Monday, July 25, 2016

Brooklyn Cyclones: Lefty Thomas Szapucki impresses in first start at Coney

From the desk of:  THE SURF AVENUE SLUGGERS



GAME CALLED

BROOKLYN CYCLONES: Tuesday Twin-Bill Could Spell Double Trouble ... for Either Team.


Mother Nature said 
no Monday Night Baseball for you.

Sunday Final
Game One
Staten Is.   0
Brooklyn   3

Coach Gamboa made use of five Cyclones pitchers who combined on a four hit, 13 strikeout, whitewashing of the first place Staten Island Yankees in Sunday's series opener at Coney Island.

Brooklyn starter, southpaw Thomas Szapucki, celebrated his promotion from the Kingsport Mets with a victory in his first start with the Cyclones.  He limited the Yankees to four hits, three walks, and fanned eight batters over 5.1 innings pitched.

Relievers Kyle Regnault, Adam Atkins, Taylor Henry, and Joseph Zanghi, were perfect over the final 3.2 innings, allowing no hits, no walks, and fanning five in securing Brooklyn's 3-0 victory.

Prior to joining the Cyclones, Thomas Szapucki, 20, made five starts for the (R) Kingsport Mets where he posted a 2-1 record with an 0.62 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, while allowing just 16 hits, nine walks, with 47 strikeouts through 29 innings pitched.  Batters struggled to hit .157 against him.

Weighing in at 6'2" 205 lbs., the Mets selected Szapucki in the fifth round of the 2015 draft.

  • The Cyclones got RBI from Gene Cone, Michael Paez, and Desmond Lindsay who played in just his second game with the Cyclones after four appearances with the GCL Mets.  This is Lindsay's (the Mets 2015 2nd round draft pick) second touch in Brooklyn.
  • First baseman Peter Alonso (the Mets 2016 2nd round pick) seems to find Coney Island to his liking. He's slashing .315/.413/.574 through is first 15 games with the Cyclones, with five doubles, three home runs, and nine RBI in 54 at-bats.

Due to Monday night's rain-out, the Cyclones and Yankees will play a twin-bill on Tuesday.  With Sunday's victory, the Cyclones closed to within four games of the first place Yankees.

Both teams are now 4-6 in their last ten games.  Success on Tuesday can turn Brooklyn's season around on a dime.  They presently sport a sub .500 17-19 record this season.  Meanwhile, back to back losing seasons has been something unheard of in Coney Island.

Shudder to think...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Jeurys Familia Hits Half Century Mark

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Seizing a Golden Opportunity

NEW YORK METS: Jeurys Familia's 50th Consecutive Save is Fourth Longest Streak of All-Time.

Although Jeurys Familia is in his second full season as Closer, his 2014 season was just as busy.  In both 2014 and 2015 he made 76 appearances.

In 2015, Familia's 64 games finished led the league.  On ten occasions Terry Collins asked him to make four and five out saves, and twice more asked Familia to complete two full innings in a game.   To TC's credit, however, Familia exceeded a full inning just once from August through the regular season's end.  Collins instead ran up the bullpen phone bill, calling on Familia 16 times during the dog days of August - easily the most appearances he logged during any month of the season.

Familia is up to 45 appearances this season versus 43 by this time last year, and once again is leading the league with 44 games finished.  Yet, he's only been asked to attempt a four-out save just once (his 25th on June 24) all season.

Thanks are largely attributable to the emergence of Hansel Robles.  Addison Reed has been stellar since arriving in Flushing. Hansel, however, was still finding himself this time last year, but has now seemingly arrived.  At the very least, he gives the Mets three-deep depth in the late innings.  Hence, the physical demands on Familia have been lessened.

If Familia would just comply...

Last year, Jeurys walked 19 batters all season.  This year, Familia is just one away from tying that mark.  Naturally then, after finishing last season with an even 1.00 WHiP, this year his WHiP is upwards of 1.218 and growing.

In other words, Familia is creating his own fires, yet continues putting them all out - every one.

Jeurys Familia remains perfect in save opportunities this season.  His league leading 34th consecutive save without a blown opportunity came on July 22 against the Marlins in Miami, but not before causing Mets fans obligatory angst.

It was actually Jeurys Familia's 50th straight save without a blown opportunity dating back to last season, making it the fourth longest such streak of all-time.

Former L.A. Dodgers closer Eric Gagne owns the MLB record with 85 straight saves.


Friday, July 22, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Oh No You Don't, Not in this Pond

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Raging Ducks

Ducks win series over Bluefish 2-1
I - LID 5; BPT 1
II - BPT 3; LID 2
III - LID 8; BPT 4

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Emotions Run High During Grand Series Finale Against Bridgeport Bluefish.

Thursday night's rubber game at Bethpage Ballpark started out business as usual.  Making his 15th start of the season, John Brownell climbed the hill against the Bridgeport Bluefish, and opened the game by retiring the side in order.

Long Island fared no better in their first turn at bat.

The heart of Bridgeport's line-up saw things differently, though, connecting on two solo home runs in the top of the second.

The Ducks were quick to match them in the bottom of the frame.  Tyler Colvin's one out double put two runners in scoring position.  After Ruben Gotay fanned, Mike Blanke's base hit scored both runners.

A run in the third, and Mark Minicozzi's RBI single in the fifth gave John Brownell and the Ducks a 4-2 lead.

John Brownell continued pitching into the eighth, but allowed the Fish to close to within a run after allowing a lead-off double, and an RBI single to left fielder Adron Chambers.  With one out, Brownell was relieved by Eury De La Rosa, who fanned a pair of batters to escape the inning, but not before Bridgeport took exception to some perceived extracurricular celebration on the part of Long Island's reliever.  The benches and bullpens each emptied twice during the frame without incident.

Todd Coffey then pitched himself into a pickle in the top of the ninth, allowing a lead-off single, and double.  Naturally, Bridgeport wound up tying the game on a passed ball.

Leading off the bottom of the ninth, Anthony Vega negated a lead-off base hit by getting thrown out at second.  His team mates picked him up.  With two outs, and Lentini, Delta Cleary Jr., and Mark Minicozzi occupying the bases, you guessed it.......

DH Tyler Colvin connected on a game winning grand slam home run!

With an 8-4 victory over the Bridgeport Bluefish, the Long Island Ducks (9-3) concluded their first home stand after the all-star break with a nifty 5-1 record.  They now lead the Liberty Division by two full games over Bridgeport.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Flores' Bat Keeps Talking, But Is Terry Collins Listening?

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



Despite decreased playing time, 
Wilmer Flores still winning the day.

Home runs in each of his last two games, 
and a league leading seven home runs in July.

NEW YORK METSThere is no denying Jose Reyes can potentially help, although, that remains to be seen. In the meantime, Wilmer Flores continues banking results.

Let's just say Jose Reyes originally became available because both personally and professionally he's had difficulty being a thirty-something.

Suffice it to say the Rockies were eager to pay him countless millions of dollars to play baseball anywhere else but Denver ... and did just that.  They released him from the final three years of his contract - paid in full - making him eligible to become a free agent at the end of this season again.

The New York Mets in turn took a flyer on him (at the MLB minimum) during a time when injuries were still decimating their line-up, particularly to third baseman David Wright.

It was also thought he'd find a safe haven back in Flushing.  Sure enough, Reyes was able to return to the organization of his roots without major backlash.  In that sense, it's worked out fairly well for Jose so far.

But what about for the Mets, who after posting a pair of sub.500 records during May and June now own a precarious 9-7 record in July?

Well, the remaining physically abled Mets were performing like walking dead, ranked near the bottom in most N.L. categories, except the long ball.  Despite ranking #3 in the N.L. in homers, they only rank 11th in OBP, 12th in RBI and 13th in runs scored, so, what's the use?

Enter Jose Reyes, who now has 12 games under his belt since rejoining the team on July 5 with mixed results.  As of Tuesday afternoon's 6-2 loss in the rubber game at Chicago, Reyes is slashing .213/.269/.511, with three doubles, a triple, three home runs, six RBI, and seven runs scored through his first 47 at-bats.  Meanwhile, the Mets have gone 5-7 since that time.

It was hoped Reyes he would bring an element of speed to a terribly static, station-to-station offense, not necessarily more slugging - and there's the rub.  Reyes has just two stolen bases so far, leaving David Wright, who only appeared in 37 games this season and last played on May 27, in the team lead along with Curtis Granderson with three stolen bases.

Along with Jose's low OBP, he's leaving much to be desired.  That compels me to question how long Terry Collins will remain loyal to the name and reputation attached to Jose Reyes, over that of the actual performer?

Reyes has played in all the Mets game since returning.  Wilmer Flores, meanwhile, was in fact solidifying himself at third base when the opportunity was taken away from him.  Undeterred, his performance continues screaming for more time.  Wilmer Flores was already performing well since taking over third base full time for David Wright, batting .315 from June 3 through July 4, the day prior to Reyes' arrival.  In the 12 games since, Flores has started just five games, and came off the bench in four games, leaving him idle in three others.  Yet, he batted .280 with a double, five home runs, and eight RBI.  In fact, he now leads the N.L. lead with seven home runs in July.

There's an argument to be made both for and against pulling the rug out from under Wilmer Flores for sake of inserting the likes of Jose Reyes at third base.  But now the club seems intent on moving forward with playing Jose Reyes in the outfield as well.  It's not like they didn't warn us.  Reports say he has indeed been working out for a debut in center field.

In truth, I fret the day!!

I'm a been there/done that kind of guy to begin with.  So trying to shoe-horn Jose Reyes into the Mets line-up is threatening to reveal itself as pure nonsense.  There's a stronger case to be made arguing Reyes doesn't fit, than in favor.  But despite their respective performances, only Wilmer Flores' naysayers seem to be arguing otherwise.  With regard to Jose Reyes, I'd counter with love is blind.

Become a better third baseman, hit more consistently and change the stationary dynamic of this offense, and I'll have no issue.  Who would?  Until then, Wilmer Flores has been the better performer.

Monday, July 18, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Monday Swim 7/18; Mark Minicozzi Genrating Needed Power

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



Ducks Sweep Series vs. Patriots 3-0
I - LID 6; SOM 3
II - LID 7; SOM 0
III - LID 7; SOM 5

Long Island Ducks: Bruce Kern Just What the Doctor Ordered.

No Jack Snodgrass; no Mark Blackmar; no problem ... Bruce Kern stepped out of the bullpen and into the starting rotation to back fill the void.

Phew!

On Sunday, Kern made his 17th appearance, and 10th start of the season in this weekend's series finale against the Somerset Patriots.  He completed 5 full innings and exiting on the winning side of a 6-2 game after allowing a pair of earned runs on two hits and two walks, with four strikeouts.  He faced 19 batters, and threw 72 pitches with 41 (57%) going for strikes.

The eventual 7-5 Ducks victory improved Kern's record to 4-1, with a 2.39 ERA.

In two seasons with the Ducks, Kern has made 57 regular season appearances and 23 starts, posting a 13-7 with a 3.12 ERA, 47 walks and 158 strikeouts.

Coach Baez utilized four relievers the rest of the way, giving them all an inning apiece.  Todd Coffey pitched the ninth, allowed three hits and a run, but nonetheless registered his 15th save of the season.

Long Island Power Surge

Cody Puckett's three run home run in the fourth inning gave Long Island a 6-0 lead at the time, but Somerset would not be denied, climbing back to within 6-4 in the top of the eighth off the bullpen.
  • Puckett had four RBI for the game.

First baseman big Mark Minicozzi's lead-off home run in the bottom of the frame, however, provided the Ducks all the insurance they'd need en route to a 7-4 victory, and weekend sweep over their chief rival Somerset Patriots.
  • Minicozzi, 33, is 9/33 (.273) with 4 four home runs and seven RBI in nine games since joining the Ducks.  Two home runs came against the Patriots.
  • The Ducks hit six home runs in three games against the Patriots.
Transactions

General Manager Michael Pfaff has been busy reinforcing the pitching staff since losing Snodgrass and Blackmar.

7/13 - Ducks trade Frank de Jiulio Jr. to Bridgeport for rhp Scott Shuman.
7/15 - Ducks sign relief pitcher rhp Kyle Hansen.
7/15 - Ducks sign relief pitcher rhp Danny Burawa.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Wally still trying to hit jackpot in Las Vegas

From the desk of HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET MEETS THE GREAT GAZOO



CASHMAN FIELD
LAS VEGAS

NEW YORK METS: Fans still hoping Wally Backman will one day manage in Flushing.

Long suspected by fans, and reinforced by Darryl Stawberry's recent appearances on SNY-TV, and most notably on ESPN's Doc and Darryl 30 for 30 episode, Fred Wilpon isn't necessarily the problem in so far as the organization's relationship with many former members of the 1986 Mets.

Fred Wilpon certainly pissed off Tom Seaver over the years, but his fondness for the '86 Mets is actually well known.  Instead, Mets' COO Jeff Wilpon is widely assumed to be the root cause for most strained relationships with their former players, particularly members of the 1986 era Mets, and all else for that matter.

That's why during Saturday night's game between the visiting Las Vegas 51s and host Iowa Cubs, Wally Backman perhaps reinforced why he'll likely never become manager of the New York Mets.

In the bottom of the 6th inning with the 51s leading 7-5, Las Vegas reliever Jeff Walters was called for a balk.  When Walters protested Wally Backman naturally raced out of the dugout to protect his pitcher (as well he should), but escalated matters by tapping back into his inner Peanuts days (not rated PG!) - directing some good old school vitriol at home plate ump Blade Felix and first base ump Thomas Newsome.

Of course, Wally Backman earned his 6th ejection of the season the old fashioned way - making sure to cover up home plate with dirt prior to exiting the field.

Despite the masses of Mets fans in Wally Backman's corner yearning for him to be named Mets manager, Jeff Wilpon will likely never allow that to happen.

What a shame too.  The man battles demons, but possesses a brilliant baseball mind, and whose desire to win is relentless ... like Pete Rose and Billy Martin once were.  As players, then as managers, all they (Rose, Martin, Backman) ever wanted to do was beat you - every inning, every game, every day, until the schedule tapped out.

That's a unique personality at work, a baseball lifer, a die hard, but quite often not so soft and cuddly, much less agreeable with anyone outside his locker room.

Sadly, in the age of replay challenges, diva umpiring, Joe Torre's medieval baseball council, runaway media sensationalism, social media contrarians, and the PC plague, I sense hiring Wally Backman to manage the Mets would go over like a fart in a spacesuit ... or not.

My passion for baseball was born in the 70s ... clearly a different era.


Travis Taijeron has left the building..

Fresh off homering in the AAA All-Star game, Las Vegas 51s outfielder/DH Travis Taijeron connected again Saturday against the Iowa Cubs, this time leaving the ball park.  That's right - Travis Taijeron's home run left Principal Park (home of the Iowa Cubs).

Travis, 27, is now slashing .305/.388/.566 through 86 games and 318 at-bats this season.  Here's how he ranks against the Pacific Coast League's offensive leaders:
  • Doubles - #1
  • Total Bases - #2
  • RBI - #3
  • OPS - #4
  • Runs Scored - #5
  • Home Runs - tied #6

Shooting Craps...

The devolving Rafael Montero was demoted to Binghamton last week.

After pitching in all of seven games in 2015 due to arm soreness, this season was supposed to be his big comeback - bigger, better, and stronger than ever.

That hasn't happened...

Instead, Montero, posted a 4-6 record, with an alarming 7.20 ERA and 1.888 WHiP over 16 starts for the Las Vegas 51s.  He allowed 111 hits and 40 walks in 80 innings pitched, with 68 strikeouts.

He has now made 50 starts over parts of four seasons with Las Vegas, in which he owns a 16-14 record with a 4.60 ERA and 1.4555 WHiP, with 233 strikeouts over 256.1 innings pitched.

Montero, 25, earned a no-decision in his first start with the BMets.  He allowed one earned run on four hits and two walks through six innings pitched, with five strikeouts.

Brooklyn Cyclones: Lowell Spinners Complete Coney Island Sweep

From the desk of:  THE SURF AVENUE SLUGGERS



13-16
tied last place
McNamara Division

BROOKLYN CYCLONES: Time for all these college kids to start showing what they can do...

It took some doing, but the 2016 Brooklyn Cyclones are finally assembled.

Former University of Connecticut southpaw Anthony Kay, the Mets first round compensatory draft pick (#31 overall) finally agreed to terms with the club on Wednesday - two days before the July 15 signing deadline - and will report to the Brooklyn Cyclones.

That means all eleven of the Mets first ten round selections are now signed, sealed, and delivered straight out of college - an astonishing turn from the Paul DePodesta era.

That said, let the frat party begin...

Delta Tau Chi - Brooklyn
  • Rd. 1 - Justin Dunn, rhp, Boston College
  • Rd. 1 - Anthony Kay, lhp, UConn
  • Rd. 2 - Peter Alonso, 1b, Florida
  • Rd. 3 - Blake Tiberi, 3b, Louisville
  • Rd. 4 - Michael Paez, 2b, Coastal Carolina
  • Rd. 5 - Colby Woodmansee, ss, Arizona State
  • Rd. 7 - Austin McGeorge. rhp, Long Beach State
  • Rd. 10 - Gene Cone, of, South Carolina
Kingsport
  • Rd. 6 - Chris Viall, rhp, Stanford
  • Rd. 8 - Placido Torres, rhp, Tusculum, TN
  • Rd. 9 - Colin Holderman, rhp, Heartland CC, IL

Brooklyn's opening week of the regular season was somewhat less like baseball, and something more akin to boot camp, having to play 56 innings (29 extra innings) in the span of just four games/days, highlighted by their 20 inning opening night loss against the Staten Island Yankees.

An omen of things to come?

They were promptly no-hit thereafter, and recently turned the club's first ever triple play.  In other words, the first 39 games of the season have provided fans with a little bit of everything both, good and bad.

Despite their sub .500 record, they've more importantly managed to stay within shouting distance of first place Staten Island, who jumped out to a 5-0 start, and posted a fine 11-3 record in June.  But the junior Bombers have since cooled.  Saturday's loss against Hudson Valley dropped them to 7-9 for the month of July.

Brooklyn, however, is presently failing to seize the moment.  They entered Saturday's action trailing Staten Island by six games, but gained no ground after getting whitewashed 4-0 Saturday, capping off a sweep by the visiting Lowell Spinners, whom initially shut-out the Cyclones 1-0 in Thursday's series opener at MCU Park.
   
The loss dropped Brooklyn's season record to 13-16, but there's a case to be made their season is just beginning.

Saturday only marked Michael Paez' fourth appearance for Brooklyn, as he played for Coastal Carolina during their recently concluded college championship run, while first baseman Peter Alonso just concluded his first full week with the Cyclones.  

The Cyclones presently rank 13th with a .214 team batting average, yet rank sixth in the circuit in runs scored.  So there's hope for this line-up yet.

Likewise, there's hope pitchers Anthony Kay and Justin Dunn can soon help getting Brooklyn's 5th worst team ERA turning in a better direction.

Last Sunday, Justin Dunn (#19 overall) made his Brooklyn debut.  It was his second relief appearance of the season, and for a second straight time pitched two scoreless innings en route to earning his first victory as a professional.  The Hudson Valley Renegades witnessed Dunn's full repertoire, including a fastball that popped the catcher's mitt with a top speed of 97 mph.

He is adhering to a prescribed light schedule - every sixth day.  His next appearance was scheduled for Saturday, June 16.  That never happened.  Perhaps Sunday then?

Dunn otherwise discussed making his first professional start during SNY-TV's live coverage of Wednesday's Cyclones game, perhaps next week against the Aberdeen Ironbirds - albeit a limited three inning start at most.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

N.Y. Mets: On Travis d'Arnaud



Here's my latest for 





Mike
senior staff writer/Rising Apple.com

L.I. Ducks: John Brownell outlasts Somerset in series opener

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



Long time Atlantic League rivals
resume antagonisms at Bethpage Ballpark

Ducks lead series 1-0
I - LID 6; SOM 3
II - SATURDAY

Somerset Patriots
vs.
Long Island Ducks
FROM
The Pond

Long Island Ducks: Flock plant flag back atop first place.

Not a bad way to resume play...

Previous to Friday, the Ducks and Patriots hadn't faced each other since May 20-22 at Somerset.   Minus a head-to-head match up through the rest of the season's first half, each team was instead left to wrestle through common opponents in order to win a division flag.

A tight race to the end, Long Island prevailed to win the first-half pennant over Somerset - which hasn't always been he case since the Patriots were realigned into the Liberty Division a few years back.

With the Atlantic League All-Star game out of the way, and their place in this post-season secured, the Long Island Ducks resumed play on Friday.

Opening a weekend series at Bethpage Ballpark, John Brownell outlasted Somerset's Will Oliver for his seventh victory of the season, but not without a little help from his friends.

Patriots starter Will Oliver exited on the winning side of a 3-2 game after out-dueling Brownell through six full innings pitched.  Long Island's ace nevertheless persisted through a scoreless top half of the seventh.

Leading off the bottom of the frame, Ducks first baseman Mark Manicozzi promptly greeted Somerset reliever Jeremy McBryde with a game tying home run.  Ruben Gotay then followed with a double.  Shortly thereafter, catcher Mike Dowd connected on the Ducks second home run of the inning giving the Ducks a 5-3 lead, and an eventual 6-3 victory.

Making his 14th start of the season, John Brownell allowed three earned runs on seven hits and two walks, with four strikeouts over seven laborious innings in high humidity.  He faced 30 batters, and threw 96 pitches with 67 (69.7%) going for strikes.

Closer Todd Coffey recorded his 14th save of the season.

The now first place Ducks lead Somerset by one-half game in the second half standings.

Not a bad way to resume play indeed.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Mets Minors: Backman Leading Las Vegas 51s Trio in AAA All-Star Game

From the desk of:  MR. MET MEETS THE GREAT GAZOO


CASHMAN FIELD
Las Vegas, Nevada

Mets Minors: Travis Taijeron and J.T. Rivera Set to Wield PCL Leading Bats Against International League's Best.

The Las Vegas 51s regular season will resume on July 14 against the Iowa Cubs.

In the meantime, Vegas skipper Wally Backman will manage the Pacific Coast League's top talent when they take on the International League's best in the 29th annual AAA All-Star Game this Wednesday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Pitcher Gabriel Ynoa is tied for second most wins in the league with a 9-3 record, and tied for second with 18 starts this season.  He has also logged the third most innings in the Pacific Coast League to date and boasts a representative 4.19 ERA.

At the plate, right fielder Travis Taijeron and infielder J.T. Rivera have been pummeling Pacific Coast league pitching since the season's first call to play ball.

After 84 games and 312 at-bats, Taijeron leads the PCL with 35 doubles, is second with 176 total bases, ranks third with 69 RBI, and is fifth with both a .564 slugging average and .953 OPS.  He's otherwise batting .306 with 13 home runs.

Shortstop and third baseman J.T. Rivera leads the Pacific Coast League with a .348 batting average.   He is additionally fourth behind Taijeron with 63 RBI, tenth right behind Taijeron with a .389 OBP, and is tied with Taijeron for sixth with 96 total hits.  With eight home runs to date, he's one away from matching his single season (2014) high.


N.Y. Mets: Still No Agreement With First Round Pick Anthony Kay

From the desks of:  
HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET  and  THE CONEY ISLAND NINE


Still Waiting....

Friday, July 15
is the deadline for amateur draft picks to sign.

The New York Mets have so far agreed to terms with ten of their top eleven 2016 amateur draft picks. Seven reported to the (A-) Brooklyn Cyclones, while three others reported to the Kingsport Mets of the (R) Appalachian League:

Brooklyn
  • Rd. 1 - Justin Dunn, rhp
  • Rd. 2 - Peter Alonso, 1b
  • Rd. 3 - Blake Tiberi, 3b
  • Rd. 4 - Michael Paez, ss
  • Rd. 5 - Colby Woodmansee, ss
  • Rd. 7 - Austin McGeorge. rhp
  • Rd. 10 - Gene Cone, of
Kingsport
  • Rd. 6 - Chris Viall, rhp
  • Rd. 8 - Placido Torres, rhp
  • Rd. 9 - Colin Holderman, rhp
Dissecting pitching performances in particular would be premature, as they've only appeared in a handful of games to date.  First round pick (#19 overall) Justin Dunn has made just two appearances for the Cyclones so far, in which he's thrown four scoreless innings.

Of the position players, shortstop Colby Woodmansee is off to a fine start with the Cyclones.  The former Arizona State product made 82 starts at shortstop for the Sun Devils, and wrapped up his collegiate career with 44 RBI.  He is presently hitting .328 (seventh in the NYPL) through 17 games with two home runs and already has a team leading ten RBI.

There's Always One in Every Crowd

Only first round compensatory pick and the #31 overall selection, left-handed pitcher Anthony Kay, remains unsigned (among the Mets top ten round selections.  Four of their top 21 selections remain unsigned).

A University of Connecticut junior hailing from Stony Brook, Long Island, Anthony Kay started 17 games in 2016 for the Huskies posting a 9-2 record with a 2.65 ERA.  He surrendered 99 hits, walked 37 batters, and fanned 111 in 119 innings pitched.  He twice registered ten strikeouts in a game, while hitters hit just .223 against him.

Overall, Kay went 22-12 in 52 games/39 starts with a 2.64 ERA during three seasons at Connecticut, and fanned 263 batters over 286 innings pitched, with a .224 average against.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Bartolo Colon Never More Important to Amazin's Than Now

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Bartolo Colon's next appearance will be in the 2016 All-Star Game.
But if FIP stands for Fading Ineffective Pitcher, the Mets are in trouble.

NEW YORK METS: Was Big Sexy's latest regular season start an omen of things to come?

Prior to his arrival in Flushing, Bartolo Colon hadn't pitched 200 innings in a season since 2005 for the Los Angeles Angels.  

Despite turning 40 years old in 2013, he parlayed 30 starts and 190.1 innings pitched for the Oakland A's into a two-year pact with the Mets.

For a number of Mets fans, myself included, Bartolo Colon's price, age, and conditioning, were all immediate points of contention upon his signing here.

Colon went on to make 31 starts in 2014, and clock 202.1 innings pitched for the first time in nine years.  Last year's 33 appearances were likewise his most since the 2005 season. 

Signing another one year contract this past off-season ensured his ongoing swan song would continue playing out in Flushing.

He owns a 7-4 record so far this season, but was taken off the hook with a no decision after experiencing his worst start to date on July 7, in which he allowed the Washington Nationals six earned runs on ten hits (three home runs) in just 4.2 innings pitched.  That game caused his 2.87 ERA to spike to 3.28, which is still well below his combined 4.12 ERA during his first two seasons here.

Since 2014, Colon is 29-26 with a 3.96 ERA over 81 overall appearances and 495.2 innings pitched for the Mets.

Despite having his own professional and personal skeletons to speak of, in two and a half seasons he not only managed to flip naysayers like me, but actually became an endearing figure beyond being a consistently professional pitcher to behold.

The seemingly indefatigable Big Sexy turned 43 years old this season, and in short time will make the 500th appearance of his 19 year career.  He's presently sitting on 493 career appearances, and fast becoming the most important stud in the Mets stable.

Would the Mets be wise in regulating him to every sixth day for sake of maximizing any enduring effectiveness he has left?  I'm sure most would argue in favor of continuing along business as usual.   
In truth, Bartolo has so far made eight starts on five days rest, and eight starts on six days rest, and indeed nothing about his splits indicate a change is even warranted.  

So why do I feel Terry Collins would get a fresher, sharper Bartolo Colon, versus just some serviceable performer bridging games till the starting rotation circles back to Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard again - that pulling back just a little, will enable him to continue being a more effective work horse over a longer haul?

The Mets are in a bind with increasingly less margin for error ... or injury. 

ICYMI:

For three seasons now, many fans have feared realizing Bartolo Colon's inevitable law of diminished returns.  So how much longer can this time bandit go?  Being a cult favorite is one matter ... continuing to defy conventional thinking is another.

He hasn't deviated much away from his career numbers.  There's one statistic, however, that has my attention.  After averaging a 3.65 FIP from 2011 through 2015, Colon's present 4.12 FIP is sitting at a six year high.  And after posting a +0.52 ERA/FIP differential in 2014, and a +0.32 differential last season, Colon has plummeted to a -0.84 this season, similarly a six year low.

That's all I got.  Quite obviously, there exist a great many more matters regarding what to do about the Mets suddenly plagued starting pitching than broached within this page.

Colon's next appearance will likely occur during his fourth ever All-Star game (in place of Madison Bumgarner) this upcoming Tuesday in San Diego.

After which, the season takes on much greater meaning, while play itself increases in intensity.

I once learned about the seven P's, that proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.  

As it pertains to Bartolo Colon and the Mets, that phrase never rang more true.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Weight of Metropolis Beginning to Fall on Jacob deGrom

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



APOCALYPSE NOW

FOUR HORSEMEN of the METROPOLIS
*    *    *    *
DARK KNIGHT  ~  THOR  ~  SUPER MATZ  ~  deGROMINATOR

NEW YORK METS: Legion of Gloom and Doom Tightening Grip on Gotham; Flushing's Super Heroes Reeling...

Friday it was decided Matt Harvey will undergo season ending surgery to address thoratic outlet syndrome in his pitching shoulder.  In other words, he is suffering from compression of nerves and tendons causing him discomfort.

The graffiti was already sprayed throughout the locker room walls.  In 17 starts, the Darkened Knight posted a 4-10 record with a career high 4.86 ERA, 1.468 WHiP, 10.8 H/9 average, and a career low 7.4 K/9 average ... all this as a result of losing one mile per hour throughout his pitching repertoire. 

Apparently, it was enough to end Matt Harvey's season yet again, just as his right arm did on August 24 2013, his last MLB start prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery.

It can be said the Mets remained in N.L. East contention through the first half of the season largely despite Harvey's efforts.  The same can not be said of Noah Syndergaard, who in demeanor and performance is the clear ace of the Mets staff this season - but not without conflicting levels of concern over his health among the fans, management, the media, and even Thor himself.

Noah Syndergaard is pitching with bone spurs in his right elbow, and was lifted from Friday's game against the Washington Nationals due to what Terry Collins interpreted as arm fatigue, and unrelated to his elbow.  With the Mets history of paranoid diagnoses, I'd categorize the latter statement as typical post-game damage control.  In other words, stay tuned for the real truth.

Steven Matz is similarly pitching with bone spurs in the back of his left elbow and is presently taking an anti-inflammatory for the condition.  Matz' condition appears a bit more worrisome - his spur/spurs are larger.  Both he and Thor will continue pitching though their discomfort that will likely require off-season surgery involving a three month recovery period.

Then there's Jacob deGrom, who perhaps more than anything else is disgruntled with himself.  After attending to family matters earlier this season, Jacob deGrom has sufficiently regained the velocity on his fastball.  However, he continues battling high pitch counts.  Jacob failed to complete seven innings in ten of his 15 starts so far this season, but appears to be turning that around as well.  He lasted eight innings for the first time on June 25, and went seven full innings in his last start.  It would appear then, he's just starting to peculate - just in time too.

As fate would have it, the weight of Metropolis is starting to fall on him.

L.I. Ducks: Open Season at the Pond

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



The Atlantic League ... Land of Opportunity,
but not without occasional, untimely, 
and certainly frustrating moments for fans.

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Jack Snodgrass Plucked from Flock by Texas Rangers.

The Atlantic League is a fine circuit, and indeed a land of opportunity in a manner of speaking.

Just ask Ducks fans about Mickey Jannis and Mark Blackmar, to name two, who've previously pitched very effectively for the Long Island Ducks, and in turn had their respective contracts purchased by an MLB organization - Blackmar last weekend by the Nationals and Jannis last season by the Mets.

Even Mike Loree parlayed his time in Long Island several years ago into a trip overseas.

The Ducks announced on Friday the contract of southpaw Jack Snodgrass, 28, was purchased by the Texas Rangers organization.

Through July 5, Jack was 6-6 with a 3.79 ERA, and a 1.430 WHiP in 14 starts for the Ducks, with 85 strikeouts in 78.1 innings pitched.  His longest outing of the season came on June 20 in which he tossed 6.2 innings against York.  He otherwise pitched six full innings in ten other starts.  Atlantic League batters were hitting .272 against him.

Congratulations to Jack, Mark, and all who've returned to the big show via the Atlantic League.

Sometimes, however, these transactions can be a little deflating, as a fan of the team that is..

So how important was winning the first half pennant looking now?

Goes without saying ...

The onus is now on remaining starters John Brownell, Darin Downs, Bobby Blevins, and Bruce Kern, to carry an even heavier load until general manager Michael Pfaff can seek out capable mound reinforcements - yes, more than one arm is necessary, especially on the heels of clinching a first half pennant.  Literally and figuratively, the Ducks have till the playoffs to rearm their staff.

  • Together, Downs, Snodgrass, and Brownell formed the top three league leaders in strikeouts.

In the meantime, on Thursday, July 7, Coach Baez implemented a pitcher by committee in Long Island's series opener at Southern Maryland.  Kevin Vance made his first start of the season, charged with pitching the first three innings of the game (after making 20 prior appearances as a reliever).   Coach Baez then matriculated six other relievers through the box en route to a 5-3 victory.

On Friday, John Brownell led the Ducks in a 6-2 victory with seven innings pitched over the Blue Crabs.  He limited Southern Maryland to just one earned run on six hits and a walk, with six strikeouts.  It was Brownell's franchise record extending 41st victory as a member of the Ducks.  He is now 6-3 this season with a 2.77 ERA in 13 starts.


Friday, July 08, 2016

Mets Continue July Surge Against Washington

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



Mets win series opener 9-7 over Washington Nationals;
close to within three games of first place.

NEW YORK METS: Amazin' bats back in the swing of things, providing more leads, which means more Jeurys Familia, in turn producing more wins.

The 2016 regular season continues its near mirror imaging of last year, statistically speaking that is.

Only major difference being Terry's Kids lacked major league quality bats last year (prior to the trade deadline), meanwhile entered this season with quality major league personnel, but remain helpless against ever mounting and ruinous injuries affecting their key personnel.

Yet, to borrow a descriptive from last season, the Mets have remained resilient throughout.

The Amazin's entered Thursday's game against the first place Nationals with a 46-38 record, four games behind in the standings.  At face value, not a bad place to be.  Then Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores both homered to help push the Mets by Washington in their series opener at Citi Field.

Rewind just a few games, and the Mets owned a 44-37 record through 81 games, compared to last year's 43-41 record by the midway point.

For a second straight season, pitching is the Mets forte.  Similarly, look no further than the offense for what has gone both right and wrong for the Mets.

National League
  • April - #7 runs scored, #7 team average (.255)
  • May - #13 runs scored, #15 team average (.211)
  • June - #15 runs scored, #13 team average (.235)
  • July - #1 runs scored, #1 team average
Month by Month Record
  • April - 2015 (15-8); 2016 (15-7)
  • May - 2015 (13-15); 2016 (14-15)
  • June - 2015 (12-15); 2016 (12-15)
  • July - 2015 (13-12); 2016 (6-1) and counting...
The Phantom Mets Menace

It's clear as the line-up goes, so go the Mets.  But the underlying reality suggests their very strength is fast becoming a major issue.  

Matt Harvey's addition to the disabled list is merely the latest injury seemingly conspiring against the Mets' defense of their National League pennant.  Only now he's facing season ending surgery, again, meanwhile, everyone continues crossing their fingers with every anxiety riddled Steven Matz start that goes by.

They could conceivably be in need of not just one, or two, but three starting pitchers in the months to come, unless Sandy Alderson acts prior to the deadline.

This, unfortunately, is also an untimely consequence of trading pitching prospects, which, in the Mets particular instance helped build them into a contender.  That said, they do not have anything near the likes of Michael Fulmer pitching at Las Vegas ready to step in.  I mean no disrespect, but, Seth Lugo, Rafael Montero, and/or Gabriel Ynoa, simply do not satisfy the Mets potential needs as defending N.L. champs.

Worth noting, this year's non waiver trade deadline has been pushed up to Monday, Aug. 1, to avoid the more familiar July 31 cutoff from falling on a Sunday.  After a fine off-season, the Mets front office stayed reactive as injuries mounted with the acquisitions of James Loney, Kelly Johnson, and Jose Reyes.  The big question, then, over the next three weeks will be ... what more can (or will) they do?

At the same time, it's worth pondering how much the potential returns of Zack Wheeler and Josh Edgin might help the Mets in the months to come.  They could effectively become two much needed acquisitions, in a manner of speaking.  Edgin is performing well during his assignment with Las Vegas, and is closer to returning than Wheeler, whom suffered a slight setback during his rehab, and had his potential return date pushed back to at least August.

METS 2016 ALL-STARS
  • Noah Syndergaard (23 years old) is the Mets ace.  That is no longer open for debate.  Thor presently sports a 9-3 record with a 2.41 ERA, 1.06 WHiP, and 1.89 FIP.  In 101 innings pitched to date, Noah has fanned 123 batters for an 11.0 K/9 average, complemented by a low 1.3 W/9 average.
  • Despite needing a cool nickname, Jeurys Familia (26 years old) appears fully immersed in the role of Closer now in his second full season serving the role.  Thursday against the Nationals, Jeurys saved his franchise record extending 31st save without blowing a single opportunity all season.  That gives him 74 saves in just the last 1 1/2 seasons.
  • Yoenis Cespedes (30 years old) has been worthy of ever dollar spent on the muscle.   Representing the Mets in the batting order, he'll be the National League's starting left fielder in this year's All-Star game.  Yo is presently slashing .303/.373/.585, with 21 home runs and 52 RBI, ranking him second in the circuit in slugging and fourth in home runs.
  • Congratulations Terry Collins, manager of this year's National League All-Star squad.
We Are Familia..

I heard Jim Duquette a few nights ago on SNY-TV say Noah Syndergaard was the Mets first half MVP.  That's hard to debate, but I will nevertheless side with closer Jeurys Familia as the Mets first half MVP.

After splitting four games against the Braves, then getting swept by the Nationals, Familia essentially ignited this most recent string of eight victories over their last nine games, when, he closed out the Chicago Cubs during their series opener with what can be argued as the team's biggest save of the 2016 season - Familia's 27th.

The Mets went on to sweep four games from the Cubs, take two of three from the Marlins, and win Thursday's rematch opener against the Nationals, in which Familia notched his aforementioned 31st save of the season.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Our Latest RA Podcast with author Jon Springer



Here's our latest podcast for 



 Our featured guest was Mets fan extraordinaire, and author of
a comprehensive history of the Mets by uniform number,
Jon Springer, proprietor of MetsByTheNumbers.net.

Warning:  If you're a die hard fan, this episode will be an easy listen.
Otherwise, you're going to need about 2 hrs:17 minutes for listening
to this wide ranging four way conversation covering of everything Mets
new, old, in between, and other stuff too.

Oh Boy!
First half impressions / a hot Jose Reyes round table / what about Wilmer?
2016 Mets All-Stars / Team MVP / Dwayne Wade!
Mets LVP ... eh hem ... De Aza.
A Jerry Koosman love fest / retiring numbers and magic wands.
Time to recognize Joan Payson at Citi Field, damn it,
and we just may have come up with the perfect way to get it done.
John Stearns - Ed Lynch - a 1978 Mets reunion?
Never ending Al Harazin criticisms - Phil Neikro?
Yoenis Cespedes - The Darkening Knight - Should Thor pitch in ASG?
What ever happened to the unintentional intentional walk?
Willie Mays - Tug McGraw - the 1936 Brooklyn Dodgers
Players who've worn #36 in Mets history - and more.


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Brooklyn Cyclones: #1 Draft Pick Justin Dunn Makes Pro Debut in Batavia

From the desk of:  THE CONEY ISLAND NINE



Brooklyn Cyclones vs. Batavia Muckdogs
I - BKN 5; BAT 1
II - BKN 5; BAT 1

Game Three
Brooklyn Cyclones
vs.
Batavia Muckdogs
FROM
Dwyer Stadium
Genesee, N.Y.


BATAVIA: Stay Team Stay!

I have noting but respect for the rich seventy-seven years of Batavia Baseball.  When the Muckdogs visit Coney Island's MCU Park, I make it my business to be there.  After all, what are the Cyclones without competition?

Historic competition at that...

Birth place of the original PONY League back in 1939, a reorganized circuit proceeded forward in 1957 as the New York-Penn League, likewise founded in Batavia - the last remaining charter member of the circuit.

This series potentially may very well be Brooklyn's last visit to Batavia and Dwyer Field.  The park itself was rechristened in 1996, but the original playing field has been in place since 1937.  All these decades later, baseball may be coming to a sad end in Batavia - relocation.

The visiting Brooklyn Cyclones so far have won two of a three game set by identical 5-1 margins, with the series finale scheduled for Wednesday.

BROOKLYN CYCLONES: Mets First Round Draft Pick (#19 overall) made a sparkling professional debut on 4th of July.

Justin Dunn, the New York Mets #1 pick (19th overall) of the recent 2016 June amateur draft made his professional debut on Independence Day in western New York against the Batavia Muckdogs.

A local product hailing out of Freeport, Long Island, Dunn, 20 years old, and is listed at 6'2" 170 pounds.  He and the Mets reached an agreement on June 21, for the full slot value of $2,378,800 million dollars.

Used primarily as a reliever during his three years at Boston College, Dunn's early season performance in 2016 earned him a promotion into the Eagles starting rotation by April.

ICYMI

He features a mature four pitch repertoire replete with a mid-90s fastball, polished curve and slider, and an effective change, and finally put them to work for the Brooklyn Cyclones.

Two things to keep in mind before discussing Justin Dunn's performance: the Mets debuted him on the road, and in a non-save situation.

Read into it what you will...

Dunn otherwise pitched his first two innings as a pro on the fourth of July, charged with protecting a 5-1 lead during the eighth and ninth innings of Saturday's victory.

The first batter to step in against him was number seven hitter, Batavia DH Isaiah White, who reached on an excuse me infield single.  Three pitches into Justin's second batter, his battery mate made his first trip to the mound.  A fielder's choice then advanced the runner to second.  Third batter in second baseman Rony Cabrera witnessed one each of Dunn's 95mph fastball, and nasty slider, but reached safely on yet another excuse me infield single, putting runners on the corners with only 1-out.  With his very next pitch, however, Dunn induced lead-off hitter Cory Bird into an inning ending 4-6-3 double-play.

With Batavia's number two, three, and four hitters, due up in the ninth, Justin Dunn provided distant Mets fans a measure of validation by retiring the Muckdogs in order, fanning the first and final batters of the inning ... game over.

Monday, July 04, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Flock Earns First Half Flag With Strong Finish

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



ATLANTIC LEAGUE
FIRST ~ HALF
LIBERTY DIVISION
CHAMPIONS

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: It's not how you start, it's how you finsh! Flock overcome Somerset Patriots' 13-0 season start to clinch Liberty Division first half pennant.

In a classic wire-to-wire pennant race against the Somerset Patriots, Long Island entered the weekend with their own destiny in hand, but not before June proved to be a month of extreme peaks and valleys.  They finished strongly, however, going 8-2 down the stretch and winning their last three games to secure a place in this Autumn's post-season.

The first half truly was a 68 game struggle ... the Ducks entered Saturday's action with a magic number of one over the Somerset Patriots, who never made things easy down to the last by defeating the Bridgeport Bluefish ensuring the Liberty Division race would remain banjo tight.

After Saturday's clincher, Ducks fans rewarded their team's pennant with a franchise record setting 7,602 in attendance during Sunday's series sweep over the Sugar Land Skeeters and first half finale.


Long Island ended the first half with a 40-30 record, two games ahead of the perennially contending Somerset Patriots, and tied with the Freedom Division champs York Revolution for the best record in the league.

Saturday's 6-1 clincher over the Skeeters featured John Brownell's franchise record setting 41st victory as a member of the Long Island Ducks.  After facing 33 batters, and throwing 125 pitches with 81 going for strikes through 8.1 innings pitched, Coach Baez removed Brownell from the game so as to let his starter walk off to a well deserved home crowd ovation.

The Ducks veteran ace allowed a lone earned run on seven hits and two walks, with six strikeouts, improving to 5-3, while lowering his ERA from 3.10 to a 2.90 mark.  Now in his fifth season with the Ducks, Brownell owns a career 41-30 record with a 3.43 ERA over 641 innings pitched.

The Long Island Ducks will begin relying on John Brownell, Jack Snodgrass, and Darin Downs, a whole lot more from here on out.   That's because MLB eyes noticed the work of starter, and Atlantic League's second best ERA leader Mark Blackmar, whose contract was purchased by the Washington Nationals.  While this is yet another Atlantic League mission accomplished story (..and good luck to him!), this is nonetheless a big blow to the Ducks.

In Blackmar's absence, John Brownell is now tied for second in league ERA behind Bridgeport's Mike Antonini.

Coney Island: 2016 Hot Dog Eating Contest




~ 100 ~
YEARS

Happy Birthday Nathan's Famous!

Congratulations on triumphantly hitting the century mark in grand New York City fashion, flair, and food!

Thanks for your unyielding resiliency through decades of good times and bad, and most recently returning from Hurricane Sandy stronger than ever, and for continuing to serve as one of the bedrocks of Coney Island - all year long, ever year since 1916.

My son and I are 2nd and 3rd generation native Nathanites.  As part of the love of Borough, we greater Brooklynites wear your very existence like a red badge of courage where ever we go.

Birthplace of the hot dog, you're among the TITANS of Brooklyn institutions.  Within every bite, an enduring freakishly historic and delicious reminder of an era when Coney Island was the preeminent vacation destination of the entire east coast ... and never apologized for nuthin'.

A modern trip to Sin City, Las Vegas, would be nothing more than adult day care compared to the hey day of Coney Island, where Six Flags met Oktoberfest and Vaudeville met Jackass at the Hotel California on the Island of Moreau.



July 4, 2016

The first hot dog contest did not take place between four immigrants 
on July 4, 1916, in order to decide who was the most patriotic among them.  
Suffice to say this tradition as we know it started in the early 1970s.



JOEY CHESTNUT
regained the title, breaking his own record,
scarfing down a new record 70 hot dogs with buns. 


Meanwhile, on the way back home...


I couldn't help myself, so I also contributed two bucks
YBR?
You Breed Raptors?
!dinosaur cloning research!





Happy Independence Day 2016






LAND of the FREE
BECAUSE of our BRAVE









DIVIDED WE FALL


Saturday, July 02, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Flock Swat Skeeters; Magic Number Now One

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



FIRST~HALF
Liberty Division Flag
one more waddle away

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Mother Nature is a Ducks Fan; Throws Change-Up at Somerset Patriots.

Thunder, lightning, torrential downpours, the inevitable delays, nor Skeeters strong starting pitching would prevent the Long Island Ducks from crossing home plate eight times in the home 7th inning against visiting Sugar Land.

Skeeters starter Sean Gallagher initially quieted Ducks hitters through six full innings of work, allowing five scattered hits and two walks, and striking out nine before exiting on the winning side of a, then, 4-0 game.

Ducks starter Mark Blackmar, meanwhile, exited on the losing side of said score after allowing four earned runs on seven hits and no walks, with four strikeouts through seven innings pitched.

Mark's team mates got him off the hook in the bottom of the frame when their previously dormant bats finally broke through against Sugar Land's bullpen, sending 11 men to the plate en route to setting their highest single inning run total of the season.  Seven Ducks hitters registered at least one RBI.

On its own merit, Friday night's dramatic reversal of fortune reduced Long Island's magic number to Two.

The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

Before the rains came, Long Island trailed Sugar Land, while the Bridgeport Bluefish trailed the Patriots in Somerset by a 2-1 margin through seven innings of play.

After the storms cells rumbled through, the Fish jumped ahead 5-2 in the top of the seventh.   Somerset volleyed in the bottom of the frame with a pair runs to close within one.  But three more Bridgeport runs in the top of the eighth doused any Patriots hopes of a comeback.

The damage was done, and a look up at the out of town scoreboard conformed it.  The Somerset Patriots loss reduced Long Island's magic number down to one.

Any combination of a Ducks win or Patriots loss through close of business Sunday will result in a first half pennant for Long Island.