Harper Making Curry-like Ascension to the Top

(Photo via washington.cbslocal.com)

We are only about 15 games into the regular season, but already, we are seeing numerous stars in the MLB come into the league and dominate. With former superstars like David Ortiz, Ichiro, Albert Pujols, etc. that are likely heading to their final at-bats in this league, the MLB is ready to usher in a new age of talent and excitement to the game. And no star shines brighter than Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

Harper, 23, was first recognized back in his high school days in Las Vegas, Nevada. Even by age 19, scouts and executives knew that this player was something special. He ended up getting drafted by the lonely Nationals 1st overall in the 2010 draft. Since then, Harper has become the youngest position player to ever make an all-star team, was the 2012 rookie of the year, and became the youngest MVP winner in league history. In his breakout 2015 MVP season, Harper batted .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBIs. But his greatness doesn’t stop there…

Bryce Harper has started his 2016 season even stronger than last year. In just 13 games, Harper has hit 7 HR, to go along with 20 RBIs, and has led his Nationals to the second-best record in the league (they are only a ½ game behind the Cubs). Clearly, Harper is ascending at an incredibly fast pace. He looks poised for the same kind of performance leap that Stephen Curry saw from last year’s MVP season to this year.

Both Harper and Curry have become the faces of their respective leagues, and both are only going to get better. While Steph has transcended the way the game is played, with more emphasis on dribbling and outside shooting, Harper has also become a trailblazer for how our national pastime is played. He is adding a jolt to this slow-paced game, making it more exciting and enjoyable for both players and fans alike. He has taken the throne atop the rest of the league’s superstars, just like Curry did, bypassing King James in the process.

It might be too early to call, but Harper looks well on his way to another MVP title this year. What remains to be seen is if his Nationals squad has the pieces to contend for a title. They always seem to look good on paper, but tend to fizzle in performance near the end of the year, or just simply underachieve. But what I know for certain is that whatever the Nationals hope to achieve over the next few years, they will have to rely on the 23 year old prodigy to get them there.

– J. Yellin

It’s Hammer Time For Thor

(Photo via sportsonearth.com)

First, there was Tom Seaver. Then there was Doc Gooden. And now, in 2016, the Mets appear to once again have one of the best pitchers in baseball. On December 17th, 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays traded top prospects Travis D’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard to the New York Mets in exchange for the reigning CY Young award winner R.A. Dickey.

At the time, D’Arnaud was considered the best player the Mets got in the deal and while d’Arnaud is the Mets current starting catcher and still has a ton of potential, with every passing day it is looking like the Blue Jays will dread giving up the fire baller from Mansfield, TX. Syndergaard debuted on May 12th of last season and he immediately impressed. In 150 innings pitched, he went 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA all while averaging an astounding 97.1 mph on his fastball.

Coming into the 2016 season, Syndergaard was expected to improve and be a great pitcher, but he has exceeded those already high expectations. In three starts so far, the man they call “Thor” is 2-0 with a microscopic 0.90 ERA. He also has 29 strikeouts in just 20 innings pitched so far. Just looking at these numbers shows you how good Syndergaard has been, but in order to truly grasp how dominate his stuff has been, you have to delve deeper into the numbers.

His fastball/sinker average velocity is an unbelievable 99 mph, by far the highest in all of baseball. His off speed pitches are off the charts as well. His slider averages 93 mph, yes, that’s right, 93 mph. That’s harder than most starters throw their fastball. His changeup and curve are also impressive in their own right, sitting at an average of 90 and 83 mph respectively. It’s one thing to come out of the bullpen for one inning and let it loose throwing 100 mph, but what’s so amazing about what Syndergaard is doing is the fact that he is sustaining this astounding velocity over 6 or 7 innings every start. Syndergaard is only 23 years old and is the talk of the league right now. There is good reason to believe that the chatter will last for a very long time for the one they call Thor.

– D. Celauro

Too Early To Panic?

(Photo via m.mlb.com)

Coming into this season, the New York Mets were one of the favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. Six games into the season, the Mets are just 2-4 and struggling to score runs. If that wasn’t bad enough, their top pitching prospect Steven Matz took the mound for the first time this season Monday night and it didn’t go as planned…not even close. Matz allowed 7 Runs and 6 hits in only 1 2/3 innings pitched against the Miami Marlins. Seriously?

So now the question is, is it time to panic? I believe it’s a little premature to start panicking, but it’s certainly time to be cautious. The Mets offense was supposed to be much improved this season as the front office preached depth this off-season. They went out and signed Asdrubal Cabrera to play shortstop and traded for Neil Walker to play second base. These moves were supposed to make the one through eight hitters all quality major league hitters while moving Wilmer Flores onto the bench to become the super utility player. So far this plan hasn’t worked out.

Only David Wright has hit over .300 over the first 6 games, and the Mets as a team have somehow only hit one home run. On the other side of the coin, the starting rotation, which was supposed to be the best in baseball, has been just average. Noah Syndergaard was lights out in his first start against Kansas City and the ageless Bartolo Colon was impressive, but besides that, the Mets vaunted rotation hasn’t been elite. Jacob DeGrom had a good start in the home opener, giving up only one run, but left early after experiencing lat tightness and now will miss his next scheduled start on Wednesday. Matt Harvey has had two sub-par starts with a 4.53 ERA, and as we referenced before, Matz blew up in his only start on Monday night.

Despite all this, don’t panic Met fans…not yet at least. Assuming Jacob DeGrom is okay, this rotation will still be the best in baseball. Matt Harvey is a proven ace and Steven Matz proved he can pitch in the big leagues last season, not only in the regular season but the postseason as well. The offense is more of a question mark, but it is still a very deep lineup. Yoenis Cespedes has looked much better the past two games and David Wright seems to be getting his swing back. Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Lucas Duda, and Asdrubal Cabrera are all proven veterans and let’s not forget the potential for youngsters Travis D’arnaud and Michael Conforto. The bottom line is the offense should come around very soon. Mets fans always tend to panic because, well, we are Met fans, can you blame us? But Met fans, I am here to tell you don’t panic, at least not yet.

– D. Celauro

Is the Hair Healthy?

(Photo via foxsports.com)

On April 8th, the New York Mets had their home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. Going into the game, the Mets were 1-1 after splitting the first two games of the season in Kansas City against the defending World Series Champion Royals. In front of the largest regular season crowd in Citi Field history, Jacob DeGrom took the mound for his first start of the season and he did not disappoint. DeGrom threw 6 innings, giving up only one run and had six strikeouts. However, all Met fans were stunned when DeGrom was pinch hit for in the bottom of the sixth inning while only having thrown 76 pitches.

After the game ended it was announced that DeGrom left the game after feeling tightness in his lat. This immediately sent Met fans into a panic wondering if the DeGrom was seriously injured. Now there are some concerns with DeGrom because he had some injury issues in the spring and his velocity had diminished during his first start, but I am not concerned…not concerned yet at least.

Let’s start with the positives. DeGrom was again sitting at 92 mph consistently, which a fan never loves to see but he still looked great. His fastball might not have been 95 mph, but it had late life on it and hitters were swinging through it. His off speed stuff also looked very good as he had all of his pitches working.

Now the negatives. There could be some concern with this most recent injury because DeGrom did pitch a career high 216 innings in 2015 and as mentioned before, he had three separate injuries during spring training. In order for the Mets to defend their National League Championship, they need their only 2015 all-star on the field and performing well, or maybe this season might not be what all Mets fans are expecting that it will be.

– D. Celauro

Early Impressions of the Mets

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At long last, the baseball season is upon us.  The Mets opened the season Sunday night against the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals, and were forced to sit through presentation after presentation honoring the team that they had lost the World Series to only about 5 months ago (Good Job MLB).  After all the celebrations were over, the game finally began and it saw Matt Harvey facing off against Edinson Volquez.  Harvey pitched well in his first start of the season, but was let down early by a Yoenis Cespedes error that would prove to be costly.

The Mets came back from a 4-0 deficit to lose 4-3, and managed to get the tying run to third base with one out in the ninth before Wright and Cespedes struck out to end the game.  Thankfully, the Mets finally got some revenge over the Royals on Tuesday afternoon as Noah Syndergaard proved to everyone that he will be close to unstoppable this year.  No that is not an exaggeration, Noah Syndergaard will be close to unstoppable this year.  He struck out 8 players last night using his slider, which was nearly the same amount of batters he struck out all last year using a slider.  New addition Neil Walker had the decisive home run in the game as the Mets shutout the Royals 2-0.

So, what did we learn?  We learned that Matt Harvey will be very good this year, but Noah Syndergaard just appears to be on another level already.  We also saw Michael Conforto looking like the great young player we all know he is and will be, and in my opinion, he will be THE breakout player in the MLB this year.  Finally, we learned that the Royals are a pretty good all around baseball team and will most likely be one of the best in the league once again this year.  It is obviously early, but I love what I am seeing from this team already, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of this season has in store for us.

– C. Homola

Mets Sell Piazza 9/11 Jersey

(Photo via nycbslocal.com)

After the 9/11 attacks, a pile of ash, rubble, and steel laid where the World Trade Center once stood. The WTC was a staple of the New York City skyline and a symbol of American success, but it very quickly became Ground Zero. Everyone was effected. People lost fathers, husbands, brothers, mothers, wives, sisters, children, grandparents, and the list goes on. New York was broken. America was broken.

The first sporting event in New York after 9/11 took place on September 21, 2001. Piazza may have just hit another dinger, but it was more than that. Everyone who was alive can remember exactly where they were when Piazza hit the historic blast. That go ahead homer rocked the Big Apple harder than any terrorist attack could hope to. It did more than win a ball game. It brought all Americans together and helped heal a city that was so deeply scarred.

 

 

Piazza commented on the sale of this piece of NY history.

“I’m very disappointed with the situation regarding my game jersey from Sept. 21, 2001,” Piazza told the New York Post. “I’ve expressed my feelings to [chief operating officer] Jeff [Wilpon] and the Mets. And while it never should have left Citi Field, they have assured me that contact with the seller has been made and they are making a concerted effort to get the jersey back. I’m hopeful that an agreement can be reached and we can give back to the fans and all New Yorkers a piece of that evening that was more than just a game.”

-Adam Ruben, ESPN

The Mets issued satement after Piazza spoke out.

“We made a mistake in selling the jersey, and Jeff called Mike to express our regret in so doing,” a Mets spokesperson said in a statement to the Post. “We have dedicated a section in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate Mike’s achievements and his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and are exploring memorabilia to display in that area. We can’t verify the item being auctioned, but can confirm that our memorabilia group sold a jersey that meets this description, which was not authenticated with respect to game use.”

-Adam Ruben, ESPN

9/11, although it was a dark day in American history, brought out the best in New York. Everyday people became heroes. Individuals showed that below the tough NY exterior is a bond that runs deep. It didn’t matter if you were a man or woman, black or white, or anything else for that matter. We came together to lend a hand and do what we could. Piazza’s jersey symbolizes all that. When he hit that shot against the rival Braves, it did not matter if you were a Mets or Yankees fan. The crowd wasn’t chanting “Let’s go Mets!” as Piazza rounded the bases, they were chanting “U.S.A.” as flags waved and tears of joy streamed down many faces. It was bigger than baseball.

I, for one, like that the Mets are trying to purchase the jersey back. I wish they had never made the sale to begin with, but that’s in the past. I respect the organization for admitting their mistake and trying to make it right with the fans and the people of New York.

– R. Ilardi

Are the Yankees Doomed?

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The team everyone loves to hate, the New York Yankees, stocked up this 2015­-2016 off-season to make another potential run at lucky number 28. This off-season, the Bronx Bombers acquired all-­star Starling Castro and flamethrower Aroldis Chapman to fix holes that severely hindered the team last year.

“The Yankees traded for Reds flamethrower Aroldis Chapman on Monday. He joins Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to give New York ­­ on paper, at least ­­ one of the most daunting bullpens in Major League history. With Chapman on board, it’s feasible that the Yankees could become the first team in history to record 600 relief strikeouts.” These were the words by sports writer AJ Cassavell on MLB.com on the 28th of December. Life as a Yankee fan was looking quite promising.

This all ended Wednesday.

After his first pitch thrown to the Atlanta Braves, trusted closer Andrew Miller took a line drive off of his wrist which chipped a bone in his wrist and will put him on the disabled list to start the season. About 30 minutes after this, Bryan Mitchell goes down with a big toe injury. The team already knew Chapman was going to be suspended the first 30 games for forgetting that choking his girlfriend wasn’t allowed.

Should the Yankees and Yankee fans be worried? Well, a little, but not too worried. The Yankees still have one of the deepest bullpens in the league. The starting rotation is healthier than last year, with Nova and Pineda back, and Sabathia back from alcohol rehab. Aaron Hicks seems to be an immediate improvement from Chris Young last year as the Yankees’ fourth outfielder. Even though Betances only had 10 saves last year, I’m more than confident that he can hold down the fort for a few weeks until Miller and Chapman return, along with keeping young lefty Chasen Shreve at the 8th inning spot.

This is a bad time to panic. Miller and Mitchell will most likely be fine in no time. Having Dellin Betances be himself will suffice at the closer role to get the Yanks in good positioning for the first month of the season. Chapman comes back throwing 106 mph fastballs and the Yankees become untouchable.

But what happens if it doesn’t go OK? This bullpen was supposed to be historic and go down along with the late 90s teams in the halls of greatness. But right now, it’s looking like one big injured mess, at the wrong time in the year.

Let’s watch and wait.

– M. Fritz