Farewell

Congratulations Jay Bruce

After a terrible start to the season, longtime Major Leaguer Jay Bruce has announced his retirement from baseball. In his 14 years, Bruce was a three time All-Star and a two time Silver Slugger. More than that, he was one of the most respected players in the game.

We saw that during Bruce’s time with the New York Mets. When Bruce first came to the Mets in a 2016 trade, he struggled mightily. Despite the struggles and adapting to New York as the team was desperately trying to fight their way to a Wild Card spot, Bruce would turn it on late in the season.

Over the final eight games of the season, Bruce was unstoppable hitting .480/.536/1.000. That stretch helped the Mets lock up the top Wild Card spot, and it lead to one of the funnier celebrations we have ever seen.

Bruce would return to the Mets in 2017, and he was great. His 121 OPS+ with the Mets that season would have been the third best offensive season of his career. The .841 OPS would have been his second best mark. Put another way, the Mets would get to see the best of Bruce, and it was truly a pleasure to watch.

It wasn’t just the offense or play on the field, it was the leadership. Bruce took young players under his wing and helped them. One player he really helped was Michael Conforto. He not only helped Conforto find his voice, but he helped him learn how to lead. The Mets are still reaping dividends from that to this day.

Unfortunately, the Mets didn’t win that 2016 Wild Card Game, and they fell apart in 2017. That would see many beloved players traded, and that eventually included Bruce. He’d go to Cleveland where he would have a good ALDS against the New York Yankees, but the Indians would lose that series.

Unfortunately, Bruce would never win that elusive World Series. He didn’t get it with the Mets in his first or second stint. He also didn’t get it with the Cincinnati Reds where he was part of a quite impressive young core of players. To this day, Bruce said the favorite moment of his career was his walk-off homer to clinch the Reds division title in 2010:

It’s unfortunate Bruce never did get an opportunity to play for a winner again after that 2016 season. He was a good player and better person you would have liked to see win at least one. He was a player who had a positive impact on many clubhouses and people. Each and every franchise was better for having him with their organization.

Right now, the playing chapter of Bruce’s career is over. It was a very good career, one with two top 10 MVP finishes. Based on how everyone has something positive to say about him and the impact he has had on many people, we should hopefully continue his career in baseball in some other capacity. The sport can use people like him staying in the game.

But for now, this is about Bruce the player. Congratulations to him on the end of his career and nothing but the best to him in the future.

 

Congratulations Daniel Murphy On A Terrific Career

Former New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has announced his retirement after 12 years. For seven of those years, he established himself as a Mets great.

When talking about Murphy’s career, first and foremost is the 2015 postseason. That postseason was not only the highlight of his career, it was also the greatest postseason performance we’ve ever seen from a Mets player with him becoming the first ever player to homer in six straight postseason games:

Part of that run was arguably the greatest game a Mets player has ever had. In Game 5 of the NLDS, Murphy went from first to third on a walk allowing him to score on a sacrifice fly, and he’d hit what proved to be a series winning homer off Zack Greinke.

Lost in that great run was the pitchers Murphy homered against. He wasn’t beating relievers or fifth starters. No, he was dominating Cy Young and postseason greats winners like Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, and Jon Lester.

That was the start of Murphy raising his game to become an All-Star MVP caliber player. Of course, that would come against the Mets in a decision Sandy Alderson admitted was a mistake.

While we focus on those years, Murphy was more than that. He was a 2014 All-Star. He was a rookie who helped keep the 2008 Mets alive. He was the first LF in Citi Field history, and he’d be the first Mets player to lead the team in homers in a season at Citi Field.

He’s third all-time in Mets history in doubles. He’s one of only three Mets second basemen to be an All-Star. He’s the only homegrown Mets second baseman to make multiple All-Star teams.

By WAR, he’s the second best Mets second baseman in team history. He’s the fourth best middle infielder. By what we saw in 2008 and 2015, he’s arguably the most clutch player in Mets history.

Now, he’s not just a former Met, he’s a former MLB player. He can now take time to spend with his family. As we found out in 2014, that was his priority as he missed the early part of the season to be with his wife who just gave birth to their first child.

On a personal note, I not only appreciated Murphy for his play on the field, but his kindness to me. When he found out my wife was pregnant, both he and Justin Turner helped get a Mets onsie autographed for my son. He also gave me a ball from Citi Field to teach my son how to post baseball.

In the end, congratulations on a remarkable career, Daniel Murphy. You gave us a great ride in 2015, and you gave us Mets fans plenty of moments we’ll never forget.

Good Luck Amed Rosario

With the New York Mets making a mega-deal with the Cleveland Indians to obtain Francisco Lindor, the Mets understandably parted ways with Amed Rosario. It is disappointing to see Rosario go, and it is going to be hard to see him breakout with a new team.

Rosario initially came to the Mets after signing what was then the largest ever bonus given by the Mets to an international player. Rosario sure seemed to live up to the billing when he rose to the level of coming the top prospect in the game, and he made his Major League debut at the age of 21.

What was clear from the outset with Rosario was he was an exciting and hard working player. He was someone who readily lived up to his mantra of “Don’t Be Surprised, Be Ready.” No, he may not have lived up to his potential immediately, but in the beginning of his career, you saw a player who had the skills to be as exciting as there was in baseball:

From there, we saw growing pains, which is understandable given his age and the state of the organization. Through all of that, we saw a player who made significant improvements in his defense, and we saw a player who made strides in terms of his pitch recognition. Here and there, we saw real glimpses of the superstar we all thought he was going to be. For example, there was his five hit game against the Atlanta Braves in 2019:

 

It’s probably in large part due to the difficulties presented by COVID19 and the limitations of the shortened 60 game season, but unfortunately, Rosario didn’t truly get the opportunity to build on that 2020 season. He struggled for the most part, but to his credit, he didn’t take those struggles onto the field. Like a real veteran and mature player, he continued to make strides defensively. He would also show us the potential was still there. In many ways, his unique walk-off homer against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium serves as his good-bye present to Mets fans:

It wasn’t the first walk-off hit in his Mets career, but it would prove to be the last. As Mets fans, we had hoped to see more of those moments during the course of his career, but now, he is a member of the Cleveland Indians.

For Rosario, this is a great situation for him personally. He gets to go play for a Hall of Fame manger in Terry Francona as he starts to enter the prime of his career. He gets to move on from being a franchise savior to being just another player on the team being given room to grow, develop, and shine. In this situation, he may well grow to be the All-Star and potentially the superstar we all hoped he would one day be.

If that happens, all Mets fans should be happy for him. Rosario was as hard working and as exciting a player as there is. He tried everything he could do to be a great player, and each year, he made definitive improvements. He gave the Mets all he had, and that deserves nothing put our respect and admiration. Good luck to him, and hopefully, we will see him be all the things we all thought he could be.

Thank you Rosario, and good luck to you.

Good Luck d’Arnaud

With Travis d’Arnaud struggling in his limited chances since returning from Tommy John surgery, he was designated for assignment. Instead of seeking to outright him to Syracuse, the Mets opted to release d’Arnaud. Now, d’Arnaud is reunited with Bob Geren in Los Angeles. It’s easy to forget now, but with Geren being the Mets catching coach, he got the very best out of d’Arnaud.

Back in 2012, the Mets would trade reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package which included d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. At that point, d’Arnaud was the best known prospect, and he was certainly a coveted one having previously been traded the Phillies to the Blue Jays so the team could obtain Roy Halladay.

The book on d’Arnaud was he was going to be a good hitting catcher. Being a good hitter or even a catcher was something which was next to impossible to ascertain when d’Arnaud was first called up to the majors in 2013. He didn’t hit at all, and he struggled mightily behind the plate. After that year, d’Arnaud would put his work in and become a much better player.

While the bat never quite materialized the way we anticipated, he did became very good behind the plate. We saw d’Arnaud become one of the best pitch framers in the game. It was one of the reasons why he was in the top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014, and it was one of the reasons why the Mets would take off in 2015.

Like he would most of his career, d’Arnaud would have injury issues in 2015, but he would be an impactful player when he was on the field. His elite pitch framing helped a staff featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and  Syndergaard not only win the division, but also go all the way to the World Series. It gets overlooked, but d’Arnaud didn’t contribute with his strong play behind the plate, he also contributed as a hitter.

In the 2015 postseaon, d’Arnaud would hit three homers. That included one in Game 1 of the NLCS which would actually hit the Home Run Apple, which led the Mets to put a temporary band-aid on it prior to Game 2.

Of course, the homers overlook his key moments in the NLDS. In a pivotal Game 3, it was d’Arnaud who hit the RBI single which tied the game in the second, and it was d’Arnaud who hit the three run homer in the third which helped the Mets begin to pull away. We also forget with the heroics of deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Daniel Murphy in Game 5, it was d’Arnaud who had the sacrifice fly which had tied the game setting the stage for the Mets to eventually take the lead and head to the NLCS.

After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud would deal with injuries including the torn UCL which practically cost him the entire 2018 season. Still, when he played, he was a terrific pitch framer, who was an asset to his pitching staff. He would still have the occasional highlight like his 16th inning homer against the Marlins.

One thing which really stuck out with d’Arnaud was how he was a team first player. In his tenure with the Mets, he wore three different numbers partially because he changed from number 7 to accomodate Jose Reyes when he returned to the organization. There was also the August 16, 2017 game which will live in infamy.

With both Wilmer Flores and Reyes unable to play due to injuries, and with Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds unable to arrive from Las Vegas in time for the game, it meant someone was going to have to play out of position. That player would be d’Arnaud, who donned David Wright‘s mitt while switching back and forth between second and third with Asdrubal Cabrera. The lineup card was a mess with it reading d’Arnaud played “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B.”

In the game, d’Arnaud would hit a game tying sacrifice fly in the sixth. Despite all of Terry Collins‘ machinations, the ball would finally find d’Arnaud when Todd Frazier popped it up to him in the ninth. With d’Arnaud securing it, he now stands as the Mets all-time leader in fielding percentage among Mets second baseman.

When it comes to d’Arnaud, aside from that magical 2015 season, he was never quite the player everyone hoped he would be. He battled injuries during his Mets tenure, and he was never the hitter everyone expected even if he was above average at the position. Mostly, he was very good behind the plate having been one of the best pitch framers in the game.

His Mets tenure ended with a whimper. While fans villified him for what he wasn’t instead of celebrating him for what he was, d’Arnaud opted for the high road thanking the fans and the organization for everything and expressing his gratitude to all.

While things ended poorly here, he is now playing for his hometown team. It is a team who has his former catching coach, who get everything out of d’Arnaud’s talent. He’s at the place where former Met Justin Turner‘s career took off. He’s playing for a very good team, a smart organization, and he will be put in a good position to succeed.

In his tenure, d’Arnaud was a good Met, and the 2015 run doesn’t happen without him. Despite everything, he never complained, and he was willing to do everything asked of him. Every Mets fan should wish him the best of luck. I know I will.