Musings

Mets POBO Search Is Going Just Fine

Based on the reactions, you’d think we were all on the verge of Spring Training, and the New York Mets still didn’t have a president of baseball operations. Seriously, people are already moving towards the LOLMets takes.

Believe it or not, it is only October 19. The Boston Red Sox lead 2-1 in the ALCS against the Houston Astros. The Atlanta Braves lead 2-0 in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. There is still a lot of postseason baseball to be played.

That’s partially why the delay. Out of protocols, they needed the Milwaukee Brewers to lose the NLDS before asking about David Stearns. They were predictably denied.

In the time preceding the Tampa Bay Rays losing the ALDS, their organization promoted Erik Neander. That made him unavailable to be interviewed.

They had the perfunctory conversation with Theo Epstein, and it took time to work through the channels to speak with Billy Beane. As expected, both turned down the job.

So what?

Rather than accept defeat, the Mets organization at least took a shot. Suddenly, that’s supposed to be a bad thing. It’s inane.

If you’re an organization with the revenue and resources should be trying to get the absolute best people they can. It only makes sense to wait for those people to be available and to work through the process.

It’s not even the start of the postseason, and for various reasons, the Mets couldn’t get the purported top targets. While this has been happening, the Mets have been compiling a short list of people they want to interview for the job.

That’s the important aspect which needs highlighting. The Mets didn’t whiff on the top targets and give up. No, they were prepared for this and are working through the process.

Now, if they want people from the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, they have to wait. Regardless of the takes you’ll see, that’s the process, and teams need to do things the right way.

Fortunately, the Mets have Sandy Alderson to keep the offseason moving and to insure things proceed as needed until the new POBO is hired. Alderson’s presence does permit the Mets to not have to rush this process, which is a good thing.

That said, there’s much to do this offseason requiring someone in place sooner rather than later. Seeing how this is all unfolding, we can trust that will happen.

TBS Doesn’t Need To Air Racist Chants

Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS are being played in Atlanta. Of course, that means the Tomahawk Chop chants. It’s an exceedingly racist chant which has been done at Braves games for over 20 years.

Keep in mind, this isn’t a new issue. It’s been a big issue since the Braves initial rise to prominence in the early 1990s.

It’s been an issue for that long, and it continues to be an issue. There are MLB players who have spoken out, and yet the practice continues. The Braves organization loves it and wants it to continue.

What’s baffling is knowing how Native Americans find it racist, TBS doesn’t attempt to drown that crowd noise. We also saw them come out of a break cameras focused on the neon lit tomahawk chopping up and down to lead the fans in the chant.

TBS wanted that on TV, and it’s a shame. They’re complicit in the racist acts, and you wonder where the line is. Would fans screaming racial epithets be on TV if it looks good visually? Sadly, the answer is yes

All-in-all, an embarrassing job by TBS. Shame on them.

Braves Win Game One Of NLCS

It’s bad enough we were forced to root for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The cacophony of racism disguised as chants rings through our ears.

The top of the ninth ended because of a Chris Taylor TOOTBLAN leaving Mookie Betts in the on-deck circle.

In the bottom of the inning, Ozzie Albies bloops one and steals second. He’d score easily on an Austin Riley walk-off. With that, the Braves take a 1-0 series lead, and Mets fans are left wondering why their front office punted the trade deadline thereby costing them of this opportunity.

Umpires Mar Great NLDS On Garbage Call

Like 2015, Wilmer Flores was the last man standing between elimination and celebration. Once again, an umpire made a horrendous call.

Back in the 12th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Home Plate Umpire Alfonso Marquez called Flores out looking despite the Wade Davis pitch being well off the plate. Truth be told that call didn’t impact the series as the Mets trailed 7-2.

That’s not the case in Game 5 of the 2021 NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers leading 2-1 in the winner-take-all game. Kris Bryant represented the tying run at first, and Flores, the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI was at the plate.

Max Scherzer was up 0-2 in the count, and Flores entered the at-bat 0-for-17 against Scherzer. And yet, there was still a chance. That was until first base umpire Gabe Morales made a call which had even Don Dekinger shaking his head:

As Jimmy Rollins said in the postgame, Morales is the only person on the planet who thought Flores swung. Curtis Granderson heavily inferred Morales choked under the pressure.

It wasn’t the only completely blown check swing call by Morales in this series. Going back to the Bryant fourth inning strikeout with five of six pitches out of the zone, it wasn’t even the only series changing blown call.

Put another way. MLB Umpires blew a call they can’t blow. It wasn’t close. It was an embarrassment to the sport. It needs to be fixed and corrected, but Rob Manfred and the Umpire’s Union has zero interest in that. Simply put, they don’t care AT ALL, and that’s why this garbage will continue to happen.

Wilmer Flores Is All That’s Left Worth Rooting For

Look at the postseason landscape. On the American League side, you have the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. So far, you have the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, and they are going to face one of the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers. While the series may be good, it’s not exactly an awe inspiring list of teams to root for to win the World Series.

Plain and simple, we know the Astros have cheated, and they have been unpunished and unapologetic about it. They are facing off against the Red Sox who have their own issues on that front, and they are led by Alex Cora, who was purportedly the ring leader of the entire operation. As we saw, Cora was fired for one year just for show.

When it comes to the National League, the Braves are the epitome of evil. Putting aside the history with Chipper Jones calling Mets fans closet Yankees fans, everything John Rocker, and really, every soul crushing loss, this is a racist fan base eagerly doing the racist Tomahawk Chop chant every game. Rooting for them is like rooting for the hunter in Bambi.

We know all about the Dodgers. There was the 1988 NLCS, and there was Chase Utley. They’re the team who signed Trevor Bauer. We should also mention they’re the favorite team of the Wilpons. No self respecting Mets fan should ever root for the Dodgers.

Understandably, Mets fans probably aren’t too eager to root for the Giants. After all, behind Madison Bumgarner and Conor Gillaspie, they beat the Mets in the 2016 Wild Card Game. There is also all things Barry Bonds. There is also Gabe Kapler, and the heinous things he has been alleged to do.

That should leave a Mets fan wondering what is left in this soulless landscape. Who is the hero who can emerge from all of this dredge? The answer is old friend Wilmer Flores.

Wilmer is the same player who cried at the very idea of leading the Mets only to win a walk-off homer his next chance. In fact, Wilmer has more walk-off hits than any Mets player. That’s a list which includes players like Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Beltran, Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, and David Wright. Really, Wilmer has brought us much more joy than we ever could’ve imagined.

Now, he’s the only player really worth Mets fans rooting for this postseason. While we understandably don’t have much reason to root for any of the remaining teams, that goes double for the Braves, there is every reason to root for Wilmer. Hopefully, he and the Giants outlast the Dodgers and the Braves en route to Wilmer winning a World Series ring. After all, if anyone deserves it, it’s him.

Lack of Aaron Loup Extension Inexcusable

You’d be hard pressed to argue Aaron Loup wasn’t the best reliever in baseball in 2021. Over 65 appearances, he was 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.935 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 9.1 K/9. Looking at advanced stats, he had a 422 ERA+, 2.45 FIP, and a 2.8 WAR.

His ERA was the best among all relievers, and that was backed up by his FIP being the eighth best. Perhaps more importantly, Loup backed up an impressive 2020 campaign which saw him finally learn how to handle right-handed batters effectively.

In 2020, Loup had what was then a career best year. Part of that was limiting right-handed batters to a .192/.246/.423 batting line. There was reason for skepticism with right-handed batters hitting .264/.332/.424 off of him in his career up to that point. Well, in 2021, Loup proved the improvement was real limiting right-handed batters to a .211/.290/.257 batting line.

This is a huge development. This means Loup is no longer just a LOOGY. No, Loup is an effective late inning reliever. That puts his value off the charts in an era where pitchers face a three batter minimum. Unless you get the opportunity to bring in a left-handed reliever with two outs, you need a reliever who can at least hold their own against right-handed batters. That’s easier said that done, and it’s all the more complicated when you’re trying to get innings from a pitching staff over a 162 game season.

The Mets were quite lucky getting Loup for just $3 million in 2021. Obviously, even with Loup turning 34 at the end of the year, he is going to get a raise and a multi-year deal. Obviously, he has more than earned it. It should also be obvious the Mets who are still short in the bullpen need him, and it may also behoove Loup to stick with Jeremy Hefner, who helped him continue his progress as a two way reliever. On that front, Loup has said he wants to return to the Mets.

In many ways, that just puts the ball in the Mets court. The season has been over for over a week, and Loup’s comments were well over a month ago. Still, there has been no reports of any news on a Loup deal. The longer this goes on, the more there is the risk Loup actually hits free agency at the end of the month and has a team blow him out of the water with a deal the Mets would not be willing to match.

Yes, there are a lot of pressing matters with the Mets. They are searching for a new president of baseball operations. They need to make determinations on making qualifying offers for Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. They are apparently trying to keep Luis Rojas in the organization. There is that and so much more.

However, as we have seen with Rojas and much of the coaching staff being dismissed, there are some things which absolutely need to be done now. Considering the state of the bullpen, his performance, and his desire to return, re-signing Loup is one of those things. Keeping him in the fold makes the job of the new president of baseball operations, whoever that will be, much easier when that hiring is official. It is long past time this deal gets done to allow the Mets to focus on other issues.

Mets need to re-sign Aaron Loup now.

Chaim Bloom Wouldn’t Have Traded Jarred Kelenic

There was always a lot of baseless narratives surrounding the New York Mets not hiring Chaim Bloom. We’ve heard that he was going to seek a rebuild instead of trying to win a World Series. We also saw assertions he was definitely going to trade Jacob deGrom.

Of course, no one knew this as fact. Yet, because those were the purposeful leaks in support of Brodie Van Wagenen, the myths have persisted. The other evidence presented was how Bloom traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. That persisted despite trading Betts being a condition precedent for any incoming general manager.

So, Bloom did what he was told to do. The end result of that was a dreadful 2020 season wherein the Red Sox finished the season in dead last in the AL East. Of course, there were mitigating circumstances. First and foremost, it was a pandemic shortened season. Mostly, Chris Sale missed the season due to Tommy John, and Eduardo Rodriguez suffered COVID induced myocarditis. You’re not winning with 2/5 of your rotation missing like that, especially in a 60 game season.

What happened from there was Bloom went to work. He brought in players like Enrique Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe. In his first full season at the helm, Bloom built a 92 win Red Sox team. That team beat the New York Yankees in the Wild Card Game, and they just defeated the defending pennant winners, the 100 win Tampa Bay Rays, to advance to the ALCS.

Meanwhile, the Mets hired Brodie Van Wagenen, who needlessly ravaged the Mets farm system. He did it for the glory of missing the postseason twice. He did it because he had no idea what he was doing. Now, the Mets have to live with the outright dumb and amateur decisions. That includes Zack Wheeler pitching with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Mets being saddled with Robinson Cano‘s contract, after he had his second PED suspension, while Jarred Kelenic had a big September for the Seattle Mariners. Of course, Cano’s contract is back on the books and Kelenic had a breakout just as Michael Conforto hits free agency.

Knowing what we know of Bloom, we really don’t know if he trades deGrom. After all, while he traded Betts, he didn’t look to move other Red Sox superstars, like J.D. Martinez, in the name of rebuilding or saving money. What we do know is Bloom did acquire a very good player in Alex Verdugo, who has been a key contributor to a Red Sox team now in the ALCS.

We also know from his history, he wouldn’t have traded Kelenic. The reason is he is not stupid. In fact, he’s brilliant. It’s how he built the core of that Rays team who won 100 games and is coming off a pennant, and it is how he built a Red Sox team which beat his old team in the ALDS. So sure, continue on with the false narratives about how Bloom would’ve traded deGrom while the Mets are trying to figure out how to fix what’s broken, and the Red Sox are winning.

Marcus Stroman Is Worth At Least $25 Million Per Year

There’s a report out there Marcus Stroman is requesting an AAV of $25 million per year in free agency. In some corners, there’s shock and derision at the number.

Such shock is absurd and rather dumb and misplaced.

Stroman is coming off a season where he made a Major League leading 33 starts (it was really 32) pitching 179.0 innings. He had a 133 ERA+, 3.49 FIP, 3.59 K/BB, and a 3.6 WAR. Over his last three seasons (2018 – 2021), Stroman has a 115 ERA+, 3.67 FIP, and an 8.3 WAR. It should be noted those stats were dragged down by an injury plagued 2018 season.

Since Stroman’s breakout 2016 season, he has been a strong performer. In 2016-2017, he had consecutive 200+ inning seasons. In four out of the past five seasons, he has pitched at least 179.0 innings. Stroman’s FIP has not exceeded 3.91, and his ERA+ has been 133 or better in three of his five seasons.

Starting from 2016, Stroman has made the 13th most starts in the majors with the 15th most innings pitched. He has the fourth best ground ball rate, and his FIP is 3.73 FIP over this stretch is the 53rd best in the majors. Considering there are 30 teams in the majors, that puts Stroman as a solid number two option in the rotation.

Stroman has a 14.9 WAR over this stretch, which is roughly 3.0 WAR per season. Notably, in three of the four seasons Stroman has made 30 starts, he has amassed at least a 3.2 WAR. Using a WAR/$ construct, the 3.0 WAR/season, is worth at least $24 million a year, if not higher keeping in mind WAR/$ tends to increase in value year-t0-year.

However, there is more than that with Stroman. Keep in mind, this is a big game pitcher. Case-in-point was this season. From August 6 to September 14, when the Mets were desperately trying to stay afloat in the race, Stroman was 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.071 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9. He also had a 2.70 FIP. Overall, he limited batters to a .224/.274/.329 batting line.

We can also point to his being the 2017 World Baseball Classic MVP, or his big performances for the Toronto Blue Jays in the postseason. While apropos, we at least pretend it’s more difficult to pitch in New York, and Stroman has proved he’s one of the few who doesn’t just pitch well here, but thrives here. When looking at it from that perspective, the Mets should be willing to invest a little more money towards Stroman than they would be willing to perhaps do otherwise.

If you looked and noticed from 2021, Stroman looked like a pitcher on the upswing of his career. He improved in many statistical categories, and he added a new pitch in his split change, and we saw tangible results. What we didn’t see was his working to mess with hitter’s timing like he had done in previous seasons. According to Stroman, during his Instragram live, we should very well see that return in 2022.

Overall, Stroman has shown the ability to stay healthy and to continue working on and improving his repertoire. That is something critical when looking to see how pitchers perform into their 30s and beyond. If you were going to bet on any pitcher to age well, Stroman is that pitcher, and if you are a team in need of a starter, like the Mets, Stroman should be your first call, and you should be more than willing to give him a $25+ million AAV. If you do, he will reward you with his normal work ethic and performance.

Mets Should Pursue Wilmer Flores This Offseason

One of the unforced errors Brodie Van Wagenen made was moving on from Wilmer Flores. Since Flores was non-tendered, he has been a solid player who never had the debilitating arthritis the New York Mets said he did.

Flores first went to Arizona before playing the last two in San Francisco. Over that time, he has a 3.4 WAR and a 116 OPS+. He did that while playing first, second, and third.

He’s proven to be a better fielder than we remembered. Over the past three years, he has a 2 OAA at first, 0 OAA at second, and a 0 OAA at third. Put another way, he’s a capable fielder who won’t hurt you.

Part of the reason for these numbers is Flores has been moved around not amassing large sample sizes. The other aspect is Flores played for far better analytical organizations than what the Jeff Wilpon led Mets were.

That’s the thing. This isn’t the Wilpon led Mets. This is a much better operated organization who compiles and analyzes data quite well, especially defensively. It’s why we saw the Mets go from a -154 DRS since their last pennant to a 44 DRS this year.

Certainly, this is a Mets organization who can effectively deploy Flores in the field. He could be the right-handed compliment to Jeff McNeil. Better yet, he could just be Wilmer Flores.

Flores was a player undaunted by playing in New York. He has more game winning hits than anyone who has worn the Mets uniform. Mostly, he’s a good Major League player who has a lot to offer a team as a quality depth option.

Honestly, you can do a lot worse than a passable and versatile fielder who is an above average hitter. For that matter, the Mets often do worse than that.

Of course, this comes with a huge caveat. The Giants would have to decline his $3.5 million option, which probably seems unlikely. Should the Giants make that choice, the Mets should immediately give Wilmer a call.

Mets Should Interview Peter Bendix For President Of Baseball Operations Position

The New York Mets have (fortunately) struck out with Theo Epstein. There are reports they are not going to be able to lure Billy Beane away from the Oakland Athletics. Historically speaking, the Milwaukee Brewers have never let anyone interview David Stearns because they don’t want him ever leaving the organization.

To wit, this means the Mets are at the stage of trying to find someone other than the superstar they hoped to land. It didn’t work last offseason, and it left them having Sandy Alderson operate in the role with a general manager (or two) working under him. It worked so well the Mets are back at the drawing board a year later.

When assessing who to hire, the first place you usually go to is the Tampa Bay Rays. It is an organization which just keeps churning out top of the line baseball executives. When the Los Angeles Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman away, Chaim Bloom became the superstar over there. When Bloom left for the Boston Red Sox, Erik Neander became the main man.

Neander was once thought of as a top target for the Mets. However, with his being promoted to president of baseball operations, he is effectively off the table. That leaves the Mets in a bit of a position of trying to decide where to go. Perhaps, the Mets should stick with investigating the Rays front office. In doing that, the big name which comes to mind is Peter Bendix.

Bendix, 36, was one of the trio of Rays executives who took on a larger role once Bloom departed for the Red Sox. Bendix has spent his entire career with the Rays since being hired as an intern in January 2009. He has worked in a myriad of roles. Prior to his current position as Vice President, Baseball Development, he served as assistant of baseball operations and coordinator of baseball research and development. In some ways, that’s the roles served by both Bloom and Neander before their promotions.

Over time, Bendix could be said to have become the proverbial right-hand man of Neander. Once James Click moved on to take over the Houston Astros, it was Bendix who was given an expanded role in the organization taking over the research and development staff. As MLB Trade Rumors noted when Neander took over for Bloom, Bendix was “responsible for making ‘effective connectors between perspectives,’ in addition to “bigger picture strategic thinking’ and broad ‘player personnel’ input.” Put another way, he has had his hand in everything.

Prior to the 2020 World Series, Erik Waxler of ABC Action News did a feature on Bendix wherein Bendix described his role with the Rays organization. Bendix described one of a collaborative and multi-faceted approach. On that, Bendix said, “A lot of the skills I bring are synthesizing and explaining information. Not necessarily just stats. Stats help. But so does the expertise of people who have been doing it for 30 years. So does watching video.”

One interesting story about Bendix was how he even got to the Rays. As written by John Tomase of Tufts, Bendix has always been trying to blend scouting and advanced data, much like he does in his current role. Bendix founded the Baseball Analysis at Tufts program as an undergrad. Also, while an undergrad, he did a research article on Leo Mazzone’s impact on the Atlanta Braves pitching staff, and he forwarded it to Bloom, who then recommended him for his original intern position.

Having started so slow and being with the Rays for so long, Bendix has had his hands in everything. That includes managing and expanding that database which was the story of legend during the Friedman days. When speaking of his roles and what it takes to get to where he is, Bendix said, “If you really want to make this work, you’re probably going to have to make some sacrifices along the way. If you love it, these are worthwhile sacrifices.” It’s clear Bendix loves the job.

When you look at Bendix, he thrives where the Mets are lacking. He knows better than anyone the marriage of data and scouting. Better yet, he knows how to analyze, interpret, and share information in an effective manner for coaches and players. He has had his hand in player development, and his role with the Rays is only increasing.

While you may deem him a bit raw or not quite yet ready, which may not be fair, this is where Sandy Alderson comes as a benefit. Alderson can act not just as a mentor, but also a shield when needed.

Overall, the Rays have very clearly not worked just because of one man. When Friedman left, it was Bloom. With Bloom gone, there’s Neander. It’s clear Neander isn’t the end-all, be-all for the Rays organization because that’s not how that organization operates. They get insanely talented and smart people, cultivate them, and they help them become great baseball executives. Looking at the organization, Bendix appears to be next in line, and that’s exactly why the Mets should be giving him a call.