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Trying May Leaves New York Mets at Crossroads

June 1st, 2014 at 7:28 AM
By Mike Phillips

After a 15-11 mark in the month of April, the atmosphere around the New York Mets was extremely positive. The Mets were on pace to make Sandy Alderson's 90 win talk a reality, and fans were beginning to feel the vibe of a new and improved team. The wheels fell off in May, however, as the Mets went 11-18 in 29 games to fall back under the .500 mark. The fall from grace cost hitting coach Dave Hudgens his job and generated renewed cynicism about the team's direction with the fan base.

'Daniel Murphy' photo (c) 2009, Keith Allison - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Mets got off to a brutal start in May, dropping eight of their first ten games. That included losing three of four in Colorado and getting swept by the Miami Marlins. The Mets then dropped two of three against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field, winning the series finale to set up the Subway Series. The Mets' bats went bonkers in the first two games at Yankee Stadium, as they scored 21 runs over two days to extend their winning streak over the Yankees to six. The tone of the series changed along with the venue, as the Yankees won the next two nights with consecutive shutouts.

The Mets then lost six of their next nine games, losing series to the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Arizona Diamondbacks. The latter two series came at home, which didn't sit well with the team's front office. A lackluster loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Memorial Day led to action, as the Mets fired hitting coach Dave Hudgens and cut reliever Jose Valverde after another late inning collapse. The Mets seemed to respond under new hitting coach Lamar Johnson, showing a little more aggression at the plate and winning four of their final five games in the month. 

There were several big storylines for the Mets this month, and chief among them was the fallout of the Hudgens' firing. Hudgens went on a media tour after he was fired to air his grievances against the organization, blaming everyone from the fans and media to ownership for the team's struggles to hit, particularly at home. Hudgens aired a lot of organizational dirty laundry, and implied that the Mets' ownership was hamstringing Alderson by mandating a low payroll by major league standards. Alderson later addressed the comments in a bizarre interview with ESPN New York's Michael Kay and Don LaGreca, sending mixed messages about the team's finances and trying to convince the fans to buy more tickets to generate revenue to improve the team. Another bit of weird off the field press came earlier in the month, when reports circulated that Mets' president Saul Katz had contemplated selling his shares of the team but held on to placate long time business partner Fred Wilpon.

While off the field stories dominated the headlines for the Mets, there were some on the field stories of note. The biggest ones came in the middle of the month, when the team promoted highly touted young pitchers Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom to fill rotation spots. Montero (0-2, 5.40 ERA) was uneven in four starts before being demoted for an extra bullpen arm, while deGrom (0-2, 2.42 ERA) has excelled in his four starts. The Mets also made improvements on the fringes of their roster, removing veterans Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth, Josh Satin, and Omar Quintanilla in favor of youngsters Montero, deGrom, Vic Black, Wilmer Flores, and Eric Campbell.

The Mets also had some good performers in May despite their lousy record. David Wright heated up in May, hitting .322 with three home runs and 14 RBI's. Wright racked up 39 hits in May, placing him right behind Yasiel Puig among the National League leaders for May. Daniel Murphy (.299, 3, 12), Curtis Granderson (.258, 5, 16) and Bobby Abreu (.333, 5 RBI's) also did well at the plate in May. Standouts on the mound included Jonathon Niese (1-1, 3.34 ERA), deGrom (2.42 ERA), Jenrry Mejia (5 saves), and Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0, 3.05 ERA).

The Mets will have a tough road to hoe in June, as they will play only eight home games in the month compared to 20 road games. That may be exactly what the Mets want, ironically, since they are 13-12 on the road and only 13-17 at home. The Mets will begin the month in the midst of a lengthy road trip, with two more games against the Philadelphia Phillies before playing three game sets with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants. The Mets will then get a homestand against the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres before going on another road trip against the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. The Mets will then get a brief stop at home for two games with the Oakland A's before going on the road again with a trip to Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

This month's schedule is extremely challenging for the Mets, particularly once they get past the Cubs' series. The Mets will play four first place teams in June (San Francisco, Milwaukee, Oakland, and Atlanta) as well as two second place teams (Miami and St. Louis). The Mets will need to play extremely well to finish around the .500 mark for the month, and if they don't manager Terry Collins could lose his job before the team comes back home in July.

Tags: Baseball, Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, Dave Hudgens, David Wright, Jacob DeGrom, Jenrry Mejia, May, MLB, New York, New York Mets, Rafael Montero, Sandy Alderson

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