Back in 2005, Pedro Martinez was having a Cy Young caliber season that was about to be cut short due to a toe injury. From Rick Peterson to Willie Randolph to the training staff, they all agreed with the Mets out of the race, Pedro should shut it down for the rest of the year. However, there was one person that didn’t agree – Jeff Wilpon.
As Pedro would later tell in his the eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon approached him telling him to pitch to help the Mets sell-out a September 22nd game against Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins. Pedro protested leading to an argument where Pedro even offered to give back the rest of his contract. Ultimately, he pitched because, as Wilpon told him, “While I’m the boss here, you’re going to have to do what I say.” (Tyler Kepner, New York Times).
While we can never be sure of the root cause of the injury, this moment resonates as Pedro would suffer a torn rotator cuff making him unavailable for the 2006 postseason. That was one of many what-ifs that happened that year.
Fast forward a decade.
Last year, Steven Matz had what was described as a massive bone spur the team knew needed to be removed surgically. Rather than have the surgery right away, Matz was pumped full of cortisone shots, told to scrap the slider, and pitched until he could no longer pitch. The odd thing is Matz initially didn’t want to go this route.
As Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported, “[Matz] was seriously considering surgery, and maybe even leaning that way, before a meeting with the Mets brass.” Sound familiar?
During Spring Training this year, Matz had arm issues, which he self-described as a strained flexor tendon. The team disagreed with an unnamed Mets official with knowledge of Matz’s medical care telling Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, “Our [doctors] found nothing wrong.”
The answer was once again to pitch through the pain and to abandon the slider. Matz continued to pitch despite his elbow reportedly swelling to the size of a grapefruit.
One thing that is quite notable is a passage from Marc Carig’s Newsday column on the topic, “Matz insisted on powering through, perhaps in defiance of a reputation he’s gained for often being injured. And the Mets proceeded as if he were dealing with inflammation.” More damning was this statement, “One source described a belief by some in the organization that Matz was simply learning to get over the ‘mental hurdle’ of pitching through pain.”
Certainly, this wasn’t the first time we’ve heard people discuss Matz needing to learn the difference between pitching through pain and pitching hurt. Ron Darling has made the point a number of times during games. His manager Terry Collins previously said Matz needed to learn how to pitch through his issues. (Anthony Rieber, Newsday).
Seeing these comments, we should not be surprised the Mets were completely blind-sided by Matz’s recent ulnar nerve injury and need for surgery. It is even less surprising considering the team and team doctors dealt with the same issue with Jacob deGrom.
Seeing this happen time and again, we all look to point the finger at someone. Over the past decade, we have see a change at General Manager, manager, and pitching coach. The Mets have been affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is one of the top hospitals in the country. Many will point to Ray Ramirez, but he is actually well-regarded in his field. No, the issue is the Mets organizational culture.
In 2005, they forced Pedro to pitch. In 2010, they were livid Carlos Beltran had knee surgery, which turned out to be a necessary and possibly career saving procedure. Now, they have both pressured Matz to pitch and are surprised by his suffering as a result. Really, the only thing that isn’t surprising is the Mets culture not changing over the past decade. How can it with Jeff Wilpon still calling the shots?
With the solar eclipse happening, now is as good as any to create a Mets All-Time Solar Eclipse Team. These are players who are included due to their names and not because of their exploits. For example, the will be no Mike Piazza for his moon shots, or Luis Castillo for his losing a ball in the moon.
SP – Tim Redding
He is the great nephew of Joyce Randoph of Honeymooners fame where Ralph threatened to send Alice right to the moon,.
C – Chris Cannizzaro
Cannizzaro is the name of a lunar crater
1B – Lucas Duda
Lucas means light giving
2B –Neil Walker
Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon
3B – Ray Knight
Pretty self explanatory, first sun rays, and then night.
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera
Asdrubal means helped by Baal. Baal is a moon god
OF – Kevin Mitchell
Mitchell was one of the 12 men to walk on the moon
OF – Don Hahn
Hahn means rooster, which is an animal that crows at sunrise.
OF – Victor Diaz
His first and last name combined translate to day conqueror, which is effectively what the eclipse does.
Right around this time, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun bringing darkness across the country . . . or as Mets fans like to call it, the perfect euphemism for the 2017 season.
We’ve seen Noah Syndergaard go down for the season, and we are not sure when Jeurys Familia can come back. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were mishandled coming back from their injuries. Steven Matz had another injury plagued year. We never did get to see David Wright play this season, and we do not know if we will ever get to see him play again.
With the poor season the Mets are having, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Rene Rivera, and Neil Walker have been moved and are now playing for teams with an actual shot at the postseason. The moves didn’t bring back much, and there were rumors the Mets were more interested in salary relief than anything causing fans to go back to a dark place they resided at the inception of the Madoff scandal.
The thing is, the eclipse today will last just a brief time. Sandy Alderson has an entire offseason to get to work. If ownership lets him spend the money, and with a little help on the health front, the Mets dark period will last just for the 2017 season. If it is business as usual, this isn’t an eclipse – we’re back to the Dark Ages.
Right now, the Mets are just a bad baseball team. When you are a fan of a bad baseball team, it is sometimes difficult to find seasons to watch. Thankfully, there still remain reasons to watch the Mets:
Jacob deGrom – This year, deGrom has returned to pitching like an ace. No, he may not be the guy he was in 2015, but he’s still a great pitcher. You know with him on the mound the Mets have a chance to win the game. With his ability, anything is possible.
Michael Conforto – We have been watching Conforto have one of the best, if not the best, season a young Mets player has ever had. He will soon be the youngest Mets player to ever hit 30 homers. He’s showing how special he is taking on more leadership responsibilities in the clubhouse.
Chris Flexen – Very quickly, Flexen has gone from over-matched to holding his own. He’s just 23 and had just seven Double-A starts under his belt. Just holding his own at this point is remarkable. Sooner or later, he may just prove he belongs at this level.
Juan Lagares – One thing that really stood out in the Subway Series was this man can still play Gold Glove defense. In fact, he might be the best outfielder in baseball with his league leading 34.0 UZR/150. Metrics aside, it’s a joy to watch him play center field defense, and you never know when he is going to make his next great play.
Amed Rosario & Dominic Smith – They have essentially been presented as this generations David Wright and Jose Reyes or Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. If they’re at those levels, the Mets will quickly turn things around. If they are truly this good, we won’t want to miss a minute of them playing. To that end, we have already seen great defense from them, and they’ve already homered in the same game.
With that, there are five very good reasons to continue watching this team. Other than that, we can watch because we’re Mets fans, and we love our team. I know I watched the Jeff Torborg, Art Howe, or Jerry Manuel Mets teams, I can certainly watch this team.
The Mets organization is worse off today because it traded away Curtis Granderson. Simply put, you do not lose a human being the caliber of Granderson and are better off for it.
There’s a reason why he won the Roberto Clemente Award last year. He’s dedicated himself to helping others.
His Grand Kids Foundation has helped educate children in New York and Chicago and get them interested in baseball. To that end, he donated $5 million of his money to his alma mater, the University of Illinois, to build a ballpark where both the college and city kids could play baseball.
In addition to this, he’s an International Ambassador of Major League Baseball, a former ambassador for the Let’s Move! campaign, and is a spokesperson for the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Drink Up water initiative.
Long story short, Granderson is a great human being. Perhaps the only thing that could challenge Granderson the man was Granderson the ball player.
During Granderson’s three plus year tenure, Granderson established himself as one of the best free agent signings in Mets history. He was certainly one of the most important.
While Yoenis Cespedes got all the glory, Granderson was the most important player on that 2015 team.
For much of that season, Granderson was the only credible bat in that lineup. Between his offense, defense, and leadership, he helped keep the Mets afloat until the team for healthy and could make trades to make that run to the World Series possible.
When the Mets got there, Granderson was the best player in that series. In that series, he tied Don Clendenon, the 1969 World Series MVP, with the most World Series homers in Mets history. Each one of those homers by Granderson either tied the game or gave the Mets a lead.
On a personal note, Granderson’s home run is one of my favorite memories. It’s not just because I got to see it at Citi Field, it with my father and brother, it’s because of how my son reacted at home:
The 2016 season didn’t go as smoothly for Granderson, but there he was again when the Mets needed him most.
As the Mets were scratching and clawing to get back to the postseason, Granderson hit .302/.414/.615 with four doubles, a triple, eight homers, and 21 RBI over the final month of the season.
Behind Granderson’s play and leadership, the Mets did return to the postseason. In the Wild Card Game, his amazing diving catch robbed Brandon Belt of a go-ahead sixth inning RBI extra-base hit. That catch kept hope alive.
Hope was something Mets fans were allowed to have once Granderson came to the Mets as a free agent in 2014.
The Mets had a plan to build around all this pitching with only Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler being the only ones to make their debut. The question was really who was going to play behind all this pitching.
As it turns out, Granderson was the first one to sign on to be a part of all of this. He was going to be the guy to join forces with the pitching and David Wright to win that World Series. And the Mets were so close too.
They were close because Granderson did whatever was asked of him. One minute he was a clean-up hitter, and the next, he was a lead-off hitter. He would play all three outfield positions. This year, he willingly moved into more of a fourth outfielder, which allowed the Mets to give Michael Conforto more playing time.
To that end, Conforto seemed moved by the trade. He spoke highly of Granderson, and he made specific mention about how Granderson helped all the young guys on the team. What Conforto was describing was a true leader.
That’s the same leader Lucas Duda talked about in his Player’s Tribune article. Specifically, he stated, “Then when Curtis came over, that just made everything even better.” Duda went on to say, “I owe so much to Curtis and the other guys because they really helped me to grow up.”
The sheer mention of Duda should also elicit memories of the We Follow Lucas Duda Instagram account. The account was hilarious, and it always left fans smiling. That’s another area where the Mets will miss Granderson.
From the very minute he signed with the Mets, he endeared himself to the fans saying, ““A lot of the people that I have met in New York have always said that true New Yorkers are Mets fans, so I’m excited to get a chance to see them all.” (New York Post).
And Granderson really was excited to see Mets fans. If you’ve attended games, you see him doing more than any other player in baseball to interact with the fans. He took time to sign autographs and take pictures with fans. Occasionally, while in the on deck circle, he’d greet a fan or two.
Even before he packed his bags to head to LA to join the current World Series favorites, he took time to send a message to Mets fans:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 19, 2017
In every sense of the word, Curtis Granderson is a class act. If anyone deserves the opportunity to win a World Series ring, it’s him. Here’s hoping he gets it.
Thank you for all that you were and for the ride. The entire Mets organization was better for you being here, and you will be sorely missed by the fans. Hopefully with you being a free agent, you find your way back to the Mets.
If not, hitting a grand slam in your final at-bat is quite a way to end your Mets career:
— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) August 18, 2017
Good luck and thanks for the ride Curtis Granderson.
With Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes suffering injuries, we got to see Travis d’Arnaud shift all game between second and third base. With the Mets not wanting to be put in that situation again, the Mets have flown both Matt Reynolds and Gavin Cecchini to New York as a precaution. In the event both Reynolds and Cecchini are activated, it appears that Reynolds, not Cecchini, will be the one who will get playing time.
Before the game and before injuries were an issues, Sandy Alderson informed reporters he was inclined to give Reynolds a long look in September. Alderson also stated the team will not be giving Cecchini a long look at second base in September. Alderson’s statements could be interpreted to mean the Mets are now moving on from Cecchini.
In one sense, this shouldn’t be that surprising. After struggling at shortstop and with the rise of Amed Rosario, Cecchini was moved to second base. While he has been good defensively at second, he has taken a step back offensively.
Cecchini had a breakout offensive season in 2015 in Binghamton. He continued that success last year in both Las Vegas and the Arizona Fall League. Seeing him hit .267/.329/.380 this season, it makes you question what was the issue with him.
There are some plausible explanations for this. For starters, Cecchini’s 2015 and 2016 stats were partially fueled by a high .348 and .357 BABIP. Certainly, his being an aggressive contact line drive hitter with low walk and strikeout rates, he is susceptible to swings in his BABIP from year to year. To that end, it may not be such a surprise to see Cecchini see his BABIP drop to .329 this year and his offensive stats drop they way they have.
Another possible explanation is Cecchini has had to put extra work and attention to learning second base. With the Mets focus this season with making their players more versatile, Cecchini has also had to work on his play at shortstop. This is a plausible explanation as to why we have seen Cecchini struggle at the plate this year.
Still, this is a talented player. It was one of the reasons the Mets made him their first round draft pick (12th overall) in 2012. In his two brief stints in the majors, he has not been over-matched at the plate. Last year, he hit two doubles in seven at-bats. In his call-up this year, he had a four game hitting streak that included a home run off Clayton Kershaw. Seeing this, and how much the Mets have invested in him, it seems peculiar the Mets would just pass on giving him an extended look in the majors.
Then again, this seems to be a pattern with Sandy Alderson. He and his front office have truly struggled with contact hitters like Cecchini who have not shown power at a young age. Many will point to his decision to non-tender Justin Turner, but there is also the way the Mets have handled T.J. Rivera. The team continuously passed him over for players who did not pan out.
Cecchini may or may not be an everyday second baseman or even a Major League player. At this point, we don’t know, but it also seems odd to take that stance when he’s still just 23 years old, who has not been afforded the opportunity to receive the benefit of Kevin Long’s tutelage. There’s also the matter of the Mets giving playing time to Reyes, Flores, and Asdrubal Cabrera. In large part, the Mets know what they have in them, and for the most part, they haven’t been good enough to help the Mets win this year.
We don’t know that with Cecchini. It’s time to give him a chance.
Last night, the Yankees brought on Aroldis Chapman to close out a Yankees three run lead. After Wilmer Flores struck out to begin the inning, Dominic Smith strode up to the plate in what would be the rookie’s biggest test in his brief major league career. Seeing how he hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, and Rafael Devers hit a huge home run against Chapman in Chapman’s last save attempt, this was promising to be a very interesting match-up.
This is not the first time we have seen this play with Collins. During Michael Conforto‘s first two years with the Mets, Collins did not let his young left-handed hitter face left-handed pitching. Instead, he would bat Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, Justin Ruggiano, Ty Kelly, or really any warm body on the bench to prevent Conforto from facing a left-handed pitcher.
The end result of Collins’ refusal to play Conforto against left-handed pitching was Conforto actually struggling against left-handed pitching. Over his first two big league seasons, Conforto hit .129/.191/.145 with just one extra-base hit, a double, in the 68 at-bats he did get against left-handed pitching.
However, there was no reason to sit Conforto against left-handed pitching. His hitting coach, Kevin Long, found the notion that Conforto can’t hit left-handed pitching absurd. Conforto hit left-handed pitching in both his collegiate and brief minor league career. Still, despite Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching everywhere else, Collins decided to sit him against left-handed pitching.
When pressed on it, Collins said, “We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games. This is not a time to develop players.” (Barbara Barker, Newsday).
Assuming Collins is correct that you shirk the responsibility of developing young players because you have designs on winning a World Series, why is he now repeating the same tactics with Smith?
Currently, the Mets are 10 games under .500. The team has to win 62% of their remaining games just to get to .500. The team has already traded away Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, and Neil Walker. If an opportunity presents itself, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and Rene Rivera will find new homes before the end of the month. Put more succinctly, this team is not in a position where they are trying to win games – this is a time to develop players.
Pinch hitting for Smith the very first opportunity he gets to face a left-handed pitcher in the majors does nothing to accomplish that goal.
Overall, unless Collins is facing some delusions of grandeur, there is no reason to believe the Mets are winning anything in 2017. Smith is ticketed to be the Mets starting first baseman in 2018. To that end, the rest of the regular season should be dedicated to helping him best prepare for the 2018 season. Sitting him against left-handed pitching only hinders his development.
Maybe, just maybe Collins was never truly concerned with player development. Maybe in his mind young left-handed batters are just incapable of hitting left-handed pitching. It is likely the reason why he previously sat Conforto against left-handed pitching, and it is the reason why he’s doing it with Smith now.
It’s poor managing, and it has had a tangible effect on player development. Collins might have had his excuse with Conforto, but he doesn’t have that excuse with Smith now. If Collins shields Smith from a left-handed pitcher just one more time, the Mets are going to have to find someone else to manage. Simply put, you cannot permit Collins to hinder Smith’s development to win some meaningless games.
Last night, after the Yankees come from behind win over the Mets, their social media team went to work to try to mock Mets fans:
When your friend tries to say New York is a "Mets town." pic.twitter.com/mC7t98ttM7
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 15, 2017
Clearly, there are some issues with this tweet:
- If you’re going to say it’s a Yankees town, make sure you don’t use a picture with a lot of empty seats. Even if your premise is correct this is a Yankees town, you’re showing picture evidence that people still don’t want to go to your ballpark.
- They used a photo where literally no one is watching the game. Essentially, you’re saying New York is a Yankee town for people who have no interest in watching baseball.
- The person being laughed at isn’t even wearing a Mets cap. It’s just some generic baseball cap amongst a group of people mostly not wearing Yankees caps or shirts. New York may be a Yankees town, but no one really wants to identify themselves as Yankee fans.
- If you’ll notice the Yankees cap featured, it has the New Era logo on it. For those of us that follow baseball closely, you’ll know that this is something baseball started doing this year. Therefore, the Yankees are saying either: (1) New York is a Yankee town for fair-weather fans; or (2) Hey, it’s a Yankees town because the fans found Yankee Stadium again once the team got good again.|
- The Yankees are all letting us know they’re really bothered how the tides have turned towards the Mets recently. Last year, the Mets pulled better ratings than the Yankees. Apparently, it bothered the Yankees to the point where they felt the need to address it . . . but only after they won the game – not before.
You know, other than letting us know your fans are a group of fair-weathered fans who don’t like going to Yankee Stadium and aren’t much interested in baseball, good job letting us all know the Mets s are getting under your skin. Sorry, meant to say good tweet. Keep it up.
Baseball is a funny sport sometimes. On some level, it seemed like the 2017 season was going to be about the comparison between Amed Rosario and Gleyber Torres. You couldn’t help but compare the two. They were both shortstops atop nearly every prospect list, and they were going to be playing in the same city. If you remember, there was a short-lived time when comparing Rey Ordonez and Derek Jeter was actually a thing.
A lot has happened since Spring Training. For starters, Torres got hurt. In addition to that, the Yankees have seen the rise of Aaron Judge. He’s seemingly a lock for the American League Rookie of the Year, and he’s in the MVP discussion. When he won the Home Run Derby, there was some discussion about his being the new face of baseball.
In the other borough, the Mets have seen the re-emergence of Michael Conforto.
After a whirlwind 2015 season, including two homers in Game 4 of the World Series, Conforto busted out of the gates in 2016. He quickly became the best player on the Mets, and he was soon moved to the third spot in the lineup. Unfortunately, from there Conforto would injure his wrist, get uneven playing time, and face multiple demotions to the minors. He entered the 2017 season without a sure spot on the Opening Day roster. That would change with injuries and his play.
Conforto would emerge as the Mets lone All Star this season. Through 99 games, he has hit .285/.392/.576 with 19 doubles, a triple, 26 homers, and 64 RBI. He is on pace to become the youngest Mets player to ever hit 30 homers. His 152 wRC+ is the 12th best in the majors and sixth best in the National League. That 152 wRC+ is the fifth best among outfielders, and it is the third best among players under 25 years of age. The only two with better marks are Bryce Harper and Carlos Correa.
Simply put, Conforto is one of the top young players in the game, and his career has a tremendous upward trajectory.
That’s what happens when you’ve shown you can hit anywhere in the lineup. It’s the result of his being able to move past his struggles and be a much better player for it. His doing this while being bounced around the outfield is all the more impressive. The question for some is whether Conforto is a more impressive player than Judge.
So far this season the answer is no. Judge leads Conforto is every statistical category – traditional and advanced. With that said, between Conforto’s strong second half coupled with Judge’s struggles, that gap is narrowing. In the end, we don’t know how much it will narrow. Much of that depends on Judge’s ability to make the adjustments we already know Conforto is making.
If you ask as of right now, who is the better player, it’s Judge. However, if you ask who will be the better player going forward, the answer is not as clear. Most Mets fans will take Conforto, and most Yankees fans will take Judge. Both will be justified in their decision. In the end, the comparisons are fun, but ultimately unnecessary.
With that said, the comparisons will be unavoidable. That goes double for when it’s Subway Series time. Fortunately for Mets fans, the Mets will fare much better than they did in the Ordonez-Jeter comparisons. That will also be the case when the inevitable Rosario-Torres comparisons begin.
The Neil Walker legacy with the Mets is a complicated one. For many, he’s only to be judged as his not being Daniel Murphy. For others, they rejoice over the fact Walker coming to the Mets meant Jon Niese was no longer a Met (he would return). Putting aside who he was not, Walker had an interesting legacy as a Met.
The one thing that was obvious was when Walker was actually able to play, he played extraordinarily well.
Walker impressed everyone right away with a tremendous April last year. During his torrid month, he hit .307/.337/.625 with a double, nine homers, and 19 RBI. While the nine homers really stood out, what was the most impressive was his hitting from the right side of the plate. Although he was a switch hitter throughout his career, Walker never did much of anything as a right-handed hitter. That changed with him putting in the work with Kevin Long. Seemingly overnight, he became a power threat from both sides of the plate.
More than that, he was a very good defensive second baseman. While he may not have had the range he once did, he was a smart and smooth player out there. More than anything, he didn’t make mistakes or unforced errors. In sum, Walker was a pro’s pro at the plate and in the field.
After April, Walker’s play fell off a cliff. We’d soon find out the reason was Walker needed season ending back surgery. Many a game, Walker took to the field with numbness in his feet. Baseball is an extraordinarily difficult game to play. It’s even more difficult when you can’t even feel your toes.
In a somewhat surprising move, the Mets made Walker a qualifying offer. In a much less surprising move, Walker accepted it. The Mets tried to work out a long term deal with the player to try to stretch out some of the $17.2 million Walker was due, but for good reason, Walker didn’t want to reduce that salary even if he was sincere in his wanting to remain a New York Met.
Again, when Walker was healthy, he was productive with the Mets. In 73 games this season with the Mets, Walker hit .264/.339/.442 with 13 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and 36 RBI. Over the course of a 162 game season, those numbers prorated would have been 28 doubles, four triples, 23 homers, and 81 RBI. That’s tremendous production from the second base position, especially with the solid defense Walker gives you.
However, that was the issue with Walker’s tenure with the Mets. He was just couldn’t stay on the field. Last year, it was back surgery. This, year it was a torn hamstring.
Still, when we did get to see Walker play, we saw a good ballplayer. More than that, we saw a player who was great in the clubhouse. After Amed Rosario got caught up in a tough play that led to a Mets loss, Walker met up with Rosario before the players left the field to talk to him about it.
When he reported to Spring Training this year, Walker brought with him a first, second, and third baseman’s mitt to prepare for the season. Walker didn’t just want to just be a second baseman, he wanted to be someone who did whatever he needed to do to help the Mets win. We learned how rare a trait that could be in a player. Ultimately, Walker would see time at first and third. Eventually, this did lead to his being traded to the Brewers.
As a Mets fan, I want to see him go out there and do all he can do to take down the hated Cubs and Cardinals. As someone who has grown to really appreciate Walker, I want to see him succeed. In fact, with the Mets having holes to address this offseason at second and third, I’d like to see him return to the team. Until that point, here’s hoping he has a long postseason run.
Hopefully, this isn’t the end of Walker’s Mets career. If it is, I’ll appreciate him doing all his body would let him do, and I appreciate him trying to do everything he could do to not only improve as a player, but also to help the Mets win.