Mets Merized Online » MMO Exclusives http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 07 Jul 2015 05:05:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.8 MMO Mailbag: Upgrading Shortstop? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-mailbag-upgrading-shortstop.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-mailbag-upgrading-shortstop.html/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:30:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185871 ruben-tejada

Vic asks…

Hey Metsmerized, I was wondering if you could give me your thoughts on the following: I know everybody is looking for the Mets to do something, but I’m bothered some sites suggesting going after Jean Segura or Jimmy Rollins. I really don’t see them as upgrades defensively over Ruben Tejada. What do you think? I don’t think they will provide that much of an upgrade on offense either. I would appreciate your opinion.

XtreemIcon says…

Thanks for the question, Vic. First I should offer the caveat that the following is of course my own opinion and not any other writer’s or Joe’s.

The short answer is, I agree with you. This, of course, saves the Tejada haters and the “DO SOMETHING, SANDY!” people several minutes of their lives. They can just go straight to the comments and make their peace.

When Alderson said the trade market was narrow, he was in agreement with several other GMs who told Buster Olney the same thing, as he revealed on last Sunday’s Cubs vs. Cardinals national broadcast. So if these are the best two options, the best move is the one Sandy doesn’t make

Segura_JumpingOverRunner_BennySieuBoth Segura and Rollins are not signed for next year, so there’s no long-term commitment to either.

However, Segura is only 25 and still under team control through the 2018 season. Rollins is also due roughly another $6 million as of this writing. Either the Mets would limit the prospects but significantly overpay in dollars, or they can give the Dodgers significant prospects to eat the cost. Either way, it’s an overpay for the Mets

“But Sandy said he’d overpay!” Fair enough, so let’s continue with the comparison

We’re talking about the shortstop position, so the first thing to consider is defense. Defensive metrics aren’t very reliable, but we know enough to discount fielding percentage and the number of errors, as well as using a multi-year sample of UZR/150 as a better (but still not great) gauge. Well, Segura stinks. His UZR/150 is -5.0 for his entire career, and he’s trending downward with a -1.1 in 2013, -4.0 last season and a -6.8 thus far in 2015. He rates as a poor arm with poor range.

Rollins is better, but not good. Yes, he once was a very good defensive shortstop. But it’d be disingenuous to declare him “good” based on his career 4.1 UZR/150 when he was putting up excellent numbers in his mid-twenties. He’s not that guy anymore.

Since Segura has only had two full seasons before this one, we should use the same timeframe for Rollins to be fair. His last three seasons, including this one, is -2.7, 3.6 and -3.3. So he’s been, and is, better than Segura defensively, but still doesn’t help the infield defense this season. Point for neither.

Offensively, it’s also a wash. Segura had a breakout 2013, his first full season. He hit .294/.329/.423 while slugging 12 home runs and 44 stolen bases at an excellent 77% success rate. But the league adjusted to him and he hasn’t yet adjusted back. Since then, he’s sporting a dreadful .250/.289/.332 slash line. Rollins, similarly, can’t hit. Last season he sported a .243/.323/.394 slash, but that slugging percentage was aided by 17 home runs in Philadelphia’s sardine can of a stadium. I doubt he’d show the same power stroke in Citi Field. This season is his worst offensively. He’s slashing .211/.265/.333 to go with his poor defense.

So what we’re looking at are two players at very different points in their careers, but both can’t hit or field. Rollins costs a lot, but there’s a lot of inherent value in Segura’s team control. Neither player would be cheap and would offer very little production.

Tejada, as comparison, is hitting better than both Segura and Rollins. He’s also plays significantly better defense. There’s also no evidence that either of them is as versatile as Tejada, either.

Ruben’s already proven he can play a good second base and third base. He’s the same age as, and under team control for only one fewer year than, Segura is. He’s a much better option than both of them.

Is Tejada the answer? Likely not. No doubt the Mets should consider upgrading at shortstop, but not with Jean Segura or Jimmy Rollins. That’s just making a move for the sake of making a move, and that’s never gotten anyone anywhere.

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MMO Fan Shot: Why Hasn’t Sandy Made a Trade Yet? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-fan-shot-why-hasnt-sandy-made-a-trade-yet.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-fan-shot-why-hasnt-sandy-made-a-trade-yet.html/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 16:15:51 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185677 sandy alderson paul DePodesta

An MMO Fan Shot by Gregg Cambareri

It’s no secret that pressure on the Mets front office has significantly increased since their abysmal 1-7 road trip. It’s left fans, bloggers, and media members calling for “something” to get done. The offense is nearly nonexistent, the defense inconsistent, and a league leading 14 players on the disabled list certainly doesn’t help. So, why hasn’t Alderson and company made a move?

First off, the calendar is still a few days away from July. Until the all star break passes, don’t expect teams to punt their seasons away when we’re still a little short of being halfway through the season.

In fact on Sunday, ESPN’s Buster Olney spoke to several GMs who told him no one is selling yet because last season’s World Series featured both AL and NL 2nd wild card winners.

Many have speculated that the Mets and Reds match up well for a trade. Most rumors have circled around Todd Frazier. Cincinnati, despite being 4 games under .500, had won 15 of their last 25 games entering this weekend’s action, so odds are slim they’d be in sell-mode right now. They also host the All Star game this year.

Frazier is in the midst of a career year, so seeing him potentially play in front of his own fans is something Reds ownership must consider marketable. He is also in the prime of his career and is cost controllable, signing a two year, $12 million dollar pact this past winter. The asking price would be immense, and given Alderson’s unwillingness to part with top pitching prospects, consider a deal for Frazier a pipe dream.

The Mets have also been connected to Oakland’s Ben Zobrist. The A’s have won eight of their past ten, and like the Reds, don’t feel the need to be sellers with the team playing good baseball. Additionally, given Zobrist’s versatility, he is sure to have multiple suitors if a trade were to matriculate. Given Alderson’s unwillingness to outbid other teams, don’t put too much stock in Zobrist wearing orange and blue this season.

Frazier and Zobrist, while unlikely, are at least actual players that are worth discussing because either of them would help the Mets.

What is frustrating is seeing fans and media call for Alderson to “get creative.” I cannot stand this phrase. What and who exactly does “get creative” entail?

If you suggest creativity is necessary, then propose something. Throw some names or teams out there. It’s obvious that the Mets need help given their long list of injuries, but there might not be that much help available, whether we like it not.

Oh, and newsflash, Dillion Gee and Jon Niese do not have the trade value some of you think they have, although Niese is slowly restoring some with his strong June and the Cubs and Dodgers could be interested.

It’s clear that this team needs a bat, but if you want to get something, you have to give something. It seems we lucked out big-time with the R.A. Dickey trade, but those kind of deals don’t come around every year.

Arguably the biggest obstacle in acquiring new talent, at any point, are Alderson’s bosses; Fred and Jeff Wilpon. Last week, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that perception around the league is that the Mets are not willing to add payroll. And the only number that’s been tossed around by team sources has been $5 million available for any in-season payroll increase.

To the surprise of no one, the Wilpons want payroll to remain relatively unchanged. Unless they can find a way to offload Curtis Granderson or Michael Cuddyer, don’t expect a Mike Piazza like trade this summer. Rumors have floated around Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki in the past, but both are small market clubs who, similar to the Mets, are looking to maintain a payroll in the bottom half of the league.

Patience is a virtue. Although we Met fans have been patient for far longer than we expected or deserve, we might have to grind it out for a few more weeks before we can distinguish who the buyers and sellers really are.

It’s difficult to preach patience with how poorly the team’s offense has performed, but be realistic; there isn’t much available–yet. Once the all star break passes, and the July 31st trade deadline nears, expect the rumor mill to heat up, and by then we’ll know who’s actually available and who isn’t.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Gregg Cambareri. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met 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: I’m Mad As Hell http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-fan-shot-im-mad-as-hell.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-fan-shot-im-mad-as-hell.html/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 02:30:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185383 mad-as-hell

An MMO Fan Shot by Tom Starita

After a lifetime of telling us to do this at Shea Stadium and Citi Field, I think it’s time to finally listen to Howard Beale…

I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s on the disabled list or scared of losing their job. Our shortstop’s not a shortstop; Cuddyer is going bust; we don’t have a leadoff hitter; teams are taking advantage of our lack of bullpen depth, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.

We know the team can’t hit and the team can’t field. And we sit watching our TVs while some Gary Cohen tells us that today we struck out twelve times and lost six in row, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!

We all know things are bad — worse than bad – they’re crazy.

It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go to Citi Field anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my 1986 DVDs and my Grand Slam Singles and my Tom Seaver highlights, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.”

Well, I’m not going to leave you alone.

I want you to get mad!

I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your Commissioner, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about our mediocre manager and frozen general manager and the Wilpons and how they don’t have any money.

All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad.

You’ve gotta say, “I’m a New York Mets fan, goddammit! My fandom has value!”

So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Tom Starita. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Exclusive: Michael Conforto Focused On Improving His Game, Not On His MLB Debut http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-exclusive-michael-conforto-focused-on-improving-his-game-not-on-his-mlb-debut.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/mmo-exclusive-michael-conforto-focused-on-improving-his-game-not-on-his-mlb-debut.html/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 15:20:28 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=185053 michael Conforto

The Mets drafted Michael Conforto because of his prowess as a hitter and he has yet to disappoint since making his pro debut for the Brooklyn Cyclones last season and starting off his career with a 10-game hitting streak. He would finish his first year in pro ball hitting .331/.403/.448 with ten doubles, three homeruns, sixteen walks, and 19 RBI in 42 games in short season ball.

Conforto introduced himself to all Mets fans this spring when he got into 5 games going 4-11 with three RBI while showing his sweet left-handed swing.

With no need for him to go down to Savannah the Mets bumped him straight to Advanced-A St. Lucie where he dominated in the month of April hitting .313/.396/.566 with six homeruns and nineteen RBI.

On May 24th the Fort Myers Miracle decided he had beaten them enough (7 hits, 2 HR’s in last 3 games against them) and the best way to avoid similar results was to intentionally walk him three times that day. For some reason they chose to try pitching to him the next day and Conforto went 3-4 with a homerun and a double before being intentionally walked in his last at-bat.

Other teams started getting sick of Michael beating them, they started pitching around him leading him to his worst pro month of baseball hitting just .255/.328/.387 while walking nine times and getting HBP three times. Despite the May struggles he was still named a Florida State League All-Star and finished hitting .283/.350/.462 with twelve doubles, seven homeruns, and 28 RBI for St. Lucie.

On May 29th the Mets finally did what most fans and prospect gurus had been clamoring about for weeks and promoted the first-rounder to Double-A Binghamton.

All Michael has done since being moved up is hit .377/.482/.623 with seven doubles, two triples, two homeruns, and 12 RBI with a 14/17 BB/SO while reaching base in all 19 of his games for the B-Mets. Conforto also has an isolated slugging of .262 in AA something only 12 Major League hitters have accomplished this year in the big leagues.

Michael has also worked on his defense in left field which was a big topic of discussion when he was drafted. He has only one error in 59 games this year after making five in just 41 games last year.

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Michael and I talked on Wednesday in Portland after watching him put on a power display in batting practice and here is our conversation:

MMO - First off I want to congratulate you on a great season and finally getting promoted to Binghamton.

Conforto - Thanks, just playing and coming out everyday like it’s the same! while trying to keep it simple. The day finally came and now here I am.

MMO - You started the year off really well in St. Lucie then the pitcher’s seemed to adjust to you or did they stop pitching to you?

Conforto - It was a combination of both, they started pitching around me a little bit and I started swinging at pitches that I normally wouldn’t if I was hitting well. Then they changed their approach to me by pitching inside more and I started swinging at those pitches which were low percentage for me, putting myself in a little slump.

But that’s baseball you know, those things are going to happen and I just had to find a way to work myself out of it which I did. I got in the cage and worked with my coaches and the hard work paid off. I got the call here with a spot open and have had a good start here too.

MMO - Now what adjustments have you had to make to pitching at the AA level?

Conforto - Just trying to stay simple, staying with the approach that I have and avoiding things I did during my first slump where I got out of my rhythm. It’s good to get that first one out of the way because you know you are not going to be hot all the time.

I need to just stick to the approach that gives me the best chance up there (at the plate), even if I’m facing a good pitcher. I need to make sure I am swinging at quality hitter’s pitches instead off chasing good pitcher’s pitches that way I have a better chance at the plate.

As far as adjustments I wouldn’t say I’ve have had to make many, the difference here (AA) is that the pitchers are more consistent, they make less mistakes and they can throw 3 or 4 different pitches for strikes. I need to make sure I’m keeping it simple here, it’s still baseball and its the same game. The consistency here might change but that doesn’t mean I have to change.

MMO - In St. Lucie you struggled against lefties but to start your career here in Binghamton you have faced seven left-handed starting pitchers in the first 10 games and you have obviously fared better. What do you think the reason is for that?

Conforto - I think it’s all part of coming up here (Binghamton) with a fresh start that allowed me to get back into what I was doing to start the season and in spring training.

I don’t think it was actually a lefty/righty thing as much as just getting back to my approach. I have never had a problem facing lefties, I have always felt comfortable against them it’s not like when I see that a lefty is throwing I say oh crap. I treat it the same way and now that no matter what hand they throw with as long as I keep my approach the same I have a good chance

MMO - When you were drafted there were a lot of draft experts that said you were below average defensively in LF and you might not stick there. Having watched you it seems like you have worked on your defense and throwing while improving both.

Conforto - I knew the criticisms, I had heard about them and the coaches here talked to me about it. I have put work in with them (coaches) and the best time to do it is in batting practice so you can get live reads off the bat.

Getting myself into the right position to throw was a big thing for me that helped me start throwing guys out (6 OF assists this year) and be more accurate. It’s just something that I had to work on, I had to be out there everyday playing and its incredible what hard work can do for you.

MMO - How much attention do you pay to the big club and fans wanting you to come up now? Do you pay attention to all the social media?

Conforto - I get sent stuff from my grandfather who is so into that stuff, he keeps up on everything and knows about anything that comes out. He will send stuff to my dad and he is careful about how much of it he sends to me. I try not to pay too much attention because it doesn’t have too much control on what is going to happen. All I can control is the way I am playing and to keep showing up to the ballpark everyday. 

MMO - What do you think you need to improve on to become a better player and to make it to the big leagues eventually?

Conforto - I think I need to be more consistent at the plate to try and avoid slumps like I had in St. Lucie. I also need to continue to work on my defense and putting myself in good positions to make plays.

I also need to work on my baserunning like taking extra bases, knowing when to be aggressive because it’s small things like that which separates the  guys here (AA) from the guys playing in the Majors.

MMO - Thanks Michael, good luck this year and hope to see you in New York soon. 

Michael went and signed some autographs as we were getting ready to start our interview, he also went back over to sign more afterwards. Kids were yelling for him the whole time during the interview and he signed for each one. After the game he was also the only guy to sign for kids right beside the dugout which is pretty unusual to do at that ballpark. He also made it a point to come over during batting practice to say hello to me and shake my hand.

I covered Binghamton when they were in Portland last month and it was completely different this time, the team had a different feel to it. The other players know that Conforto is/will be a star, they stood around batting practice watching as he hit mammoth homeruns just laughing at the ridicolous distance on some of them. At one point a teammate turned to me and said “this guy is a f**** joke” because he just hit one completely out of the park.

Before both games I was able to talk to multiple scouts that were there watching the Mets. They were impressed with the power/swing from Conforto. One scout did say that he needs more work on his defense but when I asked him if Conforto could hit in the big leagues right now he said “Yes, I don’t see why not”.

The Mets say they are not considering a promotion to the big league team for Conforto according to Mike Puma of the New YorkPost. But that’s okay with Michael who is only focused on improving his performance and becoming the best player he can be. We all wish him well.

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Getting To Know Mets Pitching Prospect Akeel Morris http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/getting-to-know-relief-prospect-akeel-morris.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/getting-to-know-relief-prospect-akeel-morris.html/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 03:27:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=184484 image-1

Here’s an interview we did with recently promoted pitching prospect Akeel Morris. This was conducted this past Winter right after the Mets decided to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. As you’ll see, the St. Thomas, Virgin Islands  native spoke extensively about his success and what drives him. Enjoy…

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Petey: Hi Akeel, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for all of us at MMO, all the readers will really enjoy hearing from you.

After your amazing season this year in Savannah, there is a great deal of buzz about you in and around the organization not to mention the rest of baseball. How do you feel about the year you just had now that you have had a little time to decompress?

Akeel: The year I had personally was for me a great accomplishment. To see what I could do in a full season, the competition level and just moving up and being successful at every level for me is an accomplishment. I’m happy about that and excited to keep moving up and challenges, and challenging better hitters. So that really was an accomplishment for me personally. About the baseball world, it was a really great year, for me to make the All-Star team and post-season All-Star team, and the Sterling Award. On top of a great season that was even more than I could have asked for.

Petey: Well all those awards and accolades were well deserved my man. It is great to see your hard work and dedication paying off like that. Are you going to play any winter ball?

Akeel: No I’m not going to play any winter ball.

Petey: I went back in the MMO archives to find the interview you and I did before and I was shocked to see that it was just over three years ago, October 2011! A lot has gone down since then. It seems things really started to roll when you were switched to relief, that was the beginning of 2012 I think?

Akeel: Yeah I was put in a piggy-back role in 2012 so I was coming out of the bullpen. Yeah so you could say I started relief in 2012. And 2013 I was with the Brooklyn Cyclones. I wasn’t on a full relief schedule there, the appearances were just as much but I was out of the bullpen. I was on a starter’s schedule but I was piggy-backing as well. But yeah this year in Savannah was the first full year in the bullpen. Doing back-to-back outings, that was a big difference. You’re on a throwing program everyday, and you got to pitch that night. You have to learn how to pace yourself and how your arm is feeling going into the game and stuff. It was also a learning experience for me coming out of the bullpen.

Petey: Yeah and if you’re facing the same team two nights in a row you have to be able to show them something different right?

Akeel: Exactly. So it was definitely a learning experience.

Petey: Was there a moment when things really started to ‘click’ for you, and did that help your confidence?

Akeel: Confidence-wise, when I’ve got my good stuff, on most nights consistently like that I kinda got a feel for. I know what I gotta do to have this and this, and you’re not going to have it every night. But when you can have it on most nights that’s all you can really ask for, and you have to battle it the other nights. I got a feel for how I need to be, what I need to be, and what I need to do, to have my stuff be effective most nights, you know? I guess that’s what really ‘clicked’, learning about myself.

Petey: That’s really cool man. So how would you describe your mindset when you are entering a game as a closer? How is it different from starting a ball game?

Akeel: Yeah, it’s definitely different, I mean as a closer or even late in a ball game, you’re going to come in when the game is tied or most likely when your team is up and your like okay, they play nine innings, you’ve got to shut it down. No free passes, no anything. You don’t want to give them any momentum, you know? It’s really just like shut it down, shut it down, that’s all you’re really thinking.

Petey: Being aggressive.

Akeel: Yeah. Basically that’s a simple message in my head, I got to shut it down, go right after these guys. Don’t give them any free passes.

Petey: Is there any ritual or mental prep you do in the bullpen before coming in with the game on the line?

Akeel: Mental preparation, I mean that’s gradual throughout the game. As the later innings come buy I start to get a little more locked in. I start to move around in the bullpen, even as the the game is close in the eighth inning sometimes I just sit around and it’s about mentally locking in. When the whole process really starts for me is before I get on the mound to warm up. Sometimes you don’t have as much time but it doesn’t feel like that once you mentally prepared yourself. So that’s what works for me.

Petey: When we did our last interview for MMO we discussed your pitches at the time. I would imagine they have come a long way since then. Back in 2011 this what you said on the subject:

“As of now I’m throwing a fastball, curveball and a change up. My fastball is usually low to mid 90′s, it peaked at 96 this season. My curve is mid to upper 70′s, and change up is upper 70′s to low 80′s.”

What kind of speeds and movement is your fastball exhibiting these days?

Akeel: My fastball has been sitting at 93-95 mph this season, topped out at 97. Most people tell me it has like a downhill plane, most times it has life to it. Sometimes my catcher will tell me it looks like it’s coming down and looks like it’s going to hit the ground, but it just rides out and it reaches the catcher. So it kinda looks like it’s downhill, downhill, downhill, but it somehow rides out to the plate. So I don’t know how to explain it, that’s what he told me.

Petey: Wow, it sounds like the pitch has natural rise or carry but you’re keeping the ball down in the zone as well.

Akeel: I guess so yeah something like that.

Petey: That’s a four-seam fastball?

Akeel: Yeah I throw a four-seam fastball.

Petey: How bout your change-up? The last time I talked to you it was something you wanted to focus on.

Akeel: The change-up has been really great. Sometimes I keep it down and there’s not as much movement, but it’s so much slower than my fastball and it looks so much like my fastball too, it’s hard for hitters to pick it up. And sometimes it’s even better when it has that drop-off to it. Sometimes it just drops off the table and they swing over it. And sometimes it doesn’t even have that much movement but it’s so slow they don’t see it and can’t put a good swing on it.

Petey: And your arm-speed? It’s the same as with the fastball?

Akeel: Yeah my arm speed is the same.

Petey: That’s awesome. Now what about your breaking pitches?

Akeel: I throw a slider. The slider has really come along a lot more this year. I started throwing it last off-season and at the beginning of this season I didn’t throw it as much. But when the second half came I started to bring it out and throw it, and it really started to develop a lot more. I even got a feel for it where I was throwing the slider even more than my change-up at times. And I love that feeling because I didn’t even have to depend on the fastball/change-up combination. I could go fastball/slider combination and when I mixed it in with the change-up too, it was even a lot better.

Petey: Yeah and the results from this last season certainly attest to that. Say Akeel, what are some of the things you hope to accomplish in your development this upcoming season? Do you set any goals for yourself?

Akeel: This upcoming season I would really like to get better control of my slider. Like be able to throw it for a strike more often. I would throw it for a strike at times but most times I’d throw them a slider it would break outside the zone and they would swing over it or they would take it. But it was more for them to see the pitch. So if I can throw it for strikes more often that’s what I really want to do.  So basically just develop the slider some more.

Petey: Are you able to throw the slider when you are behind in the count?

Akeel: Yes I’ve thrown it in various different counts and I feel that’s a big thing about pitching too. I feel whatever pitches you have you need to be able to throw it in any count. So yeah I have been working on that and I have thrown it in different counts.

Petey: Is there any one coach, or coaches that have helped you significantly since joining the Mets organization, in regards to your development?

Akeel: Coaching-wise, I’ve been with Jonathan Hurst for two years in Kingsport, he helped me a lot, and different coaches in extended spring training. But one of the coaches who really took a lot of time out with me and worked on mechanics while I was in extended spring training day-to-day was Miguel Valdez. He was the pitching coach for short season and I mean he’d really break down my mechanics  for me to understand it and I worked on it. It took a little time but it definitely paid off to where I understand my mechanics and I can see what I’m doing wrong. And as soon as I figured that stuff out it’s been going a lot better, a lot better. So Miguel Valdez has really helped me out a lot.

Petey: You were on a very talented Savannah ball club this past season, lot’s of excellent position players and pitchers. And of course you guys made the SAL playoffs. But let’s focus on the pitching staff for a moment. As someone who watched your starting pitcher’s performances in every game, are there any that stand out for what they bring to the table?

Akeel: That’s really hard, I mean we got so much talent. Actually the starting pitching, I mean for the full year I would say, John Gant for sure. He impressed me. I mean anytime he’s going into the game your guaranteed he’s gonna go at least six innings. He usually goes deep into the ball games and he’s  keeping the score close, giving your team a chance to win. So John Gant really impressed me with his consistency and being able to do that. Other pitchers, I like Robert Gsellman a lot too but he got hurt a little bit into the season. But I mean he really pitched good, he had a good year as well.

Petey: Yeah a lot of Mets fans that follow the Mets Minor League teams are very high on those two guys.

Akeel: And also Kevin McGowan too because he had a game, he went deep into the ninth and I like when your starting pitcher is out there. His pitch count was up and he couldn’t pitch anymore in the ninth inning if he wanted to. And I had to come in and close the game, and he didn’t even want to get off the mound, he wanted to finish the game. So when you have your starters out there with that sort of fire, it pumps you up more to come in and save their game.

Petey: One more question. Now that you are a professional ‘closer’ Akeel, do you ever imagine yourself on the mound in the 9th inning of the World Series trying to preserve a one-run lead? How does it work out? Ha ha!

Akeel: Definitely, as a kid people have those fantasies, whatever scenario it is. Fortunately for me I was always pitching, since I became a pitcher that’s always been the fantasy. The World Series, last inning, game on the line and they call on you. I mean how that turns out is I’m just ready to pitch. Like I said, always in the minors to shut it down, and it goes well for me in my mind.

Petey: That’s is awesome man. Seriously Akeel, I want to thank you again for being so accommodating and taking the time to do this interview. You have always taken time out to talk to me and my colleagues at MetsMerized Online and we all really appreciate it.

Akeel: Alright man sounds good, anytime. I’m already psyched.

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Doc Gooden On Mets Rotation: “With That Staff, Anything Can Happen” http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/doc-gooden-on-mets-rotation-with-that-staff-anything-can-happen.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/06/doc-gooden-on-mets-rotation-with-that-staff-anything-can-happen.html/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 16:50:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=183926 dwight doc gooden

Although this year’s MLB Draft was relatively quiet for the New York Mets without their first-round pick, Flushing was well-represented at the draft with Doc Gooden in attendance.

Speaking at the draft in Secaucus, N.J. Monday night, Gooden said he was honored to have been asked to attend by the Mets.

“It’s a great feeling to be here to represent the (Mets), because I did play for a couple teams after the Mets, so to come back, you feel like you’re back into the family now,” he said.

For many former big leaguers at the draft, it was a time for reflection on the day they were drafted. Gooden, who was picked fifth overall by the Mets in 1982, said he was shocked to have been picked so high.

“I remember my high school coach telling me that I’m probably going to be picked between the fifth and tenth round. I said, ‘that’s fine, I just want to get drafted,’” said Gooden, then a 17-year old standout high school hurler from Tampa.

“So we’re watching the draft, it got to the Mets with the fifth pick, and I see my name across the screen, ‘Dwight Gooden,’ I’m like ‘I just got picked fifth.’ I actually called New York to make sure that was right just based on what my high school coach had told me. They said ‘yeah, that’s right.’”

Though the Mets were short a first round pick due to the signing of Michael Cuddyer, New York has fortified themselves with plenty of young talent in recent years, highlighted by their current starting rotation along with Steven Matz still incubating in Triple-A. Gooden said he sees serious potential in the group of arms the Mets have put together.

“Once you get into the playoffs, with that staff, anything can happen,” he said.

The 1985 NL Cy Young award winner has been highly complimentary of the Mets young pitchers in the past, going as far to compare them to the 1986 rotation. Gooden said such comments drew some flak from former teammate Bobby Ojeda.

“I actually got a call from Bob Ojeda the other day because I had said that this staff could be better than the ’86 staff, so he didn’t like that too much,” Gooden said with a laugh.

The 2015 Mets are well-positioned to capture their first playoff bid in nine years, so long as they can overcome injuries to their primary bats and the resulting offensive woes. Gooden said if the Mets are going to without Wright or d’Arnaud–who is expected to return this week–for a long period of time, they need to make a move.

“If you can’t get both back, I think they should go out and get a veteran hitter for the middle of the order,” he said.

Although acquiring a bat should be a necessity for the Mets, Gooden said they also have to be careful not to mortgage the future with dealing an abundance major-league ready talent. Instead, he said the Mets should look to deal from the talent in the lower minors.

“You have to make a move, but it’s got to be the right fit, because you don’t give up a young pitcher, then in 3-4 years have it come back to bite you,” he said.

“So I would try to trade my lower minor league guys, because they have prospect pitchers all through the system, and try to stay away from my Triple-A and big league guys if I can do that. But if trade comes along that you can’t resist, you need to figure out what guy you want to move and go for it.”

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MMO Fan Shot: Taking Stock of the Mets, the Magic of Memorial Day http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-taking-stock-of-the-mets-the-magic-of-memorial-day.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-taking-stock-of-the-mets-the-magic-of-memorial-day.html/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 17:15:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=182668 lucas duda

An MMO Fan Shot by Marc M. (Not4)

Memorial Day Weekend marks not only the unofficial beginning of summer but also is viewed as perhaps the first seminal day for determining whether a team’s hot start is for real.  It’s easy to dismiss hot starts as nothing more than anomalies borne from small sample sizes that will regress back to the mean once the sample size increases.

By the time Memorial Day rolls around, somewhere between 1/4 to 1/3 of the season is complete and, interestingly enough (to me anyway), over the past 20 years slightly more than 60% of the teams leading their division or wild card standings at Memorial Day have gone on to make the playoffs.  Of course, a lot can and will happen between now and the end of the season.  After all, there are still 4+ months left to play and plenty of teams that start off hot then fade into oblivion.  But, for now, with slightly more than 1/4 of the Mets season in the books, it’s not a bad time to take stock of where this team stands.

The Mets currently are 25-21, good for in 2nd place in the NL East, 2.5 games back of Nationals (3 in the loss column).  They are currently tied for the second Wild Card team in the NL with the Cubs (who are actually percentage points ahead than the Mets with 1 less loss and one less win).  Based upon the past 20 years’ history, this gives the Mets a 60% chance of making the playoffs this year, give or take.   If the Mets can maintain the same winning percentage of 54.3% the rest of the way – no doubt with highs and lows along the way – that would translate into 88 wins for the season.  Since MLB has gone to 2 Wild Card teams per league, the second wild card team in the National League has won 88, 90 and 88 games.   All in all, this team has played to just about the level of where many here expected them to be – a team that could win somewhere between 85-90 games this season.

Looking beyond the statistical likelihood of the Mets making the playoffs at this bench mark date, it is also worthwhile to look at the good, the bad and the question marks – those that have been answered, those that have not and those that have been added.

Starting Pitching

Saturday’s start aside, Matt Harvey has been nothing short of a revelation, returning stronger and pitching very well sooner than could realistically be expected.   (We all hoped for it, but this truly exceeds expectations).  The no decisions suck for him, but his ability to pitch as a true Ace and still go relatively deep into games has been huge for this team. The rest of the starters have performed about as well as can be expected.

Jacob deGrom had a couple of hiccups, but that is not surprising for a second year player.  More importantly, he looks like the real deal just like last year and has done a nice job adjusting to the adjustments that the league has tried to make.  In fact, I’d say most of his issues have stemmed from some command issues early in the season where he was not spotting the ball quite as well in games he has been hit (which he seems to have fixed if his past 3 starts are any indication).

Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee have all performed about as well as can be expected.  Colon will have an occasional bad game, but has been pitching great once again this year.  Gee was pitching well before being injured and seems to have responded well to being disrespected by the organization (pitching with a bit of a chip on his shoulder).  Niese had a nice start to the season and invariably will have stretches where he gets knocked around like his last two.  In years past, it was often an indication of a physical issue, but considering Niese’s high WHIP, he’s bound to have some games like these last two (many have been predicting a regression for him based upon his WHIP.  And the fact is that pitchers like Colon and Niese will have the occasional bad outing, which is fine if they can put up mostly solid outings and keep us in most games.

Noah Syndergaard has been better than expected in his three starts.  Looks like a combination of Wheeler and deGrom (not quite Wheeler’s nasty stuff and not quite deGrom’s command and pitching smarts – but has shown enough in his three starts to, which is pretty amazing for a 22 year old!)

Relief Pitching

Jeurys Familia has been a revelation as well.  He seamlessly slotted into the closer role once Jenry Mejia was suspended and while there inevitably will be blown saves and bad outings (let’s face it, all great relievers have off nights occasionally), he has exceeded reasonable expectations to date.  Jeremy Blevins was fantastic until he got hurt and should provide a nice boost to the BP when he returns.

The Torres boys (Carlos Torres and Alex Torres) have both been very reliable, even though they have also been forced to pitch in more high leverage situations than expected.  Hansel Robles, Erik Goeddel, Sean Gilmartin and Jack Leathersich have not pitched enough to know for sure what we have, though it’s possible that maybe two of them can contribute meaningfully this year.  Blevins’ return (whenever that may be) will be big.

Bobby Parnell and Vic Black remain potentially big additions, or simply teases who may not pitch (or at least effectively) this year.  Unless one or maybe both can return and contribute, my guess is that the FO will need to do something to add much needed depth to this Pen, whether it is a mid-season trade and/or more callups that stick.

Buddy Carlyle will also help when he returns.  Adding Mejia when he comes off the DL is very much needed at this time, as another back-end, high leverage pitcher (7th and 8th inning).  I know he cannot pitch in the playoffs, but if Collins continues to pitch Familia and the Torres boys as much as he has, he will likely burn them out (if not worse).

Position Players

As everyone knows, the biggest Achilles heel for this team has been its hitting and run production, particularly the past several weeks since David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud were injured.

  • D’Arnaud was producing very nicely before hitting the DL (both offensively and defensively).  Wright was okay – some good and some bad; though it should be noted that both have barely played this year at all because of those early season injuries. d’Arnaud looks like he is on track to return next week, which is huge for this lineup.  Wright is a question mark for both this season and beyond.
  • Lucas Duda has been pretty good, but until last Thursday, had not been hitting home runs or driving in runs like we need out of him.  Hopefully he can continue to do both, and particularly when it comes to hitting RHP.  We need him to be the beast that he was for much of last season.
  • Granderson has been a decent leadoff batter who, despite a slow start hitting his first 7 games (1-18), has actually out-performed most expectations (.264/.338/.421/.759 in his last 39 games (157 PAs), while walking at a nice 16% clip overall (though that has come down to 10% in this last 39 game stretch) and making pitchers throw a lot of pitches.
  • Lagares has gone from streak to streak – cold to hot to cold to lukewarm at best.  His overall offensive production is below par and needs to improve.
  • Cuddyer has been a disappointment and is severely under-performing his contract, his recent and long term history and what the Mets need out of him.  He needs to turn his season around and soon!  He’s showing some life the last 4 games, but we need consistent production out of his bat (particularly with Wright being such a question mark).
  • Murphy started the year horribly through is first 18 games, but has picked it up significantly offensively since then (over the last 28).  He just turned 30 and has been remarkably consistent the past few years, so it’s fair to assume similar production from him.  His defense at 2nd seems to be worse than ever, though he has leveled out a little.  With Wright out for what looks like an extended run, I’d move him to 3B and bring up Reynolds to play 2B for now.
  • Flores has really been a mixed bag, but big picture, he needs to produce more than he has and I believe he is capable of doing just that (and has been doing it over the past dozen games.  He seems to have settled down defensively, which is important.  He needs to continue to play defense the way he has the past dozen or so games (like he did last year) and hit like he has the past dozen games, which I think is not only possible, but that he is perhaps capable of more this year (albeit with more double and less HRs – 3 HR in 12 games equates to 40 for the season and that is just not realistic for him, but more doubles is certainly realistic and in line with his historical performance).

The Bench

Our bench production has been below par, thus far.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis really struggled before being DFA’d. – and he was supposed to be the biggest bat off the bench (along with John Mayberry, Jr., who has been struggling almost as bad and could be a DFA candidate at some point in the near future if he does not start hitting).  Ruben Tejada has been replacement level at best – mostly solid defense, horrible bat, nice BB%.  Eric Campbell, Anthony Recker and Johnny Monell have all been below par.  Too soon to tell with Darrell Ceciliani or Danny Muno.

Final Thoughts

Overall, even with all their faults, this team can and should continue to compete throughout this year.  The extent to which they compete and win will be dependent upon several things, including:

  1. Getting Travis d’Arnaud back and performing.
  2. Lucas Duda hitting more HRs and driving in more runs.
  3. Michael Cuddyer improving dramatically offensively.
  4. Curtis Granderson hitting like he has in the past five weeks.
  5. Wilmer Flores hitting like he can and like he has the past dozen games.
  6. Juan Lagares picking up his production at the plate.
  7. Noah Syndergaard remaining in the rotation, as long as he is performing as he has so far with a little room for growing pains.
  8. Bolstering the bullpen before our few effective pitchers’ arms fall off.
  9. Middle infield defense stabilizes (which, as many suggest, will probably be contingent upon Murphy playing 3B while Wright is out, or perhaps eventually being traded).
  10. Re-working the bench to have players who can contribute to wins and deliver when called upon.
  11. Bringing up Steven Matz at some point in the next couple of months (probably in conjunction  with trading one or two of Gee, Niese and Colon – which can hopefully net us some BP help and some prospects and maybe a nice bench piece.

To be clear, not all of these will happen, nor do all have to happen for this team to compete and win.

Obviously, the more that do occur, the more success the team will experience.  For instance, if Cuddyer can really turn things around, this team could probably still succeed even with the moderate offensive contributions from Granderson, Flores and Lagares; conversely if Cuddyer continues to underperform, two of Granderson, Flores and Lagares will need to improve their production to offset Cuddyer’s under-performance.

Put simply, it is a sliding scale with many variables that can offset (or exacerbate or bolster) the other variables and the team’s overall result this year.

Now that we have passed the first litmus test date, taking stock of the Mets, we see a team that could win as few as 80ish games, or as many as the low-90s depending upon how things shake out from here forward.  The likeliest result is somewhere in the mid- to upper-80s – just about where many had them pegged at the beginning of the season.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Marc M. (Not4). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Fan Shot: Michael Fulmer Watched Syndegaard’s Debut, Hopes To Realize That Dream Too http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-michael-fulmer-watched-syndegaards-debut-hopes-to-realize-that-dream-too.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-michael-fulmer-watched-syndegaards-debut-hopes-to-realize-that-dream-too.html/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 16:34:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=181871 fulmer talk 1

An MMO Fan Shot by Jim Maggiore

Right-handed starting pitcher Michael Fulmer spent a half hour chatting and answering questions with the Binghamton Mets Booster Club on Thursday afternoon, May 14th before the Mets took on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in a 6:35 pm contest. Fulmer was a supplemental first-round pick of the Mets in the 2011 draft, and entering the 2015 season Baseball America ranked him as the 14th best prospect in the Mets’ organization.

He was the second overall pick of the Mets in the draft, as the Mets used their first pick in the 13th slot to select teammate Brandon Nimmo. Fulmer was one the third  Oklahoma pitcher taken in that year’s draft, as Archie Bradley was drafted in the 7th slot by the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Baltimore Orioles selected Dylan Bundy with the fourth overall pick.

Ironically, both Brandon Nimmo and Michael Fulmer had signed letters of intent to play baseball for the University of Arkansas after their graduation from high school in 2011. Both, however, wound up signing with the New York Mets instead. When Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn called Fulmer to wish him luck after he signed with the Mets, he told him “Congratulations on being signed, but right now as you can understand, I am not a big fan of the Mets.”

In the 2012 draft, the Mets showed their ongoing respect for the Arkansas program by drafting two of their players in the second round, infielder Matt Reynolds and pitcher Ted Stankiewicz. Paul DePodesta, the vice president of player development for the Mets, praised the work of Van Horn and his staff that year as he told Ethan Asofsky of MLB.COM:

“We love their players. We think they’ve done a great job with their program. Obviously we drafted a couple of their big recruits last year.”

In his spare time Fulmer likes to bowl, fish, golf, and hunt. While training and playing in St. Lucie he has been able to fill his free time with these hobbies so he does not refer to the Florida village as “Port St. Lonely,” an affectionate sobriquet for the town that sits on Florida’s East Coast, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Fulmer does not have to stray far from St. Lucie’s Tradition Field to fulfill his hobbies.

fulmer talks 2Duffy’s, a large restaurant within walking distance of the stadium, has over 40 bowling lanes and is Fulmer’s favorite bowling spot. A creek beyond the right field fence at Tradition Field also serves as s convenient fishing spot for Fulmer and his teammates. When St. Lucie first opened in 1988 that creek was known to be an abode for alligators, but Fulmer says he has not seen any alligators in his time in St. Lucie.

Fulmer has battled a series of nagging injuries in his career thus far, but is hopeful the injury bug is behind him. In 2013 a torn meniscus limited him to nine starts for the season and he has never started more than 21 games in a season.

Two of his teammates from Deer Creek High School are also currently honing their craft in the minors, including infielder and designated hitter Brian Anderson, who is currently playing for the Jupiter Hammerheads, and righty pitcher Cale Coshow, who toils for the Charleston River Dogs.

“Everyone who plays this game in high school dreams of getting signed to play professional ball and all professional players dream of getting to the big leagues,” Fulmer explained as he discussed his career.

“I’m no different, I’m aware of the many guys who have played in Binghamton and gone on to play for the Mets, so I’m just happy to be here to compete and pursue my dream of getting to the big leagues.”

Fulmer went on to state that the success of those who have gone before him provide motivation to work hard and not slack off.

“You’re aware of the success of those around you, but you have to put it in the back of your mind at the same time,” he elaborated. “Nothing is handed to you in this game. You have to earn it.”

IMG_1351A special treat for Fulmer was seeing the debut of Noah Syndergaard against the Chicago Cubs on May 12th. Syndergaard and Fulmer were roommates at St. Lucie in 2013.

Besides looking forward to pitching in the big leagues one day, Fulmer is also looking forward to tying the knot with his longtime girlfriend, Kelsey, in January 2016. Michael and Kelsey have been dating since ninth grade, so she is well aware that when Fulmer tells him “a dinger got him,” she knows he means he gave up a home run!

Earlier this season, on Aril 26th, “dinger” took on a special meaning for Fulmer, as he got a treat when he took the mound for St. Lucie against the Jupiter Hammerheads. Hitting third for the Hammerheads that day was none other than the aforementioned Brian Anderson., who is not only Fulmer’s former high school teammate, but also his best friend and the best man for his upcoming wedding. Fulmer broke with tradition on this night and gave his best man his thank you gift a full eight months before the wedding.

When Anderson came up to hit in the first inning, after the first two runners reached base safely, he took a fastball from Fulmer and hit it for a three-run home run!

Fulmer settled down after the Anderson homer, retiring 21 of the next 22 hitters he faced, while striking out nine, including Anderson.

However, the best man got the better of the overall duel on this night, as Anderson also hit a walk-off home run off of St. Lucie reliever Kevin McGowan in the ninth inning with one out, as Jupiter defeated St. Lucie 4-3.  

On the mound Fulmer’s tools of operation include a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range, a slider, changeup, and a curveball.

“I have been staying away from the curveball lately,” stated Fulmer. “I think throwing the curve may have caused some problems with my elbow in the past, so I have been relying on the slider more now.”

Fulmer is appreciative of all the work the boosters do to make the players feel comfortable.

“I tell you, the road trip snacks really come in handy,” he says with a smile. “During the last bus trip back here we were all starving and had to stop at a Sheetz to load up with snacks. And for entertainment we had seven guys trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. In the end, we solved it, but those road trip packages we get when we leave town are greatly appreciated!”

In response to a question concerning how he and his teammates spend off days, Fulmer noted he had never been to the Baseball Hall of Fame and during one of the few off days the team has during the season, he may take a trip to Cooperstown.   

Note: Maggiore is president of the Binghamton Mets Booster Club. His recent book, “Six More Wins: A Team, A Town, A Rebound, and a Championship” chronicles the 2014 championship season of the Binghamton Mets and is available on BN.com and Amazon.com.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Jim Maggiore. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at  FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Fan Shot: Collin McHugh Is Easy To Root For http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-collin-mchugh-is-easy-to-root-for.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-collin-mchugh-is-easy-to-root-for.html/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 00:44:13 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=181435 collin-mchugh

An MMO Fan Shot by Jack Ganchrow

As the old saying goes the first one is always the hardest. Collin McHugh learned that the hard way going 607 days before getting his first major league win. Between coming out of the bullpen and starting, McHugh lost his first eight decisions across his first two seasons. It took him until his third big league team to get that coveted first win.

In his major league debut for the Mets he pitched a gem going seven scoreless innings only giving up two hits and striking out nine against the Rockies (the Mets lost that game 1-0). After that it was pretty much all down hill in his rookie campaign. In eight 2012 Collin McHugh appearances (4 starts, 4 relief) the Mets posted an 0-8 record.

McHugh had a humble beginning to his career but it started before he even played professional baseball. He was born in the wealthiest city in the Midwest, 28 miles west of Chicago, Naperville, Illinois. He went to Providence Christian Academy (Lilburn, GA) for high school, total number of Major leaguers from there not named McHugh, none. Not recruited by D1 schools McHugh attended D-III Berry College, (Mount Berry, GA) number of major leaguers to attend not named McHugh, none.

McHugh heard 553 names called before the Mets made him their 18th round selection in the 2008 MLB draft. Being told he wasn’t good enough was the theme of McHugh’s pre-professional career.

Collin’s first four years in the minors got him through most of the Mets lower system, stopping through Kingsport, Brooklyn, Savannah, St. Lucie, and finishing his 2011 season in Double-A Binghamton.

The following season in 2012, McHugh was promoted to Triple-A in June and eventually made his major league debut on August 23, 2012, pitching his gem against the Rockies.

In 2013 he was up and down from Las Vegas until he was ultimately traded for Eric Young Jr. on June 18, and ended his Mets career with 11 appearances (5 starts, 6 in relief). He went 0-5 with an 8.25 ERA and the Mets were also 0-11 in games that he pitched in.

His career with the Rockies was a disaster. He was assigned to Double-A Tulsa to start and had two solid starts, before he moved up to Colorado Springs (AAA Rockies) where he made three more starts until he made his Rockies debut on July 27, 2013. It didn’t go as well as his Mets debut did.

He was demoted after taking the loss (now 0-6 lifetime record with his teams 0-12 in his appearances). After spending the entire month of August in AAA, McHugh was called back up in September even though he didn’t have such a productive August. He made three starts, going 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA (the Rockies did win one start so he finally snapped his team losing every game he pitched in streak).

After pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League in October, McHugh was DFAed by the Rockies on December 16, 2013.

collin mchugh

On December 17, 2013 Collin McHugh was a 26-year old kid without a team and had a career record of 0-8 to go with an ERA of 8.94. His major league career was in jeopardy.

However the very next day, the Houston Astros claimed McHugh off waivers as rotation insurance. He didn’t make the Opening Day roster, but after three Triple-A starts, the Astros called him up to replace Scott Feldman who was placed on the disabled list.

The date was April 22, 2014, the opponent, the Seattle Mariners, and Collin McHugh finally got his first career win.

It wasn’t an ordinary win though, McHugh’s Astros debut was historic. In that start Collin he tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings striking out 12 Mariners. Only J.R Richard in 1971 struck out more in an Astros debut (15).

After starting the season 4-3 McHugh lost his next six decisions. At 4-9 with a 3.45 ERA (which is still very good) many wondered if McHugh was back down to earth for good. That is when he really turned it on, his last ten starts he went 7-0 while lowering his ERA to 2.73. It was an incredible way to end a remarkable turnaround season.

One thing Collin McHugh was always successful at was writing his blog. It is called A Day Older, A Day Wiser, and he shares his ups and downs about baseball and life, and it’s another reason that makes him such a likable guy.

So here we are in 2015, and so far, Collin McHugh is 4-0 and in his six starts the Astros have a 6-0 record, a far cry from how his career started. He has won his last 11 decisions. 2015 was also the first Opening Day roster he ever made and hopefully there will be many more in the future.

When I was in Houston last summer at an Astros game, I was there for BP and I saw Collin walking toward the dugout. I shouted for him to come over and he did just that, signing the baseball card I had of him as a Met, as well as taking a picture with me. As a Mets fan I always rooted for Collin, and even though he didn’t perform for us, he gave it his all and it’s great to see him tasting success now.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Jack Ganchrow. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at  FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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Happy Mother’s Day: Mets Memories, Family, and Believing http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/happy-mothers-day-mets-memories-family-and-believing.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/happy-mothers-day-mets-memories-family-and-believing.html/#comments Sun, 10 May 2015 10:33:41 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=181164 happy mothers day

A Message From Joe D. – One of the great things about MMO is all the great original content from the hundreds of Mets fans that have come and gone throughout the years. I love all the personal stories and the incredible passion and sentiment that goes into all those wonderful articles and Fan Shots.

Every year on Mother’s Day, I like to look back and re-post an article that evokes the spirit of home and family in a Mets kind of way. Enjoy this post by Daniel Nelson who interned with us in 2013 and is now a digital and editorial producer for San Francisco State University. So with that, I’d like to wish all you Mets Moms out there a very Happy Mother’s Day. 

1969 NLCS

Tucked away in the mountains of Tehachapi, Calif. rests a modest cottage. Living in that cottage are John and Jill Nelson. These are my parents.

In any given room, you can find the typical conventions of any old west-style household. There are paintings of horses on every wall, candle holders made from welded horseshoes on the dining room table and small pieces from alfalfa-hay flakes scattered across the 70s-style brown carpet.

If you look deep enough in the closets, underneath the abundance of dust, you’ll find something any true baseball fan has: memorabilia. In my parents’ case, the majority happens to be New York Mets memorabilia.

This offseason has dragged on for what seems like an eternity. The Mets continue to be written off, but this is something my parents have been used to hearing for as long as they’ve followed the Mets—something that’s been engrained in the way I’ve followed the Mets my whole life. I’m sure it’s something we all recognize.

See, my parents haven’t always resided on the West Coast. For a large chuck of their lives, they lived in Fair Lawn, N.J.—in Bergen County, which is right on the border of New York and New Jersey. They both worked for the Associated Press in New York.

My father is originally from Federal Way, Wash. so he indirectly adopted the Mets through my mother, who grew up in Kenilworth, N.J.

Whenever I visit my parents in Tehachapi, they tell me stories from when they watched and covered the Mets. They have a more impartial perspective because they are both journalists. You can tell when they talk about the Mets though, there’s just a hint attachment. I recently got a chance to visit them and they dusted off all their memorabilia and told me the stories behind it.

1969 poster from Jock Magazine (The magazine cost 60 cents and the poster is about 3 feet in length)

This 1969 poster from Jock Magazine cost 60 cents and measured about 3 feet in length.

Since the anniversary of Gary Carter’s passing, I’ve been asking them a lot about Mets teams of old. I want to share some stories and memorabilia with you. It’s my hope that we can put aside the Mets’ current foibles and focus primarily on something the Mets have done throughout the franchise’s history: defy the odds.

This offseason reminds me of the season preceding 1969—the “Miracle Mets” season.

go mets button footer

My mother got this Daily News issued button and the poster seen above during the Mets’ World Series run in 1969. The Mets clinched the division on Sept. 24, 1969 with a win over the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0.

It was also fan appreciation day. My mother and grandfather were both in attendance. My mother was 16 years old. She remembers fans climbing the foul poles and everyone rushing onto the field to grab a chunk of grass after the Mets won the game. On the way home, she recalls almost everyone riding the train holding a piece of grass. It would be nice to see the Mets get that kind of support from the fanbase again. There was a time when, despite how bad the Mets were, fans still showed a lot of support.

1986 NLCS score book

1986 NLCS Score Book

By the time 1986 rolled around, my father had become an established writer for the Associated Press. My older brother had been born so my mother became more of a fan. She went to a lot of games in ’86 and kept many things along the way.

Box score from Game 3 of the NLCS against the Astros at Shea Stadium

Box score from Game 3 of the NLCS against the Astros at Shea Stadium

As we all know, the Mets beat the Houston Astros in the ’86 NLCS in six games to move on to the World Series. My mother attended Game 3 (as you can see from the handwritten box score). The Mets won the game 6-5 with a walk-off home run by Lenny Dykstra. She said when Dykstra hit the two-run homer in the bottom of the 9th inning, the stands in Shea Stadium shook back and forth.

Two-page spread of the NL champion Mets in The Record newspaper on Sunday, Oct. 19, 1986

Two-page spread of the NL Champion Mets featured in The Record on Sunday, Oct. 19, 1986

During the ’86 World Series, my father wrote an evaluation of each team’s roster for the AP. He picked which team had the upper hand at each position. These evaluations were distributed to newspapers across the country that didn’t have traveling baseball writers and didn’t have as much knowledge about each team. When it came to third base, my father picked Ray Knight to be the better player over Wade Boggs. Every paper that the comparison was distributed to ran it except for one publication based in Boston. The paper refused to publish it unless Knight was replaced by Boggs. My father refused and the paper didn’t run his piece. When the World Series was over, Knight was named World Series MVP.

Mets box score from Game 6 of the 1986 World SeriesRed Sox box score from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series

My mother’s score card from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series

Both my mother and father were at Game 6. My mother was in the stands with my grandmother and my father was in the press box covering the game for the AP.

Back then, my father used to dictate the games over the phone back to the AP office. When Keith Hernandez made the second out of the 9th inning, the Series seemed all but wrapped up for the Red Sox. After Carter’s two-out hit in the inning, my father recalls telling the AP office, “Hold on. Something crazy is about to happen.”

It’s indicative of the way the Mets play. We saw it a lot in 2012 when the Mets piled up all those two-out runs.

My mother was sitting on the first base side in between home and first. She remembers Red Sox fans sitting a few rows in front of her going crazy after the second out of the 9th inning. After Wilson’s grounder to Bill Buckner at first, she claims that even if Buckner had fielded the ball, Wilson would have beat the throw. When the ball rolled passed Buckner, she recalls all of Shea Stadium going completely silent for a split second.

As Knight rounded third base seconds later, she said Shea blew up like someone had set off dynamite from under the seats. When she looked down at the Red Sox fans a few rows in front her, they were no where to be found.

I love hearing these stories whenever I get a chance to go home. The Mets are more than just my favorite team, they provide a special bond between me and my family. I’m a big believer in the Mets, and at the start of every new season I don’t ever count them out. History tells us that the Mets have a penchant for surprising everybody. I like it when we fly under the radar. They play better with a chip on their shoulders. With all that being said, I feel something amazin’ is in the works. Ya gotta believe!

tug mcgraw

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Free $300,000 One-Day Fantasy Baseball Contest http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/free-300000-one-day-fantasy-baseball-contest.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/free-300000-one-day-fantasy-baseball-contest.html/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 16:57:37 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=181908 91760

DraftKings is offering Mets Merized Online readers access to a free fantasy baseball contest with $300,000 in prizes!

All you have to do is pick the 10 MLB players you think will score the most fantasy points during the MLB games on Wednesday, May 20th.

All you have to do is select the 10 MLB players you think will score the most fantasy points during the MLB games today.

Draft one catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and third baseman, three outfielders and two pitchers under the provided $50,000 Salary Cap. It’s that easy!

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1. Draft Your 10 Man MLB Roster Here!

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GOOD LUCK AND START DRAFTING!

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Win a Mets VIP Experience Playing One Day Fantasy Baseball! http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/win-a-mets-vip-experience-playing-one-day-fantasy-baseball.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/win-a-mets-vip-experience-playing-one-day-fantasy-baseball.html/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 17:01:23 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=181059 draft kings

DraftKings is offering Mets Merized Online readers access to a free fantasy baseball contest to win a Mets VIP experience!

All you have to do is select the 10 MLB players you think will score the most fantasy points during the MLB games today.

Draft one catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and third baseman, three outfielders and two pitchers under the provided $50,000 Salary Cap. It’s that easy!

Entry is FREE with your first deposit or only $3.00!

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Which Mets will you draft as the they take on the Philadelphia Phillies tonight?

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  1. Draft Your 10 Man MLB Roster Here
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Use your $50,000 salary cap, draft your 10 players, and take a shot at winning six luxury suite tickets to the Mets vs. Cardinals game on May 20!

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MMO Fan Shot: No Need To Panic Because Of A Little Adversity http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-no-need-to-panic-because-of-a-little-adversity.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/05/mmo-fan-shot-no-need-to-panic-because-of-a-little-adversity.html/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 18:27:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=180494 mets win 2

An MMO Fan Shot by Jack Ganchrow

“Mets no longer bold and confident, they look and sound desperate” – Matthew Cerrone, MetsBlog

I’m a little disappointed at how some Mets fans are reacting to the first bit of adversity they’ve had this season. Any way you look at it, 15-8 is a very solid April no matter how you slice it. Even if the month ended on a sour 2-5 note, almost any Met fan will take the record and run with it. There’s no good reason to be glum about it, or even worse, begin to panic.

If there’s one thing the Mets should NOT do is start making trades and messing with what’s been working for the lion’s share of April. Granted the defense up the middle might have cost them a game or two, or even three, but every piece of this 15-8 puzzle is important.

Over the last four years, GM Sandy Alderson has allowed the farm system to be replenished and that was aided by some trades that saw us swap a few key veterans with value for top prospects that have given our minor league pipeline some very solid depth.

Trade for Jean Segura?

No! For so many reasons, first being the fact that he just wasn’t good at all last year and is in my opinion a downgrade at the plate from current shortstop Wilmer Flores. Granted his defense has been poroous early but you have to give him a chance and more time to get acclimated.

Secondly, the Mets have a GREAT middle infield at Triple-A Las Vegas with both Matt Reynolds and Dilson Herrera already here while David Wright is on the mend. Either one of them can take over everyday if the middle infield defense really becomes a problem. Why give up prospects for a player who is just a slight improvement from Flores, at a position that is well covered in the farm system?

Trade Dillon Gee, after his first solid start?

Again NO! Firstly, there is a reason Gee wasn’t traded before the season and it’s not because he wasn’t shopped around. Clearly after doing MUCH shopping Sandy couldn’t find a taker.

Gee has been pretty sub-par through four starts. His value has not gone up its only gone down. Any Met fan knows that if there’s one thing every Mets team has it’s injuries and our starting pitchers have been very prone to them. Zack Wheeler went down already for the season, and Rafael Montero was just placed on the DL Thursday, so you never know.

The Mets have started strong before, playing above .500 in three out of the last five Aprils. Just because the expectations are higher this time, it doesn’t mean we have to panic so early in the season.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Jack Ganchrow. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at  FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Fan Shot: Bandwagons, Fathers and Sons, and Exciting Mets Baseball http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/bandwagons-fathers-and-sons-and-exciting-mets-baseball.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/bandwagons-fathers-and-sons-and-exciting-mets-baseball.html/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 00:00:36 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=179972 citi field

An MMO Fan Shot by MarSanti

Technically, I think my mother gave birth on the actual Mets bandwagon. My father watched/check-the-box/listened to every Mets game from their birth in ’62 to the Spring Training before he died. I was happy when they won it all in ’86, but I was too young to really appreciate and enjoy it with my father. We spent countless hours over the next many many years watching and talking Mets.

Not all the memories were good, but not because of losing seasons. Unfortunately, I missed watching the subway series with my dad because I was “busy” enjoying my twenties; I’m working on letting go of the regret of not relishing every single pitch with him.

mmo feature original footerI take solace that I was at the game with him when they beat the Giants to advance to the NLCS. We screamed, hugged and cried; somehow we ended up chanting Yankees suck with several thousand other loyalists.

A few years later he died … a couple of days before his passing he was raving about a minor league speedy shortstop. By that point, I had grown cynical and thought he was “scouting” another Ryan Thompson. I would learn that my dad’s last scouting report was of Jose Reyes.

Our special Mets bond was the highlight of his eulogy, and I was honored to write and give it.

I have two boys of my own now. My first son’s due date was June 1, 2012. He wasn’t born that day, but Johan pitched our first no hitter; I couldn’t help but think the due date coincidence and my dad’s no-hitter superstitions helped Baxter make “the catch.”

My son was born a few days later, and I waited a day to give him his first Mets hat because I wanted to give him a day to think about it.

marsantiMy second son didn’t have that luxury; there was a Mets hat in the “go-bag.” Now, my almost-three-year-old insists on wearing his Mets hat when he goes out, and he can sing the entire “Meets the Mets” song from memory. We’re working on learning all the words to the “Let’s Go Mets” rally song by Shelly Palmer. It’s interesting feeling both guilt and pride when he yells out Let’s Go Mets.

We’re winning now, and there’s a special feeling in the Mets fandom. Yes, I know it’s early and about small sample sizes, but my gut is telling me we are on the verge of something special. This isn’t the “maybe Carlos Baega will hit again” or “if everything breaks just right” feeling. This is different.

Earlier this week, my wife was at the supermarket with the boys. My oldest, of course, had his Mets hat on. An [obnoxious] Yankees fan came up to my family and chanted “Let’s Go Yank … (you know the rest)” … My oldest looked at him puzzled.

My wife then went on to tell him that we’re Mets fans. The Yankee fan replied, everyone is jumping on the Mets bandwagon now. My wife (who bleeds orange blue now) annoyed, gave her rebuttal and walked away.

As they were leaving the packed and busy store the Yankee fan happened to be checking out. My son yelled out to him “Let’s Go Mets” and pumped his fist. Everyone laughed, and the Yankee fan managed to crack a smile.

My eyes swelled up with pride when my wife told me the story, and that’s what led me to write this. The idea of a “Mets bandwagon” means a lot of things to me. It connects me my father, his and my childhood, his and my young adolescence and to being a father myself.

It connects my sons to my father. Being a Mets fan has made me the man I am today, and it will shape my boys. Yes, it may just be a game, but it has taught me so much about love, being positive and realistic, dedication, perseverance, empathy, loyalty, starting a conversation, making people laugh, research and so much more. So, yes we are on the bandwagon, but we never left. LGM!

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader MarSanti. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at  FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Exclusive: Interview with Matt Hall From Guerrero Academy http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-matt-hall-from-guerrero-academy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-matt-hall-from-guerrero-academy.html/#comments Sun, 19 Apr 2015 13:00:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=179364 guerrero

The Guerrero Academy has been stealing all the international signing headlines mainly because of the uber-talented Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who has rumored to signed with the Blue Jays for $4.4MM. Kiley McDaniel reported two days ago that the Mets have a deal in place with SS Gregory Guerrero for $1.8MM, making all Mets fans wonder who the heck is Gregory Guerrero?

Well I was able to talk to Matt Hall who works for the Guerrero Academy about Gregory and the state of the academy itself. Here is what Matt had to say about the complex in Don Gregorio, Dominican Republic:

Mike M: Our readers are very interested in what happens at the Guerrero Academy, could you tell me a little about what you guys do? How do you help the players get ready for their tryouts and their eventual transition to living in the U.S?

Matt Hall: It’s an Academy of roughly 20 kids aged 13-16 from all around the DR. The kids don’t go to school just train to sign when they turn 16.They practice 6 or 7 days a week, starting at 530 am. They are trained by Vlads brother Wilton Guerrero who played in the MLB. They have tryouts usually twice a week with MLB scouts. They do weight training, take English and business classes etc.They practice in 2 fields, one of which Vlad built. When they practice in the cage it’s in Vlad’s backyard. 

Mike M: Wow sounds like the Guerrero family has done a lot to try and help these kids be successful.

Matt H: Yeah, it’s a passion for Wilton he gives them everything and they are all like his family to him. We’ve had two kids go with the Mets this past year already. 

Mike M: Can you tell me about the two players the Mets signed this past year?

Matt H: One is Rafael Valdez, a 17 year old SS. The other is Jose Guerrero an 18 year old pitcher, he is Vlad’s nephew and Gregory’s brother. Greg will sign July 2 for around 2 million or a little more.

Mike M: How would you describe Gregory as a player to someone that has never seen him play?

Matt H: Really quick feet, arm is better than any 16 year old I’ve seen. Hits for HR power. Plays a lot like Jose Reyes that’s who he models himself after. Extremely athletic kid and has been putting on a lot of weight in muscle.

Mike M: With the Mets already signing two kids from the Academy and rumored to have signed Greg, it seems they have a good relationship with the Academy.Can you comment on the last time the Mets had scouts have been down there and how many times they have seen Greg play?

Matt H: Yeah the Mets are great. They come often, but a lot if teams do as well so I wouldn’t say they come more than anyone else. They would come maybe once every month and a half or so. They’ve seen everyone play a lot. they are a great group of scouts and we do have a good relationship.

Mike M: Seems like every year there are more and more talented 16 year olds coming from the Dominican, how have things changed in that regard? 

Matt H: They dedicate their lives to baseball, like I said no school. It’s the only way out of poverty. MLB teams have flooded a ton of money into the DR these days.

Mike M: How do you think the inevitable international draft will affect these kids and the academies?

Matt H: I don’t think the draft is as close as everyone thinks. Scouts don’t like it, trainers in the DR don’t like it, and teams don’t particularly like it. Kids certainly hate it because that’s 2 more years to wait to help their families. I think they need a better education process put into place and that’s one of MLB’s goals, I think that will weigh into their decision. 

Mike M: Are PEDs still a significant issue in the Dominican?

Matt H: Yes, PEDs and lying about ages is still a huge problem.

Mike M: What do academies like Guerrero do to combat these two big issues?

Matt H: Having kids you trust and know. I mean the whole birth certificates, etc. are hard to figure out. You don’t want kids who lie because the scouts won’t trust anyone if you have one bad situation.

Mike M: What have Rafael Valdez and Jose Guerrero been doing since they signed with the Mets last year? Can you give me some info on what both of their strengths are as players?

Matt H: They have been at the academy in Boca Chica (Mets Dominican Academy) all but a few months. They both signed for like 40,000 so they aren’t exactly mega prospects. Jose has been improving fast though hits low 90s on his fastball, has good control. 

Mike M: What’s the likelihood of players that sign for that small of a bonus making it to the U.S. to play affiliated ball?

Matt H: I mean only 3 percent of all players who sign ever make the big leagues. If they don’t make it out of the Dominican in three summers their career is usually over.

Mike M: How does Gregory compare to Vlad Jr.?

Matt H: They are best friends so are enjoying going through this together. Vlad has more power obviously, but Greg is a way better fielder and has a way better arm in the infield and is faster. 

Mike M: How excited is Greg to sign his deal and play in the U.S.?

Matt H: He’s ready to go, very excited to work hard and keep moving up. Where ever he signs. 

Matt is currently back in the U.S. trying to decide between a few agencies to become an agent. He said he will be heading back to the Dominican soon and will talk to me again around July 2nd which is International Signing Day.

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MMO Fan Shot: Dad, Why Do You Care So Much About The Mets? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-fan-shot-dad-why-do-you-care-so-much-about-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-fan-shot-dad-why-do-you-care-so-much-about-the-mets.html/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 16:11:12 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=179209 1962 mets

An MMO Fan Shot by Jim Firman

I am a happily married father of four kids and one grandchild. I love my family, my job and my life. I know baseball is just a game and there are many, many more important things in life. Yet, for some (mostly inexplicable) reasons, it really matters to me whether the Mets win or lose. My kids don’t understand why.
So I am writing this open letter to try to explain it to my family (and perhaps to myself) why I care so much about the Mets.

64tJimHickmanGrowing up on Long Island, I was a Yankee fan in the golden era of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle (golly gee!). Yet, I remember the exact moment that I became a Mets fan. It was in April of 1963 and I was eleven years old. The Milwaukee Braves came to town and their manager Bobby Bragan told the press that the Mets weren’t good enough to be a major league team. The Mets response was a four-game sweep (I think Jim Hickman hit for a cycle in one of those games) and I was hooked. I love it when the underdog triumphs!

When I was a kid, there were still milkmen who delivered bottles to our house. On the top of each bottle was a circular piece of cardboard (called a “pod”). Once we collected 15 pods, we could redeem them for a free general admission ticket to Shea Stadium. Those pods led to several summers of Sunday afternoon double headers, Banner Day marches and the ever-elusive quest for autographs and batted balls. My mother never knew why my brother and I were each drinking a gallon of milk each day!

Growing up, the team didn’t win very often, but I still rooted for them passionately. If I couldn’t savor a team victory, I would look for smaller, individual victories (Ron Hunt went 2 for 4, Ed Kranepool hit a double! or Al Jackson lowered his ERA from 4.10 to 3.90!).

robin-ventura blackAs a long-time Mets fan, I have experienced fifty (ultimately) disappointing years and two exhilarating ones (1969 and 1986). But the euphoria of those two world series victories lasts for a long time (at least until the following Spring), they create a joy that is shared by millions of fellow fans, and they make for memories that last a lifetime. Even during the disappointing years, there are enough great moments (Santana pitches a no-hitter! Ventura’s grand slam single! Another amazing catch by Lagares!) to keep me hooked as a fan.

Today, the Mets are 7-3 and I feel happy and full of hope. If the Mets were 3-7, I would be miserable. When the Mets win, I will read ten accounts of the same victory online. When they lose, I won’t read any of the articles, but still search the box score for the smaller, individual “wins” which still brighten up my day.

I’m not sure that this “explanation” will make any sense to my kids or will suffice to answer their question, but I suspect it will resonate for at least some others on Metsmerized. Readers, please help me out: does anyone have a better explanation of why we care so much about the Mets?

Thanks and Let’s Go Mets!

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Jim Firman. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at  FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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MMO Hall of Fame: Left Fielder Cleon Jones Was Always At Center Of Things http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-hall-of-fame-left-fielder-cleon-jones-was-always-at-center-of-things.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-hall-of-fame-left-fielder-cleon-jones-was-always-at-center-of-things.html/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 16:35:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=177997 cleon jones 2

When he removed his Mets uniform for the final time he was our all-time leader in hits, runs, RBI’s, doubles and 2nd in batting average. There was no fanfare, no celebration of his achievements, no day honoring his accomplishments after a decade of playing in New York.  Instead, he lumbered away, head down, disgraced, a beaten man.

He’s one of very few Mets who can call himself a two-time pennant winner. He had a direct impact on both the 69 and 73 season. Teammate Buddy Harrelson said of him, “Even if he was in a 0-for-20 slump, he was the guy you’d still want at-bat.” Tom Seaver was our first superstar. But this man was our first offensive superstar. He caught a fly ball off the bat of Davey Johnson and dropped to one knee, an image that remains one of the most iconic in team history.

He was never given a snazzy nickname like Doctor K, Nails, Kid, or The Franchise. Instead, we referred to him by his given name only: Cleon

Cleon Joseph Jones was born August 4, 1942 in Mobile, AL, the same birthplace as Hank Aaron. He’d wear number 21, the same as Roberto Clemente. His first Major League game was playing center field in the Polo Grounds, the same position patrolled by Willie Mays. And although Cleon was nowhere near the player these Hall of Famers were, it was okay. He was our legend.

Numerous players throughout history have been seemingly predestined for a career in the majors, be it the ability to throw a ball at 100 MPH with pinpoint accuracy, blinding speed or remarkable hand-eye coordination. Cleon was not one of them.

Whereas some burst on the scene, Cleon yo-yoed for several years. Wearing number 34, he made his major league debut on September 14, 1963. Manager Casey Stengel put the 21 year-old in as a defensive replacement for Duke Carmel. In what would be one of the final games ever played at the Polo Grounds, Cleon played CF. And like Moonlight Graham’s one inning, they never hit the ball anywhere near him. .

Cleon had 15 AB’s that September, getting just two hits for a forgettable .133 BA.

He spent all of the 1964 season with the AAA Buffalo Bisons. The next year, he made the team out of spring training. However, after one month and a meager .156 BA, he was once again demoted to Buffalo. Cleon was a late-season call-up and on September 22, 1965, in a 6-2 loss to Pittsburgh, he hit his first HR, a solo blast off of Bob Friend. Despite the dinger, however, he batted just .149, 11-for-74. The Mets finished in 10th place, 50-112, 47 GB.

In 1966, Cleon was named the Mets everyday starting center fielder. Not because of a overwhelmingly solid performance, but largely due to the fact the Mets had little else. In his first full season, Cleon improved. .275-8-57 and 16 steals. His performance earned him fourth place in Rookie of the Year voting.

There was optimism coming into 1967. For the first time, the Mets had NOT lost 100 games the previous season and two rookie pitchers, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, showed lots of potential. However, Cleon backpedaled. His BA dipped to a disappointing .247 and he ended up in a CF platoon with Larry Stahl. The team as a whole also backtracked, once again losing over 100 times that year. Six seasons, five of which saw more than 100 losses. Would things ever improve?

In 1968, Cleon was shifted to LF to make room for a newly acquired CFer. Tommie Agee had been AL Rookie of the Year in 1966 and was a childhood friend of Cleon. Management also brought in a new manager, much loved former Brooklyn Dodger Gil Hodges. Despite Hodges, Agee and defending NL ROY Tom Seaver, Cleon’s struggles returned. Six weeks into the season he was hitting just .205 and found himself in a platoon again, this time with Art Shamsky.

Then it happened. Something clicked.

On May 18, Cleon went 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI’s and a pair of runs scored. He started to hit. And there was no stopping him. On July 16th against the Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium, number 21 went 4-for-6 with 3 RBI’s, 1 RS and played all 3 OF positions. He ended the season batting .297, fourth best in the NL. Next up: 1969. And our left fielder was in the center of it all.

Although he notoriously started slow and was always a streaky hitter, Cleon was 26 and coming into his prime. He kicked butt from Opening Day and never looked back. By the All-Star Break he was batting .341 with 10 HR’s and 56 RBI’s, good enough to earn a starting spot in the Mid-Summer Classic along with the likes of Aaron, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey and future teammate Felix Millan. Cleon went 2-for-4 with two runs scored against the best the American League had.

By that summer Mets fans were beginning to think the unthinkable. The team that had lost 737 games in seven seasons actually had a good chance to finish .500. However, Gil Hodges, a man who knew a lot about winning, wanted more. In late July the Mets were 55-41 and in second place, just five games behind the powerhouse Cubs. Despite the fact Chicago was laden with future Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins, Hodges kept the Cubs right in the Mets’ crosshairs.

July 30th in Houston was the turning point in the season. And yes, Cleon was again in the center of it. The Mets got trounced in the first game of a doubleheader, 16-3. The Astros continued the embarrassment in the nightcap, jumping all over Gary Gentry for 8 ER in 2 2/3 IP. In the third inning, Cleon failed to hustle after a ball that went for a double.

gil hodges

To Gil Hodges, it didn’t matter that the Mets were in a pennant race for the first time in their history. It didn’t matter that Cleon Jones was an All-Star. It didn’t matter that he was our best hitter. The Mets skipper would not sit idly by tolerating lackadaisical play. Hodges, stoic as always, stepped from the dugout, took a lengthy slow walk to left field and conferred with his star hitter. After a few words, Hodges turned and walked off the field. Cleon, like a chastised little boy, shadowed Hodges into the dugout.

Years later, Jones claimed he advised Hodges the turf was wet. Hodges replied there must be something wrong with his ankle and pulled him from the game. “Gil was my favorite manager I ever played for,” Cleon clarified years later. “He’d never embarrass a player that way.” We may never know the true content of the conversation. However, the implication was undeniable. This was Gil Hodges’ team. You either play hard or you don’t play. The Mets lost the nightcap, 11-5. They wouldn’t lose too many more.

Hodges’ club played .780, winning 39 of the last 50 games and capturing the division by 8 games. Cleon ended up hitting 340, third behind Pete Rose and Roberto Clemente.

In the first ever NLCS, the Mets swept the Braves. Cleon hit 429.

In the World Series few gave the Mets any chance of defeating the mighty Baltimore Orioles. And when Don Buford opened the Fall Classic with a HR off 25-game winner Tom Seaver, it appeared we were out of Miracles.

The Mets tied the series when Jerry Koosman outdueled Dave McNally 2-1. Back in New York for game three, the Mets drew first blood. Tommie Agee opened the game with a HR. He also made not one but two of the greatest catches in history. Gary Gentry outpitched future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer for a 5-0 Mets win. In game 4, Seaver returned to form. After struggling in the opener, Tom Terrific threw 10 innings, the Mets prevailed 2-1 and were now one win away from a championship.

The Orioles, however, showed why they won 109 games. Needing a win to return the series to Baltimore, they scored early off Koosman and took a 3-0 lead. In the top of the 6th, Kooz delivered an inside pitch. Frank Robinson claimed the pitch hit him. Home plate umpire Lou DiMuro disagreed. Replays clearly showed DiMuro blew the call.

Lightning struck again in the bottom of that same inning. And once again, Cleon was in the center of it. McNally threw a pitch low. Cleon danced out of the way, the ball ricocheted into the Mets dugout. Cleon, like Robinson, claimed the ball hit him. DiMuro claimed it did not. Gil Hodges ever-so-slowly walked onto the field and presented a ball with shoe polish to the umpire. DiMuro changed the call and awarded Cleon First Base. Seconds later, Donn Clendenon deposited McNally’s offering beyond the LF auxiliary scoreboard to cut the lead to 3-2. And one hour after that, Cleon caught that fly ball and dropped to one knee.

In the late 60’s/early 70’s, pitching dominated the game, especially in the NL. Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton and Phil Niekro, all future inductees in Cooperstown, quieted NL bats. But don’t tell that to Cleon. From 68-71 Cleon averaged 308.

The 1973 NL East was a dogfight of mediocrity. On August 30th, the Mets were in last place, but just 6 ½ back with 30 games remaining. Just like 1969, the Mets got hot at the right time. By September 17th, the Mets inched up to 4th, were just 3 ½ GB of Pittsburgh—with the Mets and Pirates playing a rare 5-game series–2 in Pittsburgh, 3 in New York. The two contests at Three Rivers were split and the series moved to Shea for three crucial games.

The Mets captured the opener, 7-3, and for only the second time in his career, Cleon went deep twice in one game. The lead was trimmed to a game a half. The following day, September 20th, one of the strangest yet most memorable play in team history occurred. And once again, Cleon was in the center of it.

Jerry Koosman faced off against Jim Rooker. A Mets victory would bring us to within a half, a loss would shove us 2 ½ back with just 9 games remaining. It was a back-and-forth contest. Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead in the 4th. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the 6th. Pittsburgh took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 7th. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the 8th. Pittsburgh scored 1 in the top of the 9th to go up 3-2. The Mets tied it in the bottom of the 9th.

In the top of the 13th, Richie Zisk singled with one out. Pinch Hitter Dave Augustine came up and sent the Ray Sadecki pitch into the night. Cleon turned and ran…and ran…and ran some more. The ball did not go over. Nor did it bounce off the wall. It bounced on top of the wall. Cleon played the carom perfectly, pivoted and fired to relay man Wayne Garrett who turned and threw a bullet to catcher Ron Hodges who applied the tag to keep the game deadlocked at 3-3. In the bottom half of the inning, the Mets won, First place and the post-season was now within our grasp.

all-time-mets-left-field-cleon-jones

In the 1973 League Championship Series against the Big Red Machine, Cleon batted .300, 6-for-20 with three RBI and three runs scored. In the World Series against Oakland, Cleon hit .286. Of his eight hits, three were for extra bases. He scored five runs in seven games.

In 1975, it would all come crashing down like a Shakespearean tragedy. Spring training saw Cleon suffer a knee injury. He stayed behind when the team went north. On the morning of May 4 in St. Petersburg, FL, Cleon was arrested at 5:00 am. The charge? Indecent exposure.

Police found the 33 year-old sleeping inside a van next to a 21 year-old female who was in possession of marijuana. Cleon insisted he didn’t know the woman, that he met her at a party and was giving her a ride home when the van ran out of gas and he fell asleep. Ultimately, the charges were dropped. “Indecent exposure” was the fact Cleon was barefoot. However, in the eyes of Mets chairman M. Donald Grant this was inexcusable debauchery.

Grant was an autocrat, a tyrant who viewed his players as chattel. He once relinquished his membership to an exclusive Connecticut country club when he learned an inferior individual named Tom Seaver was also a member.

Grant fined Cleon $2000, four times more than any other player had ever been fined. Worse than the financial punishment was the degradation imposed on the Mets superstar. In the glare of the media, with cameras recording every mannerism, spotlights bathing him in a stifling glow and situated behind a bank of microphones angled like missiles about to launch, Cleon was ordered to apologize—to fans, to teammates, to his employer. And to his wife, Angela, who Grant insisted appear at his side.

In October 1969, Cleon caught a fly ball and cemented a miracle. It was the highest point in Mets history. Now, less than six years later, Cleon was again in the center, but this time it was the lowest point in Mets history.

He returned to the team in late May. But was not welcomed back. As if the financial punishment and humiliation were not enough, the order had come down from management that Cleon was to only play sparingly. For two months, the Mets icon was largely relegated to riding the pine. He seldom started and was used meagerly as a pinch-hitter. Such sparse play inhibited his ability to get any timing, extra burdensome knowing he was notoriously streaky. In July Cleon reached his breaking point. Hitting only 240 he got into an altercation with manager Yogi Berra. Grant now had more ammo and fired the fatal bullet. After 13 seasons, he was released outright.

The following year, 1976, he played for the White Sox but Cleon, a slow-starter, was hitting just 200 and promptly released. Cleon Jones, loved and adored by fans in New York, a World Champion, an All-Star, an almost Rookie of the Year and almost batting champion, was unwanted by any club. He was shamed out of Baseball by age 33.

For those of us lucky enough to have seen him play, he was the one that made you sit a little closer to the TV, move up onto the edge of your seat at Shea and chant Lets Go Mets a little louder. He was the one you always made sure to watch when he stepped to the plate, the one guy you wanted to get to in the batting order if you were trailing. He was flashy without being flashy.

It’s been nearly forty years since Cleon wore a Mets uniform. He played in a time when pitching dominated the game. And despite the fact that names like Strawberry, Hernandez, Piazza, Carter, Wright, Ventura and Reyes came after him, Cleon Jones still remains near the top in runs, hits, doubles and RBI’s.

In July 1969, he was involved in a play that turned around the season. In October 1969, he was involved in at-bat that opened the door to the Mets comeback in Game Five. In 1973, he was involved in one of the most famous, most strange plays in history, yet another turning point that led to yet another pennant.

MMO Hall of Fame cleon jones

And with that, Metsmerized Online is pleased to announce that Cleon Jones is this year’s inductee into the Metsmerized Hall of Fame.

Jones now joins mike Piazza, Tom Seaver, Keith Hernandez, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden and David Wright in our own hallowed halls honoring the best players the Mets ever had. Congratulations, Cleon!

Feel free to leave your best memories and most heartfelt recollections of Cleon in our comment threads.

MMO HOF BANNER

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MMO Exclusive: MiLB.com’s Jake Seiner on Matz, Nimmo, Syndergaard, Conforto http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-milb-coms-jake-seiner-on-matz-nimmo-syndergaard-conforto.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-exclusive-milb-coms-jake-seiner-on-matz-nimmo-syndergaard-conforto.html/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 14:04:15 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=178615 matt reynolds steven matz

On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of sitting down with minor league reporter and analyst Jake Seiner of MilB.com. Seiner covers the entire minor leagues very closely, but  agreed to keep our discussion limited to the Mets and we mainly discussed the teams top prospects as featured on the MMO Top 25 for the 2015 season. So, without further ado, here’s the full transcript from my interview with Jake. Please enjoy…

Quinn B: One general question before we get to the Mets. Yoan Moncada and Hector Oliviera are examples of recent Cuban prospects who received 30M+ signing bonuses. Still, the best American baseball players can only earn up to 8M through the draft. Do you see an international draft coming in the near future?

mmo exclusiveJake Seiner: The one thing new commissioner Rob Manfred seems set on is creating a single entry point for all amateur players, which makes a lot of sense if you’re Major League Baseball, but also presents a ton of hurdles. The detail involved in implementing an international draft is sort of mind blowing, when you think about working with all the governments and acquiring the visas and birth certificates, etc. I think that’s one thing that gets underplayed in all this discussion: MLB will find a way to make an international draft happen if it wants — and I think it does –  but it’s going to be a massive undertaking to set up. My bet is something is coming, but don’t be surprised if it’s a gradual process or takes more than a year or two to put in place. Then again, the international market is much more Ben Badler’s beat, so he’s really the guy to ask.

Quinn B: Dillon Gee beat out Rafael Montero for the Mets 5th starter role. Do you think that was the right move for the Mets? Do you see Montero as a starter long-term or a reliever?

Jake Seiner: I don’t think you lose much by trying Gee out in the rotation first. I’m not sure I’d definitively take Montero over Gee, but I’d lean that way, ceteris paribus. That said, I think Montero profiles in the bullpen better than Gee, and giving the veteran first cracks to start is probably a good move for clubhouse management on Terry Collins‘ part.

I do think Montero should be given the chance to start in the Majors at some point. He wasn’t at his sharpest when he made his debut last year. He definitely has another level beyond the guy who posted an 87 ERA+. Is that next level a legitimate MLB starter? I’m not sure, but I think it’s close enough that you want to find out at some point. That time doesn’t have to be this April, though, and I think Montero has enough feel for pitching that he’ll handle jumping between rotation and bullpen better than most. So, right move? Maybe. Reasonable one? I definitely think so.

Quinn B: If you were Sandy Alderson, would you feel more comfortable with Travis d’Arnaud or Kevin Plawecki as your catcher of the future?

Jake Seiner: I’m not sure Alderson is ever actually going to have to choose. Catchers are tough to keep healthy, and having two guys who can start at the Major League level is a conundrum most GMs and managers would welcome. I think this one works itself out either way. If d’Arnaud is outstanding out the gate this year, I think you’re fine to let Plawecki marinade for most or all of 2015 in Triple-A, then let him break in as d’Arnaud’s backup in 2016 — that’s an ideal way for most catchers to break in, regardless of prospect status. If d’Arnaud struggles this year, maybe Plawecki comes up a bit earlier and takes the reigns and d’Arnaud falls into a backup role. The point at which Alderson needs to make a call to keep one and trade the other doesn’t come up this year. If d’Arnaud breaks out as a no-doubt first-division starter this year, then Plawecki is probably expendable if he brings back MLB pieces, but he’s not a must-move at that point. It’d be totally reasonable to break him in as a backup and make that decision in 2017 or ’18 if he really hits.

Quinn B: Wally Backman claimed Steven Matz is a better prospect than Noah Syndergaard. Do you agree? And what do you think are the respective ceilings for both starters?

Jake Seiner: I’ll still take Syndergaard based on track record, but I see what Backman sees. On his best day, Matz looks every bit the stud that Syndergaard is. The difference for me is that Syndergaard has been that guy for much longer. If you’re talking pure stuff and ceiling though, yeah, I don’t think Backman is off base. Either could become a legit No. 2 starter, if not a little more.

brandon nimmo

Quinn B: What kind of players do you think Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmon will look like at the major league level, and how soon can we expect to see them in Queens?

Jake Seiner: Nimmo fascinates me. He has a really unique approach, especially considering his background. For many first-round picks, the one thing they know how to do almost preternaturally is crush fat pitches. If you’re trying to get noticed out of Wyoming of all places, crushing BP homers seems like a good way to do it. Many prospects start out with that powerful, BP swing in place, then they refine their game from there. Nimmo is the total opposite.

His pitch recognition is above average and his ability to barrel balls while behind in the count is incredible. But if he’s sitting on a 2-0 fastball and gets it, he doesn’t consistently drive the ball with authority like you want from an elite prospect. I’m not sure he has that swing in him.

He’s one of the best in the Minors at hitting behind in the count, but has a long way to go learning to hit when ahead. I don’t have any feel for how prospects like that develop. I’d hedge on him becoming a second-division starter who can play all three outfield spots.

Conforto I actually don’t have a whole lot on other than what others have written. Seems like opinions on his bat varied around draft time — I think Keith Law had him as one of the two or three best sticks in the draft, while others thought he was more of a late first-round talent. The Mets could use a few more power bats in the system, though, so I think his profile fills something of a need — not that I support drafting for need.

Quinn B: Is Matthew Bowman minor league filler, a bullpen candidate, or a legitimate starting pitching prospect in your eyes?

Jake Seiner: I want to see him get a shot at starting. Like with Montero, I’m not 100 percent on him as a starter, but it’s a good enough chance that I’d want to see him fail in the rotation before relegating him to the bullpen. That said, opportunity could be tough to come by, and the profile isn’t so enticing that you wouldn’t make him a reliever now if it’d help you make the playoffs.

I’d let him start in Triple-A for a while this year, try to get a better read on what it is you have in Bowman and what the big league team will need this year. Maybe he shows you he’s a no-doubt starting pitcher, and then it’s a matter of finding a spot for him. If his role is still questionable by midseason and the team is competing, then you use him wherever he fits best and ride with it. If the team isn’t hunting for the playoffs, you let him get more Triple-A innings and continue to evaluate. That’s usually how these things work out.

Quinn B: What’s your opinion of Matt Reynolds? Can he be a starting shortstop at the major league level?

Jake Seiner: I think the ceiling is a second-division starter, but much more likely he’s an excellent utility piece on a good team. The hit tool is good, but not good enough for him to thrive with his current power. I’d expect an 85-90 OPS+ type guy whose maybe an average defender at shortstop in his peak. That’s a slightly below average starter, but a really useful bench guy since he can play a bunch of positions.

Quinn B: What can we expect out of Cesar Puello this season? Does he still have the tools to be a starting outfielder?

Jake Seiner: He’s looked like a probable fourth outfielder every year except for 2013, and that was his Biogenesis season, so it’s a real question whether he can cleanly replicate that. I’d wager he carves out an MLB career bouncing around as a bench outfielder.

Quinn B: Which Mets prospect would say is most likely to outperform expectations?

Jake Seiner: Not sure I have a good sleeper for the Mets’ system, actually. I’ve been aboard the Marcos Molina bandwagon since I saw him a few times in Brooklyn last year, and I think he could be a top 100 prospect by year’s end. But I think that might be an expectation for a lot of people, so I’m probably picking a pretty sturdy limb to stand on with him.

Quinn B: Conversely, which player is most likely to bust as a major leaguer?

Jake Seiner: I’d take Nimmo in my farm system in a heartbeat and think he’s an excellent prospect, but as I mentioned before, I really don’t know what he is if he doesn’t become a better 2-0 hitter. I worry that what happens if Major League pitchers just pound him with inside heat and that he doesn’t have the swing and approach to stop them. I still think there’s a better chance he adjusts than doesn’t, but I guess my uneasiness with that profile probably makes him a good answer for this question.

Quinn B: Lastly, which team do you think will have more wins over the next five seasons, the Mets or Yankees?

Jake Seiner: I’ll take the Mets. Yankees have a lot of money and playing time committed to aging assets and I’m not all that enamored with the players they’re counting on to age well, like Tanaka and Headley. The Yankees have the money and prospects to where they’ll probably be able to field competitive teams the next five years, but I have more faith in the Mets and their pitching depth right now. Plus, there aren’t any Yankees blogs lining up to have me chat as a guest.

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MMO Fan Shot: Establishing A Fighting Posture http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-fan-shot-establishing-a-fighting-posture.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/mmo-fan-shot-establishing-a-fighting-posture.html/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:57:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=178308 Bryce+Harper

I wanted to add some comments made by GM Sandy Alderson today at Nationals Park to this Fan Shot. You’ll see why.

“We played very well against the NL East last year, with one obvious exception,” Alderson said, referring to the team’s 4-15 record against the Nationals.

“It’s extremely important to establish a fighting posture against these newly constructed teams, and I think the first impression is critical, as is the last impression.”

An MMO Fan Shot by Dezzy

It’s time to fight. And I don’t mean some metaphorical, rah-rah fight. I mean fist to face fight. I mean 95 mph, 4-seam fastball between Bryce Harper’s numbers kind of fight. I mean Ray Knight cold cocking Eric Davis kinda fight.

Enough is enough. Talk about making the playoffs and being ready to win is just that: talk. As a group, the Mets need to shut up and play the game well, but more than that, they need to let the Nationals know they mean business in the first series of the year.

Let’s face it. The Mets teams of the recent past have been soft. Remember when Roger Clemens beaned Mike Piazza? The Mets response? Shawn Estes, whose fastball couldn’t break a pane of glass, missed Roger Clemens by two feet in his attempt to retaliate. Clemens threw his bat at Piazza in the 2000 World Series, and Piazza walked to first base, and I don’t recall any other Mets standing up to fight. When was the last Mets fight of any significance? Maybe Jose Reyes against the Marlins when the Mets where in the midst of their late season collapse. That fight made no sense and was an embarrassment born of Reyes’ frustration about his team’s epic choke job.

I cannot recall, for the life of me, the last time a Mets pitcher threw inside with clear intent. Can anyone help me here? Wonder why visiting teams seem to hit the ball out of Citi Field at a higher rate than the Mets? Maybe they are way too comfortable in the batter’s box.

I don’t care who does it, or when, or how often, but the Mets pitchers need to set the tone for the rest of the year when they open the season against the Nationals. Pitch inside and often, and if one or two pitches happen to send a Nats player to the dirt, or back to the clubhouse, so be it.

The Nats are talented, for sure. But guess what? They are soft, too. Matt Williams’ team is fragile. High expectations have not translated into playoff success. The pressure is all on them, and I am not sure they have the guts to win when things get tough. They talk a good game, too.  See Bryce Harper’s recent comments about his “ring.”

I’m tired of the Mr. Nice Guy Mets, and you know what, I think the players are, too. David Wright seems to be developing an edge to him; Matt Harvey is a killer; deGrom has the gas to put someone on notice.

It is hard to say the opening series of a season is crucial, or season defining. But I have been watching the Mets for a long time, and I cannot recall an opening series, or even an early season series (maybe the Cardinals at Busch Stadium early in 1986?), that has more potential to shape a team’s identity and future success.

And this is not just taking 2 out of 3 at Nats’ Park. It’s about taking 2 out of 3 and letting the Nationals know the Mets are taking the fight to them, Ray Knight, hay-maker style.

Mets pitchers: Time for some 95 mph chin music. Time to show Bryce Harper where he can put his “ring.”

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Dezzy. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to us at  FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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Where Are They Now: Catching Up With John Maine http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-john-maine.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/04/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-john-maine.html/#comments Sun, 05 Apr 2015 13:15:13 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=178063 700.hq

Baseball players tend to disappear after retirement. Without the spotlight of national media, or admiration of thousands of fans, they fade back into mainstream society. They leave only memories, and their absence from the game makes it easy to forget that these guys we watched on TV are still real people. My mission is to make fans remember these forgotten players by having them talk to us and answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

Today I chatted with former pitcher John Maine, one of the few Mets of the millenium who remembers playoff baseball in Flushing. Here he is, reflecting on his time with the team.

mmo exclusiveNoah: What was your favorite memory from your time with the Mets?

John: Probably the playoffs in 2006. Pitching in the playoffs no matter where you are is an experience, but doing it in New York City; that was pretty awesome. Even in 2007 and 2008, where we ultimately lost out, but we were in the thick of it, we played a lot of exciting, wire to wire “every game matters” baseball. That was a lot of fun.

Noah: Are there any specific games or moments that stick out in your mind?

John: If I had to boil it down to one specific moment, I guess I would say game 6 of the NLCS. We were down 3-2 in the series and if we lost, we would have been done for the season. But we won, forcing a game 7, that was very exciting.

Another one would be my last start (the second to last game) of the 2007 season against the Marlins where I almost had a no-hitter. That again was a do or die game that we had to win, and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to pitch.

Noah: Was there any player or coach who shaped you not just as a baseball player, but as an individual as well?

John: Rick Peterson was my first pitching coach in New York and he shaped me as both a pitcher and as an individual. I learned a lot from him, not just about pitching mechanics, but also about the mental aspect of baseball. Of course that helped me out a lot with pitching, but more importantly, it helped me in life. Everything is a mental game, it’s how you prepare for things and how you deal with stuff thrown in your path. It’s really given me a better outlook on life.

I also had the pleasure of playing with Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Billy Wagner. All guys with loads of big league experience, I learned a ton about pitching and baseball from them.

Noah: You also played under Willie Randolph, a manager that Mets fans didn’t always appreciate because of his reserved nature. What was he like behind closed doors?

John: Willie was a player’s coach. He would come up to you and he was personable, he was willing to discuss things that were bothering you, not necessarily about baseball. He had an open door to his office and he always wanted to talk with his players and get to know them not just as players, but as people too.

I understand that in New York, fans like coaches that get fired up, but that doesn’t always translate into combining successful players to make a successful team. I think Willie handled New York perfectly and I really enjoyed him as a manager.

Maine+Windup

Noah: What have you done since moving on from professional baseball?

John: After I was released by the Marlins in 2013 (after two shoulder surgeries) I realized that I wasn’t the same pitcher and I wasn’t going to embarrass myself on the field so I decided to retire. Now I have two young girls, and I get the pleasure to stay home and watch them grow up. I also moved down south after I retired. I went to school at UNC Charlotte and I started helping out with coaching the pitchers on the baseball team.

Noah: What do you see in this current Mets team? How far do you see them going this year?

John: Honestly, I haven’t kept up with much baseball at all, let alone the Mets. From what I see, they have a young team, and their pitching is outstanding, from top to bottom. Whenever a team has good pitching, they’re always going to be in it, contending. I think the Mets will also be helped by a division that is a little less stacked than in the past. They’ll be competitive, they still have guys that can hit too. For what it’s worth, I hope they do well because I actually grew up as a Mets fan, I really want them to win.

Noah: One of those guys that can still hit is David Wright. You played with him back when he was just two years into his major league career, and back then he was just a piece of a very talented team, now he is the leader of an equally talented team. Could you talk about his maturation into a leader?

John: David was with the Mets before me, but when he came up, he was obviously a stud. He’s a big name, one of the best players in baseball. I think that one of the best things about the Mets was that there were a lot of guys with 10 or 15 years of experience. He got to learn from guys that handled themselves the right way. Guys like Glavine, Carlos Delgado, and Pedro Martinez all practiced and played the right way. In addition they were also great clubhouse presences. As those older guys started to leave, David became the face of the team, the longest tenured Met, and he is now teaching the younger players now how to conduct themselves, how to properly do things at the stadium. He’s really taken on a mentor role.

Noah: If you could share any message with Mets fans today, what would it be?

John: I wish I was still playing and I wish that I did better in my time with the Mets. I don’t have any regrets, I worked hard, but I really wish that I could have been a better player.

Noah: Lastly, what was it like to hit a homerun at Shea Stadium?

John: It was pretty cool. I didn’t hit in college, didn’t hit when I got drafted by the Orioles, so when I was traded to the Mets, I hadn’t picked up a bat in seven years. Needless to say, I was God awful when I first started swinging at the plate. Still, I worked at it, and I got to be decent. I guess anybody who goes up to bat swinging can run into one, and that’s what I did. To be honest, I thought that it was going to be a pop fly to the left fielder. But I heard the crowd roar and saw the umpire circling his finger in the air, and I realized that I just homered.

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