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Memorial Day Weakened

32For a team that lost a mighty middle-of-the-order slugger to a broken back, had a once-unstoppable pitcher deliver two of the worst outings of his career, had two guys in the lineup looking for their first major-league hits, has a leadoff hitter struggling to hit above .200, saw starters at shortstop and third base need time off for their own aching backs, had its top bench player and starting catcher on the disabled list, and played the first-place team in their division six times, the Mets didn’t do all that bad this week.

Key to that were terrific starting performances from Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, a bullpen that got-er-done when needed, a bounceback from Bartolo Colon (also dealing with back stiffness) and just enough good luck to make it all sitck, recording an underwhelming sweep of Milwaukee and a series win in Washington this week following a harrowing series loss at home the week before — its fourth straight series loss.

Along the way we were were re-introduced Classic Daniel Murphy, whose iron glove in Wednesday’s game loomed very large when it was all over.

5And so the 2016 Mets head into Memorial Day weekend with a wobbly kind of momentum. Regardless of how underwhelming Los Angeles looked the last time we saw them — how could a team with that kind of financial power wind up relying so heavily on clowns like Kike Hernadez and Justin Turner? — the Mets are going to need to continue to do everything they possibly can right until they unravel what’s ailing Granderson, and d’Arnaud and Duda heal, Conforto and Plawecki’s slump ease, and Harvey stops being such a momentum killer.

What can you say about David Wright? He’s quite obviously not David Wright anymore, his strikeouts, especially looking, are way up, but the guy is winning us some games.

Let’s hope we see Flores return to active duty — and first base — on Friday as the ’86ers return to town.

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Putting the Stress in Stress Fracture

21Lucas Duda has a broken back, I have a broken heart, and Duda will miss “significant” time on the disabled list, the Mets said Monday. The Mets recalled veteran minor league multi-position player and Spring Training All-Star Ty Kelly to take Duda’s place on the roster, while Dario Alvarez was whacked from the 40-man roster to make room for Kelly.

55Kelly will wear No. 55, as he had this spring inheriting the jersey from another Kelly (Johnson) who wore it last. In Las Vegas, Kelly did about all you could do, leading all of the minors with a .391 batting average and a .478 on-base average, and he’s a switch hitter who can play 5 positions (including a little first), which is great. He also makes funny YouTube videos. But he’s not a power hitter like Duda. Make no mistake, we’re gonna miss that big goofy guy.

I guess this also means still more Eric Campbell, at least till Wilmer Flores gets back.

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Mayday!

36Hate to have to point out the obvious but May’s been a terrible month for the Mets so far, with nearly the entire lineup slumping, injuries to a starting pitcher and catcher, and a schedule that’s only starting to get difficult.

Travis d’Arnaud wasn’t doing much at the plate or behind it before a shoulder injury nicked him but he’s not getting out of his slump on the DL. I’ve always been a little wary of Steven Matz’s health and so his elbow soreness worries me too.

Reinforcement arrived late this week when lefty Sean Gilmartin was recalled and Wilmer Flores hit the DL. Gilmo is back in the familiar No. 36 and strirrups. Down Flores and d’Arnaud, we’re especially vulnerable to lefties.

Can we get Curtis Granderson (.146/.196/.333 in May); Neil Walker (.121/.216/.152); Lucas Duda (.189/.318/.459) and Michael Conforto (.143/.200/.262) going again? Now? Thanks!

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Stand in the Place Where You Were

Green-R.E.M.44If you ever had a vinyl copy of the GREEN album by REM, and sat around your dorm room listening to it instead of going to class or planning a future, you might have noticed that if you tilted the cover just the right way toward the light, a feint opaque image of the number “4” appeared wherever an “R” did.

I was reminded of that this afternoon when word came that Travis d’Arnaud was hurt — you don’t say — and that Class AAA catcher Rene Rivera was called up to take his place. Not that you’d want to, but if you could tilt Rene Rivera to the light just the right way, maybe you’d see this RR reflects a 44. Cuz, you see, that’s his number, according to the lightning fast fingers of ESPN’s Adam Rubin, reporting from CitiField where Rivera makes his Met debut tonight as Kevin Plawecki’s backup.

Rivera, a 31-year-old veteran of four other organizations, signed a AAA contract with the Mets earlier this month and had been hitting .280 in Las Vegas. He wore 44 as a member of the Padres and Rays.

Guys, I’ll be making my Citifield debut tonight. Should we talk about the weather?

 

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Sweet Sixteen

Glad to see the Mets get off the schneid just once before we go to war Sunday night in Kansas City. As noted below this was hardly the most encouraging warmup I’ve ever experienced but I’m thankful we’ll be answering the bell with relatively good health and a ton of promise. Hopefully, we kick the shit out of Kansas City.

The opening roster, announced yesterday, indicates we’ll soon be welcoming the following men to the All-time roster:

13 Asdrubal Cabrera
16 Alejando De Aza
20 Neil Walker
51 Jim Henderson
59 Anotnio Bastardo

They would bring the scrolls through 1,013 1,012.

Joining the field staff for the first time is bench coach Dick Scott, wearing No. 23, while Kevin Plawecki and coach Tom Goodwin pulled an offseason trade, with Plawecki taking 26 and Goodwin 22. Reliever Jerry Blevins is in a new number, 39, and coach Dan Warthen in 38.

11Ruben Tejada’s departure in the meantime opened up No. 11 should third-base coach Tim Teufel want to return to the number he wore as a Mets player: The roster posted at Mets.com indicates that’s the case but I thought I spied him ont he televised game from Vegas the other day still in 18. Any help?

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Bladder Up

It doesn’t mean anything, and a peek at the archives would reveal I’ve been ready to go to war with less A LOT, but I should just come out and confess I’ve been a Mets fan for something like 40 years and can’t remember a better Spring Training.


16
That seems like a long time ago but that was me, only a year ago, buckling in for what looked like, and ultimately turned out to be, a very rewarding season to be a Met fan.

And while I maintain the part about its ultimate meaninglessness, it’s difficult to interpret this year’s spring as anything but a basket of sour grapefruit. They have failed to win any of their last 13 games. I’m not satisfied they’ve answered any lingering questions about David Wright’s ability to go this year. The bullpen has been terrible. Nobody’s hitting for power. deGrom’s velocity is down. We learned a lot about what’s inside Matt Harvey’s bladder and Yoenis Cespedes’s garage, but we don’t know that they are going to be effective on the mound or in center field, respectively.

Ruben Tejada appears to have departed at just the right moment.

15I suppose the good news is that Matt Reynolds is having a good spring and ought to adequately replace Tejada’s penciled-in role as a reserve infielder, and that amid the struggles of Familia, Reed, Blevins and 51Bastardo, some guy named Jim Henderson has looked like viable bullpen candidate. They’re basically the only guys on the bubble anyway, illustrating just how dull a spring its been on top of all the lackluster exhibitions.

Two more games in Las Vegas, then opening night in Kansas City await. We’ll have the official O.D. roster updated then.

 

Uh, Let’s Go Mets?

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Hard Copy

So it turns out Kevin Kernan’s Sunday column in the Post saying Blevins would continue to wear 13 was inaccurate after all, and the online version has been altered so as to clarify what we’d known going in: Blevins will wear 39, Cabrera 13.

Glad to see the Post stand up for accuracy but their transparency could use some work: The fact that the article has been altered isn’t acknowledged anywhere, and Kernan seems to have nuked his own tweets referring to the story. Not for nothing, but that makes my reporting look bad, not his.

Anyone have a hard copy of Sunday’s Post? I want to clear my name!

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For the Record

As an update to this morning’s update on the rosters, I’ve gotten third-party confirmation on the major changes below (DeAza, Blevins, Bastardo, Cabrera) as well as Kevin Plawecki’s explanation for having become only the second Met catcher since Jason Phillips in 2001 to wear 26:

Plaw

Well there you have it.

Plawecki is also the second Mets catcher to request a new number following his rookie season: Travis d’Arnaud went from 15 to 7 last offseason.

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Hooray for Mike Piazza, and for Us

31It’s an odd combination of reassuringly high standards and an embarrassingly poor record with regard to qualified candidates that has gotten the Mets through more than half a century with a single player seeing his number retired, but that’s likely to double this year now that Mike Piazza has been elected to the Hall of Fame.

As it happens the Mets are hosting the Braves Sept. 21 this year, 15 years to the day from Piazza’s signature moment as a Met. I may have told this story before but I was there that night, and nearly killed myself leaping with unimaginable joy, landing on an empty Budweiser bottle, which shot out front under me as I crashed down onto those rib-cracking Upper Reserved boxes.

As a result, I’m not sure he ever touched third base.

This I also remember as the day where the sad new realities of the dehumanizing, cautious and paranoid post-911 world first really set in, requiring us to pass armed soldiers on the 7 train platform, wait in a lengthy queue out in the Shea parking lot just to get into the park (we missed the first inning, and I hate that). Also, I guess due to the long layoff between home games, the beers were warm. I mean, not just not cold, but warm. Jay Payton kicklined with Liza Minelli and before we knew it the Patriot Act was passed. It’s all mixed up still.

On some level I’m also cynical of the whole number-retirement thing, and feel like Piazza’s close association with the Wilpons, and his postcareer outspokenness on his desire to be identified as a Met is on some level orchestrated to this end, though give Mike credit: He knows how to give fans what they want to see.

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The Better Team Won

broom

Look, any way a Mets team gets to a World Series is just fine with me, but wanted to remark for posterity how convincing an expression of “may the better team win” this club has demonstrated in these playoffs. We withstood doubleshots of Kershaw and Greinke and a cheapshot from Utley and marched on ahead; and have now beaten the Cubs so thoroughly, in every aspect of the game, there’s just no ambiguity about it: The Mets are the best team in the National League in 2015.

Soak that in.

28Readers will surely know I’ve never been Daniel Murphy’s biggest Met supporter, but would never deny his overwhelming Met-ness, and couldn’t be any happier for him or more in awe of his performance. He’s outsmarting the other guys now? Keep it up! And what of David Wright? The play I’m going to remember from Game 4 was that fantastic catch with the bases loaded that had to have all but killed whatever feint beat remained in the hearts of Wrigleyville. From a guy who missed nearly the entire year with a back injury and is the only remaining member of the last Mets team to play an NLCS. Jon Niese with a big strikeout in Game 2. Duda and d’Arnaud. 48Flores driving it into the gaps. Granderson leading off. Nieuwenhuis and Lagares. Syndergaard, Familia and Harvey blowing guys away, and deGrom — counting the postseason, now the Mets’ winningest 48 ever — destroying them without his best stuff.

Fifteen years ago I rooted with everything I had but was never convinced we had the best team in the tournament, much less the Series. The ’06 juggernaut for all its potential played its way out. We need to go back 29 years, until… Yup.

So congrats Mets, and congrats to all of us who’ve hung in there. Especially us geeks who visit this site, this incredibly will be the second Mets World Series in the MBTN Era. More news on that soon, btw. Let’s Go Mets!

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