John Harper

 (Troy Taormina )
(Troy Taormina )

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees defeated the Astos 7-0 on Saturday in Game 1 of the ALCS, taking a 1-0 series lead. >> Box Score

Five things to know from Saturday's game

1) So who said the Astros have the advantage in the starting pitching in this ALCS, anyway?

Tags: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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Brodie Van Wagenen
Brodie Van Wagenen

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Nobody I've talked to thinks the Mets are hiring either Mike Bell or Derek Shelton as their next manager, even if the two relative unknowns are getting in-person interviews with GM Brodie Van Wagenen and his staff. 

As one executive from an AL team put it, "Most teams in this situation brings in guys like this that don't have a real chance of getting the job." 

With that in mind, the early speculation around baseball, at least among the scouts and execs I've spoken to this week, is leaning heavily toward the Mets making the obvious move and making Joe Girardi their next manager, if he doesn't wind up in Chicago with the Cubs instead. 

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Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Brian Cashman may have fired Joe Girardi two years ago, but he still speaks glowingly of the job the former manager did with the Yankees, and doesn't hesitate to recommend that the Mets hire him.

"When you're talking about somebody like Joe, he'd give you instant credibility," Cashman told SNY on Wednesday. "He's buttoned-up, ready to go, and proven successful in the largest market you can find. And he came out on top.

"He was here for 10 years, and some things have an expiration date, but that doesn't diminish the abilities the person possesses or the quality of work he provides. I highly recommend Joe to anybody, even our rivals, unfortunately."

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Cashman praises Joe Girardi 00:01:25
SNY's John Harper reports on BNNY that New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman would 'highly recommend' Joe Girardi to Mets for manager opening.

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Brian Cashman may have fired Joe Girardi two years ago, but he still speaks glowingly of the job the former manager did with the Yankees, and doesn't hesitate to recommend that the Mets hire him.

"When you're talking about somebody like Joe, he'd give you instant credibility," Cashman told SNY on Wednesday. "He's buttoned-up, ready to go, and proven successful in the largest market you can find. And he came out on top.

"He was here for 10 years, and some things have an expiration date, but that doesn't diminish the abilities the person possesses or the quality of work he provides. I highly recommend Joe to anybody, even our rivals, unfortunately."

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Buck Showalter
Buck Showalter

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The consensus on Buck Showalter as a potential Mets' managerial candidate comes from interviews with scouts, executives, and media members who all know him well, and it is straightforward: his attention to detail, in-game managing, and knack for having his team prepared is all second to none.

But…

He wants to do it his way, which can mean everything from input into personnel decisions to potential clashes over the level of day-to-day front-office involvement that characterized Brodie Van Wagenen's first year as GM. 

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, John Harper
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Oct 7, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) reacts after an out during the fourth inning of game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports (David Berding)
Oct 7, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) reacts after an out during the fourth inning of game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports (David Berding)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In the end, the Yankees overmatched the Twins in every way possible, even adding spectacular defense to their championship resume, but by far the most significant development in this ALDS sweep of the Twins was the official return of Luis Severino.

With four shutout innings in the 5-1 win that featured some gutsy escapes from jams, Severino offered reason to believe he can at least be a third potentially dominant starter the Yankees need in this post-season, and perhaps at most the ace he has been at times in his young career.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Cameron Maybin, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion , Giancarlo Stanton, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Luis Severino, John Harper
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Yankees advance to ALCS 00:01:50
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge had high praise for second baseman Gleyber Torres during the Yankees locker room celebration.

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Five Takeaways from the Yankees' 5-1 win to sweep the Twins.

1) From start to finish the ALDS was a mismatch as the Yankees swept the Twins, and, as expected, the bullpens proved to be the most obvious difference between the teams. Or to put it another way: Aaron Boone's ballyhooed 'pen is living up to the hype so far.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Severino, Zack Britton, John Harper
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Yankees dominate Twins 00:02:52
Andy Martino and John Harper break down the Yankees dominance of the Twins in the ALDS

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The baseball post-season is supposed to be unpredictable--a crapshoot, as many call it, most famously the sport's movie star GM, Billy Beane. Yet this Yankees-Twins series feels more like a 1-16 matchup in the NCAA Tournament.

And the Twins don't look like the University of Maryland - Baltimore County, taking down Virginia, circa 2017.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion , Giancarlo Stanton, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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Didi slams Twins 00:02:12
Didi Gregorius unloaded a grand slam to cap off a seven-run 3rd inning as the Yankees routed the Twins to grab a 2-0 series lead

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees defeated the Twins 8-2 on Saturday, which gives them a 2-0 lead in the ALDS. >> Box Score

Five Takeaways from Saturday's Game

1) This Yankees' offense looks unstoppable. It led the American League in runs scored, set a new team record with 305 home runs, and now it has put up 18 runs over the first two games of the postseason. Perhaps most significantly, so far the Bronx Bombers haven't had to rely primarily on the long ball, hitting three home runs, including Didi Gregorius' grand slam Saturday.

Tags: Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, Giancarlo Stanton, Masahiro Tanaka, John Harper
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Oct 4, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) reacts after hitting a two RBI double during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins in game one of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Oct 4, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) reacts after hitting a two RBI double during the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins in game one of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It was supposed to be different this time. The Twins, fresh off setting a Major League record with 307 home runs, one more than the Yankees hit this season, were going to prove all that postseason history between these teams was meaningless.

And then they went out and played Game 1 like nervous tourists waiting to get mugged in the big, bad city. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, James Paxton, John Harper
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Torres clutch in 10-4 win 00:01:51
James Paxton controlled his emotions in his first playoff start while Aaron Judge complimented Yankees fans and Gleyber Torres delivered.

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees defeated the Twins 10-4 on Friday night in Game 1 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium. >> Box Score

Five Takeaways from Friday's Game

1) In what may well be an indication of the way this Yankees-Twins series will go, Game 1 came down largely to a battle of the bullpens, and, as expected, it was no contest. 

Tags: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, James Paxton, John Harper
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Sep 17, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)
Sep 17, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) in the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports (Isaiah J. Downing)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In the end, Mickey Callaway gave the Mets no choice. The in-game mistakes continued to be too glaring for a team that expects to contend next season, and so GM Brodie Van Wagenen made the proper call by firing his manager with a year remaining on the contract.

Sure, you can make the case that Callaway was sabotaged by the back end of the bullpen, and could well have guided the Mets to the playoffs with even decent seasons from Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.

But that would have been overlooking Callaway's obvious flaws. In year two on the job, he simply offered no indication that he was ever going to develop the feel that good managers have for situations, for strategy, for everything that goes with making important decisions and explaining them afterward.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, John Harper
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Pete Alonso, Mickey Callaway and Jacob deGrom
Pete Alonso, Mickey Callaway and Jacob deGrom

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Rarely has a season ended with such a strong feeling about what might have been. The Mets went 46-26 in the second half, looking every bit the part of a playoff team with Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson doing the heavy lifting at the back end of the bullpen.

Yet they were realistically out of the Wild Card chase with a week to go in the season, and they weren't even close in the NL East, 11 games behind the first-place Braves and seven back of the Nationals.

It's no mystery as to what went wrong, of course, most of it during a 40-50 first half. Edwin Diaz set a major-league record by giving up 15 ninth-inning home runs, while Jeurys Familia allowed 42 walks in 60 innings -- the two of them turning the Mets' bullpen into a dumpster fire for much of the season.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, JD Davis, Jeff McNeil, Jeurys Familia, Pete Alonso, Todd Frazier, John Harper
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Pete Alonso
Pete Alonso

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Early Sunday afternoon, when Pete Alonso was still basking in the glow of Saturday night's historic 53rd home run -- the most ever for a major-league rookie -- he was telling SNY's Steve Gelbs in a pre-game interview that one of his primary goals going into next season is to improve his defense at first base.

"I want to win a Gold Glove," he said.

Suffice it to say that spoke not only to Alonso's pursuit of greatness, but the outlook for the Mets in the years to come.

Tags: Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, JD Davis, Jeff McNeil, Jeurys Familia, Pete Alonso, Todd Frazier, John Harper
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Mets complete sweep of Braves 00:01:29
Dominic Smith made his return from the IL in dramatic fashion, launching a walk off 3-run HR in the 11th inning as the Mets swept the Braves

To finish off their season, the Mets did it with a grand walk-off to defeat the Braves, 7-6, at Citi Field. >> Box score

Five Takeaways from Sunday's game

1) In an improbable, feel-good finish to a season that was somewhat appropriate for a Mets' team that came back from the dead with a second-half comeback, Dom Smith hit an 11th-inning, game-winning home run in his first at-bat since July 26th. Which, naturally, led to one last tear-off-the-jersey moment, an instant tradition that also became a trademark of a team that pulled off some keep-hope-alive, walk-off wins at Citi Field down the stretch.

Tags: Dominic Smith, JD Davis, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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Sep 3, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) sits in the dugout during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Sep 3, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) sits in the dugout during the second inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Over the years I've come to rely on scouts for their observations, insights and opinions, so when John Morris, a scout and special assistant to the GM for the Cincinnati Reds, called me recently and said, "I've got a great Jacob deGrom story for you," I was all ears.

I assumed John was going to put deGrom's second straight sensational season in some unique perspective for me, as only a long-time scout could, and as it turned, out, I was right.

Only it wasn't about his pitching. 

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso, Seth Lugo, Todd Frazier, John Harper
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Mets RHP Zack Wheeler
Mets RHP Zack Wheeler

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

My first instinct was to wonder if Zack Wheeler's eighth-inning blow-up on Thursday night against the Marlins would give potential suitors on the free agent market some hesitation, reinforcing the perception that he'll never quite turn his periods of brilliance into sustained dominance.

On Friday, however, an executive from a team that could have interest in Wheeler was quick to chide me for what he called a "talk-radio" mentality.

Tags: Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Michael Conforto
Michael Conforto

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In what turned out to be the Mets' last gasp Monday night, and realistically the 2019 season as well, Michael Conforto struck out swinging with two runners on base to end the seventh inning.

That was fitting for a team that will have a number of important decisions to make this winter if it is going to make the jump from nice second half to legitimate contender in 2020, because in many ways, Conforto is a perplexing case.

He's had a solid season, highlighted by his 31 home runs. But in a year when more than 50 players around the Majors have already hit 30-plus long balls, that doesn't necessarily make you a star.

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, John Harper
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Sep 19, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone is sprayed with champagne as he celebrates after winning the American League East after defeating the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)
Sep 19, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone is sprayed with champagne as he celebrates after winning the American League East after defeating the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Penner)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees waited deep into the night after losing on Wednesday, hoping for a Rays' loss that didn't come, but for a team that had nothing handed to it all season, winning on Thursday night surely was a more appropriate way to clinch the AL East.

Indeed, if ever a ballclub deserved to celebrate a division title it was these 2019 Yankees, overcoming a record number of injuries to win 100 games, and counting, for the second straight season.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, John Harper
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Luis Severino (Adam Hunger)
Luis Severino (Adam Hunger)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

First things first: you can't help but feel for Dellin Betances, one of the good guys in baseball, who tore his Achilles tendon in a freakish manner Sunday on the very day he finally pitched in a game for the first time this season.

That's as cruel as it is painful, all the more so considering that he is a couple months away from becoming a free agent.

Yet the cold truth is that if the Yankees can have only one of the two star pitchers for whom they've waited all season, they would much prefer it to be Luis Severino.

Tags: Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Dellin Betances, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Tommy Kahnle, John Harper
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Mets RHP Zack Wheeler
Mets RHP Zack Wheeler

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

With September dominance, including Sunday night's gem of a start against the Dodgers, Zack Wheeler is making it awfully difficult for the Mets to let him walk out the door as a free agent.

Which prompts a couple of obvious questions:

Tags: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Sep 9, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) in the dugout prior to the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)
Sep 9, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway (36) in the dugout prior to the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports (Gregory Fisher)

Do the Mets have a miracle finish in them? If ever there was a night to believe such a thing, this was it.

A bases-loaded double in the eighth-inning by a bit player like Rajai Davis, turning a 0-0 tie into a 3-0 win over the mighty Dodgers, was evidence in itself.

In truth, however, the belief should come from the machinations that put Davis up at the plate for the decisive at-bat.

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Mets' Jeff McNeil
Mets' Jeff McNeil

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

A month ago a handful of the Mets' top scouts were watching a high school All-Star game at Long Beach State in California, the home field of one Jeff McNeil in college, and in that setting they couldn't help but marvel at the transformation of their former 12th-round draft pick.

"Jeff didn't hit a home run in his entire college career," Mets' scouting director Marc Tramuta said by phone, "so we're sitting there wondering if there has ever been a player with zero home runs in college who might hit 20 in a big-league season.

"Then the same bunch of us were texting about it when it happened (Wednesday night). It's crazy."

Tags: Daniel Murphy, Jeff McNeil, John Harper
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Seth Lugo
Seth Lugo

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Jacob deGrom pushed himself a little closer to a second straight Cy Young Award with seven brilliant innings on Monday night, and yet there's a case to be made that he was the Mets' second-best pitcher in the 3-1 win against the Diamondbacks.

Seth Lugo was that good, retiring six straight hitters, four by strikeout.

"They didn't have a chance against him," was the way one scout who was at Citi Field described Lugo's outing on Tuesday. "For me, he was even more dominant than deGrom. It's two innings compared to seven, but he flat overmatched hitters with his mix of curveball and fastball.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Edwin Diaz
Edwin Diaz

Five weeks ago I was convinced that selling low on Edwin Diaz at the trade deadline would have been a mistake for the Mets, largely because the year-to-year volatility of relievers suggested that he could have a big bounce-back season in 2020.

However, I think there's a point where the scar tissue from big-stage failure supersedes more measurable factors, and that seems to apply to Diaz at this point, after his rock-bottom moment in Tuesday night's unfathomable loss to the Nationals.

Clearly he's not fixed, no matter what the Mets had been saying, mostly because he has zero command of his fastball, and that's not going to change over the final few weeks of this season.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, John Harper
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Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Feb 14, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA;New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

A month later it is harder to fault Brian Cashman for holding firm at the trade deadline, largely because none of the starting pitchers who were either available or traded have been particularly impressive since then. 

If anything, it is all the more intriguing to think about what might have been had the Giants not gotten hot in July, essentially taking Madison Bumgarner off the market. 

The 29-year old lefty, so famous for his past post-season heroics, has pitched very well even as the Giants' wild-card hopes have faded. While their record is 11-16 since the deadline, Bumgarner went 3-1 in August with a 3.17 ERA and a 0.865 WHIP. 

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Aug 30, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates with right fielder Michael Conforto (30) after they both scored in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports (James Lang)
Aug 30, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates with right fielder Michael Conforto (30) after they both scored in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports (James Lang)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

By now, we know the 2019 Mets are nothing if not unpredictable.

So it's still possible, even after their six-game losing streak stalled much of their August momentum, that September will prove memorable for them.

But even if they fail to make another charge, it seems there is always drama around this team.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, JD Davis, Jeff McNeil, Jose Reyes, Pete Alonso, Steven Matz, John Harper
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Aug 30, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates with right fielder Michael Conforto (30) after they both scored in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports (James Lang)
Aug 30, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) celebrates with right fielder Michael Conforto (30) after they both scored in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports (James Lang)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

By now, we know the 2019 Mets are nothing if not unpredictable.

So it's still possible, even after their six-game losing streak stalled much of their August momentum, that September will prove memorable for them.

But even if they fail to make another charge, it seems there is always drama around this team.

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, JD Davis, Jeff McNeil, Jose Reyes, Pete Alonso, Steven Matz, John Harper
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Aug 3, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) hits a three run home run against the Boston Red Sox during the fourth inning of game one of a doubleheader at Yankees Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)
Aug 3, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) hits a three run home run against the Boston Red Sox during the fourth inning of game one of a doubleheader at Yankees Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The Yankees have already played their last big series of the season, taking down the Dodgers in LA last weekend, so there won't be much September suspense, at least not in terms of clinching their first AL East title since 2012. 

But their remarkable ability to overcome injuries continues to make this a compelling march to October, and indeed as the intrigue begins to build toward the postseason, there is no shortage of storylines surrounding this team.

Tags: CC Sabathia, Dellin Betances, Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, John Harper
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John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Marcus Stroman has talked a lot about how much he loves the big stage of New York, the pennant-race pressure, even describing himself as a "savage" on the mound. But until he delivers a big-game performance for the Mets, all that talk is meaningless.

Tuesday night offered him the perfect opportunity, his new team desperately needing Stroman to be a stopper in a must-win series against the Cubs, after they were swept by the Braves, yet he was so-so at best in a 5-2 loss at Citi Field.

Worst of all, he couldn't keep the ball in the ballpark.

Tags: Jeff McNeil, Juan Lagares, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Todd Frazier, John Harper
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Mets' Jeff McNeil
Mets' Jeff McNeil

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The beauty of Jeff McNeil is that he is as versatile defensively as he is wizard-like offensively, and with a huge series against the Cubs this week the Mets need to get creative in how they use him to help kick-start a suddenly sluggish offense.

For starters that means getting more left-handed hitters in the lineup against Yu Darvish in Tuesday's series opener, since the Cubs' righthander has been significantly more vulnerable to lefties than righties this season.

The most logical move is playing McNeil at third base, allowing Joe Panik to stay at 2B, and sitting the slumping Todd Frazier.

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Juan Lagares, Luis Guillorme, Michael Conforto, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, John Harper
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John Harper on Cubs/Mets series 00:01:01
SNY Baseball Analyst John Harper touches on the keys to this week's 3-game series between the Mets and Cubs.

After the Atlanta Braves swept the Mets over the weekend, New York hits the reset button as the Chicago Cubs come to Citi Field.

What do the Mets need to do to get back on track against the NL Wild Card-leading Cubs? SNY's John Harper previews the pivotal three-game series, which could come down to strong starting pitching and a key lineup change.

Tags: Chicago Cubs, Jeff McNeil, John Harper
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Jul 19, 2019; San Francisco, CA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports (Stan Szeto)
Jul 19, 2019; San Francisco, CA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports (Stan Szeto)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The number seemed symbolic somehow. For the first time since early May, Hyun-Jin Ryu's ERA started with a two rather than a one, thanks to the thumping the Yankees gave him on Friday night.

Barely two, that is, at in 2.00, but the jump in one game from 1.64 was significant, especially on a night when Jacob deGrom lowered his ERA to 2.56 and racked up 13 more strikeouts, raising his league-leading total to 207.

Bottom line, as hot as deGrom has been for several weeks, posting a 1.04 ERA since the All-Star break, it felt as if he still had quite a gap to close if he were going to pull off the spectacular feat of winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards.

Tags: Jacob deGrom, John Harper
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Aug 21, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder J.D. Davis (28) celebrates with first baseman Pete Alonzo (20) and shortstop Amed Rosario (1) after hitting a game winning RBI single in the tenth inning to defeat the Cleveland Indians at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 21, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder J.D. Davis (28) celebrates with first baseman Pete Alonzo (20) and shortstop Amed Rosario (1) after hitting a game winning RBI single in the tenth inning to defeat the Cleveland Indians at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Most everything about the Mets' second-half run has been remarkable, but the emergence of J.D. Davis and Amed Rosario, in particular, has bulked up a youthful position-player core that suddenly gives this franchise an entirely different feel, both in the present and the future. 

Add that duo to Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, and you can make the case the Mets have five cornerstone players, four of which are under contractual control at least through the 2023 season. 

And that's not counting Dom Smith, who probably looms now as a valuable off-season trade chip, or Brandon Nimmo, who figures to be an important player when he comes back from his neck injury, even if it's more for depth at this point. 

Tags: Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, Jacob deGrom, JD Davis, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

It looked so easy for Aaron Judge, when he turned on a Joakim Soria fastball Tuesday night in Oakland and launched it 467 feet, that it seemed almost impossible to believe this was the first time all season he'd pulled a home run to left field.

That was my first thought and, it turned out, a fairly common reaction among baseball people I talked to on Wednesday.

As one long-time scout said, "It had gotten to the point where it was almost bizarre watching him swing like Derek Jeter this year."

Tags: Aaron Judge, John Harper
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Jul 23, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German (55) pitches in the first inning against Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Rempel)
Jul 23, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German (55) pitches in the first inning against Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports (Brad Rempel)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Late Wednesday afternoon I was talking to an executive from an American League team about the Yankees and their potential pitching plan for October, when he suggested I take a look at the box score of the Red Sox-Indians game that had been over for about an hour. 

"Boston used seven pitchers and won the game 5-1," the exec said. "Seven pitchers, one run. That's taking the 'opener' strategy to an extreme, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Yankees try a formula like that in the postseason. 

Tags: CC Sabathia, Dellin Betances, Domingo German, J.A. Happ, Luis Severino, John Harper
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Alonso vs. Tatis Jr. for NL ROY 00:00:47
New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is leading for NL Rookie of the Year but SNY's John Harper explains what more he can do to clinch it

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So just how many home runs does Pete Alonso need to hit this season to lock up the Rookie of the Year Award, anyway? You'd think 50 would leave no doubt, right?

Well, maybe not, judging by the support Fernando Tatis Jr. seems to be gaining.

Alonso has been the favorite from early in the season, thanks to his eye-opening home run power, but the Padres' 20-year old shortstop is making a big run, putting up impressive offensive numbers while earning raves for his defense practically on a daily basis.

Tags: Pete Alonso, John Harper
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A feel-good weekend at Citi Field ended with a crashing thud on Sunday, not because the Mets lost the series finale to the Nationals so much as Edwin Diaz gave up still another home run, again raising the question of how this team, even as hot as it is, can survive its own bullpen. 

Mickey Callaway has already taken an important and necessary step toward a solution, making Seth Lugo at least the co-closer, using him as he did for two innings to finish out Saturday night's win.

But because the Mets are restricted in how much they can use Lugo, who has a partial tear in his elbow ligament, it's far from a perfect situation. 

Tags: Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Seth Lugo, John Harper
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Marcus Stroman
Marcus Stroman

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

These are giddy days for Mets' scouts, as the remarkable turnaround to this season is built largely around homegrown players, while their 2019 amateur draft received high grades from evaluators.

Indeed, the perception of the Mets' drafts over the last several years has improved dramatically, thanks to the recent emergence of Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Dom Smith, as well as Brandon Nimmo before his neck injury this season and the foundation-like presence of Michael Conforto in the middle of the lineup.

For that matter, VP of scouting Tommy Tanous says his department recently completed a study showing the Mets have produced more current big-league players, including some with other teams, than any organization in baseball since 2011.

Tags: Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Marcus Stroman, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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Mar 15, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone (17) talk prior to the game against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)
Mar 15, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone (17) talk prior to the game against the Boston Red Sox at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The last-minute Zack Greinke blockbuster aside, baseball's trade deadline was reminiscent of the winter meetings, as fans waited for the wheeling and dealing to begin in earnest. 

It's pretty clear that teams are more risk-averse than ever, the result of information overload throughout the sport and GMs who'd seemingly rather reveal family secrets than trade top prospects. 

The result was a yawner of a deadline, despite the supposed urgency that came with the rule change this year doing away with waiver trades, meaning that this was the one chance teams had to buy or sell. 

Tags: Clint Frazier, Dellin Betances, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar, John Harper
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Brodie Van Wagenen
Brodie Van Wagenen

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The last-minute Zack Greinke blockbuster aside, baseball's trade deadline was reminiscent of the winter meetings, as fans waited for the wheeling and dealing to begin in earnest. 

It's pretty clear that teams are more risk-averse than ever, the result of information overload throughout the sport and GMs who'd seemingly rather reveal family secrets than trade top prospects. 

The result was a yawner of a deadline, despite the supposed urgency that came with the rule change this year doing away with waiver trades, meaning that this was the one chance teams had to buy or sell. 

Tags: Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Mets keep Zack and Thor 00:02:26
Doug Williams and Andy Martino react to the Mets moves at the MLB Trade Deadline, as the team kept Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard.

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

So Brodie decided to let it ride. Well, at this point, why not? 

Better to take a shot, longshot though it may be, at making a Wild Card run this season than dealing Zack Wheeler for a so-so return that offered limited potential of helping the Mets in the immediate future.

Tags: Jason Vargas, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jul 19, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)
Jul 19, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6) pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports (Raj Mehta)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

In a vacuum the Mets made a good trade on Sunday, acquiring Marcus Stroman for two pitching prospects, only one with a high ceiling, in a deal that could pay off in nicely in 2020. 

Of course, it's not as simple as that, for an organization that is already low on pitching prospects, with Zack Wheeler and Jason Vargas heading for free agency this winter. 

Tags: Jason Vargas, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jul 25, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)
Jul 25, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

The way Jacob deGrom is blowing away hitters again, more and more you can't help but wonder if he may have cost himself a real shot at winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards with those three straight starts in April when he gave up 14 runs, in large part because he was tipping pitches.

As much as deGrom hates excuse-making, and blames himself for throwing "too many pitches down the middle" during that mini-slump, I got him on Thursday to acknowledge, sort of, anyway, that something funny was going on in those starts. 

Tags: Jacob deGrom, John Harper
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Brodie Van Wagenen
Brodie Van Wagenen

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

Not that there was any real doubt, but Robinson Cano's "I'm Not Done Yet" night at Citi Field on Tuesday was a pointed reminder the Mets will be trying to patch together and add to their flawed roster with the hope of trying to win again next season rather than rebuild.

Which raises an obvious question with the trade deadline a week away: what's the best way to improve for 2020?

Trading free agents-to-be Todd Frazier, Jason Vargas, and even Zack Wheeler won't bring back much in the way of difference-making talent for next season -- not with the way GMs hold tight to their best prospects these days, especially in deals for rental players.

Tags: Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Jason Vargas, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith hits a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Citi Field. (Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith hits a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the third inning at Citi Field. (Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

First things first: I wouldn't trade Dominic Smith.

I love his bat and he's looking surprisingly comfortable in left field, to the point where I don't think he'd be a liability even as an everyday player in that spot. 

Tags: Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Pete Alonso, John Harper
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Sep 30, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) walks off the field after speaking with an umpire in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)
Sep 30, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) walks off the field after speaking with an umpire in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports (Tommy Gilligan)

John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |

After Travis d'Arnaud had stunned Aroldis Chapman and the Yankees on the greatest night of his baseball life, the type of night the Mets gave up on waiting for, Buck Showalter had an interesting take that served as a reminder he's available to manage next season. 

In Queens, perhaps? 

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May 17, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) reacts in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)
May 17, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; New York Mets second baseman Robinson Cano (24) reacts in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports (Steve Mitchell)

Now that Brodie Van Wagenen has made his concession speech, admitting that his "come get us" bravado resulted in "they came and got us," the Mets can officially move on to the brainstorming portion of the schedule.

That is, everything they do over the final two and a half months should be with a vision of 2020 and beyond in mind, rather than trying to squeeze the most possible wins out of a lost season. 

Mostly that means getting answers to as many questions about the future of this team as possible. I'd start with these 10: 

Tags: Amed Rosario, Anthony Kay, Dominic Smith, Jason Vargas, Jeff McNeil, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Seth Lugo, Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jun 28, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) is congratulated after hitting a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)
Jun 28, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (20) is congratulated after hitting a solo home run against the Atlanta Braves during the fourth inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports (Andy Marlin)

In making calls for a Wilson Ramos column last week, I heard a comment from a scout that in some ways summed up Brodie Van Wagenen's misguided attempt at assembling a win-now team in his first attempt as a GM.

"The Mets need to figure out who they are," the scout said.

He explained that for a team that believed its strength was a dominant starting rotation, the Mets needed a defense-first catcher who could enhance the abilities of the starting pitchers -- not a defensive liability like Ramos.

Tags: Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Edwin Diaz, Jacob deGrom, Jason Vargas, Jeff McNeil, Jeurys Familia, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Pete Alonso, Robinson Cano, Steven Matz, Todd Frazier, Wilson Ramos, Zack Wheeler, John Harper
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Jun 19, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) and New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) score in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)
Jun 19, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) and New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) score in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports (Noah K. Murray)

It seems hard to believe now, with the Yankees on a pace to win 105 games, that they lost series to the Orioles, Tigers, and White Sox in getting off to a 6-9 start amidst fears that injuries might wreck their season before Memorial Day.

Since then they've gone a mere 51-22 to establish themselves as the best team in the American League, getting unexpected contributions from the Urshelas, Tauchmans and Maybins of the baseball world that have made this more of a feel-good season than seemed possible with such huge expectations.

As such, any midterm review has to start with GM Brian Cashman, who created all this depth and versatility, as well as the most formidable bullpen in baseball, partly by spreading the Yankee money around on the likes of D.J. Lemahieu, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and others, rather than going all-in on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

Tags: Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Aroldis Chapman, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, Dellin Betances, Didi Gregorius, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, J.A. Happ, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Luke Voit, Miguel Andujar, John Harper
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