Sep 2, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Vic Black (38) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the 7th inning inning at Turner Field. The Braves on 13-5. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Rising Apple Weighs In: Thoughts On August


At the end of each month, the Rising Apple staff will look back and weigh in. Here are our thoughts on August, during which the Mets had a record of 14-15…

Danny Abriano, Editor:

Depending on whether or not he undergoes Tommy John Surgery, August for the Mets may be remembered for Matt Harvey‘s UCL injury.  Lost a bit after the Harvey injury, is the fact that the Mets were also without David Wright, Bobby Parnell, Josh Edgin Jenrry Mejia, and Jeremy Hefner for the majority of the month.  For good measure, Ike Davis strained his oblique during the last game of the month, ending his season.  The losses of those players (especially the damage done to the pitching staff), would’ve broken this team in seasons past, but they persevered through the bad breaks to have a respectable month.

While Harvey’s injury certainly put a damper on things, August should also be remembered for the debuts of Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores, the continued brilliant defensive play of center fielder Juan Lagares, Zack Wheeler starting to come into his own, and the trade Sandy Alderson pulled off a few days ago with the Pirates – turning Marlon Byrd and John Buck into second baseman Dilson Herrera and hard throwing reliever Vic Black.  Herrera is years away (he’s currently in Low-A Ball), but Black could be a key arm in the team’s bullpen in 2014 and beyond.  Speaking of 2014 and beyond…

Their current record doesn’t show it, but the Mets are headed in the right direction.  They’ve been a better than .500 team for roughly two and a half months, and have seen two of their most promising pitching prospects (Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero) reach the point where they’re close to big league ready.  Despite Harvey’s injury, general manager Sandy Alderson smartly plans to go forward with “The Plan” this offseason.  “The Plan” is to be active in free agency and on the trade front while looking for impact bats for the outfield.  The team also hopes to upgrade shortstop.

If Harvey is lost for 2014, it’ll be a blow.  Still, the team has Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, Jenrry Mejia, and Dillon Gee, with both Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard knocking on the door.  With the right moves, the Mets should be able to contend in 2014.  September may be a bit tough to watch with the team undermanned, but better times are ahead.

Michael Lecolant, Senior Staff Writer:

New York ended the month on a three game winning streak, and won four of their final five.  With an overall 14-15 record, they finished a game under .500 in 29 games played.

I’m very pleased Wilmer Flores was called-up early in the month, and even happier with the long anticipated arrival of Travis d’Arnaud. I’m likewise happy Matt den Dekker will finally get playing time. It didn’t necessarily have to be den Dekker, so much as I’m contented by the position being opened up. That it was Matt – congratulations on his first MLB hit and RBI in Saturday night’s game against Washington – made it that much better. Of course, that was made possible due to the trade sending Marlon Byrd and John Buck to Pittsburgh in return for two minor league prospects. Removing Byrd from the Mets outfield and giving that playing time to an internal player has been high on my personal wish list. I guess I finally got what I wanted, and with a good return to boot.

Aug 31, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets teammates Travis d

Next, what’s not to be happy about with the play of Eric Young, who spent the month winning me over, and finally has a friend in me? I also spent the month becoming an even bigger Juan Lagares fan, while Josh Satin has done nothing short of enhancing his value, be it for a trade, or as an option to continue playing in Flushing. Over the next month, I’d prefer Josh see more time at first base than the returning Lucas Duda.

The Mets obtained pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, which I’m indifferent about, but I still want shortstop given back to Ruben Tejada for the entire month of September. Good job by Dillon Gee achieving double-digit wins again. Jonathon Niese seems healthy, and Zack Wheeler is looking steady.

But who am I kidding? The Mets have been decimated by several injuries. After last pitching on July 30th, Bobby Parnell missed the entire month, and is likely out for the season. Bobby was finally starting to feel at home in the ninth inning closing games, and doing well. In the last game of August, Ike Davis strained his right oblique, and with less than 30 games left on the schedule, his season looks over as well.

But as we all know, the torn tendon in Matt Harvey‘s right elbow dominated the month. What a crushing blow to the Mets and their fans. This was also the month Jenrry Mejia succumbed to his own elbow issue and was forced to shut his season down, while not incidentally, Jeremy Hefner underwent successful Tommy John surgery.

Moving forward, I just want the club to continue conducting evaluations.

Sam Maxwell, Staff Writer:

I like that these young players are getting a chance to play. Win or lose, this is clearly a better team being assembled. I’m glad that when the Mets get home we can cheer a mostly young team that has a lot to prove against some teams in the playoff hunt.

But fire terry Collins at the end of the year.

Will DeBoer, Staff Writer:

I don’t even know what to say after a month like this. Anyone who remotely considers themselves a Mets fan must be feeling numb after such a vicious attack from the Injury Bug. Just before the start of August: Bobby Parnell and Josh Edgin. Then David Wright a couple days in. Then Jeremy Hefner. Then Jenrry Mejia. Then the death knell of Matt Harvey‘s potential lost 2014. And finally, just for fits and giggles, we see Ike Davis swing his way into a season-ending oblique injury. So as August turns to September, coupled with the trades of John Buck and Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh, we will see an everyday lineup with any combination of Josh Satin, Andrew Brown, and Lucas Duda batting third and fourth. Oy.

August wasn’t all bad, of course. Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud came up to much fanfare, Juan Lagares continued to blow everyone away in center field, and both Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee established themselves as steady assets for the future, although Wheeler may be expected to do more in light of the Harvey situation.

Still, as the team enters the final month of 2013 with a cast of mostly role players and September call-ups, it’s hard not to look into what was supposed to be a promising offseason and wonder what will become of the New York Mets. With first base, shortstop, and one or two outfield slots in question, it remains to be seen whether Sandy Alderson can get this team into contention by this time next year. But that’s why they play the game, and I look forward to seeing the dream’s progression as this roller coaster of a season prepares to pull back into the station.

Rich Sparago, Staff Writer:

The Mets went 14-15 in August, which is consistent with what they’ve been since the middle of June – essentially a .500 team. However, August was a month in which the Mets received a free education. In August, they played the Tigers and Dodgers, and were swept by both teams. Clearly Sandy Alderson and crew got a first-hand look at what the Mets need to become in order to be able to compete with baseball’s elite. Both the Dodgers and Tigers have excellent and deep starting pitching, as well as dynamic lineups. The Mets will get there, but those series gave us Mets fans a stark reminder that the team still has work to do.

It’s hard to write an August recap and not mention the news of the month, the injury to Matt Harvey’s UCL. Whether or not Harvey has surgery will be determined in the next few weeks. However, what should not change is Sandy’s Alderson’s plan to make the bold moves that are necessary to take the Mets to the next level. Without Harvey, the Mets still have a rotation that features Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, and Zack Wheeler. With Jenrry Mejia, Carlos Torres, and possibly additions from outside the organization, there’s no reason to alter the plan of contending in 2014.

Other August highlights included the debut of Travis d’Arnaud. The much-anticipated catcher of the future is gaining valuable experience as 2013 winds down, and indications are that he’ll be a solid receiver for years to come. With the catching position seemingly solidified, the Mets can focus their efforts in September on making final evaluations in other key positions, such as first base and the outfield.

The injury to Ike Davis will certainly cloud the picture at first base, however, with the presence of Lucas Duda, Josh Satin, and possibly Wilmer Flores, the Mets need to sort through whether one of those players is the future of the position, or if the position needs to be filled externally.

On the subject of Flores, he made his debut on August 6th (his birthday, ironically) and has been what the team has expected. Flores features a solid, but still developing bat, and a glove that does not appear to have a home. Though there are only 26 games left, they’ll be critical games in the evaluation of Flores and his ability to be a part of the future.

Let September begin. We have reason to believe that it may be the last month of Mets mediocrity, and the beginning of the next phase in the team’s progression to becoming a perennial contender.

Andrew Battifarano, Staff Writer:

August was a month of promise and the possibility of another period of winning that had been going on since June. It ended with questions and just awful news.

Obviously the news of Matt Harvey was a killer. Watching him every five/six days has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a Mets fan the last few years. His presence on the hill and in the organization gave the team some much needed respectability. His injury was just a depressing and crushing day for the franchise. Hopefully his UCL is less than 33 percent torn, so he can avoid surgery. If he does need Tommy John, 2014 might be different than predicted.

The Marlon Byrd and John Buck trade was probably one that needed to be done earlier. Byrd’s year has been incredible, and his long term chances with the Mets were slim. For when the team made the trade, Alderson actually snagged some solid minor leaguers in Vic Black and Dilson Herrera. Alderson seems to have that ability to pull of incredible deals for the Mets.

While there were some negative occurrences that happened in the month, there were also some positives.

Juan Lagares has shined in center field, and has been one of the premiere defensive outfielders in all of baseball this season. His assists and defensive runs saved can’t be understated. If he can be a more selective hitter and patient with walks, he can develop into a top player on the team.

Despite Harvey’s season-ending injury, Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler have all been excellent. Since returning from a shoulder injury, Niese has looked like the pitcher the Mets envisioned, and has been wonderful in his few starts. If he can stay consistent, he will most definitely be a top lefty in the years to come.

Dillon Gee went from nearly being demoted to Triple A to becoming the team’s leader in wins. Since his start against the Yankees in May, he’s come into his own and has his ERA in the mid threes. His August was consistent as well, and he’s been arguably the Comeback Player of the Year in baseball this year after his arm injury in 2012.

Zack Wheeler, who was inconsistent when he made his debut in June, has also found his niche in the rotation and has been wonderful this August. While he may not be Matt Harvey, he is Zack Wheeler which is very good. His strike throwing, especially on pitch one has drastically improved. If he can stay healthy, the Mets still have a gem in the rotation.

Going into September and beyond there are many questions that loom. Will Matt den Dekker be a viable option in the lineup as they move forward? His glove is there but is the bat?  Wilmer Flores may get some time at first base to see what he has. And will David Wright come back to the form he was like before his injury? Hopefully he can but also let’s not see him push it if he’s not 100 percent. September will be an interesting time to reflect and evaluate for 2014.

Shannon Finkel, Staff Writer:

The Mets were snake-bitten in August. Ike Davis, Jeremy Hefner, Bobby Parnell, David Wright, and of course Matt Harvey were just some of the players who landed on the disabled list for various injuries. This took a huge toll on the Mets, who went 14-15 for the month.

Despite the rash of player injuries, there were a few bright spots this month including the major league debuts of Wilmer Flores and Travis d’Arnaud. After starting off hot, Flores has cooled off a bit lately while battling an ankle injury. Flores still does not have a set position, but it is important for him to finish the season so the Mets can evaluate him for the future. D’Arnaud began his Met career drawing six walks in his first 17 plate appearances. While his average isn’t there yet, we know he can hit, and with time, it will come.

The return of Jon Niese this month was also huge. He went 3-0 with a 2.14 ERA and 32 K in 33 IP — an excellent line, especially after missing part of the season with a rotator cuff tear. Even Zack Wheeler has come into his own with more control of his pitches, lowering his WHIP as the starts go on. It’s been fun watching him progress throughout the season.

Although it was tough to see power hitters John Buck and Marlon Byrd get traded to the Pirates, it was another intelligent move on the part of Sandy Alderson. In return, the Mets received Dilson Herrera and Vic Black. MLB.com lists Herrera as the team’s number nine prospect, with Black at number 14. This instant addition of depth to the farm system is worth losing Buck and Byrd for just a month.

Perhaps my favorite part of the Mets today is seeing Juan Lagares, Matt den Dekker, and Eric Young Jr. patrol the outfield. Has there ever been such a speedy group of guys on the team? It’s a far cry from back in April when Lucas Duda, Collin Cowgill, and Byrd were the starters.

September should be an interesting month for the Mets, as they have a chance to play spoiler to contending teams such as the Nationals and Reds. I’m also excited to keep watching the young guys play, particularly d’Arnaud, Flores, and Wheeler. And who knows? Maybe fans will get to see David Wright again before the season ends.

Jason Mast, Staff Writer:

Nothing really encapsulates the triumph and bitter tragedy of the Mets quite like this past August. This should have been a jubilant month for Met fans; a month that saw the team outscore their opponents and go just a game under .500, a month that let Ike Davis put up an OPS just a tick under 1.000, a month that saw Travis d’arnaud make his major league debut and gazed on as Zack Wheeler posted an ERA just over 3.00. Instead, August began and ended with heartbreak and horror, leaving questions over the Mets’ short and long term future.

David Wright led off the month with a strained hamstring injury, prompting his third career trip to the disabled list. While it was certainly admirable for the captain to try and play through the injury, you have to question the wisdom behind that decision, and the thinking of Mets management to allow such a decision. After first experiencing discomfort, David was allowed to play multiple games. He’s a gamer with an admirable bulldog mentality, but he’s not Anthony Recker or even Daniel Murphy, he’s the face of this franchise and essential for the future of this ball club. David now has a big contract and lengthy injury history, and increased caution simply has to be taken.

A strained hamstring and a month on the disabled list, however, is of little substance to a player and a team over 10 games out of a playoff spot. The worse news came just days ago, when the Mets announced that Matt Harvey had a partially torn UCL and would be out for the rest of the season. A blameless injury is the worst kind, but this is what happens to most pitchers – they get hurt. In all likelihood, phenom Cy Young candidate Matt Harvey will undergo Tommy John Surgery in a few weeks, and the Mets will have to move on from there, perhaps adjusting their offseason plans to include the acquisition of a new pitcher.

Still, the month had positive notes and it was nice to see the youngsters we’ve been hearing about. Wheeler has shown great improvement since he was first called up, flashing improved command of all four of his pitches. His battery mate, d’arnaud, only hit.156 in August, but he had only 12 games and he’s certainly shown flashes of the plus power that brought him to Queens. Even Juan Lagares has been outstanding, continuing to play himself into a 2014 starting job with incredible glove work. As September rolls around, it’ll be intriguing to watch the Mets’ other current minor leaguers – particularly recently acquired Vic Black and last year’s starting shortstop Ruben Tejada – and see how they perform. Should Parnell be traded in the off season, Black could very well become the 2014 closer.

Lastly, we must take a moment to mourn the loss of Ike Davis, who’s Met career may have ended on a swing where he injured his oblique. Ike will miss the remainder of the season, and while he showed flashes of his former self in August, he won’t have the month of September to salvage his dreadful second half. With Davis due up to four million dollars in arbitration next February, Sandy Alderson may finally pull the plug on the beleaguered first baseman and non-tender him.

Mike Horgan, Staff Writer:

While a 14-15 record in August is nothing to write home about, the Mets continued to make positive strides heading into next year. The pitching staff has been a bright spot for most of the season, but the unit has really shined over the last month. The Mets posted the fifth best ERA in all of baseball (3.31), and seemingly everyone contributed to the staff’s success. Harvey’s injury, which is obviously huge news, has overshadowed what has been a great effort by Wheeler, Gee, and Niese. Even with Harvey potentially missing all of next season, there’s no reason to think that the rotation can’t hold its own. I’m not saying that Harvey’s injury hasn’t hurt the Mets’ chances to contend in 2014; it definitely has. My point, is that the rotation will continue to be the strongest part of the team as we head into next season, regardless of the Dark Knight of Gotham’s presence.

Ike Davis’ injury, which capped off the month, is extremely difficult for me to take. While there have been many questions regarding his future with the team, he had seemed to settle into a nice groove lately. He still lacks the power that the Mets front office (and fans) are looking for, but his .290 AVG and .468 OBP in August were positive signs. It seems that many fans are rooting against Davis, so to see him have one of the better offensive months for a Mets player was great. Now that he will miss the remainder of the season with an oblique injury, talks of the Mets building a future without Davis will continue to intensify. Personally, I think Davis should be penciled in to start the season at first base next year. We have seen the guy succeed before (albeit in inconsistent spurts), and the Mets have many larger issues that must be addressed in the offseason. I’m not saying that Sandy should give him a 10-year extension, but I think that he has done enough to preserve his spot on next season’s roster.

I am excited to see Vic Black, the young reliever acquired in the Byrd-Buck trade, pitch over the remainder of the season. Black features a repertoire that seems very similar to Bobby Parnell’s, and he would undoubtedly be a huge addition going forward if he were to bring his minor league success to the majors. The Mets have struggled to find long-term relief solutions in the past, and it would be nice to pencil in an effective arm for the next couple of seasons.

Now that September is upon us, it will be interesting to see if the Mets can continue to play .500 baseball until the season’s end. I know what you are all saying: “Who cares? Wins mean nothing at this point and moral victories are lame.” While there may be some truth to that statement, I firmly believe that you need to achieve moral victories before you start achieving actual victories.

The Mets have a chance to do something that they have rarely done in the past: finish strong. Many of the young players on the current roster will figure into the plans next year. Changing the culture and building some positive momentum heading into next season will only help the Mets’ chances at success going forward. While many fans are looking at this as just another September, I tend to disagree. As the team continues to turn the corner, I view this September as a potential turning point for the franchise. Will the club’s future success be decided over the next month? No. Can finishing strong help build a positive mentality that helps to facilitate future success? I definitely think that it can.

 

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