It was officially one year ago today reports surfaced of Jed Lowrie‘s knee injury. When it first occurred, we assumed this was probably nothing more than one of those early aches some players feel during Spring Training. As is usually the case, the Mets really had no idea of the severity of the injury, how to properly manage or diagnose it, or how to get the player back on the field.
Jed Lowrie is sore behind his left knee, Mickey Callaway said.
The Mets are being cautious, focusing on making sure he’s ready for opening day.
They’re not sure how serious it is.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 20, 2019
By and large, this injury kept Lowrie from playing in the field, and it limited him to just eight pinch hitting appearances in 2019. In those appearances, he had no hits, drew one walk, and struck out four times.
Fast forward to this year, and Lowrie is wearing a leg brace to help him participate in Spring Training. At the moment, no one knows if Lowrie will be able to effectively play with the brace, if he can only play with a brace, or for that matter when or if he will be able to ever play.
What makes this signing all the more troubling is Lowrie’s agent was Brodie Van Wagenen. If there was any GM in baseball who was well aware of the health issues of Lowrie, it would be his agent. Looking back, instead of the enthusiasm for the signing, perhaps there should have been more inquiry why a player coming off an All-Star season and had an 8.8 WAR over the previous two seasons could do not better than signing with the Mets to split time with Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Amed Rosario.
The Mets have completely and utterly wasted $20 million on a player who cannot play due to knee injuries. What makes this ironic is the Mets purportedly non-tendered Wilmer Flores partially due to knee injuries which never really existed.
While it was initially reported Flores had arthritis, subsequent reports indicated that was a misdiagnosis. In fact, Flores had tendonitis. Instead of paying him less than $5 million, or working out a team friendly extension he might’ve been inclined to sign, Flores would go to Arizona.
While he had his usual health issues, Flores had a productive season with the Diamondbacks. While continuing to improve against right-handed pitching, he had a 120 wRC+, which was the best of his career. He mostly held his own at second with a -2 DRS and a 1 OAA. That’s right, according to OAA, Flores was a positive defender. Overall, he was worth a 0.8 WAR in 89 games.
Lost in that was Flores’ clutch gene. The same player who is the Mets all-time leader in game winning RBI came up huge down the stretch for the Diamondbacks. From August to the end of the season, he hit .368/.410/.623. His 166 wRC+ over this stretch ranked as the fifth best in the majors.
While this was not enough for Flores’ option to be picked up by the Diamondbacks, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants to a two year $6.25 million deal. In total, that’s $10 million over three years for Flores. Put another way, that’s what Lowrie made in 2019 alone for his eight pinch hitting attempts.
Going forward, the Mets attempts to get another team to take on Lowrie’s contract so they could make another move failed. Meanwhile, Flores is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. Seeing the continued improvements he has made against right-handed pitching and OAA rating his defense much better, Flores could out-play his contract.
In the end, the Mets had a player in Flores who was popular, had a right-handed bat which complimented their heavy left-handed hitting lineup, was comfortable and effective on the bench, and could backup at all four infield positions. Rather than keep him around, Van Wagenen opted to sign his former client who cannot play to a $20 million deal.
In 2013, the Louisville Cardinals beat the Michigan Wolverines to win the NCAA Championship. It was on CBS, and the game is still on YouTube. It was televised, and if you did not see it, you can still take time to watch the game if you still want.
What’s weird about that is supposedly that game never happened.
Due to a recruitment scandal, Louisville needed to vacate their wins, and Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino was fired by the university thereby ending a storied career in disgrace. There is article after article about it, and there are many references to the scandal and the game.
And yet, the game supposedly never happened. It never happened despite it being well documented. That extensive documentation proves the old axiom you cannot rewrite history to be true. You can’t post hoc say Louisville didn’t win a game when you can still watch it and read about it.
Therein lies the problem with stripping championships. They happened, and no matter what you do, those games still happened. The Louisville Cardinals won the 2013 NCAA Championship much like the 2017 Houston Astros won the World Series.
As we know, the Astros cheated to do it. They cheated in a similar fashion to how the New York Giants did in 1951 when they won the pennant when Bobby Thompson hit the “Shot Heard Round the World.” That game, much like the seven game 2017 World Series, happened.
To date, that game and the 1951 pennant has not been vacated. No, not even with the reports of the New York Giants extensive sign stealing scheme. Like with the Astros, there were rumors it was happening, but there would be no Mike Fiers whistle blowing until 51 years later when first base coach Herman Franks came forward.
Unlike the Astros players initial response, the other Giants players, Thompson included, admitted to it. However, akin to Jose Altuve and the buzzer rumors surrounding his own famous pennant clinching homer, Thompson denied getting the sign in the famed homer off of Ralph Branca.
The fact is the Shot Heard Round the World remains a part of history. The same can be said about the Astros 2017 World Series. Really, it is more than just that series, it was an entire season.
Where do you stop. Does Altuve gets stripped of his MVP award? How about Justin Verlander‘s ALCS MVP and George Springer‘s World Series MVP awards? With Cody Bellinger‘s statements and Aaron Judge deleting his congratulatory tweet, that seems like it might be palatable. What next?
Do you take away the Astros offensive stats? Is that really going to unring the bell? Look at it from a Mets perspective. Matt Harvey is still a free agent struggling to return from TOS, Seth Lugo is still in the bullpen, and Chris Flexen is still pitching in Korea.
Again, no matter how much you want to pretend the Astros 2017 World Series title never happened, it did, and there are long standing ramifications. That includes players like Clayton Kershaw never winning a World Series ring. Much like the Michigan Wolverines, the Dodgers aren’t going to be named the World Series champions post hoc.
No matter how much we want it to not have happened, the Astros won that World Series, and really you can’t change history. Even if you strip it away, it still exists. If you attach an asterisk to it, it still exists. There is nothing you can do to make it not happen because it did.
So no, don’t strip it away.
However, there are reasonable things Major League Baseball could do. They could tell the Astros they need to remove the pennants and similar denotations of their World Series. After all, while you can’t make it unhappen, you can put barriers in place to stop the Astros from celebrating that World Series.
It’s not great, but it’s something, but that is what you are left with because you can’t say nothing happened because it did.
In Mickey Callaway fashion, Rob Manfred had to go back out and speak again about Major League Baseball’s handling of the Astros sign stealing scandal. That was necessary because of how poorly the first interview went. To highlight just how bad it went, he referred to the Commissioner’s Trophy awarded to the team who wins the World Series as just a piece of metal.
While that was a big misstep, the biggest complaint remains the Astros players themselves, aside from Carlos Beltran, have faced no repercussions for their actions. On that point, Manfred reiterated the need for immunity saying, “We would not have gotten where we got, in terms of understanding the facts, learning the facts, disclosing the facts if we hadn’t reached that agreement.”
That agreement was between MLB and the MLBPA wherein it was promised if players were upfront about the scandal they would not face fines or suspensions.
When you actually look at it, Manfred did not need to give the players immunity at all. In fact, it was completely unnecessary to conduct the investigation, and by granting the immunity, he really just created a whole host of other problems.
Starting at the beginning, Manfred acknowledged there were complaints from other organizations. While he knew there were other teams, the one which came to mind was the Oakland Athletics. So there were allegations present which could have led to his office conducting an investigation of the Astros front office.
Keep in mind, MLB did not need to offer the Red Sox players immunity to determine the team was illegally using an Apple watch, and they did not need to grant Yankees players immunity to determine they were improperly using the dugout phone.
In order to prepare the report, MLB interviewed 45 individuals who were not Astros players, and they “reviewed tens of thousands of emails, Slack communications, text messages, video clips, and photographs.”
Within that information, MLB would have been able to ascertain information like the setting up of the center field camera, the texting of the sign data to Alex Cora in the dugout, and all the ways the front office used to steal the signs electronically and relay those signs in some way to the dugout.
While not included in the report, the Wall Street Journal noted MLB found evidence of the front office’s full extent of the involvement in the scandal. That included PowerPoint presentations and other data. While this gives what the Astros front office knew and did, including but not limited to the emails identifying players like Beltran, you could still argue there was further cooperation needed to find out what the players did.
Again, that did not require immunity of the entire Astros roster.
Remember, this began when Mike Fiers went public with the allegations. In the article from The Athletic, Fiers came forward with how the Astros players were banging trash cans to relay the signals. Right there, MLB had the information they needed, and they had a key witness who wanted to share the information.
MLB also had the opportunity to speak with AJ Hinch as well as other members of that coaching staff. There were players from 29 other teams they could have asked to come forward to share information they knew. Certainly, seeing comments from players like Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Aaron Judge, Seth Lugo, Michael Conforto, and Mike Trout, it seems players were chomping at the bit to get back at the Astros for cheating.
Overall, MLB could have discovered all they did without giving one Astros player immunity. The main reason is Fiers already came forward, and MLB had the ability to put the squeeze on the Astros coaching staff, which they did with Hinch.
In fact, given the implication that this was a player driven system, it would have been more effective to give Hinch and others immunity to divulge everything they knew. You could say the same for Cora, who was implicated in two scandals.
When you break it down, MLB did not need to give the Astros players immunity to undertake this investigation. Not in the least. It’s a red herring.
As an aside, unlike the Mitchell Report, it created more problems. In fact, with Beltran being the only one named, it created more drama and speculation. Right now, instead of feeling like the matter is completely handled there is rampant speculation about buzzers, Jose Altuve‘s tattoos, and other nonsense.
The real reason Manfred gave the players immunity is he didn’t have the stomach for a fight. Certainly, there was going to be one as the MLBPA said in a published statement, “the applicable rules did not allow for player discipline, because even if they did players were never notified of the rules to begin with, and because cases involving electronic sign stealing MLB had stated that Club personnel were responsible for ensuring compliance with the rules.”
In the end, the players weren’t granted immunity for investigative purposes. Instead, it was to avoid a fight. There are good reasons for that. By not having the drag out fight over the suspensions, you are shortening the cycle of the story. Additionally, with the CBA expiring next year, Manfred is effectively keeping some peace with the MLBPA while also fracturing the union a bit.
Of course, there are other unknown reasons to grant the players immunity. No matter what those reasons, MLB didn’t need to grant the immunity to players to conduct an investigation. Not in the least. Knowing that, there needs to be a further inquiry into what the real reason was as to why the players were granted immunity.
Before there was Jarred Kelenic, there was Scott Kazmir. Back on July 30, 2004, for some reason or another, a Mets team four games under .500 and 7.5 games out of a postseason spot believed they were in it, so they traded Kazmir and Jose Diaz for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
That trade could not have gone worse for the Mets.
First, the Mets pinned the blame on Rick Peterson for saying he worried about Kazmir’s mechanics and for saying he could fix Zambrano in a second. They blamed Kazmir for his supposedly abrasive personality. They blamed Al Leiter, Tom Glavine, John Franco, and other veterans for having issues with Kazmir’s clubhouse demeanor. They blamed everyone but the decision makers (read: Jeff Wilpon).
Zambrano would not be the key piece to the Mets rotation they wanted us all to believe. Ironically, for a team worried about Kazmir’s durability, Zambrano broke down. Over his 2+ years with the Mets, Zambrano pitched just 201.1 innings with a 94 ERA+ and 4.35 FIP.
Meanwhile, Kazmir was emerging as a top of the line starter for the Rays. He was a two time All-Star in his six years there, lead the league in strikeouts in 2007, and he helped pitch the Rays to the the 2008 and 2009 postseasons.
To be fair, Kazmir did eventually have injury problems. He recovered from them, and he was an effective starter again. He would then get injured again with his fastball dropping into the 80s leading to his eventual release in the 2017 Spring Training. He didn’t retire, and now, he is attempting a comeback.
— Kevin Poppe, CSCS (@TheKevinPoppe) February 8, 2020
With his being away for a few years, Kazmir has had time to heal and get his fastball back. If you revisit his 2016 season, his last healthy one, Baseball Savant rated extremely well in terms of strikeout rate, hard hit rate, and exit velocity. Point is, when healthy, he could pitch.
At least, right now, he appears healthy. With him now working out for teams, we will soon find out if he can pitch like he did in 2016. If so, the team who takes a chance on him could benefit.
With his being away from the game for a few years and his durability concerns, it would seem Kazmir belongs in the bullpen, which is where the Mets argued he belonged all along. If that is the case, teams should push hard to sign him.
Fact is with the new three batter reliever rule, teams will need left-handed relievers who can pitch to both right-handed and left-handed batters. Like most left-handed starters, that is Kazmir. Or better put, if healthy and has a reasonable facsimile of his stuff, that could be Kazmir.
In terms of the Mets, they really don’t have that type of reliever in the minors right now, at least not a Major League ready one. The hope is Chasen Shreve could potentially be that, but he has had shoulder issues, and he has not been the same. If nothing else, Kazmir would be extra insurance.
It could also right a wrong and could give Mets fans a little more excitement. Much like how fans rallied around Jason Isringhausen, who had a surprise rebound season in 2011, we could see the same with Kazmir in 2020. Maybe, we could see Kazmir helping pitch the Mets to the postseason like he did with the Rays and like Mets fans once hoped he would.
At the end of the day, it will likely cost the Mets just a minor league deal to find out. With that being the case, the Mets should bring him back to the organization.
When we saw the Yoenis Cespedes personal hype video perhaps we should have anticipated a media stand-off. Watching the video again, we see Cespedes’ working towards a comeback with negative media comments, mostly from Andy Martino.
As an aside, this isn’t too far from the similar issues with Noah Syndergaard and SNY wherein Syndergaard sarcastically said they were trying to trade him. This goes to the bizarre relationship between the Mets players and the team owned station and MLB owned sites covering them.
At times, the coverage seems unfair. That seems universal across all media outlets when you see how the New York media at times seems to go out of their way to mock the Mets players.
For example, there were the headlines and back pages mocking a serious Matt Harvey medical issue. To a certain extent, while beyond the pale, it wasn’t too surprising considering the sometimes adversarial relationship between the two.
If that was adversarial, we may need to find a new word for Cespedes, who is outright refusing to speak to the media this year. For his part, you understand.
Cespedes was oft criticized for his effort, and it was blown up to be more than his hustle. There were inferences you can’t pay him because he won’t play hard and/or he will be a distraction.
As we found out, the issue was his heels. He needed surgery on both, but like Mets before him, like Pedro Martinez, he was pushed into playing. Noticeably, you didn’t see criticism come crashing down on the Wilpons for this.
You also don’t see it for their own media freeze outs. But when, Cespedes does it, Anthony DiComo comes rushing in to make Cespedes decision seem like the right one:
I'm pretty sure a wild boar destroyed him, not the media.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 17, 2020
It should be noted this isn’t DiComo’s first offense. Likely won’t be his last. When he turns his dagger towards the Wilpons, at least in this nature, will be his first.
When you see responses like this, you move from saying Cespedes needs to handle this part of the job like a professional to saying maybe Cespedes is right here. Maybe, some people owe him an apology and fairer reporting.
Whatever the case, some of the reporting and inferences about Cespedes has been biased and unfair. Now, he’s taking matters into his own hands. Tweets like the ones from DiComo show us all his decision was at least justified.
This is going to come across as extremely hypocritical, but neither Jeff Wilpon or Rob Manfred should be allowed to speak ever again.
Wilpon did an interview with Steve Serby of the New York Post, and he gave little to no insight in things he’s done to plague the team, and he wasn’t pressed on anything. But hey, he tells us Mets fans are nice and supportive of him.
Manfred did an interview with Karl Ravech of ESPN, and in that interview he confirmed everyone’s worst suspicions that he’s a feckless mouthpiece for the owners, and at the end of the day, he’s overmatched for this job.
Yes, people like Wilpon and Manfred should have to explain themselves and their consistently poor and suspect decision making. They didn’t do it now, and really, they just raise more questions about their complete inability to lead. That’s probably why MLB Network had the foresight to show Bull Durham instead of airing this interview. Hopefully, interviews like this would be a signal these two are unfit to lead.
Sadly, it won’t, and these interviews only continue to prove Mets fans are in the worst of hands, and really, nothing is going to change anytime soon.
So, you might ask yourself, how could the general manager who traded away Jarred Kelenic along with three other prospects who have hit top 100 prospect lists to finish double digits out of first place possibly get worse?
Well, he hired a manager in Carlos Beltran and fired him before Beltran even managed one game. Van Wagenen would claim he had no idea the Astros were doing anything despite teams making complaints, Van Wagenen being a player agent, and his being good friends with now former Astros manager AJ Hinch.
While claiming his learning what happened was the reason for the decision, he would still trade two prospects to obtain Jake Marisnick AFTER Mike Fiers went public. Somehow, Van Wagenen has an issue with the Astros did, but not when it came to parting with more prospects to make this a bottom six farm system.
It should be noted that in addition to parting with prospects, the Mets are paying Marisnick more than what players like Billy Hamilton, Juan Lagares, and Kevin Pillar will make in 2020. Of course, anyone who read the market of an over abundance of glove first center fielders should’ve anticipated that.
Of course, part of being able to gauge the market is to actively be part of the market.
Zack Wheeler told @GJoyce9 of The Post he’s not surprised he never heard back from the Mets last December before signing his new contract. Why wasn’t he surprised? “Because it’s them,” he said. “It’s how they roll.”
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) February 13, 2020
This isn’t new. This is how the Mets do business. We all know this, and time and again, we’ve seen this coupled with a slight at the player. We’ve already seen that with Van Wagenen making overtures the Mets didn’t value him as high as the Phillies did.
Now, in his own small and petty way, he made things worse saying, “We helped him parlay two good half-seasons over the last five years into $118 million.”
Petty, ironic, and wrong.
The problem with @GMBVW is he even gets the easy stuff hopelessly wrong. He could’ve said:
It’s unfortunate Zack has some hard feelings about leaving the Mets. We were obviously disappointed we were not able to keep him a Met for life, but that’s the downside of free agency.
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) February 14, 2020
Putting all the stupidity and falsehoods in Van Wagenen’s statements, lets just look at what he did.
He took the $23.6 million per year Wheeler is making, and he gave it to Rick Porcello (worst AL ERA), Michael Wacha (bum shoulder), and Dellin Betances (one appearance). Their combined 1.3 WAR was dwarfed by Wheeler’s 4.1.
That’s besides the fact Wheeler was very well worth the money, had other offers for higher, and those teams believed the Mets weren’t getting the most out of their great pitchers partially due to their poor analytical approach.
As an aside, the texting, chair throwing, no ifs, come get us GM, has been trying to oversell the Mets big second half, and now, he’s maligning someone for having big second halves. Even better, Van Wagenen is able to sell that second half because of Wheeler.
In the end, Van Wagenen just continues to make everything worse. Fortunately, Sandy Alderson left him with so much talent, not even Van Wagenen can stand in the way of this team winning no matter how much he tries.
Well, that’s when he actually tries. As Wheeler will tell you, he doesn’t. That’s unless you’re a former client like Jed Lowrie, who no one knows if he’ll play again.
So far, Carlos Beltran and Alex Cora are the only 2017 Houston Astros who have had to face any repercussions for their involvement in the sign stealing scandal. That will change for 21 players as they will have to face their new teammates and explain their actions.
Can you name the 21? Good luck!
Marwin Gonzalez Jake Marisnick J.D. Davis Derek Fisher Tyler White Cameron Maybin Juan Centeno Tony Kemp Max Stassi Colin Moran Teoscar Hernandez Mike Fiers Cameron Maybin Charlie Morton Dallas Keuchel Ken Giles Michael Feliz Will Harris James Hoyt Francisco Liriano Tyler Clippard Jandel Gustave
Earlier this offseason, MLB Network rated Jacob deGrom as the best pitcher in baseball. It made a lot of sense because the reigning two time Cy Young Award winner is actually the best pitcher in baseball.
Over the past two years, deGrom leads all pitchers in WAR, ERA, FIP, and other categories including Cy Youngs. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, deGrom is clearly the best pitcher in the game, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
So naturally, after ranking deGrom the best pitcher in the game, which he is, MLB rated him as the best pitcher in the game when they ranked the Top 100 players.
Here is your Top 10! Led by…
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 14, 2020
Somehow, even with deGrom being the best pitcher over the last two years, and his already having been ranked as the top pitcher, MLB somehow changed course now naming Gerrit Cole a better baseball player.
There’s no rationalizing it either as Cole is an AL pitcher meaning you can’t even use hitting as a tiebreaker. Really, you can’t even stretch to try to rationalize this.
In the end, all you’re left with is Cole is now a New York Yankee, so people will vote for the pinstripes. That’s fine. They can do that and contradict themselves all they want for a pitcher who has yet to prove he can pitch in New York the way someone like deGrom has.
While that’s happening, deGrom will continue to prove his greatness, push for a third consecutive Cy Young, and further cement the fact he’s the best pitcher in baseball.
Since David Wright has retired, there has been some question over who should be the next captain of the New York Mets, or even if there should ever be another captain. In the event the Mets do ever seek to name a new captain, they have a roster full of homegrown players who could step up and be exactly that leader the next Mets captain needs to be.
The popular choice is Pete Alonso. That choice is inspired, and Alonso has shown himself worthy. In addition to a record setting rookie season, he showed himself to be a great teammate by and through his friendship with Dominic Smith, and he showed true leadership with the 9/11 cleats.
Another very worthy candidate is Michael Conforto.
In his five year career, Conforto has seen it all. He was the phenom how helped the Mets win the 2015 pennant. He was there for the Mets tearing down that roster to build it back up. He has handled his own injury problems, and he has been bounced around the outfield to suit the Mets needs.
He’s been a future superstar, a platoon player, a bust, an All Star, a what could’ve been, and finally, a good baseball player again who is a part of a team who could win the World Series.
More than anyone, Conforto knows what it is like being a Met when times are a good and when times are bad. In some ways, he had a career arc not too different than what we saw with David Wright, albeit on a truncated and less dramatic scale. On that note, Conforto was there when Wright battled back from spinal stenosis, and he was there to learn from him.
Conforto was also there learning from other leaders like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson. In fact, when Bruce and Granderson were traded away in 2017, it was Conforto who initially had to step up and fill the leadership void, something which became difficult as he dealt with a potentially career ending surgery.
It has become quite clear Conforto learned from people like Bruce, Cuddyer, Granderson, and Wright.
Right now, the biggest issue in baseball has been the sign stealing. That scandal has impacted the Mets as they have already lost a manager in Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game. One of their best pitchers, Marcus Stroman, has been quite vocal in his issues with the Astros sign stealing. While we haven’t seen public statements, there are reports Jacob deGrom and Edwin Diaz are similarly angry.
With J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick having been part of that 2017 Astros team, that could be very problematic for this Mets clubhouse. That is an even bigger issue with Marisnick doubling off Stroman in a specific game Stroman commented saying the Astros were “Ruining the integrity of the game.”
This is the type of situation which begs for someone to step up and tackle this issue before it is a problem either in the clubhouse or publicly. Right away, Conforto has stepped up and tried to take control of the message:
Michael Conforto said there won’t be any animosity from Mets teammates toward 2017 Astros Jake Marisnick and J.D. Davis.
“But I’m sure there will be conversations about it.”
Conforto was clear that the Astros crossed a line, but he won’t hold it against Marisnick/Davis.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 11, 2020
This is exactly what you need from a captain of your team. You need someone to have the savvy to disspell any notion of internal strife and have the status in the clubhouse to make sure that this will in fact be the case. In that statement, we see while he may not be the captain, Conforto remains a leader in that Mets clubhouse.
Conforto has indicated he loves being a Met, and he would be open to a contract extension. If the Mets step up and make him a Met for life, it would be fitting to also named him the next captain in team history as he is showing he is a leader, knows how to handle everything which has come the Mets way, and ultimately, he is the type of player and person who would make a good captain.