The New York Mets organization has been quite reticent to retire their best player’s jersey numbers. From a player perspective, hat is an honor which has been bestowed upon just Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, two players who just so happen to be Hall of Famers who have worn a Mets cap on their Hall of Fame plaque.
With respect to Piazza, once he departed via free agency, the team did not reissue his No. 31. Instead, like what we now see with Gary Carter‘s No. 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s No. 17, the number was taken out of circulation. Unlike Carter and Hernandez, the Mets retired Piazza’s number.
What is interesting is Carlos Beltran is seen by most as a sure fire Hall of Famer, and it is eminently possible he enters the Hall wearing a Mets cap. Given precedent, you would think the number would be reserved for future retirement. Instead, it has been reissued to Val Pascucci, Fred Lewis, Travis d’Arnaud, Bob Geren, Matt Reynolds, and finally Luis Guillorme.
In this latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable, we ask the question about whether the Mets should have treated Beltran’s number like the Mets greats before him, or whether there is no issue with 15 being given to other players:
No uniform number discussion is important to me until 8 goes on the wall.
I could go either way about retiring Beltran’s number but have to agree with Metstradamus’ excellent point. Let’s wait for 8.
Michael Baron (MLB)
I’m wishy washy on this subject regarding Beltran. He is the best center fielder they ever had, and easily among the top 10 players they’ve ever had. But he doesn’t identify with the base that way – people connect Beltran with that Adam Wainwright curveball in 2006. So if the Mets were to unofficially retire Beltran’s number by no longer issuing it, that could generate a negative discussion which, to be honest is avoidable and unnecessary. The team knows that and is obviously very sensitive to negative press and discussions, so it might actually be best to remain at a status quo on this. But ask me tomorrow and I might feel a bit different.
As much as I loved watching Beltran with the Mets and the countless times I’ve defended him for looking at strike one, two, and three in Game 7 (three of the nastiest pitches I’ve ever seen to this day), I personally do not retire his 15 or even take it out of circulation. When he gets into Cooperstown, which he will, if they stick a Mets hat on his head, I think at that point they have to retire it. Until then, if it were up to me, I say no.. He was successful everywhere else he went. That’s hallowed ground for this organization. Until David Wright‘s #5 gets a spot up there, no one else from that era should.
Dilip Srindhar (MMO & MMN)
Yes. Carlos Beltran is very deserving of this honor. Beltran from 2005-2011 hit .282/.369/.508 with a 130 OPS+. To put this into perspective, Mike Piazza hit .289/.367/.534 with a 133 OPS+ from 1999-2005. Also add on that Beltran was an elite defensive CF during most of his Mets career. Beltran seems quite likely to enter the Hall-of-Fame as a Met. Beltran is an all-time Met and deserves the respect that the others before him have received. The Mets retire very few numbers and there is no reason Carlos Beltran shouldn’t be next along with David Wright. There has been some tension with the Mets and their fans against Carlos Beltran the few years. But fans have started to realize how great and impactful of a player he was and hopefully the Mets do too.
The biggest issue with the Mets not taking out of circulation is like many things with the Wilpon family, it has the stench of being personal. It’s why we saw the team have a patch for Rusty Staub but not former owner Nelson Doubleday, a man who owned the team during the franchise’s greatest run.
The decision reeks of pettiness related to Beltran striking out in the 2006 NLCS and for his going against team advice to have career saving knee surgery.
Honestly, I’m not sure the team ever considered taking his number out of circulation, and if the topic was raised, it was quickly dismissed.
When Beltran does get inducted ino the Hall of Fame, I seriously doubt we see the Mets replicate the Yankees efforts to heal old wounds like we saw when Dave Winfield was inducted, and in the event Beltran does opt to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, part of me doubts the Mets take the next step in deciding to retire his number.
One thing I don’t doubt is the terrific writing from the people who participate in this Roundtable. I encourage you to take the time to read what they’ve written about Beltran, Carter, and a host of all other Mets topics.
Now that Carlos Beltran has officially retired, the Hall of Fame discussions can now begin. In the case of Beltran, one of the Top 10 centerfielders of all-time and the best Puerto Rican baseball player not named Roberto Clemente, the discussion for him is not whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Rather, the discussion is what cap he will wear when he gets inducted into the Hall of Fame.
As we learned from Gary Carter, Beltran is not going to be able to just pick whatever hat he wants. This means no Astros, despite him winning the World Series there, and no Cardinals, where he cemented his place in Cooperstown. Unless the Hall of Fame invokes the Reggie Jackson, you can go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee regardless of tenure with them, Beltran is going to have three choices: (1) Royals; (2) Mets; or (3) Blank.
Under normal circumstances, the case for the Mets should be quite easy with him playing more games in a Mets uniform than with any other team. Beltran had his best years in Queens posting 31.3 of his 69.8 career WAR with the team. He won all of his Gold Gloves with the Mets, and five of his nine All Star appearances came as a member of the Mets. Some of his greatest highlights (and lowlights) came with the Mets. In many ways, his entire career is defined by what he did with the Mets.
With this being the Mets, this isn’t normal circumstances. There are indications this was and continues to be a very strained relationship.
The biggest indication of this was the fight over Beltran’s 2010 knee surgery. It created a he said – she said situation where Boras insisted the Mets were informed, and the Mets acted as if they were blindsided. For younger fans, the perfect analogy to this was the hysteria surrounding Matt Harvey and his innings limits during the 2015 season.
Beltran had knee problems for two seasons, and when push came to shove, he had the surgery upon the recommendation of a world class knee surgeon. The Mets position was Beltran needed to clear medical decisions through them. As the New York Post reported, “the Mets are claiming this was done without clearance and that the Mets are threatening to take some form of action.”
Action never came, but the bad feelings persisted. Much of that can be directly attributed to Fred Wilpon’s interview with the New Yorker:
At one point, I mentioned to Wilpon the theory that the Mets might be cursed. He gave a sort of half laugh, and said, “You mean”—and then pantomimed a checked swing of the bat.
When Carlos Beltran came up, I mentioned his prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004, when he hit eight home runs, just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon laughed, not happily. “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” he said, referring to himself. In the course of playing out his seven-year, $119-million contract with the Mets, Beltran, too, has been hobbled by injuries. “He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.”
Wilpon reportedly apologized, and Beltran being the man he was accepted said apology.
After that, the Mets did give him the perfunctory video montage his first game back at Citi Field. However, that was about it from the team.
Immediately after being traded from the Mets, Beltran’s number 15 was immediately assigned to Val Pascucci, and it has been assigned to Fred Lewis, Travis d’Arnaud, Bob Geren, and Matt Reynolds. This was not done with Mike Piazza‘s 31 or Tom Seaver‘s 41. In sum, the Mets not taking the number out of circulation indicates the team had no intentions of retiring the number. That’s odd considering Beltran’s Hall of Fame resume and tenure with the Mets.
It’s also odd how long it took the Mets to acknowledge Beltran’s retirement and to provide well wishes to one of the best players in their history:
Beltran Announcement: 11:32
Congratulatory responses as follows
Yankees – 11:50
Royals – 12:13
Astros – 12:17
Rangers – 12:25
Cardinals – 1:00
Mets – 3:08
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) November 14, 2017
In that time frame, the Mets wished Hasdrubal Cabrera a Happy Birthday, corrected the tweet to say Asdrubal Cabrera, and tweeted the April 15 glove promotion. The silence on Beltran was almost deafening.
It seems to be symbolic on a frost between both sides as evidenced in Beltran’s Players’ Tribune piece. Beltran talked about getting called up and breaking into the majors with the Royals. He waxed poetic about tips he received from Reggie Jackson during his time with the Yankees. He spoke about the championship run with the Astros. As for the Mets, he mentioned getting traded in 2011. Overall, there wasn’t any quip about something positive that happened to him during his time in Flushing.
There could be many reasons for that, but given the history between the two sides, it doesn’t seem accidental.
Overall, there seems to be some chasm between the Mets and Beltran. It’s a real shame too because Beltran’s Hall of Fame case was built during his time with the Mets. For the Mets, they have not had many players as great as Beltran in their history. Beltran is definitively their best center fielder, and quite possibly, the best outfielder in their history.
Five years from now, when Beltran is inducted into the Hall of Fame, he should be talking about wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, and the Mets should be planning a number retirement ceremony. Based upon what we’ve seen over the past few years, that doesn’t seem as much of a certainty as it should.
The good news is that there’s still time for the Mets to sell Beltran on wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. That starts with the easiest decision imaginable with the team inducting him into their own Hall of Fame. It would also behoove them to take 15 out of circulation. This is just a step, but an important one – one the Mets need to do if they want to add a third Hall of Famer to the legacy of the New York Mets organization.
Recent reports indicate Robin Ventura and Brad Ausmus are not interested in the Mets managerial job. For Ventura’s part, it seems he’s just not interested in managing again. With respect to Ausmus, he’s interested in managing again, but he doesn’t want the Mets job. Ausmus is interested in the Red Sox job.
There are also reports other managers with managerial experience were out of the running as well. Specifically, Bob Geren and Chip Hale will not be reuniting with the Mets. Both were assumed to be well respected by the organization, but for unspecified reasons, neither is a candidate for the Mets managerial opening. With respect to these two, it should be noted, it was not known if they took themselves out of the running, or the Mets decided to go in another direction.
Really, the only manager with prior experience who is a candidate for the job is Manny Acta, who due to poor stints in Washington and Cleveland, probably won’t be a candidate for many managerial positions. Unless Acta gets the job, the Mets are going to hire a first time manager, and the top managerial candidate on the market, Alex Cora, appears destined to go to the Red Sox.
It really makes you question why there isn’t greater interest in the Mets managerial position? There may be a number of viable reasons why, but let’s not overlook the fact the Mets managerial position is somewhat of a dead-end job.
Since the Wilpons assumed team control in 2003, the team has gone through four managers. That’s five if you include Bobby Valentine who was fired after the 2002 season. Of those five managers, Valentine was the only one who would ever get another managerial job, and that was only after he first went to Japan, worked as an analyst on Baseball Tonight, and got the opportunity from a Red Sox ownership group eager to hire him. Otherwise, Valentine likely never gets another job.
There are several reasons why these managers never got another job. With respect to Terry Collins, he will turn 69 early in the 2018 season, and there were rumors before the announcement the Mets were reassigning him in the organization, Collins was going to retire anyway. Still, that didn’t prevent the Mets from trashing him on the way out.
It’s quite possible the scathing analysis of Collins as detailed in Marc Carig’s Newsday article was the Mets masterpiece. It may well be the result of all the practice they’ve had.
In a New York Daily News feature after it was announced Art Howe would finish out the season before being fired, Howe was characterized as soft, uninspiring, weak, and lacking credibility with players.
His replacement, Willie Randolph, was treated just as poorly on the way out. In addition to being fired after winning the first game of a West Coast trip, the Mets would again go to assassinate their manager’s character. As detailed by Bill Maddon of the New York Daily News, the Mets let it be known they had their reservations about even hiring Randolph and insisted the team won in spite of him. As if that wasn’t enough, the report stated the team believed Randolph, “lacked fire; the players, especially the Latino players, had tuned him out; he was too sensitive to criticism; he was overly defensive; he didn’t communicate with his coaches.”
Yes, there were other reasons why Randolph never got another job, but in the end, the character assassination levied upon him was a great disservice, and it played an important role in his never getting another job. Same went for Valentine and Howe.
Knowing how the Mets handle the firings of their managers, and knowing how their managers never get another job, why would a top candidate ever consider taking this job?
When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals. With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:
East – Boston Red Sox
Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)
Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.
RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)
Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.
RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)
Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.
OF Chris Young (2014)
After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.
Central – Cleveland Indians
First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)
Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007. He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.
RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)
Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.
RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)
Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons. Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.
West – Houston Astros
DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)
Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform. Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.
C Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)
Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)
Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.
Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)
Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark. While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)
Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick. He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)
Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.
Wild Card – New York Yankees
RHP Luis Cessa
Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
Wild Card – Minnesota Twins
Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)
While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.
RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)
“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse. There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.
RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)
Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability. He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.
East – Washington Nationals
OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)
De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets. He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.
Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)
Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.
2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)
Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase. Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant. Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.
LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)
Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season. He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract. Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.
Central – Cubs
Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)
“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.
C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)
Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners. It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.
West – Dodgers
Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)
Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers. Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.
OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)
Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform. He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most. Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series. His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.
3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)
Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible. Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.
Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)
Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.
Wild Card – Diamondbacks
RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)
Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed. While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.
Wild Card – Rockies
Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League. Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.
With the rumors the Mets will be looking for a manger to replace Terry Collins this offseason, the teams is likely going to focus on the obvious candidates. This includes Tim Teufel, Bob Geren, and Dick Scott. Each candidate have their own merits, but none of them are really a bold move the Mets may need to make this offseason to help turn their team around. In order to do that, the Mets may have to think outside the box.
To that end, maybe the Mets should consider hiring Alex Rodriguez to be their new manager this offseason. Many will be quick to dismiss the notion, but there are many reasons why A-Rod could be a worthwhile choice to succeed Collins:
#1 A-Rod Understands What Sandy Wants in His Manager
During an August 17, 2017 WFAN radio interview with Mike Francesca, A-Rod described the modern manager’s role as one of “a CEO of a public company.” The basis of this comparison is A-Rod believes the manager’s job is now to take the information provided by the front office and to find the best way to communicate that information to the players.
By reputation, Sandy Alderson does not want the old school manager who flies by the seat of his pants and controls everything in the dugout. He wants someone who goes out there and follows his instructions. Based upon the comments A-Rod has made, it would seem he has a fundamental understanding on what Alderson wants.
#2 A-Rod Has a Relationship with Kevin Long
While the Mets might be looking for a new manager, it seems the team may well want to keep both Dan Warthen and Kevin Long in place. If that is the Mets intention, they are going to need to find a manager who will work well with the retained coaches. That could be Geren based upon his tenure as the Mets bench coach. That could also be A-Rod, who worked well with Kevin Long during their mutual time together with the Yankees. More importantly, there is a mutual respect between the two, which would serve as a solid foundation for a new working relationship.
#3 A-Rod Works Well with Young Players
During his tenure with the Yankees, A-Rod has been given credit for serving as a mentor for young players like Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. Apparently, that was not just a special relationship he had with those players, but rather a willingness to serve as a mentor to young players. That is something that continued with the current crop of young Yankees. As Gary Sanchez said of A-Rod, “He’s always given us good advice. On and off the field, he’s always been there for us, he always has time for us. One thing he has told me is about creating a routine, a routine that I can use to prepare myself for every game.” (Newsday)
With A-Rod, you have an individual who has a willingness and an ability to effectively communicate with young players. Better yet, he’s able to show them how to best succeed at the Major League level. With so much of next year and the next decade hinging on young players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, you need someone who is best able to get through to them and help them. That could be A-Rod.
#4 A-Rod Is Bilingual
If you pay attention to the post-game, you will see Melissa Rodriguez translating for Spanish speaking players like Yoenis Cespedes. That is all well and good for an interview, but that’s not good for the player-manager relationship. The two need to be able to communicate. A-Rod’s ability to speak English and Spanish permits him to effectively communicate with all of the players in his clubhouse.
#5 A-Rod Has Played for Great Managers
During A-Rod’s playing days, he has had the opportunity to play for Lou Piniella, Johnny Oates, Jerry Narron, Buck Showalter, Joe Torre, and Joe Girardi. That group of managers have won 10 Manager of the Year Awards, 28 division titles, 8 pennants, and 6 World Series.
Each of these mangagers were good to great in their own right, and each one of them had different managing styles. Certainly, each one of them left an impression on A-Rod as to what is the best way to manage a team and how to best communicate with your players. Like all first time managers, A-Rod will have to find his voice. He will be aided in doing so by his having played for some of the best managers of his generation.
#6 A-Rod Understands Decline
Throughout the 2016 season, A-Rod struggled to the point where the Yankees finally had to inform him that if he didn’t retire, the team was going to release him. At that point, A-Rod had to face reality and admit he was no longer the player he once was. That’s an avenue this current Mets team is going to have to navigate.
Both David Wright and Matt Harvey have dealt with a number of physical problems. With each day that passes, each of them is further and further away from being the players they once were. Having someone like A-Rod as the manager would provide both players with a sounding board to help them navigate the season both physically and mentally.
#7 A-Rod Understands the Media
A manager of a New York team is also a media personality. They have to be able to face the media multiple times a day and answer the tough questions. With his postseason struggles and his PED suspension, A-Rod has had to face the tough questions time and again. He’s weathered the storm, and he has come out the other side.
And now that he’s retired, A-Rod is a member of the media. He does studio shows for Fox earning rave reviews, and he has done a few games as a color commentator. With that, he’s become even more polished than he already was leaving him better able to face the media.
#8 A-Rod Creates Buzz
Look, after the 2017 season the Mets need to change the narrative. They’re an injury prone team who doesn’t go out there and spend money. This has led the fans to become either angry or apathetic. That’s not a good situation for a Major League organization, especially one that is raising ticket prices for next season.
At a minimum, hiring A-Rod would create a buzz. Love it or hate it, it would be a bold move for the organization, and bold moves typically generate excitement. That type of excitement can at times become infectious and energize an entire organization.
There’s also the fact the Mets will need to pursue a number of free agents. Possibly, A-Rod, a player who is still respected by many players across the majors, could be used as a recruiting tool. If true, that will create an even bigger buzz because better players mean more wins which will help turn those angry and apathetic fans into excited ones.
#9 A-Rod Loved the Mets
Back in the 2000 offseason, it was assumed A-Rod was going to be a Met because A-Rod grew up a Mets fan. Like the rest of us, A-Rod loved that 1986 Mets team, and he wanted to bring the Mets their next championship. He never did get that chance after Steve Phillips described A-Rod as a 24 and one player.
A-Rod has been able to accomplish much in his career, but the one thing he was never able to do was to wear a Mets uniform and deliver a World Series to his favorite team. It could be an opportunity that he couldn’t overlook, and it may be one that drives him.
#10 A-Rod Is Fireable
For all the calls from Mets fans to make Wright the Mets next manager, is the fact that one day the Mets will have to fire him. Managers are hired to one day be fired. No Mets fan wants to see their beloved Wright be fired by the team. No, you want a manager who could readily be fired. That’s A-Rod.
However, in order to be fired, you need to first be hired. There are certain impediments there from his lack of experience to whether he’d ever be interested in managing in the big leagues. If he is somehow interested, the Mets should definitely inquire because he just might be exactly what the Mets need in their next manager.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MetsMerizedOnline
There were two overriding reasons why the Mets brought in Glenn Sherlock in the offseason. First and foremost, he was brought in because Tim Teufel has never been a great third base coach, and as we saw him send Wilmer Flores to the plate last season, he wasn’t getting any better. The second reason is the Mets wanted to have a new catching guru to replace Bob Geren to work with Travis d’Arnaud.
Now, if the Mets really want Sherlock to work with d’Arnaud, why is he the third base coach instead of serving as the bench coach like Geren?
Now, a bench coach has real responsibilities in the modern game. It is no longer the position Don Zimmer once described as, “People say, What is the job of a bench coach? I say, Very simple–I sit next to [Joe Torre] on the bench. When he plays hit-and-run that works, I say, ‘Nice goin’, Skipper,’ and if it doesn’t work, I go down to the other end of the bench, get a drink, and get out of his way. We only got one manager. I don’t want no credit for doin’ anything. I sit next to Joe like a bump on a log–that’s the way I leave it.” (Scott Raab, Esquire).
Rather, the bench coach has become more than that. He shares many responsibilities pre-game, post-game, and during the game. As Indians GM Chris Antonetti said about Bench Coach Brad Mills, “He’s ’s [Terry Francona‘s] right-hand man, and he really helps executed a lot of the planning, the logistics of when we’re going to work out, practices, all the communication within a game to get players ready.” (Evan Drellich, Boston Herald).
The bench coach has a number of responsibilities that keeps him as engaged in the game as the manager. He needs to be that because he needs to be a check on the manager to make sure the manager takes everything into account whenever he is making a move or not making a move. Part of that responsibility is looking at the catcher and seeing what he’s doing. Is he calling a good game? Is he setting up properly or staying in his crouch long enough? Is he paying enough attention to the running game? The list goes on and on.
That is something that Geren was able to do during his tenure as the bench coach. If there was an issue with how any one of his catchers were playing, he had the opportunity to speak with them and point out what adjustments needed to be made. When the Mets brought Sherlock aboard, it is presumably one of the things they wanted him to do with d’Arnaud.
Except, he can’t.
With Sherlock being the third base coach, he really can’t have that discussion with d’Arnaud. When d’Arnaud is sitting in the dugout while the Mets are on offense, Sherlock is at third base. When d’Arnaud is running out to his position, Sherlock is coming off the field. There are really limited times for the two to discuss the in-game adjustments d’Arnaud needs to make.
Now, these issues could be addressed post-game and in-between games. However, if there is something that really needs to be addressed, you’re not permitting Sherlock to do it. It may not seem like a huge issue, but something as simple as d’Arnaud not getting set up in the right position, can cost the pitcher the corner. With the wrong pitch sequencing, d’Arnaud may not be putting his pitchers in the best position to succeed. If there is something d’Arnaud is doing wrong when trying to get the ball out on a stolen base attempt, you can’t fix the issue leaving the opposition to take advantage of it all game long.
Now, other coaches can address it, but they can’t do it in the way Sherlock can. Sherlock is the catching coach who was brought it to communicate with his catchers, d’Arnaud specifically. While it may not seem like the biggest issue there is, not having Sherlock on the bench is the Mets giving an inch. With baseball being a game of inches, it does not seem like the best allocation of resources.
The obvious retort is Sherlock may not belong on the bench because of his limited managing experience. That ignores his having been a bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Dick Scott being named as the bench coach heading into the 2016 season. Scott last managed a team in 1997 when he was the manager of the Single-A South Bend Silver Hawks. Certainly, significant managerial experience isn’t something the Mets are prioritizing their bench coaches.
At this point, it is tough to judge what they are prioritizing because it isn’t experience. More to the point, they’re not prioritizing getting the most from their roster. If they were Sherlock would have been named the bench coach.
In the Wild Card Game, the Mets ran James Loney out to first base. In his very first at-bat, he snuffed out what could have been a rally by hitting into a double play on the first pitch he saw from Madison Bumgarner. In the seventh, he failed to field a groundball not hit too far from him that allowed Angel Pagan to reach on an infield single. That play effectively erased any chance that Noah Syndergaard could go back out for the eighth inning. Speaking of the eighth inning, with the Mets desperate for offense, Terry Collins pinch hit Eric Campbell for Loney.
Fact is, Loney shouldn’t have started that game. He didn’t have good numbers against left-handed pitching. He has been even worse against Bumgarner. However, he had to start with Lucas Duda not being ready to play, and with Wilmer Flores having suffered a season ending wrist injury.
All year long, Flores had demolished left-handed pitching. In 49 games against left-handed pitching, Flores hit .340/.383/.710 with 11 homers and 28 RBI. The Mets needed his bat in the lineup, and they needed him to play first base. However, he wasn’t available because of a crucial decision, or indecision, that was made on September 10th.
In that September 10th game, the Mets and Braves were tied 3-3 in the eighth inning, and Flores was standing on second base after a two out double. As we would soon see, with Flores’ speed, it was far from a guarantee that he would score from second on a base hit. Kelly Johnson would get a pinch-hit single. Flores “raced” around third, and he slid headfirst into home plate. In the ensuing collison, A.J. Pierzynski got him out – not just out at home plate, but also out for the season. Fact is, there is no reason why Flores wasn’t lifted there for a pinch runner. How did this happen?
Well, acccording to Collins, “We certainly had enough guys who could have ran for him, which we should have.” (Kevin Kernan, New York Post). Collins would go on to say, ““I was trying to get the pitching set up and get a pinch hitter in and got distracted, my faultI told [bench coach] Dickie [Scott], like I said, we were trying to get the pitching set up and get a pinch hitter, get somebody to hit for the pitcher who was coming up. I certainly should have had somebody ready to pinch run.”
Ultimately, Collins, being the manager and never one to make excuses, took responsibility for the failure to pinch run for Flores. However, it wasn’t just Collins’ mistake. It was also Bench Coach Dick Scott‘s mistake.
The bench coach’s job is more than just acting as a sounding board for the manager when seeking to make a move. The bench coach is also responsible for having a grasp of the matchups that are upcoming. They need to be aware of moves the team needs to be making in the next couple of innings. Overall, the bench coach needs to help prevent his manager, and ultimately his team, from making a gaffe that could cost them a game. During that confusion, Scott needed to remind Collins to get a pinch runner. He needed to be the clear head. If he did think of it, he needed to have a strong enough voice to get through to Collins.
What was simply astounding is the Mets almost repeated the mistake a week later. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Mets were trailing the Minnesota Twins 1-0, and Ervin Santana was dealing. Loney was intentionally walked putting runners and first and second with no outs. Despite Loney representing the go-ahead run and being perhaps the slowest man in all of baseball, he was not pinch run for during Alejandro De Aza‘s at-bat. After De Aza walked, Loney was on second, again representing the go-ahead run. The Mets then sent Michael Conforto to bat for Jerry Blevins, and still Loney remained on second. After Conforto took the first pitch did the Mets send Ty Kelly out to second base to pinch run for Loney.
These weren’t isolated incidents. There are several other examples to pull from including the famous Collins’ rant about not knowing whether Jay Bruce or Brandon Nimmo is faster. If Collins didn’t know that, his bench coach sure should.
While Collins has his faults as a manager, there was never this sense of indecisiveness that we saw from the team this season. While Collins usually made head scratching moves, he usually had a justification for them. He would say that someone was swinging a hot bat, or the player has been a good player for them all season, or simply that he liked the matchup. He would never say there was distraction and confusion in the dugout. There was no reason for him to say it because Bob Geren was a good bench coach that helped not just his manager, but also his team. That calming presence and attention to detail was missed this year.
Geren’s work with catchers was also missed this year.
During Geren’s time in baseball, he has be renown for his work with catchers. If you recall, when Travis d’Arnaud had first come up with the Mets, there were many questions about his defense. In his first full season, he actually led the majors in passed balls, which is all the more alarming when you consider he spent a good amount of time in AAA. It wasn’t just the passed balls. During the season, d’Arnaud had trouble framing pitches, and his mechanics in all aspects behind the plate were out of whack – especially his throwing.
Working with Geren, d’Arnaud has built himself into one of the better catchers in baseball. He no longer has the issues with passed balls. He has shown the ability to call a good game. He is an exceptional pitch framer. There is probably no catcher better in the league in fielding a throw and getting the tag down without violating the plate blocking rules. In 2015, d’Aranud was actaully league average in throwing out base runners.
While d’Arnaud was good behind the plate this year, his mechanics throwing the ball took a step back. It could have been the shoulder injury, but it also could have been him missing the calming presence of Geren. Eventually, it became so much of an issue that Rene Rivera had to become Syndergaard’s personal catcher due to Syndergaard’s difficulties holding on base runners and d’Arnaud’s weak arm. There is no telling how all of this affected him mentally and whether this carried over to his offense.
So overall, the Mets truly missed Geren in the 2016 season, d’Arnaud especially. It was a rough first year for Scott as the bench coach. Despite it being a rough year, he will be returning to the staff next season. Although it has not been announced, he will presumably be returning to the same role. Hopefully, the growing pains are out of the way, and Scott will be a more effective bench coach in 2017.
Last night might’ve been the breaking point for Travis d’Arnaud. The Mets had a runner in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the eighth as the Mets trailed the Braves 5-4. In what was his biggest at bat of the season, d’Arnaud weakly grounded out to shortstop to end the inning and the rally. This could have been the culmination in what has been a lost season for d’Arnaud.
After hitting .268/.340/.485 with 12 homers and 41 RBI last year, this was supposed to be the year d’Arnaud took off. It hasn’t happened. Whether it was losing catching and bench coach Bob Geren to the Dodgers, his rotator cuff injury, his irregular playing time, or just bad mechanics at the plate, this hasn’t been his year. He hasn’t been hitting for power. Overall, he is hitting .246/.300/.321 with only four homers and 14 RBI. In fact, d’Arnaud hasn’t had an RBI since August 26th. He hasn’t homered since August 2nd. In 11 games this month, he is hitting .200/.282/.200 with no extra base hits or RBI. At this point, with the Wild Card on the line, the Mets can ill afford to play him.
The question then become is not d’Arnaud, then who? People will mostly point to Rene Rivera.
Fact is, if the Mets are dissatisfied with d’Arnaud, they shouldn’t want Rivera either. Like d’Arnaud, Rivera has also played 11 games in September. In those games, he is hitting .174/.269/.174. Similarly, he has no extra base hits or RBI. Fact is, he’s been even more of a blackhole offensively than d’Arnaud. That should be no surprise given the fact that he’s a career .213/.263/.332 hitter. If you want Rivera to continue to be Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher, that’s one thing. However, Rivera cannot play everyday with those offensive numbers.
That leaves the Mets with only one other option – Kevin Plawecki.
From an offensive standpoint, there are many negative things you can say about Plawecki. Before being sent down to AAA, he was hitting .194/.301/.258 with five doubles, one homer, and 10 RBI. He is hitting .231 with runners in scoring position and .212 with men on base. In his entire major league career, he is a .208/.285/.281 hitter with four homers and 31 RBI. He’s been a dead pull hitter that hits for no power. Those are the numbers that got him sent down to AAA.
However, in AAA, he seemed to regain some of the promise he had as a good offensive catcher. In 55 AAA games, Plawecki hit .300/.384/.484 with 11 doubles, eight homers, and 40 RBI. Given the fact that the Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s league, these numers are not outstanding. However, they are a step in the right direction. Heading in the right direction is a lot more than you can say for Plawecki than you can for d’Arnaud and Rivera.
In his time with the Mets, one thing we have seen with Plawecki is he is a good defensive catcher and pitch framer. With his time in AAA, he has also had the opportunity to catch Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and Josh Smoker this year. With that in mind, he is already up to speed on what they throw and how they get batters out. This means the only real issue with Plawecki is whether he will hit like the Mets once thought he would.
Even if Plawecki hits at the same .208 clip he has in his entire major league career, he will be a better offensive option than d’Arnaud and Rivera have been this month. With that in mind, there is really no downside to giving Plawecki another shot.
Since Mike Piazza left the Mets in free agency, no Met had worn 31. The number was taken out of circulation until he made the Hall of Fame. Once that happened, the Mets announced his #31 was going to be retired this summer. The Mets were following their long unwritten policy of only retiring the numbers of Mets Hall of Famers.
It makes you question why the Mets have continuously issued Carlos Beltran‘s number 15 since he was traded away from the Mets.
They reissued the number to Val Pascucci the same year Beltran was traded away. The number was then worn the following year by Fred Lewis. Travis d’Arnaud tried it out for the following two years before switching to the number seven. At that point, former bench coach, Bob Geren wore 15 for the 2015 season. Now, Matt Reynolds has become the latest Met to wear Beltran’s number.
Make no mistake. It is Beltran’s number.
With Beltran hitting his 400th homerun this year, he had further cemented his Hall of Fame case. He’s only the fourth switch hitter with 400 homeruns. He’s only one of three players with 500 doubles, 400 homeruns, and 300 stolen bases. He’s been a true five tool player that has the WAR, WAR7, and JAWS score to deserve induction. All of this is before taking into account his postseason heroics. Make no mistake, he is a Hall of Famer.
For his part, Beltran has said he could see himself going into the Hall of Fame as a Met.
However, at this point, it doesn’t seem the Mets are interested in encouraging Beltran to enter the Hall of Fame as a Met. They say it loud and clear every time they reissue his number to other players. It was clear going into this year that Beltran was going to be a Hall of Famer. The number was vacated with Bob Geren’s departure. The Mets should’ve set the number aside until that day the Mets retired his number.
They’re not. Instead, the Mets are going to let their differences and acrimony get in the way of honoring a great Met.
Beltran gave his all with the Mets. He was the best baseball player on the planet in 2006 leading the team to the NLCS. He’s in the Top Six in WAR as a Met (seven spots ahead of Piazza). He’s in the Top Ten in runs (eighth), doubles (seventh), homeruns (sixth), RBI (sixth), OBP (sixth), and SLG (fifth). He made six All Star teams and won three Gold Gloves. He hit the final Mets homerun in Shea Stadium.
Beltran was a great Met. He will be a Hall of Famer. He should be in the Hall of Fame as a Met, and his number 15 should forever be on the LF wall. It’s why his number shouldn’t have been issued to Matt Reynolds.
With Bob Geren leaving the Mets for the Dodgers, I’m sure there’s going to be a groundswell for the Mets to make Wally Backman a coach on the major league squad. Why?
First off, Backman has seemingly done a good job with the AAA team. He sends players up major league ready. He and Terry Collins have a great rapport. That type of synergy can only help the major league club. This is more important to the Mets than Backman on the bench or at third base.
Furthermore, Backman does not replace the role Geren fulfilled with the Mets. Geren was the stats based coach. Geren was also the coach who worked so well with the young catchers:
Geren a loss for the Mets. Worked extensively with the catchers, gave TC a different perspective in dugout.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) December 2, 2015
Neither of those areas are within Backman’s forte. He’s a good minor league manager. It’s where he helps the Mets the most. The idea isn’t to reward him for this. The idea is to keep him where he’s best suited. The idea is to keep him where he best helps the organization.
If Backman wants to walk, let him. It’s not like there are other teams begging to bring him over to their organization. He didn’t get one interview for any of the managerial openings. He hasn’t been even mentioned as a possible option as a coach on another major league team.
Who should take his place? Previously, I’ve advocated for Juan Uribe, who was a leader on the team last year. However, I’m assuming he’s going to want to play another year. I’m sure there will be names floated from all across the Mets organization. Whoever it is, I hope that player can have the same positive impact had with the Mets.
More so, I hope Backman stays in Las Vegas.