The position of the New York Mets seems to be defense only matters when you can have a designated hitter. If you have no DH, then you need to shoehorn in as many bats as you can into the lineup. In other words, the Mets are purposefully going to put out a sub-optimal defense and torpedo their pitching staff because of one position.
It’s beyond ridiculous.
Brandon Nimmo has averaged a -4 DRS in center over the past three seasons, and that is despite his not having played more than 350.1 innings at the position in any one year. Dominic Smith has averaged -2 DRS in left over the past three seasons despite not having played more than 219.0 innings in any season. J.D. Davis has averaged a -6 DRS at third over the past three seasons despite not having played more than 269.1 innings there in a season.
All told, these three players have proven themselves ill suited to handle the positions they are currently slated to play. What is maddening when you look at Nimmo and Smith is they are actually quite good at their real positions. Nimmo has a 5 DRS as a left fielder in his career, and Smith, after taking away his rookie season, has a 0 DRS as a first baseman.
It just seems bizarre to purposefully put these players in a position to purposefully fail. Nimmo belongs in left, Smith belongs at first, and Davis belongs on the bench. If you are a team operating responsibly, that is what you should unequivocally do.
Obviously, this is not taking into account Pete Alonso. Frankly, the Mets not addressing this logjam was their way of ignoring Alonso. In reality, the Mets are carrying three first baseman with him, Smith, and Davis. That’s three players for one position. That number grows to four when you look at Jose Martinez, who was signed to a minor league deal.
The Mets unwillingness to move one of those players this offseason has created a very real problem with this roster. Unless it is all a smokescreen, which it very well might, the actual plan is to put three first baseman on the field everyday and put a left fielder in center. They then hope this plan which always fails doesn’t fail again this time.
For some reason, that is a Sandy Alderson tactic. In the early years of Citi Field, we saw him jam Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and Daniel Murphy into the lineup. We also saw him try Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson in center rather than get a player who could actually go other there and handle the position on an everyday basis. At this point, you just wonder how much this was an accident and how much this is his actual plan.
Certainly, you can and should argue Alonso, Nimmo, and Smith need to play everyday. No one will argue with that proposition. However, they can’t do it all on the same roster. Center field is far too important of a defensive position.
You have to go back to 2012 and 2014 with the San Francisco Giants winning with Angel Pagan to find a team who won with a bad defensive center fielder. Before that, you have to go to Johnny Damon with the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Before that, there isn’t publicly available DRS information. All told, in this century, there is really just three seasons teams won without an at least decent center fielder.
If you are operating a baseball team, you can’t look at purposefully punt center field defense. It’s even worse by putting a first baseman next to the center fielder in left. Then, to make sure you’ve done all you can do to screw things up, you throw a first baseman at third in front of the third baseman in left. It’s ridiculous.
Really, there is no way the Mets can go forward with this roster to begin the season. They need to add an actual third baseman and an actual center fielder. If one of Alonso or Smith has to sit, so be it. That’s the position the Mets put themselves in. If you need to move one of them in a deal to address a need, do it, but only so long as it is a good deal.
All told, it is poor planning and team building to purposefully put out a terrible defensive outfield. We saw in 2020 how much that can completely derail a season. We’ve seen it other times in Mets history. Whether or not there is a DH, the Mets still need to find everyday players at third and center.
In an ill-fated trade with the San Francisco Giants, the Mets had obtained Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez in exchange for Angel Pagan. In Torres, the Mets got not just the best player in team history to wear the number 56, but also an advocate for ADHD.
Torres had been diagnosed with ADHD, and he spoke at length about its impact on his life and his baseball career. he would go on to do interviews and a documentary about it. That was his significant off the field contributions. On the field, he had a very underappreciated season.
One reason for his season being underappreciated was Torres had dealt with early injuries, and at one point, he was mired in an 0-for-18 streak in the second half. Another reason why it was underappreciated was Pagan went to the Giants, and he had a very good year for a Giants team which won the World Series.
Little did people know at the time, but Torres would have a very good defensive year posting a 4 DRS in center. To put in perspective how good a year that was defensively, since the inception of DRS, only four other Mets have posted a better single-season DRS, a list which includes Gold Glovers Carlos Beltran and Juan Lagares, but surprisingly not Mike Cameron.
At the plate, Torres did not have a particularly strong season with an 88 wRC+. That said, he joined Jose Reyes as the only two Mets players to have multiple games in a season where they hit a homer and a triple. When all was said and done, Torres had amassed a 1.5 WAR which is higher than the other 1o players who wore the uniform with the New York Mets, which is why he’s the best Mets player to ever wear the number.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
25. Pedro Feliciano
26. Terry Leach
27. Jeurys Familia
28. Daniel Murphy
29. Frank Viola
30. Michael Conforto
31. Mike Piazza
32. Jon Matlack
33. Matt Harvey
34. Noah Syndergaard
35. Rick Reed
36. Jerry Koosman
37. Casey Stengel
38. Skip Lockwood
39. Gary Gentry
40. Bartolo Colon
41. Tom Seaver
42. Ron Taylor
43. R.A. Dickey
44. David Cone
45. Tug McGraw
46. Oliver Perez
47. Jesse Orosco
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Armando Benitez
50. Sid Fernandez
51. Rick White
52. Yoenis Cespedes
53. Chad Bradford
54. T.J. Rivera
55. Orel Hershiser
Not only was Carlos Beltran the best Mets player to ever wear the number 15, he is easily the best center fielder in team history. There is an argument to be made he was the best outfielder to ever play for the Mets.
Things did not start off that way. In fact, his 2005 season with the Mets was extremely disappointing, and to some, it invoked memories of the Bobby Bonilla deal. In fact, Beltran was the first real major venture into free agency the Mets made after that Bonilla signing.
It was an eventful year for him. In Spring Training, he took David Wright and Jose Reyes under his wing to show them how to prepare. He helped avoid the Mets going 0-6 to start the year by hitting a two run homer against John Smoltz. From there, it was mostly consternation from fans about his propensity to bunt and rolling over on pitches. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, he and Mike Cameron had one of the more horrific outfield collisions you would ever see.
Things would go much better for him in 2006.
To put it simply, Beltran was robbed of the MVP award that year. During that season, he was the best overall player in the National League, and he was the best player on the best team in baseball. He really did it all that year. He was an All-Star, and he won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. There was game saving defensive plays and walk-off homers.
That season, Beltran set a team record for highest single-season WAR, and he would tie Todd Hundley‘s record for homers in a season and Howard Johnson‘s record for extra base hits. He would also get the single season record for runs scored, a record which still stands.
For all the talk from some people who only want to focus on the strikeout which ended that season, the Mets come nowhere close to that Game 7 without Beltran. In addition to his great year, Beltran would homer three times in that series. The first was a two run shot in the sixth inning of Game 1 which paced the Mets 2-0 victory. He then had a two run home run game in a must win Game 4.
The next two years for Beltran and the Mets were known for their collapses. That’s unfortunate because Beltran was great for those Mets teams. In 2007, while not as good as he was the prior year, he was still great making another All-Star team and winning another Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. With respect to the Gold Glove, in Houston, Beltran had just about the greatest catch a Mets player has ever made (in the regular season):
While the Mets did collapse that year, Beltran did what he could do to stop it. Over the final two months of the season, Beltran was at his best hitting .304/.378/.613 with 14 homers and 50 RBI. His eight homers over the final month of the season was more than anyone on the Mets. Over those brutal last five games of the season, he was 6-for-22 with three homers.
In 2007, he did all he could to to stop another collapse. By WAR, that season was the seventh best in team history. Looking at Mets team history, only Beltran and Wright appear multiple times on that top 10 list.
Again, Beltran was great to finish that year doing all he could do to help stop a second collapse. Over the final two months, he hit .322/.400/.589 with 12 homers and 40 RBI. Over the final five games of the season, he hit .412/.545/.588, and he would hit the last homer a Mets player ever hit in Shea Stadium. That homer would tie the game, but unfortunately, the Mets would lose that game.
During the Carlos Beltran era, the Mets would not get that close again. Beltran was one of the few Mets who had played well in the new ballpark, but he had an injury shortened season. It would eventually lead to a fracturing of the relationship with the Mets as he would have career saving surgery on the eve of the 2010 season, a surgery the Mets originally protested.
In 2011, Beltran returned for his last year with the Mets. He was once again an All-Star, but this time, he did it as a right fielder. When he was asked to move to right to allow Angel Pagan to play center, Beltran made no issue about it, and he made the switch willingly. That year, Beltran re-established himself as one of the best players in the game, and he had another huge moment hitting three two run homers in Colorado:
With his resurgence, the Mets were able to get Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants. When that trade was completed, it put an end to the Mets career of one of the greatest players to ever wear the uniform. It also put an end to the Mets career of the most under-appreciated Mets player of all-time.
His 2006-2008 stretch was arguably the best three year stretch any Mets player has ever had. He was a Gold Glover and a Silver Slugger. Mostly, he played like a Hall of Famer, and he may just be that one day.
There was a chance for Beltran to get that appreciation he always deserved when the Mets initially hired him to be their manager. With the Houston Astros fallout, Beltran was the only player to pay the price being effectively fired by the Mets as they kept two players who had also cheated in Houston. With that, Beltran’s Hall of Fame chances may have taken a hit, and the chances he wears a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque may have also taken a hit.
Still, there is no denying how great Beltran was as a Met. He was a five tool player who played to his full potential with the Mets. He set team records, established himself as the best center fielder in team history, and ultimately, he is easily the best Mets player to ever wear the number 15.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Beltran was the 15th best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 15.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
As this decade closes out at midnight today, the Mets will actually enter their seventh decade of baseball. Before proceeding forward, let’s take a look at the best moments from each year of this decade:
On the field, it was Angel Pagan hitting an inside-the-park home run and starting a triple play in the same game.
In a moment no one saw coming, Chris Capuano had a two hit shutout where he struck out 13:
This was the year of Harvey, and there was a lot to choose from with his near perfect game, bloody nose game, Harvey’s Better game, and others, but it’s hard to top him and David Wright starting the All Star Game at Citi Field.
Every single defensive play made by Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares:
With this being the fifth pennant in Mets history, there are many moments, but perhaps the biggest is Daniel Murphy‘s postseason heroics:
The Mets would need to make a late charge to make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the second time in team history. The lasting image from that run was Asdrubal Cabrera‘s walk-off homer:
After an injury plagued 2016, Michael Conforto would emerge as an All-Star, and his season was highlighted by an impressive homecoming:
It was melancholy, but we got to see Wright play one final game as a member of the New York Mets:
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
In international competition, I am an American, and as such, I will always root for the USA to prevail. In the Olympics, I root for the USA regardless of what Rangers are playing for the other country. I love Henrik Lundqvist to death, but I would root for an American team full of Islanders, Devils, and Flyers if it was ever a USA-Sweden gold medal match.
The same goes for the WBC.
Surprisingly, the closest ties USA has to the Mets is Daniel Murphy and Tyler Clippard, both of whom were on the 2015 pennant winner. Mostly, the USA roster is full of players you would rather not root for as a Mets fan.
There’s Eric Hosmer whose name cannot be mentioned in my house anymore. I loved watching Michael Conforto take Danny Duffy deep in the World Series, but to be honest, Duffy got the last laugh. Tanner Roark is a National, who also did all he could do to help blow the 5-0 lead against the Dominican Republic. While I generally like both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, when seeing them play, you cannot help but be reminded of the heartbreaking loss in the Wild Card Game last year. Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been a thorn in the Mets side on a Marlins team that seemingly exists just to be a Mets spoiler.
Overall, while I have found USA to be a likeable team, there are enough players there that harbor bad memories.
The Puerto Rican roster, on the other hand, is full of players I absolutely love.
Carlos Beltran may be the next Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. T.J. Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job last year after a number of injuries left the Mets searching for a capable player at the position as the team was fighting for a Wild Card. Rene Rivera helped Noah Syndergaard improve as a pitcher last year.
Worse yet, Seth Lugo is going to start against the USA in what should prove to be an incredibly important game. Lugo was an vitally important pitcher who helped get the Mets back to the postseason last year. He may prove to once again be an extremely important pitcher for the Mets next year whether he is in the rotation, the bullpen, or both. As a Mets fan, you do not want to see Lugo get bashed around by the USA in the WBC. Rather, you want to see him continue to improve and be in the best possible position to help the Mets next year.
Not to be wishy-washy, but you hope that Lugo pitches well and the Americans still win.
And yes, despite all the Mets ties to Puerto Rico, including Angel Pagan, who was once a pretty good Met, I am still rooting for the USA tomorrow night. Mostly, I am rooting for the USA because I am an American.
The first real playoff team Terry Collins managed with the Mets was in his first season with the team. It is hard to believe now, but that team was full of players that are now members, if not significant contributors, to teams that reached the postseason this year:
- Josh Thole – Toronto Blue Jays (not on the ALDS roster)
- Daniel Murphy – Washington Nationals
- Justin Turner – Los Angeles Dodgers
- David Wright – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
- Jose Reyes – New York Mets
- Angel Pagan – San Francisco Giants
- Carlos Beltran – Texas Rangers
- Lucas Duda – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
- R.A. Dickey – Toronto Blue Jays (not on the ALDS roster)
- Jon Niese – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
Reading the names on that list, the two that immediately jump off the page are Murphy and Turner. They jump off the page for a myriad of reasons. The first reason is the two players are currently facing off against one another in the NLDS between the Dodgers and the Nationals. The series is tied at 1-1 in large part because Turner and Murphy have continued to be terrific postseason player.
Last year, Turner hit .526/.550/.842 with six doubles and four RBI against the Mets in the NLDS last year. Overall, in Turner’s postseason career, he is a .500/.538/.875 hitter with six doubles, one homer, and six RBI.
Murphy was the bat that helped carried the Mets to the World Series last year. In consecutive games, he hit homers off of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. He would also homer off Fernando Rodney in what was a stretch of six straight games with a home run. In addtion to the homers, Murphy’s going from first to third on a walk in Game Five of the NLDS helped changed the complexion of that game. Additionally, up until the World Series, he had played exceptional defense (which admittedly is a rarity for him). So far in the NLDS, Murphy is 4-6 with a walk and two RBI. The first of the two RBI was the go-ahead RBI in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Between Turner and Murphy, the Mets had at one time two second baseman who have established themselves to be extraordinarily clutch and terrific postseason players. They were also two players the Mets were eager to replace.
Turner was surprisingly non-tendered a contract after a 2013 season where he seemed to solidify himself as a utility or platoon player (at a minimum). Instead, the Mets let him go with rumors circulating that he was a me-first player that didn’t hustle. He was also characterized as a player that wasn’t progressing because he liked the night scene a little too much. He would go to Los Angeles and blossom as a player. The Mets internal replacement? Eric Campbell.
When Murphy became a free agent, the Mets first aggressively pursued Ben Zobrist. After failing to land him, the Mets quickly moved to trade for Neil Walker. At no time did the Mets even make Murphy an offer. Unlike Turner, Walker was an actual replacement with Walker having a great year for the Mets before needing season ending back surgery. However, despite how good Walker’s year was, he still wasn’t anywhere near was good as Murphy was for the Nationals.
It should never have come as a surprise that both of these players were gone because the Mets, under Sandy Alderson’s reign as General Manager, never really wanted either player. If you go back to that 2011 season, the Opening Day second baseman was Rule 5 Draft pick, Brad Emaus. After a couple of weeks of him struggling, the Mets moved on and finally went to Murphy and Turner at second base. Murphy would get the bulk of the playing time there until Ike Davis‘ ankle injury that allowed them to play side-by-side. With Davis’ healing up and being ready for the 2012 season, the Mets proceeded with Murphy as the second baseman and Turner as the utility player. As we know, that lasted just two year.
Ultimately, the Mets made the postseason this year without either player. And yes, both players got their first chance with the Mets. Quite possibly, neither player would be in the position they are in now without the Mets giving them a chance to prove they are major league players. However, the Mets also made clear they didn’t want either player starting all the way back in 2011 when they anointed Emaus the everyday second baseman. Eventually, the Mets would get their chance to move on, and they took advantage of that opportunity.
With that, Murphy and Turner are in the NLDS after the Mets lost the Wild Card Game with T.J. Rivera starting at second base. One of those two will be in the NLCS with a chance to go to the World Series, a position the Mets thought they were going to be in as the season started. With all that in mind, it begs the question: how much differently would the Mets season have gone if they had kept either Turner or Murphy?
In the Wild Card Game, the Mets ran James Loney out to first base. In his very first at-bat, he snuffed out what could have been a rally by hitting into a double play on the first pitch he saw from Madison Bumgarner. In the seventh, he failed to field a groundball not hit too far from him that allowed Angel Pagan to reach on an infield single. That play effectively erased any chance that Noah Syndergaard could go back out for the eighth inning. Speaking of the eighth inning, with the Mets desperate for offense, Terry Collins pinch hit Eric Campbell for Loney.
Fact is, Loney shouldn’t have started that game. He didn’t have good numbers against left-handed pitching. He has been even worse against Bumgarner. However, he had to start with Lucas Duda not being ready to play, and with Wilmer Flores having suffered a season ending wrist injury.
All year long, Flores had demolished left-handed pitching. In 49 games against left-handed pitching, Flores hit .340/.383/.710 with 11 homers and 28 RBI. The Mets needed his bat in the lineup, and they needed him to play first base. However, he wasn’t available because of a crucial decision, or indecision, that was made on September 10th.
In that September 10th game, the Mets and Braves were tied 3-3 in the eighth inning, and Flores was standing on second base after a two out double. As we would soon see, with Flores’ speed, it was far from a guarantee that he would score from second on a base hit. Kelly Johnson would get a pinch-hit single. Flores “raced” around third, and he slid headfirst into home plate. In the ensuing collison, A.J. Pierzynski got him out – not just out at home plate, but also out for the season. Fact is, there is no reason why Flores wasn’t lifted there for a pinch runner. How did this happen?
Well, acccording to Collins, “We certainly had enough guys who could have ran for him, which we should have.” (Kevin Kernan, New York Post). Collins would go on to say, ““I was trying to get the pitching set up and get a pinch hitter in and got distracted, my faultI told [bench coach] Dickie [Scott], like I said, we were trying to get the pitching set up and get a pinch hitter, get somebody to hit for the pitcher who was coming up. I certainly should have had somebody ready to pinch run.”
Ultimately, Collins, being the manager and never one to make excuses, took responsibility for the failure to pinch run for Flores. However, it wasn’t just Collins’ mistake. It was also Bench Coach Dick Scott‘s mistake.
The bench coach’s job is more than just acting as a sounding board for the manager when seeking to make a move. The bench coach is also responsible for having a grasp of the matchups that are upcoming. They need to be aware of moves the team needs to be making in the next couple of innings. Overall, the bench coach needs to help prevent his manager, and ultimately his team, from making a gaffe that could cost them a game. During that confusion, Scott needed to remind Collins to get a pinch runner. He needed to be the clear head. If he did think of it, he needed to have a strong enough voice to get through to Collins.
What was simply astounding is the Mets almost repeated the mistake a week later. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Mets were trailing the Minnesota Twins 1-0, and Ervin Santana was dealing. Loney was intentionally walked putting runners and first and second with no outs. Despite Loney representing the go-ahead run and being perhaps the slowest man in all of baseball, he was not pinch run for during Alejandro De Aza‘s at-bat. After De Aza walked, Loney was on second, again representing the go-ahead run. The Mets then sent Michael Conforto to bat for Jerry Blevins, and still Loney remained on second. After Conforto took the first pitch did the Mets send Ty Kelly out to second base to pinch run for Loney.
These weren’t isolated incidents. There are several other examples to pull from including the famous Collins’ rant about not knowing whether Jay Bruce or Brandon Nimmo is faster. If Collins didn’t know that, his bench coach sure should.
While Collins has his faults as a manager, there was never this sense of indecisiveness that we saw from the team this season. While Collins usually made head scratching moves, he usually had a justification for them. He would say that someone was swinging a hot bat, or the player has been a good player for them all season, or simply that he liked the matchup. He would never say there was distraction and confusion in the dugout. There was no reason for him to say it because Bob Geren was a good bench coach that helped not just his manager, but also his team. That calming presence and attention to detail was missed this year.
Geren’s work with catchers was also missed this year.
During Geren’s time in baseball, he has be renown for his work with catchers. If you recall, when Travis d’Arnaud had first come up with the Mets, there were many questions about his defense. In his first full season, he actually led the majors in passed balls, which is all the more alarming when you consider he spent a good amount of time in AAA. It wasn’t just the passed balls. During the season, d’Arnaud had trouble framing pitches, and his mechanics in all aspects behind the plate were out of whack – especially his throwing.
Working with Geren, d’Arnaud has built himself into one of the better catchers in baseball. He no longer has the issues with passed balls. He has shown the ability to call a good game. He is an exceptional pitch framer. There is probably no catcher better in the league in fielding a throw and getting the tag down without violating the plate blocking rules. In 2015, d’Aranud was actaully league average in throwing out base runners.
While d’Arnaud was good behind the plate this year, his mechanics throwing the ball took a step back. It could have been the shoulder injury, but it also could have been him missing the calming presence of Geren. Eventually, it became so much of an issue that Rene Rivera had to become Syndergaard’s personal catcher due to Syndergaard’s difficulties holding on base runners and d’Arnaud’s weak arm. There is no telling how all of this affected him mentally and whether this carried over to his offense.
So overall, the Mets truly missed Geren in the 2016 season, d’Arnaud especially. It was a rough first year for Scott as the bench coach. Despite it being a rough year, he will be returning to the staff next season. Although it has not been announced, he will presumably be returning to the same role. Hopefully, the growing pains are out of the way, and Scott will be a more effective bench coach in 2017.
One thing that is strange about narratives is that they don’t stay static. Rather, narratives are dynamic and are often change wildly with a strong recency bias.
Last year, the narrative was the Mets blew Game 4 of the World Series because Terry Collins didn’t go to his closer to start the eighth inning. Instead, Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who proceed to walk consecutive batters after retiring the first batter he faced. With runners on first and second with one out, Collins finally went to Jeurys Familia. Familia induced a ground ball that went under Daniel Murphy‘s glove loading the bases. Two singles later, the Mets 3-2 lead turned into a 5-3 deficit.
In Game 5, again Collins was blamed for the loss because he did not go to Familia. After eight absolutely brilliant innings, Collins allowed Matt Harvey to talk himself into pitching the ninth inning. After a leadoff walk and an RBI double, Collins brought in Familia to now protect a 2-1 with a runner in scoring position and no outs. Familia induced the groundout he needed for the second out. On the play, Eric Hosmer famously tried to score from second while Lucas Duda infamously threw the ball away.
With that, Familia technically blew saves in Games 4 and 5 of the World Series. The main reason why Familia blew these saves is his manager brought him into difficult situations and his defense abandoned him. Now, all of a sudden, the narrative has shifted to he’s a choke artist.
In the Wild Card Game, Familia took the loss. It started with a Brandon Crawford opposite field double to left-center. On the play, Yoenis Cespedes, perhaps due to his lingering quad injury, made no effort whatsoever to cut the ball off before it went all the way to the wall. Familia then struck out Angel Pagan, who had been attempting to bunt Crawford to third. Familia then had Joe Panik 2-2, but he couldn’t put him away. With Panik walking, there were runners on first and second with one out. Familia got a sinker up in the zone, and Conor Gillaspie hit a three run go-ahead homer. From there, Familia got out of the inning, but it was too late. After the third out, he was booed off the Citi Field mound.
That’s right. Mets fans booed one of the best closers in the game off the mound. Worse yet, the narrative became Familia can’t pitch the big one anymore.
That’s nonsense. In the World Series, if Murphy fields a ground ball, or Duda makes an even average throw home, Familia saves both of those games. For what it’s worth, Familia had only allowed one earned run in the 2015 postseason, and neither were in that game.
Furthermore, focusing on those games ignores the work he did to get the Mets to the World Series. In Game 1 of the NLDS, Familia came on in the eighth inning to bail out Clippard. Familia would have to go 1.1 innings to get the save. In the Game 5 clincher, Familia pitched the final two innings not allowing a baserunner to send the Mets to the NLCS. In Game 1 of the NLCS, he came on for Harvey, and he pitched the final 1.1 innings to earn the save. Between the NLDS and NLCS, Familia was a perfect 5/5 in save opportunities with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.414 WHIP. This run is conveniently ignore in discussing how clutch Familia is.
What is also ignored is the phenomenal work Familia has done since taking over and becoming the Mets closer. Yes, his work has been phenomenal.
Over the past three seasons, Familia has thrown more innings than any other reliever in baseball. Over the past two seasons, he leads all major league closers in appearances, innings pitched, games finished, saves, and multi-inning saves. Between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he has made 154 appearances pitching 155.2 innings recording 94 saves with a 2.20 ERA and a 1.105 WHIP. The advanced stats also indicate he’s been great as he has had a 2.56 FIP and an 180 ERA+. In the 2016 regular season, he only allowed one home run.
During the 2015 season, when the Mets were not getting any offense due to a mixture of injuries and poor performances, the Mets bullpen had no margin for error. From the time David Wright got injured until the Mets acquired Cespedes at the trade deadline, Familia made 42 appearances pitching 45.2 innings. In that time frame, he recorded 24 saves with a 1.97 ERA and a 0.985 WHIP. Each and every one of those 24 games he saved was important as for much of the summer, the Mets season was on the brink of disaster. If not for Familia, who had been unexpectedly thrust into the role due to the injuries and suspension of Jenrry Mejia, the Mets may not have lasted in the NL East race.
All Familia would do for an encore this season was record the most saves by a Mets closer in a single season. His 51 saves would also stand as the single season record for a Dominican born pitcher. For a Mets team that tied with the Giants in the standings for the Wild Card. By the Mets winning the season series against the Giants, they had the right to host the Wild Card Game. In the three games he pitched against the Giants, Familia recorded two saves without allowing an earned run. Without Familia, the Mets play the Wild Card Game at AT&T Park.
The Mets also finished one game up on the St. Louis Cardinals, each and every single one of these saves were important. If Familia falters just one or two times more, the Mets miss the postseason.
Overall, if Familia is not the best closer in baseball, he’s in the conversation. He’s also more durable than the other closers, and as we have seen with his work throughout the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he is clutch. His defense failing him, and his making one bad pitch to Gillaspie doesn’t change that. It’s a given that he will be the Mets closer next season. And he should be, because if the Mets have any designs on getting back to the postseason, they are going to need Familia to repeat his successes from the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Then in the 2017 season he can go out there and remind everyone just how clutch he is.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
Do you remember who got the game winning hit in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series? It is one thing that is not often discussed because Jack Morris pitched a game so great that people cannot shake the idea that he should be a Hall of Famer. In the other dugout was a young right-hander named John Smoltz who matched Morris pitch for pitch. There were pivotal plays in that game you can point to as to why the Twins ultimately won. However, the biggest reason was Morris was able to go the distance and the young Smoltz was only able to go 7.1 innings.
Last night wasn’t the World Series. However, it was a winner-take-all game featuring just a tremendous pitching match-up. The Giants had the grizzled veteran, Madison Bumgarner, who has laid claim to the best active postseason pitcher, if not all time. The Mets were sending out Noah Syndergaard, who throws harder than anyone in baseball and is coming off a Cy Young caliber award season. Simply put, you do not get better than this.
Bumgarner and Syndergaard were even more dominant than you would’ve thought they could be. Combined, the two aces threw 227 pitches. Only six of those pitches would result in base hits. The two would combine for 16 strikeouts with just five walks. No one would reach third base against them let alone score a run. In July, this is a game that is game you would call an instant classic. In the postseason, this is a game for the ages.
In the end, what did the Mets in was the fact Syndergaard was only able to go seven, and the Mets didn’t take advantage of their chances to score off Bumgarner.
The best chance came in the fifth when T.J. Rivera hit a leadoff double. After a Jay Bruce strikeout, T.J. was quickly erased when Rene Rivera hit a grounder to the shortstop Brandon Crawford. Being the Gold Glover and smart baseball player he was, Crawford caught T.J. straying just a little too far off second. T.J. did alleviate some of the gaffe by forcing a run down that allowed Rene to get to second. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as James Loney was intentionally walked, and then Syndergaard struck out to end not just the inning, but also the Mets only real threat of the game.
It was important to cash in there as no one was scoring off these pitchers today. Syndergaard had a no-hitter going for 5.2 innings until Denard Span hit a single up the middle. Span would try to turn this into a rally by stealing second (he was caught by Rivera earlier in the game), but it didn’t matter as Curtis Granderson turned into Endy Chavez for one play:
As we would find out later in the game, Endy Chavez was the right analogy.
Overall, the Giants could do nothing against Syndergaard. He would pitch seven innings allowing just two hits while walking three. He just dominated the Giants lineup. Perhaps the best evidence of this is his 10 strikeouts on the night.
The turning point in the game was Syndergaard getting lifted. It was completely the right move, and there should be no one second guessing it. By that point, he had thrown 108 pitches, and he started to look gassed as he put the Giants to rest.
With Syndergaard out of the game, the Giants bats seemed to awaken. Conor Gillaspie (more on him in a minute) greeted Addison Reed with a leadoff single. After a Bumgarner sacrifice bunt, the Giants had a runner in scoring position with the top of their lineup coming up. Reed would get Span to pop out for the second out setting the stage for a battle with Brandon Belt. Reed really got squeezed in this at-bat with him throwing two or three clear strikes that were just not called. Not only was Reed a bit flummoxed, but Rene seemed as if he was as well. On the very next pitch, Reed got one over that Rene just missed (by the way the home plate umpire missed it too as it should have been called a strike).
This sent runners to second and third. The Mets made the obvious choice there to intentionally walk Buster Posey to get to Hunter Pence. There was an ominous tone to the inning with the umpire missing strike calls, and the Giants seemingly gaining confidence with Syndergaard out of the game. Reed then showed the world why he was the best relief pitcher in the National League this season by striking out Pence to keep the game tied up at 0-0.
After another feckless turn at the plate, the Mets brought in Jeurys Familia.
He was in trouble immediately. Crawford lined an opposite field double. On the play, Yoenis Cespedes didn’t run hard after it. If he was completely healthy, he has the speed to cut that ball off and keep Crawford at first. What we don’t know is how healthy that leg is or whether or not he has that extra gear to cut that ball off. What we do know if that he didn’t even try to do it. With Crawford on second, the Giants had the exact situation the Mets squandered in the fifth inning.
Despite Angel Pagan trying to give himself up, Familia was having issues throwing strikes to him. Many of his pitches landed short of home plate. Still, Familia battled back into the at-bat, and after Pagan was unable to get the bunt down, Familia struck him out. Familia then had similar issues with Joe Panik eventually walking him despite being 2-2 on him. This set the stage for Gillaspie to have his Gene Larkin moment:
For what it’s worth, it was Alejandro Pena that gave up the walk-off hit to Larkin. The Braves had obtained Pena from the Mets and made him the closer in the stretch drive.
This was a crushing blow, not just because it gave the Giants a 3-0 lead, but also because it allowed Bruce Bochy to keep Bumgarner in the game instead of going to a bullpen the Mets were desperate to get into all game long. Bumgarner came out in the ninth and made quick work of Cespedes, Granderson, and T.J.
This would be Bumgarner’s second complete game shutout on the road in the Wild Card Game. He showed the Mets and the entire world why he is the best big game pitcher in all of baseball. Oddly enough, he had been bested by the Mets young ace, Syndergaard. While Syndergaard might’ve bested him, Bumgarner outlasted him. Ultimately, that is why the Giants are going to Chicago and why the Mets season is over.
If you’re not a Mets fan, this has to be one of the best baseball games you have ever seen in your life. If you are a Mets fan, you walk away taking stock in the fact that Syndergaard had the game of his life at a time when the Mets needed him most. This year, Syndergaard didn’t just establish himself as the Mets ace; he established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Last night, he took that a step further by announcing he’s a big game pitcher that’s every bit as good as Bumgarner. In what has been a tough end to the season, Syndergaard gives you hope for the future.