It’s been a beef with Mets fans for a while. The Mets now have a rich history, and we want to see that honored. One way we want to see it is Old Timer’s Day.
It’s something the Mets used to have in the early years, but they haven’t had it in the time the Wilpons owned the Mets. Now, according to Steve Cohen himself, that’s going to change.
Darell, No brainer to have Old Times Day , done
— Steven A Cohen (@StevenACohen2) November 1, 2020
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the prospective lineups could look like. This is a completely unscientific sampling utilizing just my opinion on who is popular, who Mets fans want to see back, and who can still play a bit. There are two for each position as there are two teams playing against one another:
Of course, this is holding a little too true to the positions these players played in their careers. Due to age and the like, they may move around the diamond. That’s more than alright as we just want to see them again.
Of course, some will understandably opt out of have other commitments. To that end, there are plenty of unnamed options like Al Leiter, Todd Pratt, Carlos Delgado, Jeff Kent, Kevin Elster, Robin Ventura, Kevin Elster, Bernard Gilkey, Lance Johnson, and Benny Agbayani.
For that matter, why not bring Bobby Bonilla. The Mets can have fun with it and hold the game on July 1. Before the game, the Mets could have fun with it and give Bonilla a giant check.
If you think about it, that will finally give Bonilla some of the applause he should’ve gotten as a player, and it will finally put to rest the negative narrative around the day.
The game can also feature the racing stripe jerseys and the black jerseys fans seem to love so much. We can also have cameos from Mets greats from the past like Jerry Koosman who may not be able to play.
Overall, that’s exactly what the Cohen Era is presenting. It’s allowing the Mets and their fans to move forward, enjoy the past, and have some fun.
When it comes to the Mets, there have been several bad to disastrous free agent signings. In fact, up until recently, there was a real debate over which signing was the worst.
Players like Bobby Bonilla and Kazuo Matsui never quite fulfilled his promise. Roger Cedeno was nowhere near the player he was in 1999 when he returned to Queens. Jason Bay didn’t hit for power before the concussions happened.
As bad as those were, there was Vince Coleman, who was an unmitigated disaster. Aside from his numbers falling off a cliff, he threw firecrackers at fans, injured Dwight Gooden with a golf club, and he was accused of sexual assault (charges never filed).
Looking at it, Coleman was probably the worst of the group. When you consider the long standing animosity Mets fans had towards him prior to the signing and his off the field problems, he may still have claim to that title.
However, when it comes to on the field performance, Jed Lowrie is definitively the worst ever Mets signing. We just need to look at video from the Mets summer camp yesterday to confirm that.
Jed Lowrie is participating in base running drills with his brace on. His speed is definitely not game-ready. pic.twitter.com/PyVmUqT9J4
— Deesha (@DeeshaThosar) July 5, 2020
Rewinding back to Spring Training last year, Lowrie was initially described as having left knee soreness. Time and again, the Mets downplayed the injury, and to date, they have yet to really reveal what the injury actually is.
They didn’t reveal it when he had multiple rehab assignments shut down. They didn’t reveal it when he was 0-for-7 as a pinch hitter in September. They didn’t reveal it when he came to Spring Training this year not really ready to play. Even months later, they’re still not revealing it. Worse yet, they’re downplaying it.
New manager Luis Rojas was put in the position today that Mickey Callaway failed far too often. He had to offer an out-and-out lie and make it sound believable. According to what Rojas said, Lowrie is a “full go.”
Later in the day, we saw the video running and realized there’s no way that’s true. Lowrie is not a full go, and to a certain extent the Mets talking about Lowrie ramping up to try to play without a brace is a strawman. All told, brace or no brace, this is simply a player who can’t get on the field.
The more you see the aborted rehab attempts, the lack of explanations for the injury, the mixed messages, and Lowrie’s inability to do anything but swing the bat, the more you’re reminded of David Wright. Before his send off, Wright would make similar attempts to get back, but ultimately his body wouldn’t let him. It seems the same with Lowrie.
Maybe Lowrie is different , but that’s anyone’s guess. Really, that’s all we have. That’s partially because the Mets revealed no news, and it’s because Lowrie didn’t either.
Asked what is exactly wrong with his leg, Lowrie said he doesn't want to create a distraction.
— Mike Puma (@NYPost_Mets) July 5, 2020
Maybe telling everyone why his knee, left side, or whatever else the Mets want to call it would be more of a distraction than it is already. Maybe it won’t. Whatever the case, when you strip it all down, the Mets gave a two year $20 million deal to a guy who just can’t play.
The Mets didn’t need Lowrie when they signed him. They already had Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Jeff McNeil. What they needed was arms in the bullpen, but they already allocated their budget towards an infielder who would wind up doing no more than a few pinch hitting attempts (without a hit). You could say the Mets not having those extra arms in the pen is what cost them the postseason last year.
Ultimately, Lowrie is getting $20 million from the Mets, and he can’t get on the field. The money allocated towards him could’ve addressed other deficiencies on the roster and helped pushed the Mets into the postseason. Brodie Van Wagenen signed his former client, who was too injured to even start one game, and with that Van Wagenen quite possibly made the single worst free agent signing in Mets history.
If you ask people about Bobby Bonilla‘s time with the Mets, there is nothing but negativity associated with his tenure. There is the annual consternation over his deferred payments. His last ever act as a member of the team was playing cards in the clubhouse with Rickey Henderson as Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones. He wore earplugs to drown out the booing, and generally speaking, he was cantankerous.
Truth be told, Bonilla was not well suited to playing in New York either when he was a 29 year old or when he was a 36 year old. However, sometimes we over-focus on negatives like this to overlook the positives.
Bonilla signing with the Mets was supposed to usher in a new era of Mets baseball. A team who never truly forayed into free agency made the highly coveted Bonilla the highest paid player in the game. Bonilla, who grew up a Mets fan, was coming home to play for his favorite team. At least on the first day he wore a Mets uniform, it seemed like this marriage was going to go great.
On Opening Day, Bonilla hit two homers against the hated Cardinals helping the Mets win 4-2. It was exactly what fans expected from him and that team. However, things quickly unraveled for that Mets team who would be dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. From there things went bad, and they went bad quickly.
Bonilla slumped mightly in May while the Mets. Even when he picked it back up in June, a Mets team who was well in contention fell completely apart. With Bonilla having an awful May and his being the highest paid player in the game, he faced the brunt of the criticism. Unlike Carlos Beltran who went from maligned in 2005 to superstar in 2006, Bonilla never quite recovered.
Part of the reason is the Mets were plain bad. To that end, it’s not his fault the Mets plan was ill conceived. Howard Johnson was not an outfielder. Other players like Eddie Murray and Willie Randolph were over 35. Bret Saberhagen and John Franco were injured. Anthony Young was in the middle of his MLB record losing streak. The bigger issue is Bonilla handled it poorly, and then he was terrible at the end of the year hitting just .196 over the final two months of the season.
While stats like this weren’t used regularly in 1992, the 1.2 WAR was the worst he had since his rookie year. The 121 wRC+ was his worst since his second year in the league. Bonilla and that 1992 Mets team was a huge disappointment, and Bonilla’s image never quite recovered.
What gets lost in the criticism is Bonilla did rebound. From 1993 – 1995, he averaged a 3.1 WAR, and he was a 138 OPS+ hitter. He hit .296/.371/.537 while averaging 27 homers and 84 RBI over that stretch. He would make two All-Star teams, and Bonilla proved to be a bit of a team player willingly moving to third base for stretches when Johnson was injured.
Bonilla’s true breakout season with the Mets came in 1995. He was mashing the ball hitting .325/.385/.599 (151 OPS+) when he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Really, this is what the Mets envisioned they were going to get with him. It just took a longer period of adjustment for him to get there.
Overall, in the first stint of his Mets career, Bonilla hit .277/.361/.505 with a 130 wRC+ amassing a 9.7 WAR. That was not that bad, and to a certain extent, on the field, you could say he lived up to the contract. No, he did not live up to expectations, but to be fair, he was never surrounded with the talent to help him do that.
When you look at his entire Mets career, he ranks as the fifth best Mets RF by WAR. The four players ahead of him played more games with the Mets. Among players with at least 500 games played, he is the Mets second best hitting right fielder, and he is tied for sixth as the best Mets hitter of all-time.
At least on the field, that is not a player worth as much derision as he receives. No, on the field he was good but not great Mets player. On the field, he did nothing to deserve scorn.
Off the field is a whole other matter. His adversarial nature with the press did nothing to help him. Mets fans are never going to forgive him playing poker while they were crushed by the ending of Game 6. No one is saying you should.
Rather, the suggestion here is Bonilla be remembered for being the good player he actually was. If you want, you can also opt to remember him a little more warmly as his accepting the buyout led to the Mets having the money to obtain Mike Hampton in a trade. That helped the Mets get a pennant, and when Hampton left for Colorado, the Mets used that compensatory pick to draft David Wright.
All told, the Mets were far better off having Bonilla as a part of the Mets organization as you may have realized.
There is a real case to be made here for Bobby Bonilla as the best Mets player to wear the number 25. Through all of the negatives associated with him and his career, by wRC+, he is the Mets 10th best hitter. He was a two time All-Star in his first four year stint with the Mets. He did what the team needed him to do whether that was playing right field or third base.
No, Bonilla was never popular, and things go continually worse. There is far too much negative associated with him now whether it was him playing cards with Rickey Henderson during Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS or his deferred payments which are made to be an annual fiasco.
However, none of those reasons are why he wasn’t selected as the best Mets player to wear the number 25. No, the reason why he wasn’t selected was because Pedro Feliciano is the greatest LOOGY in Mets history.
Feliciano first came to the Mets in 2002 when they were looking for a taker for Shawn Estes. When Estes didn’t hit Roger Clemens and with the Mets having a terrible year, it was time to move on from him. Not quite knowing what they had in him, the Mets first waived Feliciano to make room on the 40 man roster only to sign him as a free agent after the Tigers first claimed then released him.
That began what was a very interesting subplot to Feliciano’s career. This was the first time in his career Feliciano left the Mets organization. He would do it again in 2005, 2011, and 2014. Despite that, in Feliciano’s nine year Major League career, he would only wear a Mets uniform.
In his first stint, he was a middling reliever who had to go to Japan to hone his craft. As noted by Michael Mayer of MMO, Feliciano altered his throwing program, and the smaller strike zone helping him hone is command. This improvement helped him secure a minor league deal to help him return to the Mets. Back with the Mets, he worked with Rick Peterson to drop his arm angle. From that point forward, he became a great LOOGY.
Arguably, that 2006 Mets bullpen was the best bullpen in team history. Notably, in a bullpen with Billy Wagner, Duaner Sanchez, Aaron Heilman, Chad Bradford, and Darren Oliver, it was Feliciano who led that bullpen in ERA+. He’d accomplish that feat with the Mets again in 2009.
In that 2006 season, left-handed batters would only hit .231/.272/.316 off of him. He’d strike out 44 left-handed batters while only walking five. That equates to him striking out a whopping 34.6% of left-handed batters that season. He would then get some big outs that postseason.
In Game 1 of the NLDS, he relieved John Maine in the fifth, and he struck out Kenny Lofton with runners on first and second with no outs. In Game 3, he retired Nomar Garciaparra with the bases loaded, and when the Mets took the lead in the top of the sixth, he would be the winner of the game clinching victory.
Overall, that postseason, Feliciano made six appearances, and he pitched to a 1.93 ERA. Ultimately, in that disappointing postseason which fell just one hit short of the World Series, Feliciano did his job. That was a theme for Feliciano, he came in and did his job.
Beginning in 2008, Feliciano would lead the league in appearances. He would lead the league in appearances in each of the ensuing two seasons. His constantly appearing in games led Gary Cohen to dub him Perpetual Pedro. He would be used so frequently, Feliciano would achieve the very rare feat of appearing in over 90 games in the 2010 season.
When making that 90th appearance, Feliciano became the first left-handed reliever in Major League history to appear in 90 games. When he broke the single-season mark for a left-handed reliever held by Steve Kline and Paul Quantrill.
In appearing in 92 games in 2010, he made more appearances over a two year span than any left-handed reliever in history. In fact, in Major League history, only Mike Marshall and Kent Tekulve have made more appearances in back-to-back seasons, and they did that in the 1970s.
Since the turn of the century, Feliciano is the only reliever to appear in 85+ games not only in two seasons in a row but three season in a row. In fact, from 2006 – 2010, Feliciano would appear in 19 more games than any other reliever, and he would appear in 50 more games than any other left-handed reliever.
Through it all, Feliciano would appear in 484 games as a member of the Mets. Only John Franco would appear in more games as a Mets reliever. Among Mets relievers, his .212 batting average against and .263 wOBA against left-handed batters is the best, and both are by significant margins.
Taking everything into account, Feliciano is the best LOOGY in Mets history, and it is by a very wide margin. When you are ultimately the best at what you do than anyone else in the 58 year history of your franchise, you should be considered the best to ever wear your number.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
15. Carlos Beltran
16. Dwight Gooden
17. Keith Hernandez
18. Darryl Strawberry
19. Bob Ojeda
20. Howard Johnson
21. Cleon Jones
22. Al Leiter
23. Bernard Gilkey
24. Art Shamsky
Not only was Carlos Beltran the best Mets player to ever wear the number 15, he is easily the best center fielder in team history. There is an argument to be made he was the best outfielder to ever play for the Mets.
Things did not start off that way. In fact, his 2005 season with the Mets was extremely disappointing, and to some, it invoked memories of the Bobby Bonilla deal. In fact, Beltran was the first real major venture into free agency the Mets made after that Bonilla signing.
It was an eventful year for him. In Spring Training, he took David Wright and Jose Reyes under his wing to show them how to prepare. He helped avoid the Mets going 0-6 to start the year by hitting a two run homer against John Smoltz. From there, it was mostly consternation from fans about his propensity to bunt and rolling over on pitches. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, he and Mike Cameron had one of the more horrific outfield collisions you would ever see.
Things would go much better for him in 2006.
To put it simply, Beltran was robbed of the MVP award that year. During that season, he was the best overall player in the National League, and he was the best player on the best team in baseball. He really did it all that year. He was an All-Star, and he won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. There was game saving defensive plays and walk-off homers.
That season, Beltran set a team record for highest single-season WAR, and he would tie Todd Hundley‘s record for homers in a season and Howard Johnson‘s record for extra base hits. He would also get the single season record for runs scored, a record which still stands.
For all the talk from some people who only want to focus on the strikeout which ended that season, the Mets come nowhere close to that Game 7 without Beltran. In addition to his great year, Beltran would homer three times in that series. The first was a two run shot in the sixth inning of Game 1 which paced the Mets 2-0 victory. He then had a two run home run game in a must win Game 4.
The next two years for Beltran and the Mets were known for their collapses. That’s unfortunate because Beltran was great for those Mets teams. In 2007, while not as good as he was the prior year, he was still great making another All-Star team and winning another Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. With respect to the Gold Glove, in Houston, Beltran had just about the greatest catch a Mets player has ever made (in the regular season):
While the Mets did collapse that year, Beltran did what he could do to stop it. Over the final two months of the season, Beltran was at his best hitting .304/.378/.613 with 14 homers and 50 RBI. His eight homers over the final month of the season was more than anyone on the Mets. Over those brutal last five games of the season, he was 6-for-22 with three homers.
In 2007, he did all he could to to stop another collapse. By WAR, that season was the seventh best in team history. Looking at Mets team history, only Beltran and Wright appear multiple times on that top 10 list.
Again, Beltran was great to finish that year doing all he could do to help stop a second collapse. Over the final two months, he hit .322/.400/.589 with 12 homers and 40 RBI. Over the final five games of the season, he hit .412/.545/.588, and he would hit the last homer a Mets player ever hit in Shea Stadium. That homer would tie the game, but unfortunately, the Mets would lose that game.
During the Carlos Beltran era, the Mets would not get that close again. Beltran was one of the few Mets who had played well in the new ballpark, but he had an injury shortened season. It would eventually lead to a fracturing of the relationship with the Mets as he would have career saving surgery on the eve of the 2010 season, a surgery the Mets originally protested.
In 2011, Beltran returned for his last year with the Mets. He was once again an All-Star, but this time, he did it as a right fielder. When he was asked to move to right to allow Angel Pagan to play center, Beltran made no issue about it, and he made the switch willingly. That year, Beltran re-established himself as one of the best players in the game, and he had another huge moment hitting three two run homers in Colorado:
With his resurgence, the Mets were able to get Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants. When that trade was completed, it put an end to the Mets career of one of the greatest players to ever wear the uniform. It also put an end to the Mets career of the most under-appreciated Mets player of all-time.
His 2006-2008 stretch was arguably the best three year stretch any Mets player has ever had. He was a Gold Glover and a Silver Slugger. Mostly, he played like a Hall of Famer, and he may just be that one day.
There was a chance for Beltran to get that appreciation he always deserved when the Mets initially hired him to be their manager. With the Houston Astros fallout, Beltran was the only player to pay the price being effectively fired by the Mets as they kept two players who had also cheated in Houston. With that, Beltran’s Hall of Fame chances may have taken a hit, and the chances he wears a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque may have also taken a hit.
Still, there is no denying how great Beltran was as a Met. He was a five tool player who played to his full potential with the Mets. He set team records, established himself as the best center fielder in team history, and ultimately, he is easily the best Mets player to ever wear the number 15.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Beltran was the 15th best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 15.
3. Curtis Granderson
4. Lenny Dykstra
5. David Wright
6. Wally Backman
7. Jose Reyes
8. Gary Carter
9. Todd Hundley
10. Rey Ordonez
11. Wayne Garrett
12. John Stearns
13. Edgardo Alfonzo
14. Gil Hodges
For the first time in Major League history, the Cincinnati Reds are not hosting the first MLB game of the regular season. No, that tradition had to die so Major League Baseball could begin the 2000 season in Japan. That led to the Mets and Cubs playing the first two games of the season in the Tokyo Dome.
Everything about the game was bizarre. There were the players wearing advertisements on their jerseys to be reminiscent of NPB players. There was the the slightly expanded rosters to accommodate the teams traveling to Japan and having a slightly shorter Spring Training. There was also fans having to get up for a 6:00 A.M. first pitch.
Really, in terms of baseball, Bobby Valentine, who had managed the Chiba Lotte Marines before coming back to the US, was probably the only person comfortable. That would not be true for long as he would quickly become rather uncomfortable with the Cubs hitters looking very comfortable at the plate against new Mets ace Mike Hampton.
Before you could blink, it was 1-0. Hampton walked Eric Young to start the game, and he would quickly steal second allowing him to score on a Damon Buford (who previously played in Japan) RBI single. Mark Grace was hit by a pitch, and suddenly, you were cringing at the prospect of a Sammy Sosa homer.
While much changed about the Mets this past offseason, most of the greatest infield of all-time remained in tact. We saw that as they turned a 6-4-3 double play helping Hampton and the Mets get out of the inning without further damage.
This is pretty much how it went for the Mets all day. Hampton would walk the ballpark, nine in total over five innings, and the infield defense would bail him out.
After a lead-off walk to Shane Andrews in the second, he was immediately erased as Jose Nieves hit into a 6-6-3 double play. In the fifth, things would have been much worse after Hampton walked Andrews to force in a run had he not induced Nieves to hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth.
After that pitch, Hampton was done. He had thrown 103 pitches over five while allowing four hits and nine walks. He’d also throw a wild pitch while striking out two. If you are looking for a bright side, he was getting a lot of groundballs in front of what is still an amazing infield defense, and he did not allow one extra base hit.
While Hampton was fighting it throughout the game, Jon Lieber cruised through seven innings.
Believe it or not, the Mets real offensive threat early in the game was Rey Ordonez. He had a lead-off single in the third, and after Hampton bunted him over, and Rickey Henderson singled, he’d score on a Darryl Hamilton sacrifice fly.
The following inning, the Mets had an opportunity to break the 1-1 tie to take the lead with Ordonez drawing a two out walk to load the bases, but Hampton was not able to help his own cause.
Things were interesting and close into the seventh due to Dennis Cook bailing out Turk Wendell in the sixth. Unfortunately, Cook could not get out of his own trouble in the seventh as Andrews hit a two run homer to give the Cubs a 4-1 lead. That lead would grow to 5-1 when Grace homered off Rich Rodriguez in the eighth.
With Lieber out of the game in the eighth, Edgardo Alfonzo drew a lead-off walk off of Brian Williams, and Mike Piazza homered to pull the Mets to within 5-3. Unfortunately, this was not the start of a huge comeback as six of the last seven Mets recorded outs to end the game.
It was one day, but the moves made by Steve Phillips to take this Mets team over the top did not do much. Hampton took the loss while walking nine over five innings. Derek Bell, who also came in that trade, was 1-for-4, and Todd Zeile, who was signed to replace John Olerud, was 0-for-4.
Still, it is just one game, and it was an odd one by all accounts. We shall see how the next game goes as well as the rest of the 2000 season.
Game Notes: Bobby Jones and Al Leiter did not make the trip as they are preparing for their starts at Shea. This means Rick Reed will start the second game of the season. Henderson isn’t exactly endearing himself to fans as he followed playing cards with Bobby Bonilla with a demand for a new contract. He was, however, 1-for-4 with a walk.
Editor’s Note: With there being no games to begin the season, this site will follow the 2000 season and post recaps as if those games happened in real time. If nothing else, it is better to remember this pennant winning season and revisit some of the overlooked games than it is to dwell on the complete lack of baseball.
When you break it all down, it appears the Mets had a high payroll. In fact, Spotrac had the Mets with a $146.3 million payroll which was the 12th highest in the sport.
For starters, David Wright‘s $15 million salary was included. As reported by Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, that was renegotiated down to $9 million with deferred money. That drops the payroll down to $140.3 million.
That alone drops the Mets from 12th to 14th in payroll. If you back out Wright’s entire $15 million, the active payroll would be down to $131.3 million, which would rank 16th.
Like with Wright, Yoenis Cespedes was injured and could not play. With him injuring himself on his farm leading the Mets to challenge and renegotiate Cespedes’ contract. All said and done, his $29 million salary in 2019 was reduced to $14.8 million.
Taking that money away from the payroll, which includes Wright’s renegotiated deal, the Mets payroll drops from the original $146.3 million to $126.1 million. That’s a figure moving the Mets to just the 18th best payroll.
Looking at the Spotrac calculations, it actually includes the deferred monies owed to Bobby Bonilla and Bret Saberhagen. When you remove those amounts, the payroll is reduced by $1.4 million. That $124.7 million payroll would drop them down to 19th.
That’s right. In terms of expenditures to players actually with the organization in some capacity, the Mets had the 19th highest payroll. That kept them JUST outside the bottom third.
Of course, if you back out the whole of Wright and Cespedes, who were insured and did not play, the ensuing $102.3 million payroll would rank 25th.
Depending on how you choose to analyze it, the Wilpons pocketed at least $20 million between Wright and Cespedes, perhaps more.
Fact is, the Mets actually spent money in line with the bottom third in the league despite mortgaging the future to try to win in 2019, telling the fans they were all-in, and boasting “Come get us!” to all of baseball.
By now, Mets fans are well aware playing in New York is just different, and there are some players who struggle with the experience. There are countless examples, and it is really difficult to ascertain who will struggle, and who will succeed.
Bobby Bonilla was kid from the Bronx who grew up a Mets fan. When he hit free agency, he wanted to be a Met, and it proved to be the worst thing that ever happened to him.
While he did have good years, he wasn’t the player we expected. It led to booing and probably worse. Things were so bad he had to wear earplugs.
Jason Bay handled Boston extraordinarily well, but he couldn’t quite handle New York. However, to be fair, there would prove to be extenuating circumstances like the outfield walls and concussions.
What’s really interesting is even being a Yankee previously isn’t an indicator of immediate success. For example, Curtis Granderson needed an adjustment year before taking off in 2015.
That adjustment year is something we’ve seen on multiple occasions. The most classic example is Carlos Beltran who went from complete and utter bust to Hall of Famer.
What is interesting with respect to these and other players who have struggled with the environment is they are not always upfront about how difficult it is to play and adjust to playing in New York.
To an extent, that makes Edwin Diaz unique.
In an interview with Nathalie Alonso of MLB.com, Diaz admitted to his struggles, and he also spoke about how he hopes Beltran can help him adjust. Certainly, it would make a lot of sense considering they have had very similar experiences.
What really stands out is he’s admitted to needing help learning how to handle the city and the need to prepare himself mentally.
While Diaz did not address the booing, it certainly had to be a factor. It’s hard to believe it wasn’t.
Considering his performance and the fans frustrations, you can understand their booing. In fact, you could say it was merited. However, now, we know it was the worst possible thing fans could’ve done.
On Opening Day, the fans need to give Diaz a standing ovation. We need to show our support of him and ease some of his anxiety. When he struggles, the fans need to refrain from booing him. Rather, the fans need to understand him.
He’s admitted to a struggle. That doesn’t make him mentally weak. In fact, it makes him strong. Anyone who admits a struggle and admits for help is strong. That said, he does need help.
It’s incumbent on fans to help the extent they can. Don’t boo him. Support him. Give him peace of mind. This is what fans need to do to help Diaz perform to the best of his ability, which at the end of the day, is all the fans want.
A reinvigorated Diaz returning to his 2018 form is something this Mets team desperately needs to succeed. Let’s do all we can to make sure that happens.
In 2004, Carlos Beltran was one of the best players in baseball. Between his time with the Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros, he hit .267/.367/.548 with 36 doubles, nine triples, 38 homers, 104 RBI, and 42 stolen bases.
By WAR, he was the tenth best player in baseball. In the postseason, there was no one better than him as he hit eight homers in 12 postseason games.
This led to his signing a huge seven year $119 million contract. It was a contract befitting his burgeoning superstar status.
Only he wasn’t a superstar in 2005. Rather, he looked like a overpaid player who could make fans wonder if this deal would be as bad or worse as the Bobby Bonilla signing.
There was his rolling over on pitches hitting weak grounders to second. He had this inexplicable propensity to bunt. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, he and Mike Cameron dove for the same ball in San Diego leading to one of the more horrific collisions you’ll ever see.
Overall, Beltran only hit .266/.330/.414 with 34 doubles, two triples, 16 homers, and 78 RBI. The 97 OPS+ would be the third worst of his career. Things were so bad Beltrán was booed lightly during player introductions on Opening Day in 2006.
That 2006 season proved to be the best season of Beltran’s career.
The 8.2 WAR was the best of his career, and frankly, he was flat out robbed of the MVP award. His 41 homers tied Todd Hundley for what was then a Mets single season record (surpassed this year by Pete Alonso). He was an All-Star in addition to winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger.
This was easily the best season any Mets outfielder ever had, and it is in the conversation for best ever season by a Mets position player.
After the complete and utter disaster that the 2005 season was, Beltran immediately turned things around, and he set himself on a path which will eventually lead to his Hall of Fame induction.
In 2018, Diaz was arguably the best closer in the game with a Major League leading 57 saves with a 0.791 WHIP and a 15.2 K/9. He was so great that year the Mets admitted to including Jarred Kelenic in a deal just to keep him away from the Phillies.
Like with Beltran in 2005, things were horrid for Diaz.
In addition to blowing seven saves and losing the closer’s role, Diaz allowed a career high 15 homers. To put it into perspective, Diaz allowed 15 homers over the 2017 and 2018 seasons combined.
He’d have a career worst 5.59 ERA, 9.0 H/9, 36 ER, 73 ERA+, 4.51 FIP, 1.379 WHIP, and other categories as well. It was a nightmare of a season which led to Mets fans first being frustrated and later booing him.
Through it all, like Beltran, Diaz remained incredibly talented. No matter how much people want to over emphasize the effect New York has on player performance, ultimately talent wins out in the end. No one knows that better than Beltran.
With Beltran now Diaz’s manager, he can pull his former Puerto Rican World Baseball Classic teammate aside and impart the wisdom which helped him overcome the adversity he faced his first year in New York to become a Hall of Famer.
Remember, Beltran is one of many who experienced struggles in his first year with the Mets, and he’s one of the few who overcame it and became an even better because of it. With him at the helm, he can make sure Diaz can have the very same transformation.
In an effort to make the All Star voting more enticing and draw interest to the game, Major League Baseball has changed the voting for this year. Essentially up until June 21, the fans get to vote like they always did. After that, there will be a “Starters Election.” The Staters Election has the fans vote for the starters from the now reduced list over a 28 hour window.
This is a change for its own sake, and it gets it partially right (more on that in a moment). Really, if Major League Baseball wants to get fans interested in the game, let the fans pick their own All Star. In this instance, their own All Star means the player they want to represent their favorite team.
Take the Marlins for example. Are any of their players really All Star worthy? Maybe Brian Anderson who has a 1.8 WAR this season. The problem there is Anderson is 10th among NL third baseman in WAR meaning if he’s selected a worthy player is going to be left off in his stead.
Now, that’s the way it is and will always be so long as every team is represented. If this is going to continue to be a fan spectacle, you do want to see every team represented. After all, even a team like the Marlins, who draw worse than some Triple-A teams, has fans, and you want them to tune in to watch. You want to see Anderson, or whoever their representative is play in the game.
But if you’re going to want to entice the Marlins fans to watch, why not let them pick who they want to watch. For them, it could be Anderson, Miguel Rojas, Caleb Smith, or whomever else it might be. If you boil it down, if you are keeping a representative for every team to keep fans engaged, let them pick their representative.
By doing so, you not only keep them engaged, but you also prevent them from seeing a player they don’t want to see in the game. For example, Mets fans saw Bobby Bonilla as their lone All-Star in 1993 and 1995 despite the fans likely wanting to see players like Dwight Gooden, Rico Brogna, or John Franco in the game. Remember, if you are trying to entice fans, you should entice them with players they want to see play.
That includes being able to vote for pitchers. There are logistical issues with pitchers being available to pitch in the game. However, that should not prevent fans from having their favorite players on the roster even if they cannot participate in the game.
Remember that this would create a pool of just 15 players on a 34 man roster. That’s just seven additional players. Certainly, you could accommodate this by adding six more roster spots if deemed necessary. After all, September rosters are 40. If a manager can handle 40 players in September, there’s no reason he cannot handle that in an exhibition game where managers try go get everyone into the game.
Really, when looking at it that way, there’s no real reason why fans couldn’t or even shouldn’t pick their own team’s representative. Let the Marlins pick their one guy. Mets fans seem to want to push for Pete Alonso. Let them see him in the game. Let Yankees fans send CC Sabathia for one last All Star appearance before his possible Hall of Fame career ends. Again, let fans see who they want to see who they want.
You can do a results show on MLB Network announcing those players. You can then do another show announcing the pool of elected players. Then, you can do the Staters Election Major League Baseball has implemented. Only this time, fans are picking from the actual All-Stars. Then, you can hold the results until the game.
You get fans tuning in a little earlier to find out exactly who the starters are because they won’t know until player introductions. If all done properly, you get more interest because fans are seeing who they actually want to see, and you get more people tuning in earlier in order to see the results. Ultimately, this is the best way to handle every team represented and creating the highest possible level of fan interest in the game.