Sports

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.

 

 

 


Neil Walker

Today in Port St Lucie, I had the chance to talk with the new Met Second Basemen Neil Walker who I am sure Met fans are going to gravitate to immediately. This guy is a very good player who has the knack of hitting in the clutch. I watched him play the Mets while he was a Pittsburgh Pirate and he has a great run producing bat coupled with an outstanding knowledge of the game. Defensively, he will be an upgrade for the Mets and he is already fitting in well with this team.

 

 

In our conversation, we talked about:

  • How Clint Hurdle and Terry Collins are such similar managers.
  • He is so glad he no longer has to face Met Pitchers
  • He believes preparation is the key to success
  • Knows this Met clubhouse is a special group
  • Andrew McCutchen  and what he learned from him

Here is that conversation:

30816 Coutinho With Walker

 


A Conversation With Curtis Granderson

Download (2)Today In Port St Lucie I had a chance to talk with Mets rightfielder Curtis Granderson who chatted with me about a plethora of topics including the expectations we all have about the 2016 Mets. He also chatted about dealing with the NY media and the respect he has for David Wright. If fact, he compared David Wright as a captain to Yankees captain Derek Jeter saying both have very similar personalities. Here is that interview:

 

30716Coutinho With Granderson

 


The Real Story Behind The Met Lineup

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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.

 


Tom Seaver: Greatest Starting Pitcher In NY Baseball History: You Better Believe It

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Was Tom Seaver the best starting pitcher in NY baseball history? Well, The Hall Of Fame voters certainly think so as he received the highest percentage of Hall Of Fame votes ever. Tom is a very special man and I want young Met fans to understand that so I am posting an old one on one interview I did with The Franchise back in 2008 on the last day Shea Stadium was open to the public. It was a tough day for all Met fans but share the greatness of Tom Seaver with every young Met fan you can.

 

Coutinho Wth Seaver

 


The New York Mets Can Take Over This Town

Nuudzbqeegyh2w4vef9q6025sThere is a plethora of bold talk coming from the New York Mets these days and sports in this town needs it. Aside from the fact that the NY Rangers and NY Islanders seemed to have revived an old rivalry this year, NY Sports has been as unexciting as I can ever remember it being.

Even the New York Yankees who seem to always get the headlines are having trouble appearing in our line of vision unless we are reading a handwritten apology or perhaps retiring every uniform number in their history. And then there are the New York Mets who have been down for so long that twitter followers have developed an art form criticizing them for everything from snowy weather to original sin.

But make no mistake--The New York Mets are the best chance New York has right now of reclaiming the national sports spotlight. That's right I said the Mets. Why? Pitching, Pitching, Pitching combined with the fact that 2 Wild Card teams gain entrance into the MLB's 2015 post-season party makes them a team that could win the hearts of New Yorkers in a time where NY sports fans have plenty of room in their hearts to adopt a team.

In the past weeks, the Mets have not run from the fact they have a chance to win NY. In fact they have boldly spoken that this is their time. Young pitchers like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Zack Wheeler along with a bullpen that brings out hard throwers by the handful with no fear and a winning attitude have been very clear with their message to Met fans that meaningful games in September are not enough for them--they want games in mid to late October.

Even though I believe pitching is 75% of this game, you have to have offense too and the team did add Michael Cuddyer who along with Lucas Duda, a healthy David Wright, and a Curtis Granderson who is hell bent on being the old Curtis Granderson form the middle of the lineup. Daniel Murphy, Travis d'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Juan Lagares round out a lineup that will never be confused with the '27 Yankees. But I will say this--it is better than it has been in the last 4 years.

You can debate the Mets should have done more or spent more but this team as presently constituted is a playoff caliber team. I can't say that about the team in the Bronx and we all know in this town if Met fans get a small taste of success they will hop on the bandwagon.

A bandwagon that currently only has the Rangers and Islanders on it and a vehicle that always has room for baseball fans. It is a great opportunity for a franchise that has sit in the shadows of the Yankees for quite a few years. If you don't think it could happen, you don't know NY baseball history. Twice in my life (late 60's to early 70's and 84-90) the Mets owned this town and that team that plays in the Bronx played second fiddle.

They had personalities that people gravitated to like Gooden, Seaver, Strawberry, Carter, and Hernandez. Matt Harvey fits that personality mold as he backs down from nobody and takes on everybody much in the way the Mets I just mentioned did. Think about this--those 80's Yankee teams had stars like Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Ricky Henderson, and Dave Righetti and nobody put them ahead of the guys who worked at Shea Stadium.

History in baseball repeats itself more than you think--Sandy Alderson's plans may have taken longer than he wanted them to but the time is now and the players inside that Met locker room know it. You can say the Mets need this or need that but recent baseball history has proven you could find offense to get to the playoffs but pitching is precious which was never better illustrated than in MLB's 2014 post-season.

It was also illustrated that division winners and wild card winners can flip report cards in a NY second. Ask the Dodgers about that one. Or more importantly ask the World Champion Giants or the pennant winning Kansas City Royals.