Wednesday, July 13, 2016

mfc's THE METS @ THE BREAK- We shall overcome! Plus an mfc Fantasy Focus!

Will we?
What a week for Mets fans! What a first half! This rollercoaster of a season is looking to go off the rails. Will it? Matt Harvey done for the season!  Thor's arm took a nap in the middle of a game! Cespedes with sore body parts! Setbacks hound Zack Wheeler! We just lost 3 games in a row to Washington! Six games out at the break!
Things are not going all that well.

(note to constant viewers: go grab a snack & get comfortable. This one may be longer than the first half)

We've lost some frontline players to injuries this season.  David Wright (ruptured disk) and Lucas Duda (lower back stress fracture) have been on the shelf. Matt Harvey's (thoracic outlet syndrome) season is over as he will have his shoulder operated on. I won't even mention the lesser injuries and temporary losses. Still we were able to hang around the first place Nats, even taking over at the top of the division for a week in May.

Posted May 9th
Posted May 15th

And now we have bone spurs and sore quads and who knows what else. We've just barely been able to keep the pace and the most recent news about Matt Harvey coupled with Zack Wheelers stumble makes me wonder if we will be able to mount any kind of resurgence. I think we have the personnel to make a run. We could use a few tweaks and hopefully Sandy Alderson will provide those. We would need the breaks to go our way, and in baseball that can't be quantified.

I'm not giving up on this season so early. I'm a Mets fan for 45 years so I always stick with them until the math says it's impossible. Then I still stick with 'em and look for the good. I was watching very closely in 1973 and that taught me to never count them out. I've seen miracles.
(Id like to thank long time Mets fan & historian
Charlene Juliano Worker for reminding me of that.)

However, the last few games before the break were dismal uninspired losses. I won't get stuck on them. They were serious much needed games, but I'll have to console myself by saying there are plenty more games to play in the second half. I'll say this much, the first half wasn't only most interesting, it was strangely awesome.

The first half Mets were up and down, good and bad, offensively a feast or a famine. They did set some impressive records for round trippers so they were producing. New York has scored 53.1 percent of their runs via home run, a mark that leads the Majors. But can this team live and die by the long ball?

Don't get me wrong. I really enjoy watching the slugfest (more so when we win). Don't stop hitting them. Just mix it up with some small ball more often (even though approximately 47% of our runs are not via the kaBOOM, so we do a fair amount of other stuff). We need to see if we can generate some speed at the top of the order with Reyes. I don't think he's up to snuff on the bases yet. In the second half, we shall see.

The most important stretch of the season up until now began right after Fathers Day. We started it off by sweeping a two game series against our 2015 World Series foes, the K.C. Royals.

Then we bumbled though a four game split with the weak Atlanta Braves.

 Next was the worst, a nightmare sweep by the first place Washington Nationals throwing us 6 games back. If I wasn't still emotionally damaged by this turn of events it would have made a highlight card.

So we limped into the Cubs series licking our wounds on the last day of June and came away with a HUGE sweep. A sweep of what many consider the best team in the N.L.! What a high! We absolutely pwn the Cubbies (ha! & sorry Bam if you're reading this ;).

This was followed by an Independence Day comeback for the ages playing the Miami Marlins. New York held their fireworks show during the game with its biggest comeback win since rallying from a 7-1, seventh-inning deficit to win 8-7 against the Nats on Sept. 8th, 2015. And just like that the Mets closed back within four games of first place.

We ended up taking 2 of 3 from Miami. And yet we go into the break tied for 2nd place with the feisty Fish. And that brings us to this most recent series against the Washington Nationals.

For fans this up and down rollercoaster has been a tough gig. But we love it. We are playing games that mean something every night.

Ideally, in my little Mets fantasy world we would have wrapped the first half with a broom in our hands. The worst case scenario would be hanging tough with a split. Upsettingly we lost 3 of 4 games, and instead we sputter into the all star break like an engine that threw a rod or two and is leaking oil badly.

That opening game of the Nats series though... sometimes one game can make your week and this game will get a closer, more focused look. To rehash the losses would be torture to you and I, so why bother? Lets put game one of the series under the microscope.


Last Thursday night I watched the Mets play a classically awesome baseball game. They faced the first place Nats in a topsy-turvy, back and forth tug-o-war in which the Mets showed their mettle and emerged victorious. 

It started on a sour note as starting pitcher Bartolo Colon was touched up for a quick run in the first inning. Washington's Ben Revere led off with a triple followed by the nightly Danny damage, only an RBI single this time, that put the Nationals on the board.

Lucas Giolito, the super prospect pitcher, started for Washington. He wasn't all that as the Mets reached in every frame but didn't push a run across until the third. James Loney tied the game with an RBI single.

Then in the 4th things went sideways. After the first inning Colon looked to have settled down. Usually when he finds his groove he stays in it, but this night Bart wasn't feeling groovy. He was grooving pitches, that's for sure, and allowed the nasty Nats to answer right back. Bryce Harper, Clint Robinson, and Anthony Rendon all homered in Washington's half and things looked dismal.

A Nats Fantasy Card. Gah!

On the way back to the Nats dugout after the home run Harper shhhhhhed the Citi crowd. Ha! What a set of balls! I thought it was very funny.>>>
With Washington up 4-1 I was feeling deflated. But before I could go too far down New York answered back. With one out in the fourth Travis d'Arnaud got it started by unloading a sky shot to deep center that landed right next to the home run apple. It was his second round tripper this season. The Mets had cut the lead in half, and they weren't done.

With two outs the newly reacquired Jose Reyes hit an upper deck bomb to right for his first kaBOOM of the season. The score was now 4-3 Washington, New York down by only a run.

And no, they still weren't done. Curtis Granderson, now batting second since Reyes returned to the lead off spot, ripped a rope to the corner in right and pulled up at second with a double. The Nationals 21 year old pitcher Giolito was a bit unsettled facing Yoenis Cespedes and he was called for a balk sending Grandy to third. All this with two outs. Then Yo did what Yo does. Drove in the run with wicked laser beam down the third baseline for another two bagger.
The Mets had tied the game!

Niel Walker drew a 5 pitch walk and that was it for Giolito. With Mets on first and second the Nats called on crazy ex-Met Oliver Perez to stop the bleeding. Before he did Terry Collins pulled a very rare (for him) double steal! No runs resulted from this but it gets a commemorative card, mostly due to Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen's enthusiastic call of the play. Collins should have a set of signs that he can give us fans so when he does one of these things (like this or a squeeze play) that he never usually does we don't all have heart attacks. 

Ollie did get out of the inning with no more damage but New York had answered right back with 3 runs to tie the game. This was huge and it pumped us all up. I hoped that Colon would once again calm down and find his zone because we needed him to successfully eat a few more innings before turning it over to the pen. But this was not Bart's night. He was greeted with back to back singles to start off the 5th.

Colon got Werth to ground into a fielders choice and almost got out of the inning as Met killer Daniel Murphy slapped a feeble grounder to short that resulted in a double play. Whew! But wait...what!? Replay showed Muffy was safe by one of his scuzzy chin hairs. Crowd momentum was stifled as the play was reviewed and reversed. On this play Werth went into second hard and slid past the bag. To me it looked like a good fair slide but replay showed that he did not keep possession of the 2nd base bag. Collins did not ask for a review of this play even though it looked like the umpires expected him to. Cripes, Murphy is even driving in runs when we get him to hit into double plays!

Bottomline, the Nationals had the lead again. They answered right back, dagnabbitt. And no, they weren't done. Washington catcher Wilson Ramos was up next and he worked an at bat that culminated with 21 bounce, dribbling single up the middle. Murphy came around to score and it was 6-4 Nats. GAH! And with that Bartolo Colon was done for the day, Hansel Robles coming on to put out the fire, which he did as he got Anthony Rendon to pop out.

This got me down but I felt a little current of electric hope flow through me that said this team is still alive. And sure enough New York started the 5th inning with back to back singles by old vet Asdrubal Cabrera and new rook Brandon Nimmo. Up next, Travis d'Arnaud could not even move them over and looked at a called third strike. Ugh. I hate wasted outs with men on.

Fortunately Murphy had one of his spazz attacks going after Nimmo's ground ball single.
At this point Terry Collins turned to his secret weapon.
Wilmer Flores had been VERY hot as of late, homering twice in two separate games over the preceding four days, something that no other third baseman in Metropolitan history had ever done before. No, not even our beloved Captain has accomplished that (yet). A good number of fans wanted Flores starting this game because he was on such a hot streak but TC held him back. Collins was looking to use Flores against the Nats lefty bullpen.

Brilliant move? Of course in retrospect it was. It made him look like a genius. It wasn't a pinch hitting situation though. Wilmer was inserted as part of a double switch when Robles took over. There was no guarantee that Wilmer would get up with men on. I can't put too much on TC because Flores had to get the opportunity and then he had to do it. Collins put him in that position but he still had to come through. And boy did he!

The Metropolitan shortstop...third baseman...utility guy? took crazy ex-Met Oliver Perez's first pitch, a nice flat fat first pitch fastball and absolutely crushed it! The ball landed in the upper deck in left, a very hard plateau to reach. At least for New York it used to be. These round tripper rippin' Mets have been reaching the upper decks in Citi with giddy regularity recently.

This comeback 3 run no doubter was such a jolt to the Mets universe. Metropolitan players were exuberant. We fans were beside ourselves, which might explain the jump in attendance over the first half. Wilmer, who was in the middle of practically everything during our pennant winning 2015 season. Gary Cohen, as usual, said it best:

After that rush you feel like there's no way we are going to lose this game now. But these were the front running Nationals so no one was going to start counting their chickens yet. The way this season is going I have developed a complex, a fear of the unexpected. I can say I felt fairly confident. Just get the ball to Familia.

But of course the scoring wasn't over. How could it have been? That would have been too easy. Mets fans are not conditioned to be able to "take it easy". I was able to at least sit back in the 6th because Asdrubal Cabrera, such a great off season acquisition, somehow turned on a Matt Belisle outside fastball and pulled it way over the New York bullpen for a solo long ball and we had a wee bit of a cushion.

Good thing too.
So when Murphy did his due damage leading off the 7th I didn't have a conniption fit. Yep, Muffy dropped the head on a 3-2 fastball and it was gone baby gone. Danny has been having an unbelievable season against his former mates. But I don't have to tell you that. Here, Murph can tell you himself...

Oh, no highlight card of the MuffyBomb? It must have slipped my mind. ;)
Murphy hit his homer against New York middleman Antonio Bastardo. You may notice that Bastardo hasn't recieved an mfc card as of yet. He'll have to step it up if he wants one (ha, like he's even aware of my silly cards). Antonio did hold the lead and pass it off to Addison Reed, and then I felt we were in good hands. Reed has been money 99.9% of the time and his first half certainly rates an mfc regular season card. Reed struck out Anthony Rendon to keep things in check.

Addison also pitched a one-two-three 8th inning, the perfect bridge to the best closer in the game, Jeurys Familia. And Reed can be considered one of the best 8th inning guys in the league. If he can keep this up in the second half that's one thing we won't have to worry about. He hasn't been perfect, like Fammy (and Jeurys has only been perfect in save situations), but he's been pretty damn close.

In between the Mets tacked on another run in their half of the 7th. A Granderson single and a base on balls to Cespedes put two on. Neil Walker drove Grandy in with a solid single to right. Again we were up by two runs. And all we had to do was get three more outs. Familia was ready to go.

New York's new red hot closer had converted a club-record 46 consecutive regular-season save opportunities up to this point. This is unprecedented in Metropolitan History. The streak is incredible. Don't forget, Familia backed into the role. New York was all set to hand the closing gig to Jenrry Mejia. But Mejia was an idiot and this was very fortunate. Familia stepped up and has quickly become the most dominant closer currently in the game.

I have an mfc RECORD BREAKER prepared but I won't jinx him by posting it with any numbers yet. I want this record to continue, and no matter how far he goes what a great run we are witnessing. Can he go 50? 60? As Spock would say, "highly improbable". We shall see. Right now he seems invincible.

Familia has been the ideal closer and you'd like the ideal closer to come in and BING-BANG-BOOM, the game is over. Not in this game. In this one it was more like BING- BAHWAT!?-BOOM.

With the score 9-7 New York, Jason Werth led off the 9th by drawing a walk. Now it was time to sit up and cease any resemblance of relaxation. Daniel Murphy was up. Murphy, the guy leading the N.L. in hits and hitting. Murphy, the guy who set a record for consecutive games with a home run in the post season while a Metropolitan and now, Murphy The Met Murderer.

Da Murph hit a beebee to the hole at short. Asdrubal Cabrera was leaning up the middle and I didn't think he had a chance to get to it. Suddenly he became Superman with lightning reflexes, flying through the air and backhanding the grass cutter, making an unfreakin' believable play for a shortstop that was supposedly all washed up at the position. He shoveled the ball to Neil Walker who had to rush to get Murphy, and his throw was off line. Danny boy was safe.

I'd happily have settled for a force at second and one Muffy man on, but I didn't have to. Jason Werth, who pulled an almost identical slide earlier in the game and got away with it, slid into second a tad late and his momentum took him through Walker and past the 2nd base bag. I didn't think either of the slides were bad. Illegal by the letter of the new rule, but not bad. He lost contact with the bag and that was the thing that did him in, not the late slide per say.

Neil Walker immediately motioned to the umps that he thought there was an infraction of the rule. Werth looked up from about 2 feet beyond the bag and didn't know what all the fuss was about. Many of todays players are ingrained to do certain "traditional" things growing up and coming up through the minors playing baseball. It will take some time before the players understand that breaking up a double play is, in essence, no longer allowed. I don't agree with this. I feel removing the neighborhood play will be nothing but trouble for infielders in the long run.

So the play was reviewed and an automatic double play was awarded to the Mets for Werth's overslide. Jason was plenty mad and Washington manager Dusty Baker was bitterly amused (does he ever get mad?) but the DP was official. Hey, to me it was ridiculous (and so is the rule), but I'll take it. Now we only needed one more out.

Unfortunately it was Bryce Harper we had to retire.

But super closer Juerys Familia was up to the task! It couldn't have ended on a better note. The mighty Harper struck out! Game over!

 How fitting. On his way back to the dugout I shushed him and began singing "Goodnight Harper". He gave me a snotty look, captured below for posterity.

We really needed a game like this. It has sustained me right up to and through the All Star break. With the depressing news about Matt Harvey and the bad stuff about Thor and Wheeler we needed an uplifting game sooo bad.
New York answered back every time it was called out.
Four times against the big bad Nats.
This game was simply amazing.

If you didn't have a snack you must be starving.

> This game set a Citi Field record for total home runs at in a game (8) and total home runs in an inning (5).

> This win put the Mets most recent 11 game homestand at 7-1. They would end up 7-4 after losing the final 3 games to Washington.
> Nationals reliever and crazy ex-Met Ollie Perez not only got his first hit in 6 years, he got two hits, a single and a double. He also scored a run in the 5th inning.

> Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo got into a shouting match with second base umpire Jim Joyce in the hallway between clubhouses just moments after the final out in regards to the interference rule.

"We fought back, they fought back. It was probably a heck of a game to watch, but it was a terrible game to lose. We couldn't stop them from scoring."
-- Dusty Baker, Nats Manager 

Michael Conforto, keep it up down on the farm. Cya soon. I hope that Nimmo can also stay up. I like that kid.


Reyes was welcomed back warmly and that's nice to see. Jose is also hitting home runs, something I wasn't counting on. I know Reyes has lost a few steps but I still want to see him utilizing his speed at the top of the lineup.

So thrilled to see Reyes in orange and blue again.

When Granderson broke Jose's record for lead off home runs by a Metropolitan I never even imagined that Reyes could/would return to reclaim his record. But here he is and he did just that.


We all have heard the bad news concerning Matt Harvey. He has a serious shoulder injury that will require surgery. Gone for the season. This is terrible news.

I'm a Harvey supporter and I've rooted to see him return to his former dominance. This set back puts that possibility further from reality. I still have hope. Again I'll wait patiently for The Dark Knight to return.

I read many who consider Harvey a douche who was going to grab the first big contract (usually to the Yankees) outta here. Do I think he's a douche? I don't care. I don't plan on hangin' out with the guy. His motivations as far as his contract and his future are his business. Right now, he's a Metropolitan. All I care about, and what I'd like to see again, is the Matt Harvey that came up in 2013. I'd like to see that Dark Knight take the mound for the Mets again. The odds are stacked against him.


Daniel Murphy, the entire Mets universe thanks you for this gesture at the ASG during the Stand Up To Fight Cancer ceremony. It was very thoughtful of you to stand up for Sandy Alderson. Deep down inside we still love ya bro. Now stop doing all that natty stuff to the Mets or I'll make some nasty cards in your name.

Terry Collins and Tim Teufel also stood up for the Mets GM.

Along with our hitting coach Kevin Long, I stand up for Shannon Forde, former Mets public relations executive.


More on the All Star Game after the shit storm surrounding Terry Collins and his player usage, or lack thereof,  blows over.

Photography by
Kathy Willens, Brad Penner, Mike Stobe, Kathleen Malone

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