Anthony Swarzak

Mets Second Base Problems Are On Sandy Alderson

After the 2017 season ended, and the Mets set out to build their roster for the 2018 season, the most glaring need was a second baseman.  Given the options in free agency and the state of the Mets farm system, it also proved to be one of the most difficult holes to fill.

Initially, the Mets did act prudently by looking to obtain Ian Kinsler from the Detroit Tigers.  While he was coming off a down year offensively, he was still a very good defender at the position.  If rumors were true, the Mets stepped up and they made the best offer to the Detroit Tigers.

The problem was Kinsler had a no trade clause to the Mets.  He used that clause to force a deal to the Angels.  Very likely, the reason was all of the gaps in the Mets roster and their limited budget this offseason.

Speaking of the limited budget, yes, we can absolutely blame the Wilpons for not fully investing in this team.  While many will defend them on the concept of finances, it should be noted the Wilpons did have money to invest in an eSports team and the Islanders new arena.

With that said, there was money to be spent.  Yes, it wasn’t enough, but if spent properly, there was enough to at least build a credible roster.  The problem is Sandy Alderson isn’t spending the money wisely.

Certainly, you can justify the Anthony Swarzak signing.  If the Mets have any intentions of competing next year, they needed an extra arm to bring to Jeurys Familia in the ninth.  With Swarzak joining AJ Ramos to set up for Familia, the Mets have a good 7-8-9 tandem.  With Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you can reasonably assume the Mets will be able to find an arm or two to join Jerry Blevins to form a good if not formidable bullpen.

The problem is what Sandy Alderson has done with the money since signing Swarzak at the close of the Winter Meetings.

The first issue was a trade for Jason Kipnis was rejected by someone with the Mets.  The natural culprits are the Wilpons as the reports said someone higher up.  It’s a baffling decision because even if you have your concerns about him, he’s a good fit in the lineup and in the clubhouse.  There’s also the benefit of his knowing Callaway from their days in Cleveland.

But no, someone with enough decision making authority didn’t want him.  So instead, the Mets went out to address the holes in their roster by signing Jay Bruce and Adrian Gonzalez.

Of course, this means three things.  The first is the team is all but done with Dominic Smith, at least for the 2018 season.  The second is Michael Conforto is likely out longer than advertised.  The third is the Mets are effectively punting on second base.

Howie Kendrick, who was a viable second base candidate, is now off the board, and with him went the last reasonable shot at getting a starting second baseman in free agency.  That is, unless, you believe Eduardo Nunez, will now be healthy, capable of playing second, and the Mets have enough to sign him.

If you want someone in a trade, like Josh Harrison, get in line.  Teams with much deeper systems, like the Yankees, have interest in him as well.  As a result, this means the Mets are out on him.

Overall, this means the Mets are going to bring back Jose Reyes to play second alongside Amed Rosario.  This is the same Reyes who was one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year.  He had a -0.6 WAR, a 94 wRC+, and he accomplished the astounding feat of posting a negative DRS at FOUR positions.  One of those was second where he had a -5 DRS in 207.1 innings.

And remember the last time Reyes played second base full time?  That would be the 2004 season when the Mets big acquisition was Kaz Matsui.  When your offseason plan mirrors the plans of your 2004 plans, you know the Mets are in trouble.

And yes, they are.  They’re in trouble because they don’t have the money to spend and because Sandy Alderson isn’t spending it wisely.  Consider for a second, Matt Adams and Kendrick, two versatile players that would have been immensely helpful to the Mets for depth and/or platoons, signed with the Nationals for a combined $11 million.  That’s less than a million more they are paying Bruce and Gonzalez on a team that already had Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Wilmer Flores, and Smith.

Overall, the Mets may not have had much money to spend, but whatever money they did have, Sandy Alderson squandered it away on duplicative players.  Remember that when the Mets second base situation holds the team back throughout the 2018 season.

 

Does Bruce Or Gonzalez Play Second Base?

Heading into this offseason, THE major hole on the Mets roster was second base. So naturally, the Mets went out and have made sure to collect a bunch of first base options:

That’s right. The Mets brought in Gonzalez. On a Major League deal to boot. Presumably because teams were beating down the door of a soon to be 36 year old first baseman with back problems who skipped out on a postseason run with the team to go on vacation. 

Clearly, the Mets were enticed by his .242/.287/.355 slash line. 

In all seriousness, this move makes no sense on many levels. 

First, the team already had Bruce to move to first if Smith wasn’t ready. Second, Smith might be ready by Opening Day, and he’s now blocked by a broken down player. Third, there were plenty of options available. 

Matt Adams went to the Nationals for just one year $4 million. Adam Lind and Lucas Duda were still available. Heck, even Mike Naploli and his clubhouse leadership is still there for the taking. 

Nope, the Mets went with the cheapest option available, which is not at all surprising:

While all this tomfoolery was happening, the Mets nixed a deal for Jason Kipnis because, wait for it, he makes too much money. They’ll say not a good value, but essentially, it’s the same thing to the Mets. 

Kipnis is likely the best option available to them at second. Many will say Josh Harrison, but with teams with much deeper minor league systems also pursuing him, it’s not likely the Mets emerge out on top. 

Sure, we’ll hear about Eduardo Nuñez and Howie Kendrick, but do we really believe the Mets will sign them?  Their pursuit of those players is like their pursuit of the non-Gonzalez first base options. 

At this point, with Bruce and Anthony Swarzak likely having eaten up the offseason budget, aside from Gonzalez type deals, it means the 2018 second baseman is likely on this roster. 

With Jose Lobaton already in the fold, every Mets fan should know that the second base plan is for next season. 

That’s right. It’ll be Travis d’Arnaud and Asdrubal Cabrera switching back and forth between second and third depending on the handedness of the batter. 

Jay Bruce Returns To The Mets – Why?

The free agent market has been stagnant, and to the surprise of many, the Mets made a splash signing Jay Bruce to a backloaded three year $39 million contract.

Whenever a team makes a move, it tells you something about the team. It tells you something about how the team views both its postseason chances and the composition of their roster.

The problem with Bruce is you don’t know exactly what his signing is telling you about the team.

Conforto

Prior to Bruce signing, Michael Conforto was penciled in as the 2018 right fielder. At least, that is the case when Conforto was to return.

While the Mets have been publicly bullish on his return, they readily admit he won’t be ready by Opening Day. Beyond that, we don’t know because there is no timetable.

And even when he returns, we don’t know if he will return to his All Star form.

Are we to read the Bruce signing as Conforto being out longer than anticipated and/or the Mets being uneasy about what Conforto will be when he returns?

Lagares

Last year, Juan Lagares returned to his best defensive center fielder in baseball form with him leading all MLB center fielders in UZR/150.

As if this wasn’t enough to get you at least intrigued about him returning to an everyday role, Lagares is working with the coach who completely changed the course of J.D. Martinez‘s career.

That coaches helped Martinez go from a .250/.272/.378 hitter in 2013 to a .315/.358/.553 hitter the following season. For a point of reference, Lagares hit .250/.296/.365 last year.

If Bruce stays in right, this would mean Conforto would go to center when he comes off the DL thereby forcing Lagares to the bench.

Are the Mets really willing to make Lagares a high paid defensive replacement with him making $6.5 million this year and $9 million the next?  Is it possible the Mets aren’t interested in seeing whether Lagares could become at least an improved hitter thereby bringing him closer to the 5.5 win player they so eagerly extended prior to the 2015 season?

Dom

There’s no doubt Dominic Smith had a disappointing stint in the majors last year posting a -1.2 WAR in 49 games. After that stretch, the Mets let anyone who’d listen know they’ve soured on Smith. Even with them walking it back a bit, they still have been actively looking for a first baseman this offseason.

Here’s the thing – not only has Smith been getting in much better shape this offseason, but he’s also been a player who has gotten better after some early struggles at his new level.

Last year, Smith hit .324/.377/.498 in April in May. After that, he hit .336/.394/.537 until he was called up to the majors.

In Double-A in 2016, he hit .267/.317/.396 in April and May. After that, Smith hit .323/.397/.495.

What if Smith follows a similar path this season? Are you willing to bench him or demote him to Triple-A when he’s playing well?

Defense

One of the biggest issues with the 2017 Mets was their defense.  They did not have a positive defender anywhere across the field.  Things are going to be just as bad, if not worse, with this signing.

Likely, Bruce signing means an outfield of Yoenis Cespedes-Conforto-Bruce.  Last year, Conforto had a -4 DRS in center in just 328.2 innings there.  Based upon those numbers, why would the Mets actively look to put him in center not just this year, but over the next three years?

Also, why would you ask a player coming back from a significant shoulder injury to play a relatively unfamiliar position he has not had an opportunity to prepare to play this offseason?

This is asking for more poor defense from the Mets.  That become all the more puzzling when we are currently playing in an era where batters focus on hitting the ball in the air.

Money

Initially, it was believed the Mets had around $30 million to spend this offseason.  However, after the Anthony Swarzak signing and Sterling Equities getting involved in the Islanders Belmont arena, that number was reportedly lowered to just $10 million remaining to spend in free agency.

If we take a look at Bruce’s backloaded deal, you will notice he is slated to earn $10 million next year.  Is this really an accident?  If it isn’t does this mean the Mets just spent all of their money on a right fielder when they are already had one?  Why would you do that with huge holes on this roster including second base?

Building A Complete Roster

It is quite surprising Bruce was the choice.  Todd Frazier, Mike Moustakas, Howie Kendrick, Lorenzo Cain, and Addison Reed remain free agents.  Each one of those players fills a real need on this roster.  Bruce is a luxury item that based upon budget reports prevents another move.

Such a move would be Jason Kipnis, who Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports reports the Mets nixed a deal for him over money.  Whether that was before or after signing Bruce is not clear.  What is clear is the Mets still have limited resources, and they are now allocating them poorly.

Where to Go From Here

At the moment, the Mets are eventually going to be forced to figure out what to do with Lagares and Smith once Conforto is healthy.  However, that is a little down the road.  At the moment, the question is what do the Mets do to fill their other needs.

They just nixed Kipnis over $30.7 million over the next two years with a third year option.  Are we really to believe Josh Harrison and his being owed $11.5 million with successive options is that much more palatable?  If so, can we really believe the Mets will get him over teams like the Yankees who have a much deeper farm system?

Also, what are the Mets going to do to address the rest of the bullpen and their bench.  Seeing where the finances are, it is not likely the Mets do much.  This likely translates to a Jose Reyes reunion despite him being one of the worst regulars in all of baseball last year posting a -1.7 WAR.

And that’s the problem.  Rather that looking to make significant improvements with their payroll constraints, Sandy Alderson and the Wilpons are going with a failed measure.  Add power.  Eschew defense.  Go with guys you like personally.  Hope it works out.  Well, it didn’t work in 2017, and with a worse roster heading into next year, it’s not likely to work again in 2018.

So overall, the Bruce signing really doesn’t address any problems, it creates more issues, and it likely assures the Mets will not be competing for a spot in the postseason next year.

 

What The 2018 Mets Roster Looks Like Right Now

It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets.  With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason.  If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:

C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans

Rotation – Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler
Bullpen – Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Seth Lugo

This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.

Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth.  In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016.  After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis.  And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon.  Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.

Considering many of the aforementioned pitchers could go to the bullpen, the bullpen also has sufficient depth.  And behind them, the Mets also have David Roseboom, Chase Bradford, and Josh Smoker.

However, that offense.  You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright.  Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be.  And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.

For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster.  He won’t.  What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A.  By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.

Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.

So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players.  That applies just to the starting lineup.  After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.

Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available.  However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.

Five Mets Pitchers Who Could Benefit From Callaway And Eiland

With the Mets hiring both Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland coupled with the team possibly only adding Anthony Swarzak to the pitching staff this offseason, it appears much of the hope for the 2018 Mets are tied to the current Mets pitchers improving.  Fortunately, the team has both the right coaching staff in place as well as a talented group of pitchers who underwhelmed last year.  Here are five different pitchers who may take a step forward next season under Callaway’s and Eiland’s tutelage:

Robert Gsellman

After his 2016 stint in the majors, many believed Gsellman would emerge as one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year Award.  Instead, he had about as poor a 2017 season as you could imagine with him being ineffective, suffering an injury, and his being dismissive of Sandy Alderson’s critique of his performance.

Looking over his stats last season, none of his pitchers were really working.  That should come as no surprise when opposing batters hit .280/.345/.462 off of him.  Still, as we saw in 2016, this is a pitcher with talent, and he is now working with a coaching staff that helps get a pitcher maximize his talent.

While much has been discussed about Callaway’s focus on the two seamer, fact is he has also successfully worked with sinkers.  As noted by Let’s Go Tribe, Callaway has gotten his sinker ball pitchers to focus less on pounding the sinker and more in mixing their pitches and throwing a more diverse fastball selection.  From that, we have not only seen Corey Kluber emerge as a perennial Cy Young candidate, but we have also seen pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Carlos Correa maximize their talent.

A similar handling of Gsellman, who threw his fastball and sinker 63% of the time last year, could well yield similar results to those pitchers in Cleveland.

Seth Lugo

One thing that was clear from Lugo last year was he struggles the third time through the lineup.  In his brief Major League career, batters have hit .299/.352/.425 during his third time through the lineup.  In that sense, Lugo is not unique as we have seen that happen to other quality pitchers.

However, if utilized properly, Lugo could very well be a very good Major League pitcher.  All that is needed is someone to be forward thinking in how he is handled.

One example of this is Kyle Hendricks.  He historically struggled the third time through the lineup, so his manager Joe Maddon limited the times Hendricks did this, and the result was Hendricks finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2016.

Another avenue to pursue is to make Lugo a reliever.  We have seen Eiland have success converting starters into relievers with his work with pitchers like Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis.  Also, given Callaway’s influence on how the Indians utlizied Andrew Miller, Lugo could become a real weapon in that bullpen.

Hansel Robles

Robles is prone to stretches of both complete dominance and complete ineptitude.  For example, from Opening Day to May 18th, Robles had made 18 appearances going 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, and a 9.5 K/9.  During that stretch, opposing batters hit just .169/.295/.277.   After that, he had a three appearance stretch that saw him give up at least four earned in each appearances leading to his demotion to Triple-A where he continued to struggle.

One of the reasons why we see those stretches of dominance from Robles is his stuff. He throws a mid to high 90s fastball with a good mid 80s slider.  What he needs is to learn how to become more consistent.  That could be accomplished with a more defined role, conservative usage, and really, better coaching.

Josh Smoker

Smoker has great stuff.  He combines a mid to high 90s fastball with a devastating split. It’s a large reason why even when things go wrong, the left-handed pitcher struck out 10.9 batters per nine at the major league level.  Aside from the stuff and the good strikeout rate, there were many problems with Smoker.

Smoker had shoulder issues again, likely related to his being overused, and he struggled with left-handed batters, at least until September.  Perhaps most alarming, and possibly a reason for his struggles, Smoker walked 5.6 batters per nine last year.

At this point in his career, Smoker needs someone who can help him better command his stuff.  With Callaway being an exceptional teacher and proponent of the curveball, he could get Smoker to make that pitch a that could be a weapon against left-handed batters.  If so, Smoker can get back to the point where he was entering the 2017 season – a hard throwing reliever with real upside.

Matt Harvey

Look, 2015 is a long way away, and 2013 is even further away than that.  During the last season, we not only saw Harvey broken down physically (again), but we finally saw some cracks in his self confidence.  This wasn’t the Dark Knight anymore.  This was just plain old Matt Harvey.  And we don’t know if Matt Harvey can be an effective Major League pitcher.

What we do know is that he was completely mishandled from the get-go last year.  By Dan Warthen‘s own admission, Harvey was not going to be 100% until May.  Despite that, Harvey was in the Opening Day rotation, and he pitched and pitched until he could pitch no more.  His results were blamed on poor mechanics.

The truth was the muscles in Harvey’s pitching shoulder had atrophied, and he was suffering a stress reaction.  Fact is, he wasn’t ready to go.  Harvey may very well have pushed to pitch, but the Mets never did stand in the way to protect Matt from himself.  Moreover, they never did fix the mechanical issues all parties purported him to have.

With Eiland, the Mets have a pitching coach whose bread and butter is mechanics.  Both Callaway and Eiland pushed the Mets to keep Harvey rather than trade him because they believed in him.  They believed in him because they see something in him that perhaps no one else sees anymore.  With them in place, there are coaches who believe in his talent and know how to get the most out of it.  Whether that happens remains to be seen.

Mets Interested In Having A Great Team

If you’ve been paying attention, the Mets seem to be interested in everyone this offseason. If you take those players they’re interested in, you’d have an amazing roster:

C Travis d’Arnaud

1B Todd Frazier

2B Neil Walker

3B Mike Moustakas

SS Amed Rosario

LF Yoenis Cespedes

CF Lorenzo Cain

RF Michael Conforto

Bench Kevin Plawecki, Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo

Rotation: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler

Bullpen: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Sure, we are all disappointed the Mets lost out on that bidding war for Carlos Santana and Bryan Shaw, but this is still a terrific roster that required the Mets to open up their pockets to build. 

Throw in Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, and you can believe in that pitching staff. And as we saw in 2015, if the pitching is up to snuff, this team can go to the World Series. 

Wait, you don’t believe any of this is going to happen?

2017 Get Someone Signed (Auld Lang Syne)

Should old Mets be forgot,
And no more free agents signed!
Should free agents be forgot,
And only Anthony Swarzak signed!

For no one’s signed next year
For no one signed,
We’ll take a new free agent Met
Get someone signed!

2017 Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, new manager Mickey Callaway enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Mickey: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.

Fred: What do you mean build?

Mickey: Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  We need a second baseman, some additional depth, and some bullpen –

Fred: Relievers? I just gave you Anthony Swarzak just last week!

Mickey: And I’m thankful for that.  But while I was in Cleveland, I learned you need more in your bullpen.  You need a couple of guys with interchangeable roles to help you get to where you want to go.  We need at least one more guy.

Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.

Mickey: Well, I’d love to build a winner for the players and the fans.

Fred: Seriously?

Mickey: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Callaway leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?

M. Donald Grant: It is.

Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?

M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.

Fred: What?

M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?

Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!

M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!

Fred: The horror.

M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.

Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.

M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.

And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?

Standing before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.

Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.

Fred: Am I dead?

Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.

With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.

Fred: What a dump!

Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.

Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.

Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.

Fred: But they don’t understand.

Gary: Let’s see what happened next.

With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.

Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?

Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.

Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .

Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.

Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .

As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team lost over 90 games, missed the postseason for the first time in three years, and is now talking about cutting payroll.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!

Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.

Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.

Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2018 roster will look like.

Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.

Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –

Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re no expanding payroll.  The fans didn’t come last year, and I don’t have the money. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.

Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money, especially since you have the BAM money, bought an Overlook League team, and are part of the new Islanders Belmont Arena. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.

Fred: Let’s be honest. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Yoenis CespedesNoah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom.  We have free t-shirts, garden gnomes, and bobbleheads.  We’re going to turn a profit all while giving the players what they want – money.

Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.

A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Callaway about the upcoming season.

Mickey: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.

David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.

Mickey: Look, I love you, and I know the team does too. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.

David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.

Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.

David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.

Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.

Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.

Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.

Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.

David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.

Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.

Fred: What, what happened to him?

Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.

Fred: He never won? But we had Matt Harvey and Syndergaard. We had deGrom and Steven Matz.  Even Zack Wheeler returned.  We had five aces! Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.

David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.

Woman: What happened?

David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .

As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.

Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.

Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.

Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.

Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.

Worker 1: Good riddance!

Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?

With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.

Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.

Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.

Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?

Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.

Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.

Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.

As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.

Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .

As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.

Reporter: How do you feel today?

Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.

Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?

Jeff: We just want them to continue supporting the New York Exelsior.  I still believe that sooner or later this investment will pay off.

Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!

Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?

Jeff:  Well, the Dodgers just won another World Series with a payroll triple ours, so –

Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!

With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.

The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.

Fred: It’s December 25, 2017! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!

Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Callaway, Alderson, and Wright.

Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Mickey the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.

Mickey: Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!

David: God bless us everyone!

Carig’s Wilpon Article Left Me Even More Frustrated

In case you missed it over the weekend, Marc Carig of Newsday wrote a column wherein many Mets fans have applauded because someone not only asked the question about payroll, but also for rightfully taking the team to task for how it’s been operated.

That’s great and all, but that’s not really what this article was about.  The article was really about the lack of accountability from this franchise.  Here are some key excerpts:

But rather than reach for transparency, the Wilpons seem content to hide. They never talk about money. Whether it’s arrogance or simply negligence, they have no problem asking fans to pony up the cash and never show the willingness to reciprocate.

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To the Wilpons, it’s as if nobody is worthy of a straight answer. That’s the biggest failure of all.

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But it costs zero dollars to be transparent, to be willing to explain the payroll, to be proactive about presenting a plan to succeed.

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The Wilpons can start by publicly owning up to how this franchise is run. They can begin speaking for themselves rather than leaving the dirty work to middle men. But until they show the courage to take that first step, the Mets and their fans are doomed to repeat the cycle, pulling for a franchise that will never actually do enough to win.

Having read and re-read this article, time and again, I really begin to wonder if the term fan is being substituted for reporter.

This is not a slight on Carig or any beat reporter.  There job is much more difficult than fans could possibly imagine.  There are things we demand they discover, but at the end of the day, there may be no answer to those questions because, well, the team won’t answer them.

Whatever your line of work, it must be nauseatingly frustrating when someone just stonewalls you time and time again, and that prevents you from doing an aspect of your job.  In the case of a beat reporter, that would include covering issues that are seemingly simple like the budget and a framework for the offseason.

As an aside, that must be even worse for Sandy Alderson.

Meanwhile, one of the most important currencies for a reporter is access.  Write a scathing comment like Carig did, and you may very well find that access limited.  That would make an already difficult job all the more difficult.

Still, there is a major question that needs to be asked – why is the payroll question being asked now?

Why wasn’t this asked heading into the 2015 season?  The team certainly pushed forth the belief they were going to contend with the rise of Jacob deGrom and the return of Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery.

That team’s Major League acquisitions prior to Spring Training were Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry.  They did nothing to address the bullpen or the bench, and Wilmer Flores was the shortstop.

After the 2015 season, if not for Yoenis Cespedes lingering longer than anyone believed he would, the Mets were going to enter the 2016 season with lower payroll and a center field platoon of Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares to replace Cespedes.  On top of that, Eric Campbell made the Opening Day roster because the Mets didn’t want to pay Ruben Tejada $3 million.

With an injured Mets team making an incredible push to claim the top Wild Card, the Mets did not sign one free agent from outside the organization.  They re-signed Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins because both surprisingly lingered on the free agent market, and the team gave Cespedes a big contract.

However, it should be noted the Mets did nothing to improve the roster from a team that was simply not good enough in 2016.  Instead, of stories about the payroll being below market and window of competition, it was mostly lauding the Cespedes re-signing as the team going for it coupled with the intrigue about how the Mets were returning the same roster.

And look, we all know the Mets are likely cutting payroll because that’s what the Mets do.  Still, the team did add a good late inning reliever in Anthony Swarzak, and they were rebuffed by Ian Kinsler.  Other than Carlos Santana, the big name free agents are still on the board.

While we don’t expect them to come to the Mets, in prior offseasons, we have seen the market correct with Sandy sitting there ready to swoop in and get them for less money than anticipated.  That’s why Cespedes and Blevins will be Mets next season.  Such behavior (luck?) has been routinely lauded.

Now?  Well, now, it is being criticized because the Mets lack of accountability and refusal to answer the simplest questions has become too much to bear.  Except this time, it’s not the fans, it’s for reporters.  They’re now writing articles about it – articles we all wish were written in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (apologies to a few like Megdal who has done excellent reporting on the topic and Vacarro who kept the heat on the team throughout 2015 and beyond).

So yes, I appreciate the article, but really, none of this is news to Mets fans.  It’s just confirmation of the status quo.  And sadly, in the end, we have learned nothing new from the team.  Really, this all just leaves me further frustrated with the franchise, and it leaves me further frustrated that this is really the first we have seen of these articles after all of these years.  Hopefully, there will be more.  More than that, I just hope something will finally come of this.

But we all know it won’t.

Mets Are No Angels

Mets and Angels are very similar in many ways. 

Both teams play in major media markets with both teams being overshadowed in said market. 

As we know, the Mets are overshadowed by a Yankees team with 27 titles. If you forget for even a nanosecond, don’t worry, a Yankees fan will be there to remind you. 

Similarly, the Dodgers overshadow the Angels. The title disparity is somewhat similar with the Dodgers winning six World Series (five in Los Angeles) to the Angels one. 

The title disparity in both situations appears set to expand with Yankee and Dodger, loaded with young talent and farm systems, were so close to winning the World Series. 

The Yankees had a 3-2 lead in the ALCS before heading back to Houston. 

The Dodgers started Yu Darvish with Clayton Kershaw at the ready in Game 7 of the World Series. They fell short. 

Both teams are now gearing up so they won’t fall short again. 

The Yankees have already added Giancarlo Stanton, and they have re-signed CC Sabathia. The team also has cleared payroll by trading Chase Headley to the Padres leaving them with more money to improve their team without going over the luxury tax. 

Like the Yankees, the Dodgers swung a deal to clear to payroll taking on Matt Kemp while trading away a few players, including Adrian Gonzalez, who were not going to be factors in 2018. 

The Dodgers and Yankees are not done this offseason, which is scary given how their rosters are already good enough to win a World Series. That should promise to put to Mets and Angels further back in the rearview mirror. 

This begs the question as to what should you do as the Mets or Angels, two teams who were under .500 last year, should do this offseason. 

The Angels have decided to go for it. They have been very active this offseason significantly upgrading their roster, by making the following moves:

In addition to these moves, they also signed Braves prospect Kevin Maitan, which should be a boost to their poor farm system. 

The Mets?  Well, they have been the Mets this offseason in that they have not done much:

Perhaps tellingly, the Mets primary targets went elsewhere. Bryan Shaw went to pitch in Coors Field instead of Citi Field with his old pitching coach. 

And Kinsler outrighted rejected a trade to the Mets. It’s quite telling he had the Mets and Angels on his 10 team no trade list, and he accepted a trade to the Angels. 

Overall, the offseason isn’t over, and perhaps the Mets still have a significant move or two left in them. It’s going to be extremely difficult with the team cutting payroll and outright refusing to answer questions on the topic:

Too bad, the Mets can’t be more like the Angels, who don’t play in the top media market in the country, have played in the same ballpark since 1966, and don’t have their own regional sports network.