Let this be the last October for a long time that we don’t
find ourselves in this New York baseball Groundhog Dog.
Like the movie, we’ve lived this scenario over and over
again. But whereas Bill Murray finally gets it right and wins Andie MacDowell’s
heart, the Mets and Yankees almost never get it right at the same time.
So here we are, the Yankees about to begin their pursuit of a
28th World Series. The Mets about to hire their sixth manager in the
last 16 seasons after firing Mickey Callaway on Thursday.
This is the most important decision of Brodie Van Wagenen’s young
GM career. He traded the future for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Then he
doubled down and acquired Marcus Stroman at the trade deadline.
The Mets weren’t an afterthought in September for the first
time since 2016. They should be a legitimate postseason contender in 2020 but
that window isn’t likely to remain open for long with the depleted farm system.
Van Wagenen needs a manager that has a win-now mentality and
a New York-tough resiliency.
In his last comments before getting fired, Callaway had an
interesting spin on managing, especially in this town.
“I make unpopular decisions every
day, whether it’s unpopular to you guys or the players.’’ Callaway told
reporters. “And every decision I make is going to be unpopular to somebody. But
I make decisions based on trying to win games and trying to keep these guys
motivated to win as many games as they possibly can.”
What separates the great managers from
the good ones is that they can sell those unpopular decisions. They have a
track record that affords them the benefit of the doubt. They have a confidence
that is not cocky but fierce.
The Mets need that kind of manager to lead
Which brings us to the Yankees. When
Brian Cashman chose Aaron Boone, it was a bold decision that could have
backfired. Boone is the poster boy for a young manager. He can relate to
players while balancing analytics and feel.
One can’t overstate the job Cashman and
Boone did this season. The injuries came like a plague and still the Yankees
won 103 games and the AL East. Cashman never uttered the words, “Come and Get
Us.” Or maybe he did by buying a formidable bullpen and stockpiling depth.
It seems unfair to base the success of
this season on whether or not the Yankees win it all. There are other teams in
the AL with just as much power and better starting pitching. That’s the
contract one signs when donning pinstripes – titles or bust.
Maybe the Yankees will overcome that
suspect starting pitching and you should know your way to Canyon of Heroes. And
maybe Van Wagenen will get it right and the Mets will be playing in October
next season. Maybe, just maybe, a subway series is in our future.
The Mets playoff dream
ended on Hump Day, which is perfectly fitting.
Before they took the
field Wednesday night at Citi Field needing to beat the Marlins and hope the
Brewers lost to the Reds, the scoreboard showed Milwaukee leading, 6-0.
The nail was being driven into the coffin.
It didn’t matter that
Jacob deGrom turned in his latest marvelous pitching performance in a 10-3 win.
He deserves to win the Cy Young for a second straight year but he would rather
be pitching in October.
Which brings us to next
If the Mets aren’t in the 2020 MLB playoffs
the season will be a failure. For the first time since 2015, when the Mets lost
the World Series to the Royals, has a season ended with so much expectation for
“There are so many
positives that came from this year,” slugger Pete Alonso told reporters.
“We learned a lot about ourselves, and I think what we learned is that
we’re gritty, we’re tough, we can compete. We have some awesome pieces, and the
mentality we have, I think there’s something extremely special to come.
“When we finally
put it together for 162, it’s going to be scary.”
There’s no reason the
Mets can’t put it together next season but it starts with this offseason. GM
Brodie Van Wagenen needs to address the bullpen which had fans feeling more
trepidation than if it was Grenade Giveaway Day at Citi Field.
The Mets could use more
quality depth. They need to unravel the enigma that Edwin Diaz became on the
flight from Seattle.
And a decision has to be
made on manager Mickey Calloway, who deserves credit for leading the Mets to
that post All-Star streak that made a playoff berth a possibility, not a pipe
“You know, obviously I have the utmost
confidence in myself,” Callaway told reporters.
Good to know. But Callaway is 159-160 in his
two seasons with the Mets and made his share of head-scratching moves. Jury is
The Mets have the nucleus of a serious if not
scary team next season. They can’t let Zack Wheeler walk in free agency. They
must find a way to coexist with Noah Syndegaard, or at worst, trade him for
some elite bullpen talent.
A rotation of deGrom, Syndegaard, Wheeler,
Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman will be as good as it gets. A lineup centered
around Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario and Wilson Ramous
proved it can produce.
It’s time for this franchise to get over the
“We’re definitely not satisfied with where
we’re at,” Conforto told reporters. “We want to play in October, that’s
the goal. I think we have the guys in here to do it. We have to put six months
of baseball together, and we didn’t do that this year.”
That’s exactly what the Mets’ mindset has to
be. deGrom should win that Cy Young. Fernando Tatis was terrific but his season
ended in mid-August. If Alonso tied or breaks Aaron Judge’s rookie home run
record he gets my vote for Rookie of the Year.
There have been some really nice feel good
moments in Queens. That Amazin streak of
15 wins in 16 games brought back memories of the 69 Miracle Mets. That
team won it all. This team didn’t make the playoffs.
“Did we get to our
ultimate goal and get in the playoffs?’’ asked Calloway. “No, and that stinks.”
If the Mets don’t
go deep into postseason next season, the stench will be even worse.
What made this loss so gut
retching, was that for the first eight and one-half innings Tuesday night, Mets
looked like a playoff team.
They had roughed up Nationals
ace Max Scherzer for four runs. Joe Panik hit his first home run as a Met, only
the 13th home run allowed by Scherzer this season.
The Mets had, wait for it,
given Jacob deGrom run support. deGrom wasn’t Cy Young good in the Mets
playoff-ending, soul-sucking 11-10 loss to the Nationals, but he gave the Mets
seven innings of eight-hit ball and left with his team up 4-2.
By the bottom of the ninth
that lead had swelled to 10-4. How safe is 10-4 going into the bottom of the
ninth? According to ESPN stats, it was 274-0 safe. Not once had a team leading
by six, with three outs to get, lost.
So safe that I opted to watch
an episode of the terrific series “Manhunter,” with my wife. We had just shut
the lights when my 14-year-old son Harry did what he has never done before.
He crashed open the bedroom
door. Don’t worry, not much goes on in there.
Anyhow, he always knocks. The
kids always knock. But this clearly was not a knockable moment. This was a Mets
hope-ending execution unlike anything he’d ever seen. Even Mets manager Mickey
Callaway couldn’t repeat his mantra that this team can do something special.
“We had a six-run lead,’’
Mets manager Mickey Callaway told reporters. “Major league pitchers have to be
able to hold that.’’
When Kurt Suzuki crushed an
Edwin Diaz sacrificial offering over the fence for a three-run walk-off home that
gave the Mets one of the most gruesome losses in franchise history, fans had a
second of stunned disbelief. Then a second of anger. Then this:
Only the Mets.
It was as if this team had
discovered time travel and made its way back to 1962 when “Only the Mets,” became a refrain, said over and over again with a
chuckle that hid the disbelief over another Mets debacle.
Of course, when something so
colossally wrong occurs, it seems heartless to report more bad news, but hey, “Major
league pitchers have to be able to hold that.’’ The Brewers, Cubs,
Diamondbacks, Phillies – all ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card race – all won.
The Mets are five back, but
that’s just a number. It rightfully sounds so much better than 11-10 or 274-0.
Leave it to a former Met to
explain what a loss like this really means,
“If it doesn’t put the last
nail in the coffin, it’s awfully close,” SNY analyst Ron Darling said on-air.
“Someone’s hammering away.”
The Mets will never again
play a game this season in which a lead feels safe. Fans will never hit the
sack contently. This is a nightmare that will haunt the final 24 games of the
There won’t be a 25th
“It’s going to be a tough one
to digest tonight, but you have to do it,” Callaway told reporters. “We have
This isn’t what Yankees fans want to hear and,
quite frankly, we hope it doesn’t come to be. Because there is no city in the
world that does a hero’s parade better than the Big Apple.
Who else has a ‘Canyon of Heroes?”
When the U.S. women’s national soccer team won
the World Cup (again!), they came here for a parade on Broadway. Their locks
were littered with ticker tape, just as Brian Leetch and Derek Jeter and Eli
Manning and Neil Armstrong and Nelson Mandela and the Mets, who got a parade in
1962 just for entering the National League!
So believe us when we say we want an October
But if it doesn’t happen, if the Yankees don’t
fulfill their 2019 destiny and come up short in their quest for a 28th
World Series title, this still has been a ridiculously amazing season.
That fact came into clarity this weekend when
the Yankees became the first team to reach the 90-win total. They did it in the
most riveting of fashions.
Trailing the Oakland A’s 4-0 going into the
bottom of the eighth on Sunday, the Yankees rallied for a 5-4 triumph when Mike
Ford became the first rookie in franchise history to smack a pinch-hit,
walk-off home run.
We are talking about the Yankees, who have more
remarkable history than any team in baseball. Ford, the former Princeton hurler
and career minor leaguer, has added to that history.
“I didn’t hear anything,
which is crazy,” Ford told reporters about his historic homer. “Just
a whole rush of emotion.”
That’s what has made this
Yankees season special. The emotion. Because the men in that clubhouse know how
hard they’ve had to grind, how many obstacles they’ve had to overcome.
The day before Ford got lost in emotion, DJ
LeMahieu hit a walk-off homer in a 4-3, 11-inning victory over Oakland.
These heroics came the day after the Yankees
set a more dubious record. They placed Gio Urshela on the injured list with a
groin injury. Urshela became the 29th Yankee make it onto that list,
which is a Major League record.
Despite this staggering procession of injuries,
the Yankees own a 90-49 record and have all but mathematically won their 19th
AL East title, the first since 2012.
Urshela is one of the most fantastic stories in
baseball with a slash line of .331/.370/.555 with 32 doubles and 18 home
runs in 414 plate appearances.
LeMahieu’s numbers make him the second most
fantastic story on the Yankees (Domingo German, noted). David John has a slash
line of .335./.382/.920 with 24 home runs and 90 RBI.
If the season ended today, LeMahieu and Urshela
would be 1-2 choices for team MVP, which is flat out mind-boggling when you
consider this is a team with guys named Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Aroldis Chapman,
The Yankees have epitomized the “next man up,”
“Our guys have been great at it all year,’’ manager Aaron
Boone told reporters. “Whoever we brought up has controlled situations and
moments really well and beyond, maybe, their experience. Ford has been one of
those guys, but the list is long.’’
It has been a long and astonishing list, but
here’s the rub. We’re still not sold on the starting pitching. Hold the paper shredding.
If one needed a reminder of the importance of starting
pitching, it came yesterday like the downpour that marked the day. The Yankees
were shutout for the first time this season, losing 7-0 to the Rangers.
Masahiro Tanaka (10-8; 4.42 ERA) was solid,
surrendering two runs on seven hits over six innings. Mike Minor (12-8; 3.12)
was better, allowing just five hits through seven and one-third innings.
Considering this marked the first time in 220
games that the Yankees had been blanked, one can safely label this an anomaly.
Or a warning. Regardless, the Yankees starting pitching remains an abstract
J.A. Happ was brilliant against Oakland, tossing
one-hit ball over six innings. But that was the first time he’d gone six since
July 30th. Tanaka has been a workhorse. German has been terrific. But
Happ and CC Sabathia, who’s lost five straight, have not.
James Paxton has won six straight since losing
five in a row so that jury is out. He’s been streaky all season, which is not
comforting entering the playoffs.
When one considers the pitching in Cleveland,
Houston, Oakland and Tampa, the Yankees are going to be tested – big time –
which is the way it should be.
They already have been tested more than any
team in baseball history. Without Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and the other
members of the injured list, it’s astonishing what the Bombers have done.
A 21st 100-win season would be sensational.
A ticker tape parade would be better.
With the loss tonight to the Cubs,the Mets find themselves 5 games behind for the 2nd wild card spot.The sweep by the Braves and now the Cubs has put them in an almost impossible situation facing the upcoming schedule.
Once again, the starting pitcher for the Mets did them in.Surprisingly, this time it was Jake DeGrom.The 3 run homer he gave up took all the fight out of the team after that point.And yet once again, for the most part, the bats were ineffective.
There’s still time to fix the situation, but it would require the Mets running the table, and getting some help from the Nats,Phillies,and St Louis. It doesnt look good for them at this moment.
There wasnt much to cheer about tonight about the Mets tonite.Marcus Stroman gave up 2 run homers in back to back innings, and it was all the Cubs needed to sink the Mets tonight.
Once again, the starting pitching didnt do the job, and the hitting wasnt much better, except for a brief instant in time when Pete Alonso lauched his 42 homer of this year breaking the all time Mets record.
With the next four series, including the Cubs,the Mets have their destiny in their own hands.Win the next four series, and there’s a chance they make it into the 2nd wild card spot.Lose the greater portion of the near future games, and the outcome is almost certain
It was the
night of August 9th and the Mets had fallen into a 6-3 sinkhole in
the bottom of the 9th against the Nationals when my drinking buddy
said, “I’m going to head home. We know how this ends.”
And then, bang-bang!
crushed a three-run homer. Michael Conforto lined a singled to right driving in
the winning run. And my buddy turned to me and said (cue the Godfather
soundtrack), “They’ve pulled me back in.”
what made Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field so deflating
for the team from Queens and its fans.
pulled us back in. They had us believing. Shoot, they just bolstered their
resume by sweeping the Cleveland Indians last week.
So when Joe
Panik stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second, fans
rose because since that early-August the Amazins have pulled us back in.
had a bit of a career resurgence since joining the Mets, hit a soft grounder to
first. Freddie Freeman needed no help. He fielded the ball, waved off reliever
Mark Melancon, and stepped on first.
had been swept in a three-game series for just the third time this season. They
slipped two and one-half games out of the Wild Card. The Braves, who seemingly have
had the Mets number since they arrived in Atlanta in 1966, had struck again.
the Mets in a three-game tease.
struck out 26 times Friday night, tying a MLB record, yet won, 2-1. They blew a
four-run lead Saturday night, yet won, 9-5. And they were on the verge of
coughing up a Dallas Keuchel gem on Sunday when Melancon induced Panik into a
ground out that sucked the soul out of Citi Field.
“They’re a really tough team,” Mets starter Steven Matz
told reporters. “We’ve played them tough and they’ve come out on top. They
grind it out to the end. We play good baseball against them, they just got the upper
The next 16
games are against teams the Mets are battling for that Wild Card berth. There
are 32 games remaining. They can’t afford another sweep. The Mets have pulled
us back in, which makes this late-season sweep such a gut punch.
“It was a tough series,” manager Mickey Calloway told
Zach Wheeler spoted the Braves 4 runs tonite before the Mets came back on a Pete Alomso 3 run homer to go ahead 5-4. But the very next inning they gave up the lead and lost 9-5 on a combination of the bullpen and bad fielding.
Pete Alonso 3 ru homer was the high point of tonites game for the Mets.
What more could Jake do? Or for that matter , all of the Mets relievers, and Atlanta whole pitching staff? After a game filled with great starters and relief, is was Familia that failed again.
After De Grom let up a run, in the bottom frame of that inning, he redeem his mistake by launching a homer to tie the score. And so it continued that way, chances for both teams to win, but the pitchers shut them down.
Bring in Familia, and what do the Mets and their fans get? Another failure to add to his not so good year on his return to the Mets. The team , locked in s struggle for the 2nd wild card spot, can little afford what happened last nite.