As we discovered, Rick Porcello turned down more money from the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox (a recurring theme) to sign with the New York Mets. Apparently, part of the reason was his growing up a Mets fan. Really, Porcello is one of us:
Rick Porcello said he "cried his eyes out" when the Mets lost the Subway Series to the Yankees in 2000.
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinMedia) March 8, 2015
His being drawn to tears after Mike Piazza flew out to Bernie Williams is going to resonate with this fanbase because those of us who experience it felt the same way even if we did not have a Wilmer Flores moment.
Porcello is one of us which means he gets it. That makes him one of another player on this team who lived and died with this team.
When he signed with the team, Brad Brach talked about how he bought a Mets jersey and went to the 2015 World Series.
Marcus Stroman wore a Darryl Strawberry jersey to the ballpark before his Citi Field debut. He has also spoken about how he wants the team to bring back the black jerseys tweeting out a picture of Pedro Martinez wearing one.
Finally, there is Steven Matz who was a Long Islander who grew up a Mets fan. He’d have his whole family at his debut leading to everyone falling in love with his grandfather.
Mostly, we all love this Mets team, and really, we love these players. It’s a very likable team who just gets it. Porcello seems to be more of the same which is great. Hopefully, Porcello will have us crying “tears of joy” after the season.
No matter what, we know how much this team means to him, and we know he’s going to give it everything he has. If for no other reason, this is going to make it even easier for us all to root for him.
Look, when you have a trade with the framework of Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz for Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn blow up in your face while getting absolutely nothing of value from free agent signings like Jeurys Familia and Jed Lowrie, and you are still cheered at a Mets game, chances are you believe you are Teflon.
Better yet, you probably believe no matter what you do people will buy whatever you are saying. We’re seeing the effects of that.
Despite Zack Wheeler and Marcus Stroman appearing in the same rotation last year, Van Wagenen is selling Stroman as a replacement for Wheeler in the rotation. Despite touting a rotation of four aces with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Wheeler last year, now with the signings of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha, Van Wagenen is selling the Mets having six starters who are number four or better.
Worse yet, Van Wagenen is now touting the Mets rotation as the deepest in the game. That is despite the fact Wacha has shoulder problems and isn’t really a Major League caliber starting pitcher right now. Porcello has value, and may be in line for a rebound, but he is really no more than a fifth starter. Regardless, overselling this rotation which is clearly worse than the 2019 rotation is evidence of how little Van Wagenen thinks of everyone’s intellect.
It gets worse.
Despite not adding any relievers to the bullpen, Van Wagenen is touting how he improved the bullpen. He has done that by claiming the team has added Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to the bullpen. If you think you are taking crazy pills or have amnesia, you don’t. Both Lugo and Gsellman were in the bullpen last year. Same goes for Brad Brach.
Saying the Mets have addressed the bullpen by adding Lugo and Gsellman is like saying the Mets have improved the lineup by not trading Brandon Nimmo this offseason, or by having Jeff McNeil in it after his late season injury. Fact is, keeping the same players doesn’t upgrade anything. It is treading water, but Van Wagenen doesn’t think anyone is intelligent enough to discover that.
Believe it or not, it gets better. Van Wagenen actually had the temerity to say this, “We’re in a position now where we can only look to make good baseball deals and not feel like we have to do something.”
That’s right. Fifteen months into his tenure as the Mets General Manager, he is boldly saying that now he is only looking to make good baseball deals instead of making moves for their own sake.
Seeing his affinity for his former clients like Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie, you’re now free to draw your own conclusions about whether they were good baseball deals, or whether there was a compulsion to something. Really, you can make that about any decision made prior to his next one.
Based on his history, it’ll be a bad one, he’ll think we’re all stupid as evidenced by his nonsense explanation, and we’ll just be sitting around waiting for the Steve Cohen Era to truly begin.
This past weekend, the Mets made a very shrewd move re-signing Brad Brach to help rebuild the Mets bullpen. The Mets got lucky Brach was released last year, and Brach made the best of the situation by pitching more like he did with the Baltimore Orioles. When you consider he only signed for $850,000 with an extremely reasonable $1.35 million option for 2021, this could be one of the best moves made by Brodie Van Wagenen.
Of course, Van Wagenen would follow it up with a flat out bad decision by designating Chris Flexen for assignment to make room for Brach on the roster.
With respect to Flexen, there have been many arguments which completely miss the point. First and foremost, there’s the argument others will be eventually designated for assignment, so the order doesn’t matter all that much. Of course, that is not true because more talented players like Flexen may have had some value to teams prior to his accepting a deal with the KBO. Also, it’s just plain bizarre supporting a team keeping worse players at the expense of better players.
The other argument was Flexen wasn’t good anyway, so why does it matter? This reasoning is one of the most problematic thought processes of them all.
It is without question Flexen struggled. While pitching with the Mets in parts of three seasons, he was 3-11 with a 8.07 ERA, 2.132 WHIP, 7.1 BB/9, and a 6.5 K/9. When you focus on the control issues, that is in no way a recipe for success at the Major League level or any level for that matter. However, there needs to be some context to those stats.
In 2017, Flexen was rushed to the Majors from Binghamton despite having thrown just 48.2 innings above the Single-A level. In the ensuing years, Flexen would deal with knee issues, and he would also be shipped back-and-forth between the minors and majors. There would be long periods of non-use, and there would be his being overused. Really, when you break it down, the Mets did not in any way set him up for any sort of success, and the numbers proved that out.
Going to Baseball Savant, we see Flexen has above-average fastball velocity and elite curve spin on his breaking pitches. In terms of just pure stuff, this makes him a poor man’s version of Seth Lugo. Put another way, Flexen absolutely has the arsenal to succeed as a reliever at the Major League level, but unlike Lugo, he has not found a way to quite harness his stuff and translate it to results.
Of course, this is the exact reason why the Mets hired Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. During his time with the Twins, Hefner become conversant in analytics, and he showed a real ability to translate them to players. We saw Twins pitchers attack the zone differently and improve their pitch sequencing in addition to buttoning up some of their mechanical issues. When you hire a pitching coach like Hefner, or really any pitching coach, you are looking for someone who is able to finally reach talented pitchers like Flexen and get them to pitch to the best of their ability.
With the Mets designating Flexen for assignment over far less talented pitchers like Chris Mazza, the team is not going to see a return on their investment on both Flexen and Hefner. To that end, this is more of the same from the Mets organization.
At different points in years past with the Mets, we have seen the team part with talented players who needed coaching like Flexen with the common refrain being they never did anything at the Major League level, so who cares? This was the refrain when the Mets parted ways with players like Heath Bell, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, and many others.
In some instances, this did come back to haunt the Mets, and admittedly, in others, it did not. However, that is all besides the point. The real point here is the Mets had a very talented player, and they hired a pitching coach to help improve and develop pitchers like Flexen. Rather than proceed with that plan, the team decided they wanted to keep far less talented pitchers and not even bother getting the most out of someone with stuff which could have worked extremely well in the bullpen. When looking at it from that prism, designating Flexen for assignment made little to no sense.
The New York Mets season is officially over with the team finishing with an 86-76 record. It is just the third time they have had a winning record since the team began playing in Citi Field. To that end, the season has been a success even if it was disappointing from what was promised:
1. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Aaron Judge‘s rookie record and a whole host of rookie and Mets records during the 2019 season. He proved he was ready, and he showed himself to be more than that by donating money to charity, spear-heading the cleats and donating them to the 9/11 Museum this week, and just being a great teammate.
2. On the first base topic, you can’t help but feel great for Dominic Smith. He not only proved himself to not be a bust, but he would also show he’s a terrific team first player who is actually a tireless worker. He earned that at-bat late in the game, and he ended the season on about as high as note as you can end the regular season.
3. Of course, the Mets were in that position because the bullpen blew another lead. Unfortunately, it cost Paul Sewald his second career win. It won’t be his last time in the Majors, but it might be the last time he is with the Mets. If so, that would be a sad way to end his career after his being just a feel-good story who has overcome so much to be in the majors.
4. It was really unfortunate Juan Lagares did not get into the game on Sunday. It might’ve been his last time ever wearing a Mets uniform, and it would have been nice to see the best Mets defensive outfielder ever get one final ovation and thank you from the fans.
5. Hopefully, this won’t be a good-bye for Noah Syndergaard, who once again reminded everyone he is actually a very good pitcher, and that when you set him up to succeed with a good catcher like Tomas Nido he is going to succeed.
6. Syndergaard’s final start (of the season) and Smith’s walk-off was a feel good way to end the season, and we hope those positive vibes carry forward into 2020 and beyond.
7. Part of that is the Mets being much better run. There are reasons to both keep and fire Mickey Callaway. He has a two year body of work, and yet, somehow the Mets aren’t even going to meet to discuss his future. This is further evidence the Mets would have to rapidly speed up their processes to be considered reactive.
8. One of the biggest areas to address this offseason is going to be the bullpen. Given the budget, the team is going to have to hope players like Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz return to form. As we saw with Diaz’s final appearance, that is certainly a possibility.
9. It was great seeing Luis Guillorme have a strong finish to the season. This was just another example of how he has further cemented himself a real depth piece going forward who needs to be on the Opening Day roster.
10. If that was it for Todd Frazier, good luck to him. He gave the Mets what he had, and he earned his contract. Whoever gets him next year is going to get a real asset.
11. Considering his wanting to stay in the New York area, and the Mets not faring well against left-handed pitching, the Mets may well consider keeping him to play in the Jed Lowrie role which Lowrie, himself, couldn’t fulfill.
12. One note with Lowrie is he finished the season with fewer hits for the Mets than Marcus Stroman, a pitcher who spent the year with the Blue Jays. With respect to Stroman, his finish to the season gave us reason to be excited for his 2020 season.
13. Local players Brad Brach and Joe Panik really contributed to the Mets and their push for the Wild Card. They are winners who brought something to the team. It will be interesting to see if the team could keep them around next year.
14. On the topic of local Mets, Steven Matz had yet another strong start to finish his season. He has certainly been a different pitcher in the second half which is partially attributable to his moving to the middle of the rubber. The Mets should really consider signing him to a team friendly extension this offseason.
15. The Mets having a very local flavor is one of the reasons why this proved to be a fun season. A bigger reason why was this was a very resilient team who fought like few other Mets teams. Top to bottom, this roster earned our admiration and respect.
16. It doesn’t matter than it may or may not have counted for anything, sweeping the Braves is always a great thing. Hopefully, this sweep set them up for postseason disappointment. Of course, there’s no point in rooting for anyone in the NLDS because they are facing off against the Cardinals.
17. On the topic of the postseason, congratulations to Travis d’Arnaud on turning his season around and being a key reason why the Tampa Bay Rays made the postseason. Considering all he gave the team, Mets fans should be rooting for him.
18. The use of Seth Lugo for two innings on Saturday was just stupid, but we should note Callaway was very judicious in using him all season. This year, he was ticketed for 100 innings, and he was only used for 80, which is all the more surprising considering the team lost Robert Gsellman during the season.
19. Lugo may want to start, and he’s earned that right, but if the Mets were smart, they’d keep Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard making this a moot point. Like has been said a few times in this post, he should be signed to an extension.
20. For the last time this season – LFGM.
Michael Conforto would put it off for a day, but now, the Mets are officially eliminated from postseason contention. With the Mets falling short in the fashion they have, there are a number of what ifs which occurred during the course of the season.
One of those what ifs is what if the Mets didn’t blow this game or lose that game. While there were several of those games in the first half, that was all the more the case in the second half when the team was playing well and making a charge. With the Mets being five games out, here are five games in the second half which the Mets certainly wish they had back:
Reds 3 – Mets 2
Saturday, September 21
The Mets absolutely had to have this game. For the Mets to actually grab a Wild Card spot, they were going to have to win out or come very close to it. With a big pitching mismatch between Zack Wheeler and Anthony DeSclafani, this seemed like a game the Mets should win easily.
The Reds would score two first inning runs due to a Todd Frazier error and misplay. It would be hard to put this loss on Frazier as he would collect two of the Mets three hits on the day, and he would score one of their only two runs scored.
Ultimately, the team squandered two huge opportunities. They only scored one run after having runners at second and third with no outs in the third. They’d only score one run with the bases loaded and one out with the top of the lineup coming up in the top of the fifth.
The loss was made all the worse with Justin Wilson getting into trouble, and Seth Lugo allowing one of his inherited runners to score. As bad as that was, it would be Christian Colon who delivered the RBI single, off a Lugo curveball to boot, to put an effective end to the Mets season.
Marlins 8 – Mets 4
Friday, July 12
The Mets were 10 games under .500 heading into the All Star Break. Despite the team being that many games under .500, they had a favorable schedule in the second half, and with their being only seven games back of the second Wild Card, they did have an opportunity. The key for them was getting off to a fast start out of the break.
Instead of putting their best foot forward, they started Jason Vargas. Vargas would blow a third inning 2-0 lead allowing homers to Curtis Granderson and Garrett Cooper in the third. Vargas would last into the sixth where he would implode again. Overall, he’d allow six earned over his five plus innings.
After the bullpen couldn’t keep it closer, the Mets ninth inning rally would fall short in an 8-4 loss. Sadly, this would not be the only time the Mets were beaten by Caleb Smith and the Marlins in the second half.
Giants 3 – Mets 2 (16)
Thursday, July 18
Back when the Mets were pairing Noah Syndergaard with Tomas Nido to get the best out of Syndergaard, they’d get a great performance from Syndergaard with him allowing just one earned over seven innings. Much like the 2016 Wild Card Game, the Giants had Madison Bumgarner match him pitch for pitch, and we’d see Bumgarner last nine innings.
After nine, it was tied at 1-1, and the Mets would get an opportunity they didn’t have in that Wild Card Game. They’d get to face the Giants bullpen.
In the 10th, that appeared serendipitous as they loaded the bases with just one out against Will Smith only to see Conforto and Jeff McNeil strike out. The Mets would also squander opportunities in the 13th and 15th as their bullpen put forth their best effort of the season.
Then finally, the Mets broke through as Pete Alonso would break out of his slump hitting a huge go-ahead homer in the 16h inning giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. That’s when seemingly innocuous decisions made previously would present their ramifications.
In Minnesota, the Mets had used Chris Mazza to pitch the final two innings of a blowout 14-4 victory over the Twins. What was curious about that decision was the Mets had Jacob Rhame available for that game, and they knew he had a suspension looming from an April incident. Before the game against the Giants, Rhame agreed to a suspension making him unavailable for this game.
With Mazza being the last guy in the bullpen, the Mets would look on as a tired pitcher could not record one out as the Giants would score two in the bottom of the inning to win 3-2. This loss was made all the worse because there was a clear hangover with the Mets being unable to score a run over 10 innings leading them to waste yet another Jacob deGrom start.
Braves 2 – Mets 1 (14)
Friday, August 21
The Mets were flying high entering this series having won 16 out of their last 18 games. As a result, they were seven games over .500 for the first time since April 24, 2018. At the time, the Mets were only 1.5 games out of a Wild Card spot putting them in the thick of the postseason race. With a strong series against the Braves here, the Mets had an opportunity to put the division in play.
Instead, the Mets would get swept by the Braves leading to the team losing six straight games. Even though the Mets would make another run at it, they ultimately could not overcome this stretch, and it would being with an absolutely brutal loss.
Mike Foltynewicz, a pitcher with a 6.09 ERA entering this game, would allow just two hits over seven innings. Ultimately, the only batter to get to him was deGrom, who would hit a sixth inning homer to tie the score at 1-1. As bad as the Mets bullpen had been all year, you could argue the Braves bullpen was worse. That combined with the Mets having last licks, you could argue the Mets were in position to pull out this game.
The Mets had a huge opportunity in the 10th against former teammate Anthony Swarzak. The team would put together a two out rally and load the bases, but Amed Rosario would strike out to end the inning.
The Mets blew an 11th inning chance as well. After Joe Panik was hit by a pitch by Sean Newcomb, he’d move to third after two wild pitches during Alonso’s at-bat. Alonso and Conforto would strike out, and the Braves intentionally walked J.D. Davis to force Brad Brach out of the game and to face the Mets last pinch hitter on the bench – Aaron Altherr. He’d ground out to end the inning.
What would make that even more maddening was the Mets passed on the opportunity to claim Billy Hamilton, who would have been a real upgrade to this team, off waivers. As luck would have it, Hamilton would face Jeurys Familia, and he would drive home the go-ahead run.
What made that all the more maddening was it was an Adeiny Hechavarria ground rule double which put the go-ahead run into scoring position. In essence, the player the Mets cut rather than pay him a roster bonus, and the player the Mets would not claim so they didn’t have to pay him more than the league minimum Altherr, would prove to be two players who helped cost the Mets the game.
As we know, that was a winnable game the Mets needed to have. While it did not push the Mets out of contention, it would prove to be the first in a series of losses which took the Mets from the thick of the race to the periphery.
Nationals 11 – Mets 10
Tuesday, September 4
After a potentially season ending sweep against the Cubs, the Mets got off the mat taking two of three from the Phillies, and they took the first game in the series against the Nationals to pull within 4.0 games of a Wild Card spot. They were up 10-4 and about to pull within seven games of the Nationals for the top Wild Card spot.
The Mets had a 99.7 percent chance of winning that game, and they were 806-0 in franchise history when they led by six after nine innings.
That’s when we saw an epic bullpen meltdown; one we have never before seen the Mets have in their history. Paul Sewald, Luis Avilan, and Edwin Diaz combined to record just one out as the Nationals scored seven ninth inning runs. While many in hindsight would question removing Seth Lugo or question not using Justin Wilson against two batters with great numbers against left-handed pitching, the truth of the matter neither of those things were the problem.
The problem was this Mets bullpen was so unreliable that they cannot even be trusted to hold a six run lead. Therein lied the problem with this game, and it was a big problem throughout the season. It was a contributing factor in this and other losses the Mets suffered both in the first and second half. Huge soul crushing losses. That makes this bullpen just one of the biggest reasons why the Mets are not going to be in the postseason this year.
Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.
Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.
Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.
Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.
Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.
Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.
Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.
Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.
Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.
Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.
J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.
Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.
Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.
Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.
Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.
Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.
Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.
Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.
Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.
Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.
Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.
Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.
Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.
Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.
Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.
Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.
Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.
Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.
Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.
Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.
Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.
Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.
Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.
Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.
Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.
Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.
Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.
Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.
Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.
Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.
Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.
Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.
Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.
Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.
Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.
Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.
Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.
Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.
Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.
Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.
Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.
Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.
The New York Mets completely blew it last night. Behind that loss was a a number of players failing. Todd Frazier couldn’t get a hit in two key RBI situations. Steven Matz allowed a grand slam. Brad Brach failed to cover first in time. There’s obviously more.
Behind the players failing was a number of questionable to flat out indefensible decisions from Mickey Callaway.
Callaway should not have let Matz face Jorge Alfaro. With the team having zero margin for error, you cannot use Walker Lockett under any circumstance. There’s no saving the top arms in the bullpen to fight for another day because if you lose, there isn’t going to be another day.
There were other decisions like not starting Brandon Nimmo or allowing Michael Conforto to bat against Brian Moran. You could also question using Rajai Davis as a pinch hitter in the sixth over Nimmo. To be fair, these decisions were mitigated by Juan Lagares going 1-for-3 with a run and a walk, and Amed Rosario hitting a grand slam.
The pinch hitting decisions were mitigated by the actual options available. Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera are not good hitters. Jed Lowrie hasn’t had a hit in his limited pinch hitting appearances, and he has just one right-handed at-bat all year. That’s it for the right-handed bench options against the left-handed pitching the Marlins had out there in the form of Caleb Smith and Moran.
It certainly makes you question why the Mets never made a roster move to add Dilson Herrera to the roster. After all, they lost Eric Hanhold so they can have Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart on the roster, neither of whom have pitched one meaningful inning in September.
Taking that into consideration, you have to look at the bullpen again. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson are the only reliable arms down there. You can trust Brach against right-handed batters but not left, and vice versa for Luis Avilan. After that, it’s a straight roll of the dice. Sadly, it’s a heavily weighted pair of dice putting the odds stacked against the Mets.
Look at those ERAs again. Lockett wasn’t even the worst ERA available in the bullpen last night. He wasn’t the only one with an ERA over 5.00. In fact, taking away the top two relievers, there were only three relievers with an ERA under that mark, and one of those, Hart, has only pitched 1.0 innings.
Put aside for a moment the Mets entered the season with Tim Peterson in the bullpen putting the team 1-2 relievers short to start the season. At the trade deadline, the Mets went out and got Marcus Stroman, and they didn’t back it up with another move. Sure, they got Brach, but he fell into their laps. It wasn’t a proactive move on the Mets part.
The bench has always been an issue too. We have seen the Mets cycle through Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ruben Tejada while rage cutting Travis d’Arnaud. Again, the Mets did little to address this at the trade deadline with Joe Panik falling into their laps like Brach did.
This team was ill constructed from the get-go, and for some reason when the Mets doubled down at the trade deadline, they did nothing to fix their two biggest problems – the bench and the bullpen.
Now, it’s possible a very good manager like Terry Francona or Bruce Bochy could’ve navigated their way around these problems, but we know Callaway couldn’t. The Mets knowing that and handing him a roster which feeds into his deficiencies as a manager makes what Brodie Van Wagenen did all the worse.
So, yes, Callaway screwed up yesterday, and he has screwed up in other spots. But make no mistake, this was largely the result of the roster he was given. For that, Brodie Van Wagenen should shoulder the blame he was absolutely unwilling to accept earlier in the year.
The Mets had a shot at pulling off the impossible because the schedules presented the opportunity. For the Mets, they just needed to beat up on the Marlins.
Jorge Alfaro homered in the second. Jon Berti doubled in the third, and he scored on a Miguel Rojas RBI single. That was an inning after Berti robbed Michael Conforto of a homer (or an extra base hit).
Matz put up some zeros as Caleb Smith shut down the Mets offense. Part of that was getting Todd Frazier out in big spots. He got Frazier out with the bases loaded and two outs in the first, and he then got him with runners at first and second with two outs in the third.
Then a crazy sixth inning happened. You could see it was nearing the end of the line for Matz, and then he loaded the bases. Rather than go to the bullpen, Mickey Callaway stuck with Matz for one batter too many.
When Alfaro hit his grand slam, it looked like the Mets were dead in the water.
That’s when this Mets team once again showed us the character they have. The Mets loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, and Amed Rosario would hit his second career grand slam to make it a game again:
When you know it's gone. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/k4IOk3s3f5
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 24, 2019
At 6-4, it was a brand new game. That’s what made the seventh inning so crushing.
For some reason, it was Walker Lockett to start the seventh. Perhaps, the reason was the other options were equally as uninspiring or being saved for a little later, but the overriding point is, Lockett was actually an option, and he was used.
Curtis Granderson walked to lead off the inning, and Berti got another hit. That prompted Callaway to go to Brad Brach. What makes this game all the more infuriating was Brach should’ve gotten out of the inning.
Brach started late and got there late. As a result, not only was Ramirez ruled safe, but two runs would score.
Yes, two. Apparently, because Berti was running hard, he was allowed to score on a play Brach could’ve thrown home but didn’t because of the wrong call by the first base umpire.
The Mets were down 8-4. They had a chance to score in the bottom of the seventh, but Conforto struck out against the tough LOOGY Brian Moran to end the inning.
The Mets did little to nothing in the eighth and ninth. There was not another miracle run. Not in this game, and apparently not in this season. Once again it was the Marlins the final week of the season, and it came not too long after Christian Colon delivered his own death blow.
In the end, it’s all just salt being rubbed in the wound.
The Mets went into Cincinnati looking for a sweep, but they didn’t get it. It was close, but they didn’t get there. As a result, their chances of grabbing a Wild Card became all the more difficult:
1. The Pittsburgh Pirates are an absolute embarrassment. It’s one thing to get swept like they did, it’s another thing to not even present even a minor impediment to the Brewers. Between this, Felipe Vazquez, Jung Ho Kang, all of their beanball nonsense, and the litany of other things, they are an absolute embarrassment.
2. The Pirates have all but given the Brewers one of the two Wild Card spots putting the Mets in an even more difficult situation in their attempts to make the postseason.
3. Of course, the Mets are in this position because of their first half and their loss on Saturday.
4. Todd Frazier had a difficult first inning on Saturday making an error and playing a ball which was foul leading to two first inning runs. Of course, it is difficult to completely get on him for that loss as he was the only one who actually hit the ball that day.
5. That is what makes this Mets team and offense so maddening. They can explode for eight runs in a blink on Friday night, and they can barely muster three hits the next day. That’s fine in June, but they can’t afford to be doing this right now.
6. Lost in that loss was just how great Zack Wheeler was. He had yet again another seven inning outing allowing just one earned. To be doing this with everything on the line, we are really learning something about him. If the Mets were smart, they’d be doing all they could do to lock him up because it is very doubtful they can replace him in the rotation next year.
7. Wheeler and Jacob deGrom dominating in the late season is reminiscent of what happened last year when deGrom won the Cy Young. After his pitching seven scoreless innings against the Reds, deGrom has put himself in a position to win his second straight one.
8. The Mets decision to flip Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in the rotation was an inspired one. This puts Matz in a position to start at home where he is great. Even with Stroman being sick, he gave the Mets a tough effort allowing them to win that game.
9. In that Stroman start, he was bailed out out a bases loaded jam by Brad Brach in the fifth. Suddenly, this Mets bullpen is suddenly looking like it’s more than just Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson. That’s all the more the case with Edwin Diaz somehow having two good outings in pressure spots.
10. Christian Colon getting an RBI single off of a Lugo curveball which might’ve ended the season was just cruel when you consider this was the same Colon who got the hit in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.
11. Michael Conforto appears to be snapping out of his September slump. He got two walks on Friday before hitting an RBI single in the ninth, and he hit a three run homer on Sunday. He appears to be heating up at just the right time because the Mets need everything they can get.
12. With Conforto hitting his 31st homer, he and Pete Alonso have hit a combined 81 homers which surpasses the record for homers by a pair of Mets in a single season when Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado combined to hit 79 homers in 2006.
13. Alonso’s 50 homers is the single season record for a player’s first season. It is surpasses Mark McGwire‘s rookie record for homers by a first baseman. It puts him two homers behind Aaron Judge for the all-time rookie record.
14. With Alonso also having 30 doubles and two triples, his 82 extra base hits surpasses the team single season record held by Beltran (2006) and Howard Johnson (1989). No matter how high you were on him, he has far exceeded everyone’s realistic expectations. It has simply been a joy to watch him do it.
15. It’s also been a joy to watch Brandon Nimmo play the way he has. He’s showing last year was no fluke, and he has shown that the bulging disc in his neck will have no impact on his ability to play.
16. It’s just the Mets luck that when Robinson Cano hits a double to get him out of a funk that he gets hit on the foot. Even with the x-rays being negative, it is questionable how much he can contribute the rest of the year. In that sense, he is just like Cano has been all season long, or how Jed Lowrie has been since he signed with the Mets.
17. The Mets through Andy Martino can try to push any narratives they want. However, let’s be honest, after decimating the farm system and destroying future payroll flexibility, the Mets not making the postseason would make this year a complete disaster.
18. If they sweep them, they MAY have a chance the final weekend of the season, and they will play a Braves team who officially has nothing to play for that weekend.
19. If the Mets go 7-0, they need the Nationals to 4-5 over their last nine. This makes us all Phillies fans hoping to watch Bryce Harper stick it to his old team. We could also hope the Reds and Rockies play the Brewers as hard as they played the Mets and that the Brewers having played the Pirates gave them a false sense of security.
20. No matter what happens, the Mets are in a position to capitalize on one of the teams ahead of them slipping up. If that should happen, they will have deGrom lined up to start a tie-breaker or Wild Card Game. Considering where things were at the break, that’s a better position than we had anticipated.
For deGrom, he further cemented his Cy Young case. Over 7.0 innings, he limited the Reds to just four singles. He walked none while striking out nine. The best way to sum it up was he was deGrom on that mound.
In 170 career starts, Jacob deGrom has allowed one or no runs 79 times.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayerMMO) September 21, 2019
As good as deGrom was, Castillo was nearly his equal. He was getting the Mets to pound the ball into the ground. As a result, over his first 5.1 innings, he allowed just one hit. On a night where he needed to be perfect to beat deGrom, he was nearly perfect.
As noted by Keith Hernandez during the broadcast, Castillo made just two mistakes on the night. The first came with one out in the sixth:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 21, 2019
That Jeff McNeil homer gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. It was his 16th homer in the second half as he’s focused more on power than contact much like he did in Binghamton last year.
At the time, most thought that was all the run support deGrom would get. After all, the Mets offense has been dormant for well over a year when deGrom pitches. On top of that, Castillo was great.
As great as he was, he’d make his second mistake in the seventh. Like McNeil, Amed Rosario would make him pay.
Amed knew. pic.twitter.com/QhgbSWPvaB
— Roger Cormier (@yayroger) September 21, 2019
That two run homer gave the Mets a 3-0 lead. That’s two more runs than deGrom needed.
What was interesting was after the seventh, it appeared Mickey Callaway was set to pull deGrom even though he only threw 96 pitches. While we don’t know if deGrom said something or Brodie texted something, with what’s on the line, it was a surprise move.
Fortunately, the Reds went to their bullpen in the eighth, and Pete Alonso would take advantage hitting his 50th homer of the season.
A special moment for a special player. ❄️🐻 pic.twitter.com/lGOdlSMwzm
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 21, 2019
The list of players who have hit 50 in their rookie year stands at Alonso and Aaron Judge. With two more games in this ballpark and the Mets playing the Marlins next, you almost have to believe Alonso’s going to break Judge’s rookie record of 52.
On another note, the 50 homers passes Mark McGwire for the rookie first base record. It was also Alonso’s 81st extra bass hit surpassing the single season record held by Carlos Beltran (2006) and Howard Johnson.
With respect to the game and the Mets Wild Card hopes, the homer gave the Mets a 5-0 lead. That made it a whole lot easier to go to the bullpen allowing deGrom to save his bullets for his final two (or maybe three) starts.
In the eighth, Brad Brach allowed a two out single before getting lifted for Luis Avilan with Joey Votto due up. After Avilan walked Votto, things were on the verge of getting dicey with Eugenio Suarez due up. Given his home run propensity and Diaz having hit 48 homers this year, Edwin Diaz was a very curious choice even if a homer only makes it 5-3.
Diaz responded to the challenge by striking out Suarez.
With the Mets into their bullpen, even with a 5-0 lead, insurance runs couldn’t hurt. They got that when Brandon Nimmo scores from first on a McNeil double increasing the Mets lead to 6-0.
McNeil went to third on the throw. After an intentional walk to Alonso and a defensive indifference, Juan Lagares singled home McNeil to make it 7-0. Michael Conforto, who had been taking better at-bats in the game walking twice, snapped an 0-for-21 stretch with an RBI single to make it 8-0.
After Jeurys Familia allowed a monster shot to Aristides Aquino, the Mets won 8-1. That’s three wins in a row with a favorable schedule. The only issue is if this run can continue, and if so, will it be enough.
Game Notes: Cubs lost to the Cardinals in the afternoon, and the Mets now trail them by 1.0 games, but they’re still three games in the loss column behind the Brewers.