Monday, August 31, 2020

Spring is Coming

It's almost time for the Wilpons
to ride off into the sunset
It almost seems fitting that the last days of the Wilpon era in Queens are shaping up to be one last miserable sh*tshow. As depressing as the last three days were for any Mets fan still paying attention, imagine how bad it would all feel if you knew the Wilpons were still going to own the club after this season. While this nightmare isn't quite over yet, the end is finally in sight.

I had a bunch of ideas that I wanted to write about today, but then I wound up working until almost 7 tonight. My back operation is scheduled for Friday, and we're trying to get as much as possible done this week. If I can't get to them this week they'll give me something to do next week while I'm laid up. As a fan, it's exciting to contemplate a future where the Mets are more than just an easy punchline for the media.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Another Lost Season, but a New Day Is Coming

From my post on Wednesday:
I'm not dumb enough to try to predict what happens today or tomorrow, but I will offer a prediction of sorts. As they have done since the weird, truncated 2020 baseball season began just over a month ago, at some point soon the Mets will put together a promising stretch of games. Just about the point you're thinking that maybe they can actually make a push for the expanded playoff field, they will run off another stretch of almost unwatchable bad baseball. Lather, rinse, repeat.
So, the team got back to within one game of .500 with an exhilarating double header win on Friday. After allowing myself a few minutes to savor what had just happened, I thought to myself, they won't even wait until this weekend is over to let all of the air back out of this balloon. I don't feel any sense of smugness over being proven right, I was actually hoping against hope that they would prove me wrong. Trust me, whenever I make a pessimistic prediction about the Mets and it's proven wrong, I'm the happiest person in the room. But this year I just keep being proven to be right, and I freaking hate it.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Much Ado About Nothing

It's BRODIE, damnit!
B-R-O-D-I-E
When I first read about the incident of Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen being caught on a hot mic criticizing MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, I didn't think all that much about it. I knew it was going to cost Van Wagenen some personal embarrassment, and that he would have to publicly apologize to Manfred for his words. I figured after that it some folks would have a laugh over Brodie's self-inflicted wound and that would be it. What Van Wagenen had said about Manfred, that the Commissioner "just didn't get it" regarding the protest, seemed relatively mild to me. If I was Manfred, I would have accepted Van Wagenen's apology and just moved on.

However, when things like this happen to the Mets, they get amplified. The story now in multiple places seems to be that the affair with the hot mic has "overshadowed" the protest on the field, to which my reaction is, "huh, really?"

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Mets Tradition of Not Supporting Pitchers

I started this post early in the afternoon, well before the Mets and Marlins walked off the field tonight. It seems silly not to acknowledge what happened. I greatly respect the decision of the players to act according to their beliefs and in support of their teammate. It's a reminder of something that the coronavirus has already shown us this year, that some things are more important than a ballgame.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

You Can Dress Them Up, but You Can't Take Them Out

The Mets sure know how to dampen a return to action with lousy play. An uninspired double header shutout loss to the Marlins drops their record to 12-16, not to mention completely obliterating whatever momentum they built with 3 wins in a row over these same Marlins before COVID-19 put them out of action for four days. Of course, those three wins in a row came after three dispiriting losses to the Phillies after the Mets were swept in that series. It's been a virtual rollercoaster with this club all year.

I'm not dumb enough to try to predict what happens today or tomorrow, but I will offer a prediction of sorts. As they have done since the weird, truncated 2020 baseball season began just over a month ago, at some point soon the Mets will put together a promising stretch of games. Just about the point you're thinking that maybe they can actually make a push for the expanded playoff field, they will run off another stretch of almost unwatchable bad baseball. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Deadlines Everywhere

Would you let either of these
men near your ballclub?
Ken Rosenthal had a piece at The Athletic today that cited an unnamed rival executive predicting the Mets would be a "surprising player" at the August 31 trade deadline this year. The reasons cited were the money saved when Yoenis CĂ©spedes and Marcus Stroman opting out, plus Brodie Van Wagenen's supposed desperation to save his job. While I suppose anything can happen, I don't put much stock in the predictions of anonymous sources. I don't think the Mets will be all that aggressive at this deadline for several reasons:
  • I don't think the team has money to burn because two fairly well paid players opted out. The Wilpons were struggling even before the pandemic closed off some revenue streams.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Beating the Odds, Part 2

As described in Part 1 of this post, the Wild Card Los Angeles Dodgers were the darlings of the baseball pundits going into the 2006 NLDS vs. the New York Mets. Almost all of them picked the Dodgers to win the series, ignoring the 9 win advantage the Mets had amassed in the regular season. With Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez done for the season, the Mets' starting rotation was seen as their Achilles heel. However, despite having to replace El Duque with rookie John Maine in game 1 against the Dodgers' ace Derek Lowe, the Mets drew first blood with a stirring 6-5 victory in front of their home fans.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Beating the Odds, Part 1

For all of their flaws, and despite the fact that their season ended short of the goal, the 2006 Mets remain one of my all-time favorites. That team had a wonderful resiliency that allowed them to come just a bit short of 100 wins despite their many flaws. Nothing showcased their resiliency and toughness more than the 2006 Division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

When the Mets faced the Dodgers in the 2006 NLDS, almost every pundit you could find was picking the Dodgers to win the series. This was despite the fact that the Division winning Mets had amassed 97 wins in the regular season, while the Wild Card Dodgers had only managed 88 wins. The Dodgers had been a streaky team, alternating impressive winning streaks intermingled with stretches of bad play.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

By Any Other Name

1970 was my second season rooting for the New York Mets. It was the year that I began to learn the harsh reality of what it truly meant to be a Mets fan. After the Mets had won the World Series in my first go-round as a fan, I was expecting another title and some more 1969-like magic. At age 11, I was due for one of the first rude awakenings of my life.

The Mets pitching staff continued to feature Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman at the top of the rotation, along with holdovers Gary Gentry, Jim McAndrew and the promising but frustrating Nolan Ryan. Unfortunately, while Tom Seaver was still Tom Seaver, injuries began to chip away at the rest of the starting staff. Because of that, an unfamiliar pitcher began making starts for the Mets in May, a southpaw named Ray Sadecki. In fairness, he didn't do a bad job in those starts, but he wasn't as good as Seaver and Koosman. With my limited knowledge of the game at that time, I just couldn't understand why those two guys couldn't make all of the starts for the Mets. I remember how I felt cheated when I turned on Channel 9 to watch a game and discovered that this Sadecki guy was pitching again.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Out of an Abundance of Caution

Whenever MLB decides to cancel games because of positive COVID-19 tests, they always feel the need to issue a press release claiming the action was taken "out of an abundance of caution." This overused phrase in general has become a favorite of whoever writes MLB's press releases on cancelled games. I'm sure they have a macro created in Microsoft Word to save themselves the extra typing.

Nothing wrong with an abundance of caution, of course. I wish MLB adhered to that idea instead of bailing out the Wilpons out a decade ago.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Bullpen Shuffle and MLB's Failure

I feel as if I made a pretty good case yesterday why I wouldn't move Seth Lugo into the starting rotation. I don't find it all that surprising that the Mets chose to do exactly that, however. It's a pretty big gamble, but when you're left without any great choices, you're going to have to roll the dice. In the attempt to patch the big, glaring hole in their starting rotation, the Mets made a move that weakened what has become arguably one of their greatest strengths this season, the bullpen.

The news that Edwin Diaz has been returned to the closer role is a bit unnerving, particularly after a night where he blew a save by walking in a run. In fairness. Diaz was put into a mighty tough spot, and I'll give him some credit for coming back and getting the final out without further damage. He did look filthy striking out the side in the ninth, too. Even at his best, however, Diaz is a guy who always seems like he's one mistake away from blowing it. The Mets will live with that for at least the rest of this season.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Is There a Fix for 2020?

A lot going on lately with the Mets. They've played a couple of solid games against a depleted and overmatched Marlins team. Nothing wrong with winning games that you're supposed to, but my mind hasn't really changes about the club's overall chances this season. If anything, the bad news about David Peterson has made me less optimistic about everything. Not that I don't hope that I'm wrong, of course. Nothing would make me happier than being proven to be dead wrong about their chances.

The reason that I missed posting yesterday was due to a flare-up in my back problem during a walk with my dogs. I have a doctor's appointment next week to schedule an operation on a couple of really bad discs. In the meantime, I have progressed to a point where I can take my pups for walks in the woods as long as I walk very carefully and avoid doing something to trigger spasms. Unfortunately, almost halfway through a 4 mile walk I tripped and triggered it. All I could do was limp back the 2 miles to my car even more slowly, stopping every couple of minutes or so to keep things from getting worse. It took about 2-1/2 hours to get back. While that wasn't conducive to enjoying a fun walk, it did allow me quite a lot of time to think about the Mets, both in 2020 and going forward.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Mets

Yesterday I wrote about the feeling that comes upon you when relationships and New York Mets seasons go bad. Not that the season is over for the 9-14 Mets. Barring a COVID-19 shutdown, they still have 37 games to play. Mathematically they can put themselves back into the expanded playoff picture with a streak of solid play, but it's hard to realistically imagine that happening with the starting pitching they have right now. The rotation beyond Jacob deGrom is an absolute crapshoot right now, full of pitchers who are ticking time bombs, just waiting for that one big inning to put the club hopelessly behind.

People say, "look at the 2019 Nationals. They got off to a terrible start, then they won the World Series." Of course, the Nationals had great starting pitching to carry them when they went on that run. We have deGrom.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

I've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

I used to have a little ritual that I would do whenever one of my relationships ended. I'd take long drives at night, listening to sad music and allow myself to wallow in a sort of self-absorbed melancholy. Depending on how I felt about the girl and how the relationship ended, this process of letting go would take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. I always knew I was ready to move on when the realization would strike me how ridiculous I was being. Looking back, the whole idea of it seems rather silly and clichéd, but it worked.

Of course, it took a little while to perfect the whole art of getting over a woman. I can still remember vividly the hurt and emptiness I felt at the conclusion of my first serious relationship. While I had dated girls for various amounts of time, usually quite short, this one was different. We were together for more than a year, and even lived together for a while. When she left, I felt like there was a big hole in my life. I didn't have the experience to understand that I would be okay eventually. I really floundered around for a while before I was able to right myself.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

A Year to Forget

Since I last did a full post on Monday the Mets have gone 2-3. At times they give real hope that they're turning it around but then, almost inevitably, they fail to sustain positive momentum. I guess what it all comes down to is that they're the same team that I described back on July 31st, just a mediocre team that can wow you at times and put you to sleep at others. Add in their penchant this year for some real heartbreaking defeats, and I doubt very much that this will be a Mets team that I'll want to reflect back on once this season is finished.

I should be somewhat grateful that they aren't so great this year. Given the way the pandemic has shaped this most unique baseball season, greatness would be wasted. This season reminds me of something that only old timers like myself would remember, Reader's Digest Condensed Books. In a single bound volume you would get 5 popular titles that were condensed down to a fraction of their original size. What remained bore some resemblance to the original, of course, but in the cutting down to fit you lost some of the best qualities that makes a great book great. In the same way, a season crushed down to 60 games loses a good bit of what makes a real baseball season great.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Short Hiatus

Hey, everyone. I have an overfull week with work, medical appointments and some other responsibilities. I need to take some time off, but I'll be back posting on Friday. I can only hope the Mets won't be eliminated by that point.


 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

Monday, August 10, 2020

Adios, Marcus Stroman

I got a notification on my phone about Marcus Stroman's decision to opt out on the 2020 season about halfway through a long hike in the woods with my dogs. My first thought upon reading it was, wow, we're screwed. My second thought, almost immediately afterward, was I hope Brodie doesn't do something stupid.

To be clear, I don't think the Stroman trade was a bad one. The Mets gave up a couple of good pitching prospects to get Stroman but, at the time of the trade, no one was expecting a pandemic to completely upend the 2020 baseball season. I wouldn't trade good prospects for a starting pitcher now, even if the pitcher was still under control for 2021, because we have no reason to expect with absolute certainty that 2021 is going to be a "normal" baseball season. Nor, for that matter, would it be wise to deal for a starter even for the stretch run of 2020, because there are no guarantees that this MLB season will survive long enough for there to be playoffs.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Rounding the Quarter Pole

The Mets have played and won a pair of games since I posted yesterday afternoon. It's funny, but every time I've written a really pessimistic post about the Mets they seem to win a game, or in this case, two. Your welcome. A game into the second quarter of their season, the Mets grabbed an outright series victory for the first time in 2020. Good times.

It's still quite frustrating to watch the Mets fail to convert baserunners into runs.  Today's game was a nail biter over the last few innings, and it really didn't have to be. Still, it's hard to quibble with a game where they actually scored enough runs to give deGrom a win and the bullpen doesn't cough up the lead.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Same Old Mets

I never used to worry. but I
became dependent on Xanax
watching Edwin Diaz.
Thanks, Brodie.
I had a bit of a weird week. I had a lot going on, which left me with far more time to think about the Mets than I had to actually write about them. Now that I finally have a day with as much time as I wish to write, I don't think I want to waste much of that time on last night's game. Pretty much anything I would say about last night I've already written in Wednesday's post. While Wednesday night's game was nice in a number of ways, the failure to bring runners home has been a constant theme in this pandemic-shortened season.

I will give Michael Wacha some props for getting it back together after his dismal second inning performance, but the one disastrous inning is becoming a theme for Wacha, Porcello and Matz this year. I found the fourth run that Wacha allowed in the inning to be particularly annoying. It almost seemed preordained that it would prove to be the decisive run of the game. Wacha doesn't get all of the blame, of course. Once again, the Mets effort felt somewhat lifeless last night. It's one thing when a great starting pitcher shuts you down, it's quite another when a team beats you by running out most of their bullpen.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Happy Baseball

The Mets played their best game of the season last night. They still failed miserably in bringing home runners in scoring position, but just about everything else they did was a huge upgrade over most of their previous efforts, particularly the defense. After being almost unwatchable for most of their first dozen games, last night's win was compelling and rather fun. At one point I actually thought to myself, oh yeah, this is why I love baseball. That moment came in the Nationals' half of the fourth inning when the whole game turned on a couple of great defensive efforts.

Until that half inning, the game wasn't looking like anything that was going to make me happy. The Mets had first and third with no outs in the top of the first, and only managed a single run out of it on Dom Smith's sacrifice fly. Porcello gave that lead right back in the bottom of the inning, and I thought to myself, here we go again. But it wasn't quite déjà vu, because even though the Mets squandered baserunners in the second and third innings, Porcello put up a couple of zeros.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Thinking of Hoisting up the White Flag

With yesterday's dreary loss to the Nationals, the Mets have fallen to a 4-8 record. While being 4 games under .500 wouldn't represent that big of a challenge in a normal year, given the shortness of the season and the complete failures of every starting pitcher not named deGrom or Peterson to put forth an effort that even resembles a quality start, this season feels like it's slipping away fast.

The way I figure it, the only way the Mets can put together a solid stretch of play to offset the hole they've managed to dig for themselves is to get the consistent starting pitching over a stretch of games that has eluded them up to now. I'm not sure where it's going to come from. Porcello has an ERA of 13.50, having allowed 12 hits and 6 walks over 6 innings pitched. That's an average of 3 baserunners each and every inning, folks. After looking solid in his first start against the Red Sox, Michael Wacha buried the Mets early in his second start against Atlanta, allowing 5 runs over 4 bad innings. Steven Matz has pitched worse in every start this season, culminating in yesterday's 3 inning effort.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Breaking Out My Crystal Ball

Yesterday's win in the finale against Atlanta didn't fix everything that's been wrong with the Mets so far this season, but it was a very welcome ray of light in what has otherwise been a dark few days for the Mets. It wasn't just that the Mets won, either. It was they won a game where they actually scored runs for Jacob deGrom. They played pretty solid defense. Team management managed to keep themselves out of the headlines, and no players opted out on the season yesterday. For the 2020 New York Mets, it was a very good day.

Now that another day has passed, I haven't changed my thinking on Yoenis CĂ©spedes' departure from the Mets. He didn't handle it as well as he could have or should have, but I don't have any enduring bitterness towards the guy. I wish he spent more time on the field the last couple of years, because I genuinely enjoyed watching him. I'm more split on how I feel about his departure this year. There's little doubt that the Mets would have been a better team if he stuck around and was able to shake the rust off, but CĂ©spedes leaving also represents something of an opportunity for the Mets going forward.

Monday, August 3, 2020

The CĂ©spedes Debacle

Apologies for taking the day off yesterday. After another listless Mets loss against the Braves and the whole sorry CĂ©spedes affair, anything I would have written yesterday would have been reactive rather than thoughtful. While 24 hours hasn't changed the dreadful position the Mets have put themselves in with their awful 3-7 start, everything does seem a little clearer to me now than it did yesterday.

I guess we should start with Yoenis CĂ©spedes, since it seems virtually certain that we will never see him in a Mets uniform again. What CĂ©spedes did, opting out of the season without being man enough to at least let his manager know face to face, was a crap move. How the Mets, particularly GM Brodie Van Wagenen, elected to handle the situation was typical of the weird, passive-aggressive nonsense that we've come to expect from the Mets over the last couple of decades.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Bullpen Follies

I'm not sure what to say about last night's game. Heading into the season, it really looked like the Mets had done a good job of fortifying their bullpen, to the extent that I believed that the bullpen might be a strength for the club this season. Hey, it still might happen, but it doesn't seem all that likely any more, does it?

With the possible exception of closer Edwin Diaz's mental state, probably the biggest question mark in the bullpen is RH Dellin Betances. While the big right-hander's famous injury from last season was the torn Achilles that resulted from celebrating his return to the mound last September, he spent most of last season out with a shoulder impingement. Apparently he was dealing with multiple shoulder and lat issues last season. He's back in the 90s with his fastball now, and it certainly looks better than it did during original spring training, but the fastball hasn't looked explosive when I've seen him. He obviously doesn't like his fastball, either, primarily relying on his slider when he's pitched.

Closer to Home

I grew up in a very unconventional household. I don't retain the warm memories of home and family that most folks have. I don't live...