September 2012

The Mets Played Spoilers Last Night

It’s not a sentence that’s typed very often, so I’m going to type it again: the Mets played spoilers last night.

Sure, the Braves have already clinched a playoff berth and are trying to top the Nationals in the NL East, but I think Jon Niese wanted to win this one more than the Braves did.

For Niese, it meant ending the season on a high note, finishing with career highs in wins and innings pitched and a career low 3.40 ERA. Niese also struck out a career high 155 batters this season. After last night’s performance, Jon Niese can feel good about the way his season has gone.

For the Mets, it means ending their season on a high note. It means giving their fans something to talk about besides the annual second half collaspe. The Mets have nothing left to play for…except for ruining Chipper’s night.

Emotions were high last night; this weekend marks the beginning of Chipper Jones’ final homestand as an Atlanta Braves player. Yesterday, the Braves had a ceremony paying tribute to Jones’ career and what better opponent than the Mets? Over the course of his career, Jones is someone the Mets and their fans have loved to hate. Why not make one last dig and become the party crashers?

Earlier this month, the Mets paid tribute to Chipper in their own way, by presenting him with a painting of Shea Stadium, a place where he performed so well that he named his son Shea. Of course, fans attending that Sunday’s game were denied one last LARRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYY chant.

This weekend’s trip to Atlanta marks the last chance for the Mets to be spoilers; our final series against the Marlins is only a factor in that it’s not a factor. If the Mets can win two out of three or even sweep Atlanta, they certainly will have ruined the Braves’ divisional chances, after their elimination number fell to two.

Finishing in first has suddenly become more important than it was in the past, and the Mets intend to teach the Braves that lesson the hard way.


Milestones Keep It Interesting

In a season that has disappointed Mets fans aplenty, the last couple of weeks of the season saw some September milestones that kept fans sitting on the edge of their seats, whether they were at home or at Citi Field.

R.A. Dickey became the first pitcher in 22 years to win 20 games for the Mets. As we all know, Frank Viola was the last to accomplish the feat in 1990. Dickey joins a list that includes Viola, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Jerry Koosman, and some guy named Tom Seaver who accomplished the feat four times (not including 1977-he won 21 games combined for the Mets & Reds).

Dickey remains on the shortlist of Cy Young Award contenders, as he now leads the NL in strikeouts and innings pitched. He is second in the wins category as Gio Gonzalez got his 21st win against the Phillies. He is also second in ERA to Clayton Kershaw by 1/100th of a point.

Dickey’s 20 wins makes him responsible for almost 28% of all the Mets victories this season. If you include no-decisions, Dickey has been the starting pitcher in nearly a third of all the Mets’ victories this season. I think it’s amazing that Dickey has been able to earn as many victories as he has on a team that remains subpar. Seeing the pitching performances from Dickey, Matt Harvey, and even Jon Niese make me optimistic that starting pitching will continue to be a strength in 2013.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that David Wright got is 1,419th career hit on Wednesday night. The little infield single that could puts him past Ed “The Original Met” Kranepool as the franchise leader in the hits category.

It seems like the only record left for David Wright to break is Darryl Strawberry’s home run record. Strawberry has 252 home runs, but perhaps the closer goal for Wright is passing Mike Piazza’s 220, which could happen by the middle of next year.

Wright would have to have a monster year in 2013, where he would break the franchise record for home runs in a season (41, by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran) to get himself in the Strawberry Stratosphere. Or the Strawberry Fields if you’re a fan of The Beatles.

I have to give these guys credit where credit is due. After going on the slide that they went on after the All Star break, they kept us watching. As a Mets fan, I looked forward to the days where Dickey pitched and enjoyed counting down until David Wright broke the Kranepool record. Even though they weren’t playing for anything, Wright and Dickey continue to soldier forward and be leaders in the clubhouse. Let’s bring these guys back long term, pretty please?


It’s All About How You Finish

I don’t know what has been more astonishing this weekend: the fact that the Mets have won four games in a row, or the fact that the Mets have won four games in a row at home.

The Mets are in the midst of their final homestand of the season. Since a humiliating loss to the Phillies on Thursday, it looks like the Mets are back in shape. R.A. Dickey got his 19th victory, Ike Davis hit his 29th and 30th home runs of the season, and David Wright is only two hits away from breaking Ed Kranepool’s all time franchise record for hits.

Over the past five or six seasons, the Mets have perfected the art of starting great and ending sloppily. This year, the Mets have the chance to finish strongly, even though they dug themselves their own grave in July.

They already proved their skeptics wrong; they won 70 games when nobody said they could. They’ve stayed out of last place when every sports media outlet in the country picked them to finish in last place. If you take a second to really look back at the 2012 Mets campaign, they’ve exceeded everybody’s expectations.

The only people who seem to be unsatisfied are tortured Mets fans everywhere, who now spend their days discussing whether or not David Wright is coming back or even if he wants to come back. Conversations of 2013 started far too soon for Mets fans, who watched their team plummet from second to fourth place in a matter of weeks. With Matt Harvey spending his full season with the Mets next year, I’m already optimistic that next year will be a little turnaround; maybe they won’t crash as suddenly next year.

What the 2012 Mets have to do in the final days of their season is prove to their supporters that they are fully committed to turning things around in 2013. Sandy Alderson looks to spend a little bit more money to (hopefully) lock up Wright and Dickey, Terry Collins will certainly be spending his offseason mulling over why the second half went the way it did, and the Mets players will continue with their offseason workouts and hopefully watch video of themselves in the first half versus the second half.

These Mets have to prove to themselves that they want to win. Their fans already know that they want to win; we want them to win. The only people keeping the New York Mets from winning are the New York Mets. Yogi said it wasn’t over until it was over, which means there’s still time for these guys to prove that they can win and want to win.

It’s not about how you start; it’s all about how you finish.

A Baseball Chick’s Movie Review: Trouble With The Curve

I got the chance this weekend to go see Clint Eastwood’s latest movie Trouble With the Curve. WARNING: This post may contain spoilers.

Eastwood plays Gus Lovell, an aging baseball scout with the Atlanta Braves who is sent on one last scouting trip before his contract expires. Due to his deteriorating eyesight, Gus’s attorney daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams) goes along on the scouting trip with her father to help him out. What Gus and Mickey don’t know is that the Atlanta Braves sent another scout to make sure that Gus doesn’t mess up the scouting report on their top draft pick.

What I really enjoyed about this movie is that Eastwood is a baseball purist. Even with today’s technology, Gus would still rather sift through newspaper after newspaper to get different reports on the players. As Gus’s boss Pete points out, “With a computer, you could pull up the stats of any player in the country.”

But Gus and Mickey follow a high school baseball team across North Carolina to scout the “next big thing” Bo Gentry, who is so full of himself that even at the high school level, he charges fans $45 for an autograph. Along the way, they run into Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former player that Gus scouted, who was traded to the Red Sox where his arm blew out.

Yes, Mickey and Johnny get together (but not before Johnny accuses Gus and Mickey of stealing Bo Gentry from him). And yes, it’s cute that for a first date, they sat in a bar and exchanged baseball trivia. It’s a heartwarming subplot that makes you feel good about the rest of the movie as well.

All the characters, especially Gus and Mickey, grow throughout the movie. Father and daugther went from hardly talking to getting each other out of trouble, Mickey with her attorney’s job that she really doesn’t want and Gus’s contract not being renewed after he told the Braves front office what they didn’t want to hear.

In the end baseball purity prevailed, and the sights and sounds of the game beat the computer. It goes to show that on paper, a player may be the best in the state, but a slip of the hand may cost you that top draft spot that is so desired.

If I had one complaint about Trouble With the Curve, it was that the men in the movie insinuated that Adams’ character couldn’t possibly know baseball because she was a girl. When Adams did assert her knowledge, either as an attorney or as a baseball fan, the men in the room (except Timberlake’s Johnny) scoffed at her. As a daugther who was taught everything she knew by her father, I didn’t like this Mickey storyline very much but probably only because I go through the same thing.

Overall, I recommend Trouble With the Curve to any baseball-movie enthusiast out there. In fact, this movie made me kind of sad that baseball season will soon be over. And I think any Mets fan will be satisfied with a storyline that the Red Sox and Braves are both so bad that they have the top two overall draft picks. In fact, I may have enjoyed that aspect a little too much.





R.A. Dickey’s Next Start is Critical

R.A. Dickey won his 19th game of the season today, which is the most wins by any Mets pitcher since 1990. That was the year that Frank Viola won 20 and Dwight Gooden won 19.

Today’s win against the Marlins also gives Dickey 12 wins in day games, which ties Cincinatti’s Johnny Cueto for the most in the majors.

The Mets swapped their rotation around to afford R.A. Dickey the luxary of pitching another game at Citi Field, this time against a more formidable opponent, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are still in contention for a Wild Card spot.

This is a team that is coming off a nine-game losing streak at home, and a run where they scored less than three runs in 16 straight home games. We all know the offense is streaky and Dickey’s record should really reflect better than what is actually is. But people still come to Citi Field if they know Dickey is pitching. I had the privilege of seeing him pitch his one-hitter against Tampa Bay, and I was just in awe. Even in a matchup that seemed like a pitcher’s duel on paper (it was Dickey vs. David Price after all), Dickey dominated his opponent and did the job the Mets are paying him to do.

Dickey and pitching coach Dan Warthen suggested that Dickey pitch next Thursday’s home finale against Pittsburgh instead of pitching Friday in Atlanta. It may have been the best move Dickey has made this season; in his three starts against Atlanta, he has an 8.80 ERA (even though one of the games was waterlogged). In his start against the Pirates this season, Dickey has allowed one run over seven innings pitched.

I think Dickey’s 20 wins will give the Mets and their fans something to be proud of. In a season mostly downs, R.A. Dickey will dominate the highlight reel. In years to come, we will be able to go back and say, “Hey, 2012 wasn’t all that bad. That was the year Dickey won 20 games.”

And in 2013, we’ll hopefully see better things to come with Dickey and Matt Harvey sitting at the top of the rotation.

Quick Reaction: Mets Break A Lot of Losing Streaks

Hey! The Mets won a game at home! If you were there in person, enjoy it, relish it, and hope the Marlins gift wrap another win for R.A. Dickey tomorrow.

This win not only keeps the Mets out of the cellar, but it snaps a five-game losing streak and a nine-game home loss streak. They’ve also broken their streak of 16 straight home games where they scored three runs or less.

Tonight also marked the first time the Mets scored three runs in an inning at home since the All Star break.

The Mets now have a game and a half on the Marlins in the battle to stay out of the cellar.

Last night’s remarks by Terry Collins about the team quitting seem to have settled in with the Mets today. They proved Collins wrong as Jon Niese struck out seven batters over 6.1 innings and Ike Davis and Scott Hairston went yard.

This game was a must-win for the Mets. They had to prove to their manager that they haven’t quit, and they had to prove to themselves that they can provide the offense needed to win the game. Yesterday, the team laid down and died after the first inning. Today, the Mets played it like they were in a playoff game, with Terry Collins taking Lucas Duda out after the third inning for a “lack of hustle.”

I wish the Mets can play all of their games like they played tonight; when I got home from work, even though it was the top of the ninth, I still turned on my TV because Mets victories come few and far between. There’s 12 games left in the season, 12 games to play for their dignity, the respect of their fans, and R.A. Dickey’s 20th win.


Moving Ike Davis Is A Bad Idea

Recently, Ike Davis has had to fire back after reports suggested the Mets were upset with his late-night habits.

“I have never missed games or not been ready to work because of anything to do with staying up too late,” Davis told The Daily News in a telephone interview. “I show up every day. I play hard. It is unfair to me, and it doesn’t make sense.”

Citing a “baseball source,” ESPN reported that Sandy Alderson was open to trading Davis because he stayed out too late after ballgames.

I totally disagree with even thinking about moving Ike Davis. What 25-year-old single man living in the most exciting city in the world isn’t going to go out at night? As long as he doesn’t pull a Lindsay Lohan, Ike Davis should be able to live his life the way he wants to. Players in the 80’s or 90’s would do things far worse than staying out past their bedtime. And they still got their job done.

I see Ike Davis as one of the players that we would build a future winner around. Sandy Alderson should be trying to find guys to protect Ike Davis in the lineup, not looking for the team willing to give the Mets their best offer. Davis leads the team in homeruns, with 27 roundtrippers going into tonight. Davis also leads the team with 81 RBI. Why would you trade the one guy that is even remotely close to a 30 HR/100 RBI season?

If Ike Davis gets moved, who’s going to play first base? Lucas Duda? Justin Turner? Do we dare try to teach Daniel Murphy another position? There isn’t a player in AAA that we can move up to replace Davis should he get moved. We would have to pursue another first baseman via trade or free agency because there isn’t even a first baseman of the future toiling around in the minors.

I’m sure Sandy Alderson will give the New York media some eloquent answer that vaguely answers their question. His actions this offseason will speak way louder than any statement he may give.




Can R.A. Dickey win the NL Cy Young?

R.A. Dickey is going for his 19th win of the season against the Phillies at Citi Field.

There’s no question he’s good; he’s 18-5 with an NL-leading 2.68 ERA and a 1.044 WHIP (2nd in NL) going into tonight. In 205 innings pitched, he’s accumulated 197 strikeouts (2nd in NL) against 48 walks.

The question for R.A. Dickey all season has been: can a knuckleballer win the Cy Young award? After all, a knuckleballer has never been honored with the prestigious award. The Braves’ Phil Niekro finished second in the voting in 1969 to some guy named Tom Seaver. Wilbur Wood of the Chicago White Sox also finished second in the voting in 1972, losing out to Gaylord Perry.

The Cy Young award appears to be a four-man field between Dickey, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, and Clayton Kershaw, all of whom sit atop the NL leaderboards in most categories. The difference between Dickey and Cueto/Gonzalez/Kershaw is that the Reds and Nationals are both poised to win their divisions, with the Dodgers still in contention for one of two Wild Cards spots and R.A. Dickey isn’t pitching for anything.

I don’t need to remind anybody that the Mets sit 4th in the NL East with a 66-80 record going into play tonight. We’re not even playing to finish with a .500 record; we’re playing because we have to play 162 games and to avoid the cellar. The only accomplishments R.A. Dickey has left to play for are his own personal ones, such as a 20 win season and the NL Cy Young award.

But will the voters go for a pitcher on a 4th (or potentially 5th) place team? Tim Lincecum won the award in 2008 & 2009 despite the Giants finishing 4th and 3rd in those respective years. Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young award in 2011 despite the Mariners finishing with one of the worst records in the American League. Zach Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young award despite the Royals’ 65-97 record and last place finish in the AL Central.

But what does that all mean for the Mets, who haven’t seen a Cy Young winner since Dwight Gooden won the award in 1985? It means that the voters, the Baseball Writers Association of America will simply have to ignore the horrendous second half of the Mets and remember the R.A. Dickey that pitched two consecutive one-hitters during the month of June while not allowing a run for 32 2/3 straight innings.

The last three weeks of the season are not only crucial for Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez, and Clayton Kershaw, but they are crucial for R.A. Dickey because he’s about the only good thing the Mets have left.

It’s Getting Closer

With today’s 3-0 loss to the Brewers, the elimination number on the Mets went down to six. That means any combination of six wins from the top two Wild Card teams and six Mets losses and the season will finally be mathematically over.

The lives of tormented fans across the country will be made abundantly easier as the load from their shoulders gets lighter. No longer will we have to walk around with the “mathematically alive” chip. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m tired of walking around saying, “We’re technically still in it, but the season’s over.”

At this point in the season, every loss helps us get a higher draft pick. Every game where we use Jeurys Familia or Jenrry Mejia instead of Jon Rauch or Frank Francisco gets the younger guys some major league experience.

I was asked by one of my Twitter followers the other day if I wished I had more answers about the state of the Mets going into the offseason. I responded, “It’s the Mets; we’ll never have the answers that we want.” Of course, my response had to be 140 characters or less.

With the Mets, if one offseason question is answered, another one arises. You can ask if the Mets plan on signing David Wright to a long-term deal, get that answer and then ask, “But what about R.A. Dickey?”

I have to commend Sandy Alderson for being very collected when dealing with questions of this nature. I’m sure he understands that he can’t make everybody happy at the end of the day; I’m sure fans still ask him why we didn’t re-sign Jose Reyes. At the end of the day, he has to do what he feels is best for the organization.

Once October 3 is over and done, I’m sure questions about the long term future of David Wright & R.A. Dickey will come into question. We’ll get news that Dickey was robbed of the Cy Young award (or that he won), we’ll ballyhoo about for two or three days and then we will move on with our offseason.

I can’t think a month into the organzation’s future. Heck, I can’t think about tomorrow’s game. I know Dickey is pitching, but we’re at home..and we are atrocious at home. Think about today and worry about tomorrow, well, tomorrow.


Don’t Let September Get You Down

Yeah, it’s September. The elimination number on the Mets is nine. On October 3, Mets baseball will become dormant for the winter as the Wilpon family and Sandy Alderson try to re-sign David Wright and R.A. Dickey to long-term contracts. Or at least that’s what I hope they’ll do.

No, the Mets won’t be a .500 team this year, but that plan went moot after the Mets had horrendous homestand after horrendous homestand. They believe in homefield advantage about as much as they believe in comebacks (remember that slogan?). Sandy Alderson has recently expressed confidence in Terry Collins and his coaching staff as the season winds down, but the future of the coaching staff will be discussed in the next seven to ten days.

Most Met fans I talk to on Twitter have moved on to football season, either rooting for Big Blue or Gang Green, with a few Cowboys fans thrown into the mix. While I go for Gang Green myself, I remain a baseball purist, loyal until the last out. I still listen to Howie Rose and Josh Lewin on WFAN, thanks to advances in modern technology.

People wonder why I even still bother with the Mets. They have the worst bullpen in baseball and can’t win a game at Citi Field if it was handed to them on a silver platter. As Robin Ventura once said, “Mets fans are born, not made.”

My dad, brothers and I still have conversations about the Mets. Whenever I need to complain about them possibly shutting down Matt Harvey or about how Jason Bay can’t hit his way out of a paper bag, I call one of them. We even talk about the deals the Mets are (or aren’t) making in the offseason. We see eye to eye on most things, but if you bring up trading David Wright, I will shut you down.

The Mets bring my family together. Whether we are in Florida, New York, Hawaii, or Alaska, the Mets provide a common discussion piece amongst the DeMattia’s. It’s not over until it’s over for the DeMattia family. And then we start talking about 2013.

Being a Mets fan is a birth right I am grateful that my dad passed down onto me. I can’t let September get me down; it’s just like any other September in franchise history.


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