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The Real Story Behind The Met Lineup

Collins
When I arrived in DC I expected to talk about Mejia's injury or maybe Matt Harvey returning in the finale of this series on Thursday afternoon but instead I was caught in the middle of this insane story about whom constructed the Mets Opening Day lineup. Was it Terry Collins or Sandy Alderson?

Well I decided instead of pontificating about the merits of the insanity I heard on the airwaves I was going to have some conversations with both Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson. Now there's a novel concept--actually talk to the people involved before going on a rant.

Terry generally meets with the media 3 hours before the game and I decided I would talk to him after it rather than in a group setting. My 30+ years as a reporter has given me access to many things and one of them is that good managers get feedback from all sources inside their organization and hearing these stories I found it hard to believe that Collins and Alderson had a "Moneyball" type of conversation we saw in the aforementioned movie.

During the pre-game presser as a joke, Sandy Alderson came in and gave Terry a lineup card which further proved to me the story was a bunch of nonsense. But Terry and I spoke privately and he told me the following, "Rich I had the first conversation about the lineup with Bob Geren back in February while we were bowling together in Port St Lucie and again while we were in Texas finishing up our pre-season schedule. At no point was I EVER ordered to run a certain lineup and that notion is totally untrue."

Speaking to Sandy, I got the same response and please understand this--General Managers constantly talk to managers about lineups and that feedback is important but the final decision rests with the manager. I can tell you this because I was one of few reporters who got along with BOTH Bobby Valentine AND Steve Phillips and Bobby was NEVER ordered to run a certain lineup. And that was two men who lets just say were not best buddies.

What really annoyed me about this was this story got in the Twitter universe and the 2 people involved were never quoted until today. But it speaks to a grander problem in our industry--the game is not enough. To me the Met story today was who will be the closer tonight? Will Jacob deGrom have a great second season?  How excited is the team about Matt Harvey's return? That's baseball and the other stuff is all nonsense. Does this guy like this guy? Do they get along?

When did we all become gossip columnists or National Enquirer editors? Who cares who chose the lineup--it was a group effort and the baseball people (including Terry Collins) thought it was the best way to win. And guess what? The Mets won the game so what is the big deal?

I am sure Joe Torre in all his years with the Yankees asked for other opinions on lineup construction  from Willie Randolph or Don Zimmer for instance and it was never a story. A good baseball manager asks for input because he wants to corner all facets of a certain lineup decision in order to put a winning lineup on the field.

The other thing here is people thought they had the answers to LineupGate when they are never around the team and more importantly never have to face the people they have cast dispersions on in reporting about this.

Enough of LineupGate. The next 2 days are about a Met team that is trying to send a message to themselves they can beat a Nat team that leveled them last year. Granted it is a Nat team that is missing some key players but nonetheless it could be an important start to the 2015 season for the Mets.

That's baseball talk folks and I love talking about a sport I love. I will leave the gossip talk to the people who produce those shows. It honestly does not interest me one bit not when I am about to see last year's Rookie Of The Year battle Jordan Zimmerman and then see Matt Harvey take on Steven Strasberg on successive days.

 


Hate Will Gets Us Nowhere

I decided to take a break from blogging sports today because it saddens me that violence has become a daily occurrence in our country. Rather than take a side on the issue like some gang member, I want to share a personal story that might help us look at these events realistically and with a plan to hear EVERY side of the subject.

When I was 15, I was attacked by 2 black youths on a city bus and my blood was everywhere as my Catholic school uniformed white shirt was now a bright color red. My nose was broken and was brought to the hospital. My parents saw my face bloodied and tried to remain calm despite the fact their son was hurt. Once I was stitched up, they had a discussion with me.

They told me I had EVERY right to be angry because I was attacked but if I had a thought in my head of getting revenge on an innocent black person, get it out of my mind. They told me if they find the person who did this (and they never did) they would use the framework of the laws of our great country to make sure they pay the penalties of the law. But if I took it into my own hands, I would not only be breaking the law but I would be making an innocent person feel as bad as I felt-maybe even worse.

They also told me that hate will get me nowhere. It was the early 70's and our world was changing and my parents knew it. In fact, they mentioned to me that my love of sports would show me the way. They reminded me of my love for players like Tommie Agee, Willie Mays, and Cleon Jones. They told me I loved them I would meet so many black people in my life and they were right. If I had succumbed to that hate, I would have become an angry pessimistic person that let violence rule my life.

I never again ran into the 2 people who assaulted me but in short order I prayed to God that I forgave them and hoped he would help them deal with why they did this and help them become better Christians.

My message is clear today-feeling angry about becoming the victim of violence is OK but letting it turn you into a violent vigilante will only let the original act of violence win. Let the courts deal with these issues because it is the way our great country was built. Continuing the violent acts will only create a domino effect multiplying the violent acts.

Sports-wise I think of a moment I had in the Knick locker room with Alan Houston on MLK Day. We both admitted to each other that Martin Luther King Jr. made it possible for us to learn from each other and understand how to make this country better every day. At that moment, I also realized without my parents guiding me in that horrific moment at the age of 15, I might have gone down a different path. I am sure they were angry their son was attacked but knew there was so much more at stake--the way their son would live his life.

Please let us all stop and think about that on a day more retaliatory violence took place in our country.


Sandy Alderson Talks About Matz Spur Issue

 

 

Alderson-e1428582548829Here in DC, we had a chance to chat with Sandy Alderson on the Steven Matz situation. The bottom line is the Mets will watch him closely pushing his scheduled start to Thursday at Citifield vs the Cubs. Here is that chat:

 

62816 Sandy on Matz Situation

 

After we chatted with Sandy we got some reaction from Steven Matz:

6-28-16 Matz Raw

 

 

 


Granderson Walk Off Saves The Day As The Mets Beat The Dodgers

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It looked like a typical Met win as home runs from Juan Lagares and David Wright coupled with a solid 7 inning performance from Jacob deGrom gave them a 5-1 lead heading into the top of the ninth inning.

But Jeurys Familia in a non-save situation served up four runs highlighted by a 3 run triple off the bat of Chase Utley knotting the game at 5-5. It left a sold out CitiField crowd in a state of shock but that shock lasted a very short time as Curtis Granderson hit a walk off homer to send Met fans home happy.

Coupled with the Naionals 6-2 loss in DC the win puts the Mets in first place-percentage points ahead of the Nationals. This past week, Terry Collins and his Mets have shown a great deal of resilience as they have now won 6 of their last 7 in a week where Lucas Duda went down with an injury, Matt Harvey created a media firestorm and Familia did the unthinkable Friday night.

To me it is a week that symbolizes this Met team as they have a knack of picking each other up when times get tough. It also speaks to the leadership skills of Terry Collins who has put together a bunch of players that realize picking up the slack is a necessity in a long baseball season. David Wright's bat is starting to awaken as well and that may be due to the fact that the weather is heating up which may provide additional comfort for his chronic back condition.

So the Mets prepare for a celebration of the 1986 World Championship team tonight and their fans will get to honor that squad and then watch this year's version that embodies much of the same spirit we saw in Flushing 30 years ago. This promises to be a great summer of baseball in New York. Well, in Queens at least.

 


Mets Take The Series In DC Behind Matz and Familia

 

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For the first time in his career, Steven Matz faced the Washington Nationals and they got a first-hand view of why this southpaw will make life very difficult for them in 2016 and beyond. He is super talented but what I like most about him is a 2 word phrase- NEVER AFRAID.

That was best illustrated in the 8th inning as he faced Bryce Harper with the game on the line and fell behind the reigning MVP 2-0. No problem-Matz threw a strike and then induced him to hit an inning ending groundout completing 8 innings of scoreless baseball in the rubber game of this 3 game set in DC.

He is now 11-1 in 14 regular season games as a major league pitcher and after that disastrous first start of the season his ERA has dipped to an attractive 2.36.  He is 7-1 on the season leading all major league rookies in that category. But more than that it is his quiet confidence that he brings to the mound that is so impressive. "I think in NY he has fallen under the radar", says Met third basemen David Wright, "but make no mistake-this guy can be so dominant on the hill."

This has been a very interesting 3 days for this team-losing Lucas Duda followed by the Matt Harvey hysteria of yesterday but Matz seemed to calm down all those choppy waters with an outstanding performance against a very talented Washington National lineup.

The Mets now sit even in the loss column with the Nats but upon further review (yes that is now a baseball term) they have played far more games inside the division than the Mets. The reigning NL champs have played 21 games inside the division while the Nats have played 31. In fact, Dusty Baker's squad has not played one game against the NL West all season while the Mets have already played 14 versus that division.

To me the message is clear: despite the inconsistencies of Matt Harvey, this Met pitching staff is loaded and by the way, armed with the best closer in the National League in Jeurys Familia. To me that is gloom and doom for the rest of the league even the Chicago Cubs who after a great start, everyone has anointed as the team to beat. That's hard for me to fathom since the Mets swept them in the NLCS in 2015. That's why we play the games.  

For now, the Mets go home to celebrate the 86 championship team this weekend and at the same time, show the baseball world that very much like that team of 30 years ago, this 2016 team has home run bats coupled with the deepest pitching staff in baseball.  

 


Matt Harvey Just Making Things Harder For Himself

 

 

Those of you who follow me know I am the first to give the player EVENuudzbqeegyh2w4vef9q6025sRY benefit of the doubt because I respect their talent level and understand dealing with the media could be a tough task. But Matt Harvey not talking to the media is wrong on so many levels.

Forget about us--we will always pull an audible and get quotes from others but this is so unfair to his fellow Met teammates. Kevin Plawecki was forced to answer questions and by the look on his face you can see he was perturbed. And not because of any reason other than he had no idea how Harvey wanted him to answer the questions. But he did it because he is a good foot soldier.

I have covered this team for over 30 years and have interviewed Met pitchers after their toughest moments-like Doc Gooden & Ron Darling  after the 88 NLCS or Johan Santana as he struggled to stay on the mound or John Franco after a tough blown save and every time they faced the music.  The answers were not profound or dramatic but they did what they had to do. They answered the questions so their fellow teammates were not forced to be put in an impossible position.

They also did it so the fans who follow them day after day can hear from them and lets not forget--ultimately the fans pay the salaries of these players by both attending the games and watching on SNY. It is just a part of the job and one that honestly most players fulfill even if they are not in love with doing it on a day by day basis.

Just ask Jeurys Familia.  He stood by his locker after the World Series taking questions about 3 blown saves and afterwards I asked him how tough that was. He said, "Rich you can't just talk after great times--you guys are just doing your jobs."

I believe in giving players every benefit of the doubt but after a secretive workout on Saturday (although some of us watched it)and this latest incident I am sure Met players are not happy. That is why to me he does not need to apologize to anyone but his teammates. In the media, we are used to this at times but I am wondering if there will be a fallout in the Met clubhouse which has such a solid foundation.

This is an incident Harvey can solve immediately. He merely needs to ask himself what would our Captain David Wright do and as #5 has struggled through the early season, he has never ducked a tough question EVER. That's all I'm saying.

 

 

 

 


Wright And Colon Power The Mets To A Win In DC

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The Mets took the field tonight knowing Lucas Duda would be out a minimum of 4-6 weeks but being around this team for the last year or so I can safely tell you these are the moments they always find a way to win.

This group of 25 players relishes these moments when the baseball world thinks the floor the Mets stand on is ready to collapse. On this night Bartolo Colon gave Terry Collins 7 innings of one run ball while David Wright crushed a three run homer which catalyzed a 5 run inning that gave the Mets the lead for good. Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker added home runs as the Mets went back to back in home runs for the 7th time this season in a 7-1 win over the Nats.

But more importantly, the Mets have now won 4 in a row since dropping 2 of 3 to the Nats in CitiField once again proving resilience is this team's middle name. Before the game in the Met clubhouse, you could sense a purpose knowing despite the fact this is still an early season series, these 3 games do have more significance than a typical May game would have.

Game 2 of this series will also have the world watching the Mets as Matt Harvey takes the mound trying to get his confidence back and put the Mets into first place in the NL East with a win. Again, I want to reiterate that this team always rises to the moment and I expect #33 to do just that because this ballpark which had been a den of heartache for the Mets has suddenly become their home away from home as the Mets have won 4 straight games here dating back to last season.

And to add fuel to the fire-the 7 Line will be here so that simply means Nationals Park could become CitiField South in short order. Should be another interesting game in the nation's capital.

 

 

 


The Dilemna For The Mets At First Base

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The news from the doctors was not good as Lucas Duda has a stress fracture in his back meaning it will be 4-6 weeks before we even know what the next steps will be. That being said, the Mets are considering a number of options some in the short term while others are more long term solutions.

Eric Campbell will get the starts in the short term until Wilmer Flores can return to the active roster. He is beginning a rehab assignment this week in Florida and the earliest he could return is Friday.

Prior to today's game, Terry Collins floated an interesting long-term solution as he said that Michael Conforto could be an option at first base giving Juan Lagares a more everyday role as the CF with Yoenis Cespedes moving to left field. We all spoke to Conforto about it today and he stressed he will do anything to help the team. However, he also indicated it is not a position he has played or even tinkered with on the professional level.

Collins even told us he approached David Wright about it on a purely speculative level but the sense I got was the Met captain does not need a change of positions which would add to his prep time before a game which is already a cause of concern.

Duda's big bat will be missed as he is a power hitter that is streaky but can be lethal when his bat s going great. The one thing I did not hear mentioned which I think could be a good alternative is moving Neil Walker to first and bringing up Dilson Herrera to play second base. I think the world of Herrera and I firmly believe he is a potential All-Star at that position. I certainly understand that Terry may feel the DP combo of Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera has been great and he does not want to disturb that but the possibility of Herrera intrigues me.

There is also the possibility the Mets look outside the organization but to me that is not something they are entertaining right now simply because with the trading deadline over 2 months away, so much can happen between then and now.

Still, offensively the loss of Duda hurts and will make the contributions of Granderson, Wright, and Walker even more important in helping the 2 terrific bats of Conforto & Cespedes. This Met team has proven in the last 12 months it can withstand tons of adversity and has always responded to EVERY challenge. Terry Collins never uses injuries as an excuse and trusts every single person in that clubhouse to step up.

This one is a real tough pill to swallow but it is my belief Terry will find a way to make something work. He always does.