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The Sports Feen's Dose

My dose of opinions on all things sports...and pro wrestling!

Will the Mets' "Dark Knight" Rise Again?

“Why do we fall?  So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” – Thomas Wayne in “Batman Begins”

The Sports Feen’s Dose – Will the Mets’ Dark Knight rise?

This past Thursday, I remember being so anxious as I headed to Citi Field for the rubber match between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals.  Even though it’s May, it felt like a game we needed to win, not only to win the three game series but also to set to the tone for the rest of the season.  As optimistic as I am about the Mets this season, I know we won’t be able to run away with the division like we did last year because the teams in our division are much improved.  Originally, I didn’t have tickets to Thursday’s game but a good friend of mine couldn’t go and offered his pair to me Wednesday afternoon (thanks Matt!) which I gladly accepted.  I got on my phone to check the following night’s probable starters and was ecstatic to find out that it would be Stephen Strasburg versus one of the Mets aces, Matt Harvey.

While Harvey had yet to pitch the way we know he’s capable of, I felt confident that sooner rather than later he’ll bounce back and start being the ace that he is.  Thursday night wasn’t that night.  I had barely sat on my seat in Section 305 (Coca Cola Porch) and within a matter of moments the Mets were down 2-0 thanks to a two-run home-run blast from Daniel Murphy who smacked a curve ball that didn’t bite over the center field wall.  From there it only got worse.   Asbrubal Cabrera misplayed a ground ball that should’ve been a tailored made double play to end the inning but instead the inning continued and the hits kept coming.  In total, the Nationals scored seven times in the 3rd inning and Harvey just couldn’t stop the bleeding.  As Terry Collins came out to end the misery for Harvey, the fans started booing their hero, and as Harvey walked out of the field all I can think of was; “Will the Dark Knight rise again?”

Many people scoff at the nickname of “The Dark Knight” given to Harvey but those same people loved it just a few years ago when Harvey was dominating the National League.  I, for one, love it because all the members of the Mets starting rotation have their own colorful personality and character to them; Noah Syndeergaard is “Thor,” Bartolo Colon is “Big Sexy,” Jacob deGrom is “The deGrominator (with awesome hair),” and Steven Matz is…well, what is Matz’ nickname?  I guess we need to figure that one out but you get the point.  The fans didn’t give Harvey his nickname, Sports Illustrated did.   They tabbed him the “The Dark Knight of Gotham” in their cover early in the 2013 season and for good reason because Harvey truly looked like the Mets’ savior at the time.

When Harvey made his major league debut on July 26, 2012, the Mets were well on their way of missing the playoffs for the 6th straight season.  There weren’t many bright spots until Harvey arrived and in his major league debut, he didn’t disappoint.  He struck 11 batters out in 5 1/3 scoreless innings pitched.  There was something about Harvey that stood out besides his electric fastball, it was his demeanor on the mound; that bravado as Keith Hernandez would say.  Harvey had that.  The following season, Harvey’s encore performance was even more spectacular.  I remember one start in particular when Harvey was opposed by the very same Strasburg and dominated the Nationals which prompted the fans to chant “Harver’s better!” in reference to the fact that many had anointed Strasburg as the next great pitching phenom in baseball.  But at the time it looked like one of our own was going to take ownership of that title instead.  In 2013, all of Harvey’s starts were must see, must attend including the 2013 All-Star game at Citi Field in front the home crowd which Harvey started.   Just three years later, those same fans didn’t want anything to do with Harvey.  They must have forgotten the journey that Harvey has been on since that All-Star game.

Soon after Harvey took the city by storm, Harvey’s rise to stardom came to a scratching halt.  Harvey received the worst news possible for any pitcher; he needed to get Tommy John surgery which meant he would have to miss the entire 2014 season.  Harvey worked his butt off and was prepared to make his return late in 2014 but the Mets played it safe and had him wait to make his return until the 2015 season, which ended up being an amazing year for the team and great one for Harvey personally all things considered but not one without controversy.  In September, word came out that Harvey was going to be shut down due to reaching an innings pitched limit recommended by his agent and by doctors.  However, after much drama, Harvey decided to go against doctors’ orders and his agent’s advice, and fittingly was the starting pitcher when the Mets clinched their first NL East title since 2006.  It didn’t stop there. Harvey also helped the Mets reach the World Series for the first time since 2000 and in the Game 5, with the Mets on the brink of being sent home, Harvey pitched the game of his life.  We all know how it ended but being there that night in a sold-out Citi Field crowd, chanting his name, we all wanted him to come back out for the 9th inning to finish the job that he started.  It didn’t turn out the way we all would’ve liked but Harvey stepped up big time but it wasn’t enough.

Coming into the 2016 season, Mets had every reason to be excited and still do quite frankly and mainly because the Mets one through five starters make up one of the best rotations in all of baseball.  However, now there is now cause for concern.  The Mets offense has been inconsistent and while Syndergaard and Matz have been great on the mound, there have been recent news that the Mets have looked into their elbows which is always frightening.  deGrom started the season with his velocity and while some of it has come back, his control hasn't been great but at least he's been battling through it to give us some productive outings.  But the biggest worry is Harvey.  Harvey has seen his velocity drop significantly, his confidence shattered, and the fans turn on him.  But I am not one of them.  While many will question what Harvey does off the field or his work ethic, I am more understanding because I know that Harvey pitched more innings last year than was expected from him returning from Tommy John surgery.  What we're seeing now is uncharted territory.  

Back in September of 2012, the Nationals shut down Strasburg which proved costly for the team's fortune that season but wasn't costly for Strasburg's pockets as he recently became the highest paid contract given to a post-Tommy John pitcher in history (banking $175 million over 7 years).  Harvey risked his future last year in hopes of bringing a championship to Queens and maybe pushing through last year could end up being the reason he will never be the 2013 Harvey again.  A friend of mine who's a Yankee fan (will remain nameless) mentioned that Harvey will end up being like Joba Chamberlain.  Totally different circumstances but I understood what he meant.  After the Yankees kept messing around with Joba, he was never the same.  Right now, Harvey doesn't look the same.  Something is off.  Not sure if it's the after affect of pitching so much last year post-TJ surgery, if it's his mechanics, or just plain and simple after a few rough starts, he's just completely lost his confidence.  And as much confidence as Harvey had shown in the past (some may have called it cockiness), he's still human and he's still a baseball player.  Of all the sports in the world, baseball has the most ups and downs of any during the course of a 162-game regular season.  Maybe it's just a bump on the road.  Or maybe this is who Harvey has become now.  But maybe there is a comeback story ready to unfold.  I know this much, I'll be rooting for the comeback and will be cheering on Harvey to overcome his current slump.  As much as I love Thor, deGrom, and Matz, I'll always remember Harvey as the first Mets pitcher to give me hope for a brighter Mets future.  And I'll especially remember my first World Series game in person and his heroic performance in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.

It's funny that "The Dark Knight" moniker was given to Harvey because now their stories have plenty of similarities.  But there's a quote from "The Dark Knight Rises" that relates in regards to Matt Harvey and that is:  

“You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” - Harvey Dent.  

In Matt's case, he's been in majors long enough now that he's prone to get booed from the fans, his hometown fans, scrutinized for the things he does off the field, and have his work ethic questioned when he doesn't perform at a high level.  At times, Matt has brought this upon himself but right now, I don't doubt that he's not trying his hardest and wants to be the best not just for himself but for the fans of the New York Mets.  The goal this year for the Mets to win the World Series but if the Harvey of old doesn't return then the chances of that happening become slimmer.  So as Mets fans we can only hope that Matt Harvey's story ends the same Bruce Wayne's did...with the Dark Knight rising.

Follow me on Twitter:  @RonHotDawgz654 

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Royal Rumble Ready

“Let’s get ready to rumbleeeeeeeeeeeee!” – Michael Buffer

ROYAL RUMBLE READY

Wrestlemania is the biggest Pay-Per-View of the year for the WWE but to me the Royal Rumble is the most exciting event of the year The Rumble match itself is enough of a selling point but in recent years, the Rumble has become even more exciting with so many surprise returns from wrestlers who were on the shelf injured or past legends.  This year is no different.  This is also the best time of the year where I can gauge how much interest in wrestling there is by the amount of people who start to discuss who’s winning the Rumble.  We all have friends who are either hardcore fans, casual fans, or old-school fans of wrestling.  The Rumble brings them all out in full force because it has a little bit of everything for each fan.  If you never read Pat Patterson’s interview on WWE.com about how the Rumble match originated, I encourage you to google it and do so.  Usually battle royals are too long and boring, but the Rumble isn’t your typical battle royal.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend two Royal Rumble events in my lifetime, both at Madison Square Garden and both nights were memorable for a variety of reasons.  Back in 2000, I attended the event with my friend Brian.  We were 13 years old at the time and didn’t have any money when tickets had gone on sale so on the day of the event so we borrowed money (or stolen depending on who I’m telling this story to) from our parents and headed to Manhattan.  With about 150 bucks to our names, we were hoping there would be new tickets available to purchase.  No such luck.  The event was sold out but we were desperate so we began to look for scalpers outside the Garden to see if they had any tickets within our budget.  Some guy noticed the two of us looking “lost” and mentioned he had tickets but it was 100 bucks each.  We told them how much we had between us and he said it was okay.  The tickets that we purchased were phony.  We should’ve known but we didn’t. That didn’t stop us though. We were able to get inside the arena without any trouble.  This would never happen today as now all tickets to any arena are scanned electronically.

We had missed the Sunday Night Heat match but were seated by the time the actual event was to begin.  There weren’t many people seated in our section so we felt good despite having those phony tickets that maybe we won’t get caught but it was just a late arriving crowd.  We were able to witness the WWE debut of Tazz (defeating the undefeated Kurt Angle) and an exciting tables match between the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz before security came to us asking to see our tickets.  He was showing a couple to their seats and we were seated in them.  Despite there being many seats available in the entire section, they still wanted to be seated where we were.  I don’t know about you guys but whenever I go to an event and people are seated in my seat, I don’t usually bother them unless it’s packed and I have no choice but to ask them to move.   I glanced over at the couple’s tickets and our tickets looked nothing like theirs.  We felt like complete idiots.  The security guard had told us to wait on the side while he called for help to escort us out the building but we got lucky.

The security guard wandered off for too long when another security guard noticed us and asked if we were lost.  We told him the whole truth and instead of escorting us out the building, he told us to follow him.  He walked us about halfway to the other side of the arena and seated us by where the WWE.com staff was stationed at.  He told us if anybody came up to us to just look for him at the section he found us and he’ll take care of us.  God bless that security guard.  We were never bothered the rest of the night thanks to him.  Not only that but we ended up having a bigger blast than we could’ve ever imagined.  We ended up seated in a small section with about ten college students who were drinking and very vocal.  They were very friendly with us.  On this night we witnessed Mae Young (RIP) exposing her puppies but also Triple H’s coming out party as a main event worthy performer as he defeated Cactus Jack in a Street Fight to retain the WWE title.  Then it was time for the Rumble match itself.   It was cool to speculate who was coming out next and wonder who had yet to enter the Rumble with those college guys.  And of course who doesn’t love to countdown from ten to one as if New Year’s Day didn’t just happen a few weeks prior.  As the Rumble match reached the mid-20s entry, we all decided to head down towards the ring.  There was a spot at the front our section where you could climb over to the lower level and that’s exactly what we did.  Once we were about a section away from ringside though the security guards stopped us and we just stood at the aisle standing as the Rock was able to win the 2000 Royal Rumble match.  Somehow, me and Brian were able to sneak all the way down to ringside as the Rock was celebrating his victory.  You can’t make this story up and I’m not, truly a night to remember.

Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One! *BUZZER*  The countdown for each entrant is always great for crowd participation but more importantly, anticipation.  The past few years the WWE has done a great job of only announcing the majority of the participants of the Rumble but leaving about 4-6 spots open but it has taken on a life of its ever since the 2008 Royal Rumble which I attended with my cousin Marcos.  Marcos is a casual fan that’s usually too busy to watch but will sit down on the couch with me a couple Mondays a year to watch RAW, so most of the time I’m helping him catch up to all the storylines and happenings in the WWE.  Back in January of 2008, I bought two tickets to the Rumble last minute and brought him along.  At the time, Jeff Hardy had a lot of momentum and many people thought maybe the WWE will pull the trigger on him and make him champion, but it was year too soon.  Rey Mysterio and Edge had a great match up on the undercard as well with the crowd heavily cheering the heel Edge, though (New York for ya).  This night I also witnessed one of Ric Flair’s final WWE matches as he defeated MVP.  But of course this Rumble was mostly remembered for the surprise return of John Cena.

The ovation Cena received that night was unlike any other I have heard.  It wasn’t the usually mixed crowd reaction he gets now.  It was a thunderous ovation out of pure shock and astonishment because many people had thought Cena would be out until Wrestlemania but as we know now, Cena is a fast healer.   So it went from the biggest cheers to the biggest jeers within ten seconds. It was hilarious to witness live.  It was as if everybody who popped at first looked at each other and said, “Hold up it’s Cena, we’re not supposed to cheer him.”  And boos started raining down on Cena after his first couple eliminations but eventually he did win the Rumble match and the crowd went home happy, for the most part.  Ever since that Rumble though, every year now we begin to speculate who may show up at the upcoming Rumble.  We’ve had guys show up from severe injuries (Cena and Edge), from a long absence (Jericho), or past legends making their returns (Nash, Booker T, Goldust, etc.), so now there’s plenty of anticipation for the Rumble beyond just seeing your favorite superstar winning to become the number contender and headlining Wrestlemania.

The best thing about the Rumble besides the countdown and anticipation of each entrant is all of the stories being told within the match itself.  We get tag teams turning on each other, enemies eliminating one another, or a big face-off between two wrestlers who haven’t squared off before.  We usually get a sense of the under-card for Wrestlemania through the stories told during the Rumble. We also get some breakthrough performances from guys who end up lasting a long time in the Rumble or getting multiple eliminations.  The “numbers” videos of the Rumble shown on RAW prior to the Rumble event are priceless. I’m still mad that Santino beat the Warlord’s record for fastest elimination.  I loved when Bushwacker Luke marched to the ring, was tossed out, and kept on marching to the back. H ow about the crowd’s reaction when Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior faced off during the 1990 Rumble? Lex Luger and Bret Hart falling to the outside at the same time, seriously at the same time, couldn’t have scripted that landing any better, unlike Cena and Batista’s attempt at it in 2005.  How about Shawn Michaels skinning the cat with only one foot touching the floor in 1995?  One of my favorite Rumble moments was in 1997 when "Stone Cold" Steven Austin had eliminated a few wrestlers and sat on the ropes looking at his invisible watch waiting for the next entrant which happened to be Bret Hart and the crowd exploded.  More recently, CM Punk’s performance in 2010 was cool as he was talking smack on the microphone in between eliminations and entries.  I could go on and on.

This year’s Royal Rumble match offers a lot of intrigue and possibilities due to the rash amount of injuries that have hit several WWE superstars (Cena, Rollins, Orton, Cesaro, etc.) and not only that but for the first time since 1990, the WWE champion (Hulk Hogan) will be involved in the match.  And for the first time since 1992, the WWE world title will be up for grabs except this time it’s not vacated but instead will be defended by the WWE champion, Roman Reigns.  Reigns seems to finally have the fans on his side but as we saw at last year’s Rumble they can instantly turn on him if they feel he’s being forced down their throats.  If Reigns successfully defends the championship against 29 other superstars, I don’t think that’ll go over well with the Orlando crowd which is why I feel we’ll end up with a new champion, which is good and bad.  Since Rollins vacated the title, it would mean that the title would have changed hands four times in less than three months which isn’t good.  The good part is maybe we end up with a fresh new face as champion (perhaps Bray Wyatt or Kevin Owens?) but the more likely outcome is Brock Lesnar (setting up a rematch from last year’s Wrestlemania) or Triple H (getting payback on Reigns for the beat down he received after TLC last month) winning the championship.  Either way, I am intrigued.  Usually by this time of year we have an idea of what matches will occur at Wrestlemania and at this moment nothing seems for certain.  I’m headed to Dallas for Wrestlemania with my girlfriend and I’m curious to what types of matches will take place but for the moment, I’m enjoying the fact that I have no clue so next Sunday, I’ll be watching the Royal Rumble event intently.  I’m Royal Rumble ready!

Follow me on Twitter:  RonHotDawgz654

Amazin' Year Ends On Sour Note For Mets Fans

​"What I'm hoping is that as we get better and the fans respond to that improvement that payroll number will go up." - Mets GM Sandy Alderson prior to the 2015 season

AMAZIN' YEAR ENDS ON SOUR NOTE FOR METS FANS

I'll admit, I fell for it.  I should've read Mets GM Sandy Alderson's words more carefully because maybe I wouldn't feel as foolish as I do today about the Mets lack of spending.  The key word is the above quote is 'hoping.'  It's not our fault because we did show up and did our part.  It's not Alderson's fault because he can only control so much with what's given to him which isn't much especially for a team playing in New York.  We all know who's to blame and it's a shame because after such an amazing (pun intended) year (side bar: if you haven't already done so, I urge you to watch "Tears of Joy: The 2015 Mets" on FS1), we as Mets fans are now ending the 2015 year on a sour note.

We were patient for several seasons as Alderson was rebuilding the Mets into the contenders they are today.  We were forgiving, to an extent, of the Wilpons lack of spending because there was no need to when we knew that our team wasn't going to contend anyway.  Little by little we saw the payroll increase with free agent signings such as Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon, and Michael Cuddyer but nowhere near where we were a decade ago.  We don't have to spend like the Dodgers or Yankees but with increasing revenue all around baseball we do have to spend more.  I assumed because we made it to the World Series that Alderson and his staff would do their best to bring "the band" back together.  If not all, at least most of them.  It's been a foregone conclusion that Daniel Murphy despite his postseason heroics (and blunders) would leave if he didn't accept the qualifying offer and we saw that the Mets labeled Ben Zobrist their number one target.  I viewed Zobrist as an upgrade all-around but I thought with the money he was looking for and ended up getting that it would've better option to just attempt to resign Yoenis Cespedes instead.  Granted, as time went on we began to see some flaws in Cespedes' game but there's just a presence (both on and off the field) about Cespedes that can't be taught but can be bought (and still can).

When Zobrist decided to sign with the Cubs, I was a little relieved but also felt that it wasn't a good look when your top free agent  target chooses another NL contender instead.  Then Zobrist admitted that it wasn't a monetary decision why he chose the Cubs over the Mets.  That made me feel better and I felt much better when the Mets acquired Neil Walker (while getting rid of Jon Niese in the process) which to me was a better move than signing Zobrist would've been for multiple reasons.  Walker is an upgrade over Murphy at the plate (slightly more power) and on the field (that doesn't say much though) but more importantly Walker is in his walk year which means he'll be motivated playing for his next contract and it doesn't block Dilson Herrera from taking over in the not too distant future.  And if Walker has a big year for us, I feel more comfortable committing the contract Zobrist got to him instead.  The Mets doubled up (pun intended again) by signing Asdrubal Cabrera as well which was a solid move because it puts Wilmer Flores in a utility role which I think he would be better suited but also gives the line-up depth and flexibility.  Alderson's staff did a great job bouncing back from "losing Zobrist" but we felt there was just one more move to make to put a nail in the coffin to this offseason and that was to bring back Cespedes.

Despite a few arbitration eligible player raises, whose salaries are unknown at this moment , the Mets payroll has barely increased because even though they have resigned several players (Colon, Blevins) and acquired others (Walker, Cabrera), they also got rid of Niese (good riddance) and Cuddyer retired.  As of now it seemed like he forfeited his salary but someone can correct me on that.  So it seemed like the Mets were out of excuses as to why NOT to attempt to bring Cespedes back.  It's not like we're trying to increase to Dodgers-Yankees level.  But if the payroll was $120 million last year, why can't we increase to the $130-140 range?  Didn't we just reach the World Series?  Didn't that increase revenues?  Didn't Alderson state he hoped payroll would increase if the team improved (which they did)?  So what's the problem?  They can't say they DON'T have money but they were really close to offering a soon to be 35-year old $15 million a year but can't offer a dynamic 30-year old outfielder $20-25 million a year?  Are they scared about the years it would take to get him to commit?  Sure, anyone would be hesitant because history has shown giving a long term deal to a player in his 30's isn't the most logical way to spend but sometimes you got to go for it, right?  It's not to say that our offense will stink without Cespedes but with Cespedes our offense would much more explosive.  My biggest problem though is lack of interest in resigning Cespedes.  I understand Alderson and his staff view players a certain way and puts a certain price and years that they feel is reasonable in their eyes but why can't there be an exception?  Why not try to be creative and offer something and see if he bites?  And if he doesn't, well then at least you can tell your fans that you tried.  But they haven't.  Instead, they signed Alejandro De Aza, who's a decent player that's good depth for our bench and to be a 4th outfielder but he can NOT and should NOT be our starting centerfielder.  Better hope Lagares bounces back to his 2014 form.

Regardless of what's happened since the World Series ended, the Mets will likely begin next season as favorites to repeat as NL East division winners but it's not due to their superiority over the National League.  The Phillies and Braves are both rebuilding and will likely be at the very bottom of the NL standings.  While the Nationals signed Daniel Murphy (he had to go there, didn't he?), they still lost (or will lose) a few key pieces their club (Zimmerman, Span, Desmond, etc).  The Marlins are a mystery because they have a lot of young talent to take a step forward but despite hiring Don Mattingly as their manager they still lack a veteran presence.  My worry isn't the division but the rest of the NL where the playoff teams from last year will be as good or better (Cubs significantly better) while teams like the Giants and Diamondbacks have made strong moves towards contention this coming season.  The Mets will be in the thick of things but I just wish for once we can just worry about our team on the field and not about the finances off the field.  The 2015 season was magical and the Mets window of opportunity shouldn't be erased because we didn't keep Cespedes but us fans would've felt a lot more confident in our chances next season.  But now we're left feeling like we might be letting a golden opportunity slip away by not assembling a stronger line-up to support our great pitching staff.  Again, it's not Alderson's fault, it's the owners fault.  

As a Mets fan, 2015 brought us Mets fans many new memories that we'll cherish for a lifetime.  Here's hoping that despite our owners lack of spending that we can still look forward to many more memorable moments.  Happy New Year to all my fellow Mets fans...may we look back a year from and reflect upon a championship season.

You can follow me on Twitter (@RonHotDawgz654)


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