All We Got Iz Us

Published on Mets Merized Online on July 30, 2016

kevin mcreynolds

I was a teenager in the Tri-State area in the late 80s, early 90s; meaning I grew up in the midst of what is clearly the Golden Age of Rap or when Rap (Grandmaster Flash, KRS-ONE, Run DMC, Public Enemy) became Hip Hop (A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Wu-Tang).

I know this era well because the baseball team I loved was painful to watch and routinely gave reason for a young fan to allow his heart and mind to wander to other things like playing stickball, buying a cassette single for a Walkman and thinking about girls that wouldn’t pay him any attention (for good reason).

In 1993, a trio from Queens released an album that immediately cemented their place in a music conversation that was focused on the West Coast. ‘Throw Ya Gunz‘ and ‘Slam‘ got Onyx play on boom boxes on the street, radio stations like 98.7 Kiss FM and HOT 97 and the video played on regular rotation on both BET and MTV.  It went multi-platinum (back when that truly meant something) and both Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz used this fame to earn Hollywood acting credits once the group disbanded.

What does any of this have to do with baseball and the New York Mets? Well, Onyx’s second album was entitled ‘All We Go Iz Us“. The highest-charting single was entitled ‘Last Days‘, a song that will sound familiar to anyone who’s watched the rap battle scenes in  8 Mile.

But it’s a better description of what Sandy Alderson seemingly looks at when thinking about the trade deadline and the team that’s on the field. The team he’s put together that has actually been hitting the baseball for the past month.

Unfortunately, the numbers don’t lie.

Batting Average On-Base Percentage Slugging Percentage
May .211 .287 .381
June .235 .301 .373
July .259 .324 .442

They’re pretty abysmal, but they are trending in the right direction. And the pitching staff has lived up to the preseason hype. To borrow an idea I heard from Mike Silva on Talkin’ Mets, to this point the Mets have avoided real injury showcased by the fact they’ve only needed six starters to amass the third best ERA in MLB, 60 quality starts and a bullpen with a 3.10 ERA and the league lead in saves.

Yes, they should have the outright lead if Jeurys Familia was a perfect 39-for-39. Yes, Larry Brooks of the New York Post is right that Terry Collins allowed his players to manage him on Thursday, resulting in a second straight blown save.

hansel robles

But a general manager can’t allow daily results to alter a long-term plan. There isn’t much in the minors because it was drained last year to get Yoenis Cespedes, so trading away the few pieces left for a middle reliever sounds good but makes little sense when Hansel Robles is pitching well. The 25-year old has a 0.00 ERA over 11.2 innings in July and a 2.52 for the season.

The 25-year old has a 0.00 ERA over 11.2 innings in July and a 2.52 for the season. Robles and Jerry Blevins (0.00 ERA in July over 5 innings, 2.00 for season) can handle the seventh, Addison Reed has proven he owned the 8th inning and I believe Familia will return to form. So what reason is there to bring someone else in?

Bringing in Jonathan Lucroy seems to be the only thing worth doing and it makes a modicum of sense. It’s a win-now move, especially with the emergence of Rene Rivera as a defensive backup catcher that has the confidence of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom to call a good game.

The rising star that is Amed Rosario relegates Gavin Cecchini to tradeable, so I’m sure Alderson’s talks with the Brewers include the 22-year old SS and Travis d’Arnaud, our oft-injured catcher. My hope is he doesn’t budge farther than that, but how much of the Brewers interest is honest as opposed to just driving up Lucroy’s price, per a tweet from Adam Rubin of ESPN?

But as a fanbase, I think we need to get comfortable with the idea that All We Got Iz Us. It’s not something exciting, like an opposite-field single with runners in scoring position, but it’s the smart thing to do. Alderson has to be thinking not just about this year, but the next three.

Draining the best for Cespedes made sense then and it makes sense now. To skim off the top to get a power-hitting catcher that’s signed cheap (just $5.25 million) for next year makes sense.

But to delve deep into a slim talent pool just to appease the back-page? That would be counter-productive, especially when he’s going to need to retool this offseason at 2B (Dilson Herrera and who else?), 3B (Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores or trading for someone like Evan Longoria?), CF (Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo or trading/signing someone else) and RF (Does Curtis Granderson go into his last year as the 4th OF that he should be?).

I haven’t given up on this season with what the team has right now. I’m also hoping Alderson was a fan of early 90s hip hop as well.

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Greenies, PEDs, and the Grueling 162 Game Schedule

Published on Mets Merized Online on July 19, 2016

Jim Bouton Releases "Ball Four: The Final Pitch"

I first remember reading about ‘greenies’ in Ball Four, Jim Bouton‘s eye-opening autobiography about the everyday grind of a ball player. He mentioned how ‘greenies’, better known as amphetamines, were readily available and used by players.

I was a teenager at the time and compared it to getting a Star in Super Mario Brothers – it made the character better for a time, but it slowly faded away. While it was a great experience, I couldn’t imagine playing the whole game like that but that wouldn’t stop me from searching for a Star for a quick pick-me-up.

OK, that’s a poor analogy of the influence of something that, according to Phillip Smith of AlterNet, has been inbred in the baseball culture since soldiers returned from the battlefields of World War II and took the same stimulants they were provided by the military.

Harold Friend of Bleacher Report mentioned the military connection to greenies, ‘restorative’ drugs to overcome the effects of fatigue. In 1985, retired outfielder John Milner testified in a federal court that he was first introduced to a liquid amphetamine from a bottle he took from the locker of the immortal Willie Mays when he wore a Mets uniform.

From a Los Angeles Times Newswire report,

“Management wasn’t giving me greenies or red juice or speed–Willie had the red juice,” Milner said. He added, however, that he had not seen Mays take amphetamines.

Mays, who joined the Mets in 1972, said that his locker “was an open book. Anybody could go into my locker because I never had anything to hide.”

Why this part of the sport’s history seems to be hidden in plain sight is beyond me. At the end of the day, baseball asks athletes to play at a high level for 162 games in just 183 days. Throw in the demand of the modern travel schedule, days games in another city after a night game and it’s easy to see how the idea of returning to a 154-game schedule looks appealing.

rob manfred

David Lennon of Newsday laid out the facts in a recent column but didn’t pick a side because there really isn’t a side to pick. Less games means less money, a loss that the players union won’t be quick to sign off on. Add to that the broadcast television masters who will demand something to make up for the lost games.

Finding a happy medium for a 154-game season (or any number less than 162) between all three parties – MLB, the players union – is something that will happen with the CBA expiring in December. But the happy medium might be looking the other way when it comes to greenies.

While it’s not the happy or healthy answer that plays well with mothers, concerned citizens and the like, it is a realistic answer that has historical data behind it – the years and years of players using greenies and performing 162 times a year in 180 days at a high level.

Pro sports probably shouldn’t be what Daniel Tosh wants, but where were reporters like Murray Chass of the New York Times when it was happening in front of their eyes? He wrote about greenies in a Mike Schmidt book a decade ago and scolds commissioners Peter Ueberroth and Bud Selig for willingly turning a blind eye to something that Mike Schmidt says has ‘been around the game forever.”

Rob Neyer of SB Nation questioned Chass for holding his Hall of Fame vote from suspected players without making a “meaningful distinction between the steroids of the 1990s and the amphetamines of the 1970s and ’80s (and ’90s).”

The biggest distinction I can make from all of this is this. There was little talk about shortening the seasons when players were using greenies. Now that MLB is policing down on the drug, it’s something the commissioner and player’s union president are considering.

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What is the Wright move?

A routine error by Yoenis Cespedes, the highest paid center fielder in baseball according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, will gloss over the bigger fielding mistake from the Mets Opening Day 4-3 loss.

Cespedes striking out to end the game will make the highlight reel, a real-enough action to easily create a distraction to the true anchor that could weigh down the prospects for this season. And it took place just one batter before.

david-wrightWith the game-tying run 90 feet away and one out, David Wright just needed to avoid grounding into a double play. What was needed to extend the game was a productive out. What happened was the face of the franchise got blown away.

Jessica Mendoza, the new addition to the ESPN broadcast booth, noted that Wright hadn’t proved he could catch up to a high-powered fastball; something also noted by the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro. Wright was having a hard time all night catching up to 92-94 mph fastballs. Wade Davis took advantage of that fact, but that wasn’t the big problem.

Read the full article on Mets Merized Online.

How Vital is a Quick Start to the Season?

harvey syndergaard

As I grow older, I’m quick to forget what my mind doesn’t consider important. It’s been years since I remembered the name of the first girl I kissed, but I know the full name of the first female to break my heart.

I don’t remember the last time I was in Shea Stadium, but I’ll never forget my mother taking me to Flushing on Mother’s Day with ground level seats. Thanks to the power of Google, I can confirm it was May 14, 1989 and I moved down to the front row to watch Lenny Dykstra score on an infield error for a walk-off win before an announced crowd of 35,547.

That improved the team’s record to 20-14 and they were 1.5 games up in the National League East. It was an impressive start to the season, similar to what the team put together last year. With such a strong finish and an eventual National League championship, it’s easy to forget about the beginning.

After a 2-3 start that included taking two out of three from the preemptive greatest team ever assembled that still waiting for the rings that Bryce Harper ordered last offseason, the Mets won their next 11 games.

A team that came into the season with questions about their offense scored 57 runs during the streak, allowing 31 runs and truly taking advantage of the schedule by beating up on dregs of the division.

Read the full article on Mets Merized Online.

Fear the Fish?

Maybe it’s an East-Coast bias or the fact that we view everything with an orange and blue tint, but despite a pitching staff considered one of the best in the league there are as many pundits picking the Mets to repeat as division champs as there are picking them to miss the postseason.

USA Today’s Gage Lacques has the defending National League champions finishing a game out of the final wildcard spot behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Big League Stew’s Mike Oz says Fangraphs estimates they’ll be in a three-way tie for that final playoff spot with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Washington Nationals v Miami MarlinsBleacher Report’s Danny Knobler takes it one step further, predicting the Mets will miss the playoffs entirely because the Miami Marlins will do what many observers thought they would achieve last year and make the postseason.

This would clearly throw cold water on the budding Nats-Mets rivalry, one that I think is a media-driven creation – somewhat similar to the Mets-Phillies rivalry that doesn’t exist. I hate the Phillies, like most Met fans, but there’s no real reason for that hate.

Any Met fan has good reason to hate the Marlins. Just go back a decade to 2007 when Tom Glavine took the mound with a chance to return to the postseason. Adam Rubin, then with the Daily News, reported how the left-hander was rocked in the first inning to complete an epic collapse that saw them slip from first after owning a seven game lead with 17 games left.

Yes, the Phillies won the division that year. Yes, they won their last seven games against the Mets that year. But if the Mets win Game 162, they’re in the playoffs and the Marlins made sure they weren’t. They followed up the following year, closing Shea Stadium and knocking the Mets out of the playoffs again.

Read the full article on Mets Merized Online.

A Glimpse Into The Future

Using the TARDIS, I was able to journey into the near future and take notes on the first month of the New York Mets season. But be forewarned! Any attempts to profit with the information (i.e. bet on it like Biff Tannen in Back to the Future II) will likely alter the results (like in Hot Tub Time Machine).

April 3 – at Kansas City

The baseball world begins tonight with the two teams that ended last season. The defending World Champions host the reigning National League champions on Sunday Night Baseball. The Mets, truly embracing the 30-year anniversary of the 1986 team, take the field wearing wigs, masks and set Hotfoots on the unsuspecting opposition.

This infuriates the Royals, but they can’t take revenge against Jacob deGrom, who cruises to a 2-1 win.

April 5 – at Kansas City

Syndergaard Noah

The media pepper Noah Syndergaard about his comments last year and he doesn’t back down. Taking the mound, his first pitch to KC SS Alcides Escobar is just a bit outside. However unlike Ricky Vaughn, Thor’s next pitch starts outside, but edges the outside corner. Then he brushes back the leadoff hitter with a 101 MPH fastball, but follows with a curve for his first strikeout.

The Norse god collects 12 strikeouts through seven innings, but gives way to Hansel Robles. Alex Gordon greets him with a fly ball and immediately Yoenis Cespedes races back in center. He keeps going and channeling his inner-Bo Jackson, runs three steps up the wall and comes back down…nowhere near the ball, that dropped into shallow center for a triple. KC wins 4-2.

April 8-10 – vs. Philadelphia

Cespedes won a bet with manager Terry Collins when the team finished spring training in Las Vegas and spends April 6th and 7th in Augusta, GA at the Masters. He’s back in time for the home opener as Matt Harvey takes the mound to a sea of fans wearing masks from the Dark Knight films. They’re not disappointed as Harvey K’s 13 in a 5-1 win.

David Wright, Lucas Duda, Neil Walker and Steven Matz all hit home runs in a 10-4 win on Saturday. While walking out to the mound, Bartolo Colon trips and accidentally loses his bubble gumHe’s knocked out by the third and the Mets lose 8-5.

April 11-13 – vs. Miami

DeGrom is dominant again, but leaves a pitch up for Giancarlo Stanton. Cespedes runs up the wall again, but the ball is well into the stands. Jose Fernandez makes it stand up as the Marlins win 3-2. At 3-3 on the season, the back page of the New York Post calls for Collins to be fired. The Mets win the next two game behind Wilmer Flores’ three doubles and 5 RBIs.

April 15-17 – at Cleveland

travis d'Arnaud

A huge Drew Carey Show fan, Travis d’Arnaud searches for landmarks like Winfred-Louder department store and how Carey ever dated and married Kate Walsh. Kevin Plawecki fills in, going 3-for-5 and picking off two runners as the Mets open the road trip with a 6-3 win.

Colon visits one of his favorite dining spots in the Sixth City and Sean Gilmartin, scheduled to make the Sunday start, gets sick. He’s replaced by Logan Verrett, who helps complete the sweep as Addison Reed, Antonio Bastardo and Jeurys Familia combine for a 7-0 shutout.

April 18-20 – at Philadelphia

Flores, who’s already started at 2B and 3B, makes his first professional start at 1B and proceeds to go 4-for-4. The following day, he starts at SS with Thor on the mound and makes a Web Gem with an over-the-shoulder catch down the left-field line. With the Mets looking for a sweep and an 8-game winning streak, Harvey goes into the 8th with a no-hitter. After walking the first batter, Collins calls on Jerry Blevins to face Ryan Howard. He gets the slugger to ground into a double play, but the no-no is spoiled when Familia attempts a quick-pitch and gives up a single in the 9th of a Mets 5-0 win.

April 22-24 – at Atlanta

The Daily News back page headline on Thursday reads “Philly Cheesy-Metstake” about Collins decision to remove Harvey and says Sandy Alderson needs to fire him to reach the postseason despite the team’s 11-3 record. They quote an unnamed source close to the team saying, “We’d be 13-1 if not for (Collins).” A day later, the News publishes a small note near the classified section that admits the ‘unnamed source’ was a groundkeeper ‘close to the team’ locker room.

Curtis Granderson decides to visit all the clubs listed in Jermaine Dupri’s ‘Welcome to Atlanta’ and is a late-scratch. Collins moves Cespedes to RF and he throws out two runners, including one at first base. But Matz is knocked around and the Mets lose the opener. Colon and Gilmartin pitch well the next two days, Flores goes into RF on a double-switch and hits a game-winning single as the team improves to 13-4.

April 25-27 – vs. Cincinnati

Alderson sandy Terry collinsA scheduled off-day for Wright, Flores is written into the lineup but the umpire reads an ‘8’ on the card and sends him to CF. Forced to start the game there, he makes a diving catch in right-center before switching places with Juan Lagares, who was at 3B. After the game, Collins admits Granderson was showing him pictures from ‘Magic City’ in Atlanta (NSFW) when he was making the lineup and was distracted.

Newsday’s back page shows Collins dressed as Dopey. The Daily News goes with Inspector Gadget due to the varied lineups and labels Alderson as ‘Brain’, the intelligent dog that helps with everything. All three papers call for ownership to step in and fire him. Meanwhile, the Mets sweep the Reds thanks in part to Asdrubal Cabrera’s 10-game hit streak and Lucas Duda’s HR splurge of 5 in three games.

April 29-May 1 – vs. San Francisco

Since deGrom, Thor and Harvey pitched against the Reds, the Post blasts Collins for not lining up his rotation for the team’s first true test of the season. Matz goes out on Free Shirt Friday and scattered 6 hits over 6 innings, going 3-for-3 at the plate. He’s removed to start the seventh, part of a double switch that sends Flores to LF.  Hunter Pence hits a bases-clearing double over his head and fans in the corner throw their shirts on the field. Flores uses one to wipe his tears, then sends everyone home happy with a walk-off home run two innings later.

The streak ends at 12 wins when Colon is roughed up early. To avoid overusing the bullpen, Flores pitches the final two innings of an 11-6 loss and the Mets close the month with a 17-5 record, just a game ahead of the Washington Nationals (17-7) in the NL East.

Platooning From A Position of Strength

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I was watching MLB Network this morning as they did a replay of yesterday’s episode of ‘MLB Now’ with Brian Kenny. Dick Scott, the Mets new bench coach, was on the phone. The questions were about prospects and was there anyone he considered able to assist the major league team this season.

The former Director of Player Development made a great point. While farmhands like Matt Reynolds and Dilson Herrera might be called up this season, someone like Amed Rosario or Gavin Cecchini could get a September callup and Dominic Smith is a year or two away…there’s just no room in Queens.

This is the first time I can remember when the Amazin’s head into Port St. Lucie with just about everything already locked up. There are no position battles on the horizon and the only true question is who will support Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, Addison Reed and Antonio Bastardo in the bullpen.

But even as I write that, I realize that there’s maybe two spots available between Hansel Robles, Josh Smoker, Dario Alvarez and Rafael Montero. And that’s not mentioning the fact that roster spots will eventually be needed for Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia and Josh Edgin.

Face it Mets fans, we’re rooting for a team with a plethora of major league talent and with more quality position pieces on the horizon.

Read the entire article on Mets Merized Online.