Montero Back To Form, Mets Back To Losers

Well, the good Rafael Montero we had seen become one of the Mets most reliable starters turned back into the Montero of old.  In his four innings of work, Montero had allowed seven hits, two walks, and five earned runs.

The Marlins went to work against him right away with a Dee Gordon lead-off double.  For a moment, it seemed like Montero would get out of the inning unscathed, but he would allow a two out RBI single to Marcell Ozuna.  After a 1-2-3 second and Montero retiring the first two batters of the third, it seemed as if Montero had settled in and was ready to go deep into the game.

That was until a two out walk to Christian Yelich got the rally started.  Yelich stole second and scored on Ozuna’s second RBI two out RBI single of the game.  For a moment, it seemed as if Jose Reyes could make a play on the ball, but it went right by him.  After a Justin Bour two run homer, the Marlins were up 4-0, and it became an easy game for Jose Urena and the Marlins.

The Mets would make things look better than they were.  Travis d’Arnaud would hit a pinch hit RBI single in the fifth scoring Kevin PlaweckiBrandon Nimmo would hit a seventh inning homer to pull the Mets to within a manageable 5-2 score.  It seemed like the Mets would have a chance with Chris Flexen pitching two scoreless innings in what might have been his best outing in a Mets uniform.

It was all for naught as the Marlins would play Home Run Derby against Erik Goeddel in the eighth.  He allowed homers to A.J. Ellis, Miguel Rojas, and Giancarlo Stanton to turn a 5-2 lead into a 9-2 lead.  For Stanton, it was his 56th homer of the year.  Too bad for Stanton, he no longer has games against the Mets in his chase of Roger Maris.

To that extent, the Mets had maybe one win in what was a putrid sweep at the hands of the Marlins.  The Mets will now get a day off, and they will come home for the last home series of the season.  For the first time in two years, that does not involve a loss in a postseason series.

Game Notes: Amed Rosario missed his third straight game with a gastroenteritis.

 

 

Montero Still Hasn’t Figured Things Out

There’s no denying that since his latest call-up, Rafael Montero has been a much better pitcher.  Even if Mets fans have long come to distrust Montero, it’s hard to argue with the results.  Since July 18th, Montero has made 12 starts and one relief appearance.  Over that stretch, he’s 4-5 with a 4.68 ERA, 1.589 WHIP, and an 8.4 K/9.  Mixed in there, Montero has had some brilliant starts including an 8.1 inning three hit shut out against the Reds.

This is a far cry from the Montero who entered the season with a 1-5 record, 5.15 ERA, and a 1.636 WHIP.  Things were actually worse than that in his earlier call-ups this season.  Prior to July 18th, Montero was 1-5 with a 5.77 ERA and a 1.897 WHIP. The main culprit for all of these struggles was the walks.  Until his most recent call-up, he was walking 5.4 batters per nine.  According to Fangraphs, that’s a significant step past “Awful.”

Now, Montero has been much better because he has been attacking batters and the strike zone.  That’s why he is getting better results and has begun to change everyone’s impression of him.  However, he is still walking too many batters.   Through the aforementioned 13 appearances, Montero is walking 4.7 batters per nine.

Again, according to Fangraphs, this is still a step past awful.

Overall, this is the danger with judging pitchers on the sole basis of them improving.  Montero has gone from being a pitcher once demoted to Double-A to a pitcher who has had some successful starts at the Major League level.  For the first time, we have seen some glimpses of the pitcher the Mets have held onto for so long.  Still, we are not seeing a complete and finished product that can be consistently relied upon throughout the course of a season.

In the end, Montero is improved, and there are hopes he could actually be a contributor.  How he contributes becomes dicey.

He’s out of options meaning he cannot be stashed away in the minors as an emergency starter.  With him walking as many batters as he does, you can’t rely upon him as a reliever to preserve a lead.  That really leaves two options for the Mets with Montero: 1) move on from him and run the risk of him figuring it out elsewhere; or 2) make him a long reliever.

The long reliever role is one the Mets have been sorely lacking for the last two seasons.  It has led to the decimation of the bullpen time and again.  With the Mets having stayed with Montero this long, you might as well give him the chance as he’s finally earned it.

 

Ramos Blows First Save In Mets Loss

This season has mostly been a lost season at the plate for Travis d’Arnaud. Well, that is for everywhere he plays except Marlins Park. 

At Marlins Park, which was designed to be a pitcher’s park, d’Arnaud entered the game hitting .421/.500/.895 with a double, triple, two homers, and eight RBI. 

Tonight, d’Arnaud would continue raking in Miami going 2-5 with a run, homer, and two RBI. Essentially, he was once again Will Smith circa 1997:

Like he was that one glorious game in April, back when we thought this was going to be a special Mets season, d’Arnaud was the difference in this one. In addition to his bat, he did a good job behind the plate catching Seth Lugo

Lugo pitched well with the Marlins only getting to him in the bottom of the fourth on a Christian Yelich opposite field homer. That’s all the Marlins would get with Lugo settling down after a J.T. Realmuto two out double, which put him in scoring position as the go-ahead run. 

Surprisingly, Terry Collins would lift Lugo after five with Lugo having only thrown 83 pitches. It may just be a sign Collins is finally paying attention to the data. With the Mets rumored to replace him, it’s probably too little too late. 

After Lugo, Josh SmokerJeurys Familia, and Jerry Blevins combined to throw three hitless and scoreless innings. 

One thing of note. Even with Familia coming back from surgery and the Mets now hesitant to use him on back-to-back days, it at least appeared Collins was going to test his limits.

After a scoreless seventh, Familia began warming up to pitch the eighth. Once the Marlins announced the switch hitting Tomas Telis as a pinch hitter, Collins went to Blevins. 

It makes you question whether Collins was buying Blevins more time, or if he was trying to get the matchup he wanted. However, considering Giancarlo Stanton was on deck, it’s hard to believe Collins wanted Blevins for him. Then again with Collins, who knows?
One significant note was that with d’Arnaud’s two run homer and homers by Yelich, Justin Bour, and Jose Reyes, all but one run in this game were scored via the home run. It was significant in a season where seemingly every team is hitting homers. 

It was on a night where Alex Gordon hit the 5,694th homer in the majors this season – a new record:

The lone run not scored via the homer was a Reyes RBI single in the ninth scoring Phillip Evans. Evans had led off the inning with a single, and he moved to third after a Matt Reynolds sacrifice bunt and a Nori Aoki groundout. 

The 4-1 lead meant AJ Ramos would get a save opportunity in his first appearance against his former team. He was greeted by a Bour homer. 

Because Ramos likes the high wire act, Realmuto followed the Bour homer with an infield single thereby allowing the tying run to the plate with no outs. 

Even with a couple of strikeouts, you still felt uneasy. Things got worse after an A.J. Ellis pinch hit RBI single. Then, finally, after walking a tight rope for so long with the Mets, Ramos blew a save. 

Ichiro Suzuki lined one just out of the reach of a leaping Reyes. With the ball skimming off Reyes’ glove, the run scored fairly easily. 
If things weren’t bad enough, Stanton and his 55 homers came to the plate. Ramos wanted no part of him, and he walked him. This led to Collins pulling him and bringing in Paul Sewald

Even with Sewald being an accomplished minor league closer this was a difficult situation.  Anytime the bases are loaded, there’s no margin of error. Factor in Yelich being the batter, and Sewald not having been used in these spots, it was a tough ask. 

As if things weren’t difficult enough, Sewald went 3-2 with Yelich. Sewald then reached back and found something within himself, and he threw a slider that Yelich swung and missed to send the game to extras. 

It was a temporary stay of execution. Realmuto would hit a walk off homer off Sewald in the 10th giving the Marlins a 5-4 win. 

Normally, this would’ve been a gut wrenching loss. The way the season has gone, this just seemed to be a quick and merciful end. 

Game Notes: Amed Rosario missed a second straight game with gastroenteritis. 

Why Are The Mets Doing This To Harvey?

It was one thing to let Matt Harvey start the season in the Opening Day rotation.  It is another thing all together to let Harvey take the mound right now.  It really only serves to embarrass him.  That’s certainly how he felt after he struggled last night:

Once again, you have to question why he is even pitching in these games.

In his first season back from TOS surgery, Harvey had an atrophied muscle in his right shoulder.  His rush to pitch under these circumstances led to a stress reaction.   Even if he’s healthy, he’s still not ready to pitch.

He didn’t look good in his rehab starts.  He didn’t even last five innings in any of those starts.  Since coming back, he’s only lasted five innings once.  Other than that, it’s been four innings or less with five earned or more.

What does this accomplish?  Make him more humble?  Reduce the numbers he could get in arbitration?  Find a way to justify non-tendering him?  Seriously, what’s the end game here?

You have to ask because the Mets are not going to accomplish anything by putting Harvey in there game after game.  Actually, that’s not true.  With each and every start he makes, he becomes more and more dejected in front of his locker.  Ultimately, that’s what’s accomplished.  The Mets are just stripping out the last thing that makes Harvey great – his confidence.  Once that’s gone, you can then really question whether the Dark Knight will ever truly return.

Like Terry, I Checked Out Tonight

Entering tonight, the Mets were 65-84 and out of postseason contention. Terry Collins lineup started with Nori AokiJose ReyesAsdrubal Cabrera

Amed Rosario was scratched from the lineup with an upset stomach. For all we know, it happened when he saw the lineup. 
Even with all that, I still tuned it because Matt Harvey was the starting pitcher. Admittedly, I still believe he has a second act. He just needs to get healthy, get stronger, and figure things out.

Sadly, that wasn’t tonight. Sure, there were signs of improved velocity. He even had some movement on his fastball. His slider was the best we’ve probably seen it all season. 

It didn’t matter because he still hasn’t put it all together. A level of inconsistency remains. Perhaps, it is because he’s still not ready to be on the mound. 

That certainly became apparent when Giancarlo Stanton hit his 55th home run of the year to give the Marlins a 5-1 lead in the fourth. 

Actually, it wasn’t apparent to Collins who didn’t take Harvey out of the game. 

After allowing back-to-back singles to Ichiro Suzuki and Mike Aviles, Collins finally gave Harvey the hook. In four plus innings, Harvey threw 76 pitches. 

A combination of Tommy Milone and Hansel Robles would relieve Harvey in the fifth and throw gasoline all over the place. By the time the fifth inning was done, the Marlins led 12-1. 

Harvey’s final line was four innings, 12 hits, seven runs, seven earned, two walks, and two strikeouts. 

At this point, the Mets had no realistic hope of coming back in a season where the Mets are playing out the string. With the Giants playing a fairly important game against the Lions, I checked out on the Mets. 

Not too dissimilar from Collins who has abdicated his duties as manager by focusing on his dwindling chances to earn wins than to actually develop young players. 

Game Notes: Gavin Cecchini, who replaced Rosario in the starting lineup, knocked in the Mets lone run with a fourth inning RBI single. 

Reasons Why Mets Should Consider A-Rod As Their New Manager

With the rumors the Mets will be looking for a manger to replace Terry Collins this offseason, the teams is likely going to focus on the obvious candidates. This includes Tim Teufel, Bob Geren, and Dick Scott. Each candidate have their own merits, but none of them are really a bold move the Mets may need to make this offseason to help turn their team around. In order to do that, the Mets may have to think outside the box.

To that end, maybe the Mets should consider hiring Alex Rodriguez to be their new manager this offseason. Many will be quick to dismiss the notion, but there are many reasons why A-Rod could be a worthwhile choice to succeed Collins:

#1 A-Rod Understands What Sandy Wants in His Manager

During an August 17, 2017 WFAN radio interview with Mike Francesca, A-Rod described the modern manager’s role as one of “a CEO of a public company.” The basis of this comparison is A-Rod believes the manager’s job is now to take the information provided by the front office and to find the best way to communicate that information to the players.

By reputation, Sandy Alderson does not want the old school manager who flies by the seat of his pants and controls everything in the dugout. He wants someone who goes out there and follows his instructions. Based upon the comments A-Rod has made, it would seem he has a fundamental understanding on what Alderson wants.

#2 A-Rod Has a Relationship with Kevin Long

While the Mets might be looking for a new manager, it seems the team may well want to keep both Dan Warthen and Kevin Long in place. If that is the Mets intention, they are going to need to find a manager who will work well with the retained coaches. That could be Geren based upon his tenure as the Mets bench coach. That could also be A-Rod, who worked well with Kevin Long during their mutual time together with the Yankees. More importantly, there is a mutual respect between the two, which would serve as a solid foundation for a new working relationship.

#3 A-Rod Works Well with Young Players

During his tenure with the Yankees, A-Rod has been given credit for serving as a mentor for young players like Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. Apparently, that was not just a special relationship he had with those players, but rather a willingness to serve as a mentor to young players. That is something that continued with the current crop of young Yankees. As Gary Sanchez said of A-Rod, “He’s always given us good advice. On and off the field, he’s always been there for us, he always has time for us. One thing he has told me is about creating a routine, a routine that I can use to prepare myself for every game.” (Newsday)

With A-Rod, you have an individual who has a willingness and an ability to effectively communicate with young players. Better yet, he’s able to show them how to best succeed at the Major League level. With so much of next year and the next decade hinging on young players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, you need someone who is best able to get through to them and help them. That could be A-Rod.

#4 A-Rod Is Bilingual

If you pay attention to the post-game, you will see Melissa Rodriguez translating for Spanish speaking players like Yoenis Cespedes. That is all well and good for an interview, but that’s not good for the player-manager relationship. The two need to be able to communicate. A-Rod’s ability to speak English and Spanish permits him to effectively communicate with all of the players in his clubhouse.

#5 A-Rod Has Played for Great Managers

During A-Rod’s playing days, he has had the opportunity to play for Lou Piniella, Johnny Oates, Jerry Narron, Buck Showalter, Joe Torre, and Joe Girardi. That group of managers have won 10 Manager of the Year Awards, 28 division titles, 8 pennants, and 6 World Series.

Each of these mangagers were good to great in their own right, and each one of them had different managing styles. Certainly, each one of them left an impression on A-Rod as to what is the best way to manage a team and how to best communicate with your players. Like all first time managers, A-Rod will have to find his voice. He will be aided in doing so by his having played for some of the best managers of his generation.

#6 A-Rod Understands Decline

Throughout the 2016 season, A-Rod struggled to the point where the Yankees finally had to inform him that if he didn’t retire, the team was going to release him. At that point, A-Rod had to face reality and admit he was no longer the player he once was. That’s an avenue this current Mets team is going to have to navigate.

Both David Wright and Matt Harvey have dealt with a number of physical problems. With each day that passes, each of them is further and further away from being the players they once were. Having someone like A-Rod as the manager would provide both players with a sounding board to help them navigate the season both physically and mentally.

#7 A-Rod Understands the Media

A manager of a New York team is also a media personality. They have to be able to face the media multiple times a day and answer the tough questions. With his postseason struggles and his PED suspension, A-Rod has had to face the tough questions time and again. He’s weathered the storm, and he has come out the other side.

And now that he’s retired, A-Rod is a member of the media. He does studio shows for Fox earning rave reviews, and he has done a few games as a color commentator. With that, he’s become even more polished than he already was leaving him better able to face the media.

#8 A-Rod Creates Buzz

Look, after the 2017 season the Mets need to change the narrative. They’re an injury prone team who doesn’t go out there and spend money. This has led the fans to become either angry or apathetic. That’s not a good situation for a Major League organization, especially one that is raising ticket prices for next season.

At a minimum, hiring A-Rod would create a buzz. Love it or hate it, it would be a bold move for the organization, and bold moves typically generate excitement. That type of excitement can at times become infectious and energize an entire organization.

There’s also the fact the Mets will need to pursue a number of free agents. Possibly, A-Rod, a player who is still respected by many players across the majors, could be used as a recruiting tool. If true, that will create an even bigger buzz because better players mean more wins which will help turn those angry and apathetic fans into excited ones.

#9 A-Rod Loved the Mets

Back in the 2000 offseason, it was assumed A-Rod was going to be a Met because A-Rod grew up a Mets fan. Like the rest of us, A-Rod loved that 1986 Mets team, and he wanted to bring the Mets their next championship. He never did get that chance after Steve Phillips described A-Rod as a 24 and one player.

A-Rod has been able to accomplish much in his career, but the one thing he was never able to do was to wear a Mets uniform and deliver a World Series to his favorite team. It could be an opportunity that he couldn’t overlook, and it may be one that drives him.

#10 A-Rod Is Fireable

For all the calls from Mets fans to make Wright the Mets next manager, is the fact that one day the Mets will have to fire him. Managers are hired to one day be fired. No Mets fan wants to see their beloved Wright be fired by the team. No, you want a manager who could readily be fired. That’s A-Rod.

However, in order to be fired, you need to first be hired. There are certain impediments there from his lack of experience to whether he’d ever be interested in managing in the big leagues. If he is somehow interested, the Mets should definitely inquire because he just might be exactly what the Mets need in their next manager.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MetsMerizedOnline

Gsellman Dominates With Good Defense Behind Him

If you want to see how important defense is to a starting pitcher, especially a ground ball pitcher, you need to look any further than today’s game. 

With a better infield defense featuring Amed Rosario, who we all recall cannot pitch, and Phillip Evans in his first career start, Robert Gsellman reminded us of the pitcher we all thought was going to take a big step forward this year instead of the struggling one that doesn’t care. 

Gsellman had that power sinker working today getting the Braves to drive the ball into the ground. With the better defense behind him, most of those balls turned into outs. Part of that was also Gsellman getting the ball inside. Credit there should go to Kevin Plawecki, who called a superb game. 

Really, the only time the Braves got to him was when the infield defense failed him. On back-to-back plays in the seventh, Rosario made errors allowing Johan Camargo and Dansby Swanson to reach with one out. To Gsellman’s credit, he shook off the errors, and he got out of the jam allowing just the one run. 

Gsellman’s final line would be seven innings, three hits, one run, none earned, no walks, and three strikeouts. Because his offense did just enough, he would get the win. 

It was tough going for the Mets offense because the Braves started Julio Teheran has been great against them in his career. Entering today, he was 8-4 with a 2.56 ERA against the Mets. 

That made the first inning rally all the more important. 

After a Nori Aoki walk to start the game, Jose Reyes would triple him home. 

Teheran would then lose his control a bit walking Brandon Nimmo, who had a typical Nimmo game walking twice, and Dominic Smith to load the bases. Rosario would knock in Reyes on an RBI groundout giving the Mets a 2-0 lead. 

From that point until the ninth, the Mets would only get two more hits, both by Aoki,  for the rest of the game.  It didn’t matter because the two runs they did score were more than enough for Gsellman. 

The Mets would put the game out of reach in the ninth. After a Rosario infield single and stolen base, Evans would hit his second career double and earn his first major league RBI. 

After Evans’ double, Asdrubal Cabrera put a 10 game hitting streak on the line in his pinch hitting appearance. He now has an 11 game hitting streak after his two run homer giving the Mets a 5-1 lead. 

AJ Ramos closed out the ninth with a scoreless inning. The win gave the Mets their seventh win in 10 games at SunTrust, which already makes it much more hospitable than Turner Field ever was. 

Game Notes: Rosario was recently rated by Statcast as the fastest player in the majors. The Mets rank last in the majors in infield hits, bunt singles, and stolen bases. 

Mets Are Younger But This Is Ridiculous

With the Mets selling at the deadline, we saw them call up young players to begin building for the future.  That meant players like Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis GrandersonAddison Reed, and Neil Walker were gone.  In their stead are young players like Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Jamie Callahan, Jacob Rhame, Gavin CecchiniKevin McGowan, and Tomas Nido.  

With that, you knew the team was going to be young, but his young?

Wow.  I expected a younger group, but not ones that were dressed up in rompers like my then nine month old son.

It seems that with the Mets recent youth movement, my son is closer to majors than I initially believed:

 

deGrom Finally Gets Win Number 15

Back in 2012, when things were about as bad as they are right now, the most captivating moment of the season was R.A. Dickey and his push for 20 wins and a Cy Young.

Somewhat fittingly, Dickey was the starting pitcher for the Braves on a night when Jacob deGrom was going for a career high 15th win. 

This was deGrom’s third chance to get that 15th win. That’s two more than he had in 2015. In 2015, he would only pitch four scoreless innings before being taken out of the game so he would be ready for the postseason. Tonight, with the Mets playing for nothing else, he would go as long as he needed. 

deGrom would throw 101 pitches over seven innings. His final line would be 7.0 innings, five hits, one runs, one earned, two walks, and seven strikeouts. 

The one run deGrom allowed was a Freddie Freeman sixth inning solo homer because it’s Freeman. With that homer, the only question was whether the Mets would score enough runs. 

Tonight, deGrom got the requisite run support and then some thanks to the Mets offense exploding for seven runs thanks to the Mets young hitters. 

The standouts were Brandon Nimmo (1-3, 2 R, 2B, BB, RBI), Dominic Smith (2-4, R, 2B, 2 RBI), and Gavin Cecchini (3-3, 2B, 2 RBI). 

The scoring began with a two run second started by back-to-back singles by Smith and Travis d’Arnaud. They’d score on a pair of Juan Lagares and Cecchini RBI singles. 

This would prove to be enough, but the Mets offense would keep on clicking. 

A trio of doubles in the third (Nori Aoki, Nimmo, and Asdrubal Cabrera) would make it 4-0. 

The doubles would continue. A fourth inning Cecchini double scored Lagares, and a seventh inning Smith double plated it two more to make it 7-1. 

After deGrom exited with a six run lead, it was time for the Mets bullpen to hold the lead. After the Cubs series, it was far from a guarantee. 

Jeurys Familia alleviated some of the tension pitching a scoreless eighth. 

Not leaving anything to chance, Terry Collins went to AJ Ramos in the ninth to protect the lead. After a typical stressful Ramos inning, the Mets would win 7-3, and deGrom would finally have his 15th win. 

deGrom winning his 15th is a big highlight in a terrible season much like Dickey winning 20 in 2012. Hopefully, prosperity will soon follow much like it did after Dickey’s magical season. 

Game Notes: On Smith’s seventh inning double, Gary Cohen referred to him as Lucas Duda

ESPN Doesn’t Like Baseball

In case you missed it, and I hope you did, Stephen A. Smith went off about how no one really cares about baseball:

I would have missed it too had I not caught it on Twitter.

This once again shows how little regard ESPN and the personalities it chooses to employ has for baseball.

This is exactly why the narrative why football is king, basketball is emerging, and baseball is dying exists.  ESPN is more invested in football and basketball, and they will drive the narrative as such.  This is why ESPN is more focused on the NFL season and NBA free agency as baseball is the middle of a pennant drive.

In the American League, there are six teams within five games of a Wild Card spot.  In the National League there are four.

The Dodgers are amid what could be an epic collapse, and the Indians have won 22 straight.  If not for the latter, Stephen A. and the rest of ESPN would not care about baseball.  That’s no longer perception.  We have an admission from them.

There are many reasons why ESPN has been struggling of late.  You can pick your own reason.  Personally, I like to believe ESPN’s blatant disregard for things they care about ranks chief among them.  Of course, here, I’m talking about baseball.