmal 12-20 record in games decided by one run.

Run Differential

The Mets also enter the All-Star Break with a +19 run differential, meaning that they have scored 19 more runs than they have allowed. This number is fairly impressive and actually greater than the run differentials of several notable teams: the Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Braves, and Yankees all have lower run differentials than the Mets. However, the Mets posted a run differential of +21 in the week leading up to the All-Star Break, raising the team from a less-than-stellar -2 run differential to the current +19.

What do These Numbers Mean?

I chose to discuss Pythagorean Record because it is probably the most accurate way to discern how well a team is actually performing. The bottom line is that according to these metrics, the Mets should be a better team than they are right now. In fact, they should be competing for a Wild Card spot. The numbers are deceiving though, as the Mets’ big final week before the break had a large impact on their run differential. Though the team finally seems to be reaching their offensive potential, one has to think some of the bats in the lineup will eventually cool down and the current run differential will either decrease or remain stagnant.

One can also look to the Mets’ early months of the season, when the club was an offensive mess, featuring a struggling Travis d’Arnaud, an inconsistent Lucas Duda, David Wright performing below his career averages, no production whatsoever from whoever happened to be playing shortstop, and The Player Formerly Known As Chris Young. Most of the Mets lineup during the first part of the season had “worst case possible”-type runs, meaning that some consistency and improvement was bound to come eventually; perhaps the Mets’ recent surge is not as fluky as it may seem.

I ultimately expect a hybrid of the two extremes that have been presented – the Mets will continue to play .500-plus baseball and finish close to .500. They will not, however, continue to hit over .280 or sport a +21 run differential every week of the second half. They probably won’t win the division or even make the playoffs, but given the bad luck they have had (as indicated by the Pythagorean Record), things should turn around a bit. What do you guys think?

Bio: I am a lifelong Mets fan… even though I am just 17 years old. I am a freshman at Boston College and have written for several local publications. Follow me on Twitter @the_eichenbomb if you’re interested in talking more Mets with me!

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Josh Eichenbaum. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Interview: After Eventful Year, Murphy “Humbled” To Get All-Star Nod http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-interview-after-eventful-year-murphy-humbled-to-get-all-star-nod.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-interview-after-eventful-year-murphy-humbled-to-get-all-star-nod.html/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:50:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160689 daniel murphy

Daniel Murphy has had a season of firsts in 2014.

Murphy celebrated the birth of his first child on Opening Day, resulting in an unjust ribbing from local radio personalities for missing time on paternal leave—also a first.

Murphy also made his first trip to the White House last month, speaking at the Working Dads Summit on the aforementioned topic of leaving his team for his wife and newborn son, Noah.

Although it wasn’t the first head-turning season for the 29-year-old Jacksonville native, Murphy finally received his first all-star selection this past week.

Murphy said he feels honored to have been selected to the All-Star game and that he and his family are “excited” to attend the three-day event.

“It’s very humbling to be even mentioned in the same breath as some of the guys that are going to be at this game,” Murphy said.

Murphy will be the lone Mets representative in Minneapolis, just the second time David Wright has not been chosen since 2006. Manager Terry Collins said he was proud of Murphy for his achievement.

“He’s so pumped up and he should be,” Collins said. “It’s a tremendous tribute to one of the hardest working players you’ll ever be around.”

Murphy is batting .294 on the season with 113 hits and 56 runs scored. He has committed to his gap power, ripping 101 doubles since taking over as the full-time second baseman in 2012.

As efficient as Murphy has been with the bat, his defensive improvements have been even more impressive for third base coach Tim Defuel, specifically on his ability to turn double plays.

“It’s increasingly getting better, he’s getting more familiarized with the footwork, the timing of the plays,” Teufel said. “He’s evolving he’s trying different techniques and making it his own.”

Murphy credits Teufel for helping him to make his transition to second.

“I don’t think I would be the second baseman I am today if it wasn’t for the work he put in with me,” he said.

Outside of speaking with six-time all-star Chase Utley, who Murphy says he sometimes “shoots the breeze” with when the Phillies come to town, he doesn’t have anyone he plans to talk to. He is just looking forward to the week ahead.

“My wife and my family are excited,” he said. “We’re just trying to soak it in for a couple of days.”

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Niese Says Shoulder Only Fatigued, Expects To Make July 21 Start http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/niese-says-shoulder-only-fatigued-expects-to-be-activated-for-july-21-start.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/niese-says-shoulder-only-fatigued-expects-to-be-activated-for-july-21-start.html/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 21:06:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160591 jon niese

Jon Niese downplayed the severity of his shoulder strain Saturday, telling MMO he will start the fourth game out of the All-Star break in Seattle on July 21.

Niese, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 5 last week, said his shoulder is fatigued, not necessarily injured. 

“It really is not an injury, it’s pretty much just a little resting period,” Niese said. “My shoulders just got fatigued and it got progressively got worse and worse each outing.”

The 27-year-old said that although his nagging injuries in Spring Training were not related to his tired shoulder, they did hamper his ability to get his arm into the “best possible shape” entering the regular season.

Terry Collins told reporters prior to Saturday’s game that Niese will throw tomorrow, but the team has not made any determination as to when the lefty will return.

“We’re just going to wait to see, once we get out of the break, how he’s doing,” Collins said.

Bartolo Colon was announced as the starter for the second-half opener in San Diego today. Collins also said that he plans to start Dillon Gee in the Padres series as well.

Niese is 5-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 17 starts this season.

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MMO Fan Shot: It’s Time; Make A Move, Sandy! http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-its-time-make-a-move-sandy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-its-time-make-a-move-sandy.html/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:27:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160522 sandy alderson

An MMO fan Shot by Joe Santarelli-Hansen

Four years have passed since the current front office led by general manager Sandy Alderson have taken charge. During his first three trade deadlines with the Mets, Sandy has never done anything to improve the major league roster although under his leadership the farm system has shown vast improvement.

As die-hard Mets fans, we live and die with this team, hanging onto the faintest of hopes that we can make a run for the postseason. In a year where the NL East is still up for grabs, the opportunity is present for the Mets to make the kinds of moves which would help to increase our chances for one of those wild card spots.

Both Sandy and Terry Collins would have all of us believe that this team as currently constructed is a legitimate contender. When an organization is serious and believes in their teams’ ability to win, moves are usually made to shore up the possibility of a playoff run and increase the team’s chances.

With both the Braves or the Nationals unable to secure the top spot in the division, the Mets still have as good a chance as any other NL East team of making a strong and sustainable run as the first half comes to a close. But why not make that more attainable with a trade to help improve what has been a very inconsistent lineup? Sometimes Sandy Alderson confuses even the best of us.

It’s time to stop moving the goal posts and cut bait with the idea that “next year is our year” and finally make a trade of impact that benefits the Major League team both now and in the future.

If the Mets are around five games back in the division come late July, a trade needs to be made to not only help boost the current playoff run, but the future of the team as well. And by that I mean no one year rentals, but players that offer immediate impact now and remain a good fit in 2015 as well.

With a healthy Matt Harvey leading the Mets rotation next year, the further development of Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares, and the young power arms in the pen, this team could really be a significant force with the addition of just one big bat.

Possible targets could include Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Bautista just to name a few.

All of these players are All-Star caliber offensive players, though none of them will hurt the Mets defensively, either. It is not known, or set in stone at the moment, which players may actually become available come the trade deadline, though as the Rockies continue to fall, CarGo could certainly be made available.

The New York Mets should not hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade, as long as the demand is not astronomically high.

Possible prospects that the team could look to offer in a trade include Rafael Montero, Steven Matz, Dilson Herrera, Kevin Plawecki and possibly Noah Syndergaard – if a Stanton or Tulo become available.

Our biggest need as a franchise right now is a bona fide middle of the order type bat and there’s no immediate help on the way from the farm. Acquiring any of those above players would help this team immensely.

As a franchise that continues to fuel a feeling of apathy and mistrust from their fan base, acquiring a Giancarlo Stanton or Troy Tulowitzki type player would not only impact the team in a positive way, but would also show the fan base that winning is indeed a priority and that post season aspirations are entirely possible again in Queens.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by Joe Santarelli-Hansen and initially submitted on June 12. While some of the names and points made may not be as relevant now as they were a month ago, the sentiment embodied in this post is as true now as it was back then.

Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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Mets Minute: Jenrry Mejia and Juan Lagares http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mets-minute-jenrry-mejia-and-juan-lagares.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mets-minute-jenrry-mejia-and-juan-lagares.html/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 14:54:48 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=160484 jenrry mejia

Yesterday, I was able to catch up with Jenrry Mejia and Juan Lagares before the game at Citi Field.  I asked them a variety of questions, ranging from what their favorite moments of the season were so far to where is the best place to eat in Citi Field.

Both guys are very confident and believe the Mets’ future is bright, and Lagares added that he has faith in manager Terry Collins.

By the way, Mejia thinks he has better hair than Jacob deGrom.

 

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July 4, 1985: No End in Sight http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/july-4-1985-no-end-in-sight.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/july-4-1985-no-end-in-sight.html/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=123757 Thousands of baseball books have been published. Millions of baseball stories have been told, every one of them starts with the same basic understanding: two teams, nine innings, balls, strikes, runs, hits and errors. Along the way there are various twists and turns ending in perfect games, no hitters, walk off home runs and everything in between.

No two games are the same, but many are alike. They all come back to the final out. Strike three. Game over. But what happens when a game goes on and on and on … with no apparent end in sight? Then, when the moment seemingly arrives, hope is dashed by improbability. There was a major league game like this. It was played on July 4 (and July 5), 1985. This is the story, as told by those who played, reported, broadcast, watched and witnessed it.

Extra innings changes everything. The game of baseball is redefined. To score is to win. To err is to lose. Strategy is discarded. Position players become relief pitchers and relief pitchers are pinch runners, and occasionally hit home runs.

On Independence Day 1985 at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium, the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves played 19 innings, the equivalent of two baseball games (plus one inning) including two rain delays totaling two hours, five minutes, 29 runs, 14 pitchers and 43 players, 155 official at bats, 115 outs, 615 pitches, 46 hits, 23 walks, 22 strikeouts, five errors, 37 stranded base runners, six lead changes, a cycle, two players were ejected and 25 years later the most memorable moment was recorded by the losing pitcher Rick Camp.

Camp was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1974. He grew up on a farm in Georgia, went to school and played ball in Georgia, drove a pickup truck and the team agreed to give him a tractor as part of his deal. Now he was going to pitch for his hometown team. Camp was close to living his dream.

Rick Camp

“To hit a home run in the big leagues — that was my dream,” said Camp. Prior to signing with the Braves he hit a lot of home runs, all of them as a designated hitter at West Georgia University where he attended college.

By July 1985, the odds of Camp seeing his dream come true seemed gone. He had 10 hits and a career batting average of .060. “He couldn’t hit his way out of the cage when he’d take BP,” said former teammate Paul Zuvella.

Camp had been moved to Atlanta’s bullpen. The chances of him even getting an opportunity to bat would take, I don’t know, maybe a couple rain delays, a lot of pitching changes and extra innings. Good luck with that.

The Mets arrived in Atlanta on July 4th weekend, grumpy. The team was slumping, winning three of their previous 11 games when rookie Len Dykstra dug in to lead off the game after an 84-minute relay delay. Most of the sellout crowd was still in the ballpark.

Sporting a golf ball size wad of tobacco in his left cheek, Dykstra choked his pine tar covered bat about six inches from the handle. He weighed 155 pounds according to the Mets 1985 media guide. He was 30 at-bats into his major league career.

Back in New York, Mookie Wilson, the Mets regular center fielder in 1985 was watching from a bed in Roosevelt Hospital, one day removed from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder to repair torn cartilage.

Dykstra dropped a bunt past Rick Mahler. Glenn Hubbard charged from second and bare-handed the ball to Bob Horner at first. Dykstra, in typical hard-nosed style, stumbled over the base, nearly colliding with umpire Jerry Crawford before being called out.

After Wally Backman legged out an infield dribbler, Keith Hernandez stepped to the plate. Mahler fired to first. Backman slid back safely. Mahler persisted, trying again … and again … and again …

Pete Van Wieren doesn’t own a Ouija board. He has no psychic powers. He has never been to a tarot card reading, but he does have an amazing sensory perception on matters related to the diamond. “At the rate this game is going the big 5th of July fireworks show will be presented right after the contest,” he said as the pickoff attempts continued like a broken record.

Mahler finally caught Backman leaning too far. As Crawford signaled Backman out, the Met second baseman slowly climbed to his knees and stared out at Crawford from underneath his helmet. The long give-and-take seemed to last longer than the 84-minute rain delay.

After Hernandez lifted the next pitch into left-center field for a double, Gary Carter grounded a single into centerfield. The ball took two hops and stopped dead in the rain-soaked outfield grass. Braves centerfielder Dale Murphy raced through puddle, scooped up the ball and fired it back to the infield. After a Darryl Strawberry single, advancing Carter to second base, and a George Foster walk to load the bases, Mahler struck out Ray Knight to end the inning.

doc-goodenA tall, thin, 20-year old Dwight Gooden was on the mound for the Mets. He was pitching on three days rest for the first time during the 1985 season. He would go on to win 24 games with a 1.53 ERA in 276 innings pitched. In 35 starts, Gooden pitched 16 complete games. His season performance cinched the Cy Young Award, claiming 120 votes, almost twice as many as John Tudor of the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished second (21-8).

Claudell Washington led off the Braves first inning with a triple. The 44,947 in attendance were on their feet. One pitch later, Rafael Ramirez grounded out to shortstop, scoring Washington. It took the Braves four pitches to tie the game.

Gooden followed by walking Murphy on four straight pitches, prompting Carter to zip halfway out between home plate and the mound to settle Gooden down.

Gooden walked Horner on four pitches; eight straight balls.

Terry Harper dug in and Gooden shoved a fastball on the inside corner at the knees for strike one. He sent Harper back to the bench on three pitches. It was as if Gooden pushed some internal on/off button.

“Just three years ago he was pitching to high school kids,” said the late Skip Caray. “My goodness, just think what that must have been like?”

Rick Cerone had missed three weeks due to a sore shoulder. He was activated two days earlier, but hadn’t played in a game since his return. His first at-bat came after a long rain delay against Gooden. Could the cards be any more stacked against the 31-year old Cerone?

“He probably said, ‘Thanks a lot!’ when he saw Gooden out there,” said Caray sarcastically. “He hasn’t played in a month.”

Cerone slashed the first pitch from Gooden to Mets first baseman Hernandez. The ball caromed off his midsection and he bare-handed a sidearm throw to Gooden covering first to end the inning.

“Back in the ‘70s, Atlanta had one of the worst infields in baseball – but there were a lot of bad infields in the old days,” said Hernandez. “I never liked fielding in Atlanta because it was so hot and everything baked. I always had to do a lot of gardening there, but by the ‘80’s, it was a very good infield.”

The rain returned in the third inning and Terry Tata stopped the game. Two nights earlier in San Francisco, Tata was informed by Major League Baseball he would the acting crew chief for the series in Atlanta, replacing Harry Wendlestedt, who was ill (Wendlestedt did not return to umpire until July 18).

“I took a redeye off the west coast and arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, spent some time with my wife and then took a flight from Bradley Field and arrived in Atlanta at 5pm,” remembers Tata. By the time he arrived at Fulton County Stadium it was already raining.

The Atlanta Braves employed two full-time groundskeepers and an estimated 25 part-time employees to help on game days. Sam Newpher, now the groundskeeper for Daytona International Speedway, was the head groundskeeper at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1985.

Newpher stayed in close contact with the National Weather Service at the Atlanta airport. The weather service could pinpoint the time and location of the incoming storm and its relation to the stadium.

In the press box the media were already playing weatherman. “Everyone working at the ballpark lives in different parts of the city, so it’s not at all uncommon for someone to call home and see if it’s raining in that part of town,” said Van Wieren. “Then you start hearing, ‘well it’s not raining in Dunwoody!’ Then Skip will say, ‘Well, let’s go up there and play.”

Newpher watched as the second rain storm soaked the tarp.

“All of the drainage was surface drainage which drains off to the outside edge (of the field) into two surface drains,” he said. “It was a turtle shell type mound with the center of it being about 25 feet behind second base. Keep something in mind, if a tarp is on the field and you dump the tarp, you’re taking a couple thousand gallons and just going plop in one spot,” he said.

Van Wieren watched the rain fall from the Braves press box. He glanced at his scorecard, then the stadium clock and back to the field. He took a deep breath and exhaled, well aware of how late this game was going to end.

“The team wasn’t very good and sellout crowds were very rare,” said Van Wieren. “We had a sellout crowd that night and the team would do everything in their power to get that game in so they could get the gate.”

When play resumed 41 minutes later, Mets manager Davey Johnson announced he was taking Gooden out to avoid risk of injury. It marked the first time in 27 starts dating back to Aug. 11, 1984 that he had failed to go six innings. Gooden, unhappy, retreated to the Mets clubhouse and began drinking.

The Braves took their only lead of the game, 8-7, scoring four runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. But the Mets tied it in the ninth. By the time the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves began extra innings the calendar read July 5. Still, fans moved to the edge of their seats. Not in anticipation of a win, but the post-game fireworks.

When the Mets came to bat in the 12th inning, Hernandez was a single away from the cycle. He had doubled in the first off Mahler, tripled in the fourth off Jeff Dedmon, homered in the eighth inning Steve Shields.

Hernandez would be facing Terry Forster. He needed his brother, who was home in San Francisco. Hernandez dashed back to the Mets clubhouse, called the operator and asked for an outside line.

“He was my good luck charm,” said Hernandez. “He always came down on West Coast trips. When we left San Francisco he’d come with me to San Diego and L.A. – and I always killed San Diego and L.A.”

Ironically, eleven years earlier on September 11, 1974, as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, Hernandez pinch hit against the Mets in a 25-inning game at Shea Stadium. “That was my first year,” remembered Hernandez. “I pinched hit in the ninth off Harry Parker and Dave Schneck robbed me of a home run.”

keith hernandezThe Cardinals eventually won, 4-3, after seven hours, four minutes and 25 innings. The Mets went to the plate 103 times and the Cards with 99 plate appearances and a major-league record 45 runners left on base. The game ended at 3:13 a.m., the longest game played to a decision without a suspension.

Hernandez singled off Forster to complete the cycle. Superstition rules.

Van Wieren stared at his scorebook. Nothing good could come in the 13th inning, maybe that’s why most scorebooks have 12 innings he thought. “Once you run out of innings in your scorebook it’s improvise time,” he said.

The Mets took a 10-8 lead in the 13th inning. Finally the end was in sight – finally. To his left, Van Weiren’s wife Elaine and two sons (Jon and Steve) sat, waiting for the fireworks.

All Tom Gorman needed now was three outs. After a leadoff single by Rafael Ramirez, the Mets left hander struck out Dale Murphy and Gerald Perry. One more out. Gorman zipped two strikes past Terry Harper. One strike left. Let the fireworks begin. Harper obliged, lining a two-run homer off the left field foul poll to tie the game again.

“I just looked over and they had their head down like, ‘we’re never gonna get out of here,’” remembers Van Wieren.

“You wondered where it’s going to end,” said Caray, remembering Harper’s home run in an interview years earlier. “When (Rick) Camp hit his (in the 18th inning), you figure, we’re going to go on forever. Once is amazing. Twice is incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life and I never think I will.”

The Braves broadcasters weren’t the only ones wondering.

Paul Zuvella was called up just a couple weeks before the July 4th game. His high school buddy Chris Hopson flew in from Milpitas in the Silicon Valley, south of San Jose, California to visit Zuvella and catch a game.

“That was the first game he had come to,” said Zuvella. “Poor guy, he was one of the very few remaining at the end.”

Zuvella was inserted in the sixth inning and faced five different pitchers in seven plate appearances – sidearm pitcher Terry Leach, Jesse Orosco, Doug Sisk , Gorman and Ron Darling – going 0-for-7.

“That, I do remember,” he said. “I remember hitting the ball hard. I hit some line drives right at people. I’m thinking, ‘How unfair is this?’”

“Pitchers tend to have an advantage in that type of game,” said Zuvella. “That’s why they keep throwing the zeros up. It gets a little tougher offensively as the game goes on. You start to think, is this game ever gonna end?”

Both teams put up zeros in the 14th, 15th and 16th innings. In the 17th inning, with nerves frayed, Tata called strike three on Strawberry. As he walked away, Strawberry “had some choice words” and Tata ejected him. “I still see the pitch today when they show it on ESPN Classic. It didn’t look like a bad pitch.”

As Strawberry walked back to the dugout, Mets manager Davey Johnson jogged toward Tata. The argument heated quickly.

“When Davey Johnson gets in my face and I turned my hat around backwards so I could get right in his kisser,” remembers Tata. “As I am looking over his shoulder there’s a digital clock along the first base line and it reads two – five – seven. It’s 2:57 in the morning and I say to Johnson, ‘It’s three o’clock in the morning, everything looks like a strike.’”

Tata ejected four managers, coaches or players in 1985, two of them within 60 seconds.

“The one thing you don’t put in your mind is the hope that it will end,” revealed Tata. “It will end naturally. You can’t root for a guy to hit a home run or driving in the winning run. You’ve got to block that out of your mind and concentrate on the game. Once you start hoping for that it’s going to detract from your overall sense of the game and your job.”

The Mets regained the lead, 11-10, in the 18th inning on a sacrifice fly by Dykstra.

Again, all Gorman needed was three outs. Again, he retired Perry. This time he shut down Harper. One out remained – pitcher Rick Camp. Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre was taking nothing for granted and paid Gorman a visit. Stottlemyre warned Gorman about Harper now he was warning him, don’t make the same mistake. Don’t take Camp for granted.

Gorman registered two quick strikes on Camp. One strike left. Let the fireworks begin – please let the fireworks begin. Gorman fired a forkball on 0-2 and, like Harper five innings earlier, Camp obliged, hitting one over the left field wall to tie the game.

“As soon as it left the bat you knew it was gone,” said Tata. “That just cut your legs off at the knees.”

“That certifies this game as the wackiest, wildest, most improbable game in history!” yelled John Sterling, then a Braves broadcaster on WTBS.

“You’re really certain it’s going to end with Rick Camp at the plate,” said Van Weiren. “When Skip talked about it he said he never saw me get animated in the booth. But when that ball was hit I literally jumped out of his seat and put my hands on top of my head and said, ‘you gotta be kidding me!?’”

Jay Horwitz joined the New York Mets as public relations director in 1980. He was in his fifth year with the team. “I was in the press box,” said Horwitz, who watched most of the extra innings with then Mets scouting director Joe McIlvaine. “I had my binoculars, and I remember looking at the expression on Danny Heep’s face, it was the most incredulous look I’d ever seen. I remember thinking, ‘this game is never, ever going to end.’”

One year later, in 1986, the Mets were involved in a 16-inning marathon game against the Houston Astros, a game that decided the National League Championship Series.

When Billy Hatcher homered off the foul poll in the 14th inning at the Houston Astrodome to tie the game, Horwitz started having flashbacks of Atlanta. “It was the same kind of feeling,” said Horwitz. “You think you have the game won, you’re going to the World Series, they tie the game. We had enough fortitude to come back and win that game. But outside of the rain delays it was almost a duplicate game.”

Jonathan Leach grew up in metropolitan Atlanta and had been a Braves fan since 1973, captured by the Hank Aaron chase. He was home from college for the summer. He fell asleep as the game weaved through extra innings until “the early morning hours, when my brother burst into my room and woke me up to tell me they were still playing,” said Leach. “I saw Rick Camp’s home run which may be the most improbable event in the history of baseball.”

Hundreds of miles north in New Rochelle, New York, Jonathan Falk arrived home from a party at 10 p.m. and turned on the television. “I turned on TBS to find out how they’d done, figuring if I was lucky I might catch an inning,” wrote Falk, a lifelong Braves fan. “They were still playing. I was glued to the set. The Rick Camp homer was probably the single most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in 43 years of baseball watching.”

“That was the most unbelievable part. No one expected that,” said Ken Oberkfell, a Brave in 1985 and the Mets Triple-A manager today. “I mean, I have a better chance of flying an airplane than he (Camp) did of hitting a home run, and there it went. I remember I was in the clubhouse figuring the game was over, but when I saw the home run I came running back to the dugout.”

When asked now if he remembers the pitch Camp said, “I would say it was a fastball. I mean, heck, I had a zero point something batting average. There wasn’t anyone else to hit. I was just trying to make contact.”

As he rounded third, Camp was smiling as he met Tata halfway between home and third base. “You SOB, I was only kidding,’” said Tata.

“Even after I got out of baseball, every time I’d see him he’d just point to left field and laugh,” said Camp.

The Mets scored five runs off Camp in the top of the 19th inning.

“When you’re involved in a season like that and you get into one of those games you really don’t have the same concern over who wins,” remembers Van Weiren. “If you’re in a pennant race you do. If you’re 30 games out, you don’t really care. Sure you’d like to win the game, but if they don’t it’s not going to impact the pennant race. So when you get to a point in a game like that you’re just ready for it to end.”

Not the fans. As the Braves mounted another rally in the bottom of the 19th, scoring two runs, the fans began to chant, “We want Camp!”

“If we have to rely on me to hit a home run to win a game, we’re in bad shape,” said Camp. “I’ll always remember the homer, but it was a hard thing for me to do that and then go out and suck up a loss.”

“Go ahead hit another one out, we’ll pay ‘til noon,” said Tata.

This time Camp was facing Ron Darling, the Mets seventh pitcher of the game. Darling hadn’t made a relief appearance since his freshman year at Yale. The Mets were so certain Camp would not hit another home run, they began untying their shoes in the dugouts, equipment was being packed away.

“I remember the last pitch,” said Camp. “It was a high fastball I swung and missed. Struck out. You get a fastball from here up (motioning from his chest to eye level) it looks like a watermelon. I was trying to kill it.”

Strike Three. Game Over.

“This was the greatest game ever played – Ever,” said Howard Johnson.

“That was the greatest thing I’d ever seen,” added Bruce Benedict, Braves’ catcher, ” The tough thing about it was that there were a lot of lifetime memories in this game and we lost it. It’s hard to put those things in perspective. It was embarrassing.”

“That was the most bizarre game I ever played in – bizarre and fascinating, depressing and great, thrilling and boring,” said Darling. “It was all of those things mixed in. It would have been a story but Rick Camp made it a big story. I’m just glad I got my name in the box score.”

“I thought we were going to win it after that,” said Dale Murphy. “I couldn’t believe it. It’s the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget that home run. I’ll never forget this game. I can’t explain this game. I’ll be feeling this for the next week.”

Gary Carter “Thrilling,” “fascinating” and “great” didn’t describe the experience for Carter, who was playing his first season in New York. He caught the entire game, handling seven New York pitchers and catching 305 balls.

“The game took a toll on me,” said Carter. “It was worse than catching both games of an afternoon doubleheader because of the rain (delays). My body was aching and throbbing.”

“Do you know what it’s like to be playing baseball at 3:30 in the morning?” asked Dykstra after the game. “Strange man. Real strange.”

“I saw things that I’ve never seen in my major league career,” added Hernandez.

Like Camp hitting a home run … or Knight who left 11 runners on base in his first nine at bats, including three times with the bases loaded.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no other continuous game in major league history had ended so late. Prior to July 4-5, 1985, the previous latest game was completed at 3:23 a.m. in Philadelphia when the Phillies beat the Montreal Expos 6-1 on Aug. 10, 1977.

Rick Aguilera never saw it, any of it. Aguilera was sent home in the 13th after Johnson’s go-ahead home run. ”When I got to the room, I turned on the TV and saw the game still going,” he said. “I thought it was a delayed broadcast. I couldn’t believe it when they said it was tied.”

Aguilera went to bed. His roommate Sid Fernandez arrived a few hours later and Aguilera asked if the Mets won. ”He said we did,” remembers Aguilera, “but he also said I wouldn’t believe it.”

“When the game ended we were all so exhausted we were just thinking, we gotta get out of here and get ready for tomorrow … I take that back, we gotta get ready for today.”

Gorman was credited with a win. It was then that Gorman found himself in a save situation with the Mets ahead 10-8 in the 13th inning. He lost that lead. And then another.

“To give up a homer to the pitcher in the 18th inning is totally embarrassing,” Gorman told the media a couple hours later. “I learned I can’t take anything for granted. I felt like I saw it all tonight. I should have saved the game; I should have won the game; I should have lost the game. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.”

”There’s not one thing you can say you feel at that moment,” added Gorman. “It’s not like pitchers don’t hit home runs; they do. I’m not trying to take anything away from Camp, but you know if you hit the ball good here, it’s going to go out. I’d never pitched at three in the morning, but guess they’d never hit then either.”

Newpher and the grounds crew headed back to the field after arriving at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium at 8am. “One of the very few people left in the stands was my wife,” he said.

“What are you still doing here?” he asked.

“I came to see the fireworks,” she said.

Fireworks? It’s four in the morning. But the Braves were in no position to negotiate. There were 8,000-10,000 people still in the stands, delirious and jacked up on coffee, waking up their children for the fireworks. Then, there was WTBS, who sold sponsorships for the July 4th fireworks show.

“There was a great concern about whether the fireworks show would or would not go on,” remembers Van Weiren. “Ted (Turner) had gotten the station (WTBS) to sell a separate post-game that would include the fireworks. Once the game ended there was going to be a commercial break, we’d come back on the air and televise the fireworks.”

Braves television broadcaster Ernie Johnson was beside himself about the whole concept. Fireworks on TV? Come on, who’s going to watch that.

“We kidded about that,” said Van Weiren. “Ernie (Johnson) said ‘what are we supposed to say when the fireworks go off? Do we just sit there and go ‘Ooooh! Ahhh!?’ It was going to be a strange deal.”

Van Weiren said as the game went deeper into the night, there were a lot of questions about “whether they were going to do the fireworks,” he said. “We got the word that the fireworks were gonna go because this was a sold program on TBS and they were going to get the sponsored money.”

So, at 4:01 a.m. on July 5 the July 4th fireworks display began. For nearly 10 minutes the skies over Atlanta thundered. Bright colors lit up the night followed by the sounds of massive explosions. The roar hit a crescendo with a finale so intense, Atlanta resident Vivian Williams jumped from her bed.

Like many others living in the Atlanta suburbs, Williams believed the city had come under attack. The phones lit up at the police station. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution later reported “residents of Capitol Homes and other areas near the stadium called the police to complain that their neighbors, the Braves, were disturbing the peace.”

Williams told the police “setting off fireworks at 4 a.m. is inappropriate and ill-advised.”

Meanwhile, calls were pouring in to the Braves public relations office. Some came from fans who left before the end of the game and were angry that the fireworks display was not postponed until another date, he said. Other calls were from neighbors of the stadium who called the Braves to complain about the noise.

“We went back to the hotel and the USA Today was already under the door,” remembers Horwitz. “That’s always a bad sign, when the USA Today beats you there.”

Chip Caray, then home on college break, remembers his father stumbling in as the sun rose. He figured it was a late night with the guys.

“It’s the latest I’ve ever stayed out in my life and not done something I was ashamed of,” Skip said.

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MMO Fan Shot: Gil Hodges Belongs In The Hall Of Fame http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-gil-hodges-belongs-in-the-hall-of-fame-14in14.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/07/mmo-fan-shot-gil-hodges-belongs-in-the-hall-of-fame-14in14.html/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:18:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=159641 gil hodges bklyn

An MMO Fan Shot by Bill Hall

We support the election of Gil Hodges to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

He is fully qualified under every one of the criteria set forth in the Hall’s own rules:

“Voting shall be based on player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

Gil Hodges was the premier first baseman in the National League during the Golden Era. He was an outstanding fielder, winning the first three Gold Gloves ever awarded in his final three seasons as a full-time regular. He was a dominant power hitter, topping twenty home runs for eleven consecutive seasons, and he totaled thirty or more homers in six of those years. He was an eight-time All Star. His on-the-field performance was a major factor in seven pennants and two World Championships during his fourteen seasons with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was second in both home runs and runs batted in for the National League during the 1950s, was tenth on the all-time home run list at his retirement, and in third place among right-handed batters.

gil hodges aims

His career totals might have been even more impressive had he not spent three years in the Pacific with the U.S. Marines during World War II, where he earned the Bronze Star, which is awarded for acts of heroism or meritorious service in a combat zone.

Integrity, sportsmanship and character may be hard to quantify, but Hodges displayed these qualities in abundance. As both a player and manager, he won the universal respect of his teammates, the players he managed, opponents and fans. He was widely recognized as the only player never to be booed in Brooklyn. Hodges made his home in the heart of the community where he played and he was extremely generous with his time, showing a special dedication to youth. Jackie Robinson credited him as a key figure in easing his difficult role as the first African-American in the major leagues in the 20th century. As a first-time manager, Hodges dramatically improved the performance of the expansion Washington Senators. When he returned to New York as manager of the Mets, he brought 25 young men together as a unit that accomplished one of the most improbable and best remembered feats in baseball history: the 1969 World Series title.

gil hodges place 1969 Mets parade

His untimely death at age 47 in 1972 robbed baseball and its fans of many more years of his great skills and character. His reputation had endured and grown in the decades since that loss. He has earned one distinction his generations of admirers would dearly love to see become a historic footnote–accumulating more votes than any candidate not yet enshrined in the Hall. His achievements during the quarter-century he did spend in the game have richly earned him a place in baseball’s shrine.

Sign our petition now and please re-tweet this on Twitter with our hashtag #14in14.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by Bill Hall. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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Gee Feels Fine After Rehab Start, Cyclones Drop Rubber Game To Staten Island http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/dillon-gee-makes-rehab-start-cyclones-drop-rubber-game-to-staten-island.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/dillon-gee-makes-rehab-start-cyclones-drop-rubber-game-to-staten-island.html/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:48 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=159470 Dillon Gee warming up in the bullpen (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

Dillon Gee warming up in the bullpen (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

BROOKYLN, N.Y. – On Sunday afternoon at MCU Park in Coney Island, Mets’ starting pitcher Dillon Gee returned to his old stomping grounds as he made a rehab start for the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Gee settled in nicely after a rough first inning and tossed 2.2 innings, but he was tagged with the loss after giving up a run on four hits. He also walked one and struck out six.

The Cyclones (11-6) dropped the rubber game 5-4 Sunday against the Staten Island Yankees in the “Battle of the Bridge” series.

Gee threw 55 pitches – which was the exact number he was slated to throw – in addition to a 30-pitch warm-up session. He has been on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle in his right side since May 14.

This was Gee’s second rehab start, as he also started a game last Tuesday in the Gulf Coast League. In that outing, he pitched two scoreless innings and allowed only one hit with two strikeouts.

“I feel good right now, but the big test is always the next day. So hopefully everything goes the way that it’s been going, and hopefully I’ll be out there for the next one.”

It took Gee 24 pitches to get through the first inning Sunday. Yankees’ center fielder Daniel Lopez led off with a bloop double to right. Gee proceeded to walk right fielder Austin Aune before an RBI single up the middle by second baseman Ty McFarland on an 0-2 pitch up in the zone that gave the Yankees their only run off Gee.

He then gave up a single to Yankees’ catcher Isaias Tejeda before striking out two and getting a fielder’s choice grounder to end the inning.

Gee minimized the damage in the first inning, allowing only one run. (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

Gee minimized the damage in the first inning, allowing only one run. (Photo by Diana Colapietro)

“It took me a few batters that first inning to get under control,” Gee said. “I’m not going to lie, I had a little adrenaline going into this game. But I felt fine physically and that’s the goal.”

Gee’s second inning started with an error by Cyclones’ second baseman Anthony Chavez. Gee struck out the next batter but then gave up a single to Lopez before retiring the next two.

With 46 pitches through two innings, Gee returned for the top of the third and struck out both men he faced before being relieved by Josh Prevost. Of Gee’s 55 pitches, 36 went for strikes.

He said he would like to improve upon his fastball command in his next start, which the team will determine sometime after reevaluating him Monday to see how he feels.

“The change-up was pretty good, and the slider was actually pretty good,” Gee said. “The off-speed stuff was pretty good for the most part. I just have to get ahead of hitters better. No matter which level you’re at, you have to pitch ahead.”

At age 21, Gee was a member of the 2007 Brooklyn Cyclones. He was mostly a reliever until being called upon to make 11 starts later in the season. He finished that campaign 3-1 with a 2.28 ERA as a starter.

“It’s pretty special this being the place that I started,” he said. “It’s changed so much. It’s a great place to play, it’s a great place to start your pro career, and to come back and make a rehab start here was a lot of fun. It’s good to come back to the place where you start your career.”

Gee is the first Cyclone to be named an Opening Day starter for the Mets. His outing Sunday was the 19th time in Cyclones’ franchise history that a Met played a rehab game in Brooklyn. Gee also became the second player to play for the Cyclones as a minor leaguer and Major Leaguer, joining Angel Pagan who played on the inaugural Cyclones team in 2001 and then with Brooklyn in a rehab game in 2008.

The game remained 1-0 until the top of the sixth inning when the Yankees tagged Brooklyn righty Corey Oswalt – who had been working on a 13.0-inning scoreless streak through his first two starts – for four runs as they batted around in the frame.

But the Cyclones immediately responded in the bottom of the inning by batting around themselves and plating four runs.

With the bases loaded and none out, third baseman Jhoan Ureña drove in the first run on what would have been an RBI ground out, but Yankees’ pitcher David Palladino dropped the ball covering the bag. Michael Bernal, Tyler Moore and Jeff Diehl each followed with RBI’s.

In the final three innings, the Cyclones only managed two hits against the Yankees’ bullpen and struck out five times. They wound up getting the tying and winning run in scoring position with two outs in the ninth, but catcher Tomas Nido went down swinging to end the threat.

On a positive note, Brooklyn reliever Scarlyn Reyes continues to shine as he threw 3.1 innings of hitless relief.

Meanwhile, Ureña doubled to left field in the first inning to increase his hitting streak to 10 games, becoming only the second Cyclone teenager (19 years old) to have a double-digit hitting streak joining outfielder Alhaji Turay who hit in 12 straight games in 2012.

The Cyclones have Monday off and open a three-game series with the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday upstate. Lefty Alberto Baldonado will bid for his first win of the season in the 7:05 p.m. start.

Click here to view the complete box score of this game.

Gee addresses the media after his start. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Gee addresses the media after his start. (Photo by Jim Mancari)

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MMO Fan Shot: Keep Waving Those Towels http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-keep-waving-those-towels.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-keep-waving-those-towels.html/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 13:22:13 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=159225 curtis granderson

An MMO Fan Shot by Matt Szatkowski

Tough.

When describing the Mets, over the past 7 years, this adjective has hardly been used. As the infamous curveball buckled Carlos Beltran’s knees, it also seemed to take down the team’s mental fortitude. The 2007 season would bring more frustration ending in an epic collapse, and there would be more heartbreak in 2008. The Madoff revelations and the financial constraints that followed sent the franchise into a seemingly endless downward spiral.

Now, here we are almost halfway through the season barely escaping the doldrums of the NL East cellar. After a miserable stretch plummeted the Mets record to a season-high nine games under .500, most fans were tossing in the towel.

Curtis Granderson, who is no stranger to winning, found a better use for all these newly discarded pieces. Thus, the Mets rally towel was born. This was a simple concept that led to a newfound sense of camaraderie not seen in these parts for many years.

When Granderson was signed, he was garnering comparisons to another free-agent power hitter that once patrolled Citi Field’s spacious outfield, before he even had one at bat. Nightmares of Jason Bay once again became the leading cause of insomnia in the Tri-State area. Granderson’s slow start earned him a chorus of boos every time he stepped up to the plate. This team, and its fans, have witnessed a myriad of former stars such as Bay, Francisco Rodriguez, and Luis Castillo falter and never regain their form. Granderson’s strikeouts, and Bartolo Colon’s shaky start, cast a state of dread over a noticeably empty Citi Field. A feeling of “Here we go again…” took over.

mets win towels

However, as the heat of summer starts to bear down on us, we can gander at the stats sheet and be pleasantly surprised. Colon has rattled off six wins, including two back-to-back spectacular performances. Granderson, who struggled to hit the Mendoza line, has seen his average creep up to .234 with ten homers, and a league leading 47 walks, to accompany it. There’s no denying that these two have been key contributors to the teams most recent success.

But more importantly they have brought a sense of toughness to this team. Even during his worst struggles Granderson never hid from the media, and remained consistently positive. Both he and Colon realized they are professionals and have been through hardships before. Their resilience has rejuvenated their seasons and put excitement back in the clubhouse.

Travis d’Arnaud was quoted yesterday saying “I forgot how fun it was to play this game.” Baseball will humble even the greatest of players. It’s the only sport where being successful 30% of the time means you’re having a fantastic season. It’s imperative to stay tough, persevere, and good things will come.

Colon and Granderson have given this team a sense that there is still plenty of season left and that there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel for the Mets this season. Even when nothing seems to go right: those two keep fighting and are having some fun in the process. They keep the clubhouse loose. In a division that has is still up for grabs, who knows what could happen if more and more teammates take a page out of Colon and Granderson’s playbook.

Keep waving those towels. Let’s Go Mets!

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO community member Matt Szatkowski. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Fan Shot: Comparing MLB Payrolls Per Market http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-comparing-mlb-payrolls-per-market.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-comparing-mlb-payrolls-per-market.html/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 14:32:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=159089 alg-wilpon-selig-jpg

An MMO Fan Shot by Jonathan (Mets Fan in Paris)

I thought I’d pass along some research I recently conducted on a topic you might be interested in debating on MMO. It’s another way to look at the current Mets payroll level in comparison with all the other MLB teams.

Rather than just looking at where the Mets rank based on each team’s total payroll obligations (currently 25th), I wanted to present it in a way that also considered the market each team plays in.

We often reference big market teams vs small market teams, and as Mets fans we are often frustrated that our team acts like a small market team while operating in the largest possible market in professional sports.

With that, I decided to break down each major league market by their Metropolitan area’s populations (using Wikipedia) and then each team’s payroll (using Deadspin.com). In attempting to make it a bit more accurate, I divided the city’s populations by two in two-team markets (NY, Chi, LA, SF/Oak, DC/Bal). Then I divided the individual team’s payroll by the population of their area to see what the payroll/resident was.

City Population Pop/Team Payroll Payroll Per Resident
New York (Yankees) 22,214,083 11,107,042 203,812,506 $18.35
(Mets) 11,107,042 89,051,758 $8.02
Los Angeles (Dodgers) 18,081,569 9,040,785 235,295,219 $26.03
(Angels) 9,040,785 155,692,000 $17.22
Chicago (White Sox) 9,729,825 4,864,913 91,159,254 $18.74
(Cubs) 4,864,913 89,051,758 $18.30
D.C. Area (Nationals) 8,718,083 4,359,042 134,704,437 $30.90
(Orioles) 4,359,042 107,406,623 $24.64
Boston 7,601,061 7,601,061 162,817,411 $21.42
San Francisco (Giants) 7,563,460 3,781,730 154,185,878 $40.77
(A’s) 3,781,730 83,401,400 $22.05
Dallas 6,887,383 6,887,383 136,036,172 $19.75
Philadelphia 6,562,287 6,562,287 180,052,723 $27.44
Houston 6,191,434 6,191,434 44,544,174 $7.19
Atlanta 5,712,148 5,712,148 110,897,341 $19.41
Miami 5,670,125 5,670,125 47,565,400 $8.39
Detroit 5,207,125 5,207,125 162,228,527 $31.16
Seattle 4,269,349 4,269,349 92,081,943 $21.57
Phoenix 4,263,236 4,263,236 112,688,666 $26.43
Minnesota 3,655,558 3,655,558 85,776,500 $23.46
Denver 3,157,520 3,157,520 95,832,071 $30.35
San Diego 3,140,069 3,140,069 90,094,196 $28.69
St. Louis 2,882,932 2,882,932 111,020,360 $38.51
Cleveland 2,871,084 2,871,084 82,534,800 $28.75
Tampa Bay 2,824,724 2,824,724 77,062,891 $27.28
Pittsburgh 2,450,281 2,450,281 78,111,667 $31.88
Cincinnati 2,179,965 2,179,965 112,390,772 $51.56
Kansas City 2,122,908 2,122,908 92,034,345 $43.35
Milwaukee 1,757,604 1,757,604 103,844,806 $59.08
Toronto 6,054,191 6,054,191 132,628,700 $21.91

If you couldn’t have guessed already, the Mets ended up ranking next to last spending $8.02 per New York City resident with only Houston spending less at ($7.19).

Please note that I divided NY’s population by two. The big spenders per citizen were Cincinnati coming in at $51.56 per citizen and Kansas City at $43.35 followed by Boston at $40.77.

By no means am I an expert in this and perhaps the methodology could be argued against, but I just wanted to get a more realistic idea of how bad the Wilpons’ lack of spending looks compared to all the other teams in the league and particularly those in larger markets.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by Jonathan (Mets Fan in Paris). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Fan Shot: Are the Odds Stacked Against Mets Prospects? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-are-the-odds-stacked-against-mets-prospects.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-fan-shot-are-the-odds-stacked-against-mets-prospects.html/#comments Sun, 15 Jun 2014 14:48:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158616 wheeler d'arnaud

An MMO Fan Shot by Ryan Flanagan

The New York Mets are a team clearly building through the farm in their quest for success. They are a team forming a foundation of prospects to serve as the sole future of the team, in-lieu of spending big on big-ticket Free Agents in the offseason. So much is difficult to argue as the Mets payroll sits below $90 million for the first time in 14 years, when they spent $82.2 million in 2000 (Though it would actually be 113.2 million with 2014 inflation adjustments). That number is currently good for 22nd in baseball, looking up at teams like the San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers. This, while playing in the largest market in the nation with the most expansive buying power.

Met ownership has been force-feeding the future success of unknown prospects down Met fans’ throats in attempts to blind them from the present. The team hasn’t made the playoffs in the past seven seasons. In fact, the Mets are tied with the Padres with the 6th longest playoff drought in the MLB with that figure. The team hasn’t had a winning record in 5 seasons. Even worse, the Mets have had only 7 playoff appearances and have won only 4 pennants in their 52 year existence. That’s a success rate of 13.46% and 7.69%, respectively.

With the team’s inability and/or refusal to field a respectable payroll in 2014, they are relying almost entirely on the success of players acquired for letting big names and fan favorites walk out the door. The names of Syndergaard, Montero, Wheeler, Nimmo, Smith and d´Arnaud are some of the saviors that are promised to make this team a perennial contender. The strategy begs the question of what the odds are that these prospects will indeed pan out. Fortunately, Scott McKinney has done the legwork. Though slightly dated, the numbers in majority still hold true. If anything, pitching success rates have gone down with the prevalence of injury.

In an effort to calculate the success rates of prospects, Scott used a sample size of Baseball America’s top 100 prospect lists from 1990 to 2003, stopping in ’03 because the prospects had mostly exhausted their cost-controlled years. Any prospect with fewer than 100 plate appearances and 25 innings was omitted from the study. In order to determine the “success” and “failure” of the prospect, he used the following standards:

chart 1

Using WAR as the measuring stick, Scott developed metrics into Bust, Superior and Success categories. His definition of success can certainly be argued, but his justification was that a player would have to be at least average in the MLB to be considered a “success.” I tend to agree. Below are graphs of the findings:

chart 2

The graph above shows the breakdown of both position players and pitchers, total, averaged over the 13-year study period. The “Rank” column signifies the prospect’s rank out of the top 100. Top-ten prospects had just over a 50% “Success” rate, i.e. 45% of Top 10 prospects had a WAR under 1.49. As the prospect ranks get higher, the results not shockingly deteriorate.

chart 3

The next graph shows only pitching prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100 from 1990-2003. Looking at the numbers, top 10 pitching prospects have a “bust” percentage of 59.2%, meaning nearly six out of every ten Top 10 pitching prospects ended up with a WAR of less-than 1.49, i.e. ,can be considered failures. Like the total, the results get worse as the ranks increase.

chart 4

The final graph shows the success rates of position players in the top 100. The best position players show more promise than best pitchers, yielding a success rate of nearly 63%. That number falls dramatically however as the prospects rank increases, in-line with the total findings.

So what does this all mean? Our biggest prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100 list include Noah Syndergaard (16), Travis d’Arnaud (38), Rafael Montero (68) and Dominic Smith (92).

Looking at the Total Findings graph solely, Syndergaard would have 50/50 odds of being successful in the league, TDA about a 31% chance, Montero a 22% chance and Dom Smith about a 25% chance. If you look at the position-specific graphs, Syndergaard would have success odds of 41%, TDA 36%, Montero 21% and Smith 33%.

Obviously, it’s far-fetched to put a literal percentage on a player’s value as a guarantee, but it groups them into the trends developed by similar prospects before them. Also, you can assume Smith’s ranking will likely be drastically higher when he’s close to coming to the big leagues, as he’s still years away.

I’m certainly not saying that these odds are correct and that we should absolutely expect the above to happen. I’m not saying TDA has a literal 31% chance of finding success in the MLB, I’m saying, according to this study and its definition of success, similar-ranked prospects have had a 31% success rate of fulfilling their expectations.

The study shows that when you average 13 seasons of prospects, the trends overwhelmingly highlight the reality that prospects fail much more than they succeed. That’s just the reality. Look no further than the Mets’ own recent history. I’m sure we all remember Aaron Heilman, the man who’s responsible for Molina’s Game 7 winning HR in the 2006 NLCS that started the “beginning of the end.” Well, Mr. Heilman was coveted at one time as the Mets second best prospect and Baseball America’s 45th best in its list of 100. How about Mike Pelfrey? He was ranked 20th in Baseball American’s Top 100, only four worse than Syndergaard’s current rank. I wouldn’t say Mike exactly lived up to the expectations.  I won’t bother with Generation K.

I truly hope Noah, Travis, Rafael, Dominic and all Met prospects become great players for this team, I just refuse to buy into the notion that they will all be great. Time will tell, but the odds are certainly stacked against them all panning out. Realistically, if only half the prospects worked out, it would be seen as above the average. The Mets need to start spending and do so wisely – relying too heavily on the farm is relying too heavily on unknowns. We are completely investing in an unknown, unproven future.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by Ryan Flanagan. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 30,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Exclusive: Chasen Bradford Earns His Way To Vegas http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-exclusive-interview-chasen-bradford-earns-his-way-to-vegas.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/mmo-exclusive-interview-chasen-bradford-earns-his-way-to-vegas.html/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 15:00:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=158242 chasen bradford

Chase Bradford had a great opportunity ripped from his finger tips when he suffered an oblique injury during his first big league camp, and as a result he was kept out of the Mets 2014 spring games.

I recently spoke with Bradford and even though the injury was not expected, he took it all in stride, and his faith and hard work and focus helped him to get through it all.

“It was a disappointment to get hurt early, but I would rather have it happen to me there than in the season where it really counts.’ Bradford continues, “Although I wasn’t able to be in any games I learned a lot from the veterans on the team and was able to see the way Terry [Collins] and the organization wants us to play. I wish I could have been in games but couldn’t let myself get down, it was just a road block that I had to get through.”

After spring training, Bradford was reassigned to Binghamton, where in 2013 he appeared in 20 games, primarily as a set-up man and was 3-1, with a 0.71 ERA, one save and 18 strikeouts in 25.1 innings.

Bradford wasn’t upset by not being promoted initially out of camp, because he understood the dynamics of what the Mets had in Vegas, “I wasn’t really expecting to move up after spring training because of the amount of guys we did have in Vegas and the guys signed in the off season.  I wasn’t disappointed at all because I still had a chance to play and provide a big role with the B-Mets.”

He provided a huge boost to the B-Mets bullpen, especially after being named the closer and performing very well in that role.

“I really liked being the primary closer; I’ve been a set up guy my whole career so it’s really not that much of a change except instead of having to get four or five outs, I usually only had to get three, which was nice.”

In the closer role with Binghamton this season, the 24-year old appeared in 20 games and was 1-2, with a 2.28 ERA, 11 saves, and 22 strikeouts in 23.2 innings.

On Monday afternoon it was reported that Las Vegas relief pitcher Jeff Walters was diagnosed with an ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and would require season ending Tommy John surgery. On Sunday evening, Bradford received word that he was being promoted to Vegas, and even though his call-up may have been directly related to Walter’s injury, Bradford definitely earned the nod with his performance so far this season and is very humbled by the move.

“Excited to get back to Vegas to suit up for the Las Vegas 51s. Four years ago I didn’t think it was possible to get where I am but with the love and support of my family and friends….I know we are not done yet,” the Nevada native shared through social media.

Bradford made his Triple-A debut on Monday night against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox at Security Service Field, and even though he had a rough outing allowing three runs on three hits in the eighth inning with the 51s already down 8-5, it very well could be chalked up to nerves or even just adrenaline. But his track record has shown that once he makes the needed adjustments to the new level, he is basically unhittable.

The oblique injury back in spring camp, did detour him a bit, but it did not stop the pitching prospect from getting back on track and performing at the level where he is most comfortable. Now he will get to showcase his skills for the Vegas fans and is aware that he is that much closer to a Mets debut.  

“One more, not done yet,” says Bradford.

MMO

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