During Spring Training, the Mets seemed to be going down the same path they always do with their handling of Yoenis Cespedes‘ wrist. He had soreness in the wrist, and the tried to play through it. Finally, he would get a cortisone shot and miss some games. Considering how he has started the season, a crisis was clearly averted. However, it did seem like the injury and how it was handled was a little too reminiscent of how things were handled under the old regime.
Over the last few seasons, the Mets had a culture where they either pressured players to play through potentially serious injuries, or they allowed players to push through without a proper examination. We saw it time and time again.
Cespedes has sat around for days and weeks before being placed on the disabled list. Last year, even with the Mets admitting Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were not at complete strength, they began the year in the rotation, and eventually, they went down with stress reactions. The Mets were quite vocal in their criticisms about how Steven Matz needed to pitch through this injuries, and in the last two seasons, we have seen him undergo season ending surgeries.
Perhaps the biggest indication there needed to be a change was the Mets handling of Noah Syndergaard last year. After being scratched from a start with what was believed to be biceps tendinitis, Syndergaard refused to get an MRI. In his next start, he lasted just 1.1 innings before having to leave the game with a torn lat. The injury cost him almost four months, and really, it helped cost the Mets the 2017 season.
Something had to change, and the Mets did so at least on paper bringing in new personnel with different ideas on how to both prevent and treat injuries.
Considering the Mets past history coupled with the somewhat questionable handling of Cespedes’ wrist injury in Spring Training, it really made how the Mets were going to handle Anthony Swarzak‘s injury an important test case.
As initially noted by Tim Britton of The Athletic, the Mets did not initially schedule any tests for Swarzak. Theoretically, those test would not even be needed as Swarzak reportedly feeling better the next day. And yet, in a complete change from how things were handled previously, the Mets scheduled a precautionary MRI on Swarzak.
While the reports were Swarzak “only” had a sore left oblique, the team put him on the disabled list and called up Hansel Robles.
Precautionary exams. Putting players on the disabled list immediately. Having a full 25 man roster available for each game. This is a stark contrast to how injuries used to be handled with the Mets, and it is hope we will not see a repeat of the injuries which befell the Mets over the last three seasons.
As the Mets broke camp and began the season, it seemed like this year was going to be different. Seeing how Swarzak’s injury was handled, things really might be different.
Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets. Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes. When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.
With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right? Let’s take a look:
Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation. In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.
The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer. Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well. Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.
Things changed at the tail end of 2017. Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become. d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September. As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.
VERDICT: 2018 – if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close
2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez
In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI. He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.
Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.
VERDICT: 2015 – Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw
We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.
For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.
VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one
This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.
Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.
VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy
Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015. After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores. Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half. Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.
Rosario is the future of the Mets. Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate. However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better. He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time. For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.
VERDICT: 2018 – Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high
Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets. Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting. Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup. He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist. Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.
With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets. To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player. This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.
VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.
From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers. They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits. In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well. Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.
The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player. Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder. Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015. Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.
VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important
When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then. Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.
VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then
2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald
Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen. This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year. Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness. One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.
When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins. Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.
VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside
For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015. When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived. Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.
Right now, Callaway looks like a genius. He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth. He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late. His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire. However, the season isn’t even a week old. Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.
Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series
If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation. The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager. Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw. However, in reality, it’s not. That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.
That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager. If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level. If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.
While being a Mets fan may come with some trials and tribulations, the one day Mets fans are typically happy is Opening Day. Heading into today’s game, the Mets were 36-20 all time on Opening Day, which is the best Opening Day winning percentage in Major League history. As a result, the Mets are usually 1-0, and their manager looks like a genius.
Today, new Mets Manager Mickey Callaway looked like a genius.
When you looked at the Opening Day lineup, you knew immediately this was no longer Terry Collins‘ Mets. The lineup not only had the Mets best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, it also had Noah Syndergaard batting eighth and Amed Rosario batting ninth. If you were skeptical of the decision, the Mets quickly put you at ease.
Kevin Plawecki reached on a one out walk, and he remained there after Syndergaard struck out. With two outs and the lead-off hitter behind him, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez challenged Rosario with fastballs. Rosario shot a single up the middle putting runners one first and second with two outs.
Brandon Nimmo did what Brandon Nimmo does, and he drew a walk. Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a two out RBI single, which at the time gave the Mets a 3-2 lead. And with that, Callaway looked like a genius.
Frankly, it’s easy to look like a genius when everyone plays as well as the Mets did today.
Nimmo set the tone getting hit by the first pitch of the game and eventually scoring on a Jose Martinez throwing error on what could have been an Asdrubal Cabrera double play grounder. Instead of an inning ending double play, the Mets scored a first inning run without getting a base hit. That’s what happens when you draw nine walks in the game.
Speaking of Nimmo, he was brilliant today. He went 2-3 with two runs, a walk, and the aforementioned hit by pitch. With Michael Conforto reportedly being much closer to being ready to start his season, Nimmo is going to need more games like this to stay in the starting lineup.
So will Adrian Gonzalez. The veteran was coming off a horrific injury plagued 2017 season where the Dodgers not only didn’t miss him as they won the pennant, it seemed they didn’t even want him around. Nor did the Braves for that matter, as after a trade, they are paying him almost $22 million to play for an NL East rival.
Between that, his terrible Spring Training, and his soft line out to short in his first at-bat, helooked done. He wouldn’t make another out on the game going 2-3 with a run, double, two walks, and an RBI.
In situations like this, you want your players to make the decision about who should sit and who should play to be extraordinarily difficult. Based on Nimmo’s and Gonzalez’s play, Callaway’s decision will just be that.
Overall, the Mets offense and unconventional lineup was humming. The team scored nine runs on 12 hits highlighted by a five run fifth where they not only chased Martinez, but also former Mets prospect Matthew Bowman.
Every Mets starter, save Syndergaard, reached base at least once safely. Cespedes and Rosario were the only ones who did not draw a walk. However, when Rosario is attacking first pitch fastballs to the tune of a 2-4 day with two runs and two RBI, you don’t mind his over-aggressiveness at the plate.
About the only negative on the day was seeing Yadier Molina homer. That just brought back too many raw emotions from 2006. Some of that sting was taken away with Molina suffering the indignity of Jay Bruce stealing a base off of him.
With Syndergaard, you had some real reason for excitement. He became just the second Mets pitcher to strike out 10 on Opening Day. He needed just 85 pitches to get through six innings. Yes, he would give up the two homers, but overall, he seemed poised and ready to have a dominating 2018 season.
Speaking of dominating, the Mets bullpen came out and completely shut the door on the Cardinals. Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings. Gsellman was the most impressive striking out the side in the seventh. This bullpen performance will make you forget about the Cardinals getting Greg Holland over the Mets for one day.
And for this one day, Gonzalez is rejuvenated, the bullpen is lights out, Callaway is a genuis, and the Mets are the best team in baseball. Sure, it seems that way almost every Opening Day as a Mets fan, but at least for tonight, let’s just believe this will carry on well into October.
Game Notes: A number 10 was placed on the back of the mound to honor the recently deceased Rusty Staub. Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starter to have a double digit strikeout game on Opening Day. This was the first time a Mets starter made back-to-back Opening Day starts since Johan Santana did it from 2008 – 2010.
As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season. While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:
Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.
Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year. The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.
Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.
Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.
Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles
Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.
Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.
Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.
Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break. He will immediately be vilified.
Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack. This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.
Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher. On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.
Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out. Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.
Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.
Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.
Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music. That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.
Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.
Matt Harvey – He’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil. He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.
Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center. While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.
Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.
Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze. When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.
Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.
Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate. He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd. It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.
T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game. The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.
Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night. Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.
Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.
Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen. However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.
Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April. The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender. The jokes will continue to not be funny.
Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met. It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games. America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.
Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007. Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.
Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.
David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea. He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.
To be fair, no one really expected the free agent market to go the way it has. Really, as free agency opened, the Mets with their limited budget was not expected to be able to bring in Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Anthony Swarzak. Based upon past years, the Mets really only would have had the budget to get just one of them. However, with the way it has played out, it does beg you to re-visit the Mets offseason.
Certainly, there should be no quibbling with the aforementioned additions. Bruce provides the Mets both with a left-handed power bat as well as first base insurance. Frazier joins Amed Rosario to give the Mets a defensive left side of the infield they have not had since at least a decade ago. Swarzak helps solidify a bullpen that needed all the quality arms it could get.
Where you can question the Mets was their minor moves. The team brought back Jose Reyes back on a one year $2 million deal, and because the Dodgers are playing his 2018 salary, the Mets were able to sign Adrian Gonzalez for the league minimum. In retrospect, was this really the best move the Mets could have made.
When the Mets signed Bruce, it gave the team only four healthy outfielders on the 40 man roster. Two of those outfielders, Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Lagares, are injury prone. Already, both players are having health issues, which certainly calls into question whether the Mets outfield can last a full season. It gets even worse when you consider Bruce is dealing with plantar fasciitis.
Because of those injuries, the Mets may be left with the rock and hard place decision of choosing between putting Wilmer Flores in the outfield or playing Matt den Dekker and his career .234/.316/.354 batting line in the outfield. The Mets are faced with this decision because as Josh Lewin put it during the Mets Spring Training opener, Reyes has shown not interest in playing the outfield this year.
It does seem odd the player many consider to be the quickest, if not the fastest, on the team is not even going to try to play the outfield. Considering he was signed as a utility player, it certainly begs the question why he isn’t playing the outfield at all.
There’s also the matter of Gonzalez. There’s no doubt when he’s on the top of his game, he’s much better than Duda or what the Mets envision Dominic Smith will be. However, at 37 and with back problems, is Gonzalez really that player anymore? His last full season was 2016 when he hit .285/.349/.435 with 18 homers and 90 RBI. Considering how poorly he played last year, his needing two hours to work with trainers just to get onto the field, and his start to the Spring, it’s doubtful he even puts up those numbers.
Last year, Duda hit .246/.347/.532 with 17 homers and 37 RBI in 75 games with the Mets. Overall, he would have the second 30 homer season of his career. In three of his last four years, he’s hit 27 or more homers. The one year he didn’t was an injury riddled 2016 season.
Certainly, you can say Duda was a better bet than Gonzalez. Moreover, it’s fair to say giving him $3.5 million was a better decision than giving $2.5 million to Reyes and Gonzalez. It also would’ve given the Mets wiggle room to add another player to the roster who was at least capable of playing the outfield. Given their suspect depth there, you really need to question Sandy Alderson’s thought process on these respective decisions.
Early on, Mickey Callaway announced his intentions to use his best relievers in the highest leverage spots and not just in the ninth inning. As a result, in addition to Jeurys Familia, we may very well see AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, or even Hansel Robles out there looking to close out a game. This creates the possibility of the Mets having multiple relievers with over 10 saves.
This is something that has happened 12 times in Mets history. Sometimes, it was due to injury. Others, it was the intended plan. Whatever the case, can you name the closers who have at least 10 saves in the same season another Mets reliever had at least 10 saves? Good luck!
If you go to the Mets website, you will see their Promotion Schedule for the 2018 season. If you look, there are some popular promotions like the Noah SyndergaardThor Bobblehead, the Yoenis Cespedes Garden Gnomes, and the Free T-Shirt Fridays. Those are fun and all, but I think we can do better, especially when we see promotions like a Fanny Pack.
No, I’m not kidding, the Mets are giving away Fanny Packs this year.
When you are giving away Fanny Packs and you are recycling old giveaways, it is time for some fresh ideas. Here is a look at a promotional idea for each player on the Mets expected Opening Day Roster:
Jerry Blevins 7 Line Subway Set – a man this thin deserves to have a rail in his honor.
Jay Bruce Ruby Cleats – click them together, and poof! You’re right back at Citi Field
Asdrubal Cabrera Flip Flops– I want to be a Met; I don’t want to be a Met. I’ll only play shortstop; I’ll play second. I’ll play third, but I want to be at second. Definitely, second base, but . . . .
Yoenis Cespedes Yo-ga Mats – he has undertaken yoga to make this finally be his healthy season
Michael Conforto Muppet – The man is Scooter.
Travis d’Arnaud Potato Head – you get the chance to put him together after he falls apart again
Jacob deGrom Hat Hair – in some ways this seems like a recycled idea, but with his hair cut, it’s now just a hat that will get many more people than ever expected to the ballpark.
Wilmer Flores Hanky Night – at some point or another, we have all cried watching this team play
Todd FrazierJersey Night – no, not jersey as uniform, just a celebration of New Jersey with Taylor Ham concession stands and Springsteen playing in the park all night long because in case you didn’t know Frazier grew up in Toms River, New Jersey.
Robert Gsellman Lollipop – if you’re always sticking your tongue out, might as well use it
Matt Harvey Hockey Jersey – Between the Winter Classic being played at Citi Field, Harvey’s notoriety as a Rangers fan, and his pitching arm looking like he was slammed with a Tie Domi cross-check, this seems like a natural fit.
Juan Lagares Foam Thumbs-Up – after all of his thumb injuries, his thumb must have the structural integrity of a piece of foam at this point.
Seth Lugo Wiffleball – With the wiffleball, you too can throw a curveball as a crazy as Lugo’s.
Steven Matz Take Your Grandfather to the Park Day – the only time you’ll see a grandfather spending time with their grandson at a game happier is when he’s there watching his grandson play.
Rafael Montero Sneakers – something comfortable for everyone’s feet as we all walk the park
Brandon Nimmo Mets Toothbrush – if you are always smiling, your teeth better be clean and your breath be minty fresh
Kevin Plawecki Dil – Actually no, let’s not do any promotions featuring the contents of player’s lockers
AJ Ramos Odd Couple Bobblehead – As a Subway Series special, the Mets and Yankees will each have a Bobblehead Day featuring roommates Ramos and Giancarlo Stanton with Ramos obviously playing the part of Oscar Madison.
Jose Reyes Bunting – Fans can get their bunting and leave the park as soon as the Mets are assured of the lead.
Hansel Robles Rocket – You too can point in the sky after watching your Robles Rocket go soaring into the sky
Amed Rosario Daily Planner – No longer will you be surprised about what is coming down the pike, you will now be ready.
Anthony Swarzak Scrabble Tile – No other Mets player has as many high point Scrabble tiles in his name.
Noah Syndergaard Marvel Baby Met – if he’s going to keep up the gimmick of hitting on Mrs. Met, he should get to see what a Thor-Mrs. Met child would look like.
Jason Vargas Left Handed Kitchen Tools – For that left-handed innings eater in you.
David Wright Night – No gimmick or anything. There just needs to be a night to honor David Wright this season. He deserves that much from the team and from the fans.
One of the biggest benefits of Mickey Callaway being the new Mets manager is the team and organization has a fresher way of looking at things. This is a welcome breath of fresh air from the Terry Collins Era when he was almost purposefully against the advanced metrics game, and he was loathe to play young players like Michael Conforto.
With Collins stubbornly played veterans like Jose Reyes, even when it was clear he wasn’t the guy who won a batting title in 2011 anymore, it was clear this change of direction was needed. However, it should always be questioned just how far a new manager should push the envelope.
Judging from Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece, Callaway is really looking to push the envelope:
On paper, this absolutely makes sense. Typically speaking, a team’s closer is their best reliever. They have the best stuff, and more than that, they have the mental toughness required to face these difficult situations and come out on top.
And yes, as fans, we time and time again lament how the best available reliever wasn’t used in a particular situation. Usually, this is when a game goes into extra innings. Typically, a backwards thinking manager, like Collins, would go to their third or fourth best reliever, so they can save their closer for the save situation. The example brought up most often was Buck Showalter not bringing in Zach Britton in the 2016 Wild Card Game.
On the surface, it would seem the Mets are well equipped bullpen-wise for Callaway to implement this plan.
Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Paul Sewald have closing experience. While not a closer, Anthony Swarzak has been used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen. We did see Jerry Blevins record three saves over the past two seasons. Finally, while many Mets fans are skeptical, Hansel Robles has shown he can handle a number of different roles in the bullpen, and with his working with Pedro Martinez this offseason and Dave Eiland this season, we may see fewer meltdowns.
Now, the main difference between the Indians situation and what Callaway is proposing to do is the Indians stuck with Allen as the closer. Clearly, that was more in line with Terry Francona‘s thinking than Callaway’s. What remains to be seen is whether this was the perfect blending of two schools of thought or Francona not going far enough.
Perhaps the reason why Francona not allowing Callaway to fully implement his plan was because we have seen many closers struggle in non-closing roles. Now, many will point out this is typically in a situation where a closer is just getting work in with their team having a large lead. We have not really seen the situation where a team full of strong relievers with closing experience can come in at any moment and be thrown into a pressure filled situation.
To date, we have seen teams toy with the idea but never truly implement it. Perhaps, that’s because there’s the theory relievers thrive when they know their role. Perhaps, that’s because there is value in free agency and arbitration in save totals and relievers are not going to let their manager “steal” money from them. Perhaps, that’s because managers do not want to put themselves on the line by trying something new.
Whatever the case, the Mets have a manager who is willing to try something different. It’s a good theory, and he should pursue it. However, he should not steadfast if it is not working. And with that, we really have the first true measure of what Callaway can be as a manager.
If nothing else, Callaway will make the 2018 season an interesting one to follow.
About a week ago, I wrote an article detailing the efforts Jeff Wilpon undertook to avoid the media. Seeing his quotes from the luncheon with Mets beat writers, we better understand why Jeff Wilpon undertakes such efforts.
In that press conference, he conveyed conflicting messages, threw his captain under the bus, and generally speaking left Mets fans angrier at the team than they originally had been.
The sad part is it didn’t have to be that way. Jeff Wilpon must’ve known he was going to speak at this luncheon, and therefore had sufficient time to better choose his words. Here’s what he should have said:
On Mets Fans
I understand the frustration because I’m frustrated too. I can tell you no one in this organization saw a 92 loss season coming. Because of that, we made changes. We brought in Mickey Callawayto be the manager and Dave Eiland to be the pitching coach.
More importantly, with all the injuries we had, we have gone out and brought in a new training staff. And remember, when healthy, this is a postseason team.
I think when Mets fans see the team we bring to Spring Training, they’ll be as excited for the 2018 season as I am.
On the Budget
There has been much written and said about the payroll. I understand where people are coming from, but there are things everyone needs to take into account.
Like any other rebuilding team, we had a lower payroll. As we knew were getting closer to contention, we went out and began getting players like Curtis Granderson, who helped us become contenders.
As our window opened, we began to increase payroll. Every year since 2014, we have increased payroll. In 2015 and 2016, when we had a chance of going to the postseason, we expanded payroll by making in-season trades for players like Cespedes and Bruce.
Also, we have gone the extra mile when necessary. On two separate occasions, we made Cespedes the highest salaried outfielder in baseball. We brought back Jerry Blevinslast year, and we brought back Bruce this year. We always have been willing to go the extra mile when the opportunity presents itself. If it presents itself again, we’re going to do it.
At the end of the day, I can assure fans that we will have a payroll that will help us to compete for a World Series title next year.
On the Correlation between Spending and Winning
I think we have all learned the lesson that spending does not automatically correlate to wins. There have been many years where we have had a top payroll, and we didn’t even finish over .500.
Personally, I believe winning is more about having the right decision makers in place. The Mets have that with Sandy Alderson. Under his direction, we went to a World Series in 2015, and we returned to the postseason the following year.
In 2017, which was the highest payroll in team history, we didn’t make the postseason. I believe we were snake bit with all the injuries. It happens. We just have to learn and grow from it; not throw money at the problem.
On the Offseason
So far, we have strengthened the bullpen with Swarzak. We have improved the outfield with Bruce, who was great for us last year. Overall, we have spent more money on free agents than any other team this offseason.
And I can unequivocally say we are not done looking for ways to improve this team.
On David Wright
People may not want to hear this, but so long as David Wrightwants to play baseball, we are going to keep the door open for him.
Now, there are certain allowances that need to be made. If Wright can play, that’s $20 million in our payroll. And yes, that means we have to consider his salary both when setting the budget and constructing our roster.
Wright is one of the greatest players to ever wear a Mets uniform. He has earned the right to say when he’s done. I’m never going to stand in his way because one of my greatest joys as an owner has been watching his career.
More than that I believe in him, and I’m rooting for him as all Mets fans should. He’s an important part of our history, and God willing, an important part of our future.
Now, I’m not saying all Mets fans should like these answers. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t.
With that said, they would at least convey a sense of purpose, direction, and more than anything hope. Instead, we got from Jeff Wilpon a moving target on the budget with him putting partial blame on a hurt David Wright who is fighting for his career. Overall, Jeff Wilpon really confirmed every Mets fans worst assumptions.
Ownership won’t invest what it needs to invest this team in order to win. More than that they confirmed for many this is a team that is rudderless so long as the Wilpons are in charge. Worse than that, they have no issue throwing an injured player in front of a bus.
Finally, for the first time since 2014, Jeff Wilpon answered questions about the Mets payroll. Of course, it was typical mixed messages and partial truths. Rather than putting it in my own words, I’m going to use the tweets from reporters:
Jeff Wilpon says there's a chance payroll goes up if there is a way to significantly improve the team. Says increasing payroll doesn't necessarily translate into wins.
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) January 23, 2018
Wilpon says the Mets payroll could conceivably match last year's or it could be "$10 million less."
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) January 23, 2018
Right off the bat, we have at least a perceived contradiction. Jeff Wilpon’s statement the payroll will go up if there’s an opportunity does not jive with matching or reducing last year’s payroll by about $10 million. To give him the benefit of the doubt, let’s assume he means he could increase payroll from it’s current point.
According to Spotrac, the Mets payroll currently sits at $128.9 million for the 25 man roster and $130.7 million total. Last year, the Mets payroll was $154.8 million. This means the Mets have somewhere between $13 to $23 million left to spend this offseason.
According to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports, the trade for Kipnis was rejected by “higher ups.” In fact, Heyman said, the deal was “killed by someone at the top, very likely over money.” Over the next two years, Kipnis is due $28.2 million over the next two years with a $2.5 million buyout if the Mets do not pick up the $16.5 million 2020 team option.
With respect to Harrison, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported the Pirates ask of Brandon Nimmo was too high considering Harrison’s contract. While we can debate the merits of trading Nimmo for Harrison, the contract balk is confounding with Harrison due $10.25 million next year with succeeding team options of $10.5 million and $11.5 million.
And for what it’s worth, Kipnis and Harrison do meet Jeff’s “Significantly Improve” Test as the Mets current options are Wilmer Flores, who has never been given a real opportunity to play second due to his poor glove, or re-signing Jose Reyes, who had a -0.6 WAR last year.
For a minute, let’s revisit another topic Jeff Wilpon raised when he said increasing payroll doesn’t necessarily translate to wins. Now, on the surface, that may appear to be true. Certainly, if you go out and spend $20 million on Jose Reyes, it is not going to make your team better. Also, for what it’s worth, for a team that desparately needs a second baseman and could also use a third baseman, center fielder, and a couple of arms, Jay Bruce doesn’t necessarily translate to wins either.
Sarcasm aside, let’s take Jeff Wilpon at his earlier word that he will spend if the move significantly improves the Mets. Let’s also focus on those players that would translate to wins instead of harping on a player like Jonathan Lucroy, who is really more a name than an All Star at this point in his career.
With the free agent market where it is, the Mets could obtain Todd Frazier, who is a significant upgrade at third over Asdrubal Cabrera. Moving Cabrera to second would at least solve the position with a credible Major League hitter.
In center field, Lorenzo Cain is still available, and his market is dwindling. This was a 5.3 WAR player last year, and as we all know, is a World Series champion. Considering center field is now manned by Juan Lagares, who is as brilliant defensively as he is poor at the plate and keeping healthy, Cain would be a significant upgrade that would translate to wins.
Same goes for a reliever like Greg Holland, who was an All Star in Colorado of all places last year. Really, Holland was terrific as a closer up until he likely tired toward the end of the year. Wouldn’t he be a significant upgrade that translates to wins, especially when you combine him with Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, and Jerry Blevins?
The answer to all of the above is they will significantly improve the team and would likely lead to wins. The same could be said for Kipnis and Harrison, two players the Mets balked at over money. If the Mets are balking over $10-13 million at the biggest area of need this offseason, what would lead any of us to believe the Mets will spend that amount on other players?
Oh, and by the way, Jeff Wilpon essentially ruled out the team signing any combination of those players with his announced payroll restrictions.
And of course, if all of Jeff Wilpon’s statements didn’t see contradictory or disingenuous enough, he also made this statement:
Wilpon: "There is no concrete line to go up, there is no concrete line to go down or stay same. It’s somewhat in flux to have conversations with Sandy and the rest of the baseball department to determine what the best course of action might be.”
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) January 23, 2018
However, despite all of that, let’s just believe for one second, you still think the Mets are going to go out there and significantly improve this team. There’s still plenty of top tier free agents available, and there are deals to be had. Well, you’re dreams and assumptions should die with this statement on David Wright:
Among the factors Jeff Wilpon cited in counting David Wright's insurance covered salary as part of the payroll is the cost of the policy, "which is not cheap."
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) January 23, 2018
That’s right. At a time when the Mets are giving mixed messages about payroll parameters, they’re complaining about the cost of an insurance policy that saves them roughly $20 million per season.
Really, everything Jeff Wilpon said proves out two things. First, the team really believes that spending to acquire better players does not necessarily translate to wins. Second, and more important, he thinks Mets fans are dumb.
Why else would he try to have us believe acquiring better players doesn’t lead to wins or publicly bemoan the cost of Wright’s insurance policy?