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Why the Rest of the New York Mets’ Season Starts Today

Here we are, New York Mets fans. It’s nearing the midway point of the season, and the team we love is a half-game out of first, and 10 games above .500.

Who would have thunk it? Certainly not me.

I went into this season with mixed feelings about this team.

I felt that if they could stay healthy, they could put up a fight, and maybe sneak into the playoffs via the Wild Card.

I felt the pitching staff would be a major issue. I felt the team still lacked the “chemistry” that seems to be important when making a run at a championship.

I was really questioning the offseason moves the Mets made—not going after some of the top free agent pitchers, picking up a plethora of catchers, and not really adding any of the speed and defense they talked about being important to win at Citi Field.

I’m happy to admit (for now at least) that I was wrong.

Since May 21, when the first Subway Series of the season kicked off, the Mets are on fire.

The team is 18-6 since then, going from last place to the verge of first, all while playing the best baseball I’ve seen the Mets play since 2006.

They’ve taken advantage of a lot of things, especially a soft schedule, to make this run and get back into the mix to the delight of fans everywhere.

I won’t criticize the Mets for beating up on teams such as AL bottom feeders Baltimore Orioles and the Cleveland Indians, because that’s what winning baseball teams are supposed to dothey beat the bad teams and try and at least break even against the good teams.

In his post on, Matt Cerrone points out something that I couldn’t agree with more:

…it’s not just that, it’s so many other moves that we were all yelling for, that initially didn’t happen, but now are happening and the team is winning, like Chris Carter on the roster, not Mike Jacobs … no Gary Matthews Jr … removing Oliver Perez from the rotation… promoting Ike… not hitting Jose Reyes third… etc… i’m not saying we know best, but i think it’s important that people understand that just because we’re fans, and just because we don’t travel with the team or work behind the scenes, it doesn’t make us wrong… sometimes, like this season, we’re a whole lot of bowl of right

Mets management has put a team on the field that’s easy to get behind. They’re a young group of guys that goes out and plays the game the right way. They hustle, they have fun, and they seem to have each other’s back out there.

All that being said…

The real test for the Mets starts today, as their schedule takes a sharp turn and puts them up against some much better competition. The team’s next three opponents, the Yankees, Tigers, and Twins, have a combined record of 115-82. All three are legitimate playoff contenders.

Seeing how the Mets fare on the road at Yankee Stadium and at home against good teams will be a very strong indicator of how the rest of the season might go.

I’m most worried about playing the Yankees at The House That Jeter Built as the Mets have up until recently struggled on the road. Taking one out of three will make for a very successful road trip taking seven out of nine, but the way this team is playing I’m hoping for more.

I’m enjoying my new found confidence in the Mets, and I hope they continue to play the kind of baseball I can get behind for the rest of the year.

This morning, I’ll be busy getting behind my country rooting for USA soccer, but tonight it’s all about the Mets.

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The NEW New York Mets Shine Bright in The San Diego Series

I’ve recently finished one of the most gruelingly busy months I’ve ever had in the five years since I’ve started my career.

In that time, I haven’t been able to watch many, but I have been able to listen to every Met game, and I have to say I like what I’ve been hearing.

The Mets front office has made all the moves the fans were clamoring for (even if it did take way too long to do so.  See Gary Matthews Jr.)

There’s been an injection of young, home grown players into the starting line up who play hard and have fun, and I’m enjoying watching the team again for the first time in a very, very long time.

Guys like Ike Davis, Mike Pelfrey, and Jon Niese have stepped well beyond their intended spots as role players and have moved into the spot light as legitimate players and future stars.

The weekend series against the first place San Diego Padres featured some of this young talent on display, and did they ever shine.

The first game of the series featured Mike Pelfrey’s strongest outing to date, a nine inning, one run gem that was capped off by an Ike Davis walk off home run in the 11th.

Davis hit the ball as far as I’ve seen a Met hit a home run so far at Citi Field.  He entered Adam Dunn territory in right field.  With that kind of power coming out of a such a smooth swing, I can see Davis developing into a great home run hitting first baseman.

There was some concern in the first game of last night’s double header, when Johan Santana continued his “struggles” walking four batters in six innings.

I’m pretty sure if I had the kind of struggles Johan had, I could get $10 million a year to pitch in the majors, but it’s very uncharacteristic of Santana to struggle with his control and to give up so many hits.

He’s pitched a few great games and a few games like yesterday afternoon this season.  The one constant in all of his starts is a general lack of offense.

The best story of the weekend was Jon Niese’s start last night.

Niese pitched a brilliant complete game one hitter and was that one hit away from perfection.  He pounded the strike zone all night, throwing 76 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

I’ve got a tremendous amount of confidence when Jon Niese is on the mound.  He seems to have a great deal of confidence in himself too.

My favorite part of this weekend was the absolute elation shown by the weekend’s young heroes, Davis and Niese.

When Ike Davis was interviewed following his walk off home run he was all smiles telling reporters

“He hung a splitter and I was looking fastball, saw it early and happened to hit it on the sweet spot… Oh, God, it was awesome.  To win a game with one swing, walk-offs are amazing.  I think that’s really the first true walk-off in my life, so that was pretty sweet… I was gonna jump really high (on to home plate), but I saw my teammates yelling, ‘No,’ so I gave like a fun little hop.”

Niese, after finding out last night that he was one pitch away from a perfect game, looked like a kid in a candy store smiling and bouncing around the field.  He even took a pie in the face courtesy of Angel Pagan.

I know the Mets have a lot of problems, particularly winning on the road, but I’ll give them this…

They’re a fun bunch to watch, and a fun bunch to root for.  I’m enjoying 2010.

Let’s go Mets

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Why Jeff Francoeur’s Days with the New York Mets May Be Numbered

Since joining the New York Mets last season in the trade that sent beleaguered outfielder Ryan Church to the Atlanta Braves, Jeff Francoeur has become one of my favorite players.

His “tell it like it is” approach to interviews is a refreshing change, and his attitude on the field is contagious.

Francoeur got off to a hot start this season, but as this chart shows, his batting average has been on a free fall since April 17th.

Although Francoeur has struggled at the plate for nearly a month, his defense has been as good as ever, and I think his role on the team as a leader is something that numbers can’t measure.

His lack of production has almost nothing to do with why I feel his job may be in jeopardy in the coming months of this season.

Instead, Francoeur’s job may be in jeopardy due to the return of Carlos Beltran.

Beltran is coming off major knee surgery, which has kept him off a baseball field until just recently, and I have major doubts that he will get back to form defensively.  A center fielder with limited range in the expansive outfield at Citi Field is a recipe for disaster, and I’m beginning to wonder if Beltran will be able to take over the center field duties effectively.

With Pagan relegated to center field, and Jason Bay not going anywhere any time soon, the only option the Mets may have is to move Beltran to right field, making Francoeur the odd man out.

I really hope these speculations never come to fruition.

I imagine Carlos Beltran coming back at full strength, playing the great center field he always played and adding some power and stability to the middle of the lineup.  It would transform the Mets’ outfield into one of the best in the National League and bring them back to a point where I believe they can seriously compete for a championship.

Of course, we won’t know anything for awhile, and until then I hope the Mets remain competitive enough to stay within striking distance.

Let’s Go Mets

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New York Mets News: Bengie Molina vs. Rod Barajas and John Maine Shines

The news broke on January 19th of this year that Bengie Molina rejected a two year contract offer from the Mets to sign a one year deal with the San Francisco Giants.

I posted my thoughts about missing out on Molina here.  To summarize:

The Mets have continually displayed patience this off-season. They haven’t over-payed for anyone. They haven’t tied up tons of money for tons of years in an attempt to appease the disgruntled fan base.

Instead they’ve put their offers on the table, with a “go out and find a better offer” approach.

Molina wants a three year offer, the Mets offered him a year with a team option for a second. How a 35-year-old catcher can think he’s going to get a three year deal is beyond me, and apparently beyond the Mets.

Instead the Mets decided to go with two catchers, Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco, that would do more toward helping the pitching staff than helping the offense.

As it turns out, Barajas would do his part with the bat as well.

While he’s only hitting .231 out of the bottom of the Mets line up, he’s currently leading the team in home runs with seven and is third with 14 RBI.

Molina, while batting .333 on the season, has only hit two home runs while driving in nine.

Sure Barajas is a feast or famine type of hitter, but batting out of the eighth spot in the line up, home runs over batting average is something I’ll take any day of the week.

Last night, his solo home run in the top of the ninth proved to be the game-winning type, bailing out the over-used Fernando Nieve who gave up two solo home runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game.

John Maine’s solid effort should not be overshadowed by Barajas’ heroics.

Maine threw six strong innings giving up two earned runs and striking out six. He left the game with a 4-2 lead, and pitched well enough to earn a win.

Maine’s season ERA has finally dropped below 6.0 as he seems to be flourishing while on the hot seat. I’d still like to see more than six innings from John at some point, but I think it’s safe to say he’ll never be the type of pitcher to give you eight innings.

Maine’s velocity, which used to top out at around 94 mph is significantly down meaning his swing and miss high fast ball is a lot harder to miss these days. Without the strike out pitch, batters extend at bats and Maine’s pitch count is regularly around 100 pitches after six innings.

It’s something he may be able to work out by developing some secondary pitches, but for now I’ll take six solid innings out of him, as the bullpen has been very successful for the most part.

The Mets try and salvage the road trip today at 12:35 as Jon Niese matches up against Johnny Cueto.

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Have the New York Mets Crashed Back to Earth?

Not yet…

The starting pitching had to let down at some point this season. It’s virtually impossible to keep up the pace.

Mike Pelfrey got the fun started, giving up six runs in the fourth inning on Saturday en route to a 10-0 loss, the first loss for the Mets in eight games.

Things only got worst on Sunday when Johan Santana put up his worst effort in his time with the Mets, as he gave up 10 runs in less than four innings pitched.

The damage came quickly for Johan, who gave up two solo home runs in the bottom of the first inning after getting three runs of support in the top half of the inning off a David Wright home run.

Rod Barajas added two insurance runs in the top of the fourth with another home run, but Santana seemed to fall apart in the bottom half of that inning.

The inning started innocently enough, with a Chase Utley double followed by two quick outs.

Back-to-back singles scored Utley as Santana found himself with two on and two out with the bottom of the Phillies lineup coming to bat.

He pitched around the No. 8 hitter, catcher Carlos Ruiz, to load the bases. It seemed innocent enough with pitcher Jamie Moyer, who is staying in baseball until his Social Security kicks in, on deck.

As Moyer’s at-bat progressed, it became apparent that the Mets starter was having control issues, and the previous at-bat may have been a miscue instead of a pitch-around.

Santana fell behind 3-1 and missed badly on ball four to force in a run. It was disastrous, but things only got worse.

The next seven pitches Johan threw to batters Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco, and Chase Utley led to six runs on two home runs with a single sandwiched in between.

Now I’m well aware of the fact that Johan Santana is an ace, and he’s earned the right to try to pitch himself out of trouble.

If Oliver Perez was on the mound and walked the pitcher with the bases loaded, I’m sure he would have been pulled before throwing another pitch.

The problem I have with Jerry Manuel’s decision making last night handling Santana is not that he left him in after the bases-loaded walk. It was that he left him in after Victorino’s grand slam.

The Phillies lineup has won two consecutive National League titles feeding off starting pitcher’s mistakes, and Santana clearly did not have his best stuff last night.

Why not save him the humiliation of trying to get the last out of the inning?

Are you trying to save the bullpen at the expense of your ace’s pride?

It doesn’t make any sense…

All that aside, the Mets are still okay right?

Sure, they lost two games to the Phillies, and I’d rather lose to anyone else, but it was only two games.

The fact that they got outscored 21-5 in the last two games doesn’t mean anything. The only numbers that matter are the zero wins and two losses that post to the standings.

It’s May, and the Mets are 14-11 and only a half-game out of first place. If someone told me that going into the season, I would have called them crazy.

What we need to worry about are the three games left on the road trip against the Cincinnati Reds.

Taking this series and going home with at least a 3-3 record on the road should be considered a success considering how well the Mets have been playing at home.

I’ll never be called an optimistic Mets fan, so don’t let this post fool you. All I’m saying is a bad start by your ace is not the end of the world.

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