Feeling Deflated

Yesterday was a bad day. It was hot and humid. The air conditioning wasn’t working. There was just constant nonsense throughout the day.  I needed a break and turned on the radio to hear about the baseball trade deadline. I figured it would help clear my head.

I started with Mike Francesa. If you are in your 30s and 40s, he’s always been on the air (except in the summer) discussing New York sports. He was in a commercial break. I then flipped to Hahn & Humpty. Originally, I thought, well this is a pleasant surprise. However, they weren’t focusing on baseball; they were discussing the first female coach in NFL history. Even as I sit here now, I know how important a story it was, but I wanted/needed to hear Mets trade rumors. Were the Mets going to rethink everything and go after Jose Reyes? Was the team actually going to put their money where their mouth was and actually spend some money at the trade deadline? Probably not as they never seem flush with cash like the other New York franchises.

I wasn’t getting what I wanted, and I had to let someone know about it. I went all “letter to the editor” on Alan Hahn. Not exactly my finest moment. At least some good came of it, as my mood began to change for the better. Later that night, I did tune into his show while I was watching Thor’s dominance, and he was talking football again. But you know what? He had to because Tom Brady’s four game suspension was upheld. It was the biggest news in sports yesterday. It wasn’t the first time the NFL dominated the headlines when baseball is in the middle of one of its peak news cycles. It won’t be the last time either.

That’s the problem. No matter what your opinion of Bud Selig is, he did have some positive impacts on the game of baseball. He navigated the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and oversaw a sport that saw improving and record attendance. It is all the more impressive when you keep in mind that this was during our Great Recession. He also grew the sport from a $1.8 billion revenue sport to a $9 billion revenue sport. Finally, we have enjoyed labor peace since 1994.

However, there are problems that arose during his tenure (I’m not focusing on steroids here – there is another time and place for that). We’ve seen the Baseball Game of the Week be shift from Fox to Fox Sports 1. Local Programming (in New York it’s going to be paid programming) is going to be shown this Saturday over Angels-Dodgers. Think about that for a second. This game features: 1) two teams in a pennant race; 2) two teams in the second largest media market; and 3) the game focuses Mike Trout, the best player in baseball. All of this gets second billing to the Sham-Wow Guy.

As you can probably tell, MLB’s popularity has continued to fade in comparison to the NFL. The TV ratings for the World Series this past season was surpassed by Weeks 1 and 2 of Sunday Night Football. This was all on Bud Selig’s watch. I’m not doing this to complain. I’m doing this to point out what seems obvious to everyone else but myself.

Honestly, this all makes me feel deflated (by the way, in case you didn’t realize it yet, I love puns). Overall, I can care less if the MLB or NFL is more popular. I love the NHL, but I’m not going to sit here and pontificate on how that sport is ignored. The NHL was never a part of our past time. MLB used to be. I want to return to those days. I want to turn on the radio in July while the Mets are finally in the middle of a pennant race and hear baseball talk.

The sad part is I got swept up yesterday in the Deflategate talk. How could you not? If you are an NFL fan (and I am), you have to talk about it. If Clayton Kershaw was suspended for becoming a modern day Gaylord Perry, I would not stop talking about it. The problem is that I think most people would. If this news came to light in early December, most people would talk about the NFL as it approaches the stretch drive while the Kershaw news would fade until Spring Training.

To me that’s the problem. MLB is no longer moving the needle the way it once did. That’s a challenge for the new commissioner Rob Manfred.  I want Rob Manfred to move the needle so shows like Hahn & Humpty talk more baseball, at least during baseball season.  That’s also a challenge for me as I look to raise my son. I want him to be a Mets fan so we will always have something to bond over. Thirty years from now, I would like to talk about how the Mets are contending and need to add a player at the trade deadline rather than another NFL scandal. I really hope that is possible because I hate this deflated feeling.

Rumor Has It No More Trade Talk

I’m done with analyzing potential trades and players.  I don’t think the Mets are making any more moves.  I don’t think Sandy Alderson had the money to spend.  He was bluffing at that press conference because that’s his job.  He cannot announce to the world the Mets don’t have the money to add a contract.  That’s foolhardy.  It reduces your leverage in trade discussions, and it could keep fans away from the ballpark.  Both are bad for business, and if anything, Sandy is a good businessman.

Therefore, I’m not going to address how well I think Gerardo Parra will fit on this team, especially given Juan Lagares’ questionable health and offense.  I’m not going to address how a Jose Reyes deal will benefit the Mets on the field and in attendance.  I won’t go into how Justin Upton has been lousy since April and will only drag the Mets offense further down.  I’ve already wasted my breath on Jay Bruce.  We all know Yoenis Cespedes and Carlos Gonzalez are not going to be moved by their teams.

Any other players the Mets get besides the aforementioned players are just background noise.  They are bench parts that don’t have the day to day impact the Mets need on the field.  If the Mets acquire someone, I’ll do a write up on the trade.  If the Mets get one of the above, I’ll concede how very wrong I was.

I’m not being pessimistic.  I’m being realistic.  I do think the team on the field can compete for the postseason and the World Series.  When Travis d’Arnaud returns, the team is that much better.  If David Wright returns, and is at least a shadow of himself, watch out.  If Steven Matz returns, we’re really cooking.

Instead of focusing on what could be, I’m going to focus on what is and enjoy that.  I don’t think people do that enough nowadays.  I’m going to sit down tonight and watch the Mets game with my son until he falls asleep.  I’m going to watch the team on the field, and I’m going to enjoy the game (hopefully).  I’m just not going to sit here anymore and fret over what could be.  I’m going to enjoy what is.

You’re a Good Man, Terry Collins

We don’t always realize it, but professional athletes, coaches, and front office executives are human beings.  We are too quick to call for someone to be fired or to call them incompetent.  Sure, we all know Ted down the hall is an awful employee.  He spends half his day on the internet and the other half of his day just being bad at his job.  Everyone knows it, but no one is beating down the boss’s door calling for him to get fired.  Yet, we have no problem doing that in the world of sports.

Fans call to WFAN, make posts on Twitter, and even write about it on their blogs.  Trust me when I tell you I’m not being judgmental here.  I’ve done the same thing, and I will continue to do the same thing.  For them, they know it’s part of their role.  However, what I have never liked about it is how we all (myself included) tend to dehumanize the person we want to get fired.  These people are capable of wonderful and terrific things.  For example, this tidbit appeared on the internet yesterday.

It really took me back.  Do you remember when you lost a loved one?  A kind word or simple gesture means a lot to you.  It helps you through the grieving process.  It is important to you not just that people care about you, but it’s important that the person you grieve was important and will be remembered by other people.

Overall, Terry Collins has acted with dignity while the manager of the Mets.  What I didn’t know about him was level of empathy for a fan.  He didn’t owe that letter to anyone.  He could have moved onto something else like figuring how the lineup card.  No, he took the time to treat someone with dignity and respect.  It was an amazing gesture.

I know in the future that I will continue to criticize Collins’ decisions.  While I may never call for him to be fired, I won’t criticize anyone that does.  That’s the nature of his business.  However, in the future, when I either criticize him or call for him to be fired, I will remember him as a human being.  I will refrain from the ad hominem attacks.  I will treat him with the respect that he showed one of our fellow Mets fans.  He deserves at least that much.

Mets Need to Stomp Out Mejia

How stupid can you possibly be?  Jenrry Mejia became the first person in Major League history to be suspended twice in one season under MLB’s stiffer policy for PED use. You would’ve thought after the first suspension, he would’ve tried to conceal his usage. 

I used to really like Mejia. I was angry at Jerry Manuel for setting his career back. I didn’t think the Mets gave him a fair shake in the rotation last year. However, I became impressed how he adapted to the bullpen. He finished last year with 28 saves. He looked poised to become the closer for years to come. Ideally, Jeurys Familia and Bobby Parnell would be be his setup men for a terrific 7-8-9 tandem. 

While warming up in the bullpen on Opening Day, he felt pain in his elbow. As he was being placed on the DL, he was getting suspended for 80 games. Between that suspension and his latest suspension, it appears I was wrong about him. 

I don’t want him on the Mets. I don’t want to raise someone who roots for cheaters. I don’t want to say to my son we shouldn’t root for Mejia because he cheats, but I’m cheering right now because he helped the Mets. I’m not a fan of moral equivalence, and I don’t like being put in that situation. 

I applaud The 7 Line for donating the Mejia t-shirts rather than profit from their sale. I only wish Sandy Alderson had this type of moral courage. 

You see Sandy LOVES his steroid guys. He built those great A’s teams with steroids guys. (for the record he denied knowing this even though Tony LaRussa said it was well known). He signed Bartolo Colon. Colon missed a steroids suspension while playing for the Mets on a technicality. He signed Marlon Byrd. There are others, but I’m not going to belabor the point. 

Sandy’s reaction?  He stated, “[t]here is a tremendous amount of disappointment, to some extent anger.”  The Mets’ front office is “ticked off” at Mejia’s suspension.  Given his history, he doesn’t have the right to this reaction. I think they’re only upset he got caught. 

Don’t believe me?  Then tell me why Mejia hadn’t been released yet?  He’s no longer an asset. He’s one suspension away from being gone from the game. If the Mets truly care about steroids enough to be “ticked off,” they should send a message and release him. 

I’m all for repentance and rehabilitation. I agreed Mejia had his suspension and his right to return to the Mets. If he was clean, he should be allowed to play. He’s shown no interest in playing clean. He needs to be booted off the team. 

Thor is the Story

There was a lot of stories and distractions today around the Mets. First, there were fans clamoring for the return of Jose Reyes. Then the Mets made it clear they had no interest in Reyes. Next, David Wright resumed baseball activities. Finally, Jenrry Mejia embarrassed Major League Baseball, the Mets, and himself with his second PED suspension THIS YEAR!

Noah Syndergaard took the mound Tuesday night and made himself the story. He was perfect through six innings, and he finished with an incredible line of 8.0 innings pitched, 9 strikeouts, 3 hits, and no walks. 

After Thor allowed the first single to potential trade target Will Venable, he allowed an infield single to Yangervis Solarte. On the Solarte single, Ruben Tejada tried to do too much. Rather than smother the ball, he tried a glove flip to Daniel Murphy to try to get the force out. Instead of a Web Gem, Tejada nearly put the ball into right field. Venable advanced to third on the play.  It was 2-0 with runners on first and third with no outs. 

Thor then threw down the gauntlet (sorry comic book fans if this is mixing metaphors). He got Matt Kemp to pop out and induced Justin Upton, another trade target, to hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Despite having only thrown 107 pitches, Thor was lifted after eight innings (perhaps due to the innings limit dilemma). Tyler Clippard made his Mets debut and worked his way around a leadoff double. 

After this inning, I finally put my son to bed. Growing up, there was a rule in my household: bed time was suspended until a Mets’ pitcher allowed their first hit. The longest bed time reprieve I remember was David Cone losing a no-hitter on a dribbler down the third base line that refused to go foul. I knew my son wouldn’t remember seeing Thir pitch a perfect game, but I would remember watching it with him. That would’ve made it all the more special maybe next time. 

When setting today’s lineup, Terry generally followed the platoon system. With the righty Shields on the mound, Collins went with Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Daniel Murphy. However, after his walk-off hit on Sunday, Juan Uribe was in the lineup. It should be noted that coming into the game Uribe had gone 2/5 with one walk and a triple against Shields. 

My belief is that this is the Mets’ best defensive infield alignment. Incredibly, Murphy was the defensive star of the game making two nice defensive plays whe the no-hitter was still viable. 

Kudos is also due to Lucas Duda, who hit a mammoth two run homerun in the first inning. It appears the pressure is off and the power is back. His other outs were hard hit balls. Curtis Granderson put the game away with a two run homerun in the eighth. 

However, the story of the game and th day was Thor, who pitched like an ace. It seems the stud muffins are pushing each other to be better. It’s incredible, and it’s the type of thing that drives a team towards the postseason. 

Step in the Wright Direction?

When the Uribe/Johnson trade went down, I lamented that it may be a sign David Wright was done for the year. Hopefully, today may be a sign I was wrong because Wright took grounders at Citi Field and felt great

For what it’s worth, there were doctors who believed Wright could return to play this season. However, this same physician said Wright would return sooner rather than later. To be fair, that is open-ended. 

Overall, doctors seem to agree baseball activities exacerbate spinal stenosis. Specifically, the rotation/twisting actions involved in swinging a bat exacerbate the spinal stenosis symptoms. Stephania Bell noted setbacks on the comeback trail are common. Therefore, while it is terrific Wright is taking grounders, it is notable that it was not reported he took batting practice or hitting off of a tee.  Even assuming he did and he’s 100% ready to resume play, he’s most likely going to need a lengthy rehab assignment. 

Wright has not picked up a bat in about three months. Accordingly, Wright probably needs his rehab assignment to be something akin to Spring Training. Keep in mind, this year the Mets position players reported on February 24th. With the season start date of April 6th, that means Wright originally had 41 days to get ready for the season, which doesn’t include any preparation he did on his own before the season. 

If Wright began a rehab assignment right now, he would be ready by September 7th (using the 41 day parameter). The Mets’ last game is October 4th. If the Mets want Wright to play before the playoffs, he’s going to need to begin his rehab assignment by August 24th, at the latest. Realistically, you would want him to play at least one week (possibly more) before the end of the season. With what he means to the team and the nature of his injury, I can’t imagine the Mets would accelerate his rehab assignment. 

The absolute deadline for Wright to begin a rehab assignment is quickly approaching. If all goes right, he just might make it. The slightest set back means he won’t. I pray he can do it because, when he’s right, he’s a huge upgrade over Uribe/Murphy. 

UPDATE: apparently Wright did hit off a tee while he was in LA. While this is much more promising, the tight time tables remain in place. My fingers are crossed. 

Oh Billy Billy Billy

Admittedly, I have been apoplectic over the Tyler Clippard trade. The reason is because the last time the Mets made a trade like this it ended very badly. Faith and Fear in Flushing invoked the infamous John Smoltz and Jeff Bagwell trades. For me, it reminded me of Billy Taylor

In 1999, the Mets were in competition for the playoffs for really the second time in my life (and second year in a row). I was too young to truly remember this (although my first baseball memory is the Buckner game) or this. After the previous season’s collapse, I was desperate to see the Nets make the playoffs. I was appreciative when Steve Phillips was aggressive at the trade deadline. Notably, he added Kenny Rogers (I still don’t want to talk about it), Shawn Dunston, and Darryl Hamilton (RIP). He also traded for Billy  Taylor. 

To acquire Billy Taylor, the Mets sent Billy Beane’s A’s Greg McMichael and Jason Isringhausen. At the time, I loved the move. Over a three year stretch, he had 73 saves on mediocre Athletics teams. In 1999, on an A’s team on the rise, he had 26 saves (his peripherals were awful but I didn’t follow such things back then). I was giddy at the prospect of the Mets having a 7-8-9 of Billy Taylor-John Franco-Armando Benitez (this is before we knew he was terrible in October). I didn’t care about the cost. All I wanted was a playoff berth, let alone a World Series. 

Boy, was I wrong. In 18 appearances, Taylor had an 8.10 ERA. He was terrible. He didn’t pitch in the postseason. He was gone at the end of the year. He was out of baseball after the 2001 season. 

The real cost of Taylor’s 18 innings?  Jason Isringhausen’s career. He was once part of the fabled Generation K. In 1999, he was only given five starts. Mostly, he was a seldom used reliever who bounced between Norfolk and New York. He was coming off an elbow injury. At the time of the trade, he had a 6.41 ERA. His star had fallen. While he wasn’t good, Bobby V didn’t want to put him in the bullpen because that was “akin to using an Indy car as a taxi.”

I love Bobby V, but he was proven wrong. In 1999, he would save eight games for the A’s with a 2.13 ERA. That might’ve been helpful as Kenny Rogers walked in the winning run. Since the trade, Izzy accumulated 299 saves (one for the Mets in 1999 and seven for them in 2011).  That was a lot to give up for 18 appearances. 

Now, I don’t think Tyler Clippard will be as bad as Billy Taylor. He’s a much better pitcher. In actuality, through all of my hand wringing, I have noted Clippard is a quality addition that will help a back of a bullpen that needs it. I think the 7-8-9 of Bobby Parnell-Tyler Clippard-Jeurys Familia could be very good, or at least better than the 1999 version. If the Mets win the World Series, I’ll be thrilled and I won’t care how good Casey Meisner becomes. 

However, I shudder at another Mets trade with Billy Beane for a reliever.  While I hope one day I’m regaling my son of the 2015 championship season, I’m afraid that I will be explaining how Casey Meisner could have been a Met. 

Mets in Danger of Losing Goodwill

Lately, the Mets had just started to build some goodwill with the fan base. First, the acquisition of Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson paid immediate dividends on Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday, the Mets gave up a substantial prospect to get Tyler Clippard. 

Late last night, the baseball world was shocked by the Troy Tulowitzki-Jose Reyes blockbuster. Immediately, Mets fans began clamoring to bring Reyes back to the Mets. I immediately looked to see the Mets’ interest level in Reyes:

  1. Jon Heyman reports the Mets have no interest;
  2. Joel Sherman agrees;
  3. Mike Puma and the New York Post report there will be no reunion;
  4. Marc Carig calls Reyes a tough fit;
  5. Andy Martino reports the Mets wouldn’t even seek a trade for Reyes with the Blue Jays. 

Alright, alright. I shouldn’t be surprised because the Mets were not interested in resigning Reyes in 2011. I get the point. However, I question if the Mets get the point. They’re risking the recent goodwill they’ve acquired especially with reports that Tulo wanted no part in coming to the Mets. 

I firmly believe with the Tyler Clippard overpay, the fans would’ve accepted it if the Mets couldn’t or wouldn’t make another deal. With them now twice passing to trade for Reyes (despite a need for a SS, a bat, and a leadoff hitter), the fans will grow angry with this team again for not getting the other player. The fans will not believe there is any more money to spend. 

Look, I love Reyes. Who didn’t love the Jose chant or his walk up music?  He brought a certain energy to the team and the stands. However, if this team doesn’t want him [again], we have to accept that.  

The Mets have to accept that something has to be done. The Mets are not interested in Carlos Gonzalez. The Mets traded the player the Brewers wanted for Tyler Clippard making a Gerardo Parra and/or Carlos Gomez deal more difficult. The Mets are competing with the Angels for Jay Bruce. 

The Mets have created this situation, and now, they need to do something. You could call the Reyes trade bad luck, but that covers up the fact they were not aggressively pursuing a SS. I’m curious to see where the Mets go from here. 

Get Us Jose Reyes

In shocking news, the Toronto Blue Jays traded Jose Reyes and prospects for Troy Tulowitzki. Earlier, it was reported the Mets came away thinking the Rockies were not serious about trading Tulo. I’m sure the Mets did their due diligence, but as Mets fans know, Reyes is a special player. 

Like the Rockies, the Blue Jays are not trading Tulo to the Mets. For starters, the Blue Jays are three games out of the second Wild Card (four in the loss column) and sport the best run differential in the American League. They’re not selling. If they’re looking to flip Tulo (or another bat) for pitching, the trade will not be for one of the Mets prospects. 

Now, I’m having the same thought every Mets fan is having. We want to hear the Jose, Jose, Jose chant at Citi Field again. In the offseason, it was reported the Rockies were considering trading Tulo and were scouting Noah Syndergaard. It has also been assumed the Mets wanted the Rockies to absorb some of Tulo’s contract. These were major sticking points on both sides. Obviously, the deal never got done. 

Tulo is being paid $20 million this year. He has $74 million remaining on his contract that expires in 2020. There is a $15 million team option for the 2021 season with a steep $4 million opt out clause. This is a steep price for someone who hasn’t played 140+ games in a season since 2011. 

Reyes has a big contract as well, but it’s not as long as Tulo’s contract. Reyes is being paid $22 million his year. He’s due $22 million in 2016 and 2017 ($44 million total) with a $22 million option in 2018 with another steep $4 million opt out clause. Overall, Reyes is due $30 million less in guaranteed future salary. 

What will it take to get Reyes?  I don’t know. While I wish I was an insider, I’m not. However, the Mets have the pieces to make this happen and have made overtures they can add a major contract.  Reyes fits in this team because it gives them the SS they need and he’s a bona fide leadoff hitter. If the Mets can swing the deal, it would allow them to put Granderson lower in the lineup to knock in runs. With Reyes on the team, there will be runners on base. 

I pray this deal gets done. With 2006 and the collapses, there is unfinished business here for a Wright and Reyes. The Mets now have the pitching to get it done. The Mets overpaid for Tyler Clippard. They can do the same for Reyes. It’s time to bring Reyes home. 

We’re Running out of Innings

In late June, the Mets called up Steven Matz, in part, because the team felt they needed to switch to a six man rotation. The theory was that if the Mets didn’t do this, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard would hit their innings limits in September. The Mets were being proactive to avoid a repeat of the Stephen Strasberg incident. 

After Matz was misdiagnosed by Dr. Warthen, he went in the DL with a torn lat. Matz had to completely shut down all baseball activity for three weeks. We do not yet know if: 1) he can come back this season; and 2) what his role would be. 

With Matz down, the Mets now face a ticking clock on the innings limits of their three “stud muffins.”  Due to Matz’s injury, the Mets have abandoned the six man rotation for the second time this year. 

There are different theories to limiting innings from the Verducci Effect (20-30 innings more than year before) to Tampa Bay’s 20% philosophy (20% more innings than prior year). These limitations would apply to deGrom and Thor. 

deGrom pitched 178.1 innings last year between AAA and the majors. Accordingly, his innings would be limited somewhere between 208.1 – 214.0 innings. Right now deGrom is at 127.1 innings (not including his one inning in the All Star Game), and he has averaged approximately 6.2 innings per start. deGrom has approximately 12 starts remaining. If he continues averaging 6.2 innings per start, he would pitch 80 more innings giving him a season total of 207.1, which is right at the lower end of the limitation spectrum. At best, he could have one postseason start for 6.2 innings to stay within his innings limits. 

Last year, Thor pitched 133.0 innings. So far this year, he had pitched 108.1 innings between AAA and the majors. He has averaged 6.0 innings in his major league starts. Using the aforementioned parameters, Thor’s innings limit would be between 159.3 – 163.0 innings. Like deGrom, he has approximately 12 starts left if he pitched every fifth day. At six innings per start, he would finish the year with 180.1 innings. Therefore, Thor really has nine starts left to stay within his innings limitations. This leaves him unable to pitch in the postseason. 

Harvey is a different case as he did not pitch last year due to Tommy John surgery. In 2012, the Nationals estimated that Strasburg should be limited between 160.0 – 180.0 innings. For their part, the Mets estimated they would hold Harvey to 190.0 innings. While I think Harvey is the ultimate competitor, he is represented by Scott Boras, who also represents Strasburg. Boras championed limiting Strasburg’s innings. 

Right now, Harvey is at 125.1 innings, leaving him with only 64.2 innings left in the season. Assuming he has 12 starts remaining, he can only pitch approximately 5.1 innings per start. He’s currently averaging 6.2 innings per start. Like Thor, he would also be unavailable for the playoffs. 

I can’t imagine the Mets intend to heavily rely on Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese in the postseason because of the aforementioned innings limits. If they get to October, they must ride their stud muffins. The Mets know this, and yet, they still made a win-now trade for Tyler Clippard. I believe this is a sign they are ready to disregard innings limits and make a real run for it. 

That’s fine because recent studies have shown innings limits do not prevent pitcher injuries. This is something Seaver knew intuitively. I’m sure he will be happy when the Mets do away with the innings limits this year. Mets fans should as well because it means the Mets are not relying on unsupported science and are playing meaningful games in September