If asked to provide the three biggest storylines of the Mets' first half, I'd go with the rise of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler's debut, and David Wright's continued excellence. Maybe the All-Star Game would make the cut, although that technically was not part of the first half. Mixed in with these major storylines were some minor happenings. This post recalls moments from the first half which may have slipped your mind.
The Mets do the Harlem Shake
Harlem Shake videos were a fad popular for a short time in February. The Mets made their own version in late March, long after most people had moved on from the Shake. Still, the Mets did a nice job with the video, outside of Jeff Wilpon's annoying cameo. Watch the "Citi Field Shake" again:
Collin Cowgill's Opening Day grand slam
Opening Day was fun. Jon Niese pitched well and the Mets pounded out 13 hits on the way to crushing the Padres, 11-2. One of those hits was a grand slam hit by leadoff man and starting center fielder, Collin Cowgill. The diminutive Cowgill took Padres reliever Brad Brach deep in the seventh inning, capping the scoring for the good guys. He also added a double, providing Mets fans fleeting hope that center field might not be a problem in 2013. Unfortunately, the game marked both Cowgill's Mets debut and his Mets high point, as he hit .161/.190/.232 in 58 plate appearances after Opening Day and was gone by June. Click this link to relive the magic of the grand slam.
Matt Harvey's bloody nose
Matt Harvey's best game of the season came against the White Sox in early May. He faced just one batter over the minimum in nine innings of work, allowing only an infield single while striking out 12 and walking none. On top of that, he was throwing so hard that his nose started bleeding:
Matt Harvey is bloody brilliant.
The Jordany Valdespin saga
For a short time in May, Jordany Valdespin was the center-of-attention in Metsland. And this was on top of his usual bizarre social media activity. He pimped a solo home run hit in the ninth inning of a 7-3 Mets loss at the hands of the Pirates. The Pirates apparently did not take kindly to this burst of personality, and Bucs reliever Bryan Morris drilled Valdespin with a pitch the next day. Morris was greeted in his dugout with handshakes and attaboys; Valdespin was not greeted at all, and threw his helmet in disgust in the dugout corner. He had this to say about enjoying himself on the baseball diamond:
"When you hit the ball, you’ve got to enjoy your hit," Valdespin said unapologetically. "When you strike out, you’ve got to keep your head down. Every time I hit the ball -- a home run or something -- I enjoy it. … Every hit, I’m enjoying. My family enjoy. My friends enjoy."
In a vacuum, this just sounds like a young, fun-loving guy having a blast in the big leagues. But given his history of attitude issues, the fact that his teammates didn't exactly come to his defense after the Pirates incident, and his reportedly calling Terry Collins a bad word, a trend becomes visible. Combine all this with his meager on-field production and I can't say that I'll be upset when Valdespin inevitably departs the Mets organization.
The Mets' outfield didn't play like the worst of all-time in the first half, but it wasn't very good either. Things were bad enough that the front office signed Rick Ankiel in May to play center field after he was cut by the Astros. It seemed like a pointless move at the time, but Ankiel silenced his detractors for two weeks, posting a 1.073 OPS with two home runs over his first 33 plate appearances with the Mets. Things quickly turned south for Ankiel after that -- he struck out 25 times in 71 total plate appearances -- and he was cut in June. Ankiel frequently swung hard, usually whiffing, and made a few nice defensive plays. He'll be the answer to an SNY trivia question some day.
Mets honor Mariano Rivera, later beat the legendary closer
Over the course of a few hours one day in May, the Mets:
a) Presented Mariano Rivera with a gift of a fire hose nozzle to say farewell;
b) Had him throw out the first pitch before the Mets-Yankees game at Citi Field; and
c) Came from behind to beat the best reliever ever.
Rivera might be the least offensive Yankee of the last two decades, so I had no problem with either of the first two events on the above list. Still, it was a blast watching the Mets hand Mo both his first blown save and loss of the season. The game was delayed by rain for 1 hour, 40 minutes, so it didn't finish until around midnight. The fans who stuck with the game to the end were rewarded.
Anthony Recker on the mound
Anthony Recker took the mound in the ninth inning of a June blowout loss to the Nationals. It didn't go as well as Rob Johnson's one-two-three inning last season against the Blue Jays, but Recker did top out at 88 mph, which is harder than Shaun Marcum was throwing this season. Recker walked Jayson Werth to start the inning, then gave up a bomb home run to Ian Desmond. However, he settled down, retiring the next three batters in a row, all on fly balls. Here's a nice shot of Recker, and his bulbous behind, on the mound:
Chris McShane interviews Paul DePodesta
Chris wins the award for best Amazin' Avenue post of the first six months of 2013, for "A Spring Training Chat With Paul DePodesta." Check it out, whether or not you caught it the first time around.