Super Bowl XLIX – Flashbacks to 2006

While watching the final minute of Super Bowl XLIX, I couldn’t help but think back to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

When Jermaine Kearse of the Seahawks made a miraculous catch at the five yard line – the ball bouncing off of his leg, body and into his arms – I instantly thought of Endy Chavez, who ironically played for the Seattle Mariners last season. The Seahawks were on shaky ground, at midfield with time running out in their quest for a second straight title. When Kearse made his catch, you felt there was no way the Seahawks could lose. As a Mets fan, though, I had seen this before.

2006 seemed like it would be the Mets’ year, but injuries forced them to turn to Oliver Perez to start the biggest game of the season. Perez, acquired at the trade deadline in July, may have been the worst Game 7 starter in postseason history. Even if you somehow ignored his 3-13 regular season record, you couldn’t ignore that he was freaking Oliver Perez. To his credit, Perez did all the Mets could have asked of him, holding the Cardinals to just one run as he pitched into the sixth inning.

With one out in the sixth and the game tied at 1, Scott Rolen came up with a runner on first. Rolen hit a drive to left field that seemed like a sure goner. Endy Chavez, only starting himself due to an injury to Cliff Floyd, raced back to the wall, leaped, and somehow brought Rolen’s ball back into the yard. Instead of being down 3-1, Chavez’s catch started an inning-ending double play that had Shea Stadium rocking. When Endy “saved the day” (as Gary Cohen put it), most watching figured there was no way that the Mets could lose this game. The Mets would put a few runs on the board, Billy Wagner and the pen would nail down the final outs, and the Mets would be on their way to Detroit.

Except that didn’t happen.

The Mets left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, and didn’t threaten the next two innings. Aaron Heilman gave up a two run bomb to Yadier Molina, and the Mets went into the bottom of the ninth down 3-1. The Mets put the first two runners on base, and then loaded the bases with two outs for Carlos Beltran. We all know how that ended.

Why in the world did Pete Carroll and the Seahawks call a pass play? Why didn’t Beltran swing? These questions – and the catches that became footnotes in heartbreaking losses – will have Seahawks and Mets fans wondering what could have been, or what should have been, for years to come.

The Grandy Man is a Met

Grandy Man

Who will hit some homers? 

Steal a base or two?

He’s certainly no stiff, but often he will whiff.

The Grandy Man.  

After a lot of talk and little else this offseason, Sandy Alderson and the Mets finally made a significant move as the team agreed to a 4 year, $60 million deal with former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson.  With several large contracts finally off the books, fans have been waiting for the team to open up their checkbook and make some much-needed improvements.  But until today, their only move had been the signing of Chris Young (the .200 hitting outfielder, not to be confused with the oft-injured pitcher).

So does signing Granderson turn the Mets into contenders?  Heck no.  He’s a flawed player and not a perfect fit.  With the current roster, Granderson would project to hit fourth, and he’s certainly no cleanup hitter.  But the addition of the “Grandy Man” is a start.  He adds power to a team that sorely lacks pop, and the projected outfield of Granderson-Juan Lagares-Young should be one of the better defensive outfields in the league.

The key will be what Alderson does next.  The Mets need to figure out their first base situation (no Lucas Duda, please), could use an upgrade at shortstop, and need to address their bullpen.  With no Matt Harvey in 2014, the Mets also need to fill a spot in their starting rotation.

What tricks does Sandy have up his sleeve?  Will the Wilpons allow him to do much more?   We may find out as soon as next week as Major League Baseball holds their Winter Meetings at Walt Disney World in Orlando.  Hopefully, the Mets bring home more than a pair of Mickey ears.

Wright or Reyes? Does It Matter?

The big discussion around the Mets these days (well, other than Madoff, the Wilpons, and Finkle…I mean Einhorn) is what they will do with Jose Reyes.  In his contract year, Reyes may be playing the best baseball of his career, showing everyone around the league why he is arguably the most exciting leadoff hitter in baseball.  He’s hitting triples, stealing bases, and is one of the few Mets who has not been injured this year.

Coming off of back-to-back disappointing, injury-plagued seasons, the prevailing thought was that Reyes would be a goner after his contract expired at season’s end, or he would be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline before he left as a free agent. However, with Reyes showing just how important he is to the team at the plate and in the field, the Mets may consider trying to lock up Reyes after all.

Of course, with the Mets financial woes, they likely will need to clear payroll to pay for Reyes.  With Santana and Bay unmovable, the focus has shifted to David Wright.  Once considered the Mets’ next captain, Wright has struggled since the move to Citi Field.  He has shown flashes of being one of the best third baseman in baseball, but Fred Wilpon‘s comments in the infamous article in The New Yorker were actually dead-on: Wright is a very good player, but not a superstar.

As someone who owns a David Wright jersey, I never thought I’d see the day where Wright would be dealt.  He has often proclaimed wanting to be a Met for life, and he has been the face of the franchise since the departure of Mike Piazza.  Wright has shown to be more durable than Reyes (this year’s back injury notwithstanding), but if you look at the big picture, who is more replaceable?   If you take a long, objective look, it’s Wright.

That being said, Mets fans are hoping that Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons can find a way to keep both Reyes and Wright.  But at the end of the day, will it matter?  The  Mets have had both Wright and Reyes on the left side of the infield for most of the past decade, and here is what they have to show for it:

First Place Finishes: 1

Playoff Appearances: 1

World Series Appearances: 0

Monumental Collapses: 2

Maybe the departure of one of the Mets “core” players isn’t the worst thing.   I mean, how much worse can things get with the Mets?

Jason Bay has Type A David Wri-tis

Affliction: David Wri-tis

Type A (Diagnosed in 2009)

  • Major Symptom: Loss of power, resulting in the inability to hit home runs.
  • Causes: Moving to a spacious ballpark in Flushing, NY 


Type B (Diagnosed in 2010)

  • Major Symptom: Loss of ability to make consistent contact, resulting in an alarming increase in strikeouts.  Power may return, but will be overshadowed by the inability to make contact.
  • Causes: Overcompensation for Type A David Wri-tis

I like Jason Bay.  In 2008, Bay went from the oblivion of Pittsburgh to the heat of a pennant race in Boston.  Not just that, he was asked to replace Manny Ramirez in the Red Sox lineup after the “Manny being Manny” act had run its course in Boston.  It would have been understandable to see Bay struggle or put up so-so numbers, but he immediately produced and provided clutch hits down the stretch for the Sox.  After a productive 2009 in which Bay hit a career-high 36 home runs, the Mets signed him to add some much-needed power to their lineup.

bay.jpgUnfortunately for the Mets, that power is non-existent.  Through a quarter of the season, Bay
 has one home run.  ONE.  Power hitters tend to be streaky, and Bay has a reputation for being a streaky hitter, but at some point, that should equate to a power streak, right?  It hasn’t happened.   

To his credit, Bay hustles, faces the media every day, and appears to provide solid leadership in the clubhouse.  But you can see this power outage wearing on Bay.  Last night against the Yankees, after another towering fly ball out, Bay could be seen shouting expletives as he ran down the first base line.


Maybe Bay should talk to Rod Barajas, who seems to have avoided David Wri-tis.  Hopefully for the Mets, Bay will find his power stroke.  Without that power, it’s going to be another long season for Mets fans. 

It’s Time to Change

brady.jpg“If you wanna reach your destiny, here’s what you’ve got to do:

When it’s time to change, then it’s time to change
Don’t fight the tide, come along for the ride, don’t you see
When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange
who you are into what you’re gonna be.
Sha na na na, na na na na na, sha na na na na
Sha na na na, na na na na na, sha na na na na”


It’s gotten so bad, the Mets need to listen to Greg, Peter, Bobby, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy.  It’s time to change.  It’s time to rearrange.  Clean house.   


Omar Minaya has proven he cannot build a championship team.  His tenure started off well and he did help the Mets claim their first division title since 1988.  But instead of building off of that 2006 season, his moves (or lack thereof) have sent the Mets back into mediocrity.  Yes, injuries played a part in last season’s mess, and in the previous late season collapses of the prior seasons.  But what has he done since 2006?  Johan Santana literally fell into the Mets’ laps, so I refuse to give him credit for that trade.  He has shown he can give out horrible contracts (Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo) and that he can stand pat while the starting rotation and bullpen clearly lack depth.  I’m not sure how he survived the “Adam Rubin incident” last season, but it’s time for the Wilpons to pull the plug on the Minaya era.


Jerry Manuel did a nice job in 2008 when he replaced Willie Randolph, but how much of the Mets resurgence should be credited simply to the Mets making a change?  You often see teams go on a run after a change in managers.  The players do seem to like Jerry, and they have shown a nice ability to come back in games this season, so I’ll give him credit for the team having “fight.”  However, Jerry clearly has issues when it comes to actually managing a game.  Whether it be his lineup configurations, horrible managing of his bullpen, or emptying his bench before the 9th inning, Manuel has shown time and time again that he is a poor in-game manager.  And considering that his title is Manager, it’s time for a change.


The coaching staff also needs an overhaul.  Howard Johnson was my favorite Met growing up, so it pains me to say this, but HoJo needs to go.  It’s not fair to pin a team’s offensive struggles solely on a hitting coach, but the Mets hitters clearly need a new voice and a new approach at the plate – hopefully one that involves making more contact (see David Wright, below).  Dan Warthen also needs to go.  What has he done with ANY of the Mets pitchers?  Can you name one Met pitcher who seems to have blossomed under his watch?  Neither can I.


I’m not going to go through the entire roster, because this could go on all day, but the Wilpons needs to bite the bullet and release Oliver Perez.  I know it’s not easy to eat $20 million, but whether Perez is sitting at home, in the bullpen, in the minor leagues (if he ever accepts an assignment), or finds his way back in the rotation, the Mets have to pay him regardless.  What is the best case scenario here?  He does some work on the side, finds his way back into the rotation, and pitches a decent game?  Maybe he pitches a few decent games?  I think we’ve seen enough not to be fooled that “Good Ollie” will ever exist.  Even if he pitches a gem or two, the “Real Ollie” will return and he’ll show he can’t find the strike zone or fight through adversity.  Releasing Perez is the classic example of addition by subtraction.  Here’s hoping the Wilpons know that equation.


Maybe a humiliating 4 game sweep at the hands of the Marlins will help Fred & Jeff realize that it’s time for changes.  Major changes.  Now.

Wright is Not Right

situation.jpgSorry, David, but your training session with “The Situation” hasn’t worked.  After a decent Spring Training and a home run on Opening Day, Mets fans hoped we would see the David Wright of old in 2010.  Instead, we are left to wonder if we will ever see that David Wright again.

Remember when David Wright was one of the best 2 strike hitters in the league?  The announcers would always remark about how “now the at bat was beginning” when he had 2 strikes.  Wright would battle, foul off tough pitches, and though he would strike out his fair share, it was usually only after multiple foul balls.  He was also one of the best in the game at going the other way, hitting line drives to right and right center.

So what happened?  2009 was a miserable season for Wright.  It’s not often that you would label a season in which someone hit .307 as miserable, but I don’t think many could dispute that.  His homers dipped from 33 to 10 – yes, just 10!  And despite 100 less at bats than the previous season, he struck out 22 times MORE than he had in 2008.  It’s one thing to see an increase in strikeouts coincide with an increase in power, but to see power numbers disappear and see the K’s pile up, you have to wonder – what is going on?

2009 was a mess for the Mets on many levels.  The team was absolutely decimated by injuries.  With no protection in the lineup, pitchers had no reason to pitch to Wright, so it’s understandable that he might try to expand the strike zone as a result.  Citi Field also was a factor, but it’s not like Shea Stadium was Coors Field.  However, the change did affect Wright more than others due to the expansive alley in right center.  At Shea, you’d often see Wright homer to right center or into the right field bullpen.  At Citi, those drives were long outs.  Was he consciously (or subconsciously) trying to pull everything as a result?  The icing on the cake for 2009 was when Wright was hit in the head by a Matt Cain fastball and was forced to the DL with a concussion. 

So now it’s 2010.  The Mets added Jason Bay to provide some protection, and though he hasn’t been producing at all (I’ll beat up on Bay soon enough), the supporting cast around Wright is clearly superior to last season.  Wright has shown more power this season (he already has a 7WOW!), but he is striking out at an even more alarming rate, on pace to strike out over 200 times.  His stance keeps changing (he’s crouching, he’s upright).  Through it all – even when he has been getting hits – it’s not the same.  He’s not making the same contact (that is, when he makes contact).  He’s rarely hitting the ball to right field.  When he gets to 2 strikes, it’s over.  He’s somehow hitting .272, but it certainly doesn’t seem like it. 

So what’s the answer to this “situation?”  Is it mental?  Is it the hitting coach?  Hopefully Wright and the Mets can get this figured out soon, because the Mets will never be right without the old Wright. 



This Just In: Mets Sign…..No One

Scrooged.jpgDoesn’t Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS seem like it took place a decade ago?  The Mets were THAT CLOSE to a World Series berth and potential championship after a magical season in which they dominated the NL the entire year.

Ever since Yadier Molina homered off Aaron Heilman and Carlos Beltran took strike 3 to end the series, it’s been a painful, downhill slide, with no end in sight.  When you fall off of a cliff, you have to hit rock bottom at some point, right?  But every time you think it can’t get any worse, or it can’t get more painful, it does. 

– A monumental 2007 collapse topped off with a “gem” by Tom Glavine.  Enough said about that season.

– A wacky 2008 which saw the Mets fire their manager in the middle of the night on the West Coast, rebound under Jerry Manuel to take over first place, only to finish off the season with yet another late-September collapse.

– The optimism surrounding a fresh start in a new ballpark for 2009 evaporating almost immediately.  It started with complaints about Citi Field – everything ranging from a lack of Mets presence to overpriced seats to obstructed views.  It then continued with injury after injury, loss after loss, with a Luis Castillo dropped pop-up in between.  Oh, and if an abysmal season wasn’t enough, the cherry on top: a Yankees-Phillies World Series.  C’mon, really?  You can’t make this stuff up.

Mets fans were ready to turn the page on ’09 in July, so with the Winter Meetings and Hot Stove, we clung to some hopes (or dreams) that Omar & the Wilpons would do something major – something to improve the club and give fans reason to be excited for 2010.  We should have known better.

Roy Halladay?  Nope – and worse, he goes to the Phillies!  John Lackey?  No thanks Mets, I’ll go to Boston.  Free agents are going off the board left and right, and what do the Mets have to show for themselves?  2 backup catchers and a backup middle infielder.  Nice!

Truth be told, the Mets need several pieces to become a true contender.  I actually don’t want to see Omar and the Mets overpay for Matt Holliday or Jason Bay just to make a splash.  I’m concerned that they’ll do just that – or give 3 years to Bengie Molina, or give Jason Marquis or Joel Piniero an Oliver Perez-like contract which they’ll be stuck with. 

I don’t know what the answers are.  But the most frustrating thing in all of this is that I have no confidence that the Mets’ management has a clue as to what the answers are, or that they even have a plan.  The Wilpons gave us a nice ballpark, but they don’t know a thing about running a baseball team.  Signing Omar Minaya to a 3 year extension BEFORE last season is proof enough of that.  Minaya doesn’t know how to put together a major league club, farm system, or talk to the media.  The only thing he does know how to do is overpay for free agents that other teams have no interest in (Perez, Castillo).

So what do we have to look forward to?  It’s hard to argue with the Daily News’ recent cover – the Mets are Scrooged.

Where’s Kelly Leak?

KellyLeak.jpgIn watching the Mets over the past week, it was hard not to think of the Bad News Bears.  In getting swept by the Yankees (something the Bears could relate to), the Mets were humiliated in every way imaginable.  Facing their Subway Series rivals for the first time at Citi Field, the Mets lost the series opener 9-1, committing 3 errors in the 2nd inning to take them out of the game almost immediately.  The next night, they didn’t commit any errors, but managed just one hit in getting shutout 5-0.  Finally, in the ESPN Sunday night game, the Mets were stymied by Chien-Ming Wang, who hadn’t won a game in about a year and had an ERA in the double digits.  To cap off the weekend, Francisco Rodriguez walked Mariano Rivera with the bases loaded, giving the greatest reliever in major league history his first major league RBI and helping to seal his 500th career save.

It would get worse.  After giving up 10 runs in the series opener to Milwaukee, the Mets turned to Johan Santana to stop the bleeding.  When David Wright homered in the first inning (yes, David Wright hit a home run!), you figured this had to be the Mets night.  Right?  Not quite.  After allowing a run in the 3rd inning, the Bears took the field in the 4th inning.  After walking the opposing pitcher, Santana gave up a fly ball to center field.  Rookie Fernando Martinez ran over in plenty of time, but tried to stop short to avoid overrunning the ball.  He slipped and fell face first, allowing the ball to drop for a double.  After another walk, Santana got ahead of Ryan Braun 0-2 before Braun launched a change up over Gary Sheffield’s head in LF.  2 runs scored easily.  The Mets had a chance to gun down JJ Hardy at the plate, but the throw skipped past Omir Santos.  Braun rounded 3rd base a bit too aggressively, and Santana, backing up the plate, fired towards third.  “Towards third” was actually about 20 feet over David Wright’s head, and Braun scored easily as the ball bounced into left field. 

5 losses in a row – 5 UGLY losses in a row.  Amazingly, after winning the next 2 games to get back to .500, the Mets find themselves only a game out of first place.  They have a big series coming up with the Phillies, and a good showing in Philly could find them heading home in first.  Let’s just hope the Mets don’t resummon memories of Tanner, Lupus, and the rest of the Bears gang again.

Jikes! Johan Pummeled in Rubber Match

Well, that was a great game, huh?  I knew it was over as soon as the Mets failed to score in the top of the 3rd after loading the bases with no out.  It was only 4-0 then, but the way AJ Burnett was dealing, and the way the Yankees wee swinging the bats, I expected this to end up a Mets defeat.  What I DIDN’T expect was the 9 run explosion by the Yankees in the 4th inning, in the worst outing of Johan Santana’s career.

johan.jpgI’m not crushed by losing a series to the Yankees.  I’d love to see the Mets whip the Yankees, sure, but the hype around the Subway Series has faded.  I was much more disappointed with losing a series to the Phillies than I am now.  However, as a Mets fan, you have to be concerned about the state of Johan Santana.  Is he hurt?  Is he just going through a “dead arm” period?  Or is he just actually human and going through a rough stretch?

I hope it’s the latter.  He was ridiculously good in April and for most of May, with an ERA below 1.00 for a long time.  His W-L record was nowhere near what it should have been thanks to a lack of run support and some poor defense behind him.  But he’s been increasingly shaky his last 4 starts.  In his last start, he allowed 4 home runs to the Phillies, at Citi Field no less (if it had occurred at Citizens Bank Park, that would have been easily dismissed).  And now this.  Johan claims he is not hurt, and hopefully he’s telling the truth.  Maybe he needs to work out some kinks in his mechanics.  Maybe he needs to change up his between-starts routine a bit.  Maybe he needs an extra day or two off before his next start.  Let’s just hope we aren’t hearing about ANOTHER trip to the DL for a Mets player, because this is one player that they cannot afford to lose for any period of time.  Cross your fingers Mets fans.

Step Back From that Ledge, My Friends

Friday night was brutal.  Losing a game in the bottom of the 9th is bad enough.  Losing it after coming back late and then taking the lead against the best closer of all time adds salt to the wounds.  But to lose a game on a dropped pop up by the second baseman – a routine play that would have sealed a Mets victory, but instead allowed the tying and winning runs score for the Yankees?

The Mets have had their share of heartbreaking losses the past few years on the way to back-to-back collapses, and have seemed to invent new ways to lose this year (missing 3rd base when scoring the go ahead run?).  But that?  Did that really happen?  I’ve seen the replay about 10 times, and I still don’t believe it.

Oh, and this was coming off back-to-back losses to the Phillies in which the Mets had 7th inning leads, only to end up losing each in extra innings.  According to many frustrated Mets fans who took to message boards in the wake of the Debacle in the Bronx, it was all over.  Time to fire Omar, fire Manuel, dump half of the team.  I’ll admit, I had some of the same feelings in the immediate aftermath.  But then I looked at the big picture:

  • It’s June.
  • There are 100 games left in the season.
  • Losing to the Yankees sucks, but it’s not the World Series.  It’s just another game on the schedule.
  • The Phillies lost as well, so the Mets actually didn’t lose any games in the standings.
  • Despite a ridiculous string of injuries (Delgado, Reyes, Putz, Maine, Perez, Pagan), the Mets were just 4 games out of first place, and were over .500.
  • Maybe it’s good that a loss like this happens now, instead of in September.  Maybe the team can come together in the wake of a disaster like this, and be stronger for it.

There is no getting around how bad that loss was.  I’m sure the Citi faithful will remind Luis Castillo when the Mets return home.  But, it’s not over – not by a long shot.  Are the Mets going anywhere this year?  Probably not.  The Mets are a very flawed team, even without the injuries.  Their lineup has holes and their starting rotation is very thin (don’t count on Fernando Nieve to repeat Saturday’s performance).  If they are going to get to the playoffs and make some noise, Omar is going to need to make a few deals.

What I do know that the season is not over because they lost on Friday.  Things aren’t all of a sudden all better because they won today, either.  It’s a long season, with many ups and downs.  Friday just happened to be a big downer.   Step back from that ledge, my friends.