Kazmir Continues to Haunt Mets Fans

Scott Kazmir is in the news again, and yet again, it makes Mets fans want to tear their hair out. First, he was inexplicably traded for Victor Zambrano. Then, we were enlightened how the Mets drafting of Kazmir symbolized yet again how bad the Mets front office was. Now, he’s the first player traded at a time when Mets fans have been begging the front office to do anything to help this offense. 

It’s also notable this trade was completed by fellow 1962 expansion franchise Houston Astros. Much like the Astros, the Mets are competing ahead of schedule. Unlike the Mets, the Astros have made a move AND maybe looking to make more. Mets fans hear they won’t pick the remaining portion of Ben Zobrist’s salary. It’s disheartening. However, the good news is that apparently the market was set low with only lower-end A ball prospects being traded. 

Maybe this trade will launch the Mets into action. There are already rumblings Michael Conforto will be called-up. I suspect they may start being tied to some players. Hopefully, they can pull the trigger on a deal. 

Mets in Same Position as 10 Years Ago

Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.

I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.

At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.

However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.

Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.

It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed.  I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.

Is Baseball in Trouble?

The reason I started this blog was to share my experiences as a dad trying to raise his son a Mets fan. For the first time yesterday, I began to realize how difficult this task is.

I wanted to take a my lunch break to sit down and watch a portion of the Mets-Nationals game.  I decided to go around 1:00 because I figured: 1) there may be less people and 2) the establishment would be changing the channel at this time in case they got the start time confused (it was a camper’s special 12:35 start).

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked in at 1:30. Not one TV was turned to the Mets game. This is the most important game the Mets have played in 8.5 years, and no one could be bothered. The TV set-up was as follows: two on ESPN News, two on generic soccer (sorry all the European leagues are the same to me), and one on NBA TV showing a game from the 80’s.

Normally, I would’ve asked them to change the channel, but I just hurried out to my car (whenever they change the channel in these places it takes 5 minutes longer than it should).  Thank God Howie and Josh do such a great job on radio that it really is a viable option.   However, no offense to Howie and Josh, I wanted to watch some of the game. I didn’t realize that was going to be a challenge due to the popularity of classic NBA games.

I’m still going to watch as many Mets games as I can.  I’m still going to watch the games with my son. The question is will I only be able to do it in the comfort of my home in the future?  I hope not.

Bobby Goes Boom

The Mets put everything into this series. They set the rotation to face the Nationals. They were holding three aces and put their chips to the middle of the table. They lost. 

You could kill the offense, but they did score three runs off of Jordan Zimmermann, who’s a really good pitcher in his own right. You could go after Thor for struggling all day and only going five innings. However, he only let up one run.  Overall, the story of the game is the bottom of the eighth . . . that’s where the Mets blew it. 

When you are up two runs in the eighth, you have to win the game. To his credit, Josh Lewin said Familia needed to come in the game after the hard hit liner by Tyler Moore. Instead Parnell stayed in the game, threw a wild pitch putting runners in scoring position. Michael Taylor followed up with a two RBI single Ina fastball down the middle. After not holding on Taylor, Taylor stole second and scored on a Danny Espinosa single. Game over. 

As Josh Lewin pointed out, Parnell’s Nationals Park ERA is over 8.00 (before today). Who’s to blame here?  First, it’s Parnell. He’s got to close the door. Second, it’s Collins. Look, when you set up the rotation to go directly after the Nationals out of the All Star Break, you have to go all the way. It was time for a four out Familia save attempt there.  To his credit, Collins took complete blame for the loss. 

However, all is not lost. The Mets are only three out ( four in the loss column) with nine left against the Nationals and relatively easy August and September schedules. 

However, you can’t feel good either with the offense questions not resolved, an 8-21 record against the Nationals the past two years, and a 17-32 road record. Next up?  The Dodgers, who are leading off with Kershaw and Greinke

You have to admit the atmosphere at Citi Field would’ve felt a whole lot different than it would’ve had they won this game.  

What’s Really Going on with Conforto?

Yesterday, I made two posts detailing why the Mets should call-up Michael Conforto if Michael Cuddyer finally lands on the DL (the posts can be found here and here).  Since these posts were made, the reporting on him has been all over the place (trust me when I say I’m not implying a cause and effect). Here is what the various news outlets have to say about Conforto:

The New York Post reports the Mets are thinking about calling up Conforto. 

The New York Daily News reports the Mets are leaning towards calling up Conforto on Thursday. 

Newsday reports a Conforto call-up is unlikely, but that may change if Cuddyer goes to the DL. 

Similarly, the Star Ledger reports the Mets will consider calling up Conforto if Cuddyer is placed on the DL. 

Adam Rubin reports the Mets the Mets are kicking around the idea of calling up Conforto I’d Cuddyer lands on the DL although “internal dissension remains.”

From my reading of the tea leaves, it appears the Mets are really hoping Cuddyer wakes up one day with a miraculously healed knee. They’re also hoping to add an OF without giving up much in return. Overall, they’re kicking the ball down the road before they are forced to make a tough decision. 

As a Mets fan, I do appreciate they are taking this seriously. The pitching is here. Next year, there will be even more pitching. We just need the hitting. I believe Conforto is ready to contribute (but not necessarily dominate). If the Mets feel differently, that’s fine, but they have to do something here. 

Collins Doesn’t Get Burned by Soup

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say Terry Collins made his biggest managerial decision of the year . . . and the entire planet disagreed with him. Collins pinch hit Eric Campbell for Jacob deGrom in the top of the seventh. We all know that deGrom has better hitting statistics than Campbell, and deGrom was pitching well. No one would have second guessed Collins if he left in deGrom. 

Instead, he went with Campbell seeking to capitalize on a missed call leading to a gift double to Nieuwenhuis. The gutsy move paid off as Campbell hit a two run single turning a 2-1 deficit to a 3-2 lead. What was even more surprising was Collins used Campbell over Cuddyer, who entered the game as a pinch hitter in the ninth. Good for Collins, who has been a gentleman all year. He’s never publicly complained about this offense and/or roster. Also, good for Campbell. He’s been a punching bag this year. However, he has earned Mets fans respect as he always hustles and really is doing everything he can do to be on the big league roster. 

Also, good for deGrom and the Mets pitchers. deGrom pitched well enough to win, and he got that win. This post very well could’ve been about how deGrom handed a lead back and how the Mets pitchers can’t do that with this offense. Hopefully, the explosion in the ninth inning is a sign of things to come. Maybe Campbell’s single allowed everyone to take a deep breath and relax. Maybe it was just one game. I’m choosing to be optimistic. 

A hat tip is also due to Matt Harvey. He had a rough start yesterday, but he settled down and powered through 7 innings. It allowed a tired bullpen to rest after an 18 inning game, and it allowed Collins to gamble knowing he had a rested Mejia, Parnell, and Familia.   

Michael Conforto is not Miguel Cabrera but . . .

Michael Conforto has raked everywhere he has played, whether it was Oregon State University or the minor leagues.  He’s such an advanced prospect that Keith Law predicted before the season Conforto would be ready to be called up by August 2015.  When Keith Law has had a chance to back off a bit, he hasn’t; in fact, he has stated with the current state of the Mets, Conforto is their best option (yes, I linked to him answering my question on Twitter – it’s my blog).  While he acknowledged its a big jump, he did seem to believe Conforto could handle it.  Before dismissing this opinion, remember Keith Law is highly qualified to speak about baseball.

I bring this up because the Mets believe Michael Conforto  lacks minor league experience.  Right now, Conforto has played in 130 games and has had 574 plate appearances.  Specifically, he has played in 42 games with 182 plate appearance at Binghamton.  In Binghamton, the 22 year old Conforto has a triple slash line of .325/.407/.531.  No matter how you slice or dice it, these are great numbers.  These are Herculean when you keep in mind that he would be replacing the combined .169/.236/.344 of Nieuwenhuis and Mayberry.  Drastic times call for drastic actions.  Without a trade on the horizon, calling up Conforto would be the drastic move the Mets need to make.

It reminds me of 2003 when the Florida Marlins won the World Series.  Much like the Mets, the Marlins were mostly talented but not expected to really compete.  However, they fired their manager and replaced him with Jack McKeon.  While Trader Jack was the Marlins manager, one of the moves the Marlins made was to call up Miguel Cabrera.  The reason he was called-up?  The Marlins felt they “a little spark on the offensive side.”  At the time of his call-up, the 19 year old Miguel Cabrera had played in 69 AA games with a triple slash line of .365/.429/.609.  When he was called up, he was the clean-up hitter on the team.

Looking at the above-information, there are a few things you can conclude: (1) the Mets LF situation is dire; (2) Cabrera is better than Conforto; (3) the 2003 Marlins were better than the 2015 Mets; (4) you can call a young player up in a pressure filled situation; and (5) that young player can succeed.  Now, Keith Law never said Conforto was Miguel Cabrera, nor am I.  Seriously, who is?  Cabrera is an offensive machine.  He was so good he hit a HR off of Roger Clemens in the World Series.  The way the Mets offense is playing right now, the Mets won’t even get a chance to make the postseason.

I’m not asking him to be a “savior.”  I just want someone competent. At this point in the season, this shouldn’t even be an issued. Furthermore, the Mets have no one but themselves to blame. They built a roster with no depth. They failed to make a move earlier, even when we all knew it had to be made. Now, they have two choices: (1) roll the dice with Conforto or (2) average 2.83 runs per game and miss the playoffs. 

Lessons of Keith Hernandez’s Career

Keith Hernandez’s baseball career was one struggle after the next. First, it was his early hitting problems leading to a demotion. Then it was his clashes with Whitey Herzog leading to his trade to the Mets. Then it was the Pittsburgh drug trials where he was called to testify. However, despite all of this hardship, Keith Hernandez was the 1979 MVP, has won 11 Gold Gloves, and was part of two World Series Championship teams.

Now, I’m sure Keith Hernandez was devastated when he struggled in the majors and needed to be sent down. Keith does credit Ken Boyer with finally giving him the confidence he needed to succeed in the majors. However, Keith was a special major league talent. Overall, you could argue these early career struggles helped Keith deal with adversity. This was a good thing because he would face real adversity later in his career and he overcame it. So much so, in the eyes of many, Keith was a Hall of Fame caliber player.

I bring this up because one of the reasons the Mets state they do not want to put too much pressure on him and believe it would be devastating if he fails. As Keith Hernandez shows, if you’re a special player, you will have a successful career; no matter how much you struggle on your way there. In fact, you could argue the struggles help make you a better player (just look at Sandy Koufax’s early career). I’m not saying Conforto isn’t the answer. He may very well come up and struggle. With the Mets being where they are, they really can’t afford any more players to struggle offensively. You know what else they can’t afford? More of the same.

If Cuddyer can play, I’ll back off. Despite his struggles, Cuddyer is a major league caliber player, who is less than a season removed from being an effective major league hitter. However, if Cuddyer cannot be more than a PH/DH or he needs to be put on the DL, the Mets should call up Conforto. What’s the worst that could happen? What if he had a triple slash line of .169/.236/.344? Well guess what? That is the combined 2015 triple slash line of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and John Mayberry, Jr.. These are the players that will most likely platoon left field until Cuddyer is healthy or the Mets make a trade.

Therefore, if you are not willing or able to make a trade to improve left field, and Cuddyer isn’t responding to treatment, the Mets have little other choice than to call-up Conforto.

 

 

Realistic Immediate Moves

The Mets offense is officially offensive. As I tweeted last night, their runs per game is as follows:

April 4.35 runs per game

May 3.54 runs per game

June 2.96 runs per game

July 2.87 runs per game. 

This is unsustainable and had led to a -16 run differential. Things need to be fixed quickly to reverse these trends or the Mets run the risk of letting the season get away. For the purposes of this post, I’ll take the front office at face value and assume a trade can’t be competed just yet. Also, I’m not going to waste my breath here about bringing Conforto up to the majors (that’s for another time). The front office has made it clear he’s not getting called up. However, that does not mean something can’t be done now. 

First: Transfer Wright to the 60 day disabled list. He’s been gone for 60 days already. Not putting him on the 60 day DL is roster mismanagement. Once Wright is put on the 60 day DL, the Mets can call up someone not in the 40 man roster. 

Second: Call up Matt Reynolds (he’s not on the 40 man roster) and install him as the everyday SS. Let’s face it – since the day the Mets refused to resign Reyes, Tejada had been given several chances to become the everyday SS and failed. In this latest attempt, he had a triple slash line of .255/.322/.360 and a UZR of 0.8, i.e. he is bad at the plate and average in the field. CORRECTION: after posting this I learned Matt Reynolds is on the 7 day DL

Reynolds had a triple slash line of .270/.327/.410. I wasn’t able to find his UZR information, but scouts seem optimistic on his defense. If Reynolds minor league stats carry over, the Mets improve the SS position and the bench. If they don’t translate (the PCL is a hitter’s league after all), he had a cup of coffee. It’s not like his production would be so bad as to justify carrying Eric Campbell on the roster (side note: I’m sorry because Campbell works hard and really tries to help the team).  I know Reynolds isn’t on the 40 man roster, but so what?  Are you really afraid of losing 

Third: Outright Alex Torres and recall Logan Verrett. This would leave the Mets with only one lefty in the pen, Sean Gilmartin, who is not a LOOGY. However, Torres isn’t effective against lefties. Lately, he hadn’t been effective at all. In a small sample size, Verrett has been largely effective for the Mets. 

Fourth: Recall Dilson Herrera, bench Wilmer Flores, and release John Mayberry, Jr. In his last 10 games, Herrera is hitting .359 with a .390 OBP. He’s hot. Flores has been bad defensively and at the plate. However, he does have some pop in his bat and could be an effective PH. To make room for Herrera, Mayberry should be released. He just hasn’t hit. He’s taking up a valuable roster spot right now. 

Fifth: Call up Travis Taijeron and send down Danny Muno. I know I joked yesterday about Taijeron and the Mets need for more minor leaguers. However, this post is seeking drastic measures to help this team, which is best done by eliminating most of the bench. This season Taijeron’s triple slash is an eye opening .271/.395/.523. Why hasn’t he been called up?  Well he is not a highly thought of prospect having been drafted in the 11th round in 2011. Why send down Muno?  He’s bad at baseball. Travis Taijeron is not in the 40 man roster, but I am comfortable exposing Wilfredo Tovar to waivers. 

With all the machinations, the Mets have mostly retooled their bench (except Nieuwenhuis and Recker) and they find out what they have in Reynolds and Taijeron. Also, it creates a spot for with Nimmo or Conforto in AAA and possibly Gavin Cecchini as well. Maybe I’m wrong, but at least this is something. 

Harvey Just Not Good Enough

The Mets offense has averaged 2.87 runs in the month of July. Murphy was horrid in the field. Lagares has either lost a step or is playing out of position. The Nationals came to play and the Mets didn’t. Doesn’t matter. If you’re Matt Harvey and you want to be the ace, games like Monday don’t happen.

I can point to all the things that went wrong leading to the 5 runs scored while he was pitching, but the fact his he set up two of the scoring rallies by allowing Espinosa to get on and walking Harper. Should Murphy had made the play or at least knocked it down?  Probably. Should Mayberry have been charging the ball better than Cuddyer can right now?  Definitely. Should Tejada have had a clue and thought about Harper at third?  Yes. Does Lagares catch that Robinson double last year?  I think so.

However, I also think it’s fair to say too much has been thrust on Harvey. Most pitchers falter the year coming back from Tommy John surgery only to round into form the next year. (for e.g. Adam Wainwright). Unfortunately, with the way this roster is constructed, Harvey cannot learn his way back. He has to be THE MATT HARVEY now.

I have faith he’ll dominate next week against the Nationals.  My faith is based upon his will to compete and his ability.  I only hope by then the Mets have something to play for, and the Mets are at least competent at the plate and in the field.