Dan's Dugout: Mets Play New Role As Maulers • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Mets Play New Role As Maulers


For most of their existence, the New York Mets have been fueled by pitching.

Tom Seaver won three Cy Youngs with the Mets. Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Tom Seaver won three Cy Youngs with the Mets.
Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Tom Seaver, known to this day as The Franchise, earned three Cy Young Awards during his tenure with the team and led the Miracle Mets of 1969 to an improbable world championship after winning 25 games that season.

In addition to Seaver, who won his awards in 1969, 1973, and 1975, Doc Gooden (1985) and R.A. Dickey (2012) also came up Cy Young trophies.

Seaver (1967), Jon Matlack (1972), Gooden (1984), and Jacob DeGrom (2014) were National League Rookies of the Year while Gooden won the Triple Crown of pitching — league leadership in wins, strikeouts, and earned run average.

Mets history is filled with other mound marvels, from Tom Glavine, who notched his 300th win while working for New York, to Johan Santana, who pitched the only no-hitter in team history. Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, and others all carved more than one niche into Mets history.

Even Nolan Ryan, who followed Seaver to the Hall of Fame, has Mets roots — though he pitched all seven of his no-hitters after leaving the club.

Suffice to say this has been a pitching-oriented team, primarily because it played its home games in a ballpark not conducive to the long ball.

The pitching is still potent, thanks to the starting quintet of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven

Mets mound marvels

Mets mound marvels

Matz, the soon-to-return Zack Wheeler, and deGrom. And let’s not forget ancient but still reliable Bartolo Colon.

But who knew the hitting would become the hallmark of the 2016 team?

Entering play Sunday, the Mets had hit 23 home runs in their last eight games and went back-to-back in four of their last five.

Even Neil Walker, a switch-hitting second baseman acquired from Pittsburgh after Daniel Murphy went to Washington via free agency, has joined the party. He swatted seven in the first three weeks of the season and seems likely to top his 2015 career peak of 23 (the only time in seven seasons he hit at least 20).

The power quotient improved almost immediately after the trade-deadline acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, a 30-year-old righthanded slugger who had 18 homers in 102 games for Detroit but 17 in just 57 games with the Mets.

Yoenis Cespedes charged the Mets' offense

Yoenis Cespedes charged the Mets’ offense

Before the deal, New York had a moribund attack that was sabotaging a strong pitching staff. Once the colorful Cuban arrived, however, his bat ignited — and set fire to everyone else’s.

Even Murphy, known for years as a singles hitter, finished 2015 with a personal peak of 14 — and then hit half that number in postseason play.

This year’s lineup is even more combustible, especially now that manager Terry Collins has stopped platooning Michael Conforto, a lefthanded hitter who has settled into the coveted No. 3 spot.

Two other lefthanded hitters, leadoff man Curtis Granderson and No. 5 hitter Lucas Duda, could also reach the 30-homer plateau. Throw Cespedes into that group too and the Mets have a mighty middle-of-the-order guaranteed to give plenty of support to that vaunted starting rotation.

There are no weak spots in the lineup. Even Asdrubal Cabrera, a shortstop signed as a free agent, has hit at least 14 home runs five straight seasons, with a personal peak of 25.

David Wright has shrugged off his back problems for now. Credit: Bill Menzel

David Wright has shrugged off his back problems for now.
Credit: Bill Menzel

Entering the season, the only real question among position players was third baseman David Wright, the team captain. Although his resume contains a pair of 30-homer seasons, he’s not the same slugger at age 33. In fact, his bout with spinal stenosis last season cost him considerable time and put his playing future in jeopardy. With extra rest this year, however, Wright could be the right man in the right place for this playoff-bound ballclub.

Keeping Cespedes from free agency surely helped. The muscular outfielder signed a three-year, $75 million deal with an “out” clause after this season but says he’s happy in New York and wants to stay.

Despite his spring training foibles with fancy cars and one expensive pig, Collins wants to keep his cleanup man in Flushing.

Shea Stadium may have been a graveyard for hitters but fixing the faces at CitiField proved a winning formula.

Although the Mets face a formidable divisional rival in the rejuvenated Washington Nationals, now led by celebrated manager Dusty Baker, their ability to parlay pitching plus power makes them odds-on favorites to keep their crown and perhaps add their first World Series title since 1986.

Elsewhere in baseball:

With his second no-hitter in 11 starts, Jake Arrieta is doing his best to keep the Cy Young Award on

Jake Arrieta leads the Cubs

Jake Arrieta leads the Cubs

his shelf and bring the streaking Cubs their first world championship since 1908 . . .

By allowing one run in his first four starts, rookie starter Kenta Maeda (Dodgers) is off to the best start by a pitcher since 1913 . . .

The Texas Rangers are enamored with their own freshman flash, rightfielder Nomar Mazara . . .

Unlike most of his fellow hitters, Mike Trout (Angels) loves facing Felix Hernandez (Mariners), whom he has tamed to a tune of .368 with five home runs . . .

Even though Jordan Zimmermann has succeeded Justin Verlander as ace of the Tigers, Washington wasted no time in finding a fine fill-in with Tanner Roark, who fanned 15 Twins in seven innings Saturday . . .

Andrelton Simmons brought his Gold Glove to the Angels

Andrelton Simmons brought his Gold Glove to the Angels

Attendance is down in Atlanta because the Braves traded three players fans paid to see: shortstop Andrelton Simmons, winning raves for his glovework in Anaheim; slugger Evan Gattis, who led the 2015 Astros in home runs and RBI; and closer Craig Kimbrel, now starring for the Red Sox.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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