Panic Time for the Mets’ Rotation?

By Ethan Marshall

 

The disaster that has been the 2017 Mets season thus far has fans thinking “How can this get any worse,” every day.  With Yoenis Cespedes and now Noah Syndergaard sidelined indefinitely with injuries, the Mets need to right the ship without their best pitcher and hitter.

Noah Syndergaard walks off the field with trainer Ray Ramirez after suffering a partial tear of his right lat muscle yesterday in Washington.  Photo credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass.

Syndergaard’s injury may prove more costly in the long run.  With Seth Lugo and Steven Matz still weeks away from returning from their own injuries, the Mets are without a decent replacement.  The current plan for Friday is for Rafael Montero to start, but he’s failed to prove he belongs in the big leagues time and time again.

Assuming the Mets sign free agent Doug Fister (which they should), he would likely need two or three weeks to get himself ready to pitch in a major league game.  As early as it is, the Mets could explore the trade market for a pitcher that can eat up innings.

Bartolo Colon, who the Mets let go in the offseason because they felt they already had enough pitching depth, could be a suitable target for Sandy Alderson.  The Braves are in rebuilding mode, and with Colon signed on a one-year deal, he seems likely to be traded at some point this season.  Colon proved incredibly reliable in his Mets tenure, eating up innings while pitching well.  The Mets could really use a pitcher with a rubber arm like Colon’s right now.  With the Mets beginning their first series at SunTrust Park in Atlanta tonight, this could be a good time for Alderson to talk with Braves general manager John Coppolella about working out a deal for Colon.

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Bartolo Colon pitching at Citi Field against the Mets.  Photo credit: Getty Images.

 

The Mets and Braves have gotten along well in recent years on the trade front.  In July 2015, the Mets traded minor league pitchers John Gant and Rob Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  In June 2016 the Braves again traded Johnson to the Mets, this time for minor league pitcher Akeel Morris.

Of course there may be problems in negotiating a deal for Colon.  The Braves may try to take advantage of the Mets’ desperation by asking for higher tier prospects in exchange for Colon.  Additionally, Colon has an ERA of 5.59 in 29 innings pitched.

The Mets can’t afford to throw Montero out to the mound every five days for at least the next three weeks.  Whether it’s through the waiver wire, free agency or trading, the Mets need to find a replacement that can give them a quality outing each start.

Perhaps one way to negotiate with the Braves is to consider offering media magnet Tim Tebow.  The Braves just opened a new stadium, and need a way to sell more tickets.  Arguably nobody draws as much a crowd as Tebow.  While he alone wouldn’t be nearly enough for the Mets to give up for Colon, he could still draw the attention of the Braves if he continues to produce in the minor leagues.  While he is only batting .237 for the Class A Columbia Fireflies, he did go 6-21 last week, posting a .285 average.  Trading Tebow for Colon may just be stupid enough to work.

 

 

10 of the Biggest Sports Moments of 2016: Part 2

#5: Bart Ruth

When the Mets signed Bartolo Colon to a 2 year deal before the 2014 season, they viewed him as a mentor to the young, talented pitching prospects.  Over time, Colon became a folk hero to Mets fans, through his solid pitching and comical at-bats.  Before signing with the Mets, the only time Colon spent in the National League, where the pitchers would take at-bats, was when he was traded to the Montreal Expos shortly before the 2002 trade deadline.  The 5’11, 285 pound Colon was viewed by fans as an out-of-shape, middle-aged man who could keep up with these other athletes.

Colon’s at-bats became must-see TV, as he would wildly swing at pitches, no matter where the ball was located, with his helmet occasionally flying off his head.  His at-bats became hits on the Internet, especially during the times in which he would get hits.  The Internet was even going crazy during batting practice in spring training when it was reported that Colon hit a homer that knocked a tree branch off a tree.

On the fateful day of May 7, 2016, at PetCo Park in San Diego, Big Sexy stepped into the box against James Shields with a runner on second and two outs.  Colon belted the 1-1 pitch 365 feet, well past the leftfield wall, for a two-run homer.  The crowd, Internet, and even teammates, went crazy as Colon rounded the bases.  At 42 years, 349 days, Bartolo Colon surpassed Randy Johnson as the oldest player to hit his first career MLB homer.  As Colon finished rounding the bases, SNY announcer Gary Cohen summed up the moment, saying “This is one of the great moments in the history of baseball.”

#4: Tavares, Greiss, Lead Islanders to End Drought

The New York  Islanders entered the first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Florida Panthers having not won a playoff series since 1993.  John Tavares and the Islanders were looking to end this drought.  The Islanders would be playing the series without their starting goalie, Jaroslav Halak, who had been sidelined with a groin injury.

Thomas Greiss ended up stepping up in a big way, playing solid goaltending throughout the entire series.  The Islanders, thanks in large part to overtime victories in games 3 and 5, entered game 6 at the Barclays Center with a 3 games to 2 lead in the series.  Jonathon Huberdeau put the Panthers on the board when he scored with just over a minute left in the first period.  It would remain 1-0 going late into the third period.  With a little over a minute left in the period, and the Islanders net empty, it looked as though the Panthers were about to make the empty-net goal, but Vincent Trocheck’s shot was blocked by Nick Leddy, who then brought the puck down the ice, setting up Nikolay Kulemin for s great opportunity.  Kulemin’s shot was stopped by Luongo, but the puck squirted out from under him, allowing Tavares to poke it in for the equalizer with 53.2 seconds remaining in the third period.  The game would remain tied 1-1 after the first overtime period came to a close.  With just over 9 minutes remaining in the second overtime period, Tavares took a wrist shot from deep in the right circle, but was stopped by Luongo.  Tavares picked up his own rebound and wrapped around the net, beating Luongo for the series-clinching victory, ending 23 years of playoff ineptitude.

#3: The Death of Muhammad Ali

When people are asked as to who they believe the greatest boxer who ever lived was, the odds are that most would answer with Muhammad Ali.  Ali was more than just a boxer.  Ali was an advocate for Civil Rights.  He refused to serve in the war with Vietnam after being drafted, citing religious reasons.  He even went on to make social commentary on the war, saying “I got nothing against no Viet Cong.  No Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.”

Ali was known for being very outspoken, even during matches.  He was a wordsmith as well, coming up with many mottos and terms, such as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and the “Rope a dope” strategy.  Despite being unable to box during his prime years, due to being suspended for refusing to participate in the Vietnam War after being drafted, Ali finished his boxing career with a 56-5 record, with 37 wins by knockout.  He fought in some of the most thrilling matchups, such as the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier, often considered the greatest boxing match ever, or the “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman.  Ali won both of these fights.

Unfortunately, boxing took its toll on Ali over the years.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome in 1984 as a result of all the blows he took while boxing.  By the time he lit the Olympic torch for the 1996 summer games in Atlanta, Georgia, he was a shadow of the man he once was.  For the rest of his life, he would be constantly shaking as a result of his illness.  The man who would never shut up was barely able to speak in his later years.  The world lost the man known as the greatest on June 3, 2016, at the age of 74. There may never be a more dominant, charitable, and entertaining athlete to live more than Muhammad Ali.

#2: Cleveland Finally Wins a Championship

The city of Cleveland, Ohio is home to many sports teams, including the Browns, Indians, and, of course, the Cavaliers.  However, the city of Cleveland hadn’t had any of their sports teams win a championship since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964, when they defeated the Baltimore Colts.  Despite being home to LeBron James, arguably the best NBA player since Michael Jordan, even he couldn’t win a title for Cleveland.  Fans became outraged when James announced that he was leaving the Cavs for the Miami Heat in 2010, ruining their best hopes at ending their drought.  However, when James returned to the Cavs in 2014 after winning two titles with the Heat, he announced that his goal was to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland.

After losing to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals in 2015, the Cavs were set up with a rematch the following year.  The Cavs were huge underdogs to the Warriors, who went 73-9 in the regular season, the best regular season record ever recorded by an NBA team.  After trailing 3 games to 1, the Cavs went on to win games 5 and 6, forcing a game 7 in the Warriors home wood.  Thanks in large part to a key block by an exhausted LeBron James and a three-pointer by Kyrie Irving late in the game, Cleveland completed their epic comeback with a 93-89 victory, ending the drought in Cleveland.

#1: Joy in Wrigleyville

Every sports fan knows about the how the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908.  The Curse of the Billy Goat is one of the most notorious curses in the history of sports.  The curse was put on the Cubs when a bartender’s goat wasn’t allowed admission to the 1945 World Series.  The Cubs lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers in 7 games.  This was the last time the Cubs were in the World Series.  From  the black cat crossing the Cubs dugout’s path at Shea Stadium as they blew their division lead over the Mets in 1969, to Leon Durham’s error in the 1984 NLCS, to the infamous Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 NLCS, to them getting swept by the Mets in the 2015 NLCS, the Cubs have been within reach multiple times of returning to the Fall Classic, only to choke it away.

Coming into the 2016 season, there were high expectations for the Chicago Cubs.  Led by a solid starting rotation consisting of Jon Lester, 2015 Cy Young award winner Jake Arrietta, and Kyle Hendricks, and bolstered by a strong lineup consisting of players like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, and 2015 N.L. Rookie of the Year award winner Kris Bryant, the Cubs steamrolled their way to a division title, with a 103-58 season.  The Cubs defeated the Giants in the NLDS in 4 games before beating the Dodgers in the NLCS in 6 games, winning their first pennant since 1945.

The Cubs, like the Cavs, fell behind in the series 3 games to 1 against the Cleveland Indians. After winning game 5 at Wrigley, the Cubs dominated in game 6 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, thanks in large part to a grand slam by Addison Russell.  Game 7 started on a good note for the Cubs, with Dexter Fowler leading off the game with a homer.  The Indians tied it up in the third on an RBI single by Carlos Santana.  However, the Cubs struck right back in the fourth, scoring on a sac fly by Addison Russell and a two-out RBI double by Wilson Contreras.  The Cubs scored two more runs in the fifth, thanks to a homer by Javier Baez and a two-out RBI single by Anthony Rizzo, putting them ahead 5-1.  The Indians answered by scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth on a wild pitch.  The Cubs answered again in the sixth thanks to a solo homer by David Ross in his final game of his career.  However, in the bottom of the eighth, the Indians were able to rally against Aroldis Chapman thanks two a two-out RBI double by Brandon Guyer and a game-tying, two-run homer by Rajai Davis.  The game remained tied 6-6 after 9 innings.  As if the game couldn’t have any more suspense, there was a 15 minute rain delay before the start of the tenth inning. The Cubs were able to pull ahead in the tenth thanks to an RBI double by Ben Zobrist, before tacking on an insurance run on an RBI single by Miguel Montero.  The Indians didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the tenth, scoring once on a Rajai Davis RBI single.  However, the Cubs were finally able to end 108 years of suffering on a groundout by Michael Martinez.  For the first time since 1908, the Cubs were World Series Champions.

10 of the Biggest Sports Moments of 2016: Part 1

Many would agree that 2016 has been a very difficult year.  From all the celebrity deaths to the U.S. presidential election, many people just can’t wait for the year to end.  But through this difficult year came many fascinating moments in the world of sports.  Here are 10 of many notable events that occurred in the world of sports in 2016.

#10: The Rio Olympics

Many were expecting the Olympic Games in Rio to be a disaster, given the troubles facing the country, from pollution in the water to the high crime rates to the fear of the spread of the Zika virus, many athletes were hesitant to participate.  The Olympics went surprisingly well (unless your name was Ryan Lochte).  Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt continued their utter dominance in their respective categories.  Phelps broke an Olympic record dating back over 2,000 years when he won his 13th individual Olympic medal, passing Leonidas of Rhodes for the most by any Olympian.  Leonidas won 12 individual Olympic medals from 164 B.C. to 152 B.C.

Ryan Lochte became one of the most hated Americans when he, along with some swimming teammates, vandalized a gas station bathroom after getting drunk.  He later claimed that he and his friends were robbed at gunpoint.  Shortly after this incident, he got on a plane and went back home to America.  While in America, it was revealed through security footage by the gas station that Lochte was lying.  Lochte’s teammates were detained while they were still in Rio.  Lochte’s lies and his abandonment of his teammates led to him being scorned by many in the world.

#9: A Cespedes for the Rest of us

When Yoenis Cespedes was traded to the Mets at the 2015 trade deadline, nobody would have expected him to carry the team as much as he did.  Cespedes ended up batting .287 while hitting 17 homers while driving in 44 runs in his two months with the Mets.  At one point, there was even talk of him being considered for the N.L. MVP despite the fact that he had only played two months in the N.L.  He quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his clutch hits and ability to perform under the bright lights of New York.  While many Mets fans wanted him back for 2016, the ownership and management didn’t expect to get him.  Luckily for them, Cespedes fell into their laps late in the offseason.  The Mets signed him to a 3 year, $75 million contract with an opt-out after the first year.  Cespedes continued to entertain Mets fans.  In spring training, he made daily headlines thanks to his tricked out rides that he would take to the field.  At one point, he and Noah Syndergaard even rode Cespedes’s horses around the spring training facility.  When the season began, Cespedes was able to prove to fans as well as players around the league that he wasn’t a one-trick pony, batting .280 while hitting 31 homers and driving in 86.  Cespedes was rewarded by the Mets this offseason with a four year, $110 million contract, with a no-trade clause.  Ceaspedes will be sticking around in Flushing for quite awhile.

 

#8: The Rise Of Lugo and Gsellman

Nobody doubted that the Mets starting rotation entering the 2016 season was one of the best, if not, the best in the MLB.  The Mets had Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon, with Zack Wheeler scheduled to return around July.  Unfortunately, the Mets 2015 run to the World Series appeared to have a hangover effect on many of the pitchers.  Harvey struggled in 2016 before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome in July.  His season ended when he elected for surgery to fix it shortly after the diagnosis.  Syndergaard and Matz were both diagnosed with bone spurs in their pitching arms, with Matz’s being large and requiring surgery at the end of the season.  While Syndergaard was able to pitch through the season with little to no effect on him from the bone spur, Matz struggled to pitch as well as he did before the diagnosis, as well as to stay healthy.  Matz was eventually shut down in late September.  DeGrom had issues with his velocity early in the season.  While he eventually recovered from this, he was eventually shut down in September when he needed surgery to repair an ulnar nerve.  The 43 year old Colon would end up being the healthiest and most consistent of the Mets starting rotation in 2016.

Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman were eventually brought on to try to replace Harvey and Matz.  From the moment that they joined the rotation, they shined brightly.  Many fans had not even heard of these two pitchers before they were brought in as reinforcements.  Gsellman ended up going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA while Lugo went 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA since joining the starting rotation.  Both pitchers were key reasons as to why the Mets clinched a playoff birth for a second straight season for only the second time in franchise history despite all of the injuries that the team suffered.

#7: The Sanchize?

Gary Sanchez burst onto the scene with the New York Yankees in 2016 after making his season debut with them in early August.  In 53 games, Sanchez batted .299 with 20 homers and 42 runs batted in.  He tied Wally Berger as the fastest player to hit 20 homers to begin his career, at just 50 MLB appearances.  Yankees fans consider him a catalyst for the upcoming youth movement for the franchise.  The fans and organization hopes that Sanzhez will continue his strong play in 2017, and that some of the other top prospects in the organization can show promise just as Sanchez did in 2016.

 

#6: The Farewell Tours of Kobe and Big Papi

2016 saw the end of an era in Los Angeles and Boston.  Kobe Bryant announced that his 20th season in the NBA, all of which were with the Lakers, would be his last.  Bryant won 5 NBA championships as a member of the Lakers, winning MVP in 2 of the finals.  He was an 18 time NBA all star, including 4 all star game MVP awards.  He won the 2008 NBA MVP award.  Throughout the 2015-16 NBA season, he was greeted cheerfully by opposing players and fans in opposing arenas.  Kobe added to his hall of fame career in his final game when he led the Lakers to a victory over the Utah Jazz by scoring 60 points in the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  He ended his career with one last legendary performance, cemented his status as one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Shortly before the start of the 2016 baseball season, Red Sox star David Ortiz said that this would be his final season.  He then went on to have one of the greatest final seasons by an athlete.  Ortiz batted .315, hitting 38 homers, and leading the league in doubles with 48, runs batted in with 127, slugging percentage at .620, and OPS at 1.021.

In his 14 seasons as a member of the Boston Red Sox, Ortiz was a 10 time all star, 7 time silver slugger award winner, and 3 time World Series Champion, winning World Series MVP in 2013.  Ortiz played a critical role in ending the curse of the Bambino in 2004 when he led the Red Sox to a comeback to beat the Yankees after trailing them 3 games to none in the ALCS.  Ortiz hit the walk-off homer in the 12th inning of game 4 that extended the series, and hit a walk-off single in the 14th inning of game 5.  In the 2004 ALCS, Ortiz became the first DH to win the ALCS MVP award, batting .387 with 3 homers and 11 runs batted in.

Ortiz became the face of the Red Sox franchise in his years there.  It was only fitting that he give a powerful speech in the first Red Sox game at Fenway Park following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.  He concluded his speech as any Bostonian would- by swearing like a sailor.  He told the fans “This is our fucking city, and no one is going to dictate our freedom.  Stay strong.”  Ortiz and the Red Sox would face off against the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 ALCS.  Ortiz had another dramatic moment in him when he stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and two out in the bottom of the 8th inning of game 2, representing the tying run.  Ortiz belted a game-tying grand slam homer that was just out of reach of the leaping Torii Hunter in right field.  The image of the ball landing in the bullpen and the raised hands and joyous expression of a Boston police officer in the bullpen became very iconic for the city of Boston.  The Red Sox would go on to win the game, and later, the series against the Tigers, before beating the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

David Ortiz established himself as one of the most clutch hitters in postseason history.  He finished his career with a .289 batting average in the playoffs (including a .455 average in 59 plate appearances in the World Series), with 17 homers and 61 runs batted in during the playoffs.  He transformed the Red Sox from a team that was cursed into one of the most dominant franchises of the 21st century.

 

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of this list.