Al Leiter

20/20 Hindsight: Time To Say Good-bye to Postseason and Beloved Players

Well, the Mets postseason hopes are officially over leaving them to play out the string and for them to set some personal accomplishments. In between, there were some real good things both in this series and the season:

1. The end of the season was put off a game because Michael Conforto came up huge. He once again showed himself a cornerstone player and one who the Mets should be working to keep around for his entire career.

2. The Mets should also be working to keep Zack Wheeler a Met past this season. He had another great outing in an extremely strong finish to the season. He wants to remain a Met, and the Mets need him in the rotation to win next year.

3. That said, it was possible yesterday was a good-bye to both Wheeler and Curtis Granderson. There was a sense of melancholy with Granderson’s homer possibly being his last at-bat in Citi Field and it putting the loss on Wheeler in his last start as a Met.

4. On the topic of good-byes, Jeff McNeil‘s year is done after he broke his wrist when getting hit with a pitch. Fortunately, he has time to heal up and get ready to be the player he has been this year. The Mets need him to be that player next year because when he is he is the more indispensable position player on this roster.

5. One pitcher who the Mets did extend was Jacob deGrom, who cemented his case for the Cy Young by running his scoreless inning streak to 23 innings. He will become the first Mets pitcher to win consecutive Cy Youngs putting him on the pantheon of Mets great pitchers.

6. That list includes Jerry Koosman who is getting his number retired by the team. If the Mets are going to lower their standards for retiring numbers, Koosman was the right place to start.

7. As noted in an earlier article, if Koosman is going to get his number retired, the door is now open for the Mets to retire the numbers of David Wright, Gary Carter, Carlos Beltran, Keith Hernandez, and John Franco.

8. It has been great to see the Mets move forward with honoring their history. That should also be coupled by paying more attention to their Hall of Fame. That is not just improving upon it. It is also putting more players in that Hall of Fame including Edgardo Alfonzo, Al Leiter, and Bobby Valentine.

9. It should also include Gary Cohen and Howie Rose. On that note with Marty Brennaman retiring from the Reds, we are reminded of how lucky we are as Mets fans to have them call games. We are also lucky on the radio side, it has gone from Bob Murphy to Gary Cohen to Howie Rose.

10. On the subject of lucky, we have been lucky to see Pete Alonso this season. He has been a great player for the Mets setting records. It’s more than just the rookie home run records. He is also his tying Johnny Mize and Willie Mays for the most homers by a New York National League player.

11. He also joins a group including Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, and Ralph Kiner in having 51 homers and 118 RBI in a season before the age of 25. That puts Alonso in a group of Hall of Fame players. It will fun to see what he has in store for next year.

12. Hopefully, Mickey Callaway get his way and gets to bat Alonso leadoff over the final three games to help get him past Aaron Judge for the rookie home run record.

13. With respect to Callaway, he has done enough to stick around another year. We’ve seen him get everything out of this team he could. Young players like Alonso and Amed Rosario have improved. We’ve seen deGrom get to a new level, and the starters be healthy for two years running. That is really no small task.

14. That said, there is enough to get rid of him. At the end of the day, if he is going to be replaced, we need to see him be replaced with an Alex Cora type. The Mets need a manager who is going to push the front office and help implement things needed to win. If they’re not going to do that firing Callaway does little more than change the narrative.

15. Speaking of narratives, the Mets don’t spend. They don’t. People need to stop insisting they do. The payroll is inflated by over $36 million owed to Yoenis Cespedes and Wright which has not been reinvested in this team.

16. The Mets have a number of holes to fill between the bullpen and the rotation. That’s before we even consider the Mets even contemplating trading Noah Syndergaard. They’re also not going to be bailed out by the insurance for Cespedes. That’s a lot of holes to fill without the money or prospects. That’s a tall task for even a competent GM. For Brodie Van Wagenen, it’s impossible.

17. One idea is to put Seth Lugo back in the rotation. Doing that would only leave a gaping hole in the bullpen. That’s a hole all the bigger when you consider Edwin Diaz has allowed as many homers this year as Armando Benitez did in his worst two seasons combined. Keep in mind those two seasons were records for the Mets.

18. There were some bright spots this season which perhaps none of them being bigger than Paul Sewald finally getting his first Major League win.

19. With Sewald getting the win and other highlights, this has been an entertaining season. It is not too dissimilar from the 1996 season where we saw Bernard Gilkey, Todd Hundley, and Lance Johnson having great personal years in a year where the Mets would fall short.

20. And that’s what happened, the Mets fell short, and as Brodie Van Wagenen said himself on WFAN falling short like this would be a disappointment. Just remember those words as everyone, including the Mets themselves, try to spin this season and the future.

What Needs To Happen For Mets To Grab a Wild Card

After the Mets took two of three against the Reds, their chances of being one of the two Wild Cards has worsened. In fact, according to Fangraphs their chances are 2.0 percent. As Lloyd Christmas would say, “So, you’re saying there’s a chance.” Here’s where the standings are at the moment:

Team Record GB
Nationals 85-69 0.0
Brewers 86-70 0.0
Cubs 82-74 4.0
Mets 81-74 4.5
Diamondbacks 80-76 6.0
Phillies 79-75 6.0

As it stands for the Mets, they are going to need some help. The good news is with the Cubs getting swept in a four game series with the Cardinals and their losing six straight, they are tied in the loss column with the Mets. That means the Mets are really only behind the Wild Card leaders at the moment. This makes this an exercise in how the Mets fare against the top two teams:

Mets Nationals Brewers
7-0 3-5 2-4
6-1 2-6 1-5
5-2 1-7 E
4-3 Eliminated

Basically speaking, as Todd Frazier eluded to on Saturday, the Mets need to run the table. However, that still might not be enough to claim a Wild Card. For the Mets, their playing the Marlins in a four game set is a good start for them. If they sweep like they should, they may have a shot.

The Nationals are about to embark on a five game set against with Philadelphia Phillies. You could imagine Bryce Harper is going to try all he can do to knock his old team out of the postseason. As shown above, it’s not going to be just personal as the Phillies are on the very periphery of this race. Of course, after one loss, the Phillies are out, so it will be interesting to see how the Phillies respond when that loss happens.

After the Phillies, the Nationals finish the season with the Indians, who are in a dog fight with the Rays and Athletics for the two Wild Card spots. What makes those games all the tougher is the Indians may be getting Jose Ramirez back. While you can’t anticipate a Nationals collapse, it is certainly on the table.

What may not be on the table is a Brewers collapse, and yet, there is hope the Christian Yelich-less team may finally stumble. After all, they are no longer playing a Pirates team who is easier than a bye.

The Brewers are one game under on the road, and as we recently saw, the Reds and Rockies haven’t given up on the season. It should also be noted that even with the Reds and Rockies being under .500, both teams are over .500 at home. Moreover, the Brewers and Reds season series is tied with the Brewers losing the last three they played in Cincinnati.

All told, the Nationals and Brewers have a difficult end to the season. The issue for the Mets is whether it is difficult enough for them to make a run against the Marlins and a Braves team which really has nothing to do but get ready to host the Cardinals in the NLDS.

Hopefully, this should be a very interesting final week to the season. If everything breaks right for the Mets, we should hopefully see what we saw 20 years ago with Melvin Mora scoring followed by Al Leiter pitching a one hitter. You never know.

Mets Two Back Not Seven Ahead With 17 To Play

In 2007, the Mets were seven games ahead with 17 games to play. We all know that season ended with Tom Glavine melting down against the Florida Marlins. That humiliating collapse is not a good memory for Mets fans, but it should serve as a reminder that anything can happen.

There are better and more positive stories in Mets history on this point.

The 1969 Mets entered September five games back of the Cubs, and they’d go 24-8 to finish the season and win the division going away en route to winning one of the more unlikely championships in professional sports history.

In 1973, the Mets entered September 4.5 games of the Cardinals and Pirates. The “Ya Gotta Believe” Mets pulled it off with a 82-79 record. They’d then push off one dynasty another year by beating the Big Red Machine in the NLCS, and they’d come within one game of knocking off another.

As we know, recent history hasn’t been as kind. The 1998 Mets entered September just one game out of the Wild Card. On September 21, they were one game up in the race only to lose their final five games including getting swept by the Braves. What made that all the more difficult was they only needed to win just one game to tie the Cubs and Giants for what was then the only Wild Card spot.

In 1999, it did seem like there was going to be another collapse with the Mets losing seven straight in October, and they’d lose five of six to the Braves with Chipper Jones telling Mets fans to get their Yankees jerseys out of the closet. They’d get some help sweeping the Pirates to over come the two game deficit with three games remaining in the season before Al Leiter‘s one hitter propelled them to the NLDS.

Heading to the future, the Mets collapsed in 2007, and they did it again in 2008 with Jerry Manuel going to Scott Schoeneweis to end the season. There were bleak times ahead before the 2015 and 2016 season. In terms of 2016, it was a somewhat similar situation to this year where a down National League allowed the Mets to linger in the race.

It should be noted that 2016 team was just 1.5 games back of he St. Louis Cardinals for the second Wild Card. It was not the five game deficit this Mets team faced. In any event, that whole run left a bitter taste as Jeurys Familia allowed a three run homer to Conor Gillaspie to end that season.

Overall, it has been quite a mixed bag for the Mets in these late September Wild Card races. We’ve seen them collapse in 1998 and 2007. We have seen them force a one game playoff in 1999 and go on a magical run. Under a different system in 2016, they got to that game, but they couldn’t win it.

No matter how you break it down, there is one theme for all of those years – the Mets had a chance. As we have seen you have a chance even if you are down seven games with 17 remaining. You can look at that all as a negative all you want. That’s your prerogative.

However, this Mets team has Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz pitching great. Seth Lugo is the best reliever in baseball. Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto have played great all year, and Todd Frazier seems to be getting hot at the right time. There are so many more positives behind these players.

At the end of the day, there is legitimate reason for hope. As long as there is hope, there is every reason to believe the Mets can pull this off. We should all be excited at the opportunity before this team.

LETS GO METS!

2019 Mets Postseason Doppelgangers

There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.

When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud (Todd Pratt) – d’Arnaud may very well be pressed into action more than anticipated, and as we saw in the 2015 postseason, he can deliver some big hits when needed.

Tomas Nido (Jerry Grote) – A defensive oriented catcher who helps takes his pitchers over the top and more than makes up for whatever offensive issues he may have.

Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.

Infield

Pete Alonso (Michael Conforto) – Alonso is the young prospect who is getting thrown into the fire and expected to be a key bat in a lineup who are trying to overcome the Nationals.

Robinson Cano (Rickey Henderson) – Cano was brought in to be the Hall of Fame caliber player who could take this team over the top.

J.D. Davis (Matt Franco) – Players who will predominantly be pinch hitters who are going to be counted upon to provide those key unexpected game winning hits.

Todd Frazier (Ed Charles) – Both were better before joining the Mets, but they proved to be glue guys in the clubhouse making the team better for their presence alone.

Luis Guillorme (Anderson Hernandez) – Tremendously gifted middle infielders whose gloves helped earn them a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Jed Lowrie (Jose Valentin) – Switch hitters who were brought to serve as a bench piece for the Mets who could be pressed into duty more than anticipated, which could be of great value to the team.

Jeff McNeil (Cleon Jones) – Homegrown Mets ready who show their previous year breakouts were not flukes, but rather an indication they are key members of a winning team.

Amed Rosario (Jose Reyes) – Reyes figured it out in 2006, and he became a dynamic and exciting player. This can be that year for Rosario.

Dominic Smith (Ed Kranepool) – Both probably rushed and mishandled as prospects, but they both still had a lot of hits in their bats making them valuable pieces for their club.

Outfield

Keon Broxton (Xavier Nady) – The imported outfielder who has not yet lived up to expectations has an opportunity to prove himself on a talented roster.

Yoenis Cespedes (Donn Clendenon) – The Mets are relying on a big bat to come after the All-Star Break and get this team a World Series, who better than the guy who delivered that in 1969?

Michael Conforto (David Wright) – The time is now for the homegrown player to put it all together and have an MVP caliber season to put this team over the top.

Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.

Brandon Nimmo (Edgardo Alfonzo) – Homegrown Met oft overlooked who may actually prove to put up the best season of all the players on the roster.

Starters

Jacob deGrom (Tom Seaver) – deGrom is the staff ace coming off a historically great season, who needs to stay at a high level for the team to make the postseason.

Noah Syndergaard (Noah Syndergaard) – The Mets need Thor to be Thor.

Zack Wheeler (Jacob deGrom) – It was deGrom’s building off of a surprising 2014 season which helped take the Mets over the top in 2015. It’s exactly what everyone is expecting from Wheeler in 2019.

Steven Matz (Al Leiter) – Hometown left-handed pitchers who have a chance to help be a big part of the reason why the Mets make a run to the postseason.

Jason Vargas (Bartolo Colon) – Vargas is the veteran below-league average starter who needs to stick in the rotation while just eating up innings.

Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.

Chris Flexen (Octavio Dotel) – Spot starters who have the repertoire to potentially do much more damage in the bullpen.

Hector Santiago (Darren Oliver) – Pitchers who once had success starting who could be valuable long men in the bullpen.

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz (Billy Wagner) – Wagner was the sure-fire reliever at the end of the bullpen who helped make games an eight inning affair.

Jeurys Familia (John Franco) – One time great Mets closer is now serving as the set-up man for a young brash fireballer brought in during the offseason.

Seth Lugo (Nolan Ryan) – Just pure dominating stuff out of the bullpen from a guy who would probably be a starting pitcher for any other Major League team.

Robert Gsellman (Pat Mahomes) – The key piece of the 1999 bullpen who permitted the Mets bullpen to be as great as it could possibly be.

Justin Wilson (Dennis Cook) – Pitchers who are more than LOOGYs who raise their game in the biggest stages.

Luis Avilan (Pedro Feliciano) – Feliciano was the LOOGY out of the bullpen who was a weapon the Mets could utilize to neutralize the opponent’s top left-handed batters.

Tim Peterson (Greg McMichael) – Strike throwers who don’t have dominating stuff.

Jacob Rhame (Heath Bell) – The guys whose stuff have not quite yet translated to performance leading them to bounce between Triple-A and the Majors.

Paul Sewald (Carlos Torres) – Jack of all trades reliever who does yeoman’s work eating up innings.

Daniel Zamora (Royce Ring) – Promising young LOOGYS who should dominate in their limited opportunities.

And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.

 

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Should The Mets Bring Back The Black Jerseys?

While this is the 50th Anniversary of the 1969 Miracle Mets, it is also the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Mets. As part of the 1969 celebration, it appears we will finally get to the Tom Seaver statute Mets fans have been clamoring for over the past decade. However, it does not appear there will be similar celebrations for the first Mets team to make consecutive postseasons this year.

You could present the argument the Mets could do something subtle like dusting off the black jerseys and wearing them like the Mets wore the old racing stripe jerseys three years ago. Of course, the mere mention of bringing back those jerseys tends to set off a firestorm. With that in mind, our roundtable answers the question as to whether the Mets should ever bring back the black jerseys in any way, shape, or form:

Pete McCarthy (OABT)

Only the black hats with blue brim.

Bre S. (That Mets Chick)

I wouldn’t completely bring them back but it would be cool to see them on occasion. The Mets wore the 86 racing stripes in 2016 on Sundays. It would be nice to see them maybe on Friday nights. (Sunday day games might be too hot for black uniforms).

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

I love the black jerseys, but it’s strange because until last September, David Wright would have been the last active Met to wear them. Now, as far as I can tell, assuming Jose Reyes is done, the only remaining Mets who wore the black jerseys during their original run are Jason Vargas — maybe — and Carlos Gomez — probably. That’s nothing against the jerseys; it’s just a hell of a thought that Juan Lagares is the longest tenured Met, and the current Mets who go back the farthest as Mets are Jason Vargas and Carlos Gomez. I guess my point is yes, absolutely bring back the black jerseys, but also wow, what a weird, crazy world we live in.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

I’m not nostalgic about the black unis, especially since we only stopped wearing them seven years ago. I can’t get nostalgic about a uniform that a truckload of Mets fans complained about when they actually wore them. Love the blues much better and would rather wear those on Friday nights.

That said, if you want to bring the black unis back to mark an anniversary, save them until next season. This season belongs to ’69. A truly historic team like that deserves the entire season. Sneaking in a ’99 tribute seems odd to me. Instead, honor the 2000 team. They are probably the most underappreciated team in Mets history. Partly because the ’99 team overshadows them, and partly because they lost to the Yankees, who overshadow everybody. I understand that the roster was essentially the same, but the 2000 team never even got so much as a congratulatory rally at Shea Stadium. A good amount of pennant winners who lost the World Series at least got that, and I think the Mets would have had that if they had lost to anybody except the Yankees. They deserve their due. (Even Armando Benitez.) So I say do it next season.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

Wear period uniforms when they induct Alfonzo, Valentine and Leiter into the team Hall of Fame. Also, induct Edgardo Alfonzo, Bobby Valentine and Al Leiter into the team Hall of Fame.

Come 2022, I’d endorse doing for the 60th anniversary what the Reds are doing for their 125th, sprinkling in different throwbacks throughout the season, the black ones included.

Metstradamus

Greg, I thought of that too. If we want to have throwbacks for years ending in 9, give us the ’69 unis, the black unis, but also the two button pullovers from ’79 and the Mark Carreon specials from ’89.

Mets Daddy

I do like the special days one. Personally, I thought Piazza’s 31 should’ve been in black.

Greg Prince

Decade Nights or whatever shouldn’t take that much imagination to pull off.

It also requires a tacit admission that the Mets existed in years besides 1969, 1986 and the current year.

Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)

I was never a huge fan of the black jerseys but if it makes the Mets money they may bring them back. Seems like so many sports teams had a black third jersey and it kind of got played out. From a design point of view, you use black as a shortcut to make the uniform look better… but it doesn’t always work.

James Schapiro

The real question: black uniforms or snow-whites?

Metstradamus

James, black over the snow whites. Not close.

Mets Daddy

Whites were always too Brooklyn Dodgers for me

Greg Prince

I dare the Mets to bring back the 1997 ice cream hats for one game in 2022. The pillbox hats from 1976. And, of course, the Mercury Mets getup from 1999.

Mets Daddy

I actually liked the ice cream hats on their own. With the white jerseys, they were terrible

Metstradamus

They had a chance to bring back Mercury Mets on the 20th anniversary. Of course they blew it.

Greg Prince

Mercury Mets would be ideal for 2021. That was the date of “the future,” in 1999.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

I’m torn on the black. I did like them, but like always, the team ruined the concept by never truly executing the look properly. The hybrid cap, black with blue bill was atrocious, & did not match the jersey. (Sorry, Pete). They also de-emphasised blue in criminal fashion, wearing the home uniform with black undershirts / sleeves and socks made the team look hideous. If they bring them back, which they will, the all black cap and special one Tim only snow White pants (it looks terrible with the pinstripe pants) is the only way the jersey should be worn. Also Mercury Mets = infamnia.

But I hate the introduction of black as a major element because it ruined the rest of the uniform. That the Mets wore this monstrosity at home in the World Series still irritates me to no end. Hybrid cap, black undershirt, black drop shadow = again, infamnia

I hated the cap, I really, really hate it. If Mets bring back this hideous thing, then I vote No on black alts.

Mets Daddy

On the hat, I agree. As I noted previously, the hats need updating. I also think the jerseys themselves were overused. If the Mets were so inclined, I think bringing them back for Friday nights may be the best possible solution, mostly because I associate the Friday night black jerseys with Mike Piazza hitting that home run to cap off a 10 run rally against the Braves.

Overall, this was one of my favorite roundtables thus far, and I hope this roundtable encourages you to check out the excellent work of the people who contributed to this roundtable.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Who Should The Mets Bring Back To The Organization?

This offseason, the Mets have begun hiring some former fan favorites as special advisors to Brodie Van Wagenen. David Wright was the first with the team recently hiring Al Leiter and John Franco. We have also seen the team swap Nelson Figueroa with Todd Zeile for the postgame. In addition to those moves, Mike Piazza made his annual stop at Spring Training.

Seeing how the Mets are focusing more on their history, and recent history at that, you wonder who exactly the team will bring back next. We answer that question in our latest roundtable:

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

I want to see Justin Turner come back and play third base.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

My list of ex-Mets I’d welcome back in some capacity is too numerous to detail. I love the idea that these guys are forever part of the family as applicable.

Tim Ryder (MMO)

I’d like to see Carlos Delgado back representing the Mets in some capacity. His dedication to his craft (remember that notebook he wrote in after every at-bat?) would play well in this young-ish clubhouse, as well as through the organization.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

Does Jarred Kelenic count?

Really though, this is more of an overall thought than a concrete idea, but Billy Wagner is one of the least-recognized greats in baseball history. By pretty much any measure he’s the second best modern-style closer of all time, and he’s already pretty much forgotten. I’m not sure the Mets should be the ones to honor him, but someone needs to.

Mets Daddy

Previously, I opined how Johan Santana could be a real difference maker in the organization if he were able to teach pitchers his changeup much in the same way he once did with Jacob deGrom. However, from a pure standpoint of wanting to bring a player back into the fold, I would like to see Carlos Beltran return to the Mets.

As it stands, Beltran is going to be in a position where he can choose a Royals, Mets, or a blank cap when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. When you’re the Mets, and you only have two Hall of Famers in Tom Seaver and Piazza, and Seaver is no longer making public appearances, it would see a team should do all they can do to bring one of those Hall of Famers back to Queens.

Once again, I appreciate each of these writers taking their time to contribute to these roundtables, and I hope each person who reads this takes the time to visit the other writers sites to see their excellent work.

 

Mets Should Hire Johan Santana In Addition To Leiter, Franco, And Mendoza

During this offseason, the Mets have certainly made splashes hiring David Wright, John Franco, Al Leiter, and now Jessica Mendoza in a player development role for the organization. These are all intelligent baseball people, who if utilized properly, can have a profound impact upon the Mets organization.

Seeing how three of these hires were popular Mets players, the team should consider doing the same and bringing back Johan Santana.

There are plenty of superficial reasons why the Mets should bring Santana back to New York. He is the only pitcher in Mets history to pitch a no-hitter. His 2008 season was great, and he would pitch the last great game seen at Shea Stadium. To this day, he remains popular with the fanbase. All that said, the real reason the Mets should bring back Santana is his change-up.

Santana’s changeup was a truly great pitch. It was a pitch he used to win two Cy Young awards in what was a borderline Hall of Fame career. It was a pitch which earned him a massive contract with the Mets. It was the final pitch he threw to strike out David Freese to end his no-hitter. It was the pitch he taught to Jacob deGrom, which forever changed the trajectory of deGrom’s career.

Back in 2011, deGrom was rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery, and Santana was rehabilitating from shoulder surgery. As the two worked at the team’s rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, their paths would cross. As reported by the New York Times, Santana would teach deGrom the pitch that made Santana a Cy Young award winner and would one day make help make deGrom one as well:

[W]hile doing his rehabilitation work at the Mets’ rehabilitation facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., deGrom fell into conversation with Johan Santana, the Mets’ injured ace. Santana proceeded to teach deGrom his famous changeup, how to grip the ball, how it should look the same as a fastball coming out of his hand. Santana told him to practice throwing at 180 feet. If he threw it correctly, the ball would fall well short.

As noted by the Fangraphs, deGrom’s changeup was the second most valuable changeup in all of baseball last year making it his best pitch last year. According to Brooks Baseball, opposing batters hit just .139 off of his changeup. The pitch is a large reason why deGrom was second in the league in getting batters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone, and why he had the fifth most swings and misses against him.

Much of what deGrom accomplished began when he was rehabbing at the same time as Santana. If the Mets were wise, they would bring back Santana to have a profound impact on someone else’s career. He may help Corey Oswalt or Chris Flexen go to that next level. It’s possible David Peterson, Anthony Kay, and Thomas Szapucki each take a huge step forward in their development.

Perhaps, there is some pitching prospect who is not well known at this time who could learn Santana’s changeup and have his career take off. After all, that’s what happened to converted shortstop and former ninth round pick Jacob deGrom.

 

Congratulations Dillon Gee

After an eight year career, former Mets pitcher Dillon Gee has announced his retirement from baseball. While Gee spent time with the Royals, Rangers, Twins, and even Japan, he is a New York Mets player through and through. The fact Gee emerged to even be that is quite remarkable.

Gee was a 21st round draft pick out of the University of Texas. He didn’t throw consistently in the 90s. None of his breaking pitches were great. Looking at that profile, you would not immediately peg him as a guy who was going to make it to the Major Leagues.

Overlooked through all of that was Gee knew how to pitch. He could locate his pitches, and he knew how to sequence them. With that knowledge and his underrated stuff, Gee just dominated in the minors. A year after he was drafted, he posted a 1.33 ERA in Double-A Binghamton. He would come to Spring Training in 2009, and he would catch the eye of then Mets manager Jerry Manuel.

You could have expected to pinpoint that as the moment where Gee took off. He didn’t because in Triple-A Gee was 1-3 with a 4.10 ERA and a 1.303 WHIP in just nine starts. He watched on like the rest of us as the Mets dipped down to Triple-A for Tim Redding, Nelson Figueroa, Pat Misch, Fernando Nieve, and Jon Niese. As that 2009 team faltered, Gee was left with us Mets fans wondering, “What if?”

The reason why Gee was no in the mix was a torn labrum leading to season ending shoulder surgery for a torn laburm. As we would eventually see with Johan Santana, that could be a career killer. Fortunately, even with him struggling in the minors in 2010, it wasn’t one for Gee.

Gee would finally get his chance at the end of the 2010 season, and over the course of seven brilliant innings against the Nationals, he proved he belonged. He did that all the more so as Gee had a 2.18 ERA in five MLB starts. That stint established he was a Major Leaguer, and he would become a fixture in the Mets rotation.

There were several highlights from Gee in his Mets years. In 2011, he would start the season 7-0 surpassing Jon Matlack‘s rookie record of six consecutive wins to start a season. He would set a career high with nine strikeouts in a game. And then, once again, there was an issue with his pitching shoulder. This time, Gee had a clot an arterial clot requiring season ending surgery. By the end of 2012, he had a promising start to his career, and he also had two significant and potentially career altering shoulder surgeries.

Once again, Gee would beat the odds, and he would once again establish he was a big league pitcher. While he teetered early on in 2013, he would re-establish himself in May with a terrific start against the Pirates allowing just one run in five innings. After that, he would have two more moments which would be arguably be the highlight of his career. The first was a 12 strikeout performance against the Yankees in the Subway Series:

It was a huge moment as the victory secured the Mets ever, and to date only, season sweep against the Yankees in the history of Interleague Play.

Later that season, Gee would flirt with a no-hitter for six innings against the Braves. It wasn’t the first or last time Gee would have that type of a performance, but it was special nonetheless.

This would lead to his being the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter. Just being an opening day starter put him in the same conversation as pitchers like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Al Leiter, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Johan Santana. It was a special honor for a pitcher who persevered throughout his career.

Unfortuantely, Gee would have injury issues in 2014, which helped lead to the rise of Jacob deGrom. That coupled with Matt Harvey returning and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz on the horizon made his spot tenuous going forward. With the team being unsure what he was going forward coupled with another injury, Gee’s time was all but over. Finally, Gee would be released by the Mets in June meaning Gee would miss the ride.

Gee missed the ride despite his being a mentor to young pitchers like Harvey. He missed the ride despite him being one of the building blocks who not only had to take their licks pitching in front of inferior Mets teams, but also trying to take this team back to contention. Something, he never got to experience. Instead of being bitter, he was right there with all of us rooting for that Mets team to win the World Series:

Gee was a Met through and through. For six years, he gave the Mets everything he had. He did not let two shoulder surgeries stand in his way. He rose to become an Opening Day starter, and his fingerprints were all over that 2015 team. In the end, Gee should be proud of everything he accomplished. It was a very good career, and as a fan, it was a privilege to watch him pitch every fifth day.

Best of luck in retirement Dillon Gee!

Al Leiter Making Right Decision Leaving Booth

In recent news former Mets great Al Leiter has announced he will not be returning to the YES booth for the 2019 season. With him leaving the booth, he is leaving behind a promising and good broadcast career which had begun when he was a player providing commentary during the 2003 NLCS.

During that NLCS, you could see Leiter was going to be a gifted broadcaster. He hasn’t disappointed in his time as a Yankees color commentator or as an analyst on MLB Network. Seeing his work, you knew no one was pushing him out the door, and yet Leiter has announced he is leaving.

The reason is his son, Jack, is a senior in high school, and he is committed to Vanderbilt. If Jack is anything like his father, his uncle Mark Leiter, or even his cousin also named Mark Leiter, he has a real Major League future ahead of him. If that is the case, Al Leiter is going to be in New Jersey doing work for the MLB Network, or he will be in the Bronx, or he will find himself anywhere where the Yankees travel.

That does not leave him much time to watch his son pitch during his senior season. It doesn’t give him time to give parental advice to help prepare his son for college or even the draft. It doesn’t leave enough time for him to spend time with his son because his son finds himself in places like Tennesse, whether that is for college or for an Appalachian League affiliate.

In his career, Leiter made approximately $68 million. He’s done a fine job as a broadcaster presumably earning a good salary. With his reputation and his relatively young age (53), Leiter has the chance to do this. This is all every parent wants, and Leiter has that opportunity. Good for him for taking full advantage.

When he’s ready to return, there could be a chance for him at SNY as the Mets have begun taking more of a look at the 90’s Mets team. We have seen Todd Zeile recently hired to replace Nelson Figueroa and Bob Ojeda before him. Sooner or later, we know Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are going to leave the Mets booth.

Maybe, there will be room for a new booth with Gary, Leiter, and Mike Piazza. It would be the type of booth which could generate the same chemistry and cache with Mets fans. And who knows, maybe we will see Leiter calling games his son is pitching.

But before then, let’s hope the best for Jack Leiter and hope Al enjoys each and every minute of the ride.

Patrick Mahomes II Wore A Mets Jersey

Entering Arrowhead before the clash with the Bengals, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes II was wearing his father’s Mets jersey.  What is interesting is that of the six stops in his father’s career, this is the jersey which Mahomes opted to wear:

Perhaps, this is because Pat Mahomes best season in the majors was with the 1999 Mets.  That year, Mahomes was a crucial long man in the bullpen for a Mets team that needed to win each and every last game.  Thinking back on that season, if Mahomes had one hiccup, the Mets don’t force a one game playoff for the Wild Card.

As good as he was in the regular season, Mahomes was even better in the NLCS that year.  In fact, if not for his pitching some of the most beloved moments in Mets history don’t happen.  If he does not bail out Dennis Cook in the seventh inning and keep the Braves at bay in the beginning of the eighth inning in Game 5, we likely never see Robin Ventura‘s Grand Slam Single.

In Game 6, Mahomes bailed out Al Leiter after he allowed five earned without even recording an out.  Mahomes pitching four scoreless innings from there allowed the Mets to tie the game on the eventual Mike Piazza opposite field home run off John Smoltz in the seventh.  Sure, that game ended in heartbreak, but the thrill of seeing that comeback was made possible by Mahomes.

Much like each of us Mets fans, the younger Mahomes was likely glued to his seat.  Unlike the rest of us, Mahomes got to know the team in 1999 and 2000:

Whatever the reason, of all the teams Mahomes’ father played for during his career, his son seems to feel a closer to connection with the Mets.  As a Mets fan, I was rooting for him to succeed because of what his father meant to the Mets during the 1999 season.  Seeing him wear the Mets jersey last night is going to make me root for him all the more.