Ladies and Gentlemen: Your First Place New York Mets

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Mets high five.jpgThere aren’t many people who have ragged on the Mets more than I have over the past few years. But if you’re going to be negative, you have to be fair, and fairness demands that the Mets be given their due. Correction: fairness demands that the first place New York Mets be given their due. Because there they sit, at least for now, alone atop the National League East. How did they get there?  A bunch of reasons really.

  • The starting pitching has been excellent, with Mike Pelfrey and Jon Neise stepping up behind Johan Santana admirably. Doubters may cite the less-than-impressive offenses of the Cubs, Braves and Dodgers on which the Mets have recently feasted, but are they bad because they’re bad, or are they bad because they faced the Mets’ pitching?
  • Ike Davis has been a godsend. No, I don’t expect him to post a .980 OPS this season, but first base has suddenly gone from a sucking black vortex to not a problem.
  • Little stuff:  The defense is better than last year. The rains have come at the right time. The bullpen has been getting them out of jams that, statistically speaking, a team shouldn’t always get out of. They’ve also had the good fortune of playing 15 of their 21 games at home thus far. You can call all that luck if you want to, but last I checked wins due to good luck still count in the standings.

It’s still early so it’s not worth either (a) making sweeping pronouncements or (b) analyzing it to death, but the fact is that everything is coming up blue and orange lately, and it should have Mets fans feeling pretty happy right now.

And it should have them showing up in greater numbers.  Early season attendance has been pretty pitiful so far this year. I’ll grant yesterday’s day game was a lost cause because of the previous night’s rainout, but after averaging over 38,000 per game last year, the Mets have only cracked that total twice in 15 home games this season, one of which was Opening Day.  In that time the team has set the record for the lowest attendance in Citi Field’s brief history — 25,684 a week ago against the Cubs — and have had more games in the 20,000s than the 30,000s.

Time to step up Mets fans. Your team is winning. If an avowed hater like me can give them their props, the least you fans can do is to start showing up.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.