Musings

I Hope Uribe’s Alright

It’s fortunate that the Cleveland Indians Spring Training facility is in Goodyear, Arizona because Yoenis Cespedes seemingly has it out for Juan Uribe:

https://twitter.com/nypost_mets/status/705582411531362305

It’s hilarious that Cespedes would name a pig that’s a champion and name him Uribe. I can think of no more fitting tribute for Uribe. The man has been a part of multiple World Series winning teams, and we saw last year he has the heart of the champion. We also saw over the course of his career that there’s a little more of Uribe to love. 

Cespedes naming his pig Uribe shows how much the Mets players loved and respected not just Uribe but each other. It shows that the Mets will miss Uribe, Kelly JohnsonDaniel Murphy, and Michael Cuddyer. That speaks volume not just about those players, but also this team. 

Fortunately, a strong clubhouse remains. It’s going to welcome these new players, and they’re going to continue to be a strong tight-knit team that will hit the ground running once the 2016 season officially begins. 

I love this team. 

What If Murphy Accepted the Qualifying Offer?

Before teams were able to sign free agents, the Mets extended the $15.8 million qualifying offer to Daniel Murphy. We know that if Murphy would’ve accepted the offer, it would’ve prevented the Mets failed pursuit of Ben Zobrist. The Neil WalkerJon Niese trade doesn’t happen. Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would’ve had greater implications. 

During the cost of the offseason, the Mets signed Asdrubal Cabrera ($8.25 million), Jerry Blevins ($4.0 million), Bartolo Colon ($7.25 million), Alejandro De Aza ($5.75 million), Antonio Bastardo ($5.375 million), and, of course, Yoenis Cespedes ($27 million). Between the group of them, they are all being paid a combined $57.625 million in 2016. So right off the bat, the Mets spent this offseason. Therefore, it would not be fair to say Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would’ve prevented the Mets from spending money this offseason. 

Yet, it would be fair to say Murphy accepting the qualifying offer would greatly impact how the Mets proceeded with their offseason plans. 

First off, the Mets would’ve have to had to address Niese is some fashion. If the Mets kept him, Niese would’ve been owed $9.0 million or $1.75 million more than what the Mets are paying Colon. It’s possible the Mets could’ve kept Niese using him as a fifth starter until Zack Wheeler returned. At that point, he would return to the bullpen where he had success in the postseason last year

If the Mets were intent on trading Niese, it would’ve been interesting to see what the Mets would’ve received in exchange. Naturally, they wouldn’t have pursued a second baseman. Other than Andrelton Simmons, there wasn’t a shortstop of note who was traded in the offseason.  It’s fair to say Niese would have been insufficient as a trade piece to fetch Simmons. Instead, it’s more likely the Mets would’ve pursued a bullpen arm. 

In the offseason, the Mets signed Bastardo and Blevins to a combined total of $9.375 million. Judging by how early the Mets signed Blevins, it’s possible the Mets would not have signed Bastardo. Bastardo’s money likely would’ve been allocated to the hypothetical bullpen arm. So, it’s possible the Mets bullpen would’ve looked different had the Mets retained Murphy. 

However, the biggest change might’ve been Cespedes. Even without Murphy accepting the qualifying offer, the Mets initial plan in the offseason was to sign De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares. It’s possible with more money invested than they would’ve otherwise, it’s possible the Mets stop there and don’t add Cespedes. Where Cespedes goes after that would be anyone’s guess. 

It’s possible with the Nationals getting shut out on everyone else, they would’ve been in a position to offer a better deal to Cespedes. There may have been a greater sense of urgency too. Also, with the $15.8 million invested in Murphy, it’s likely the Mets wouldn’t have had the money to offer to Cespedes to prevent him from going to the Nationals. 

Overall, the only move the Mets made that should not have been impacted was Cabrera. Even with paying Murphy $15.8 million, the Mets still could’ve afforded to spend what they spent on Cabrera. As discussed heretofore, there’s no telling how else the Mets would’ve proceeded. We don’t know what else they would’ve or could’ve done. The one thing everyone can be fairly confident about is Cespedes likely would’ve signed with another team. 

While I still maintain that Murphy returning on a reasonable deal would’ve been better than the Walker-Niese trade, Murphy not accepting the qualifying offer was the best thing that happened to the Mets this offseason. 

Not Looking Forward to Facing Murphy

In about one hour, the Mets will play their first Spring Training game of the season. It also marks the first time the Mets will face Daniel Murphy as a member of the Nationals. 

It’s a good thing the game will not be televised because I’m not sure my eyes can handle it. I’m hoping the sound of Howie Rose on the radio will prevent my ears from bleeding. For everything Murphy did for the Mets, he’s now with the Nationals. His reward is a big contract and the right to face Mets pitching 19 times a year. 

It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out over the course of the season. The Mets have three legitimate aces and two pitchers who have the talent to develop into aces. They’re going to strike out a lot of people over the course of the season again. They’re going to give hitters fits again. 

However, as we learned over the past seven plus years, Murphy is not your average player. At times, he would leave you scratching your head. As much as I wish him good luck and want him to succeed, I hope he won’t leave Mets fans scratching their heads 19 times this year. 

Murphy worked with Kevin Long to increase his power while cutting down on his strikeouts. Last year, Murphy was the toughest batter to strike out in the major leagues. For all the talk about the Mets throwing 95+ MPH, it might not work as well against a contact hitter like Murphy. In fact, Murphy has “an extremely low likelihood to swing and miss” at fastballs. When Murphy faces a fastball, he tends to be aggressive, make contact, and generate some power

The next best pitch Mets pitchers are said to have is the slider, or as it has been named, the “Warthen slider.”  Murphy is more apt to swing and miss against sliders than any other pitch.  With that said, Murphy generates more power against sliders than any other pitch. 

So as we saw in the postseason, Murphy may prove to be the kryptonite against the Mets superhuman pitching. It’s going to be tough watching Murphy attempt to recreate his October run 19 times during the regular season. It’s going to be tough to watch. 

The Mets 30-30 Drought Will Continue

In 1987, Howard Johnson and Darryl Strawberry became the first Mets to have a 30-30 season. HoJo would do it again in 1989 and 1991. The Mets would not have another 30-30 season for another 16 years when HoJo was the Mets hitting coach. 

In 2007, under HoJo’s tutelage, David Wright joined the 30-30 club. Since that time, the Mets organization once again has had a drought. Over the past nine years, the Mets have not had a 30-30 season. It’s not that surprising. 

What is surprising is that with all the young exciting talent in baseball, the sport is in the middle of a drought of 30-30 players. As Andrew Simons reports on MLB.com, baseball is in the midst of a drought of 30-30 players. Since the aforementioned 1987 season, there was a 30-30 player every year until 2012. Baseball has not seen one since. 

Looking at the Mets roster, Wright is the only player who has had a 30-30 season. Looking over the Mets roster, Wright is the only player that has had a 30+ homerun season and a 30+ stolen base season. He hasn’t had a 30 homerun season since 2008. He hasn’t had a 30 stolen base season since 2007. With his back, no one should anticipate Wright accomplishing either of those tasks let alone both in one season. Overall, if baseball is going to have a 30-30 player this year, it’s not going to come from the Mets. 

That’s fine. It’s a statistical anomaly that has little correlation to successful teams. As we see with 1987, 1989, 1991, and 2007, those 30-30 seasons did not lead to playoff berths.  Seeing a player accomplish a 30-30 season is fun, but it’s not as fun as a playoff berth. 

Cespedes Is Becoming Cerrano

In the movie Major League, Pedro Cerrano freaked out the young guys in the clubhouse because he was trying to sacrifice an animal in his attempt to help the Indians win the pennant:

  

(By the way, this is an iconic scene. How is it not available on YouTube?)

Like his fellow Cuban, Yoenis Cespedes is sacrificing animals to help the Mets. 

Like Cerrano, people have stepped in to prevent the sacrifice from taking place. Seriously, vegan bacon?  At least Jake Taylor got a bucket of KFC. 

With the attempted animal sacrifices and the raw power, it appears Cespedes is turning into Cerrano. Where does it end from here?  Does Cespedes have trouble hitting curveballs?  Does Cespedes use the covers from his golfbag to keep his bats warm?  

  

No matter what, I just hope he doesn’t lose his marbles:

 https://youtube.com/watch?v=8Mve0zRiw6w 
If he loses his marbles, and he cannot hit a curveball chances are he’s going to have to go to Japan to try to resurrect his career. There they will refer to him as “The Hammer” instead of “La Potencia.”

 

But I guess the ending isn’t all bad for Cespedes. From there, he somehow will become the President of the United States (even if he wasn’t a natural born citizen) before becoming a high profile insurance salesman

All joking aside, Cespedes has kept Spring Training fun. Lost in this shuffle is the fact that the $7,000 Cespedes paid for the pig went to charity, and he ultimately had no control over what happened to it. I’m glad Cespedes is back with the Mets, and I hope like in Major League II, the Mets can climb that last hurdle. 

Mets fans have been waiting a long time for a World Series.  I’m sure we’ll all be happy to sacrifice a chicken or a pig if that’s what it takes. Heck, I’d even try some of that vegan bacon. 

“One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out” adapted from Dr. Seuss 

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday, here is my adapted Mets Dr. Seuss story to read with your little Mets fan.

   

 
 
“One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out”

One Strike. Two Strikes. Three Strikes. You’re out. 

Yes. Some are curves. And some are fast. Some are slow. Some are from Matz. 

Some are from Jake. With strikes batters take. Even if these are batters that rake. Why do batters who rake take pitches from Jake?  I do not know. Maybe the pitch did break. 

Some pitchers are thin. Colon is fat. The fat one can pounce off the mound with the agility of a cat. 

From here to there, from here to there, strikeouts are everywhere. 

Some strikes bring heat. The heat is neat and sends batters to their seat. 

Oh me!  Oh my!  Oh me!  Oh my!  What a lot of strikes go by. 

Some are two seamers. Some are four. Some are just mean and batters want no more. 

How do they do it?  I cannot say.  But I bet the pitchers trained very hard along the way. 

We see the pitches come. We see the pitches go. Some are fast. And some are slow. Some are high. And some are low. Not one of them is like another. Don’t ask us why. Go ask your mother. 

Say!  Look at the strikeouts?  One, two, three . . . .  How many strikeouts do I see?  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. The pitcher has eleven. Eleven!  That’s nothing new. The next pitcher will do it too!

Swing!  Swing!  Swing!  You ever see such a thing?  Not one swing hit anything. But we know the pitchers have the ball on the string. The string makes the ball do anything. So . . . if you like to Swing! Swing! at anything just swing at the ball on a string and the strikeouts will sting. 

Who am I?  My name is Thor. When I strike someone out. I want more. It is so good. It is so right. The batters strike out all day and night. And when I strike them out, Oh Dear!  The batters have had it up to here!

We like the strikes. We like them in threes. Each strike sets up a hitter, you see. We like the strikes and this is why: the strikes makes outs and batters go bye-bye. 

Hello there, Zack. How do you do? Tell me, tell how do you plan your attack?  How did you do that?  Was the pitch new?  Please tell me Zack. I do not like this batter at all. A lot of strikes the umpire did call. A National, a Phillie, a Marlin, a Brave. Oh!  He’s out!  The strikeout was my fave!

Oh dear!  Oh dear!  The batter is in fear. How does the pitcher throw that sphere?  Why did the crowd just cheer?  It seems another strike out is near. Say look!  The ball did reappear. But he is out. So you can cheer. Again, cheer for the strikeouts my dear. 

The batter is old. The batter is cold. The pitcher has a pitch that is bold. The pitch is off. The batter will fold. The pitch is off. The batter did fold. The pitcher’s pitch was bold. The batter is cold. The batter is old. And now the story of the at bat has been told. 

The batter took a look. His confidence is shook. On the pitch, he did look.  On the pitch, he did look. It was a hook, and the confidence was shook. We saw him sit and give a look. He took a look at the hook and he shook. The hook did the deed for the pitch the batter just took. SO . . .  what good is a look at the hook he just took?

The batters were out, and they’ll lose some sleep. But not even counting sheep will help them sleep. By the light of the moon, by light of the star, they struck out all night on pitches near and far. They would never walk. Sitting in the dugout they are. 

I do not like this ump so well. All he does is yell, yell, yell. This game is turning into a route. When the Mets strike all the batters out. The batters are quiet as a mouse. All they can do now is rouse. 

At our house, we have stands. Those stands are full of fans. With two strikes, the fans give the pitcher a hand.  Hands from fans is very good. Have you heard a hand from fans?  You should. 

I like to play. How I like to play!  So, if I may, I play everyday. In May, I play everyday. I play everyday in May. 

It is fun to win if you win with a grin. I grin and win with pitchers who do everything.  I grin wide, and the batters heads hang low, their swings were so bad, and too slow. 

This batter I think will blink.  His strikeout will be written in ink. He really does stink. He hates to stink, and stink, and stink. The stink makes his face turn pink. The pink from the stink is after a pitcher’s wink. The batter hates the stink, the pink, and the wink. SO . . . if you really stink, the pitcher will give you a wink, after the strikeout is written in ink. 

Hop!  Hop!  Hop!  The batter went plop. Familia likes to hop from batter flop to batter flop. Familia hops from the mound and then . . . Hop!  Hop!  The ball goes from the catcher to third and around. Familia likes to hop all day and night from mound to ground and ground to mound. Why does he hop, hop, hop?  The rally did stop. 

Shush!  Shush!  Shush!  Shush!  Groan!  Groan!  Groan!  Groan!  Pitchers have fans making hitters shush and groan. All batters who shush and groan will have better luck when they return home. 

Who is this Met?  Say!  He doesn’t break a sweat. You may never yet met a Met, I bet, who will let a batter make him sweat. 

Did you ever make a batter see red?  Did you ever strike a batter out and send them to bed?  Did you ever have a batter shaking his head wondering how?  Well, Mets pitchers can do it. They know how. If you ever did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good. 

Hello!  Hello!  Are you there?  Hello?  You’re up to bat, hello! I said hello. Can you hear me Joe?  Oh no. I can not hear you at all. I did not hear your call at all. I was not paying attention; want to know why. I’m not willing to face a Mets pitcher. Good-bye!

From near to far, from here to there, the Mets are striking batters out everywhere. These young Mets are called aces. They strike out the batters each one faces. Their pitches are fast . . . so fast, they say, they strikeout batters everyday. 

Who am I? I’m the Dark Knight. I throw the ball with great might. My slider has bite and the spin is real tight.  When I pitch to strikeout a batter without much fight, I pitch the ball at the right height. Then I say, “You have no fight against a slider that will bite!”  And I give batters great fright as they strike out all night. So . . . if your plight is my might all night, you might swing with fright at the pitches from the Dark Knight. 

Our house is a place called Citi. During each game all we feel for batters is pity. Would opponents like to play against our pitchers in a game?  Come down!  There’s only one great pitching staff in town. 

Look at we did in the park in the dark. We only win at home. A visitor’s chances of winning are stark. We will win at our house. The win totals will grow and grow. All of baseball will take notice. Our pitching prowess will you will soon know. 

And now good night. It is time to sleep. Our pitchers will soon put you to sleep as the hole you’re in is too deep. Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one. Every day, from here to there, Mets pitchers are striking out batters everywhere. 

2016 Is a Big Year for Juan Lagares

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Juan Lagares was coming off a 5.5 WAR season and a Gold Glove. There was discussion about him being the leadoff hitter in 2015.  He seemed to be ready to take the next big step in his career. 

Instead, Lagares regressed in every aspect of his game. His epic defense noticeably slipped. His batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage dropped. Eventually, he forced the Mets to trade for an outfielder at the trade deadline. A player that was supposed to have a breakout year became a platoon player and a late inning defensive replacement. 

The Mets tried to trade Lagares at the deadline. The initial plan was to sign Alejandro De Aza to play a platoon with Lagares. When it became apparent the Mets could sign Yoenis Cespedes on a short term deal, they moved to get that done. That makes Lagares a fourth outfielder, at best, and a defensive replacement in 2016. Apparently, he has an untradeable contract. 

That begs the question of what will be Lagares’ future with the Mets?

As noted in 2016, it will be as a bench player and late defensive replacement. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Will he be able to build off a strong postseason?  Will his elbow heal sufficiently enough to permit him to throw better in the outfield and/or swing the bat better?  The Mets hope the answer to all these questions is yes. 

Cespedes has an opt out after this year, and he could be out the door after this season.  Curtis Granderson is only signed through 2017. Furthermore, he’s going to be 35 by Opening Day. Who knows if Brandon Nimmo will ever become a major leaguer let alone a starting outfielder? Also, as noted, Lagares may have an untradeable contract. He’s due to make $4.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018, and $9.0 million in 2019. 

Personally, I’m still high on Lagares. He showed a lot in the postseason. He should be able to become the best defensive center fielder in baseball again. He’s got another year to work with Kevin Long to see if he can help Lagares maximize his offensive abilities. 

Lagares is going to get his chances this year. He should play in almost every game to provide late inning defensive help. He should get starts against lefties allowing Granderson or Michael Conforto a day off. So yes, Lagares will be a bench player in 2016, but he will also have plenty of opportunities to improve. He will have plenty of opportunities to show the Mets he’s an important part of the Mets’ future. 

Hopefully, this year, Lagares will take that step forward we were all hoping he would take last year. 

Piazza’s Future Role with the Mets

I don’t care what is happening. The Mets could be coming off a World Series appearance. The Mets could have traded everyone away in Marlins fashion. It doesn’t matter. It’s always good to see Mike Piazza with the Mets. 

He’s back as a special instructor. He is there to work with Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki. It makes sense to have a Hall of Fame catcher work with a budding All Star and prospect. Terry Collins intends gave Piazza more latitude than just working with the catchers. For example, Piazza took the time and the initiative to talk with Yoenis Cespedes about being a superstar in New York. 

With his appearance at Spring Training, it did get me thinking about when and if Piazza would ever manage in the big leagues. 

Right now, the Mets manager is Terry Collins, and there is no reason to believe that’s going to change soon. Collins received a two year extension. He supposedly wants to manage these next two years and then retire. The question them arises as to who the next Mets manager will be. 

One trend that never seems to go away is hiring a former star to lead the team. Robin Ventura manages the White Sox. Paul Molitor manages the Twins. Ventura had no managing experience. Molitor had experience as a minor league instructor

Piazza only has experience as the hitting coach for Team Italy. He has been well regarded in his work as the hitting coach. He has also worked with catchers and ran instructional clinics. This year has been his first year back at Spring Training with the Mets in two years. Most likely, this stint is the Mets inviting their Hall of Famer to spend time with the team. Who’s to say it can’t be more. 

At one point in time, Piazza stated he envisioned returning to baseball in some capacity. He has always kept in touch with the Mets. As of right now, he’s enjoying his time, but he wants to let this team get ready for the season. He’s not overstaying his welcome. He seems content with a few days in Spring Training for now. Maybe with young children that’s all Piazza will ever want. 

Two years is a long time. If Piazza wants to return to the Mets in a full time capacity, the door should always be open. No, they shouldn’t hand him a manager job. Still, there’s always room for a person with Piazza’s baseball acumen and ability to handle New York. He may just want to be a special instructor. 

No matter what that future role may be, it’ll be great to see Piazza in a Mets uniform imparting his wisdom to the next generation of Mets players. 

Somehow Cespedes Buying a Pig Isn’t Strange

Sometimes Spring Training stories can be mundane, but we read them anyway because we’re desperate for anything baseball related this time of year. Other times, as Adam Rubin reportsYoenis Cespedes buys a pig for $7,000. 

It’s not as strange as it sounds. Cespedes was wearing a cowboy outfit when he purchased it. 

Cespedes rules. 

It’s at the point where nothing Cespedes does now will surprise me. He spent the beginning of Spring Training showing off his car collection.  Now that he’s out of cars to premiere, Cespedes is now purchasing livestock. Today was a big. Tomorrow may be a cow. Hopefully, he will purchase a goat as there is a Murphy missing from this Spring Training. 

I wouldn’t be shocked if Cespedes buys more animals and creates a petting zoo. Maybe he will have a luau. I can see him naming the pig Babe and taking him to New York City. Cespedes’ quirky behavior has been a lot of fun in what is usually a boring time of the year. So far, year two of Cespedes has been fantastic. 

Hopefully, this year Cespedes winds up a champion like the pig he just purchased. 

(Photo from the Cut4 Twitter account) 

Cespedes is Piazza 2.0

When Mike Piazza first came to the Mets, he was treated as the rock star he was. With him finally came the dreams of postseason berths and World Series titles. 

Then something bizarre happened. He struggled, and he was booed. I still don’t understand it, but it happened. Piazza was incredible when he came to the Mets. With the Mets floundering, Piazza took his play to another level carrying the Mets ever so close to the Wild Card. With the treatment he received, Piazza had every reason to walk, but he didn’t he stayed. He wanted to be a superstar in the biggest market. 

This is why he’s the perfect person to give advice to Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes came to the Mets, and he was a rock star. His coming to the Mets coincided with them taking control of the NL East. Unlike Piazza, Cespedes never received the boos. To that extent, he was a bit lucky. After Cespedes was hit on the hand, his play declined. He went from Babe Ruth to Mario Mendoza. In the final 18 games of the 2015 season, he only hit .220/.288/.373 with one homerun and four RBI. However, the NL East was sown up. He wasn’t going to receive boos. 

The closest anyone would come was in the World Series. He missed player introductions before Game Three. After an uneven postseason, he fell apart in the World Series. He misplayed Alcides Escobar‘s flyball into an inside-the-park homerun. He hit .150/.143/.150 with six strikeouts in the series. Perhaps it was the shoulder injury. Maybe it was the moment. 

No one would boo. Fans don’t boo you in the postseason unless you’re Bobby Bonilla. However, his play was poor enough that fans were initially ready to let Cespedes walk. 

However, with an initially less than optimal offseason, Mets fans wanted Cespedes back. He wanted to come back too. All of what drove Mets fans crazy has been forgotten. Fans are re-embracing him. They love the cars. They love his little quirks. It’s a second honeymoon. That doesn’t mean that the fans won’t boo him this upcoming season. 

Cespedes is notoriously streaky. As far as fans are concerned, he’s the face of the team. One long cold streak coinciding with a struggling Mets team could bring out the boo birds instead of the parakeets. It’s exactly what Piazza had to deal with 18 years ago. It’s the reason why Cespedes and Piazza need to talk. 

Piazza can walk him through what it means to be a superstar in New York.  He can tell him how to deal with the booing. He can share how the fans lifted him up when he needed it. He knows the ins and outs of being the a superstar on the Mets. That’s what Cespedes is now. 

Fortunately, Cespedes has a Hall of Famer he can lean on to prepare for it.