Who Is Matt Harvey: What Makes the New York Mets Pitcher an MLB All-Star? (Yahoo! Contributor Network)

COMMENTARY | During the 2013 MLB All-Star break, New York Mets ace Matt Harvey teamed up with comedian Jimmy Fallon for a skit where the All-Star pitcher interviewed local New Yorkers about a familiar subject: himself.

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Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer will start Tuesday night’s All-Star game (Big League Stew)

NEW YORK — Matt Harvey of the New York Mets and Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers are first-time All-Stars this season.
They’ll also be the first pitchers to take the mound for their respective squads when the All-Star Game begins Tuesday night at Citi Field. The announcement was made Monday afternoon and really came as no surprise given the way both men have pitched in the first half. It also didn’t hurt that both men had a little extra boost over their competition given that Harvey will be starting in front of the home crowd and the American League team is being led by Scherzer’s regular skipper, Jim Leyland.
Both men are the first pitchers to get a start in their All-Star debut since David Price and Ubaldo Jimenez got the nod for the 2010 game in Anaheim.
Harvey has given Mets fans some hope for the future in his first full season in the big leagues. The 24-year-old has a 7-2 record at the break, sporting a 2.35 ERA and a league-high 147 strikeouts. He’s the first All-Star pitcher tabbed to start in his home ballpark since Roger Clemens started for the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in 2004.
The Mets skipped Harvey’s final scheduled start of the first half on Saturday and will skip his first scheduled start of the second half to help limit his innings count.
Scherzer leads all of baseball with a 13-1 record. The 28-year-old has posted a 3.19 ERA, a 0.979 WHIP and 152 strikeouts, which ranks just behind Yu Darvish’s league-leading total of 157. He last pitched on Saturday when he suffered his first defeat of the season in a 13-1 loss to the Texas Rangers.
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At Least Two New York Mets Pitchers Are Not on Board with Helmet Idea (Yahoo! Contributor Network)

COMMENTARY | In baseball, sometimes the most fascinating discussions, the ones that grab the headlines and dominate sports talk on television and radio, have nothing to do with why the manager had his player bunt, what’s wrong with the star pitcher, or how many home runs a slugger hits.

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Optimism again for NY Mets with another season home opening win

Perhaps when the New York Mets opened the 2013 season at Citi Field Monday afternoon they resembled teams of the past. One could say the 1982-83 teams at Shea Stadium are comparable, significant, because that became the building block to the championship year of 1986.

When the first pitch against the San Diego Padres was thrown the announced sell-out crowd of 41,053 had that optimism, but the Mets are years away from making an impact in the standings, and that was before all-star pitcher Johan Santana went down again with a season ending injury to his shoulder.

Santana has probably thrown his last pitch as a Met, and there are doubts the two-time Cy Young Award winner will resume his career. His highlight in New York was that 134-pitch no-hitter, and first in franchise history last June 1st at Citi Field. And speculation is that outing may have ruined his shoulder.

Regardless, Santana is no longer the ace of what is now a young and promising pitching staff. Jonathon Niese got the Opening Day nod, a task he prepared for weeks ago when manager Terry Collins informed the left hander that the job may be his.

New York scored seven runs in three innings, and the effective start by Niese led to an 11-2 win over the Padres. It was the Mets 20th win in their last 22 season openers at home.

“The adrenaline was pumping, I’m not going to lie,” said Niese who went 6.2 innings, on two runs, striking out four in getting his first career opening day win. Niese also helped himself at the plate tying a career high with two hits. He also had an RBI single in the second inning and scored in a three-run Mets fourth.

It was so reminiscent of the first half Mets of last season. They scored nine runs with two outs, and went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position.  The clubhouse faces have changed, Collins is a lame duck manager, and a full house certainly helped the adrenaline and the rest of these 2013 New York Mets.

The new captain, David Wright had two stolen bases and drove in a run. This was an opening day win that fueled optimism after that dismal second half of 2012 that led to a fourth straight losing season for the Mets.

“So far, so good,” commented Wright who said he was sure to make the Opening Day roster after sitting out the last weeks of spring training with injuries to his rib cage.

Added Wright, “It was good to bust out offensively and get some breathing room for Jon.”

New York also got contributions from Ruben Tejada, who made his second consecutive home start at shortstop. Tejada doubled to left in the second inning, advanced to third on a bad throw and scored on the first single by Niese. The Padres’ Edinson Volquez once again was ineffective against the Mets and his five losses against New York are tied for the most against any team in his career,

“A good start is important, the spring is over,” said Tejada who struggled in 21 exhibition games, going 5-for-52. Collins approached him towards the latter part of the spring campaign and there was talk of not bringing him back to New York and to get extra work at Triple A, Las Vegas.

And the new faces contributed. Marlon Byrd with two RBI singles and the temporary and new catcher John Buck, in the middle of most of the rallies that saw New York put four more runs on the board in the seventh. The acquisitions of GM Sandy Alderson resemble those Mets teams before the 1986 championship season.

They can quickly become fan favorites, but to do so, as in the past, there has to be consistency. Byrd and Buck had RBI singles in the third inning.

“It definitely helped me settle in a little easier,” said Buck who will eventually sit down when the rookie Travis d’Arnaud arrives, a key player in the deal that saw Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey leave town.

Maybe the biggest impact was the new man in center field, 26-year old Collin Cowgill. The leadoff hitter won the job with a good spring and hit his first career grand slam home run off Brad Bach in the seventh.

“Just a humbling experience today,” he said. “This is a good clubhouse and everyone here can contribute to something nice.” Mets fans have heard that in the past, but the unexpected does happen during the long course of a 162-game schedule.

Just ask Collins, who once again said, “It is day one. We have a long way to go. One thing we want to do is establish credibility to our fans.”

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted under Adrenaline, Citi, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Full House, Johan Santana, Lame Duck, Last Pitch, Left Hander, New York Mets, Optimism, San Diego Padres, Seven Runs, Shea Stadium, Top Story

Pigs Finally Fly: The Mets Get Their First No-Hitter

A popular saying to describe something very unlikely to occur is “that will happen when pigs fly.” Until last Friday night the Mets had never had one of their pitchers, a group that included such luminaries as Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, and Frank Viola,  toss one of baseball’s very special accomplishments, a no-hitter. Pigs must have been flying somewhere near Flushing on June 1 because ace pitcher Johan Santana finally ended the hex by tossing a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals, the best-hitting team in the National League no less, by a score of 8-0 at Citi Field.

While a lot was understandably made of this first in Mets history what went unsaid was that there hadn’t been a major league no-hitter thrown in Queens since the late Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher, Bob Moose, threw one against the Miracle Mets on September 20, 1969 at Shea Stadium. Undaunted, the Mets went on to win the World Series less than a month later.

Mets manager Terry Collins mixed euphoria with concern at his press conference following Santana’s accomplishment. At his pre-game meeting with reporters Collins said that he wanted to limit Johan’s pitch count to around 110.

Santana missed all of the 2011 season and a great deal of the 2010 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery so the last thing that Terry Collins wanted was to have a situation where he tax his star pitcher’s harm past the 110 boundary. Collins is also well aware that Santana earns $22 million per year and the last thing that the financially troubled Mets needed was for him to lose more time out of uniform. It would have been the textbook definition of a Pyrrhic victory for Collins to have Santana pitch a no-hitter and then have him wind up on the disabled list.

The Mets manager had taken a lot of heat two weeks ago for removing David Wright from a game with the Milwaukee Brewers at Citi Field because he did not want to risk having his team’s star player injured after a beanball war had broken out. Mets reliever DJ Carrasco plunked Brewers slugger Ryan Braun so Collins wisely figured that the Brewers relief corps would retaliate against Wright in the bottom of the inning.

Wright was livid about Collins’ mollycoddling of him and it was clear that Terry understood David’s viewpoint. There was no way that Collins was going to take Johan Santana out of a game where he could make history unless Johan himself wanted to be removed. From his post-game demeanor it wouldn’t have been surprising if Terry Collins was secretly rooting for a Cardinals player to get a hit after Santana went past the 100-pitch mark in the game so that he wouldn’t be faced with a wrenching decision. Santana wound up throwing a very taxing 134 pitches.

The Mets manager could have been off the hook had umpire Adrian Johnson made the right call when former Mets star Carlos Beltran hit shot over the third base bag in the sixth inning that was ruled a foul ball. A replay showed that the ball did in fact hit the line and Beltran should have had a double.

The Mets may have earned some karma from the baseball gods with respect to Carlos Beltran when they saluted him with a video montage of highlights from his seven-year tenure with the Amazin’s prior to the game. The crowd roared its approval and Beltran responded in kind with a tip of his hat.

Mets outfielder and Whitestone native Mike Baxter made a sensational catch on Yadier Molina’s screeching line drive to rob him of a double in the seventh inning. Baxter smashed into the wall and was lying on the ground for some time afterwards. He was removed from the game but X-rays taken afterwards were negative. He was at his locker following the game and told the media that he had merely suffered a bad bruise.

Rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis took over for Baxter in left field and the following inning he saved the no-hitter when he raced in for a bloop fly ball hit by Cards’ second baseman Tyler Greene. Mets fans’ hearts were racing when they saw shortstop Omar Quintanilla, who was subbing for the injured Ruben Tejada, go full throttle in the other direction for Greene’s pop-up. Omar said afterwards that he heard Kirk call him off at the very last second. With so much on the line, as well as a very loud crowd, it was completely understandable how communication could have been garbled between them. In past years, Santana would have lost the no-hitter on that play and one or both of the players would have been injured in a collision. Not on this night however.

The Mets bullpen earned a rare night off but they were clearly on standby. “We tried to stay inconspicuous but we had someone ready from the sixth inning on,” revealed Mets reliever Bobby Parnell in the clubhouse following the game.

Santana clearly benefitted from the return of catcher Josh Thole who had just come off the disabled list a few hours earlier after enduring a concussion three weeks earlier. Thole certainly called a good game for Johan as the Mets pitcher did not shake off any of his signs.

As if there wasn’t enough drama, rain was working its way up the I-95 corridor Friday night. The Washington Nationals had already canceled their game while the Phillies were in a lengthy rain delay in Philadelphia. Former Mets general manager Jim Duquette who was working in the radio booth subbing for Josh Lewin said that he and Howie Rose were sharing weather forecasts with the fans as the game went on. “Everyone knew that if play was stopped even for a few minutes, Johan would be removed from the game,” he said. He went on to add that he and Howie made a conscious decision to start talking about the possibility of a no-hitter in the sixth inning.

As the late Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy used to say, “The weatherman certainly cooperated with the Mets!” After all of the Mets’ bad fortunes over the last few years their fans finally had a great memory from Citi Field.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, David Wright, Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Johan Santana, Lloyd Carroll, Luminaries, Milwaukee Brewers, Miracle Mets, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pyrrhic Victory, Shea Stadium, St Louis Cardinals, Star Player, Textbook Definition, Tom Seaver, Top Story

Santana Chalks Up First N*-Hitter in Met History

With some help, star pitcher Johan Santana finally ended a half-century-long wait by delivering the New York Mets’ first official no-hitter.

As for the franchise’s first legitimate no-hitter, the wait remains at 8,020 games – 8,094 including postseason contests – and counting.

That is, unless you believe the third base foul line at Citi Field might have been painted wrong, thereby finding at least one feeble way to justify a magical moment that nonetheless will forever live in Met lore – but one that in reality, never should have happened.

It certainly didn’t appear that line was anything but perfectly straight on Friday night, especially not when a screaming liner off the bat of Santana’s ex-Met teammate Carlos Beltran over the third base bag in the top of the sixth inning landed with half of the ball on the white chalk and the other half on the brown dirt just outside of the foul line.

Yet, what clearly should have been at least a hit, and a likely double for Beltran, was ruled a foul ball by third base umpire Adrian Johnson, who with a single blown call, instantly became a huge part of Met history during New York’s 8-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Beltran grounded out to third baseman David Wright on the next pitch to keep the no-hit bid intact and everyone from wondering how much longer it otherwise might have taken to ultimately see an end to the Mets’ no-hit futility for an often pitching-rich franchise in its 51st season.

In fairness, Johnson could hardly be blamed for his incorrect judgment on a ball that from his vantage point behind third base, was very difficult to catch with the naked eyes – even for a well-trained and experienced major league baseball umpire – as the ball rocketed down the foul line.

“I saw the ball hitting outside the line, just foul,” Johnson said to a reporter after the game. However, when asked what he later saw on a slowed-down replay, Johnson simply had, “No comment.”

None was needed, as Johnson knew he had missed the call and thus extended Santana’s chance at becoming an all-time Met folk hero.

Before that could happen, Santana needed a little more assistance of a much more authentic variety one inning after Johnson’s controversial call, when leftfielder Mike Baxter, who grew up as a Met fan in Queens, sacrificed his body to help save what would become the first no-hitter for the team based in the same borough in which Baxter was born and learned the game.

Chasing down a long fly ball hit by catcher Yadier Molina, Baxter made a brilliant running catch on the left field warning track just before crashing into the wall and leaving the game with a left shoulder contusion.

Sounding more like the Met fan of his earlier days rather than the player who just aided the pitcher he was very proud of, Baxter said, “What a night for the Mets. As a Mets fan, as a kid, it’s a huge night for the Mets. We’ve been waiting a long time for a no-hitter. Nobody better than Johan.”

The confluence of events that ended what had been the longest a major league team had ever waited for its initial no-hitter was ironic, given some of the parties involved.

Santana improved to 3-2 with an impressive 2.38 ERA and a sparkling 1.03 WHIP this season by beating pitcher Adam Wainwright, who fell to 4-6 with 4.98 ERA.

Wainwright, along with Molina, are best remembered by Met fans for ending New York’ season – and for doing so against Beltran – the last time New York made the playoffs, six years ago.

Beltran, now in his fifteenth year and with his different fifth team, followed an underachieving first season with New York in 2005 with three good seasons that including two all-star game appearances and the only three gold gloves that the centerfielder has ever won. But, injuries then prevented Beltran from living up to final three years of a very lucrative contract with the Mets.

And, to this day, whether fair or not, Beltran’s seven years in New York are underscored most by a single moment in which he was caught looking on a nasty breaking ball by the then-rookie Wainwright to end Game 7 of the 2006 National League Championship Series, with the bases loaded, two outs, and the Mets trailing by two runs – as New York was seeking its third World Series title, its first since 1986, and its first World Series appearance since 2000.

The deficit in that haunting game to Met fans everywhere was provided by a tie-breaking and game-winning two run home run in the top of the ninth inning by none other than Molina, who if not for Baxter, would have once again caused Met fans to add an unbecoming middle name for the Cardinals’ catcher, by saying as they did half a dozen years ago, “Yadier Freakin’ Molina!”

Before Santana’s no-hitter stole the show, the main story of this weekend’s four-game set between the Cardinals (27-25) and Mets (29-23) was supposed to be Beltran’s New York homecoming after the cash-strapped Mets were forced to trade their former star centerfielder to San Francisco late last season.

This wouldn’t be Beltran’s night though, as it was in the cards for the Mets’ no-hit streak to end against the Cards.

With Santana beating Wainwright, and Beltran and Molina being the ones to nearly but not quite spoil the memorable evening, things came full circle in some ways for the Mets to become just the fourth major league team with one franchise no-hitter (along with the Brewers, Blue Jays, Rays and Rockies), leaving the San Diego Padres to take over the unwanted mantle as the team with the longest no-hitter drought – one that has reached 6,895 games.

Thankfully for Met fans, New York ended its streak 926 short of the all-time longest no-hit drought, which still belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies, who went 8,945 games without a no-hitter between 1906 and 1964, when pitcher Jim Bunning ended that dubious stretch with a perfect game on Father’s Day, against the Mets, during the inaugural season of New York’s previous home, Shea Stadium.

Although Johnson and Baxter bailed him out, the 33-year-old Santana, whose fourth season in New York (after eight largely stellar years in Minnesota) was delayed when he sat out all of last year with major shoulder surgery, struggled a bit with his command early in the game.

He walked five batters overall, three in the first four innings, while issuing consecutive bases on balls to last year’s World Series MVP, third baseman David Freese, and Molina with one out in the top of the second inning.

But, Santana also struck out eight hitters in a mostly masterful and gutty effort against the defending World Series champions who boast a lineup that leads entered the game with a National League-leading .281 average and 270 runs scored (second in the majors in each of those categories to only the American League’s Texas Rangers).

Meanwhile, the Mets, who are known for their usual lack of offensive support for their ace pitcher, did a lot more than helping Santana in the field for a second consecutive time, scoring two runs in the fourth inning, three in the sixth (on right fielder Lucas Duda’s team-leading eighth home run), and three more in the eighth.

Given that type of cushion, Santana was able to focus on finishing off his second straight gem.

His previous start, was a 96-pitch, four-hit masterpiece in a 9-0 home victory over San Diego, six days earlier. That effort combined with the no-hitter made Santana the first Met in two decades (since David Cone in 1992) to throw a pair of complete-game shutouts in succession.  He also became the first pitcher in nearly three decades (since Dave Righetti in 1983) to toss a no-hitter in the nest start following a shutout.

Shortly after making Met history, the well-known website NoNo-Hitters.com – which had been tracking the team’s inability to record a no-hitter on a game-by-game basis –crashed by midnight, presumably from an overload of Met fan traffic, with a message that read, “The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.” The site was back up later into the night for the Met faithful who were still giddy with celebration.

As noted on the site, the Mets had remarkably thrown 35 one-hitters, but never a no-hitter; had six no-hitters thrown against them; and 14 had seen no-hitters pitched by former Mets after they left the team – including Cone, Phillip Humber (whom the Mets traded to Minnesota to acquire Santana, and who threw the majors’ 21st and most recent perfect game for the Chicago White Sox on April 21st), and Met legend Tom Seaver.

Santana was only four years old when Seaver took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in 1975, the last Met to do so until Santana did so with a pitch count of 122, just three shy of his previous career-high.

Twelve pitches later, his 134th and 77th for a strike, Santana got Freese to swing and miss at a great changeup to record his first career no-hitter while ending a no-hit curse that had dogged the Mets for far too long.

Three-and-a-half months after 1986 World Series hero, ex-Met catcher Gary Carter tragically died from cancer, a Met fan wearing a Carter jersey was wrestled to the ground by security to the right of a bunch of Mets who were mobbing Santana carefully (because of his reworked shoulder) on the mound after the final out.

Despite earning one of the richest pitching contracts in the majors, the class act thanked his teammates in the locker room and made the special evening more about the team effort than about himself. “Tonight, we all made history,” he told them. “You guys [made] it happen.”

Wright, the Mets’ other main veteran leader spoke for a largely young team, saying, “That was awesome. Short of Tom Seaver, I can’t think of a better person to pitch the first one. The type of guy he is, the type of person he is, and what he’s been through in the last year – to come back and have that type of performance, that’s incredible and was glad to be a part of that.”

Manager Terry Collins, who has done a great job with getting his club to overachieve and unexpectedly contend in the NL East through nearly the first third of the season, fought back some tears during the postgame press conference while admitting that during the seventh inning, he told Santana that the Venezuelan-born lefty was his hero.

An overwhelmingly proud but worried Collins was also concerned that he had pushed Santana further than he wanted to, but with over 50 years of history at stake, there was no way he was pulling Santana early.

“It’s an honor,” Santana said of his place in history. “I know how much this means to New York and to the New York Mets.” And, while interviewed by SNY-TV’s Kevin Burkhardt on the field, Santana told the 27,069 fans in attendance, “[I’m] happy for you guys. Finally, the first one!” – a statement to which the crowd responded with an appreciative roar.

Just after that exchange, infielder Justin Turner congratulated Santana on television with a face full of whipped cream, to which a smiling Santana said, “At least it wasn’t shaving cream,” as sometimes used by other players for other celebrations.

“I knew the Mets had never had a no-hitter,” Santana added. “I had never had one. This was very special. All the things I’ve been through… this means a lot to New York. This is great.”

Along with the feats of Santana and Humber, the no-hitter was the third in the majors this season, as Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver threw one against Santana’s former Minnesota team on May 2nd.

About an hour after Santana finished off his no-hitter, Florida pitcher Jonathan Crawford did the same in an NCAA tournament game against Bethune-Cookman, when Carlos Delgado – sharing the name the same name of the ex-Met star first baseman (from 2006-2009) – made the last out.

While Santana officially etched his name into the record books and eternally into the hearts of Met fans, Johnson’s missed call will always be linked with the accomplishment in the reverse way that ex-Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was denied his own spot in baseball prominence.

Nearly two years to the day, Galarraga, now with Baltimore, retired the first 27 batters for Detroit, at home, against the Cleveland Indians, on June 2, 2010, before Jason Donald hit what appeared to be a ground out to secure a perfect game for Galarraga, who covered first base on the play. Galarraga caught a toss and beat Donald to the first base bag, but umpire Jim Joyce (who later apologized to Galarraga) mistakenly ruled that Donald was safe with an infield hit, simultaneously costing Galarraga a perfect game and what Santana is credited with thanks in part, to Johnson.

Just as Galarraga’s imperfect game will always be marked with an asterisk, Santana’s no-hitter will always be tainted as a n*-hitter.

Nonetheless, for a franchise that had unsuccessfully come so close so many times over so many years, it felt right that the Mets at long last caught a break, and that Met fans will no longer have to remain conditioned to thinking they’ll never see their team pitch a no-hitter.

Following the famous tag line for every Mets’ win of longtime Mets’ broadcaster Howie Rose (who was born in nearby Brooklyn, who attended high school and college in Queens, and who called the game on radio for WFAN), regardless of how the team’s first no-hitter happened, “Put it in the books!”

Posted under Brown Dirt, Carlos Beltran, Chalks, David Wright, Foul Line, Incorrect Judgment, Johan Santana, Magical Moment, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Umpire, Naked Eyes, New York Mets, Sixth Inning, St Louis Cardinals, Top Story, Vantage Point, White Chalk

This post was written by Jon Wagner on June 2, 2012

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Cliff Lee forgoes an extra $30 million (AP)

At some point, it seems, Cliff Lee figured it wasn't about the money anymore. Baseball's hottest free agent could have had $150 million and a spot on the biggest stage in the game with its most successful team — the New York Yankees, winners of 27 World Series. Instead, the star pitcher got up from the table and left $30 million behind.

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