With the Mets winning 8-6 yesterday in what was an odd and messy game between two also rans, the Mets took the season series against the Nationals for the first time since 2015.
This only underscores just how vulnerable the Nationals were this year.
There was an opportunity for the Mets to take this division. The Mets record against the rest of the NL East further proves this out:
- Atlanta 4-12
- Philadelphia 11-8
- Miami 10-6
Even with their struggles against the Braves, the Mets are two games over .500 in the division. Seeing how well the Mets performed in their own division, you have to question what went wrong.
We all know the answer. It was that 5-21 June.
All of this offset a Jose Bautista return to form making him a surprise contributor. Still, that Bautista contributing highlights a key problem.
The Mets answer is always to go older, older and more injury prone. We see the Mets have a healthy foster, they can compete, but when are they ever healthy?
The McNeil case was the worst of them all.
First, he wasn’t much of a prospect. Then, he couldn’t play third base. Now, the Mets are pinpointing second as a position they could upgrade at this offseason. They wouldn’t feel this way if they observed McNeil this season.
This is emblematic of how this organization’s views on how to build a roster. Worse yet, despite evidence to the contrary, they repeat this behavior.
This is why 2018 fell apart. That is why we should treat the 2019 version with skepticism, at least until such time as the Mets change the way they conduct their business.
That’s why, even with the this window opening, the Mets could not take advantage. If they continue operating the same way, they’ll continue not competing.
If you’ve been to or watched Mets alumni at Citi Field for events like the 30th Anniversary of the 1986 World Series or Mike Piazza‘s number retirement, you will see just how much former Mets respect and revere David Wright.
What makes those moments so special is you see Wright look on with admiration at players he grew up rooting for as a child, and they treat him as an equal. There is a mutual respect between Mets greats.
As we are seeing with the Mets yet again, this mutual respect is shared between Mets players but not ownership. No, the Wilpons just have a way of alienating themselves with players like they have with the fans.
One interesting note is how prominent Mets who have played for both the Mets and Yankees are more closely affiliated with the Yankees organization. David Cone and Al Leiter have worked for YES. We’ve seen them and players like Dwight Gooden participate in Old Timer’s Day.
Part of the reason we see these Mets with the Yankees is because of the World Series titles. We also see the Yankees making the efforts to bring these players back. More importantly, these players have typically received better treatment from the Yankees than they have the Mets.
For example, could you imagine the Yankees removing a popular player’s signature from the walls of their stadium? Would you see them turning Monument Park into an unkept portion of their team store?
More importantly, could you see the Yankees handling the Wright situation in the matter the Mets have? It’s extremely doubtful.
Over what amounts to less than $5 million, the Mets are not going to let Wright play again. For what it’s worth, the Mets have that money socked away from the trades of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia and maybe even the insurance from Yoenis Cespedes.
Sure, the Mets have offered other reasons, rather excuses. They’re going to rely on medical reports (even though he’s been cleared to play baseball games). They’ve said there’s a higher standard of medical clearance to play in MLB as opposed to minor league games.
Now, the Mets are moving the perceived goalposts by saying the team wants him to be a regular player as opposed to a “ceremonial” player or pinch hitter.
Of course, Wright being an everyday player is a bit difficult with the presence of Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Wilmer Flores. It’s also more difficult due to Wright’s own personal physical limitations.
Of course, the Mets don’t know what Wright wants or feels like he’s capable of doing because John Ricco admits to not talking to Wright about all of this.
Seeing how all of this has transpired and how the Mets have opted to operate their business, especially post Madoff, this is about the insurance money.
While Wright has always said the Wright thing and has never been truly critical of the organization, everyone has their breaking point, and this could be his.
Much like we’ve seen with former Mets greats, Wright may be so aggrieved, he just stays away (not that the Mets give players reasons to return with event like Old Timer’s Day). And seeing how Wright has been treated, we may see the same thing with fans and other former players because, at the end of the day, no one should be alright with how this is transpiring.
Sadly, unlike the greats of Mets past, there’s no other home for him. The Mets are it.
So while we’re seeing what could be Wright’s final chance, we may be seeing the end of Wright before he fades away forever. That could be the saddest thing of all, and it was all over a few million.
That would start with Jay Bruce hitting a first inning homer, and it would continue thanks to the younger players on the Mets roster.
Nola would make a tough pitch, but with McNeil being excellent with his bat control, he was able to put a cricket swing on the pitch and hit it into right field for an RBI double.
For a moment, it looked like Bruce was going to drive home McNeil, but he was robbed by Carlos Santana.
At that point, it was tied at 2-2 with Steven Matz matching Nola pitch for pitch. Over his five innings, he allowed two earned on three hits while walking two and striking out eight.
Those two runs were the result of a Santana homer. As it would turn out, Santana would not be the only first baseman flashing leather and hitting homers.
In a surprise decision, Dominic Smith got the start at first against one of the best pitchers in the National League despite not having started a game in over a week. Despite the difficult circumstances, Smith would deliver:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 8, 2018
That homer would tie the game at 3-3, but the Mets would not be able to pull this one out as the young bullpen was not up for the task.
Tyler Bashlor entered in the seventh, and he dominated the Phillies with two strikeouts and a pop out. The problem would be Callaway left him in for the eighth.
In the eighth, Rhys Hoskins hit a leadoff homer to put the Phillies up 4-3. The Phillies couldn’t muster a rally past that as McNeil and Smith combined to make a phenomenal defensive play:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 8, 2018
Overall, the Mets would increase Nola’s ERA from 2.23 to 2.29, but they would also give him his 16th win of the season. Time will tell if this will be sufficient to help deGrom.
Game Notes: While downplaying the possibility David Wright will return this season, John Ricco admitted he has not spoken to Wright.
While it may sound strange now, back in 2004, the Mets actually traded away Jose Bautista to try to make the postseason. As absurd as that may sound, the Mets obtained him for just Justin Huber, and he was then flipped for Kris Benson.
As odd as the circumstances surrounding his arrival and departure for the Mets might’ve been in 2004, his story nearly 14 years later might top it.
After a storied Blue Jays career, the best Bautista could muster last offseason was a minor league deal from the Braves to return to third base. After 12 Major League games with the Braves, he hit .143/.250/.343, and he would be released.
On May 22nd, Bautista was sitting on his couch in Tampa when the Mets came calling.
A team once so blessed with outfield depth was in desperate need for an outfielder, and Bautista was the best of the lot. On that day, Bautista went from his couch to being instead in the starting lineup.
Bautista was signed as the Mets were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. The team who was once 12-2 was 24-19 and trailed Bautista’s former team by 3.5 games.
Well, since Bautista was signed, everything fell apart to the point the Mets were sellers at the trade deadline. While there were many people to be blamed, Bautista wasn’t one of them. In fact, the Mets did catch lightning in a bottle with Bautista.
In that horrid June when the Mets went 5-21, Bautista was great. In 25 games that month, Bautista hit .250/.434/.536 with seven doubles, three homers, and 11 RBI.
Bautista was everything the Mets hoped he would be. He not only played a very solid outfield, but he would also handle first, second, and third. Seemingly each and every day, Bautista found a way to contribute. That included him hitting his first career walk off homer:
It was a signature moment for a 15 year veteran who had a number of them in his illustrious career.
Fourteen years after having pass on by, the Mets got a chance to see Bautista put on their uniform. Bautista was willing to contribute to the Mets in any way they asked, and contribute he did.
He’s now joining Asdrubal Cabrera in Philadelphia in the hopes of another magical postseason run with more epic bat flips. Despite his destination, it will be fun to see him get that chance.
Best of luck to him.
The Mets Fan
I’m Steph, aka whutyearisit on the Twitter. I’m a senior in college and an aspiring sports journalist, but my account is reserved for very strong Mets opinions only.
How You Became a Mets Fan
I grew up a mets fan from my dad, uncle and brother. I really didn’t get into the Mets like i am now until 2012, right around Nohan time.
Favorite Mets Player
Favorite Moment in Mets History
I was at Game 3 of the World Series and Game 1 of the NLCS. I have been to many a game in my time, but i think my fave all-time game was Asdrubal Cabrera Bobblehead Day on July 1, 2017. I was on rain delay theater that day.
Message to Mets Fans
Don’t take out frustrations on bad players or players out or position or a first-year manager or even the GM. All of these problems spread across multiple GMs/managers. The Wilpons are the problem and nothing will be solved until they’re gone.
Believe it or not, two years ago, Todd Frazier was part of a Toms River team who won the Little League World Series. Of course, you believe it because we are reminded of it all the time. But it wasn’t just Frazier with Little League World Series exploits. Michael Conforto is the only player to homer in both the World Series and the Little League World Series.
Considering the Mets connection with to the Little League World Series, it made them the natural choice to participate in the Little League Classic.
What made the choice even better was how much the team embraced it. Frazier was out there signing autographs. Jacob deGrom was interviewing Little Leaguers. Noah Syndergaard was sharing pitching grips with members of the Spanish team. Really, to a man, the Mets were taking pictures with the young players. Syndergaard and deGrom would join Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler in watching the game from the stands with the Staten Island Little League team.
The Mets also embraced the challenge on the field, which included Jason Vargas having his best start in a Mets uniform.
Surprisingly, the Phillies could not get to Vargas until the sixth when Carlos Santana hit a two run home run off of him. After a Wilson Ramos double, Mickey Callaway brought in Seth Lugo, the Quarterrican, to get out of the jam. At that point, it was too little too late for the Phillies.
The Mets first rally was started by Frazier (who else?). His leadoff single against Nick Pivetta was the first of four straight singles. The Jose Bautista and Kevin Plawecki singles would plate two runs. After a Vargas sacrifice bunt, Amed Rosario would hit a two RBI single to give the Mets an early 4-0 lead.
The Mets lead would grow to 7-0 before the Phillies would even score a run off of Vargas. Jeff McNeil plated two runs with an RBI single in the fourth, and Rosario plated a run with another RBI single in the sixth.
Things were going so well for the Mets that Dominic Smith, who was called-up as the 26th man for the game, would hit an RBI pinch hit double in the eight. With Brandon Nimmo hurting, the Mets are now considering keeping Smith up to play left field, which would obviously be the right thing to do.
Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera went 1-for-17 against his former team in this series.
Today, like most of this season, the roles were reversed.
In seven innings, he limited the Mets to just one run in three hits while walking one and striking out 11.
By that point, it was 3-1 Phillies because the Phillies jumped all over Syndergaard with a three run first inning. The first run cane courtesy of an Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double.
Really, Syndergaard labored through the entire game with him not recording a single 1-2-3 inning.
Another indication was how he finally got a run of support from his offense, and he gave that run right back in the bottom of the inning.
All told, Syndergaard needed a season high 115 pitches just to get through 5.2 innings. In his 5.2 innings of work, he would allow four earned on eight hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Another troubling sign for Syndergaard is the stolen bases are back. On the night, the Phillies were a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts. It wasn’t speedsters like Cesar Hernandez either. Carlos Santana and Jorge Alfaro would as well. For Alfaro, it was the first of his career.
In that sixth inning, Syndergaard left with a runner on second and two out. Daniel Zamora would make his MLB debut, and he would strike out Hernandez to end the inning.
Zamora’s MLB debut was great with him not allowing any hits and his walking one and striking out two in 1.1 scoreless innings.
Importantly, Zamora kept the Mets in the game with a chance to tie it after Nola departed.
Conforto would battle back from 0-2 to a full count, but he would strike out looking leaving the Mets down 4-2.
The Mets once again showed fight, but in the end, they lost because somehow, some way, Nola has become a much better pitcher than Syndergaard.
Game Notes: Bobby Wahl was placed on the 10 day disabled list, which made room for Zamora to get called up to the majors.
As reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post, Mets owner Fred Wilpon does not want to hire a younger and more analytics driven executive for two reasons. The first is he feels he will have a harder time connecting with that person. The second and perhaps all the more baffling is the “thought among team officials that perhaps the Mets became too analytics driven in recent seasons under Sandy Alderson’s watch . . . .”
Taking the thought at face value, we really need to question which analytics the Mets are using to inform their decisions.
For starters, look at Asdrubal Cabrera. Everyone knew he was no longer a shortstop, so that left the question over whether he should have been a second or third baseman heading into the 2018 season.
In 2017, Cabrera was a -6 DRS in 274.1 innings at second. That should have come as no surprise as he was a -10 DRS the last time he saw extensive action at second base (2014). Conversely, in his 350.1 innings at third last year, he had a 1 DRS.
Naturally, the Mets went with Cabrera at second this season where he has been an MLB worst -20 DRS. That makes him not just the worst second baseman in all of baseball, it makes him the worst defensive infielder in all of baseball.
Of course, the Mets got there by acquiescing a bit to Cabrera’s preference to play second over third. This was also the result of the team turning down a Paul Sewald for Jason Kipnis swap. That deal was nixed over money.
With respect to Sewald, he was strong when the season began. In April, he had a 1.91 ERA and a 0.805 WHIP. Since that point, Sewald has a 5.73 ERA, a 1.485 WHIP, and multiple demotions to Triple-A.
As for Kipnis, he has struggled this year hitting .226/.313/.363. It should be noted this was mostly due to a horrific April which saw him hit .178/.254/.243. Since that tough start to the season, Kipnis has gotten progressively better. Still, it is difficult to lose sleep over Kipnis even if the rejected trade put Cabrera at second and it led to the Mets signing Todd Frazier, who is hitting .217/.298/.368.
At the time the Mets signed Bruce, they needed a center fielder. The team already had Yoenis Cespedes in left, and once he returned from the disabled list, the team was going to have Michael Conforto in right. Until the time Conforto was ready, the team appeared set with Brandon Nimmo in the short-term.
In 69 games in 2017, Nimmo hit .260/.379/.418. In those games, Nimmo showed himself to be a real candidate for the leadoff spot on a roster without an obvious one, especially in Conforto’s absence. With him making the league minimum and his having shown he could handle three outfield positions, he seemed like an obvious choice for a short term solution and possible someone who could platoon with Juan Lagares in center.
Instead, the Mets went with Bruce for $39 million thereby forcing Conforto to center where he was ill suited. More than that, Bruce was coming off an outlier year in his free agent walk year. Before that 2017 rebound season, Bruce had not had a WAR of at least 1.0 since 2013, and he had just one season over a 100 wRC+ in that same stretch. In response to that one outlier season at the age of 30, the Mets gave Bruce a three year deal.
Still, that may not have been the worst contract handed out by the Mets this past offseason. That honor goes to Jason Vargas.
The Mets gave a 35 year old pitcher a two year $16 million deal to be the team’s fifth starter despite the fact the team had real starting pitching depth. At the time of the signing, the Mets had Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, and Corey Oswalt as starting pitching depth.
Instead of using five of them and stashing four of them in Triple-A, the Mets opted to go with Vargas as the fifth starter. Even better, they depleted their starting pitching depth by moving Gsellman and Lugo the to bullpen. Of course, this had the added benefit of saving them money thereby allowing them to sign Anthony Swarzak, a 32 year old reliever with just one good season under his belt.
The Mets were rewarded with the decision to sign Vargas by his going 2-8 with an 8.75 ERA and a 1.838 WHIP. He’s also spent three separate stints on the disabled list.
What’s funny about Vargasis he was signed over the objections of the Mets analytics department. From reports, Vargas was not the only one. Looking at that, you have to question just how anyone associated with the Mets could claim they have become too analytics driven. Really, when you ignore the advice of those hired to provide analytical advice and support, how could you point to them as the problem?
In the end, the problem is the same as it always has been. It’s the Wilpons.
They’re the ones looking for playing time for Jose Reyes at a time when everyone in baseball thinks his career is over. They’re the ones not reinvesting the proceeds from David Wright‘s insurance policy into the team. They’re the ones who have a payroll not commensurate with market size or World Series window. They’re the ones rejecting qualified people for a job because of an 81 year year old’s inability to connect with his employees.
Really, you’re not going to find an analytical basis to defend making a team older, less versatile, more injury prone, and worse defensively.
What you will find is meddlesome ownership who thinks they know better than everyone. That’s why they’re 17 games under .500 with declining attendance and ratings while saying the Yankees financial model is unsustainable at a time the Yankees are heading to the postseason again and the team has the highest valuation of any Major League team.
With Jeff McNeil hitting .300/.417/.500 in his first 14 games in the Major Leagues, Mickey Callaway said of evaluating the second baseman, “Is this guy going to be a kid we might not have to go find a second baseman over the winter? That’s where we’re at right now.” Seeing how McNeil was coming off three straight injury riddled seasons and how the team made every excuse to keep him in the minors this season, McNeil’s even being considered for the 2019 second base job is quite startling.
It’s all the more startling when you consider if things had been different, McNeil may never have received this opportunity.
Coming off a terrible 2017 season, former first round draft pick Gavin Cecchini set out to rededicate himself and to improve himself in each and every aspect of his game. Overall, the goal was for the Mets to give him more than just a cup of coffee in the majors. The next time, he wanted to stick.
As Cecchini noted in an interview with Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, he sought out to improve every aspect of his game. This meant doing work with Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler to not only change his stance and bat angle, but he would begin studying video. Cecchini also spent time improving his physique, and he began talking about trying to steal more bases. Really, he was turning over every stone to become a better baseball player. Cecchini would describe the result of those efforts:
It feels so strong, like the ball is just exploding off my bat. I never felt the type of pop and power that I have no before. Yeah, I’ve gotten stronger, I gained 15 pounds, but still, the ball is just, I can really tell that my body is always in a good position to hit and the ball is just exploding off my bat.
His efforts paid immediate dividends with him getting noticed during Spring Training, but given the Mets infield depth already set, he would begin the season in Triple-A. With his Spring, and the health issues on the Mets roster, Cecchini looked to be on the verge of getting a shot at a call-up in the event his new and improved approach translated to regular season success.
Through 30 games, Cecchini was hitting .294/.342/.468 with 11 doubles, a triple, two homers, and nine RBI. His .174 ISO was the best of his minor league career. While stats can admittedly be inflated in the Pacific Coast League, his 110 wRC+ indicates he was an above average hitter for the league.
All told, Cecchini was doing everything he needed to do to earn another call-up. All he needed was a chance.
Ironically, while he was waiting for a member of the Major League roster to get injured for him to get a chance, it would be Cecchini who would be the one to get injured.
On May 9, Cecchini would foul a ball off his foot, fall to the ground, and he would need assistance to get off of the field. Initially, he sat out some games while he did some work on the side. The hope he would have a quick return quickly faded as Cecchini was sent to New York to have his foot evaluated by a specialist, who fitted him with the dreaded walking boot.
While the walking boot has been removed, Cecchini remains unable to resume baseball activities. Last month, Las Vegas manager Tony DeFrancesco indicated Cecchini is feeling a tear in his foot.
Ultimately, this likely means Cecchini is done for the year. After that is anyone’s guess.
While Cecchini has been unable to play, the Mets have seen Todd Frazier make multiple trips to the disabled list. Asdrubal Cabrera was traded to the Phillies. Amed Rosario has struggled leading the team to sit him multiple days a week. Long story short, the opportunities for Cecchini to prove himself would have been present.
Instead, those chances went to Luis Guillorme and McNeil. As noted by Callaway, McNeil has at least played well enough to merit consideration for being the Mets 2019 second baseman. Where Cecchini will be at that point is anyone’s guess.
While Mets fans understandably liked Asdrubal Cabrera, it is important to note he is an impending free agent who has been the worst defensive second baseman in baseball this year. Couple that with the Mets apparent unwillingness to eat salary in any deal, and it is hard to believe the team would get a significant return for Cabrera.
Well, in what should prove to be quite a surprise, the Mets not only got a good return, they got a far better return for Cabrera than they received for Jeurys Familia.
While an imperfect comparison on many levels, this trade is akin to the Mets obtaining Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants for Carlos Beltran. Certainly, it was easy to make this connection seeing both of them pitch yesterday with both of them providing their own run support and giving their team a chance to win.
Now, Beltran is a Hall of Famer, and Wheeler was a former sixth overall pick in the draft. Still, the comparisons of Wheeler to new Met Franklyn Kilome is quite interesting.
Both pitchers were in their early 20s at the time of the trade, and both were on the precipice of Top 100 prospect lists. With respect to both, while they could ramp it up into the upper 90s, and they both had secondary pitch and control issues.
Consider that at the time of the trade, Wheeler was walking 4.8 batters per nine for the Giants’ California (Single-A) affiliate. For his part, Kilome has been walking 4.5 batters per nine for the Phillies Double-A affiliate. Of course, the biggest difference between the two is Wheeler was able to put batters away.
In fact, Wheeler was striking out over ten batters per nine innings. For his part, Kilome has struck out 7.8 batters per nine in his minor league career. This includes a 7.3 K/9 with the Phillies prior to this year.
This is what makes Kilome an interesting prospect. This is a guy with tremendous stuff, who just needs someone to get through to him and unlock that potential. That task is first up to Rumble Ponies pitching coach Frank Viola.
Looking at Kilome’s first start with Binghamton, he walked just one batter in seven innings. It’s possible Viola has already started getting Kilome to make the tweaks he needs. It’s also possible this is a one start blip.
If the Mets get through to Kilome, they have a guy who could be a middle of the rotation starter. Maybe more. If not, they have another late inning bullpen arm who is living in the upper 90s. In either event, that’s not a bad ceiling or floor when you consider the Mets traded away a rental without a true position.