Manny Acta Is A Risky Proposition

When the Mets collapsed in 2007 and 2008, one person that was conspicuously absent was third base coach Manny Acta.  In his time serving that role with the Mets, he had become known as an intelligent forward thinking baseball man, who showed an ability to connect with the players on the team.

Those traits led to Acta being a hot managerial candidate that offseason not too dissimilar to what we see with Alex Cora right now.  Coincidentally, many of the positive things said about Cora now were said about Acta after the 2006 season.

Acta would get hired after the 2006 season as the Nationals manager.  This would begin an interesting six year managerial career split between the Nationals and the Indians.  He would have go 158-252 (.385) with the Nationals, and 214-266 (.446) with the Indians.

One of the reasons for the struggles with the Nationals was talent.  The team had just parted ways with talented players including Alfonso Soriano.  Of the famed group of Nationals who are part of the core of the current Nationals team that won multiple division titles, he would only get to manage Ryan Zimmerman.

It was a similar issue with the Indians.  It was a team in transition after Cliff Lee was traded mid-season the year prior to his arrival.  Acta would lead the team to a surprise second place finish in 2011 increasing expectations for 2012.  That team had underperforming veterans like Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Casey Kotchman, and Johnny Damon didn’t produce, and young players like Corey Kluber, Cody Allen, and Jason Kipnis who were not quite ready.

Overall, Acta was well considered in baseball circles.  Its why when he was fired by the Nationals they said, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.”  (Sports Illustrated).

It’s why Acta only had to wait a season between managerial jobs.  That is the case when he has two top five Manager of the Year finishes under his belt.  After his managerial stint was over, Acta was hired by ESPN where he would work for Baseball Tonight.  For the past two seasons, he served as the Mariners third base coach.  When he was hired, Mariners manger Scott Servais said, “I believe Manny will be a great addition to our staff.  I’ve known him for over 25 years, since we were teammates in 1989. His experience as a Major League third-base coach and manager, paired with his extensive player-development background, will be very valuable to me, and to our players, as we move forward.”  (MLB.com).

Between his tenure with the Nationals and the Indians, we began to get a picture of who Acta was as a manager.  Generally speaking, he was seen as a smart baseball man who had an analytical approach to the game.  Whereas some managers use instincts and a gunslinger mentality, Acta was a tactician who relied on the data.  For many, this would invoke comparisons to Joe Girardi, which depending on your point of view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.

In terms of the clubhouse, Acta had a mixed reputation like many managers do.  For one player, he was seen as someone who didn’t keep a tight reign on this players.  For others, he was a manager who respected the veterans and let them control the clubhouse.  For many, this would invoke comparisons to Terry Collins, which again depending on your view, could be seen as a positive or a negative.

Really, throughout his two tenures as manger, the only real pure negative thing anyone had to say about him was he was a poor motivator, and he was rigid in his ways.  As then Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin said of Acta, “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.”  (MLB.com).

As for his ability to motivate Joe Smith said, “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play.  It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.”

Overall, Acta is well considered to be a good and smart baseball man.  It is why he continues to get jobs.  It is also why you do see a positive impact on whatever team he joins.  Still, between his record and the specific criticism of being rigid in how he manages and his inability to motive, you do question if he’s well suited to be a manager.”  Then again, those things only to be raised as issues when someone is fired.

In the end, we still probably don’t know what Acta is as a manager because he’s never quite had sufficient talent to manage.  Considering the current composition of the Mets roster, this would make Acta a risky bet for this Mets team.  Then again, so would Cora or anyone else the Mets are considering.

 

REMINDER: Mets Didn’t Want Justin Turner

After the 2013 season, the Mets made the decision to non-tender Justin Turner.  That is something important to remember with all the issues with David Wright, the failure that was the 2017 season, and with Turner joining Kirk Gibson as the only Dodger to hit a walk0ff postseason homer:

It’s incredible to think it’s 29 years to the day of Gibson’s dramatic Game 1 home run off Dennis Eckersley.  It’s also incredible to think the Mets had no use for Turner.

This is the point where everyone enters into some needless arguing.  The defenders of Sandy Alderson will say Turner hit .280/.319/.385 with a 0.8 WAR in 2013 right before the Mets decided to non-tender him.  The people upset with the move will point out how Turner worked with Marlon Byrd to help increase his launch angle.  It should be noted that in September 2013, Turner hit .357/.357/.571.

It also should be noted Turner was first time arbitration eligible and due approximately $1 million.  The Mets passed, and the Dodgers eventually gave it to him.  Turner emerged as the everyday third baseman, and the Dodgers have won four straight division titles.

Overall, the argument boils down to this:

  • Defenders point to past performance as justification
  • Critics point to Turner’s production

Put that all aside and really ask what is the job of the General Manager.  Is it for a General Manager to analyze past production to determine the future outlook of a player?  Or is it to analyze a player and pay him based upon what is a reasonable expectation of future production?

Before answering the question, here’s just one more to ponder – Was it worth $1 million to find out if Turner’s September production was indicative of future success?

Keep in mind the Mets decided to pay Omar Quintanilla $800k, Jose Valverde $1 million, and Ruben Tejada $1.1 million in 2014.

Amed Rosario’s Best Tweet

Amed Rosario has an interesting Twitter account where he constantly reminds us all #DontBeSurprisedBeReady. Well, yesterday, he had hit best tweet ever, which was technically a RT:

Thank You For Some Good Old Fashioned Baseball

Like everything else, baseball  evolves. That especially seems to be the case this postseason. 

Starters are pulled early in games while relievers are being asked to get more outs than they’re typically asked to during the regular season. 

We also saw Willson Contreras make what used to be a great baseball play by blocking home plate. Except now it’s a bad play because Buster Posey, who had horrible positioning on the play, got hurt. 

Instead, Charlie Culberson joined Chase Utley as a Dodger rewarded a base on replay despite his never having actually touched the base. 

Meanwhile, over in Houston, we got to see some good old fashioned baseball from the Astros in a classic 2-1 victory. 

The game was 2-1 mostly because of the great defense of the Astros with them playing in the right position, taking the extra base. and hitting the cut-off man. 

In many ways, Josh Reddick was the star of the game. First, he robbed Chase Headley of a homer: 

Later in the game, he chased down what should’ve been a Brett Gardner triple, and he helped turn it into a out. How?  He hit the cut-off man Carlos Correa, who made a great throw:

Speaking of Correa, he very well could’ve been the player of the game with that throw, a solo homer, and the game winning double. 

On that game winning double, Jose Altuve just busted it from first base all the way home. Should he have scored?  No, but he did because Aaron JudgeDidi Gregorious, and Gary Sanchez didn’t execute well. If even one does, Altuve is out. 

Of course, none of this would’ve been possible without Justin Verlander

Verlander had one of those throwback types of performances. In his complete game win, Verlander threw 124 pitches. In the complete game victory, he only yielded one run on five hits and one walk while striking out 13. 

This is the type of start you used to expect from a team’s ace in the postseason. He was supposed to be the guy who took the ball, pushed his limits, and dominated thereby giving your team a chance to win. 

This was the type of game, type of execution, and type of pitching performance that you expect to see from the best teams in baseball. As we’ve seen all postseason long, this isn’t always the case. Instead, what the Astros do is actually the exception. 

There was a time it wasn’t. That’s what makes how the Astros play all the game all the more enjoyable. 

Chase Utley Really Hates Shortstops

After the 2015 when Chase Utley ruined Ruben Tejada‘s career, you got the sense Utley not only Hayes the Mets, but also shortstops. 

The latter was readily apparent with the news the Dodgers were leaving Corey Seager, arguably their best player not named Clayton Kershaw, off the NLCS roster: 

The official reports were Seager tweaked it on a slide during Game 3 of the NLDS, but us Mets fans know the truth. It was probably punishment dished out by Utley for Seager going 0-3. 

You can tell this is what happened because a good man like Curtis Granderson held himself out of the lineup in a quiet protest to Utley’s actions. Some people will tell you Dave Roberts held him out  of the lineup because the Cubs started the left-hand hitting Jose Quintana

Don’t be that naive. Kike Hernandez has never gotten a hit off Quintana in his career.  For his part, Granderson has hit a homer off Quintana. If it really were up to Roberts, who are you playing?  

For the Dodgers sake, you can only hope Utley doesn’t take out Charlie Culberson before the series is over because it’s doubtful Hernandez or Justin Turner can really handle the position. 

Better yet, Roberts should just put Utley there and see what happens. 

The Main Problem With Instant Replay

Game 5 of the NLDS gave people many reasons to criticize Instant Replay in baseball.  Whether we agreed on the calls or not, that game certainly highlighted the main issue there is with replay.

No, it was not whether or not the “true spirit” of replay was to determine whether Jose Lobaton‘s foot came off the bag momentarily while Anthony Rizzo applied the tag:

It also wasn’t whether the replay officials made the correct determination when they ruled Jon Jay, who slide sideways and lifted his left into Daniel Murphy, legally slid into the base:

By the letter of the law, the determination was wrong, but still this wasn’t the biggest issue.

No the biggest issue that emerged last night was the Nationals were not able to challenge the fact that Javier Baez hit Matt Wieters in the head with his bat.

Think about that for a second.  You can challenge if someone’s foot came of the bag for a millisecond.  You can have someone look at a replay to make a determination of a judgment call.  However, you are not allowed to challenge whether someone got hit in the head with a bat.

According to the rules, if the umpires correctly ruled Baez hit Wieters in the head with his bat on his backswing, then Baez would have been ruled out.  Instead, Baez took off for first, Wieters threw it away, Addison Russell scored, and the inning continued.  Who knows how much different that game is if that call is called correctly?

Isn’t that the real point of replay?  Wasn’t the purpose of replay to make obvious game changing calls that were completely missed by the umpires reviewable?  If a system is in place, shouldn’t it stop plays that can easily be overturned from affecting the outcome of the game?

The answer to all of these is a clear and resounding, “YES!”

It makes you question why any play isn’t reviewable.  Sure, we can all agree an umpire calling balls and strikes shouldn’t be reviewed because it would be too time consuming, and you would have challenges on nearly every other pitcher.  However, outside balls and strikes, why are there plays that are not reviewable.

This isn’t Don Dekinger calling a clearly out Jorge Orta safe thereby possibly changing the outcome of that 1985 World Series.  No, there are now provisions in place to prevent that, or at least there should be.  Thursday night there wasn’t because someone drew some odd lines on what can be and what can not be reviewable with a player getting hit in the head with a bat being in the later category.

It makes no sense, and it might have changed the outcome of a postseason series.

Mets Fans Thought Wieters Was Better Than d’Arnaud

By any measure, Travis d’Arnaud‘s 2017 season was truly disappointing.  He landed on the disabled list once again.  His batting line of .244/.293/.443 was more backup than catcher many believed would have an All Star caliber season under the tutelage of new catching coach Glenn Sherlock.  His one calling card, his pitch framing, really regressed going from one of the best to being one of the worst.  All in all, it was a bad season for d’Arnaud.  However, the one bright side is he wasn’t Matt Wieters.

If you thought d’Arnaud had a bad season, you weren’t paying attention at all to Wieters.  In 123 games this season he would hit .225/.288/.344 with 20 doubles, 10 homers, and 52 RBI.  That was good for a 63 OPS+ and a 62 wRC+. If you want to gauge how bad that is, consider d’Arnaud had a better batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS+, and wRC+.  He also had more triples, homers, extra base hits, and RBI despite playing in 11 fewer games and in a much less potent offense.

Behind the plate, Wieters was even worse than d’Arnaud pitch framing putting up a -15.7 RAA (Runs Above Avergae) to d’Arnaud’s -4.2.  Keep in mind that while both regressed from prior seasons, Wieters has always been a poor pitch framer.

Really, the only way you could say Wieters had a better year than d’Arnaud was throwing out base runners.  Wieters bested d’Arnaud by throwing out 25% of base runners to d’Arnaud’s 17%.  For what it’s worth both were below league average.

In the end, even with all the struggles, d’Arnaud posted a 1.2 bWAR and a 0.8 fWAR.  Wieters?  Again he trailed d’Arnaud posting a -0.5 bWAR and a -0.2 fWAR.

If you’re still not convinced d’Arnaud is a better catcher than Wieters, look no further than what transpired last night when Wieters completely fell apart.

In that faithful fifth inning, it was Wieters who made the key blunder.  At that point, Addison Russell had already hit the go-ahead two out double to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.  The rest of that inning was on Wieters.

After the intentional walk to Jason Heyward, Max Scherzer struck out Javier Baez.  That should have ended the inning except Wieters couldn’t get down to block the ball.  This allowed Baez to take off for first.  By the time Wieters had located the ball, he had no shot at Baez.  Rather than eat the ball, he threw the ball into right field allowing Russell to score from second.

Yes, the umpire blew the call not calling Baez out for hitting Wieters in the mask.  However, that play did not force Wieters to not get down and block a ball he reasonably knew was going to be the dirt.  It also did not force him to throw the ball away.

The inning was then extended again with a Wieters catcher’s interference loading the bases.  Once Scherzer hit Jon Jay with a pitch, it was 7-4 Cubs.

Throw in his flying out to end a rally in the sixth, his stranding four runners, and his hitting .143/.333/.143 in the series with no RBI, you have a nightmare NLDS following just an awful season.

For all of that the Nationals paid Wieters $10.5 million.  It gets even better with Wieters having a $10.5 million player option he’d be insane to revoke.

In the end, d’Arnaud may have had a really disappointing season, but he was not Wieters.  That is the same Wieters many Mets fans were clamoring for all offseason, and frankly were irritated when Wieters went to the Nationals.  This is something everyone should keep in mind this offseason with another weak catching free agent market.

Trivia Friday – Former Mets Playing In The 2017 Postseason

For those of us Mets fans looking for something to root for this postseason, they certainly took a hit with the Yankees knocking the Indians out of the postseason.  What makes it all the more difficult is the Yankees are one of three teams this postseason that do not have any former Mets Major League players on their team.  Can you name the former Mets players who are playing in this postseason?  Good luck!

 


Blaine Boyer Addison Reed Chris Young Jay Bruce Joe Smith Carlos Beltran Juan Centeno Alejandro De Aza Daniel Murphy Oliver Perez Bartolo Colon Dillon Gee Rene Rivera Curtis Granderson Justin Turner

Why Didn’t Austin Jackson Run To First Base?

If you’ve watched Mets games long enough, you will at one point or another hear Keith Hernandez bemoan the lack of “Good Fundies.”  Seemingly, this is something he decries more and more.  And it’s not just because the Mets played some terrible baseball this year.  Rather, throughout baseball, we have seen a number of players fail to make the fundamentally correct play.

Most of the time, the lack of “Good Fundies” can really be attributed to a general lack of hustle and will.  That was no more evident than on the last out of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Yankees and the Indians (Warning: It’s a Sterling call, so you may want to mute it):

Considering how his skills behind the plate have been lambasted most of the year, it should be of no surprise Gary Sanchez dropped the third strike from Aroldis Chapman.  What should be a surprise is how Austin Jackson initially just stood there, and then he walked back to the dugout.

HE’S THE LAST OUT OF THE DIVISION SERIES!

Look at the play again.  Sanchez drops the ball on what was a questionable third strike call.  While he’s picking it up, Jackson voices his displeasure at the call.  While this is happening, Sanchez picks up the baseball, and he makes sure to put it in his back pocket.  Meanwhile, Jackson is still in the batter’s box.

According to MLB Rule 6.09(b): “The batter becomes a runner when – (b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out.”

Now there are limits to the rule as provided in the comments to said rule: “A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.”

This could have left the matter up to interpretation by the umpire.  Arguably, by turning to argue first, Jackson may be been ruled out regardless of whether he attempted to go to first base or not.  However, we’ll never know if an umpire would have had the absolute gaul to invoke such a technicality because Jackson never bothered to go to first base.

Think about it. Sanchez looked at Jackson briefly as if he was going to tag him.  He chose not to and instead went to the mound to celebrate.

Looking at the play again, who knows how far Jackson could have gotten if he decided to go to first base.  The Yankees weren’t paying attention because they were celebrating.  The same goes for Jose Ramirez who we did not see touch home plate at any time during the Yankees celebration.

Instead of Jackson doing everything he could do to try to extend that game by busting it down to first base regardless of what the odds were, he instead chose to accept defeat and go back to his dugout.  Instead of seeing Jay Bruce at the plate with a berth to the ALCS on the line, we got to see the Yankees celebrate on the mound.

One last note is it’s strange we haven’t seen much discussion on this topic.  Sure, we’ll see Carlos Beltran striking out looking against Adam Wainwright, but we won’t see this discussed.  For how much Beltran was killed for that play, his knees were buckled by a great curveball.  Jackson just didn’t even bother.

As a fan, I’d rather see a player get beat like Beltran did than see a player give up like Jackson did any game of the week.  Honestly, I cannot possibly fathom how this isn’t a bigger issue.

Mets Pitchers Are The Opposite of Stephen Strasburg

Yesterday, it was announced that with the Nationals season on the line, Stephen Strasburg was not going to take the ball in Game 4.  There were a number of reasons cited for him missing the start on normal rest from his being off his routine, his being sick, and his not feeling prepared to pitch.

It is astonishing that Strasburg isn’t taking the ball in this spot.  It was his opportunity to exercise the demons of 2012 when he was shut down on the eve of the postseason because he hit his innings limit.  It was his opportunity to help save his team’s season when arguably he was the best pitcher suited to it.

The optics of the moment certainly aren’t good.  That goes double when you consider an injured Max Scherzer is chomping at the bit to get into the game to help his team get to the NLCS.   On top of that, Scherzer will only be on just one day of rest.

Again, Strasburg looks bad here.

Now, there is the caveat that Strasburg could really be that sick, or the team could be concealing some type of injury.  Time and again, we have all been given lessons why we shouldn’t question an athlete when they say they can’t go.  The most tragic of those circumstances was J.R. Richard.  People questioned Richard and derided him, and so Richard pitched.  That is until Richard suffered a stroke.

Still, even with the lessons we have learned with Richard, we all question Strasburg because there is a history here.  Seeing what is happening with Strasburg, Mets fans should appreciate their pitchers all the more.

Back in 2015, with the same agent and predicament as Strasburg, Matt Harvey took the ball.  He won a pivotal Game 3 in the NLDS.  He set the tone in the NLCS with a dominating Game 1.  He came so close to forcing a Game 6 with a brilliant Game 5 performance.  Ironically, one of the lasting images of that postseason was Harvey demanding the ball.

It’s something we have seen with this entire Mets staff.  Noah Syndergaard refused an MRI and instead insisting on pitching against the Nationals.  Jacob deGrom ignored the pain as long as he could until he had to have season ending surgery.  Steven Matz has done nothing but pitch through pain and injury in his Mets career.

Each one of these Mets pitchers demand the ball even when they should have taken a step back and done what was best for their careers.   Who is to say the Mets pitchers are right and Strasburg is wrong.  Players only have a limited time to play professional baseball and by extension to earn money.  With each injury, their earning power goes down.  Strasburg, who took the time off, received a seven year $175 million contract extension.  There were at least discussions whether Harvey would be non-tendered.

So, maybe Strasburg is in the right here for doing what is best for him physically.  However, while that may be true, it could go a long way in explaining why he’s never been out of the NLDS.  It’s why he may never experience the glory we have seen Harvey experience in the postseason.