Trivia Friday – Mets Santa Curse

Some teams have the Curse of the Bambino.  Others have the Billy Goat Curse.  Because they’re the Mets, they have the Santa Curse.  It was alive and well last year, and it seems like the Mets chose some pretty low hanging fruit this year.

Can you name all the Mets who have played Santa Claus?  Good luck!

Mets Santa Curse Names Plawecki As Its Next Victim

If you’re a Mets fan, you have become well aware of the Santa Curse. The origin of the curse is not known, although some may suspect it is related to the miserly Jacob Marley or Ebeneezer Scrooge ways of the Wilpon Family.

If you are one who does not believe in curses or other such things we cannot possibly being to understand, here are those who have played Santa and their fate:

2004 – Mike Cameron

In the 2005 season, Cameron would be limited by injuries. The worst of those came on August 11th as he and Carlos Beltran both dove for the same ball and had a violent collision. He was hospitalized with a broken nose, multiple facial fractures, and a concussion. He would never play another game for the Mets again.

2005 – Kris Benson

Benson’s turn as Santa was highlighted not by Santa but by Mrs. Claus. To many, Mrs. Claus would be the reason Benson would be moved to the Orioles. For his efforts, Benson was personally slighted, and he watched on from Baltimore as the Mets won their first division crown in 18 years. In the ensuing offseason, Benson discovered he had a rotator cuff tear that would all but end his career.

2006 – David Wright

Yes, by WAR, Wright probably had the single greatest season by any Met not named Tom Seaver. Still, do you really want to argue the curse was broken when Wright was one of the player who watched on as the Mets seven game lead with 17 to play evaporated?

2007 – John Maine

After successive pleasantly surprising seasons, it was Maine’s turn to don the Santa suit. What ensued was an injury plagued season, where doctors were able to notice the rotator cuff strain, but they completely missed what was described as the largest bone spur ever removed from a shoulder. That wasn’t discovered until his season ending surgery. Maine was never the same after that.

2008 – Mike Pelfrey

After looking like the pitcher the Mets drafted in the first round in 2005, he would get the first ever start in Citi Field history, and he allowed Jody Gerut to homer in the first official at-bat. It was just the start of a tough year for Pelfrey where he would lead the majors in balks, and he would tie an all-time Mets record for three balks in a game. As is that wasn’t bad enough, he finished the year as the first qualifying Mets pitcher to have an ERA over 5.00.

2009 – Jeff Francoeur

After struggling most of the 2010 season, he would eventually be relegated to the bench in favor of Angel Pagan once Beltran came off the Disabled List.

2010 – David Wright

After being a healthy and extremely productive player for his entire career, Wright would be limited to just 102 games after suffering a stress fracture in his lower back. Sadly, Mets fans know what has happened to him since.

2011 – Daniel Murphy

So far, Murphy’s 2012 season probably ranks as the only season where a player made it through relatively unscathed even if his numbers took a big drop from the ones he put up in 2011. Also, this was the season where Sandy Alderson first began to publicly mull the idea of trading Murphy, which was something that would follow the second baseman for the rest of his Mets tenure.

2012 – R.A. Dickey

Coming off a magical year with the Mets where he won his first Cy Young Award, Dickey was traded away to the Toronto Blue Jays. With the Blue Jays, he would win his first Gold Glove Award, but he would also come crashing back to earth going 14-13 with a 4.21 ERA.

2013 – Daniel Murphy

Murphy apparently learned his lessons from the first go-round as Santa, and he would become an All Star for the first time in his career. Still, none of that would shield him from the hysteria and criticism that would be levied his way by people like Boomer Esiason for having the audacity to be there for his wife when she gave birth to their first child.

2014 – Jenrry Mejia

After playing Santa, Mejia would test positive for PEDs not once, not twice, but three times. Only the Mets could have Santa permanently banned from baseball.

2015 – Steven Matz

With the Mets fresh off a pennant, Matz was a frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year. His dreams of winning that award or pitching in the postseason again were shelved when he had to have season ending surgery to remove what was described as a massive bone spur.

2016 – Noah Syndergaard

The invincible Thor refused to have an MRI, and he would have to leave an April 30th game against the Nationals with a torn lat. For all intents and purposes, it was a season ending injury.

2017 – Kevin Plawecki

With the exception of Murphy, no one has really gotten through the Santa Curse unscathed. Seeing what happened to the aforementioned Mets, it almost seems cruel to bestow this “honor” on a catcher who finally seemed to figure things out after struggling for over two years.

Breakfast With Santa Better Than A Mall Picture, Cyclones Breakfast Scheduled For 12/17

On Sunday December 17th, the Brooklyn Cyclones are hosting a Breakfast With Santa at MCU Park.  For $10 per person or just $30 for a family of four, this is an absolute steal.

If you are not sold, consider your typical Christmas picture with Santa.  You park only God knows where in a crowded mall parking lot.  After that, you have to wait in a long line with your children.  As we know the mall is hot, and your children are going to be cranky.  That crankiness goes up a level if you have them in a nice Christmas outfit.

This leaves you collecting winter jackets or imploring them to leave them on.  It’s a nightmare.  You then have to rally them when they get to the front of the line to stop being cranky, smile, and take a nice picture.  Depending on the age of your child, that may be a Herculean task because your child may be scared or intimidated.

For all that effort?  Well you get to take one picture which may or may not be good.  Even better, using the Short Hills Mall as an example, the whole exasperating experience will cost you $26 and up.

Instead of doing that, you could go to MCU Park and have an IHOP pancake breakfast.  You then get to do picture with Santa and the mascots.  Instead of standing in an interminable line, you child gets to do arts and crafts, have a story time, sing-a-longs, and have giveaways.

With this being 2017, the camera on your phone is more than good enough to take the picture yourself.  You can then order that picture through Walgreens, Snapfish, or Shutterfly for less than a buck.  Better yet, you can make that your Christmas card for the year.

Really, the question is why you would consider braving the malls this time of year instead of having Santa be a fun experience for your children.  It makes no sense whatsoever, and that is why you should elect to do Breakfast with Santa instead of the staged photo.

Even if you can’t make it to MCU Park, you should still seek out Breakfast with Santa options.  I did it once again this year, and I was thrilled with the result.

Even though the one I went to was more money than the one at MCU Park, it was still cheaper than a digital photo package from the mall.  On top of that, I had breakfast with the family and an overall fun day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: this was not a paid advertisement.  Rather, this is just strong advice based upon my experiences.

Juan Lagares Needs To Be The Mets 2018 Center Fielder

With the Mets cutting payroll and having holes and question marks across the 25 and 40 man roster, it is finally time for Juan Lagares to sink or swim.

With respect to Lagares, he was never supposed to have been a question mark.  Certainly, the Mets didn’t feel this way when they gave him a four year $23 million contract extension on the eve of the 2015 season.

When giving Lagares the extension, the expectation was Lagares would continue being a Gold Glover out there, and he would eventually learn to hit a little.  While hindsight may be 20/20, this was about as good a bet as there could have been with Lagares hitting .281/.321/.382 with a 102 OPS+ and a 101 wRC+ in 2014.  His ability to be a league average hitter and otherworldly in center made him a 5.4 bWAR and 3.9 fWAR player that year. That made him the best player on the Mets.

Since that season, things have fallen apart for him.  In 2015, he regressed at the plate, which would have been palatable if he didn’t regress even more in the field.  In the subsequent two seasons, Lagares seems to have been getting back to the player he was in 2014, but he has suffered significant thumb injuries in successive seasons.

This could be a cause for pessimism, but we saw the 2014 Lagares in the field again last year.  That Lagares wasn’t just a Gold Glover, he was the guy you expected to catch everything.  He was the guy who was head and shoulders above even the best defensive center fielders in the game.

Among center fielders with at least 550 innings last year, Lagares was third overall and tops in the National League with a 15 DRS.  He was also the Major League leader with a 24.7 UZR/150.  You could chalk these up to small sample sizes all the like, but consider the numbers he put up in 2013 and 2014:

  • 2013: 26 DRS, 33.1 UZR/150
  • 2014: 26 DRS, 25.3 UZR/150

At his core this is who Lagares is.  And with all of Major League Baseball prioritizing hitting the ball in the air, having Lagares patrolling center field is an imperative.

As we saw, the Mets pitching staff all regressed last year.  Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman weren’t the hot shot rookies they were in 2016.  Even when “healthy,” Matt HarveySteven Matz, and Zack Wheeler weren’t who we expected them to be.  Even Jacob deGrom, who had a resurgent year a year after having ulnar nerve transposition surgery, wasn’t the same pitcher posting career worsts in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and HR/9.

So far, the Mets have done a lot to help address these issues.  They’ve hired Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland.  They’ve discussed not allowing their pitchers go a third time through the lineup.  While both could help, it is indisputable having Lagares in center will be an enormous benefit as well.

Now, if you can get Lagares to hit even a little, then you have the player you thought you had in 2014.  You have the player you thought would have a collection of Gold Gloves at this point in his career.  You have the player the Mets once thought was worth $23 million.  You have an answer to one of the biggest question marks on a Mets roster that has more holes in it that a piece of Swiss cheese attacked with a hole puncher.

Overall, the best bet for the Mets in 2018 is a healthy and productive Lagares.  He helps the pitching staff return to form, and he allows the Mets to allocate money to other areas of the team that are in more desperate need of addressing.  And if that doesn’t work, you at least have a platoon partner for Brandon Nimmo out there . . . .

New York Daily News Owes Shohei Ohtani An Apology

Unless you walked by a newstand on your way to work or you saw their Tweet, chances are you missed the front page of the New York Daily News:

Judging from their steep decline in circulation, you probably did.

Make no mistake about it, the front page was an unnecessary shot at Shohei Ohtanti, and it was for the “crime” of spurning the Yankees.

As is typical with the New York Daily News, facts have not relevance here.  The front page claims he “fears big city,” which is completely absurd when you consider his final list includes Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Arlington, with is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.   But sure, he’s really afraid of the big city or big market teams.

Speaking of fear, are we really sure a 23 year who is eschewing tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars just to compete at the highest level is afraid?  Do we really want to say someone who wants to do the unprecedented in both pitching and being a position player is scared of anything?  Seems like Ohtani loves a challenge.

That’s actually backed up by the seven contenders he has selected.  In a few of these locations, he’s going to have the follow in the footsteps of some terrific Japanese players:

As we have seen with the Mariners and the Dodgers, the list goes well beyond those two legends.  Throw in the Giants, who had Masanori Murakami (first ever Japanese MLB player) and Tsuyoshi Shinjo (first Japanese player to play in a World Series), and you have someone who is not intimidated by anything.

Still, none of these facts prevented the New York Daily News from publishing something just plain wrong.

Really, it should come as no surprise.  The New York Daily News has been known by push beyond the lines of common decency for its front pages, including but not limited to, showing a blow-by-blow of how a woman was murdered.

It’s also a newspaper that once had the gall to publish an Andy Martino gem saying one of the reasons Mets fans hated Luis Castillo was because he was Hispanic.  Put another way, he was calling Mets fans racist for not liking a player who turned in this gem:

Overall, the New York Daily News published yet something salacious, incendiary, and just plain wrong for reasons they only know.  Only this time, they did it because someone had the temerity to select the baseball destination that was best for him.  If we followed their standards, we could go as far to call them racist.

However, I won’t.  I have actually standards.

Get Birthday Themed T-Shirts

Since my son’s first birthday, my wife has made it a point to go out there and get number t-shirts for our son for each of his birthdays.  While not being initially enthusiastic about it for my son’s first birthday, looking back on it the photos, I am truly happy she made that decision:

The first birthday one was the one that jumped off the page at me the most when going back at them.

Not only did it make for some cute photos of him for his first birthday, but it also reminded me of how much he loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  But it wasn’t just the book, it was the collection of stories and the videos you could see on Netflix.

It brought me back to his first birthday party when we made sure to have one apple, two pears, three plums, four strawberries, and five oranges all out on display which we used as props when reading the story to my son that day.  Also served at his first birthday party was chocolate cake, ice cream cones, swiss cheese, salami, lollipops, cherry pie, sausage, cupcakes, water melon, and a nice green leaf (salad).

The overriding point here is with that one photograph, I was taken back to not just the day my son turned one but to all the things he loved and enjoyed around that time period.  I honestly don’t believe one of the generic first birthday shirts would have done the same thing.

And yes, I did the same when I looked back at my son’s shirts for his second (Elmo) and third (Thomas) birthdays:

In some ways, these shirts are time capsules that take you back to certain memories and time periods.  It reminds you of who your child was as a person at that specific moment in time.  Also, for what it’s worth, they make for some great photos (whether you do it yourself or go to a photographer).

Now, you may hold back a bit because of the expense, which is understandable.  Etsy isn’t always the cheapest place on the planet.  Still, there are cheaper ways to do it.  You can always get a pack of colored or plain white t-shirts cheap from Target, and while you are there you can pick up Iron On print pages to make your own design.

So in the end, there is definitely a way to make the exact shirt you and/or your child wants for their birthday.  It will look great in photos, and the memories will last a lifetime.

Non-Tendered Free Agents Mets Could Pursue

With the non-tender deadline having passed, the MLB free agent pool has been expanded. These non-tendered players are free agents for a multitude of reasons, but that does not mean they can’t help anyone. In fact, here are six players who could help the Mets in 2018:

1B Matt Adams

2017 Stats: 131 G, 367 PA, 339 AB, 46 R, 93 H, 22 2B, 3B, 20 HR, 65 RBI, .274/.319/.522

After struggling to start the year in St. Louis, the Braves took a flyer on him after the Freddie Freeman injury. He played well enough that the Braves dabbled with Freeman at third base. 

Adams is a good defensive first baseman, and he appeared in 19 games in left playing poorly.  

If the Mets want a cheap insurance option for Dominic Smith, Adams would be a good choice as with his splits against left and right handed pitchers, he’d be an excellent platoon partner with Wilmer Flores

LHP Xavier Cedeno

2017 Stats 1-1, 12.00 ERA, 9 G, 3.0 IP, 3.667 WHIP, 12.0 BB/9, 0.0 K/9

While it was a poor injury plagued year for Cedeno, the left-handed reliever has limited left-handed batters to a .226/.286/.299 batting line in his career. If he’s healthy, he could be the second lefty in the pen, which would allow the Mets to ease Jerry Blevins workload. 

RHP Mike Fiers

2017 Stats: 8-10, 5.22 ERA, 29 G, 28 GS, 153.1 IP, 1.428 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 8.6 K/9

Fiers was not the same pitcher in Houston he was in Milwaukee, which is interesting because he has not lost his stuff. There may still be hope for him to be the middle to back end of the rotation starter he was in Milwaukee. In an 11 start stretch this season, he was 6-3 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.108 WHIP. If he can find a way to get back to that, he will be a real find for his new team. 

RHP Jared Hughes 

2017 Stats: 5-3, 3.02 ERA, 67 G, SV, 59.2 IP, 1.223 WHIP, 3.6 BB/9, 7.2 K/9

Hughes is a bit of a surprise non-tender as he’s coming off a career best year, which was largely driven by an increase in his fastball velocity. The caution with him is he’s a ROOGY as left-handed batters hit .282/.363/.549 off him this year. 

RHP Bruce Rondon

2017 Stats: 1-3, 10.91 ERA, 21 G, SV, 15.2 IP, 1.979 WHIP, 5.7 BB/9, 12.6 K/9

The Tigers finally gave up on a pitcher who had tons of potential but questionable work ethic. If a team can reach through to him, like a Mets team who have a couple of pitching gurus, they may find themselves with a shut down reliever.

RHP Hector Rondon

2017 Stats: 4-1, 4.24 ERA, 61 G, 57.1 IP, 1.221 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 10.8 K/9

Rondon has a big arm, and he’s posted big strikeout numbers in his career. He’s coming off a down year which was largely fueled by a big jump in his walk rate. Likely, his being non-tendered had as much to do with his down year as the Cubs not wanting to pay over $6 million for a set-up guy. The Cubs loss is going to be another team’s gain. 

Francesca Leaving WFAN Leaves A Bigger Void Than Expected

Like many Giants fans, I was completely outraged at the decision of the franchise to callously bench Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith.  Like many New York sports fans, in that moment, I instinctively turned the dial to WFAN to listen to Mike Francesca to get his take on the situation.  He didn’t disappoint:

This was like watching a great pitcher past his prime reach back and find that fastball for a huge postseason start.  He may not be able to go the well that often, but when he needed it, it was there.

With the Eli Manning story, we probably have the last big moment of Mike Francesca’s tenure with WFAN.

Francesca will sign off on Friday, December 15th, and he will be somehow replaced with a three person booth.  For the record, here were the takes of Francesca’s replacements:

Yes, it is a different medium, but those takes certainly aren’t the type that have you running to your radio like most New Yorkers did with Francesca when the news broke.  For what it’s worth, Carlin had more passion when it came to Greg Schiano-Tennessee fiasco.  This wasn’t exactly awe inspiring, and that’s before you take into account Bart Scott, the third member of this three team booth, had no takes on the situation.  By the way, he’s actually paid to cover the NFL.

This doesn’t mean Carlin-Gray-Scott can’t work.  It also doesn’t mean that they won’t be a show capable of handling news like this.

What it really means is that this really is an end of an era.  You’re not tuning into anyone else like you’d turn in to Francesca when this news happens.  The only one who would come close is his old time partner Mad Dog, but he’s unreachable for many because he’s on Sirius XM.

And no, you’re not tuning into any other show like you are Francesca.  Sure, Begningo & Roberts have the requisite passion.  Hardcore sports radio fans can’t wait for the Steve Sommers monologue on the topic.  After that?

Boomer is still working out the kinks without Craig Carton.  DiPietro & Canty lost something when they switched Rothenberg and Hahn’s roles.  And no, you’re not having serious sports radio with The Michael Kay Show as long as Peter Rosenberg is on that show.

And yes, you may very well like anyone of the aforementioned shows.  You may be one of the many who have sworn off Francesca pointing out his many faults.  But be honest.  You cared what he had to say, and many of you turned in to hear him go off on the Giants decision.

In a few weeks, he’s gone, and that same need to turn on the radio will be gone with him.

Francesca will soon be gone and with him goes a void that is unlikely to be filled by anyone who is or will soon be on the New York airwaves.  We were reminded of that on Tuesday.  We will be reminded of that again on Monday, December 18th.  We will be reminded of it most when the next huge New York sports story hits and Francesa isn’t there to cover it live on WFAN.

Mets Need To Get In On The Giancarlo Stanton Bidding

Right now, the rumors are the Marlins are going to be willing to trade the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton for the extremely underwhelming package of Joe Panik, Tyler Beede, and Joe Shaw.  There is one caveat to a deal – the Giants have to pay $250 million of the $295 million remaining on Stanton’s contract.

What we don’t know at this moment is the particulars, including but not limited to the impact of Stanton’s pending opt out on the allocation of the remaining $295 million on his contract.

Considering this is the package the Marlins are currently contemplating, and in reality, are ready to go ahead and accept, it really makes you question where the Mets are in the bidding process.

No, we shouldn’t pretend there aren’t significant obstacles to a Mets-Marlins deal.  First and foremost, we have no idea about Derek Jeter‘s proclivity to striking a deal with a team that is not only a division rival, but also an inter-city rival from his playing days.

An additional obstacle is Stanton’s no trade clause.  For various rumors, he seems to be inclined to want to either play for the Marlins or the Dodgers next year.  Even as the Giants and Marlins seem to be nearing a deal, it seems the Giants have to meet with Stanton to try to sell him on the idea of becoming a Giant.  Considering the team’s recent success and willingness to spend to compete, this could be an indication of how resolute Stanton may be in his preferences.

We also know the Mets have their own limitations on the budget and prospect front. Still, even with those limitations, the Mets should still have enough to sell the Marlins and Stanton on the idea of becoming a New York Met.

Really, the one thing that jumps off the page at you is how well Stanton has performed at Citi Field.  In 52 games at Citi Field, he is hitting .258/.348/.613 with six doubles, 21 homers, and 43 RBI.

Outside of the two parks Stanton has called home, he has hit more homers at Citi Field than anywhere else.  That is all the more impressive because for a large part of his career, he has had to face tough Mets pitchers like R.A. Dickey, Jacob deGromJeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard.

Stanton would also arguably complete the Mets roster.  By acquiring Stanton, the Mets could shift Michael Conforto to first base.  This is good for a few reasons.

First, the Mets don’t have to be as concerned with Conforto laying full out for a ball and landing on his surgically repaired shoulder in the outfield.  Second, Keith Hernandez has long been enamored with Conforto’s potential at first base.  Third, an outfield left to right of Yoenis CespedesJuan Lagares-Stanton is outstanding defensively.

With the modern emphasis on fly balls, having strong outfield defense is an imperative.  That outfield will be as good as there is in Major League baseball.  With the bats of Cespedes, Conforto, and Stanton in the lineup, you can certainly carry Lagares’ bat in the lineup.

You can also handle Stanton financially.  While he has $295 million remaining on his contract, he has three years $77 million remaining before his opt out.  With him making $25 million next season, the Mets still have enough to add at least one impact reliever and fill around the edges with the rest of the roster.  With Stanton in the fold, that should certainly be enough.

As for prospects, you never know what another organization likes from your team.  However, if the Mets are looking to swing a deal, it wouldn’t hurt to start with a former first round pick in Dominic Smith, who could be all the more enticing for a team possibly looking to move Justin Bour.  The Mets also have a number of other prospects and players at or near the level of the Giants haul.  The combination of those players and the willingness to absorb the salary could be enough to get a deal done.

Maybe, just maybe, that would be enough to sell Stanton on coming to the Mets.  Certainly, he has been at Citi Field on nights it was absolutely electric, and he may want to be a part of that.  Maybe he doesn’t.  We wont’ know until the Mets try, which it does not seem like they are at the moment.

Trivia Friday – Most Plate Appearances By Mets Player

Since the Mets first season in 1962, the franchise has the most 90 loss seasons in baseball.  Generally speaking, if you look at the players who have received the most plate appearances in those seasons you can ascertain why those teams have struggled so.  Conversely, you can also look at the players with the most plate appearances and see why the Mets were good that season.  Can you name the Mets players who have had the most plate appearances each year?  Good luck!

Jose Reyes Curtis Granderson Daniel Murphy David Wright Mike Cameron Ty Wigginton Roberto Alomar Todd Zeile Edgardo Alfonzo John Olerud Jose Vizcaino Lance Johnson Bobby Bonilla Eddie Murray Howard Johnson Gregg Jefferies Keith Hernandez Mookie Wilson Dave Kingman Lee Mazzilli Willie Montanez Felix Millan Rusty Staub Bud Harrelson Tommie Agee Ed Kranepool Joe Christopher Frank Thomas Ron Hunt Tommy Davis Cleon Jones