Mets Merized Online » Interviews http://metsmerizedonline.com Sat, 03 Dec 2016 12:00:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.16 MMO Exclusive: Mets Relief Prospect Paul Sewald http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/11/mmo-exclusive-mets-relief-prospect-paul-sewald.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/11/mmo-exclusive-mets-relief-prospect-paul-sewald.html/#comments Fri, 04 Nov 2016 19:31:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=225875 paul sewald

Paul Sewald was drafted by the Mets in the 2012 draft in the 10th round out of the University of San Diego. The right-handed reliever made his pro debut in spectacular fashion with the Brooklyn Cyclones. He had a 1.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and went 4 for 4 in save chances.

Paul would follow up his great debut with another good season in 2013 with the Savannah Sand Gnats in which he posted a 1.77 ERA, struck out 67 batters in 56 innings and didn’t allow a home run.

It was more of the same for the crafty closer in 2014 when he had a combined 1.92 ERA, struck out 69 in 56.1 innings and held opponents to a .200 average combined between St. Lucie and the Binghamton Mets.

The step up to Double-A can be the toughest but that didn’t phase Sewald as he posted arguably the best year of his career in 2015 with Binghamton. He pitched the entire season with the B-Mets and went 24 for 25 in save chances. He posted a career best in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.86), and opponents AVG (.188). He was named to the Eastern League All-Star roster but didn’t play because he participated in the Pan-Am games for Team USA.

Surely the successful righty, that mostly sits 88-92 MPH with his fastball, would have trouble in the hitters haven that is Cashman Field and the Pacific Coast League. Nope, just another tremendous season for Sewald who was the Las Vegas 51s closer and had the second most saves in the PCL with 19.

Sewald posted a 3.29 ERA, which isn’t as bad as it looks when you consider the league average was 4.46 and he pitched 36 of his 65.2 innings at home. Sewald continued to be successful because he kept throwing strikes and kept striking people out (80 in 65.2 innings).

The Mets bullpen was starting to tire in September as injuries decimated the starting rotation forcing Rafael Montero and Gabriel Ynoa to make starts. Surprisingly, the highly successful Sewald didn’t receive a promotion to help the Mets down the stretch.

Now the Mets have a decision to make with Sewald. He needs to be added to the 40-man roster to protect him from upcoming Rule 5 draft on December 8th. It’s seems like a pretty clear cut choice to me to protect a guy with a career 2.20 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 307 strikeouts compared to just 59 walks in 258 innings.

Paul has decided to take his talents to the Mexican Winter League this offseason to pitch for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo. He has five saves, 0.90 ERA, eight strikeouts and has yet to walk a batter in ten innings.

Sewald relies on precision control, great preparation (see below), pounding the strike zone, and a nasty slider that helps him get hitters out.

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MMN – First off congrats on a great regular season and getting off to a good start in Mexico.

Paul – Thank you I really appreciate it! I finished really well and it’s carried over to pitching down here so I’m excited with how I’m throwing.

MMN – What was your motivation to pitch in the Mexican Winter League and how did it come about?

Paul – Well I had a couple of good reasons to play. Obviously, the money down here is a lot better than it is in the minor leagues. So that was a really nice incentive. Also, it just gives me another outlet to showcase myself as a pitcher. There’s plenty of scouts here and I have coaches from teams in MLB here so it’s a good chance for me to show what I can do and possibly give me another opportunity to play somewhere down the road.

MMN – What is it like competition wise, what level of the minor leagues would you compare it too?

Paul – I think the competition has been pretty good! I’ve seen plenty of guys I’ve faced over the years and a handful of guys with at least some major league time. So I would probably say maybe AA possibly some AAA lineups.

MMN – What is the travel like? Stadiums? Atmosphere at games? Do the american players stay in housing together?

Paul – Travel isn’t bad! The league is pretty spread out so most of the places we fly but there are a couple 3-5 hour bus trips too. Most of the stadiums are incredible. AAA type stadiums and the crowds are huge and exciting so that part has been great! They put the Americans up in a hotel together and so it’s easy for us all to be together.

MMN – You said playing in Mexico was in part to showcase yourself, is that because at the moment you aren’t on the Mets 40-man roster and thus could be exposed to the Rule 5 draft?

Paul – Yeah that is the main reason! Now I’m with the Mets and they have ownership of me and I want to play at Citi Field soon! So the 40-man roster with the Mets would be great but if they don’t put me on, then yes the main reason for me coming down here is to put myself out there in hopes to get picked in the Rule 5 in December.

MMN – Were you surprised that you didn’t get a promotion to the big leagues this year, especially in September?

Paul – I wouldn’t say “surprised” because nothing has ever been easy or given to me so I wasn’t expecting it! But was I disappointed? Absolutely! I felt like I’ve done enough to show them I’m ready for that next step by pitching well at every single level. I know I can pitch in the big leagues I just need an opportunity to show that I can!

MMN – Absolutely agree and let’s talk about how you were successful this year. Did you have to do anything different playing in the hitter friendly PCL to get hitters out?

Paul – The PCL, especially in Las Vegas, is such a hard place to pitch. You try to stick with what makes you successful to start with and that’s the only way you can approach it. I didn’t want to pitch scared or pitch away from contact just because it’s a good hitters park and league. The most important thing for me was to attack hitters and throw strikes no matter how the ball travels. And I think I did a good job of that whether I was pitching well or struggling and just stayed with that process.

MMN – Anyone who’s seen you pitch knows a lot of success comes from your great breaking ball. When did you learn to throw it, from who and has it changed at all over your time in the minors?

Paul – Yeah my slider is definitely my best pitch and my go-to! I learned it right after my freshman year of college before I went to summer ball. I struggled a lot with offspeed and my dad (Mark Sewald, 16th RD, 1979 by Boston Red Sox) had me try the way he threw it when he played. Instantly I found something I was comfortable with and could throw strikes and it was good. Honestly, I haven’t really messed with it much since then as it’s been successful ever since I learned it and so I’m confident in it and that’s the most important thing.

MMN – Some pitchers have said that the elevation in Vegas flattened their breaking ball, is that something you had trouble with or heard of from other guys on last years team?

Paul – Well it definitely had an effect on it yeah. I mean my numbers on the road were a lot better than at home and my breaking ball sharpness is a direct correlation to that so absolutely.

MMN – One of the knocks or question marks that scouts and fans have on you is your lack of velocity, what is your response to that?

Paul – Well it’s true I don’t throw as hard as most scouts and coaches want. It’s been the thing that’s held me back my whole life so I know that by now. I try to make up for it with above average spin rates, deception and location of it. And my numbers say that I’ve been successful doing that so I’m going to continue to do so, but I understand it’s easy for people to scout the radar gun and it’s unfair but that’s just the way it is.

MMN – Who passes along your spin rates to you?

Paul – Well I actually have a good friend from high school who works with sabermetrics scouting and he lets me know every once in a while how it’s going. But also TJ Barra (Manager of Baseball Research and Development) with the Mets sent me some info on it and some of the things the numbers say about my success with those spin rates.

MMN – What do you do to prepare for hitters you may face that night/in a series?

Paul – I have a book of all my at-bats facing every guy from each team. I keep track of the pitches, the speeds, the locations, the results. So then by those I’ll write any notes I saw in their swing or approach against me. Then before the series I’ll go read through and get a little reminder of each hitter so that I might have a better idea of how to attack them when I face any given hitter.

MMN – What is it like to see teammates like Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera be successful and help the Mets make playoffs this year?

Paul – Well it’s exciting when you see your friends get to achieve their dream just like I’ve always dreamed about. It helped my confidence because I know if those guys are having success at the major league level I know I can too. So that helps a lot too.

MMN – Thanks again for answering all my questions Paul, and hope to see you in a Mets uniform soon.

Paul – Absolutely. Thanks for your support we really appreciate it! I hope so too. Soon would be great!

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MMO Exclusive: “House of Nails” by Lenny Dykstra http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/mmo-exclusive-house-of-nails-by-lenny-dykstra.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/07/mmo-exclusive-house-of-nails-by-lenny-dykstra.html/#comments Mon, 04 Jul 2016 10:00:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=216526 lenny-dykstra-3

Lenny Dykstra is a man who has lived his life in grave fear.  Even from his youth, he was a scared person. The inception of his innate fear was different from the majority of society’s phobias.  It was not the dark that irked him; it wasn’t monsters; it was not a fear of harm or abandonment. Lenny ‘Nails’ Dykstra’s trepidation was that he would be just average.

He was born into a world that he saw as “The Middle” and would fight each waking moment with every ounce of his being to transcend this status he dubbed unacceptable for himself. The Nails that we have recently seen and heard promoting his new book all over newspapers, television, and radio is the remnants of the man who furiously wrestled against this fear every moment of his life. And let me tell you first hand, it’s one incredible story.

IMG_4724Fear is an unparalleled motivator. The genesis of the gritty, reckless player we saw on the baseball field for twelve years, double the average for an MLB player, was this fear. It inspired the highest of highs and lowest of lows for the man they call Nails, which he documents in his work with no reservations.

Lenny’s fear motivated him to pinnacles of success that rival anyone’s boyhood dreams which are explained in poignant detail throughout the chapters. It led to some incredible highs in his professional life such as World Series appearances with both the Mets and Phillies, leading the National League in hits and on base percentage in 1990, as well as an MVP caliber season in 1993 where he led MLB in plate appearances and the NL in at-bats, runs scored, hits, and walks.

It also led to amazing and noteworthy stories from around the world in his personal life such as chance meetings with the likes of Robert DeNiro, Mickey Rourke, Charlie Sheen, and Michael Jordan. The stories involve how professional athletes and celebrities live to a degree of excess that is unfathomable to common folk such as us.

These stories are impressively chronicled in his work House of Nails that he penned himself after firing a ghost writer who he felt made the work too sensationalized and artificial. About the famed ghost writer he relieved of the responsibility, “It wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t personal,” Lenny said on the Opie and Jim Show on Sirius XM radio, “God himself couldn’t be my ghost writer. It had to come from me to be authentic.”

That same innate fear that stalked him his entire life, however, also brought him to failures of epic proportions. It led to his reliance on amphetamines, drugs, and prescription medication to perform at his unmatched level of intensity, his choice to use steroids, overextending himself financially after retirement, the failure of his marriage, and even his eventual incarceration.

He explains in detail the reasons why he chose to take performance enhancing substances prior to the 1990 season with the Phillies. His reasoning is consistent with his philosophy of ‘fearing the middle’. As he shares in his book, Lenny comments, “I am not proud to say I did it…I had to do it. I was not physically constructed to withstand an entire 162 game season particularly the way I played.”

lenny dykstra

Any fan of baseball or teammate of Dykstra will laud his enthusiasm and all or nothing attitude. He would stop at nothing to help his team win and to make the spectators and cities that supported him happy. Dykstra further rationalized his choice by adding, “I am going to be one of the 26 people in the whole world to start on a Major League Baseball team playing center field.”

Even more incredibly, he would have to be able to do it for years at Veterans Stadium, on a notoriously treacherous cement like playing surface

No matter what the challenge or avenue, Lenny Dykstra would dedicate all of his energy and attention into trying to become “The Best”. His pursuit of this status was almost obsessive. Whatever he chose to undertake became an all-consuming passion. He learned every nuance and studied every detail of said endeavor to make sure that he was maximizing his potential.

In this book, he details his playing philosophy that brought him to elite status. His fascinating take on hitting, pitch selection, and situational performance is definitely worth taking notice of. He later explains investment strategies that led him to draw the admiration of famed hedge fund manager Jim Cramer. His extremely complicated “deep-in-the-money” options trading system made me, an economics teacher, have to go back to my textbooks to understand it. (And by the way, it is sound, efficient, and a bit risky, which I am sure appealed to the gambler within him.) Lenny also details his business plan for the Players Club magazine, his ascension to business owning success with a chain of three car wash locations in California, and his role in ending the baseball labor stoppage in 1994.

His addictive personality would lead him to exploit every loophole and transcend every rule or regulation stopping at nothing to succeed. In his mind, if he failed, it was back to that ominous average and middle status. For Lenny, he would rather be dead than average. On a couple of occasions as he recounts, he almost was.

In this fantastic article in the Los Angeles Times by the esteemed Jim Murray which is referenced in House of Nails, Lenny is described a player who, “…doesn’t belong in this point in time anyway.” He was seen as a player who was born into the wrong era of baseball. This article was written 26 years ago and couldn’t be more applicable even today.

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A lot of press has been generated over his comments about his time with the New York Mets. From someone who read every inch of this book twice, let me clarify some of them for you. Yes, he is critical of Davey Johnson. He all but blames him exclusively for the 1988 loss in the NLCS to the Dodgers. Amazing, huh? A person being critical of a coach for his decisions? I urge you to search any professional coach’s name on social media and see how many positive comments there are about them. Better yet, listen to some of the comments made by parents at your child’s next little league game.

By today’s standards, based on some of the skipper’s choices in that crucial series, Davey Johnson would have been run out of town a lot sooner.  (See game 6 and 7 box-score if you don’t recall, or better yet read the book.)  Why Davey? Reasoning is simple.  He was contradictory to Lenny’s quest. His quest to be the best, to be all or nothing. Davey platooned Lenny with Mookie Wilson and sat him out of some big games. Dykstra wanted to play every single inning of every single game. How can we fault an athlete for that?

In almost all cases, he is complimentary of his teammates. Particularly Keith Hernandez‘s knack for the clutch hit, Ron Darling‘s yeoman like work ethic, as well as the importance of Gary Carter and the appreciation he keeps for a guy like Gary who was able to do it all and still ‘Play Clean’.

He explains to you what each person’s unique skill set brought to the table and only is critical of those who have mostly been criticized before. For example, George Foster‘s tirade against what he dubbed as the “racist Mets organization” for benching him for Kevin Mitchell (both were African American players, by the way) as well as Foster’s actions in the epic brawl between the Mets against the Reds in 1986 where he chose not to fight.

He is also critical of Greg Jefferies who he dubbed ‘A losing player’.  Read any other book about the 1980′s New York Mets and this story will be corroborated. His book taught me that Greg Jefferies wrote a letter to WFAN to plea for fans and the media to stop criticizing him. Could you imagine the reaction in the twitter-sphere to something like this letter today?

You may not like his lifestyle. You may not like his crass personality, sometimes offensive choice of words, or his womanizing drug filled history. Chances are, though, if you were a Mets or Phillies supporter in the 1980′s or 1990′s this man was responsible for some of the best moments of your fanhood. Some of the comments taken out of context that have been recently published paint him as quite the villain who is telling tales out of school.

In the last two days I have been amazingly lucky to be granted direct access to Nails and his team. What I have seen is a gracious, generous, and humorous man that has lived an unparalleled life and wishes to tell us all about it. I for one am thankful that he did, because he was unquestionably my favorite player on my favorite team during my favorite time in it’s history. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to review his life.

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MMO Exclusive: Orthopedic Surgeon Explains David Wright’s Neck Procedure http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/mmo-exclusive-orthopedic-surgeon-explains-david-wrights-neck-procedure.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/mmo-exclusive-orthopedic-surgeon-explains-david-wrights-neck-procedure.html/#comments Thu, 30 Jun 2016 16:18:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=216114 david wright

Exactly two weeks ago, the Mets season took a turn for the worse when third baseman David Wright underwent a cervical discectomy and fusion procedure on his neck to repair a herniated disk. Mets fans and media alike rushed to the proverbial Panic City with proclamations that Wright was “finished” and that the Mets’ season would go by the wayside. In the midst of all the pandemonium, nobody bothered to actually learn what Dr. Robert Watkins did while operating on the Mets Captain.

Enter David Geier, a South Carolina based surgeon who specializes in orthopedic sports medicine. Before launching his own practice in a suburb of Charleston, Dr. Geier spent eight years as the director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He also worked with several professional teams across the country, including the St. Louis Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams, and the US women’s national soccer team. Here’s his medical explanation of David Wright’s injury, surgery, and recovery.

The purpose of a cervical discectomy and fusion procedure is to alleviate the pressure on a spinal nerve caused by a herniated disk; and in David Wright’s case, spinal stenosis as well.

To fully understand the procedure, we first need to understand the issue of a herniated disc. Cervical vertebrae are composed of about 80 percent water, giving their centers a jelly-like consistency. When a disc ruptures, the jelly-like center bulges through the annulus (a protective wall for the spinal cord) and puts pressure on the spinal nerve, causing pain.

The cervical discectomy and fusion procedure itself can be broken down into two parts.

“In a discectomy, the surgeon goes in and takes out that leaked disc material to eliminate the pressure on the spinal nerve,” Geier explains.

“Sometimes only a part of the disc needs to be removed, but in severe cases, a surgeon can remove the entire piece.”

A fusion is a more advanced procedure and is required only if there are more advanced problems in the area, according to Dr. Geier.

“You still have the disc material that’s leaked out, but you might have some arthritis changes between the bones or some instability, potentially even some abnormal motion after taking out the disc.”

The actual fusion part of the procedure is self explanatory.

“Essentially, you fuse the two bones together to restrict motion and therefore allow healing and uninhibited nerve function.”

Surgeons then replace the removed disk with either a bone graft from the hip or a cage device, before attaching a metal plate to the vertebrae above and below to provide stability.

The goal of the fusion is to prevent stress on the bone by limiting motion. This in turn aids bone healing and nerve function.

The actual procedure can be seen in an animated video you can view here.

In terms of returning to baseball, Geier was noncommittal on David Wright. He was insistent that recovery varies on a case to case basis, with factors such as age, fitness, and activity level playing a part.

“It’s so variable, that’s why nobody’s going to be able to give you a completely correct explanation, and nobody’s going to be wrong.”

It will take about four to six months for the bone in Wright’s neck to heal. Extensive physical therapy will also be necessary for him regain full nerve function. Wright would likely return to baseball activities at some point in the offseason before needing reps against live pitching. With recovery so unpredictable, Geier gives a broad time frame for a return.

“It could be anywhere from six months to a year.”

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MMO Exclusive: Jason Bay Wishes Things Could Have Been Better With Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/mmo-exclusive-jason-bay-wishes-things-could-have-been-better-with-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/06/mmo-exclusive-jason-bay-wishes-things-could-have-been-better-with-mets.html/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 16:23:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=214605 jason bay hanging head

From All-Star to disappointment; that’s what fans saw as Jason Bay took the podium last night representing the Pirates at the 2016 MLB Draft.

Pittsburgh fans had a two-time All-Star and a middle-of-the-order slugger. Mets fans, however, saw what could have been, rather than what was.

Bay, in the area for the first time since retiring in 2013, holds similar feelings about his time in New York.

“When I look back,” he told MMO. “I just wish I had done better.”

Bay hit just .234 with 26 home runs in three seasons with the Mets after signing a 4-year, $66 million contract. He was bought out of his contract in 2012.

“I don’t regret it by any means, but I went there to do a job and I didn’t do it,” Bay said candidly about his Mets career. “Ultimately I live with that. It’s a performance-based game, it’s ‘what have you done?’ And I didn’t get it done.”

Bay said he was thrilled to see the Amazin’s capture the National League Pennant last season, and marveled at the quality of the “amazing” pitching staff. The 37-year-old still keeps in touch with several former teammates, including David Wright.

“Nobody cares more than he does,” he said. “He signed with the Mets at a time where things weren’t going well. He wanted to be here. He’s loyal to the Wilpons, he’s loyal to the team, and that goes a long way.”

Bay, who endured two concussions and a broken rib in New York, said injuries were one of the most infuriating parts of his Mets tenure.

“The toughest part is when you’re not healthy, there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “You can’t do anyone any good and that’s a very frustrating feeling.”

While he said he sympathizes with Wright’s situation, Bay stopped short of likening their struggles with injuries.

“I didn’t really build up any good will, I kind of came in here with expectations and didn’t get it done,” he said. “David’s built up an endless supply of good will in my opinion.”

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MMO Exclusive: Meet The Fan Who Rescued Mike Piazza’s Post 9/11 Jersey http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-meet-the-fan-who-rescued-mike-piazzas-post-911-jersey.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-meet-the-fan-who-rescued-mike-piazzas-post-911-jersey.html/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 15:52:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=210122 Mets' Mike Piazza hits 8th inning homerun to lead Mets past

Thanks to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, we all discovered that the post 9/11 jersey worn by Mike Piazza when he hit his epic homerun, was put up for auction with Goldin Auctions. The jersey faced an uncertain future until a group of three die-hard Mets fans stepped forward and purchased the jersey for a record $365,000. Part of that group included Anthony Scaramucci.

For those who don’t know Mr. Scaramucci, he is the founder and co-managing partner of the global investment firm SkyBridge Capital, founder of the SkyBridge Alternatives (“SALT”) Conference and host of iconic financial television show “Wall Street Week.”

Despite his busy schedule, he was able to answer some of my questions regarding his Mets fandom and the Piazza jersey:

How did you become a Mets fan?

Growing up on Long Island, I got hooked in 1969 with the Miracle Mets and the 1973 team that made it back to the World Series. They could have lost every game after that. It wouldn’t matter to a true fan.

What is your favorite Mets memory?

I’d have to say winning the World Series in ‘86. Last year’s World Series run was also a thrill, seeing our young team get back to winning ways. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the franchise.

What were your recollections from Mike Piazza’s post 9/11 homerun?

The 9/11 attacks had an impact on all Americans, but especially those living in and around New York. It was almost guaranteed that you knew someone directly or indirectly who died that day. There was no precedent for how to respond to such a tragedy. When should life return to normal? Should sports resume, and if so when? Should we play games in New York? I felt very strongly that we needed to get things back to normal as quickly as possible to honor the fallen and send a message to the world that you cannot disrupt our way of life.

In the stadium, everyone was tense and uneasy for most of the game. Players were hesitant to make a hard slide or argue a call. Everyone was sort of going through the motions. When Piazza hit that home run, the place erupted, the old suspension system at Shea was literally bouncing, everyone was hugging each other and there wasn’t a dry eye on the place. It was an outpouring of grief and the beginning of the healing process for New Yorkers and for the country.

What did the jersey mean to you?

The jersey to me is a symbol, a symbol of American resolve and resilience in the face of unspeakable tragedy, a symbol that no matter the adversity we will always pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward. Some might say it was just a baseball game and it’s just a jersey, but anyone who was there or watching that day knows differently.

Why did you decide to purchase the jersey?

I know the jersey meant a lot symbolically to the people of New York – 9/11 first responders to families of the deceased to fans and former players – and when the opportunity came to get it back my partners and I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass. We wanted to make sure it came back home to New York to be displayed in the public domain forever.

At any point, did you ever consider wearing it around like George Costanza wearing Babe Ruth’s jersey on Seinfeld?

You didn’t think I would pay all that money without trying the jersey on did you? Unfortunately it isn’t quite my size. In true New York fashion, I’ve mostly been carrying it around in a garment bag on a cheap wire hanger.

Where is the jersey first going to be displayed?

We’re not 100% sure on that yet. All three venues where it will rotate (the 9/11 Memorial Museum, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Citi Field) have to figure out some display logistics, so in the meantime we’ll be showing it around and I’m going to bring it out to Las Vegas for the SkyBridge SALT Conference in May. Hopefully the flight stewardess has room to hang it up in the pilots’ closet.

How long will the jersey be on display?

We are writing a clause into the deal so the jersey will forever be displayed in the public domain, hopefully well after we’re dead and gone.

How do you feel when people thank you and your partners for purchasing the jersey?

I’m conflicted on that. On one hand obviously I appreciate the kind words and support, but I also don’t want to pretend like I’m some kind of hero for buying a jersey. There were thousands and thousands of heroes on 9/11 – workers in the towers herding others to safety, first responders rushing up into the burning buildings, volunteers digging through toxic rubble for days on end in hopes of finding one or two miraculous survivors. I feel fortunate that my success has put me in a position to contribute to a gesture like this, but the jersey and this moment isn’t about me, it’s about honoring the legacy of those who died that day.

What are your predictions for the 2016 season?  

I’m an optimistic guy, but I think the Mets are going to win the whole thing. We have one of the greatest pitching staffs of all time and it’s going to be fun to see those young guys grow. Management did a great job keeping Cespedes and making some nice additions to the team. It’s going to be a year to remember.

I would also like to thank Mr. Scaramucci for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I would also like to thank him and his partners for purchasing the jersey and forever sharing it with the people of New York. When I tell my son about 9/11, I will also tell him how Piazza’s homerun uplifted our city and our country after the worst and most devastating terrorist attacks in United States history. 

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MMO Exclusive: Catching Up With Darryl Strawberry http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-catching-up-with-darryl-strawberry.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/04/mmo-exclusive-catching-up-with-darryl-strawberry.html/#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 15:32:37 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=209244  IMG_4345 2

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 seeking them out and talking to them in our quest to answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

I recently ran in to Darryl Strawberry at a Syracuse Crunch hockey game and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about the 1986 Mets, playing baseball in Queens and the Bronx, and his life after baseball.  A huge thanks to the Syracuse Crunch PR department for permitting us to do this interview.

For those of you looking to listen, here’s the podcast.

Noah: So you won a World Series, played on several contending teams, made nine all star appearences and put up some outstanding numbers over your career. Looking back on it all, what was your finest moment while on the Mets?

Darryl: The finest moment from my time on the team was coming to a place of winning. 1986 especially was a great year for us, winning the National League Championship after going through a great Houston ball club before winning in the World Series.

Noah: What was it like playing on that 1986 team? You guys could make a case that you were one of the best in history.

Darryl: Well we were, and we always will be one of the best teams in history. I don’t think (today) that you can find a group of guys who had such determination (to win) no matter what the circumstances were. We always knew how to battle back, and that’s what baseball is all about.

Noah: You also won rookie of the year in 1983 after being drafted first overall. How did you cope with the pressure of playing in New York as a high draft pick?

Darryl: Once I got to (New York) and got comfortable, my hitting coach Jim Frey helped me settle in (physically). Things started to work out for me because I started to come to the ballpark early everyday to prepare myself. As a young player you have to do that at the major league level to be successful.

Noah: Can you pinpoint any one player or coach who shaped you as a player or as an individual?

Darryl: Well I think I would say Jim Frey, the hitting coach at the time. He had a lot to do with helping me be successful during my rookie season. And then Bill Robinson and Davey Johnson came over and they really moved me forward in my career, helping me learn the game and play it the right way.

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Noah: We can say that -and Mets fans everywhere will agree with me on this one- game 6 of the 1986 World Series was one of the most iconic moments in Mets history. Take me through the last few innings of that game, what was the atmosphere like in the dugout?

Darryl: We were struggling there for a while because we didn’t know if we could come back. We started to put things together with hits here and hits there and we just tried to stay focused as a team. It didn’t surprise me to see guys coming through because that was what we were about that whole season. We were always in situations where we needed to come back in ball games and we knew how to do that.

Noah: What was your reaction when Jesse Orosco recorded that final out?

Darryl: It’s done! We finally did it, we are the champions of baseball. It was something that we all were striving for all season, and we didn’t know if we were going to accomplish it going in, but we did.

Noah: You faced some of the greatest pitchers in baseball during your career. Who were you most scared to face and why?

Darryl: I wasn’t scared, but facing the great Nolan Ryan was difficult for me. He was just a different breed, he had a different look about himself, and I never feared anyone until I faced him for the first time. There was a lot of fear in my heart then but as time went by, I started to get comfortable against him. I then got to a point where I believed I could face anybody, it didn’t matter who was on the mound.

Noah: After you signed with the Dodgers, was there anything you knew you would miss about playing in New York?

Darryl: Yeah the fans! Definitely not the media, even though I had some friends in there who treated me well. But a lot of them weren’t very nice because they didn’t know us, and they didn’t follow us everyday. They just spouted off opinions. But yeah, I definitely missed the fans most. They’re a very aggressive group, and I really loved that. I became comfortable with them, used to them, and their (aggressiveness) shaped my style of play.

Noah: Speaking of playing in New York, can you describe your experience playing for both the Mets and the Yankees? How was playing for each team different?

Darryl: The Mets are part of National League baseball, so it’s a speed game, and I got to run a lot. Going to the American League, it was about going for the homerun, which I was okay with. When I played on the Yankees, I had the chance to play on some great winning teams in 1996, 1998, and 1999 under the great Joe Torre. Playing for the Yankees was amazing and I also had some amazing years playing for the Mets.

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Noah: So now that you’ve been relatively out of the media spotlight for some time, tell me, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball?

Darryl: I’m an ordained minister now. I travel, I’m an evagelist, I preach the gospel. My ministry is Strawberryministries.org. I also spend a lot of time helping people. I have a (drug) treatment center in Florida called the Darryl Strawberry Recovery Center where I’m helping young people who struggle with substance abuse get better. It’s a chance for me to give back and show people that they can recover and that they can really change.

Noah: Where specifically has your retirement taken you?

Darryl: It’s taken me to a wonderful place. It’s better than baseball, better than anything that I could have ever imagined. I’m answering the call of my life and the call of God, who would have ever thought that I’d be preaching the gospel one day.

Noah: So tell me Darryl, do you have any regrets from your time with the Mets or your time in professional baseball?

Darryl: No regrets whatsoever. We all have a journey in life, and we all have to go on it; even though we don’t know what it’s going to be. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish the race (of life) and I’m just really grateful for the way my life has changed and the way that I’m finishing the race; giving back and helping others.

Noah: But that said, your career ended much earlier than it should have. You had 280 homers by age 29, and you were even drawing comparisons to Hank Aaron. Do you ever wonder what could have been?

Darryl: No, I never think about what could have been. I deal with what was and the way my course ran. I have no regrets. I think that too many people look back over the past and they can never move forward. I needed to move forward in my life and that’s what I did.

Noah: That’s a great way to be. Just switching gears now, I’m going to ask you a little bit about the Mets today. How closely have you been following the team?

Darryl: I really don’t follow them, I really don’t follow baseball. It’s nothing personal, my life is just very busy doing things to help others that I don’t really have a lot of time to (follow baseball) at this point.

Noah: Michael Conforto, the Mets’ current left fielder is another young talented left handed hitter who has a sweet swing just like you did. He was also a high draft pick. What advice would you offer a player like that for playing in New York?

Darryl: Work hard, have fun, and don’t get discouraged. There are a lot of ups and downs as you learn, but the most important thing is that you have to believe in your ability. I always believed in my own ability, no matter what anyone else had to say.

Noah: How do the 2016 Mets stack up to your 1986 Mets?

Darryl: (laughs) They don’t even compare, they’re not even close to what we were!

Noah: And lastly, if you could give any message to Mets fans today, what would it be?

Darryl: Just keep believing. Don’t get discouraged if the team doesn’t win right away. It took (my teams) a couple years to put the pieces together before we started winning. I know last year they made it to the World Series, but it won’t be a failure if they don’t make it back this year. As long as they have a great season and make it back to the playoffs, playing as well as they can, they’ll be great. Hopefully this team has made adjustments with learning the fundamentals of playing baseball because you have to make the plays in the World Series and the playoffs to win the championship. I hope that they’ve learned that over the past year.

Noah: Thank you Darryl, really appreciate your time.

Darryl: You got it.

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MMO Exclusive: ESPN’s Jayson Stark Gives His Take on the Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-espns-jayson-stark-gives-his-take-on-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-espns-jayson-stark-gives-his-take-on-the-mets.html/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2016 13:30:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208479 david wright

Jayson Stark is most known for his work at the national level covering baseball for ESPN and as a senior writer for ESPN.com.  He’s been around the game for four decades, writing columns, authoring three baseball books, and reporting on ESPN and MLB Network.  I recently caught up with Jayson and he was kind enough to share some of his time and give me some of his insights and the perception of the Mets from outside the New York bubble. Please enjoy.

Noah: Coming off an unexpected run of success in 2015, what’s been the atmosphere surrounding the Mets in spring training?

Jayson: They’re very upbeat and they know that they’re built to win. They have the mindset that they are going to play baseball in October. That mentality is something we haven’t seen from a Mets team in a decade in spring training. The question now is – we know they’re built for October – can they get there?

Noah: Tell me about it. Who’s responsible for this change in attitude?

Jayson: I don’t think that it’s any one person or any one player. I think it’s just success. A reflection of finally having that rotation together, having Zack Wheeler on the horizon, and bringing Yoenis Cespedes back. This is the heart of a team that played in the World Series, played really well, and still matches up very well against a lot of other teams in baseball. I don’t think anybody has to give a pep talk, this team understands how good they can be.

Noah: How is this team different from ones in years past, both on and off the field?

Jayson: On the field, you’ve got a rotation that’s built to win any matchup against any lineup. Off the field, there’s finally a situation where there’s not a lot of controversy. They don’t have the debates over innings restrictions or have a lot of talk about how much money they did or didn’t spend. Nobody cares about the Wilpons or Bernie Madoff right now, and that’s refreshing. It’s just finally a baseball conversation, surrounding this team.

After Sandy Alderson came in, that regime spent a lot of time just tearing down what had been there before it arrived. (All of their actions) have been leading to this point. I’m not going to say they’re the perfect team, a team without holes. They’re a team that I’m going to pick to win the World Series. If you’re going to make a list of the six or seven teams in the sport that have the best chance to win the World Series, they’ve got to be on it.

yoenis cespedes

Noah: Size up the Mets offseason moves. What do you think of the acquisitions of Yoenis Cespedes and Antonio Bastardo?

Jayson: The Mets went into the offseason without any expectation that Yoenis Cespedes was coming back. In fact, they were fully prepared to move on without him.

With Cespedes, we saw what a franchise changing figure he could be over a short period of time. That said, he’s never been a franchise changing figure over the course of a full season. Still, he’s a really intriguing player with a certain aura about him, and he gets on streaks where he changes the face of a lineup. People can feed off of him when he’s on those rolls. But then he has other periods where he’s not that guy. The Mets are built in a way where he has to be the guy he was during the end of last season for them to be successful. There are questions in the minds of a lot of people in baseball over whether he can be that guy for a full season. Even so, he might only be in New York for just a year, and there’s no such thing as a bad one year contract.

Antonio Bastardo is a guy that I’ve seen pitch a lot and he’s got stuff that’s as good as any left handed pitcher in baseball. He doesn’t get hit hard, he’s got a big swing and miss component to his game. You don’t have to necessarily use him against just left handed hitters. I think in the way that the Mets use their staff and their bullpen, he’s a good fit. But like Cespedes, he goes on stretches where he doesn’t pitch with confidence, he gets himself in trouble by pitching away from contact and walking too many hitters. I think he can be really exasperating to watch because of that. Sometimes, when you need him in a big spot to be the guy, he doesn’t show up. On the other hand, you can match him up against any left handed hitter in the game and he’s got the stuff to strike them out.

With both guys, the upside is tremendous when they’re at their best, but they have that other side to them where they can be really frustrating players.

Noah: Of the young starting pitchers, who looks poised to take the greatest step in their development this year?

Jayson: That’s a really tough question. They’re all good options. I love Syndergaard. To me deGrom has already taken that next step towards becoming one of the best pitchers in the game. I also think that this is the year for Matt Harvey. He’s been a human highlight reel when he’s pitched, but this is the year where he pitches a full season, contends for the Cy Young and dominates from start to finish. He just has that look about him, he’s a star. So if I had to pick one, I would say him.

noah syndergaard

Noah: How are these young aces handling the pressure this season? They’re really being banked on to carry the Mets back to the playoffs.

Jayson: They’re a really confident group, and this helps them a lot. They’ve all done nothing except succeed, so why wouldn’t they be confident! I think the fact that there are four of them takes the heat off of any one of them. Harvey and deGrom are a little more advanced than Matz and Syndergaard. But I think this is one of those situations like on those great 1990′s Braves teams with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz where everybody feeds off of everybody else. It’s really a great situation to have.

Noah: So what should we realistically expect from the young aces this year? Is this when they all finally put it together?

Jayson: I really think that Matz and Syndergaard are going to find out how long the season really is and I think you have to factor that in to their performance expectations. I think you also have to wonder who stays healthy, statistics across baseball tell us that 50 percent of all starting pitchers go on the disabled list in any given year. So for the Mets, I think it’s a question of which two get hurt. But if they’re all healthy from April to September, this should be the best rotation in baseball, period.

Noah: We all know about the concerns surrounding David Wright‘s back, the spinal stenosis condition that was discovered last year, right now, what are the organization’s realistic expectations for him this season?

Jayson: Honestly, I think their bar is set low. I don’t think the organization would ever say that publicly, but I don’t think he’s a guy that they’re counting on for a whole lot. If you think about they way in which he was used, treated, and managed after he came off the disabled list, they were just trying to take care of him. This year they’re just going to try to get him through the season. Given what we’ve seen this spring, he’s barely played, I don’t think they expect a lot from him. This is the right approach. If you don’t expect much and you get more than you bargained for, that’s always a lot better than the other way around.

Noah: Is there any glaring weakness that this team acknowledges out of the gate?

Jayson: I don’t think that there’s a glaring weakness, but I do think that it’s team with some questions. We mentioned David Wright and their shortstop defense is certainly a question. I like their lineup with Cespedes back, a full year of Michael Conforto. But do I like their lineup more than the Nationals? I don’t know if I do. So I do think that there are questions, but no weaknesses. They’re definitely a team that nobody would want to play in October.

Noah: Now taking everything into consideration, what’s a realistic expectation for this team this season?

Jayson: Well if you ask them, they would say, “Win the World Series.” I think for me, a realistic possibility would be winning the NL East, get to October, and then it’s all matchups. There aren’t very many teams that they don’t match up with. It’s just a matter of getting there.

The National League is going to be very difficult to win. With at least five really bad teams and six or seven really good ones, there are going to be a couple teams that may win a lot of games, but not make it to October. That’s going to be the key for the Mets, making it there, and they should.

Noah: So what would constitute a successful season? Is it World Series or bust?

Jayson: I don’t like that way of looking at things, “World Series or bust.” I don’t think that it’s a fair way for any team to judge its season, not in this sport. For me, a successful season happens if they keep the aces healthy, win the NL East, and take your chances and see how good you are in October. I’d like to see these pitchers all take a step forward and see how good they can be. What a show, right?

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MMO Exclusive: Adam Rubin Sizes Up Mets As Spring Training Draws To An End http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-adam-rubin-sizes-up-mets-as-spring-training-draws-to-an-end.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-adam-rubin-sizes-up-mets-as-spring-training-draws-to-an-end.html/#comments Wed, 30 Mar 2016 12:30:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=208477 terry collins spring

ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin is well known for his intensive coverage of the Mets, live tweeting games, interviewing players, and breaking stories as they happen.  I recently had the chance to talk with Adam and hear his take on the young aces, David Wright, and his expectations of the team this season.

Noah: Coming off an unexpected run of success in 2015, what has been the atmosphere surrounding the Mets this spring training?

Adam: Well it’s certainly upbeat, and it’s warranted. The starting pitching is absolutely elite. With the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes, the hitting is very strong. The team understands that they are going to be the hunted this year and there’s going to be a lot of expectations of them. But they believe that they are justified in being the favorite in the national league this year.

Noah: Who’s setting the tone for this mindset?

Adam: Well Terry Collins met with the players at the start of spring training and said to them “you’re the hunted now.” But I don’t know if there’s any one person setting that tone. There’s just a lot of confidence, even from the younger players like (Noah) Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. These guys understand that they’re very good and they expect to win.

Noah: Obviously, the talent level on this team is different this year, but how is this team different also off the field?

Adam: With Harvey and Cespedes, there is a swagger that we haven’t really seen since 1986. I don’t think that this team has the same level of craziness, but that swagger is definitely still there.

Noah: For the first time since 2006, the Mets have some pretty decent depth. But that depth also pushes guys like Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares out of defined roles. Now with that said, what are their roles this season and how many at bats can we expect them to get?

Adam: Even though Wilmer Flores is likely not a starter at any position, he may get 400 or more at bats this year. When you think about David Wright, how many games is he realistically going to play? Is it 130, -that’s probably overly optimistic- is it 120, 110? Wilmer’s probably going to be the guy at third base barring something bad happening this last week of spring training. So that’s 40 or 50 games right there that he could play.

Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop looks like he’s going to avoid the disabled list to start the year, but he’s not going to play 162 games so Wilmer is going to get some time there. At second base, Neil Walker‘s numbers against left handed pitching aren’t great, so I bet Wilmer sees some time there as well. And then Lucas Duda isn’t going to face every tough lefty starter, so we may see Wilmer Flores there as the primary back up at first base too. Between the four positions, he could very easily get 400 at bats.

As for Juan Lagares, the resigning of Yoenis Cespedes directly affects him. I think it’s going to be largely like it was during the last two months of last season where Lagares starts against left handed pitching. Otherwise he’s a defensive replacement and a pinch hitter. So not a lot of playing time because the Mets don’t see a ton of left handed pitching, but certainly he’ll be in the mix.

The interesting wrinkle is whether he’s going to play centerfield or left field. Terry Collins recently decided to put Cespedes in center and Lagares in left. I don’t believe that’s going to happen during the regular season, but it’s something to watch.

Noah: What was the logic behind that positional switch? Moving Lagares to left and Cespedes to center doesn’t make a lot of sense, even though Lagares is clearly the better defender.

Adam: Terry’s rationale is that if Cespedes plays just one position, it might be easier for him (to adjust.) But Cespedes won a Gold Glove with the Tigers last year in leftfield before the trade. And Lagares won a Gold Glove in centerfield two years ago with the Mets. So I think that logic is ultimately going to prevail, (the move) just doesn’t make a ton of sense right now.

Noah: You mentioned David Wright and the concerns surrounding his back. Right now, what are the organization’s realistic expectations for him this season?

Adam: Sandy Alderson way early in camp mentioned 130 games as a possibility. But he’s just guessing. I don’t think anyone really knows (how much he’ll play.) David missed four months of last season with the spinal stenosis in his back. Now he knows how to manage it, but it’s not gone. We’ll see how his back responds as the year goes on. He did play the last month of last season plus the playoffs with some strategic rest. He’s going to be rested from time to time, he’s not going to start day games after night games in all likelihood. He’s also 33 years old now, aside from the back, you start seeing skills deteriorate a little bit. So how many games he plays this year is definitely an open question.

Noah: So what are the performance expectations for him this season? I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect 2006 or 2007 David Wright to show up again.

Adam: You’re right. Even aside from the back, I don’t see him generating those kind of power numbers again. He’s a guy who might hit .280 or .290 with 10-15 home runs and a fair amount of doubles. We’ll see what he is, I don’t think anyone knows the answer to that.

harvey syndergaard

Noah: Switching gears now, of the young starting pitching, who looks poised to take the greatest step in their development this season?

Adam: Well if you look at Tommy John surgery (recoveries), usually year two is a lot better than year one. Adam Wainwright for instance, had a full run lower ERA his second year back from Tommy John surgery with the Cardinals. So Matt Harvey could be tremendously better this year than last year; and last year was very good. They say with the exception of that blip against the Astros this spring, Harvey nonetheless has looked sharp this spring training. His slider is back, his fastball velocity is comparable to past years, but it has that late life back too. So certainly Harvey has a chance to take a big step forward.

Still, Noah Syndergaard might end up being the best pitcher of them all when all is said and done. When I asked the Mets players who’s the most intimidating pitcher in baseball, some named Greinke and Kershaw, but the people who named a Met named not Harvey or deGrom, but Syndergaard. It just shows you how much respect he has among his teammates.

Noah: Overall, what should we expect from the young aces this year? Is this when they all put it together?

Adam: There’s no reason to believe that any of them will take steps backward. These are all guys who are number one or number two type pitchers that on paper make up the best pitching staff in baseball. Certainly the Mets are blessed with young starting pitching and any one of those guys can have an elite season.

Noah: I think Mets fans and media can agree that this is the strongest team out of the gate since we’ve seen in a very long time. Still, is there any glaring weakness that this team acknowledges out of the gate?

Adam: Certainly the bullpen (has questions.) I don’t want to say it’s a weakness, but it’s not extraordinary beyond the closer. Jeurys Familia is very good, if you look at his regular season, he didn’t blow a save after July 30th -when he gave up that home run to Justin Upton- until the World Series. However, Addison Reed and Antonio Bastardo as the primary set up men are not extraordinary. Hansel Robles is also a work in progress. So the bullpen is one area to watch.

They also don’t have a lot of team speed, the fielding up the middle -especially with Cespedes in centerfield- is not ideal, and the catchers are working to throw out more runners. So those are some problematic areas, but every team has some issues. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the Mets’ issues compared to other teams’.

Noah: Lastly, what would constitute a successful season for this team? Is it really World Series or bust?

Adam: Well the fans would certainly be very disappointed if they didn’t win the World Series, but it’s not going to be an easy road back. I firmly expect them to win the division, or at least make the playoffs. The Nationals are still a strong team, and I wouldn’t write them off yet. With the Braves and Phillies retooling, I would expect the Mets and Nationals to get a lot of wins off of those two teams and make the postseason.

From there, I wouldn’t say it’s a crap-shoot, certainly the Mets’ starting pitching gives them a distinct edge in the postseason. Still, there’s a lot of talented teams in the National League with the Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks, Cardinals shaping up to be strong competition. It’s really hard to say that the Mets will win the World Series or even be in the World Series because of the disparity between the several really good teams and the bad teams. There’s going to be a lot of competition. We’ll see what happens, but they will certainly be back to the playoffs.

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MMO Exclusive: Greg Prince Discusses “Amazin’ Again” and 2015 Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-greg-prince-discusses-amazin-again-and-2015-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-greg-prince-discusses-amazin-again-and-2015-season.html/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2016 17:05:43 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207882 mets win nlcs

We have a special treat for you today as beloved Mets historian, die-hard Mets fan and popular author Greg Prince of Faith and Fear in Flushing, was kind enough to answer some questions about his brand new book Amazin’ Again which went on sale March 15.

Amazin’ Again captures all the drama and magic of the New York Mets’ 2015 season that saw them capture the NL East from the Washington Nationals and then defeat the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs to win the National League pennant.

Greg answers a few questions from me and also takes some questions from Mets fans in our MMO Community. Please enjoy…

Joe - I’m so glad to have a true keepsake and treasure to remember the 2015 season with your new book. At what point in the season did you know this was something you wanted to do. Was there a moment in the 2015 season that clicked and became the impetus for your decision to chronicle this exciting year for the Mets?

Greg – The thought crossed my mind in late summer, and a few readers were kind enough to bring it up on their own, but it wasn’t really on my radar until an editor friend of mine got in touch and suggested his publisher might be interested in a Mets Win the World Series book, the catch being the Mets had to win the World Series. This was literally hours before Game One in Kansas City. It was going to be a “quickie” book, designed to be out ASAP after the theoretical parade and draw in fans who conceivably couldn’t get enough of their World Champion Mets.

Well, you know what happened where that was concerned. I thought the project — which I’d been working on between games with the great hope that I could finish it and that would come to be — was dead once Game Five was over. But in a come-from-behind story worthy of the 2015 Mets, I was given the thumbs-up to continue, to expand and, thankfully, to take a little more time to complete it. The thinking was it had been such a milestone season for the Mets and they had achieved plenty in winning the pennant, so why not?

Joe – They say every season has a turning point, but I believe the 2015 Mets season had a few turning points. Wilmer Flores’ wild walk-off was certainly one of them, what other defining moments like that stood out to you?

amazin again greg prince

Greg – The perfect homestand in April reset expectations. In one ten-game stretch, it was as if the Mets stopped being that ridiculous team we’d all gotten used to and demanded to be taken seriously. If they clinched anything that early, it was a sense of self-respect, one that was contagious to us, the fans.

The other big moment, destined to be glossed over (except in my book), was triggered by the West Coast road trip that started July. They were teetering on the edge of oblivion, despite the great start, and weren’t hitting a lick. It was reasonable to expect they’d go to L.A. and San Francisco, face very good teams with, especially in the Dodgers’ case, extraordinary starting pitching, and scuffle. Instead they took two out of three in each series and then came home to sweep a pretty good Diamondbacks club. After all the flailing of May and June, they finished the first half on a 7-2 run and were within whispering distance of Washington.

Without that spurt, I doubt the Mets would have wound up in position to make the Flores home run or the National series matter.

Joe – What were your expectations for the Mets going into the 2015 season and at what point did you start believing that, “Hey, I think this team could go all the way?”

Greg – My well-honed cynicism, which dated to the Collapse of 2007, was willing to cede to the conventional wisdom that the Mets could break .500 in 2015. I thought the Wild Card was a stretch, but not out of the question. The 13-3 start really changed the stakes. The gradual separation of themselves from Washington in August, which culminated in the seven straight wins in Colorado and Philadelphia, made the World Series more a potential reality than a pipe dream.

Joe – 1973, 2000 and now 2015. All three years the Mets advanced to the World Series and lost. Can you draw any comparisons between those teams and which would you say is the best team in terms of talent?

Greg – It strikes me that the 1973 and 2000 teams were peaking within their eras.

Post-1969, the Mets were comprised of continually good pitching and hardly any hitting; in ’73, the stars aligned (several hot Septembers on offense, the legendary malaise of the rest of the N.L. East) to make that work. That group would turn over drastically after a disappointing 1974 and wound up, sadly, a shell of itself by 1977.

The 2000 team, I think it’s often forgotten, was the culmination of a great ascent: rise into contention in 1997, just miss the playoffs in 1998, come very close to the World Series in 1999, win the pennant in 2000. Then there was a precipitous dropoff the year after and another housecleaning that didn’t do much good.

We don’t know the next Met chapter that follows 2015, but what makes me believe this could be the start of something big is the pitching. How can you bet against a team packing three to five aces plus a legit closer? Throw in the signing of Cespedes and they go into 2016 far more solid than they did in 1974 or 2001.

If anything, the ’73 and ’00 teams had more proven talent, but that also meant the core members didn’t have many really good years left. That’s the difference between those years and 2015. Other than Wright, Granderson and Colon, you’re talking about core members who were and are getting better.

Just from a narrative sense, all three teams gave us great thrill rides. 1973 and the legacy of You Gotta Believe speaks for itself. 2000 is probably undervalued because of who the World Series was lost to, but that was one of the most satisfying regular seasons I can recall, not to mention we were party to a fantastic NLDS and awesome NLCS performance. 2015 had a bit more of the element of surprise when viewed from a preseason standpoint. It was crazy to think the 1973 Mets could win their division in August, but not in March. The 2000 Mets were coming off a playoff appearance and had added a top-notch lefty pitcher. Nobody was picking the 2015 Mets to beat the Nationals in March.

Joe – Terry Collins gets killed a lot by fans and critics. But here he is entering his sixth season at the helm of the Mets fresh off an improbable World Series run. Is it time for fans to embrace him?

Greg – Terry Collins is as subject to first-, second- and third-guessing as any manager in the game, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt on the whole. You can pick apart certain decisions from last year (and I do in the World Series chapter) but you have to admire how he handled his players. Five seasons in and I can’t recall any One Met Said criticism making it into the media. Keeping 25 men happy or at least not grouchy all year long is probably as big a deal as who pitches the seventh on a given night.

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And now some questions from the fan base…

Dark HelMet – In your long history of Mets-fandom, have you ever experienced such a seismic shift of a season than the week around the trade deadline where everything changed so dramatically for the Mets?

Greg – All in all, probably not. I’ve seen Met teams turn on a dime in the standings and I’ve seen Met teams make a flurry of moves, but I’ve never seen it all sync so quickly and so well. In one week, they bring up or in Conforto, Johnson, Uribe, Clippard and Cespedes and as soon as they do, they go off on a tear that completely flips the order of things in their division and sends them rocketing to the playoffs. You can’t ask for a bigger, better turnaround.

Kevin M. – There are a lot of fans that are of the opinion Alderson didn’t expect the team to be in the position they were in around trade deadline time. It’s said by some that if not for the Nats underachieving, Sandy wouldn’t have made the moves he did. So the question is, if we were 1.5 or more games back, instead of 1.5 ahead, do we still acquire help, and make a push, like we did to hold on to the lead, or are we sellers, and preparing for 2016?

Greg – One can never speak with certainty to unknowables. We do know that in July 2015, the Mets were hanging close enough so that the GM saw the merit in making moves, whereas in previous Julys, they were, at best, on the perimeter of maybe having a chance. If the Mets were a little further from first place or a playoff spot when the trading deadline came around last year…who knows? But I kind of doubt Alderson would have been as active. I think he said something to that effect along the way.

BarnRat – Other than the Pennant, what do you judge as the greatest achievement of 2015, and other than not winning the World Series, what do you judge as the greatest disappointment of 2015?

Greg – The best team achievement was psychological. They stopped being “the Mets” as we knew them. You know, the whole #LOLMets thing. It doesn’t exist any longer as an organizing principle of our fandom. In tandem with that, the Mets are no longer the “other” team in their own city. I don’t know that they “own New York,” but I do know that as we speak, the center of baseball gravity around here has shifted to Flushing. It happened so matter-of-factly that it feels less than momentous, but I believe (assuming they keep up the good work) it will mean a great deal, particularly to the generation of fans just coming of age. I’ve always told anybody who’d listen that this stuff is cyclical, and it is. The last cycle lasted 20 years was all, thus it was considered a given that the Mets were always “the little brothers” or whatever. As someone who lived through much better Met times, I knew that wasn’t the case.

Individually, the continued development of deGrom, the emergence of Syndergaard, the hint of Matz and the return of Harvey — none of which was in place a year ago — was collectively enormous. It’s easy to take this kind of pitching for granted now that we’re used to it, but wow…this kind of pitching!

Disappointment? Though it didn’t stop them from getting far, I’m sorry we didn’t get a full year of Travis d’Arnaud. I thought he was on his way to the All-Star Game when he game out of the gate as he did in April. I hope his progress continues. I suppose it’s also a downer that Juan Lagares has gone from key piece to outfield afterthought. He looked very good in the postseason and perhaps he will find his way back to the forefront for 2017 and beyond.

Greggofboken – The push to the pennant seemed to be the result of several factors: the acquisition of Cespedes (as a third choice), the strengthening of the Mets depth at the trade deadline, the return of key injured players, and the Nats’ failures due to injury or under-performance. Which of these, in your eyes was the single biggest determinant in our finish, how do your own conclusions differ from what you believe to be popular sentiment, and if you were to weight them how much of the Mets’ pennant was due to skilled planning vs. circumstances that broke the Mets’ way?

Greg – To win a pennant, almost everything has to go right, and I think that’s what happened. The Mets, even at their offensively lousiest, never sank more than 4½ games behind the Nationals. If Washington had played as hyped, it might very well have been a different story. But they were more human than thought, the Mets were a little better stocked than predicted (particularly once everybody was off the DL) and moves that couldn’t have been foreseen were made. Cespedes’s acquisition was clearly the axis on which 2015 tilted, but he didn’t do it alone.

Gus L. – We kept hearing and seeing how the Royals were relentless. However, it’s hard to believe that pitchers such as Volquez, a player that three teams gave up on and has a history of control problems, Cueto, a pitcher that down the stretch was so fragile and horrid that the Royals wouldn’t pitch him on the road, and a classic journeyman in Chris Young were able to shut down the Mets offense with such success. Did the Mets seem, or were they, psyched out over the grandness of it all?

Greg – I am tempted to say it was simply their year more than it was our year. Given that we led in every World Series game, that might be too handy an explanation, but if they didn’t seem unbeatable, they just seemed a little more — to use a Keithism — on point. They made enough plays that needed to be made and the Mets didn’t. I had a bit of a bad feeling about the long layoff between the NLCS clincher and the World Series opener, but I don’t want to put too much blame there, because I surely enjoyed the Mets sweeping the Cubs. I don’t think the Mets were psyched out. In the end, they just got beat.

It certainly sets up a way more fascinating season-opening series than anybody could have otherwise dreamed up for this year.

* * * * * * * *

You can purchase your hard cover copy of Amazin’ Again on Amazon for less than $15 bucks! I’ve already got mine and added it to my Mets book collection!

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Where Are They Now? Catching Up With Ron Swoboda http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-ron-swoboda.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-ron-swoboda.html/#comments Wed, 16 Mar 2016 16:46:24 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207463 ron swoboda  mets

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 allow fans to remember these forgotten players by seeking them out and talking to them in our quest to answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

Today I chatted with former Mets outfielder Ron Swoboda about his playing days, The Catch, what he’s doing now, and his take on the Mets today.

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

Ron: I played in one World Series, and that was 1969. I’m in the midst of writing my memoir right now and I’m currently plowing through the segment of the 1969 World Series and weaving through all the amazing things that happened to us as a baseball team along with the incredible cultural things that were happening back then. It was an amazing time.

Noah: So you played on the Mets throughout the ups and downs of the 1960′s and the early 1970′s. How did the atmosphere around the team change before or during that 1969 season?

Ron: Well when you see your pitching developing like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Nolan Ryan, Gary Gentry, and Tug McGraw -you know, good young arms- that look like people that can go out there and compete, you start feeling like the team is moving in the right direction. These things don’t happen overnight, and when you’re playing 162 games in a season, there’s such an incredible ebb and flow from week to week. we had never won anything, and then all of the sudden 1969 starts happening. We were still working out who we were as a baseball team, and that happened gradually. Then all of the sudden it came (together) in a big run during the last month of the season.

Noah: During your time with the Mets, you played alongside some legendary players and played under some legendary coaches. Can you pinpoint any one of them that shaped you as a player or as an individual?

Ron: I’m probably the wrong guy to be asking about who’s shaping you, I struggled a little with authority. (laughs) But when you play around people who knew how to conduct themselves, Guys like Gil Hodges, obviously. When you saw how he handled the ballgame as a manager, and you realized that you may disagree with what he’s doing, you might want to be out there playing and he’s got you on the bench but he had a pretty good idea of what he was doing. It doesn’t make it any easier to sit on the bench -which I did- but you knew that the pieces were in place (to win) and Gil knew that he had some buttons to push. I don’t know if a manager can make you something that you’re not, but when you play at the big league level, some coaches understand the game better than you do, and they’ll suggest some things along the way to make you a better player.

Noah: Near the end of the 1969 season, you played against Steve Carlton and the Cardinals. Carlton struck out 19 Mets but you hit two home runs to give the Mets the win. With the rest of the team struggling, how did you approach those at bats.

Ron: Well I was struggling too (laughs). Carlton had amazing stuff, and I never hit him very well in my career. I can’t explain how it happened except that it was one of those days where I actually wasn’t feeling very comfortable at the plate. St Louis was one of the few stadiums that had a batting cage behind the left field wall and I went out there and asked Ralph Kiner -who was one of the broadcasters for the Mets- if he could feed me some balls and look at me. “See if you can see anything (wrong), I’m lost.” So he fed me some balls and watched me swing, suggested a couple of things and before long, he said, “Boom! That looks pretty good!” He worked with me and somehow I got in a good frame of mind and faced Carlton that night. He was on his way to striking out 19 batters and I hit these two bombs off of him. (Laughs) I have to mention that he also struck me out twice and had two strikes on me each time I hit a home run.

Noah: During your time with the Mets, you weren’t really known for your fielding ability, even earning the nickname Rocky from New York media. However, you then made arguably the greatest catch in Mets postseason history in 1969. How did you work to become a better outfielder, despite being doubted by so many people?

Ron: Well I worked with Eddie Yost (the third base coach) and he hit me thousands of fungoes. Yeah I still made mistakes in the outfield because in the big leagues you play in these big tall stadiums where it’s hard to pick up the ball. I struggled with that in the minors, I was unsure of myself, nd the big leagues are the wrong place for self doubt. Still, I worked at it, and ultimately I got better. Was I as good as the catch I made in game four of the 1969 World series? Probably not. But I definitely was a better outfielder than a lot of people thought.

Ron-Swoboda-Catch

Noah: Speaking of that catch, take me through that play, what exactly was going through your mind when Brooks Robinson hit that ball?

Ron: I had worked hard on getting good jumps on the ball and Brooks hit a line drive to my right that I broke hard for. Probably about 97 percent of the way there, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to catch up with it. But once you commit to a dive, you have to go for it completely, and that’s what I did. I made the catch on the back hand and caught the ball in the web. When it hit the web of my glove, I knew I had it. At the time, all I was thinking about was baseball, just reacting to the play.

Noah: Do you remember anyone in particular who had a memorable reaction to the catch?

Ron: There was this sports guy in Baltimore who said, “the only way Swoboda could make a living with his glove is to cook it and eat it.” I thought that was pretty funny, but my mom didn’t (laughs). But when somebody who is not known for their glove like me makes a play like that, they’re going to get a little attention. Especially in a pivotal game of the World Series.

Noah: Just switching gears now, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball and where are you now?

Ron: I’m actually speaking to you from New Orleans, and I’ve been here since 1981. When I got off the diamond, I ended up making a connection with WCBS in New York where I did local television sports for 20 years. It was a really fortunate thing. I was always looking for ways to express myself and my opinions, and people in New York knew me. So in many ways, it was a perfect match. When that was over, I started doing some color broadcasting for the triple A team in New Orleans, the Zephyrs, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I really love it, it’s not work. It’s given me a chance to stay close to the game and even learn a thing or two more about it.

everybody loves raymond

Noah: You’ve been in and around TV a lot, but you didn’t mention that you appeared in an episode of the sitcom **Everybody Loves Raymond** with some of your 1969 teammates. What was that experience like?

Ron: They were wonderful. That was a long time ago but it’s still very fresh in my mind. Ray Romano and that whole cast were so generous with us. Obviously, they wanted us to be as natural as we could. I think we did a pretty good job. We were lucky, it was a hit show and it played everywhere and we still get residuals for it (laughs). It’s crazy, but it’s still significant for me because I got to see the inside of a sitcom and I got to meet a bunch of really fabulous people.

Noah: Interesting take. So what do you think of the Mets today, and how far do you see them going this season?

Ron: The Mets are relevant, and the sky’s the limit for them. That team with the addition of Yoenis Cespedes last year along with that returning young pitching is going to be a much better team out of the gate. This offseason, they got a great deal for Cespedes and I think that Neil Walker can replace Daniel Murphy at second base. Overall, I really like what the team has done. Also, that experience of making it all the way to the World Series and getting beat by a better team will make them understand that they still have some more things to work on. It’ll put some purpose in their spring training as well. I expect them to be relevant and I don’t see any reason why they can’t get back in the playoffs in 2016.

Noah: You mentioned that talented young pitching staff, now who on it would you least like to face?

Ron: There’s a whole bunch of them. Harvey is somebody who you don’t want to see, Wheeler’s going to be back at some point this year. Familia coming out of the bullpen, he’s got nasty stuff. The toughest thing for (the group) is going to be getting to the closer. With Thor and Matz, you have a starting rotation that is as good as anybody’s in the game.

Noah: And lastly, if you could give any message to Mets fans today, what would it be?

Ron: Try to expect good things from the team. I got up to (Citi Field) for a couple of series last year. Including when they got Cespedes and swept the Nationals. I saw how good this team really is. (Last year) the Nationals looked beatable, the Mets looked formidable and Mets fans came out of the woodwork. All of the sudden, Citi Field came alive. There’s always been a lot of Mets fans, all the team has to do is show them something to make them come out. I think the team put players on the field that fans could get excited about and I think that Mets fans have every reason to expect something on the same order as last year.

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Where Are They Now? Catching Up With Jon Matlack http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-jon-matlack.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-jon-matlack.html/#comments Thu, 10 Mar 2016 14:00:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207054 jon matlack

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 seeking them out and talking to them in our quest to answer our burning question, “Where are they now?”

Today I chatted with former Mets pitcher Jon Matlack about his fine career, what it was like pitching alongside Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, what he’s doing now, and his thoughts about the Mets’ young aces today.

Here’s the podcast, and as always, I appreciate your comments.

Noah: So you pitched for the Mets for seven years, made a World Series and several All-Star appearances. Looking back on it all, what was your finest moment while on the team?

Jon: Oh boy, I don’t know how you pick one, there were several that were qualified to be in that realm. I guess I would say game two of the championship series against Cincinnati would probably be a highlight.

Noah: Speaking of that game, you shutout the Big Red Machine on two hits. You were a young pitcher then who had been roughed up by them twice earlier in the season. Were you at all nervous going into that game?

Jon: Probably more like scared to death. I had charted Seaver’s game the day before where we were beaten 2-1 on two solo home runs, one by (Johnny) Bench, one by (Pete) Rose. Tommy struck out 14 or 15 guys and just did a phenomenal job. And I’m looking at that chart thinking “what in the world have I got to do to beat these guys?”

Noah: Who were you most scared to face?

Jon: Well the irony was the typical fastball hitters weren’t the guys that I was most afraid of. It was probably Dave Concepcion and Tony Perez that I was a little leery of because of their ability to hit the breaking ball, especially the breaking ball that wasn’t a really good one.

Noah: And how did you maintain your composure?

Jon: I don’t know. I was just trying to do the best I could do to help us win a ball game. You get locked in on what you’re trying to do, stay ahead of the hitters and throw a lot of strikes. Keep the first guy off base. You get so involved with the job at hand that you don’t necessarily think about pressure and what else is going on around you.

Noah: As I mentioned earlier, you played on the Mets for seven years. Played alongside some great guys. Played under some really legendary managers. Can you pinpoint any one of them that shaped you as a player or as an individual?

Jon: Well I think Gil)Hodges, not because I played for such a long time under him as much as the type of individual he was and the atmosphere that he created in the clubhouse and in the dugout. Because I really didn’t spend much time there, I made the club full time in the spring that he died. And then beyond that, Yogi was most influential for completely different reasons. He was the type of manager that just said “here’s the bats and balls boys, go do your thing and let’s win some ball games.”

Noah: What was the craziest thing he ever said to you?

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Jon: I don’t know if there was anything particularly crazy, but I do remember having a difficult time understanding him when he came to the mound. During games for mound visits, and I finally asked Seaver, “How do you handle him?” And he said it’s really easy. “Whenever he’s done talking, if he doesn’t put his hand out, you say okay and he’ll go back to the dugout. If he puts his hand out, you put the ball in it and you go back to the dugout.” That’s about as basic as it gets. (laughs) It was pretty easy.

Noah: In 1973, you struck out 205 batters, which was a Mets record for a left-hander that stood for 35 years. How did you go about attacking hitters and finishing them off?

Jon: I don’t know if there was anything different from one year to the next. Except when I had my contract negotiation the previous year, one of the things the club pointed out to me was that they felt I didn’t strike out enough guys. So it became an emphasis for me to try and do that more so whenever I was in a situation where the strikeout was possible, I tried to pay more attention to how to get it. (My approach to) each hitter would have been different, how they approached an at bat would have given me some information as to what weapon to use best against them.

Noah: So you had a successful career overall, a career ERA of 3.18, 318 quality starts, however, you were only one game over .500 for your career record. Do you regret not having more opportunities to win, considering how well you pitched?

Jon: Well I think that the opportunities were there, I just would have had to have been better. In those circumstances, it’s just the way that the chips fell. My job, as I looked at it, was to keep our club in the game for as long as I was in the ballgame. That to me was (whether we were) ahead, tied, possibly one or two down, and that was me doing my job. I felt that I did that for the largest percentage of the time. So the win loss thing wasn’t something that I was really centered on as much as I wanted us to have a chance to win every time I took the field.

Noah: Switching gears now, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball, and as the title of the series says, where are you now?

Jon: Well now I am in River Ranch, Florida in a fifth wheel trailer, staying out of the snow of upstate New York where I live.

Noah: I totally sympathize with that up here in Syracuse.

Jon: (Laughs) As far as what I’ve done, when I stopped playing, I was in commercial real estate and raising horses for four or five years. I decided I wanted to get back into coaching and in 1988 started back as a stationary coach for the Padres. After a couple years with them, I went to the White Sox for a couple years, all in the minor leagues. Then back to the Padres, in 1996 I was the Tigers’ major league pitching coach. I didn’t make it the whole year, that September I got fired, but they hired me to be the minor league pitching coordinator and I did that for 16 years. Again, the ax fell, I went to Houston and did the same job for one more year, and since then, I’ve been out. From 2012 on, I have been a retired character.

Noah: Now the 2016 Mets were very similar to the 1973 Mets, just in the way that they’re built around strong young pitching. So do you see any similarities between the Mets young aces today and your rotation mates of Seaver and Koosman in 1973?

Jon: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of talent similarities, but the way the game is played is different. When you look at the six potential starters they have -Wheeler wasn’t in there because of injury- but you got deGrom, Harvey, Matz, and Syndergaard. Wheeler’s going to be back this year as far as I know and Colon’s still in the mix as a spot starter, a double header guy, or however they choose to use him. That’s a pretty strong rotation. The thing that stood out to me watching the series was the fact that it seemed like the staff in general tried to outstuff the opposition as opposed to pitch to what they saw and exploit a weakness. I don’t think they did nearly as well as they could have had they maybe used some of the aggressiveness of the Kansas City hitters against them.

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Noah: So how are these guys today different from you, Seaver, and Koosman?

Jon: In our day, we were given information about the opposition and then told “go use it how you want to and keep us in the ballgame, give us a chance to win.” And that was pretty much what an advance scouting report was all about. In today’s game -and I can’t say that the Mets do this exactly, but a lot of clubs do- they’re pretty much given a chart or a plan to follow. “This is how you pitch this guy, do not throw this guy a first pitch fastball…” They’ve got it down to if it’s 2:15 on a Tuesday afternoon and the sun is shining, you throw a breaking ball to so and so, the odds are really good at getting a ground ball. The game has become more computerized -fantasy baseball on the field- if you will, and I think it takes a lot out of the personality and the player’s ability to trust their gut out of it.

Noah: It’s been well documented today that the Mets pitchers are very competitive with each other. Did you have that same dynamic with Seaver and Koosman?

Jon: Absolutely. We had contests of various types going on all year long. It usually had to do with somebody buying dinner for the other two. Ironically, it all sort of went around. Koosy would win once in a while, Tommy once in a while, and me once in a while.

Noah: And specifically, what were those competitions?

Jon: Some of them had to do with who would be the first guy to not give the team a chance to win or put us in a spot where we would lose. Which guy would have the best batting average for the month, who had more base hits or an extra base hit. Something like that, it was all competitive driven.

Noah: So is there any one Mets pitcher today that you see some of yourself in?

Jon: There’s been a lot of comparisons drawn between me and Steven Matz. Whether or not they really hold to be true, I can’t tell you. From looking at him, he seems to have similar stuff, but what makes the difference to me is how you use that stuff, your ability to deal with adversity, your ability to feel the right decision at the right time, and a fearless approach to whatever adversary you may be facing. And I can’t tell you without having a sit down or being closer to him, whether he possesses any of that stuff.

Noah: Now if you could give any message to Mets fans, what would it be?

Jon: Oh man… Thanks for a great time when I was there. Mets fans are known to be tough, but I think if you give them an honest effort and give them the time of day -which I tried to most of the time- they’ll treat you real fairly, and that’s the way I felt.

Noah: And lastly, you gave up Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit. Can you just take me through that at-bat? And at the time were you really aware of the gravity of the situation?

Jon: I had no knowledge whatsoever that it was his 3,000th hit. I was just a young rookie trying to win another ball game, and having a tough day. We were behind, I think I ended up losing the game five to nothing. I was making a pitch that I was upset about, it was a breaking ball and I was trying to get it to the outside corner. When it left my hand, I was pretty certain it was going to be a ball so I was upset from that point, that dammit, that was a ball that was supposed to be a strike. He managed to keep his hands back, which he generally did very well, took that great big stride he was known for, and reached out across the plate and laced it into left center field for a double. I’m like damn, that’s pretty good hitting. He managed to hit a ball that’s not even a strike. But now the place erupts, there were not a whole lot of people there, but it gets very loud and I’m thinking it’s a double what’s the deal? They were giving him the ball at second base and at that point I noticed the scoreboard flashing 3000. That’s the first inclination that I had that it was a momentous occasion for Clemente.

Noah: Thanks so much for your time Jon.  Really appreciate it.

Jon:  No problem.  Have a good one.

Noah:  That does it for us on Where Are They Now, I’m Noah Wolfe.  Check back in a few days to hear what a member of the Miracle Mets had to say about that amazin’ year and his life today.

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MMO Exclusive: Mets Top ’15 Draft Pick Desmond Lindsay http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-meet-mets-top-15-draft-pick-desmond-lindsay.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-meet-mets-top-15-draft-pick-desmond-lindsay.html/#comments Thu, 03 Mar 2016 14:02:55 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207171 desmond lindsay

The Mets selected Desmond Lindsay with their first draft choice (2nd round) of the 2015 draft from the Out-of-Door Academy in Sarasota Florida. The 19-year old right-handed hitter played first and third base in High School but the Mets had every intention of putting him in the outfield when they drafted him.

Desmond ranked as high as #71 (Keith Law) on pre-draft prospect boards and was #102 according to Baseball America’s Top 500, just missing the Top 100. Mets director of scouting Tommy Tanous called him “an offensive machine” while former VP of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said “I think he has as much upside as any player we’ve taken in the second round since we’ve been here”.

Now a center fielder, Lindsay, made his pro debut with the GCL Mets in the Gulf Coast League hitting .300/.400/.464 in 21 games before getting a well deserved promotion to the Brooklyn Cyclones. He struggled for the first time in pro ball with just a .574 OPS in 53 plate appearances in the New York-Penn League but was just 18 during the season and was over three years younger than the league average age.

Lindsay was kind enough to answer some questions for our readers. Please enjoy…

MMN – When did the Mets start showing serious interest in you and what was it like to be drafted in the by them?

Desmond – They started showing serious interest in me during the start of my final High School season. They were one of the teams who were around the most often. It was just a blessing to be able to get such a opportunity to go play baseball at the next level. I was very excited.

MMN – Did you have any thoughts of not signing with the Mets, instead honoring your commitment to North Carolina?

Desmond – I had pretty much agreed with the Mets that if they drafted me in the round they did, I would sign with them.

MMN – What was the transition like going from an infielder to an outfielder?

Desmond – It was very tough because I was competing against kids who mostly had been playing the same position for their entire baseball careers.

MMN – Who worked with you in the Met organization to make you better defensively?

Desmond – Benny Distefano, who is the outfield coordinator, worked with me the most and really helped speed up my learning process last season.

MMN – What was the biggest challenge for you in your first taste of pro ball?

Desmond – I would have to say learning to play the outfield, just because I was at such a disadvantage experience wise from everyone else.

MMN – What have you been doing this offseason to prepare yourself for the 2016 season?

Desmond – I’ve been pretty much working out every day following the strength program they gave us for the offseason. I was also in Port St. Lucie for a month training with Mike Barwis at the spring training facilities.

MMN – What was a typical day like at the Barwis camp?

Desmond – We would workout from 1 p.m. to about 3:30 p.m. every day during the week. Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays were lifting days. Tuesday and Thursdays were speed and agility where we would work on out running form and flexibility.

MMN – What would you say your strengths and weaknesses are as a player right now?

Desmond – I would say my biggest strength is definitely my offense and being able to hit the ball the other way. My weakness has to still be my outfield defense right now. (Laughs)

MMN – How would you describe your approach at the plate? Do the Mets staff talk about a certain organizational philosophy?

Desmond – The biggest thing they tell us is to not try to do to much. They really work on making us identify early and knowing exactly what to do with them. We always work on driving the ball to the opposite field and knowing our strike zone.

MMN – Your grandmother is a Mets fan, did you get a chance to follow the Mets playoff run with her?

Desmond – She loves the Mets and I grew up watching the Mets games at her house all the time. We talked almost everyday during their playoff run and were both very excited to see them in such a big stage.

MMN – What are your expectations and goals for yourself in the 2016 season?

Desmond – My biggest goal for next season is to keep progressing in a positive direction regarding my outfield play. Also, I would really like to be in Columbia with the Fireflies by the end of the season.

MMN – Thanks for answering some questions and good luck this season!

During the offseason, Desmond has also been involved in helping raise money for the Taylor Emmons Scholarship Fund which he was the first ever recipient of.

Definitely think there is a a good chance that Desmond finishes the year with the Columbia Fireflies and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him start the season with the Mets new Low-A affiliate. We are currently in the middle of unleashing our Top 80 Prospects and you can be assured Desmond will be in the Top 10.

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MMO Exclusive: Catching Up With Cliff Floyd http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-cliff-floyd.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/03/mmo-exclusive-where-are-they-now-catching-up-with-cliff-floyd.html/#comments Wed, 02 Mar 2016 17:23:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=207052 cliff floyd mets

Where Are They Now? Cliff Floyd

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 Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd to hear his take on the 2006 playoffs, what he’s doing now, and his thoughts on the current Mets team.

I am also kicking off a podcast to accompany the transcribed interview that you can listen to here, let me know what you think!

Noah: So you played on the Mets for the greater part of four seasons, what was your proudest moment while on the team?

Cliff: Well it goes back to ’06 and the postseason and you know we had, in my mind, the team that was destined to win the World Series and unfortunately it didn’t happen. But that was one of my proudest moments; being able to see the fans go crazy. You know, to see Shea Stadium swaying back and forth. You couldn’t go through a day without thinking about it. I was so stuck on getting that team to the World Series and winning it for those fans in Queens. And it didn’t happen, that actually still haunts me to this day.

Noah: The Mets were really mediocre before that 2006 season. What aside from the acquisitions of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado really took that team to the next level?

Cliff: For me, it was more that we understood what accountability was. I think that when you look at the team we had, it was a bunch of veterans that just played the way we were supposed to play (the game). When you have that, I don’t care who the manageer is, you just flow together, and we had a good bunch. We really did. Everybody knew exactly what their roles were, and it helped so much mentally, just to be able to come to the park knowing that “even if I might not get it done today, we are going to get the win regardless.” Every once in a while we took the loss, and we also knew how to bounce back from those as well.

Noah: So was there any one player that shaped you as a player or as an individual during your time with the team?

Cliff: Man, I had so many different ones, Jerry Manuel was there, Rick Downs… But I could relate to Jerry because he was with me back in my Montreal days. He had managerial experience, coaching experience; he knew how to “keep the mind right” while allowing you to go through those trials and tribulations of a season. Especially in New York City too, playing on that stage while trying to figure out how to be successful and also deal with the fans and deal with the media, things like that. But on the field, he was always watching everything, critiquing my swing and things like that in addition to helping me just stay mentally focused. So I would say probably Jerry Manuel.

Noah: Just going back to the 2006 NLCS, Endy Chavez played left field for you when you were injured. And he really wrote his name into Mets lore with that tremendous catch to rob Scott Rolen of a home run. Now tell me honestly Cliff, if you were playing, do you make that catch?

Cliff: (Laughs) Nah man, I’m not making that one! You know, I was dealing with that Achilles injury, and in my mind, I woke up that morning around 6:00 and went to the doctor and got a shot in my calf muscle. I thought that it was gonna work itself down to the point where I could play. That’s what made me feel like we were going to the World Series. Because Endy Chavez made that catch, I knew I couldn’t have made that catch, that’s a home run for anybody in most situations. Your left fielder’s not catching that ball because most times your most versatile player’s usually in center. And in addition, with me being hurt, I definitely wasn’t gonna make that catch. Endy Chavez- athletic as he is -, was there in the right place at the right time.

Noah: You mentioned that you were injured during the series, but you were still called upon to pinch hit in the ninth inning of that game against Adam Wainwright who was really dealing. Looking back on it – I know you struck out in your at-bat against him – How would you have approached that at-bat differently?

Cliff: I think I would’ve just cut down a little bit on my swing. Knowing that I felt good, and I could hear the fans- and I never really heard them- when you focus and you’re in the moment, you never really hear them, but on deck I could hear the fans going “take us to the promised land, c’mon Cliffy, you can do this.” Everybody stood up when I walked to the dish to take that at bat. I probably wouldn’t have swung as hard as I was swinging. He threw me two fastballs, literally right down the middle. When you miss your pitches in this game, you’re succeptible to getting thrown the out pitch, and for Wainwright, the out pitch was that curveball. The rest was history.

cliff floyd mlb

Noah: Yeah, Mets fans definitely know that. So, moving to the next part of the interview, what have you done since moving on from professional baseball, and as the title of this series says, Where are you now?

Cliff: Where am I now?  I guess I’m all over the place.  I’m fortunate enough to be able to stay in the game.  MLB Network has been tremendous, allowing me to give my expertise and knowledge on what I’ve learned playing this game, give our viewers an opportunity to get a different perspective on the game.  It’s been great, the fans have been great.  Also being able to do MLB radio on Sirius XM has been awesome.  I do a show from 2:00 to 5:00 with Casey Stern, three days a week.  It’s great, it keeps me going, keeps me in the moment as well, it keeps me updated on all these new players.  Once you leave the game, the players that you played with- a few of them are still left- but most times, the game does evolve, it comes full circle, and you get new players.  So, I’ve had to adjust to that, but I’ve invented a ball cap liner to go underneath the hats of young baseball players to protect them and keep safety first.  We just launched that last month.

So, I’m doing a lot of this and a lot of that, family is first and foremost important. I’ve got my son who’s playing baseball now, my two daughters and my wife. We’re down here in south Florida. I’m really busy, but really thankful that I had the opportunity to live that first part of my life (as a player) and now have a chance to still stay in the game and stay relevent. When people say “hey aren’t you on TV?”, I’m like “yeah.” So people do know that I’m still doing my thing.

Noah: Is that recognition something that made you choose to become an analyst after your playing career?

Cliff: That’s a great question. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve really thought about that at a particular time. If it falls in your lap, it just happens that way. You don’t really think that you can just go on TV, have this earpiece in your ear and have your producer talking to you, and you have the chance to speak your mind. My mind never worked like that. I was just keen on getting that fastball and doing something with it, that’s what I did for 18 years. So you don’t think that the opportunity is ever going to present itself, and when it does, you have to jump all over it or you’re gonna miss the boat. So you jump in, you don’t know if you’re any good. You ask questions, but you have to be careful when you ask people things like “Have you watched me? Am I good?” Because of course they’re gonna say “yeah keep doing your thing” Nobody will say you sound like crap, so you have to be careful, and you have to do your homework and do all the other things you need to do to be successful.

Noah: So you’re still around the game a lot, do you ever miss playing?

Cliff: Oh yeah. I miss playing 100 percent. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I missed my check more than I miss playing, but I think they go hand in hand. And those days of being around your boys in the locker room, getting to the stadium at 2:00 and getting some work in, that’s what I miss more. The laughing and the camraderie of being in the locker room, being on the team plane, and doing all the things you want to do, those are the things that I’ll always miss; and I can never get that back. For the most part, being able to go to the (MLB) network gives me that chance to be around my boys. When I got there, I swear, it was like being back in the dugout or the clubhouse, that’s how much fun we have.

Noah: As an analyst, you know I have to ask you this question. What do you see in this current Mets team, and how far do you see them going this year?

Cliff: Well I think that Sandy Alderson did a great job this offseason, I think when you look at what they had to upgrade – I don’t think it was much – bringing back Cespedes was huge, we saw enough last year in the second half of the season that made this a mandatory type of signing, the offense was absolutely horrific in the first half.

Getting some guys healthy, like Travis d’Arnaud – who’s coming to camp healthy this year – and David Wright. Sandy’s plan on how to play him makes a lot of sense, limiting him to about 130 games or whatever it may be depending on how strong he comes out of camp.

And then adding a lefty down in the bullpen for (Jeurys) Familia in Antonio Bastardo, he had a great year last year. They needed a lefty to come in and get some tough outs. All around, I think they did a great job. I hope Sandy recovers and gets back to 100 percent health wise, he did what he needed to do to make sure this team is ready to win the NL East.

Then fixing up the middle defense, you have guys like Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera who solidify the defense and allow the pitchers to relax and let guys put the ball in play. That’s a key for this young staff. Allowing them to grow, but also knowing that you can put them in situations where they can throw the ball over the plate and have guys make the play behind them.

Noah: You mentioned David Wright earlier, who you played with when he was a rookie. Now, he’s really the leader of this Mets team. How has he matured as a leader both on and off the field?

Cliff: I think from a leadership standpoint, everything that comes out of his mouth, he thinks about it, he knows exactly how to make sure he keeps the organization first and foremost. When you look at the team, he makes sure everything goes (smoothly). He has the right manager in Terry Collins to allow him to feel comfortable to say whatever he wants to say. It’s tough on him media-wise in New York City.

The numbers haven’t been there, but I think he’s handled it very well. I think when you look at how tough he is, that in itself is maturity part for me because as I mentioned earlier to you, accountability goes so far in this game and he’s been accountable for everything he’s done on the field and when you do that, you let your actions on the field do the talking for you as opposed to talking so much about what you want to do and just go out and play. He’s done a good job of that.

cliff floyd expos

Noah: The next top Mets prospect Michael Conforto is currently making the jump from being a successful minor leaguer to a successful big league player. You were really in the same position, you came up as a top prospect, how did you make that transition, and what advice would you offer to Michael today?

Cliff: Yeah you make that jump because you do what you need to do on the field. And your successful when you believe in your abilities. I think that’s the key for anybody. At the big league level, when you’re successful, and you believe in your talent, it just oozes out. I think Michael understands that right now, I think he sees the light. I think he knows the bright lights and the big city, he has to bottle that up and take it with him everywhere he goes. And know that no matter what happens, the opportunity he has here is his to keep.

All the fans want him, nobody wants to see him go back to Triple A. I think that as we watch him grow now, my advice to him is always find time for yourself, and when you get to the park, there are going to be times where people are going to pull you here and there, but stay in your lane. Don’t try to do too much, and if you think you’re not gonna do well, then take that number 30 off, because that’s a good number to have. (Just joking)

Noah: Definitely, yeah.

Cliff: He understands what to think. I was able to talk to him last year a bit; he understands that responsibility lies in his ability to do his job. Like anybody else, and I’ve always said this, if you don’t do it, somebody else will. The game won’t wait for you. He’s not the first (top prospect) and he won’t be the last. That’s just how cutthroat this game is, it’s business. So with the talent that he has, he has to just go out there and play and let (his talent) do the work for him.

Noah: So if you could give Mets fans any message today, what would it be?

Cliff: Buy season tickets for five years and see what happens after that. (Laughs) These guys that they have on the mound are going to make or break this team. And I don’t know what’s going to happen when it’s free agent time, and we’ve heard rumblings of the Mets signing them. I just think that now is when you reap the benefits of having that type of team. Just enjoy every minute. You know a winning opportunity in any sport is very small. When you have the pitching staff that the Mets have right now, you enjoy every minute of it because when it’s gone and you’re rebuilding, then you go through that time of where you’re complaining and you dislike all the other teams out there. But when you have this type of (winning) team, and these types of pitchers, you get season tickets and you show your love for the team.

Noah: So now my last question is about Tom Glavine. Before coming to the Mets, you absolutely raked against him, batting .400 in 39 at-bats. He then joined you on the team in 2003. So I guess the saying is “if you can’t beat them, join them”, was this just Glavine giving up?

Cliff: (Laughs) I don’t know man. Still to this day, when I tell people I used to rake him, you don’t know who you’re going to hit and see well. I can’t tell you one thing I picked up off of him that made me so successful, I really can’t tell you. You just don’t know. He put balls where my bat could get to them, and whatever he threw, I hit. He threw a lot of strikes, my mindset was go out there and swing at everything he threw, and we’ll see what happens after that. I took that approach every once in a while, I should have took it more in my career. I didn’t because I didn’t really think that pitchers were reliable enough to do that. But it allowed me to go to bat and have a different mindset against guys who threw strikes, and Glavine was one of them. I had a ton of success, and I don’t take for granted one minute of my at bats against him because because you could go out there and go 0 for 4 against him too. I appreciated and enjoyed it, but listening to him talk on the bench, you could see why he was so successful. He believed that his 85 mile per hour fastball was just as good as anyone’s 97 or 98.

Noah: Thanks so much for your time Cliff, I really appreciate it.

* * * * * * * * * * *

That does it for us here today, check back in a few days to hear what a star pitcher from the 1973 team had to say about his time with the Mets.

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MMO Exclusive: Meet Shortstop Prospect Luis Guillorme http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/mmo-exclusive-meet-shortstop-prospect-luis-guillorme.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/mmo-exclusive-meet-shortstop-prospect-luis-guillorme.html/#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2016 17:00:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=206700 (Photo by MiLB.com)

(Photo by MiLB.com)

Earlier this offseason I was able to talk to New York Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme who has a fantastic season for the Savannah Sand Gnats in their final year of being affiliated with the Mets. In 122 games this year he hit .318/.354/.391 while scoring 67 runs, knocking in 55 and stealing 18 bases. He was very good in the clutch this year slashing .353/.416/.383 in 62 plate appearances with runners in scoring position.

Before this season Luis was known specifically for his defensive prowess as he was called the human highlight reel by some scouts. Our crew at MetsMinors.net recently ranked Luis as our #3 Mets shortstop prospect at what has become a very deep position in the minors.

Next month, Guillorme will be playing for Team Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifier from March 17-20.

Mike: First off want to congratulate you on being named the South Atlantic League Most Valuable Player. How surprised were you when you found out you won? How did you find out?

LuisI was excited but I was really surprised,mostly because I knew there was at least three other guys in that locker that deserved it too. We were all in the locker room and Leger told us who made the post season all star and then told me I won the MVP in front of the whole team so that was pretty cool.

Mike: You also received another great honor by winning the Sterling Award, was that the first time you have been to Citi Field? What was the experience like for you?

LuisThat was my first time there and it was an amazing experience. Just walking around the stadium and then being in it, taking bp  and then hanging out with the big guys was awesome.

Mike: Who from the Big league team did you get to talk to?

Luis: I’ve always gotten along with Ruben TejadaWilmer FloresDilson Herrera and Juan Lagares and this time I got to talk to Bartolo Colon, who is a great guy. Also, I’ve been helping out with the pre-draft work outs in St. Lucie for the past 3 years and Daniel Murphy is always there too so we always end up talking a little.

Mike: What did you do (if anything) differently at the plate this year to have a great season with the bat?

Luis: One of the things that helped me was having a more consistent swing. Besides that I was just thinking how that pitcher or that team was trying to work me or how I approached my at bats last time I played them.

Mike: Do you think that over time you will develop more power? Is that something you even worry about?

Luis: I don’t worry about that too much because I know that that isn’t my game. All I have to do is find the gaps and find a way to get in scoring position whether is hitting a double or having to steal a base.

Mike: What do you think you need to improve on to take the next step towards becoming a Major Leaguer?

Luis: I think just becoming even more consistent with my whole game. I think the big difference between a big leaguer and a minor leaguer is consistency.

Mike: You are known for your sparkling defense and some prospect gurus think you won’t hit enough to make the Big Leagues. Do you pay attention to that type of stuff or just block out?

Luis: I always heard comments like that even since I was in high school and I always use them as motivation, I like proving people wrong.

Mike: What was the experience like to be a part of that historic winning streak, the last games at Grayson Stadium and getting playoff experience?

Luis: The streak was really fun and made so much easier to just go out there and play. That last game there didn’t end the way we wanted too but playing there the whole season was an amazing experience,the fans there were great people. I’ve been on winning teams my whole life so I don’t treat playoff any different than a regular season game but I still get that rush that helps perform better.

Mike: Can you tell me a few of your teammates that really stood out and impressed you this year?

Luis: To be honest with you the whole team impressed me. Everybody did something special to help the team this year and if I got into detail of everybody I would never finish.

Mike: That is great to hear, tell me a little bit about your manager Jose Leger? What did you learn from him?

Luis: I played for Leger these past 2 years and out of everything he’s taught me one of the things that hit me the most was to never show emotions. You can’t show the other team,your team or the umpires that there is something wrong or that you’re mad because that’s gonna end up hurting you.

Mike: How did you learn to become such a great defensive shortstop?

Luis: That’s the one thing I always work on even though it was natural for me and when I signed our fielding coordinator Kevin Morgan helped make it even better by helping me slow it down and making everything consistent.

Mike: When you were growing up did you have a favorite team or player?

Luis: The Cleveland Indians and that was because my favorite player was Omar Vizquel.

Mike: Thanks for answering all my questions. Good Luck next year and hope to see playing in New York someday!

Be sure to check out MetsMinors.net, your #1 source for Mets prospect news!

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Special Feature: Keith Law Talks Mets Baseball With MMO http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/special-feature-keith-law-talks-mets-baseball-with-mmo.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/special-feature-keith-law-talks-mets-baseball-with-mmo.html/#comments Tue, 23 Feb 2016 14:00:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=206532 keith law

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of spending 40 minutes on the phone with ESPN Senior Baseball Writer Keith Law. Keith is a lead baseball analyst for ESPN.com and senior analyst for Scouts.Inc. He formerly worked in the front office of the Toronto Blue Jays. I interviewed Keith before last season and he graciously agreed to do it again with the 2016 season approaching. Check out what Keith had to say about the state of the Mets minor league system, their young core players, pitching, infielders, positional logjams, top prospects, and so much more. Then hop down to the comments and share your thoughts! Here we go:

Tommy Rothman, MetsMerized Online: Hi Keith, thanks a ton for agreeing to do this again this year. So I guess I’ll start with the farm system rankings. You just put out your MLB rankings, your top 100 rankings, and your team-by-team rankings. The Mets fell from number 4 last year to middle-of-the-pack this year. Obviously some of that is because they graduated guys like Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto who are no longer “prospects,” but they also traded away some prospects to get the guys they added during the season. So how would you size up the state of the Mets’ farm system, not only in terms of the prospects who qualify for your rankings, but the young core in general?

Keith Law, ESPN: Well the young core’s a lot better, obviously, if you’re looking at most of the rotation. And if you’re looking at most of the rotation, it depends where you draw the line between who’s young and who’s not, you could argue that Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are still a part of that young core. I’ve always been a big Michael Conforto fan, I obviously ranked Noah Syndergaard very high the last couple of years. The only part of that young core I’ve never been particularly high on is Steven Matz, because the injury history is so bad.

But I think their young core is one of the strongest in the game, which will [enable] them to continue to contend even though they’re not gonna spend that much money— the ownership group has made it clear that they’re not gonna spend the way a New York club should spend. So it’s critical to continue to compete through the farm system. And they have plenty of pitching for right now— they have no pitching depth. But they have plenty of pitching for the present, and you do have a lot of position players coming, as some of their guys… say, David Wright‘s tenure comes to an end, or Lucas Duda they decide to let walk, which I’m sure they will, and replace with Dominic Smith. You’ve got replacements for most positions on the diamond. So I think they’re in really great shape, I wish they’d spend more money obviously, but if they’re not gonna do that, they’re still in a great position even after the trades.

Tommy: Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised to see that when Yoenis Cespedes fell back into their range financially, they realized it was the move they had to make and pulled the trigger. But they certainly won’t be competing for those longer-term deals. So with that in mind, you mentioned the pitching depth— they do have the pitchers now, but after they traded guys like Michael Fulmer and Casey Meisner for Cespedes, Tyler Clippard, and other pieces, in the event of injury, they don’t have as many young arms in the pipeline. So obviously young pitching is the Mets’ strength, but is it also something they need to shore up in terms of depth?

 Keith: I mean, if they have the opportunity to add prospects somewhere, sure, adding more pitching would be great. I don’t know if they’ll target pitching in the draft because they’ve never drafted that way, it’s always been “best player available” since Tommy Tanous took over as Scouting Director. I want them to continue to do that. But the strength of the draft this year is probably college pitching anyway, so if the right one happens to fall into their lap, great, they certainly need it. But they’re not really in a position where they’re going to be able to add pitching prospects.

It might make sense for them to target somebody who might be a good sixth starter for them this season, who could spend part of the year in Las Vegas, but who you figure is probably going to make 12 to 14 starts this year for the big league club because you always need that. I don’t know who that’s gonna be, it might have been Fulmer if they hadn’t traded him for Cespedes, but there was nobody backing him up, even if he were still there, you could probably still ask the question, ‘What if Fulmer gets hurt again, who’s behind him?’ And the answer would be, probably nobody.

Tommy: Vice President of Player Development and Scouting Paul DePodesta left a couple months ago for the NFL. What impact do you think that will have on the Mets organization and how they do things?

Keith: Well, I think that’s a big loss, because I think Paul was kind of a philosophical thought leader too, helping drive direction in the draft and player development, and not just losing his intelligence, but losing his voice in the room, could have a lot of impact. Because I think you really had a split camp there last year where folks in the front office didn’t want to trade from the prospect depth to make a short-term run because they were looking at a long-term run of contention with this young core— and they still are. So don’t trade from it unless you’re getting longer-term assets in return. Instead they traded who I thought was their two best pitching prospects at the time in Fulmer and Casey Meisner for rentals. Without DePodesta there, is there going to be a strong voice in favor of continuing to build from within as opposed to making those short-term trades, as opposed to signing a Michael Cuddyer? I don’t know the answer to that. I will say I retain very high confidence in the amateur scouting department because they’ve had such good results and produced prospect value and produced big leaguers over the past couple of drafts since Tanous took over, and I think they’ll be able to continue to do so.

steven matz spring

Tommy: So like you said, you’ve never been high on Matz. Last year he didn’t make your top prospects list. Now you have him up there. Obviously it’s big that he could stay relatively healthy and it obviously helps his ranking that he pitched in the Majors, he pitched in the World Series… how do you analyze Matz, as an individual prospect but also among the Mets group? My personal opinion is that, well, I’m lowest on him of the four, or the five. What are your thoughts on him?

Keith: I would agree. I think he’s clearly behind the other guys. For stuff, it’s an above-average to plus fastball, a plus-or-better changeup, he will show you at least a solidly above-average breaking ball, it’s control more than command, and the delivery is still a little bit mechanical although it’s a million miles better than where it was in high school. But he has still yet to reach 150 innings in any regular season in his career, and he was drafted in 2009. And even last year, which was by his standards a full season, he was out twice with injuries that took him off the field for a period of time. And part of why he wasn’t on the list last year, and when I said it was kind of a fourth-starter type ceiling, and part of why he’s lower this year than Mets fans would have wanted him, is because I have no reason to believe he’s going to be a 180 or 200 inning starter, and certainly not on a regular basis. And a guy who pitches like a #2 starter, but only throws 140 innings a year, that’s not a #2 starter, that’s somebody who, by WAR, is going to produce more like a #3 or a #4.

If he hadn’t had— somebody asked where would I have him if he hadn’t had all the health problems, I said I wouldn’t have ranked him at all, because he would have been their #2 starter by now going into last season. It’s not that I don’t like him, but I have to be realistic about a guy who’s had this many injuries, some of which seem like they’re likely to recur, all of which I think adds up. Wheeler, Harvey, Syndergaard— who is like a machine— or Jacob deGrom, it’s funny, because three of those guys have had Tommy John Surgery, but we sort of shrug that off, whereas Matz it’s like almost anything he could break has broken at some point. And I feel bad for the kid, but we have to be kind of callous when looking at these guys’ futures.

Tommy: So if the Mets did need to make a move, or wanted to make a move, to get a major impact hitter or another asset— obviously Matz probably has the lowest trade value of the four, but he does still have value— is that the guy you think they would and should look to trade to make it happen?

Keith: I’ve never had that discussion with anybody in the front office, specifically in terms of trade value. I think my ranking of Matz has reflected their internal sense of Matz relative to the other pitchers, I think they’ve always had Syndergaard higher since he came into the system, obviously you know what they think of Harvey and deGrom, and I think they believe that Wheeler, as long as he’s back at 100% this year, is also going to be ahead of Matz. And I think Matz’s trade value is going to depend entirely on whether they find a trade partner undisturbed by his medicals. If somebody looks at him and says, ‘we’re comfortable with it,’ says that he’s gonna be healthy and he can throw 160 innings next year, then they’re going to get a really good return on him. It’s possible that there could be something we don’t know about, that would stop any potential trade. That’s the kind of thing we won’t find out— if ever— until there’s a trade out there that falls through because the other team saw something they really didn’t like. But there I’m just speculating…

Tommy:  Yeah, when I watched Matz in the playoffs, and I guess throughout the season, it seemed like he really was just a five-inning pitcher. He was fine, he was solid through five innings, but—

Keith: Yep. And that’s fine, if you’ve got the long guys in the bullpen. The Cubs have Adam Warren, and Travis Wood, and others, if you’ve got a couple of those guys, that’s fine. A five-inning starter as your nominal fifth starter is fine. I don’t know if the Mets are set up to have a five-inning guy as a fifth starter.

Tommy: So with deGrom, I would say he has the least— he doesn’t have Thor’s curveball, for instance. But he’s gotten it done two years in a row now. He’s shown that 2014 wasn’t a fluke. But sometimes you’re watching and you still don’t know how he does it, how they don’t manage to hit him. Do you think he’s a candidate for regression going forward? What are your thoughts on deGrom?

Keith: I’m all in. I don’t think he’s a candidate for regression. I think his fastball life is real, I think his aggressiveness is real, I’m a huge fan of anybody who’s that athletic on the mound, I think he adds value with his fielding, obviously he adds a little value with his hitting. But he can compete really well, he throws strikes, there’s some command, I think there might be even better command going forward, because he doesn’t have the same pitching experience as these other guys [deGrom used to be a shortstop], I’m a huge fan, and, no, I’m not worried about regression.

The only guy in the rotation— we’ve talked about Matz— of the other four, the only one I’d say I’m worried about, I don’t know what Wheeler’s going to look like, or be able to handle, in his first year back from Tommy John. But I was an enormous Zack Wheeler fan going all the way back to high school. If he’s still that guy, their rotation might be the best in baseball. With Matz as the five, Matz could be the best number five starter in baseball. I’m not worried about Thor, I’m really not worried about Harvey— Harvey gave us nothing to worry about last year— and I’m certainly not worried about deGrom. I think deGrom being better in the Majors than he was at any point in the minors is just a reflection of that he didn’t pitch a lot around Tommy John Surgery after signing, and I think the stuff picked up right around the time he got to the big leagues.

noah syndergaard

Tommy: Obviously with Harvey, his first full year, his second year overall in 2013, he had a monster season. Thor is going into that season now. What upside do you think he has, not going forward, but just for 2016 specifically?

Keith: Yeah, I think he could— look, I still think there’s growth here as a pitcher, I’ve talked in the past about how he’s a guy who seems to make gradual adjustments and come back to the curveball, which in high school was a 30 or a 35 (on the 20-80 scale), in the Blue Jays system was like a 40-45, around the time of the trade to the Mets it was average, or maybe a little less than average, but everybody liked where it was heading, and now, you’ve seen with Thor it was pretty consistently an above-average pitch for him [last season]. I know he was worth about 3 Wins Above Replacement in three-quarters of a season, I see no reason he can’t pitch at that level over a 200-inning season, because he’s a horse. He’s built like a horse, the delivery is easy, he repeats it, he does everything you want in a pitcher you’d ask to go out and throw 200 innings for you. And the command and control were better last year. That’s another guy— pitchers get to the Big Leagues with the Mets and they pitch better. And I don’t think that’s a fluke. We’ve seen this with a bunch of guys now. And I think that’s true of Thor too, where— could he be a 5 WAR pitcher over a full season? I think it’s within reach, as long as he’s healthy. And he’s always been healthy. He has the best track record of health of anybody in that rotation. Yeah, I think he could do it. (Note for reference: deGrom had a 4.7 WAR in 191 innings last season).

 Tommy: And then for the other main guy the Mets got in the R.A. Dickey trade, Travis d’Arnaud. Every year we think he can’t possibly have another freak injury, and then he gets hit by a ball a week in. When he’s on the field, I think the consensus amongst us fans is that his defense has been a bit disappointing, especially his throwing. But he’s still young. How would you evaluate him and his opportunity to grow this year and become more of a star all-around catcher?

Keith: I really wonder if his future is at catcher— and I said this last season too— because he can’t stay healthy. And he’s had at least one concussion, which last year I was concerned about just in a baseball sense, now I’m concerned, you know, in a human sense.

Tommy: Yeah.

Keith: So if you wanna remove him from that risk of injury, well if they were any other club, you could find a spot for him, first base, left field, but they’re full right now. I don’t know where you put him. Because they could put Kevin Plawecki behind the plate 140 games, and I think he’d be great in that role. He’s a better receiver, certainly, and I think he’s even more consistent in controlling the running game, but he doesn’t give you Travis’ potential for offense. I think Travis’ bat might play in left, and you might get him on the field more, it’s just not an opportunity that’s open to the Mets. So since he’s clearly going to be on the 25-man roster, my guess is he catches a bunch, gets hurt at some point, they’ll try to mix him in at other positions as they need to, if Duda needs a day off, or Conforto should go on the DL for whatever reason, they could just try d’Arnaud out there, maybe think long-term to see if there’s another opportunity. But I wonder if he’s a guy who ends up traded because they have guys at the other positions where he might play. He’s not gonna run Conforto off of left field, clearly. And if the defense is an ongoing concern— and I agree with you that it’s disappointing— maybe Plawecki ends up the long-term catcher instead.

michael Conforto

Tommy: So you mentioned Conforto, I don’t think many people saw him arriving by July, establishing himself as a starter, and helping during the World Series run. So I know you were definitely extremely high on him when we talked last year, but were you surprised by how quickly he developed and got up to the Majors?

Keith: The only thing I was surprised about was the power output in the Big Leagues— and it was only half a season, so I don’t want to read too much into it— but otherwise that’s kind of what I thought he would be. I thought he was the best college hitter in the draft in 2014, I thought it was a great pick when they took him 10th overall, I thought his approach was really advanced when he worked through the low minors, and I was critical of the Mets when they started him in the Florida State League because he was too advanced for that. I thought he had a lot in common with [young Cubs slugger] Kyle Schwarber, in terms of proximity to the big leagues. Where Schwarber has the higher upside because he’s a potential catcher, I thought Conforto was further along. I was probably a little more surprised by how good Schwarber was as quickly as he was, than I was by Conforto.

Tommy: I think a lot of people will be surprised, when they look at your prospect rankings, by how high you have Wuilmer Becerra, because a lot of people who know him just know him as the throw-in in that amazing Dickey trade. But how close do you think he is to having a chance to contribute, either to the Mets or to another team if they decide to move him?

Keith: He’s probably three years away, I mean maybe it’s a little faster now because he’s 20. I thought it was a real breakout year for him, where he always had the ability— Mets people were stoked when they got him in the trade— but you knew it was a long-term play for them. The approach there is good enough, so that he can get to the strength and to the power. And you and I talked last year about what a terrible park Savannah is for power. So maybe Becerra gets out this year, gets to the Florida State League and starts to hit for a little more power, maybe the next year he gets to Binghamton and then the power really blossoms, because he’s out of those deadly A-ball parks that I think haunt a lot of those Mets hitters, where they get there and they really can’t hit for any power. My only real concern on him— other than that he’s young and that there’s some volatility there— no one is really confident in his outfield defense, so I think you’re just hoping he ends up playable, at either one of the corner spots. And then if he hits for the power I think he’s gonna have, it’s not really gonna matter.

Tommy: So with people worrying about defense with prospects, the idea that the NL might get a DH at some point, would that change the way you value prospects, just because you won’t have to say ‘he can start but he’d need to be on an AL team,’ would that be a big shift for you and other people who look at talent from a young age and factor in the fielding?

Keith: I can only speak for myself here, but I think it really wouldn’t affect the rankings because I try to make all my rankings team-agnostic, so that if I’m evaluating a player for an NL team, who looks like he’s going to have to be a DH, like Josh Naylor with the Marlins, I evaluate him exactly the same. His role is limited. He’s maybe a DH, he may be a first baseman, we’ll see. But it’s a bad body, and it could potentially end up at DH. And that’s going to drastically reduce his value, because we know replacement level is higher, anybody can DH. So it’s not gonna change that. It may actually change his market value, because you’re doubling the number of teams that could have an opportunity to play a player like that. Like where the Cubs look at a prospect like Daniel Vogelbach and say, ‘The kid can hit, but we have zero use for him.’

Tommy: The Mets have a lot of outfield depth, so one guy who’s kind of being forgotten about as a prospect is Brandon Nimmo, obviously they picked him very high several years ago, despite him having not— I don’t think he even played high school baseball.

Keith: Right. They don’t have it in Wyoming.

Tommy: So where would you say he is in terms of his development at this stage?

Keith: I would describe his development as kind of stalling out, where he got to double-A, and did not take a step forward. And it looks like he’s not taking a step forward, he moved to Vegas at the end of the year, and still didn’t hit well, and still didn’t find any power. And nobody seems to think he can play center field. So now you’ve got a corner guy, with some on-base ability, but no power, and isn’t really hitting for a high- enough average that you feel super confident in the OBP, and I don’t think that’s a regular anymore. When he was 19 and drafted, I could see the pick, but it has to come with power. And I don’t know if the lack of power is a hand strength issue, or— he had a lot of problems with his knees when he was younger, maybe he’s not generating that power from his legs— but at some point I have to look away from the body and just look at the production. And even in a more favorable power environment, he’s still not hitting for power. And given his age, and how long he’s been in the system, and especially the fact that he went to Vegas and didn’t find power, I just sort of feel like, I don’t know, maybe it’s not gonna be there. And that would make him a fourth outfielder. And probably a fourth outfielder soon, but nothing more than that.

Tommy: And now for the middle infield, obviously it’s going to look a lot different this year with Wilmer Flores bouncing around, and then Asdrubal Cabrera at short, and then Neil Walker instead of Daniel Murphy at second. So the first question is, whether you think they upgraded, downgraded, whether there’s much of a shift going from Walker to Murphy on both sides of the ball?

Keith: I’ll say I like Walker more than Murphy. I think Murphy was pretty bad defensively and I think it really cost them, maybe even more than the defensive metrics might reflect, because of the way they might have had to compensate with guys at other positions. Because he never really could play second base. They were just trying to find a spot for his bat, and I respect that approach, but it didn’t work. Walker can play second base. He’s not great, but he’s turned himself into a perfectly serviceable defensive second baseman.

Cespedes Yoenis

Tommy: So speaking of defense— before I ask you about Cabrera— with Cespedes, he won a Gold Glove last year in the AL, in left field, obviously those aren’t much of a reliable stat, but he has the best arm in baseball and he has good speed. But people view him… statistically there are a lot of people who argue he’s a disaster in center field. Do you think there’s room for his physical tools to translate and for him to become a good center fielder now that he’s going to be playing there full time?

Keith: I don’t think so. Having seen Cespedes all the way back to his first Spring Training in Oakland, where they did run him around in center, no I don’t think so. I think he can really be excellent in a corner, but it’s too much of an ask to ask him to play average or better defense in center field. Maybe it’s something they can live with, because they want his power, because the middle of the order is a little short on power— it’s a much better OBP lineup, especially because of Conforto, but definitely light on the power. It’s a trade-off. And it may be that that trade-off is fine for them, but I do think they’re gonna miss— 2014 Lagares back in center would be an awfully nice thing to have.

Tommy: So what do you think goes into that, the idea that someone with great physical tools, and definitely the speed to have good range, could be great in left, what makes him just so hopeless out in center? Is it route-running, how he reads fly balls, or…

Keith: I mean I don’t think he’s super fast, either. It’s not like he’s a 70 runner, and his first step is not that quick. Underway, he’s fast. And underway, I’d wanna get the hell out of his way. But speed in center, speed translating to defense in center is often about that first step quickness. I don’t think he has that. Maybe I haven’t seen him enough in center, other than in the playoffs, where he didn’t look good, if you really evaluate that. I don’t think that’s gonna be— or I don’t think that is— a strength of his.  Where in a corner it’s a little bit less of an issue, and you mentioned the Gold Glove, it’s probably because he can really throw, the guy’s a human highlight reel if you let him throw. And really, if you run on him, you’re stupid. Because it’s, not only is it strong, it’s reasonably accurate. It’s not an arm I would actively want to test.

Tommy: So you mentioned the lineup earlier, you’re right that there’s not a ton of 30-homer guys— you’ve got Cespedes, and maybe Duda. But one thing they have that they definitely haven’t had in a long time is that when you go up and down, everybody in that lineup should be able to hit 15 home runs, plus, including Cabrera. What’s Cabrera— what does he have, first in terms of power, and then— because he’s been so streaky, he was a star a few years ago, then he had a slump, but last year he had a great second half— what should Mets fans, first of all, expect, and also, be able to hope for?

Keith: I mean, the big problem with him is that he can’t play shortstop. He CANNOT play shortstop, and he hasn’t been able to play shortstop for several years now. So I don’t understand— I mean yes, this is the front office that decided Wilmer Flores could play shortstop, he really couldn’t play shortstop either— but then to go from Flores to Cabrera— is Cabrera really better than Flores, at anything? I mean Flores, I know the production wasn’t great, but the swing’s good, he puts the ball in play a lot, and I still think he’s going to come into some power, whereas Cabrera, outside of that one crazy first half power-wise he had with Cleveland a couple years ago, you kind of never got it. So I don’t understand— do they think they’re getting a better defensive shortstop than they really are? Do they think he’s going to turn into a 20 homer guy? Because I don’t believe that that’s the case.

I didn’t understand that signing at all. It’s part of why— somebody asked me about the Mets offseason— it’s great that they did spend some money, but what if they had taken the money they gave to Cespedes, and Cabrera, and Alejandro De Aza, and thrown it at one of the more premium free agents on the market. They could have done something better. Cabrera over Flores, I don’t even know if that’s an upgrade, and if it is, it’s a fairly small one.

Tommy: So prospect-wise in the middle infield, I know you’re extremely high on Amed Rosario and you have been for awhile, and then there’s Gavin Cecchini, who you put in your top 100. I know Cecchini’s probably closer in terms of an MLB timeline, but how would you analyze those guys offensively and defensively, and in terms of when you think they’re going to be able to contribute?

Keith: Cecchini’s glove is ready. His arm, he had a little bit of a throwing issue, last year. And he was better in Fall League, he was even better in August or so, I know they started to work on him with— particularly if a runner was going fast, he hesitated a fraction of a second, and suddenly looked up and realized the runner was getting down the line, then he’d rush a throw and often overthrow the first baseman. Just trying to work with him on that, it looked like he was better in Fall League. If that problem is resolved, his glove is ready. A half-season or more at Triple-A is not gonna hurt him because he’s really only been performing offensively the way we expected when he was rafted for about a year and two months, or so. So I’m fine with taking it slow with a guy like that.

Rosario, it’s still more tools than performance. This will be a big year for him. Obviously they jumped him a level last year, which was aggressive, and I think in the context of his aging and experience, he had a great year. But now, alright, now let’s go, let’s see the harder contact, let’s see the power, because we think it’s all there, but again he pays in a crappy offensive environment in St Lucie. Let’s see him go to double-A and start to produce a little more. He doesn’t have to be a superstar statistically, because given his youth, if he performs even a little bit, if some of that power starts to arrive, I think we’ll all feel a lot better about him getting to that star upside. But I think he’s a solid two years away from doing anything in the Majors, and he may be a guy who gets to the Big Leagues, and it’s defense first and the occasional home run, but it takes another year or two for the whole offensive [set] to come together. I’m just betting on the huge upside, because from tools, I don’t think there’s louder tools anywhere in the system.

jeurys familia

Tommy: So now I have a few questions about the bullpen. What are your thoughts on that situation at large?

Keith: On the Major League bullpen? I didn’t like the Clippard acquisition, in part because I didn’t think he was that huge of an upgrade over a Hansel Robles, I think they paid for experience. Then they turned around and picked up Addison Reed for lesser prospects, and that made more sense, and Reed carried over so they get more than a couple months out of him. I think that they had enough power arms, still have enough power arm relievers, sticking around the system that they can certainly patch together a good enough, more than good enough bullpen for than this year, with Jeurys Familia being potentially a dominant, top five, top ten closer in the game for a couple years here. I certainly feel way better about their bullpen now than I would have going into last season. And I would really like to see them trust that, and not do what they did. Don’t go out and trade real prospects, like Meisner, for bullpen help, while that bullpen help is already in hand, somebody in the system, who maybe can convert. It’s not gonna be a guy like Robert Gsellman. They have power arms sticking around, who could potentially go into that role for them.

Tommy: So like you said, you’re not a big fan of big trades for relievers at the deadline. But because a lot of teams usually do make some veteran relievers available, do you think they still have some of the depth, possibly at the major league level, to—

Keith: Oh yeah. To go get one? Yeah. Absolutely. Well because you can swap a position player who doesn’t fit for you, to go get a reliever. Or— Nick Pivetta was the cost for Jonathan Papelbon. I do like Pivetta, but he is— I like Pivetta because I think he has a chance to be a fourth starter. But if you said to me, ‘Hey Keith, I want you to nitpick Pivetta to death right now,’ I could also do that for you. He’s not a perfect prospect. There are strengths and there are flaws. And the Mets have prospects like that, mostly on the position player side, but they have prospects like that who could return someone of value. Nimmo could be that guy, where they flip him in July, one-for-one deal for a reliever with an expiring contract, and because I don’t Nimmo’s ceiling is that high, I’m okay with that. You hope to get a good reliever, not a Tyler Clippard, but that concept is fine. My problem with the Clippard deal was they gave up a good prospect for a reliever who I just did not think was very good. And then he wasn’t good.

Tommy: So now, with a situation like Jenrry Mejia, you follow these guys, being in your position, you follow them from a very young age. And it kind of looked like he was gonna contribute, he had 30 saves a couple years ago, and then his career, and really his life, just fell apart so fast… what are your comments and thoughts on that situation?

Keith: It’s sad. And it’s sad that a guy like that would feel like he has to do that, to further his career. I don’t know what the path back is, for a guy like that, we really don’t have any precedent… If I were his agent, for one, you’re just trying to get the kid— do we have a problem here that needs to be addressed off the field? And the second thing is, you wanna work, you wanna pitch, let’s get you in one of those leagues overseas, whether it’s in Europe, or somewhere, or something. Let’s just have you go pitch somewhere, be healthy, be clean, for a year, two years, work his way back and then try to work with Major League Baseball to see if there’s a chance of reinstatement at some point. Because as much as the lifetime ban was intended to— I think it’s there to be a deterrent, rather than to actually kick someone out forever. My guess is they probably figured they’d never get to this point, now they are at this point. They have to at least create an appeals process for somebody like that to clean his act up and potentially get back into organized baseball here. And I hope he does. Because I, you know, his livelihood has been taken away from him. Through his own fault! But still, he’s not hurting anybody. You’d like to see him be able to, if he cleans up his act, to be able to get back into organized baseball.

Tommy: And finally, the Mets are obviously in a much different situation in terms of outlook than they were a year ago. And the way their division is set up, obviously the Braves and Phillies aren’t going to threaten them in any way, the Marlins, every year people think they might do something, but they usually don’t, and then there’s the Mets and the Nationals. So the Mets definitely aren’t a guarantee to repeat, but they definitely have one of the most enviable positions, in terms of winning their division, in Baseball. So what’s your outlook on the Mets this season, just what you’re expecting, what you think the upside and the floor is?

Keith: I think I’d probably pick them to win the division. I think they can at least match Washington for talent on the field. Washington might be more famous, obviously Washington has maybe the best player in the league playing right field. But I think the Mets have a little more depth, they probably have more players who are underrated on name value, and I trust their front office more. And I trust their manager substantially more. I do not wish to underestimate Dusty Baker‘s ability to make the wrong decision, to think Trea Turner isn’t ready and send him to the minors and let Danny Espinosa screw up at shortstop for two months before they make a change. We’ll know more on April 3rd or whenever Spring Training breaks, but for right now, I’d give the edge to the Mets in a couple for departments.

Tommy: Alright! That’s all the questions I have for you. Thanks again so much for doing this.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Again, a big thanks to Keith for his time and insight. Check out his recently released Prospect Rankings if you have ESPN insider.

As always, leave your reactions in the comments (Unless you’re Dusty Baker).

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MMO Exclusive: Interview With 1B Prospect Dash Winningham http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-1b-prospect-dash-winningham.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-1b-prospect-dash-winningham.html/#comments Sat, 13 Feb 2016 03:00:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=206136 dash winningham

Dash Winningham, who the Mets drafted out of high school during the 8th round of the 2014 draft, enters the season as one of the most promising power hitters in the Mets’ minor league system.

The 20-year old first baseman blasted 12 home runs in 290 plate appearances for the Kingsport Mets, tying for league lead in the Appalachian League. He also posted an impressive .266/.310/.479 triple slash line to go along with 51 RBI and 19 doubles.

Winningham says that he’s in great shape after training really hard during the offseason with Barwis Methods at the Mets Training Complex in Port St. Lucie, and he believes he’s poised for an even better year.

On Thursday, I talked with Winningham about his successes and what he needs to do to keep making progress in the minor leagues.

Q: When the Mets drafted you in the 8th round of the 2014 draft, how did you find out about the news?

AArea scout John Updike called to tell me that I was just drafted.  I was also following the draft on the computer at my draft party. I saw my name come up on the screen when the Mets made their pick.

I made my decision to sign with the Mets quickly. We had a pretty good relationship throughout my senior year, and they invited me to a private workout.  Daniel Murphy was also there.

Q: Did you talk to Murphy?

A: Yeah, it was pretty unique working with him. He definitely has an idea of the business, and he’s a very good contact hitter. It was great watching him hit like he did in the postseason.

Q: What was it like playing for the Kingsport Mets, who won the western division in the Appalachian league?

It was awesome. We had a great group of hard working players. It felt like home, and the fans treated me really well. It was a fun experience.

Q: Who were the players/coaches that stood out to you the most on the team?

A: Everyone all around did well. Pat Mazeika, an 8th round pick, Kevin Kaczmarski, Milton Ramos and Luis Carpio all stood out. It was a great group of players overall, but we just came up a little short in the playoffs.

Q: Your numbers were much improved in 2015. Can you talk about some of the adjustments you made from your first year?

I had a much better idea at the plate. I was more patient. It felt like a good year power wise. I was getting a little too aggressive at times, falling behind counts, but overall it was a good year.

Q:  Besides hitting for power, what are some of your other strengths?

My defense has gotten a lot better. I’m a lot more mobile now than I was last year. The Barwis Methods I did back in October improved my speed and agility.  I feel like this is really going to help me mid-to late in the season. Last year my hips were super tight during the end of the year, but I now feel like I’m 100 percent.

Q: What areas of the game do you need to keep improving on?

Making better adjustments at the plate and having a better approach. I feel like I’m going to improve a lot, and have a breakout year because I’m developing a better routine. I lost 16 pounds this offseason. I went from 235 down to 218, which I feel is a great playing weight for me.

Q: How closely did you follow the major league team last year?

A: I followed them throughout the playoffs and watched every game for sure. I followed them during the regular season too.

Q: Who was your favorite player/team growing up?

The St. Louis Cardinals were the team I grew up watching. They were always consistent and won a lot of games.

My favorite player was David Ortiz. I liked the way he was a big clutch hitter, who always came up big to help the Red Sox win. He’s a power guy like me, and drives in a lot of runs. He’s also a good leader, one of the captains, and a good teammate.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that most Met fans wouldn’t know.

There’s not any real meaning to my name. My parents just thought “Dash Winningham” sounded cool.

Q: If you could have dinner with any three historical figures, who would you choose?

I’d probably have to go with Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, and Mickey Mantle.

Q: What was the last movie you streamed?

Honestly, I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I think the last one I saw was “Straight Outta Compton”.

Q: Favorite ballpark food?

A: Philly Cheese Steak

Q: Every Met has an At-Bat song. What will yours be?

A: Sunset by Kid Ink.

Q: Thank you again for your time. Is there anything else that you want to add?

A: I’m excited for the season, and I’m looking forward to having a great year.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to help the Mets win a World Series in the future, and I hope they win one as soon as this season.

(Photo: Jessica Rudman)

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Featured Post: Jim Callis Talks Mets Prospects With MMO http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/featured-post-jim-callis-talks-mets-prospects-with-mmo.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2016/02/featured-post-jim-callis-talks-mets-prospects-with-mmo.html/#comments Sat, 06 Feb 2016 18:35:11 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=205244 mets batter silhouette hitter netting

Update: MLB Pipeline released their Top 100 Prospects last night with four Mets on the list: Gavin Cecchini #87, Amed Rosario #79, Dominic Smith #51, and Steven Matz at #15. Full write up to come. 

The following is an interview I conducted with the great Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline who you can follow on Twitter at @JimCallisMLB. Jim was kind enough to answer a number of questions about the Mets minor league system and many of our top prospects and sleepers. Please enjoy.

Mike – Would you say this years rookie class in MLB that included Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard was the best you have ever seen?

Jim – I would say that based on the talent of the rookies and how well so many of them performed in the big leagues. Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Miguel Sano, Kyle Schwarber and on and on and on.

MikeGavin Cecchini had a breakout season with the bat this year but struggled in the field, is he someone who surprised you this year? Can you see him as an everyday MLB shortstop?

Jim – The Mets have pushed him pretty aggressively, and it seemed like he finally caught his breath in 2015 and started to hit. I think he is an everyday shortstop, though the floor still jumps out at me more than the ceiling. Solid defender, should hit for some average with a little bit of power and a few walks.

Mike – The Mets graduated and traded away a bunch of prospect talent in 2015, where would you rank their current system as a whole?

Jim – Though the system did get thinned out with graduations and trades, there’s still some intriguing talent, particularly with position players like Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario and Cecchini. Technically, Matz still counts as a prospect until he gets another 15 big league innings. I haven’t stacked up all the farm systems against each other yet, but I’d expect that when I do the Mets will fall in the 11-20 range somewhere.

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Mike – The R.A. Dickey trades seems to be the gift that keeps on giving with Wuilmer Becerra. Is he close to being a Top 100 prospect?

Jim – He’s not close to being a Top 100 guy yet, but he does have that kind of upside, just needs to polish up his tools. He fits the right field profile nicely. That trade keeps looking better and better for the Mets. Syndergaard alone would have been a sweet return.

Mike – Who is one Mets prospect that we won’t see on any Top 10 lists but you really like?

Jim – The system has lost some of its depth, so I don’t know if I’d say I “really like” anyone outside the consensus Top 10. But I am intrigued by Milton Ramos, who has a chance to be a very good defender. We’ll see how he hits.

Mike – I got to watch Robert Gsellman numerous times this year and was impressed with this ability to stay away from barrel contact despite low strikeout numbers. What do you see his potential as?

Jim – No. 5 starter at best. I’m not a big fan of guys who lack a plus pitch and don’t miss bats. Gsellman deserves credit for succeeding in Double-A but I’m skeptical as to how his stuff will play in the big leagues.

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MikeDominic Smith had six home runs this year but led the Florida State League with 33 doubles. Do you think he can be a 15-20 home run guy in the big leagues?

Jim – Definitely. I saw him in the Arizona Fall League and thought he was one of the best hitters there. He has power, you can see it in batting practice, but he’s focusing on developing as a hitter. It’s an easy swing with an up-the-middle approach, and he’ll hit homers as he gets more comfortable and aggressive about turning on pitches.

Mike – Who has a better chance of becoming a MLB starter: Gabriel Ynoa, Seth Lugo, or Mickey Jannis?

Jim – I’ll say Lugo because he misses more bats. Don’t see any of them as big league starters though.

Mike – Is Amed Rosario finally the answer to all the Mets hopes at shortstop?

Jim – Yes. Good defender, plus runner, chance to do some damage offensively once he gets stronger. Cecchini is a safer bet and will get their first but Rosario should be the better player.

MikeLuis Guillorme had an MVP season in the South Atlantic League, any chance he hits enough to be an everyday player?

Jim – Sure. He had an impressive 2015, and while he won’t hit for much power, he makes contact and controls the strike zone. That said, I don’t see him pushing Rosario off shortstop in New York.

Mike – The Mets went heavy on lefty pitchers in the 2015 draft? Which one do you think has the brightest future?

Jim – I like Thomas Szapucki the best, based on reports I heard on him versus Max Wotell, though Wotell went higher and had a better brief pro debut.

Mike – Who has the best raw power in the Mets farm system?

Jim – They don’t have a guy who really jumps out. In terms of usable power, I bet it’s Dominic Smith in the long run.

Great to hear Jim reconfirm what many of us think about Rosario, that he will be the Mets future shortstop and hopefully there for a long-time. As you can tell the Mets have built themselves some serious depth at the shortstop position with talents like Rosario, Cecchini, Ramos, and Guillorme.

That is without mentioning middle infielder Luis Carpio who had a great 2015 season and is jumping up prospect lists. The Mets also spent big on the infield in the 2015 international free agent period getting two of the best shortstop prospects in Gregory Guerrero and Andres Gimenez.

The Mets farm system has certainly taken a hit from graduations and trades but I think the Mets had a very good draft last year while supplementing that with the two talents I mentioned above. They also have a slew of intriguing toolsy young players in the lower levels including Carpio, catcher Ali Sanchez, outfielder Ricardo Cespedes, and pitcher Ronald Guedez.

I want to thank Jim for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. For more on the minors be sure to check out MMO partner site MetsMinors.net.

MLB Pipeline recently released their Top 10 first base prospects with Smith coming in at number three. They also did their Top 10 left-handed pitchers and they had Matz at number three behind Julio Urias and Blake Snell.

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MMO Exclusive: Talkin’ Baseball With Mets Pitching Prospect Seth Lugo http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/mmo-exclusive-talkin-baseball-with-mets-pitching-prospect-seth-lugo.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/mmo-exclusive-talkin-baseball-with-mets-pitching-prospect-seth-lugo.html/#comments Sun, 22 Nov 2015 14:00:39 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=200657 SethLugo_Binghamton_7j2ycxo1_r39gro0z

Yesterday the Mets added four players to their 40-man roster to protect them from the December 10th Rule 5 draft and one of them was starting pitcher Seth Lugo. The right-hander started a career high 24 games this year combined between the Binghamton Mets and Las Vegas 51′s.

He went 8-7 with 3.84 ERA and 1.250 WHIP while leading all Mets minor league pitchers with 127 strikeouts in 136 innings. His 8.01 K/9 in AA was good for fifth in the Eastern League for starting pitchers with at least 100 innings and he got even better with a 10.0 K/9 in AAA (27 innings).

The Mets drafted Lugo in the 34th round of the 2011 draft from the Centenary College of Louisiana. He caught the eye of Mets associate scout Jimmy Nelson who suggested Lugo to Tommy Jackson who is the Mets amateur scout in the deep south area. Jackson was able to see Lugo who struggled during his senior year (3-7, 5.57 ERA) two weeks before the draft according to an interview done by Mets beat writer Mike Vorkunov.

He had a solid pro debut with the Kingsport Mets of the Appalachian League making 11 appearances (10 starts) pitching to a 3.66 ERA when the league run average was 5.21. That offseason his career took a turn for the worse when he found out after numerous MRI’s that he had spondylolisthesis which is the forward displacement of a vertebra.

Doctors told Seth that he might never pitch again he underwent a lumbar fusion and surgery that lasted nearly ten hours. The surgery took him out of the entire 2012 season as he stayed bedridden for three months.

Somehow he beat the long odds to return to the mound in 2013 making 12 starts between the Brooklyn Cyclones and Savannah Sand Gnats. In 2014, Lugo pitched a career high 105 innings in 27 games including four starts and picked up three saves.

This year when I saw Lugo pitch in person I was struck by hhis ability to get batters out without the necessity of a blazing fastball. All the contact against him was weak, the opposing hitters were unable to square up any of his pitches. I talked to two American League scouts the day after his start and they both said they liked Lugos’ pitchability. They also both said they had him labeled with 4/5 starter potential in the big leagues.

MMO – First off just want to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions and congrats on being added to the Mets 40-man roster.

Seth – Thank you.

MMO - What was it like to make it to AAA this year and play for a manager like Wally?

Seth - It was pretty awesome. It was great to play with a bunch of older guys with a ton of experience. I felt like everyday I was able to bring in some new information and just see the game a little differently. Play for Wally was pretty cool. I could definitely tell he was an old school type coach and it made me feel more mature and professional playing for a guy like that. Wally was great.

MMO - For people that haven’t seen you pitch before can you tell me a little bit about what you throw and how you like to attack hitters/lineup?

Seth - Well I think I’m a lot different than a lot of pitchers. I like to try to induce a lot of early contact with a 2 seamer and my slider/change up. If I do get ahead in the count, I like to turn my stuff up a notch and bring my 4 seamer about 4-7 mph faster than my 2 seamer and I mix my curveball in for a swing and miss in the dirt or freeze them with it in the zone. I’ve always relied on my curveball in the dirt and my fastball up out of the zone for strikeout situations.

MMO - The first time I saw you (in Portland) I was impressed with your ability to stay away from the barrel of bats. And you weren’t afraid to throw any pitch in any count. What do you think you need to improve on to be able to pitch at the Major League level?

Seth - That’s come with maturity and my control of mechanics. I think I need to just keep perfecting my mechanics and work on my control with my secondary pitches. Also, I plan to really work on my 2 seamer movement this offseason… I’m really hitting the gym hard this offseason so hopefully I can bring in a little more velocity next year. Confidence is always a must so I also have to just keep my head up and stay confident that everything I’m doing is going to put me in the position I want to be in.

MMO - You are participating in the Barwis program, is it your first time?

Seth – Yes, I am in Florida right now for the program.

MMO - What is a normal day like in the program, do you have a specialized workout being a pitcher?

Seth - Well, we start with a pretty intense warm up and by the time were finished with it, everyone is sweating heavily and out of breath. Then we go into our workout, and yes the pitchers have a separate routine than the position players. It usual lasts about an hour and a half and its full of heavy lifting, explosive movements, and then core/flexibility/balance exercises, in a superset order. We’re constantly moving and there are no breaks until we’re finished. It is definitely the most rigorous workout I’ve ever been put through. After we finish with the weight and resistance stuff we go into sprints for about 10 minutes which is the most exhausting part in my opinion. It usually takes us about 3 hours nonstop to complete the workouts.

MMO - When the Mets drafted you were you surprised?

Seth - I was actually pretty confident that I would get drafted. My head coach hooked me up with a workout for a Mets scout and I knew that I threw very well when I went to it so I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder as the draft was going on.

MMO - When you found out about the severe nature of your back injury do you think you could have thrown a baseball for the last time and what was it like for you to have to experience something like that early in your career?

Seth – It was rough for me. The doctors and trainers told me that the odds coming back from the surgery weren’t the greatest but other people had come back from it and had full careers. After that I didn’t care about odds, I knew I could do it if someone else already had. It was very hard mentally on me though, not being able to play and having to basically lay around doing nothing for a few months. But at the same time I think it helped drive me and pushed me to come back better than ever. Do I think the surgery set me back some? Yea I do but it also showed me what it was like to miss a season and watch everyone else progress while I sat at home. So I think in the long run, having the surgery at an early point in my career helped me more than it hurt me.

MMO - How close did you follow the Mets playoff run and have you talked to any of those guys to congratulate them?

Seth - Oh, I was watching every pitch of it. No I haven’t talked to any of the guys. I figured everyone they’ve ever known has been trying to get in touch with them. If I was in their shoes I think I’d like some peace and quiet so I figured I’d wait until I see them in spring training to congratulate their season.

MMO – Who were your favorite teams/players to watch when your were growing up?

Seth - It’s funny, I never caught once in my life but Pudge was always my favorite player. I grew up going to Rangers games and watching him so I was always a big Rangers and Ivan Rodriguez fan.

MMO - Thank you for answering my questions and hope to see you at Citi Field soon!

Seth - You’re welcome and thank you very much.

For more Mets minor league coverage head over to MetsMinors.net

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MMO Exclusive With LHP Josh Smoker http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/mmo-exclusive-with-lhp-josh-smoker.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/mmo-exclusive-with-lhp-josh-smoker.html/#comments Sat, 14 Nov 2015 15:30:22 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=199503 josh smoker

On November 5th the Mets officially added left-handed pitcher Josh Smoker to their 40-man roster. Smoker was a supplemental first round pick (31st overall, six slots ahead of Travis d’Arnaud) of the Washington Nationals in 2007 out of Calhoun High School in Georgia.

Josh struggled in the 2012 season, he allowed eight runs in just 9.2 innings topping out at High-A Potomac. He then sat out the entire 2013 season after having the second shoulder surgery in his career (first one in 2008) and elected free agency in November of 2013.

With no other available options Josh signed with the Rockford Aviators of the Frontier League to pitch in 2014. He was able to make it through the season healthy but struggled with his command walking 23 in 29 innings.

Smoker started his Mets career with the Savannah Sand Gnats after signing a minor league deal during the last week of Spring Training. He also pitched for the St. Lucie Mets while finishing the season in AA with the Binghamton Mets. Overall this year he was 3-0 with six saves with a 3.12 ERA and 1.184 WHIP while striking out 60 batters in 49 innings.

I watched Josh pitch multiple times this season for the B’Mets and his stuff will definitely play at the Major League level. He gets his fastball up to the 96-97 MPH range and even hit 100 a few times. He has a very good split-change that makes him effective against righties and isn’t afraid to throw it down in the count.

This season lefties actually hitter better against him with a .641 OPS compared to a .547 OPS for righties. He has been working on a slider to try and counter the success lefties have had against him.

MMO: Congrats on being added to the 40-man roster! How did you find out the news from the Mets

Josh: They informed me the afternoon of the fifth (official day he was added) by telephone. It was a very surreal moment. I’ll never forget it.

MMO: You and the family going to celebrate the big news? You really have turned into a story that a lot of Mets fans are clinging too and rooting for to succeed.

Josh: Believe it or not my parents are actually in Disney world right now and we’re there when we received the news. Haha my wife and I are planning on going to dinner tonight. I’ve had more support from the Mets fans this season and offseason then I’ve had my whole career. It’s very humbling and genuinely means the world to me. I also can’t thank the Mets enough for taking the chance on me last spring when nobody else even considered it. I will be forever great full to them. Class act organization.

MMO: Towards the end of the year when B’Mets season was over you must have heard some of the chatter about you possibly being called up?

Josh: I had heard that it was a possibility but I had no control over that. My job was to go out every time I got the ball and put the team in a situation to win. A call up would have been awesome but at the same time I’m happy to just be given the opportunity to continue to play the game i love.

MMO: During your last week or so of the season you started to get hit a little, was that the league seeing you for a second time or a little bit of fatigue from you?

Josh: I could definitely feel my body starting to get tired. It was the first full season I had pitched in 3 years so I could feel my body starting to fatigue.

Smoker Josh

MMO: Did you follow much of the Mets playoff run? Have you talked to any of those guys to congratulate them or anything like that?

Josh: Every game. I was pulling hard for them. I haven’t. I’m really good friends with Zack Wheeler so we were keeping up with them consistently but haven’t gotten the chance to speak with any of the other guys.

MMO: Are you and Wheeler from the same area?

Josh: We are, we’ve worked out together for the last few years.

MMO: What do you think of the Mets starting pitching?

Josh: It IS the the best in baseball. To have the velocity and secondary pitches those guys have and the command to go with it is unheard of. If I was a hitter on any other team I would not look forward to heading into Citi Field knowing I was going to be facing that.

MMO: How does it feel to finally be 100% healthy?

Josh: Feels good, great to get out on the mound without my arm hitting. To be able to go out and throw the way I know that I can feels good.

MMO: How did you come about being signed by the Mets?

Josh: I have a contact (Paul Fletcher) in Atlanta and I needed to throw a bullpen one day so he came out. He is actually the pitching coach for the New York Revolution and made a phone call after catching me. He had done some work with the Mets before and called their scout Steve Barningham. Steve then called me and wanted me to throw a bullpen for him. The Mets like what they saw and the rest is history.

MMO: After that did you head down to extended Spring Training?

Josh: Yes, I signed the last week of Spring Training then I was in extended for about two weeks before they sent me to Savannah (Sand Gnats, Low-A).

MMO: What was is like being a former first round pick having to go and pitch in the Independent League?

Josh: Some times you got to do what you have to do. Honestly at that point I was out of options because I wasn’t getting any looks from affiliated teams. I was still coming off shoulder surgery so I wasn’t 100% yet and my velocity wasn’t back either. I am glad I did it, it was good to get my feet wet again.

MMO: Have you made any mechanical changes since being in the Mets organization?

Josh: Only thing I have done is change my hand slot, before I was set up high so I brought my glove down and got a little arm pump going. Helped me get on top of the ball better which improved my command.

MMO: You hit 97 MPH regularly this year, is that something to pay attention to that much?

Josh: As first I was to have an idea where I was at health wise coming off surgery but now that I have a good idea about where my arm strength is I try not to pay too much attention to it.

MMO: Did you talk to your Binghamton Mets teammate Dario Alvarez at all about the similar paths you guys have taken?

Josh: We actually went through the exact same steps, always good to have someone like that to talk to especially in a new organization. Not just him though, all the coaches and players make it a pleasure to the field every day. Baseball has become fun again, it’s almost like it is a game again.

MMO: What do you think you need to improve on to get to the Major League level?

Josh: Me being a lefty I think it would be good for me to have a slider, I have thrown a breaking ball in the past but it was almost too loopy. It has gotten a lot better, still not quite where I want it to be, but definitely improved. I’m going to work extremely hard on that pitch this offseason so that going into spring I’ll have something I can offer to lefties.

MMO: Thank you for answering all my questions. Congrats again, good luck next year and hopefully see you in Spring Training.

Josh: My pleasure Michael. Thanks a lot and take care.

For more interviews with Mets minor leaguers head over to MetsMinors.net

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MMO’s Clayton Collier Talks Mets With Brian Cristiano http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/mmos-clayton-collier-talks-mets-with-brian-cristiano.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/11/mmos-clayton-collier-talks-mets-with-brian-cristiano.html/#comments Fri, 06 Nov 2015 01:26:14 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=199321 Flores Wilmer

It’s all about the Mets these days in New York, and despite how the Fall Classic ended everyone agrees that the Mets made huge strides in 2015 and all in all this was an exciting season for the team and the fans.

On that note, Brian Cristiano, CEO of Bold Worldwide spoke with our Senior Editor at Metsmerized Online, Clayton Collier, on the very popular YouTube series #OutOfScope.

The two of them discussed the New York Mets, MLB, the popularity of MMO, and what to look out for from the team in regards to social media and marketing in 2016.

Clayton also gives his perspective on what the Mets did right and where the team can improve in 2016.

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MMO Exclusive: Talkin’ Mets With @GrafixJoker http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/10/mmo-exclusive-talkin-mets-with-grafixjoker.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/10/mmo-exclusive-talkin-mets-with-grafixjoker.html/#comments Tue, 20 Oct 2015 13:34:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=197254 IMG_20151020_091932

I had a chance to do an interview with diehard Mets fan and popular artist Joe Maracic more popularly known as @GrafixJoker on Twitter. He’s also the designer of the many different Mets cartoon images you’ve seen all over social media and even on SNY Monday night. Enjoy my Q&A with this passionate Mets fan who has been entertaining fellow fans all year long with his fun and clever Mets caricatures.

1. I think the first question on everybody’s mind is how did it all begin? What was the motivation behind those incredible and fun Mets toon graphics? Who was the first, was the plan always to keep adding more as the season wore on?

Up until this season I was painting some Mets players but during Spring Training the entire “Dark Knight Matt Harvey” inspired me to sketch this.

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When I drew Harvey there was no real plan. After I fine tuned the sketch and shared it on social media I was getting responses like “where’s deGrom?” or “who’s next?”. Some Mets fans on Twitter even gave me ideas on future characters.

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2. It’s amazing how you seem to catch the true essence of each player by their expression or the pose they strike. How do you do that?

Thanks. I guess it came from studying the human model for almost 8 hours a day back in art school. This was more for my charcoal drawings and oil paintings but it has come in handy for these toons, though these guys are much shorter. I watch just about every game and study the players plus search past images of them online.

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3. Alright, let’s talk some Mets. What were your expectations going into the season and at what point did you stop and think a postseason run was no longer just a faint possibility but clearly a reality?

I thought playoffs were maybe a possibility at the beginning of the season because we had the pitching. The hitting was what scared me and during the season it had me doubting they could do it. When the Mets thankfully failed to trade Flores instead getting Cespedes, Uribe, and Johnson I knew our hitting would have to improve. What I didn’t know was how hot Cespedes would get and how great the clubhouse chemistry would become. Mets suddenly looked not only like a playoff team, but a squad that was going on a special run.

4. If you could choose one moment or game that stood out as a turning point, what is it?

The trade that never happened. You had to feel horrible for Wilmer during that game and a bit frustrated as a fan. After that night, a fire was lit under the team and the new additions of course helped.

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5. What an incredible postseason by Daniel Murphy. Are you a big Murphy fan and do you think the Mets should bring him back for the 2016 season?

I’m a huge Murphy fan. His play in the field frustrated me at times, but what a bat in this lineup. I want Murphy back. Even before this amazing playoff run he’s on I wanted him back. The question is does Sandy want him back? This I doubt since he isn’t a Sandy type player. The Mets could have already made a decision on Murph before the playoffs, just like the Yankees did with Hideki Matsui in 2009 before he won the World Series MVP. They didn’t bring him back, and he too played on another level.

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6. If you had to choose a current Mets Core-Four, which four central players would make your untouchable list and be the foundation for this team.

DeGrom, Syndergaard, Harvey, Matz. Pitching wins. I know some fans are fed up with Harvey, but the more pitching the better. Matz looks like he could be something special, as long as he gets good sleep.

7. Which Mets player turned in the most surprising season?

I think Syndergaard. We all knew he had great stuff but his composure on the mound for a rookie is amazing.

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8. What was your most memorable moment of the regular season and describe why?

The Cespedes rally parakeet game. It had it all; drama, excitement, and humor. I love that bird almost as much as the raccoon. By the way, is anyone feeding those little critters?

9. What was your most memorable moment of the postseason thus far?

Jacob deGrom in the  Game 5 NLDS. He didn’t have his best stuff but battled out there. It was an amazing performance by our Ace.

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10. Finally, what’s your prediction for the rest of the NLCS and what would be your favorite World Series matchup?

Mets sweep of course, haha. I honestly haven’t thought of the matchup though the Blue Jays hitting scares me. I bet most baseball fans would like to see hitting vs picthing, Jays vs Mets.

You can follow Joe at Twitter @GrafixJoker and you can check out all his work or pick up a t-shirt or stickers with his Mets toons at Red Bubble.

rally parakeet and raccoon

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