Mets’ Tease of a Season Was Great While It Lasted

By Scott Mandel,

This is a baseball obituary we are filing today. Obituaries are usually sad as we say goodbye to those who have left us but also, they can be happy remembrances of what was or used to be.

This will be a happy remembrance of the 2019 New York Mets. Of what was, during a four week stretch when, like our favorite uncle, the Mets made us smile and laugh and cheer with funny quips or jokes. And, we looked forward to more of the same.

Mets Success was short-lived

The Mets weren’t funny or a joke, but, like Uncle Joe, they teased and tickled us till we cried uncle. Yet, we wanted more teasing and tickling because it was fun. We knew, eventually, Uncle Joe would be putting on his coat and going back to wherever he lived, but, we enjoyed our five minutes of sheer fun with him.

That was the 2019 New York Mets. Uncle Joe.

Last night’s loss to the Chicago Cubs, their third in a row at Citi Field to the one team they could least afford to lose to, was not quite the final nail in the coffin. But, together with the previous three-game sweep they suffered at the hands of their division rivals Atlanta Braves, this current six-game home losing streak has brought Uncle, er, the Mets to the precipice of it being time to put on their coats and go home.

The next time we’ll get to see our teasing, funny Uncle Joe will be in November, at family Thanksgiving. The next time we see the Mets, with that fun-loving, teasing look in their eye will be two months after Thanksgiving, in the spring of 2020 down in Florida. We hope everyone shows up at our next family gathering in the sun but there always seems to be a missing cousin or aunt, or, even a third baseman, a pitcher, or, a manager from the gang. And, though we always miss them, we realize we must move on.

Change is inevitable, within fun-loving, teasing families and also within ballclubs. Someone always moves far away and just can’t get back for our traditional family events we so look forward to every winter.

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Joe Maddon is in final year of contract with the Cubs. Rumors are flying he will be fired if they don’t make deep playoff run

Potential New Additions to 2020

Who knows? Maybe, this winter, we will meet new friends and family. In the case of the teasing Mets, we may even rediscover new members with names like Cespedes, or Jed Lawrie, or Joe Girardi or even Joe Madden (if Girardi decides he can’t afford the trip down to Florida). In the case of the two Joes, we’ll really have an Uncle Joe to hang out with, won’t we?

Invariably, at the tail end of our northern winter season, Mother Nature can be just like the Mets and Uncle Joe, teasing us when she dumps another foot of snow on our cities in February or March. And, like the Mets 2019 season, all we can say is, “would you look at that, another tease.”

Teasing seems to be a repetitive fact of life as well as in sports.

RIP, 2019 New York Mets.

Mets Lose to Braves As Alonso Ties Franchise Homer Record

By Scott Mandel

When Pete Alonso, the Mets precocious rookie first baseman drove the Atlanta Braves’ starter, Max Fried’s fastball 451 feet into the deepest part of center-field, it put the Mets ahead, 5-4 after having trailed the entire game.

One sensed the momentum change, replete with awakening a quiet home crowd into delirium, would take the Mets to a win over their division rivals. Alas, it didn’t happen for the home town team as the Braves, clearly a better team, took the lead back and went on to beat the Mets, 9-5.

The one positive from the loss was Alonso, who continues to be an offensive force in the National League in his maiden season.

The bomb he hit to the center field black in the fifth inning was his 41st home run of the year to tie the Mets’ franchise home run record. Alonso now shares that record with Carlos Beltran (2006) and Todd Hundley (1996). His next homer will give him sole possession of the franchise home run record.

“As soon as the ball left the bat, I knew it,” Alonso said. “The fans went absolutely nuts. It’s something you dream about as a kid. It was surreal. It was a hell of an environment tonight. That moment was incredibly special.”

The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder tipped his cap to the Citi Field crowd on his way as he took first base in the top of the sixth inning. The nearly packed house (38,300) gave him a loud, long standing ovation.

“I don’t get chills much, but that gave me the chills a little bit,” Zack Wheeler said, who gave up five runs (four earned) over six innings Saturday. “The atmosphere, the timing of the home run and how big it was. That guy is special. Hopefully it can continue. We’re riding him right now.”

The rest of the Mets’ lineup was ineffectual during a critical game. The offense struggled to string together runs in every inning besides the fifth, when Juan Lagares sparked a four-run rally with his second double of the night and Alonso cashed in three runs with his historic homer.

The Braves immediately answered the Mets and tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the sixth by taking advantage of Todd Frazier’s fielding error at third base. The Mets had their best chance to reclaim the lead when Jeff McNeil, hitting for the first time since his 10-day IL-stint, led off the seventh inning with a double to right field.

This was Zack Wheeler’s third straight poor outing but it wasn’t all his fault. There was also poor baserunning and bad defense, and, of course, more long balls given up by the Mets most important off-season acquisition, closer, Edwin Diaz.

Diaz’s nightmare season continued when he gave up a solo homer to Freddie Freeman and left the game two batters later after being seen on the mound by the trainer. The problem, not yet officially reported, appeared to be with pain in his trapezius area, aka the “trap.”

Wheeler, who said he intended to make some adjustments after a pair of bad outings, didn’t show much improvement.

He struggled with the strike zone, allowing four earned runs by the end of the third inning and couldn’t quite find a rhythm throughout his six innings on the mound.

He ended up with a no-decision, but gave up five hits — two of them homers — and four walks.

“Out of the stretch I was a little off today, but nothing really changed from the bullpen to the game,” Wheeler said. “Just trying to throw more four-seams, arm-side, and that just wasn’t there in the first few innings, so I kind of said screw it and started throwing two-seam, because I knew it was going to be there.

“Fell behind a lot of guys, a lot of deep counts and kind of setting guys up for a fastball. I just need to do a better job getting ahead of guys, makes it a lot easier and I’ve had my success when I do get ahead of guys. I think that’s one of the bigger things, I just need to pound the zone and just go after guys.”

The right-hander has now followed up the two gems he tossed in his first games after the trade deadline passed and he stayed in Queens, with three clunkers at the most important juncture of the season.

“He battled,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The state of our bullpen tonight, he had to get to his pitch count. He did that and got through six. It wasn’t his best outing, the two walks in the second inning probably were the thing that hurt him the most, but he continued to battle.

“He’s been better, he’s been worse, but he battled for us.”

Diaz was removed from game after giving up home run

It makes one wonder if a pitcher with Wheeler’s arsenal and velocity is feeling the pressure of the moment, in this, a playoff push in the biggest city. This place is the greatest city to play in if you rise to the occasion but, if you cannot overcome the pressure of a pennant race, the fans in New York are relentless in their criticism and open derision.

Wheeler, the native of Smyrna, Georgia, will have to possibly adjust more than his delivery and pitching style if he is to be counted on down the stretch.