Brandon Nimmo

How Mets Can Still Make Postseason

The Mets begin the second half of the season 10 games under .500 and 13.5 games back of the Braves for the division. They are only six games ahead of the Marlins for the worst record in the National League and seven games behind the second Wild Card with nine teams ahead of them. Suffice it to say, things are bleak, and the Mets are going to be in a position to sell rentals like Zack Wheeler, Todd Frazier, and Jason Vargas.

Still, being Mets fans, we have examples in team history where they have overcome long odds like these to reach the postseason. The 1973 Mets entered the All Star Break nine games under .500 and six games out of first place. Even more recently, the 2016 Mets entered the All Star Break six games out of first place. That team would be two games under .500 and 5.5 games out of a postseason spot on August 19th. They would finish the season on a tear and claim the top Wild Card.

Based on history, we can see there is always a chance. The question now is do the 2019 Mets actually have a chance. Looking at everything, you could paint a scenario where they do.

The first thing to look at is the Mets schedule. Right now, the Mets have six games against the Phillies and three against the Nationals. With both teams currently having a Wild Card spot, this gives the Mets a chance to get closer in the Wild Card race by beating their direct competition.

Beyond the head-to-head match-ups, the Mets do have a weak second half schedule. Right off the bat is a 10 game road trip featuring three against the last place Marlins and four against the last place Giants. In fact, the Mets have 18 games remaining against teams who are currently in last place.

Looking further, 36 of the Mets remaining 72 games are against teams with a .500 record or worse. That’s half of their games. So far this year, the Mets have fared well in those games. In their 21 games against second division clubs, they are 13-8 (.619). Now, to make up the deficits, the Mets are going to have to play at a higher clip than that. It’s certainly possible, especially with 11 of those 36 games coming against teams currently 20+ games under .500.

The Mets also have six more games at home than they do on the road. This is an important point because the Mets have actually played over .500 at home with a .548 winning percentage.

That schedule certainly lines up well for the Mets to have a big second half for a second year in a row. Remember, last year, the Mets were eight games over .500 in the second half last year, and as Noah Syndergaard will tell you, the Mets are a second half team.

That is partially the result of how their players perform.  Syndergaard’s career second half ERA is 38 points lower, Jacob deGrom‘s K/BB improves considerably in the second half, and Steven Matz strikes out 1.4 batters more per nine. Michael Conforto‘s second half career OPS is 65 points higher, and Robinson Cano‘s is 55 points higher.

Speaking of Cano, the Mets have had a number of under-performing players who had an opportunity to clear their heads and fix things for the second half. The Mets will be a significantly better team with Cano returning or coming much closer to career averages. The same can be said of Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.

There is also the chance the Mets finally get that Amed Rosario breakout. The Mets could also potentially get help from a rookie like Anthony Kay. Overall, for the Mets to have any shot, they need players like this to raise their games with the veterans stepping up their performances. With that schedule, maybe, must maybe, the Mets could contend in the second half.

However, this is asking a lot. In addition to everyone stepping up, the Mets need Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Dominic Smith to keep up a very high level of performance. If they want to contend, they will have to hang onto Wheeler, which given their place in the standings is flat out irresponsible.

All things considered it is fun to imagine, but the chances of it all happening are remote. Really, the best we can hope for is Brodie Van Wagenen executing smart deadline deals with Jed Lowrie and Brandon Nimmo healing and being ready to put forth strong 2020 campaigns.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets First Half Was A Disaster

The New York Mets came into this season with bravado declaring they were the best team in baseball, and they challenged baseball to “Come get us.” Well, the Mets are 10 games under .500 with the second worst record in the National League:

1. As previously noted, Sandy Alderson left behind a solid young core, a farm system loaded with talent, and payroll flexibility. It’s been less than one year into his tenure, and Brodie Van Wagenen has completely botched all of it.

2. The Mets also continued to completely botch handling injuries. The team never gave Brandon Nimmo the requisite time to heal, and now he’s seeing David Wright‘s doctor. Michael Conforto‘s recent struggles have been at the same time he has been dealing with a back issue. Of course, he’s not on the IL.

3. Pete Alonso has been better than anyone could have ever expected. His winning the Home Run Derby is probably the best moment from this season.

4. Jeff McNeil is proving his rookie year was no fluke, and he’s much more than just a second baseman. He’s been able to be a good defender across the infield, and he is showing an Ichiro Suzuki like ability to hit it where they ain’t. That makes him a rare and exceptionally skilled player.

5. One of the best surprises to the season has been Dominic Smith getting treatment for his sleep apnea and becoming the player he was expected to be. His 152 OPS+ is the second best on the team. More than that, his friendship with Alonso has been endearing.

6. The bad defense is killing this team. Notably, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are in the top 20 in FIP, and Noah Syndergaard is 35th. They are pitching like top of the rotation starters with only deGrom having results near that.

7. Another issue on that front is Wilson Ramos, who with each passing day is frustrating Mets pitchers. We are already at the point were deGrom and Syndergaard want to pitch to Tomas Nido instead. This would make you think the team should push to trade Ramos and push reset on their decision not to go the extra mile on Yasmani Grandal.

8. The bullpen has been beyond terrible, and it is the result of poor pitching, bad framing, awful defense, and just having bad players. To put it in perspective, among Mets relievers with more than two appearances, Paul Sewald has the second best ERA among relievers on the team.

9. You know things are really bad defensively when Juan Lagares has a -6 DRS. In addition to his struggles, Amed Rosario has been the worst defender in the majors. With J.D. Davis having a -9 DRS, the Mets are the National League team with multiple players in the bottom 15 in DRS.

10. Once healthy, Todd Frazier has been everything the Mets could have hoped. He’s a plus defender at third base, and he is hitting well while serving as a good veteran presence in the clubhouse. You have to move him at the deadline, but that doesn’t mean he wont’ be missed from this team.

11. The Mets could and probably should replace Mickey Callaway with Joe Girardi if for no other reason than Girardi being an exceptional manager. That said, Callaway has done well here to keep things stable and his players playing hard despite an inept front office and a bullpen melting down nearly daily.

12. It’s bizarre to think about but so much has gone right for the Mets. Conforto picked up where he left off last year. Alonso, McNeil, and Smith have been great. Nido has been an exceptional defensive catcher. Frazier has been resurgent. The top of the rotation has good peripherals. All in all, this tells you just what a bad job Van Wagenen has done.

13. There are no good answers on what to do with Steven Matz. He struggled in the rotation, and he is not well suited to the bullpen. The hope is he figures it out because the Mets have no other choice with Wheeler as good as gone, and Jason Vargas‘ inability to consistently go five meaning they have to decline his option.

14. Other than Mets games, SNY has become completely unwatchable. Of course, many Mets games delve into the point of being unwatchable, so . . . .

15. In many ways, Alonso is too good to be true. He’s a hard worker, great teammate, an All-Star, and he’s playing at an MVP level in the first half of the season. If nothing else, Sandy Alderson left behind a very likeable group of players who are easy to root for even if the ownership and front office are horrible.

16. The Mets being willing to sell tickets for the rest of the year at 80% off shows you that a boycott will never work. Ticket revenues are just not a big line item for teams, and that’s why even if you stay away the Mets are going to earn a lot of money.

17. It’s difficult to imagine a time when Mets fans have been angrier than this. The Wilpons do need to be careful here because angry quickly becomes apathy, which means people staying away from the ballpark. If nothing else, that makes the Mets irrelevant, and it’s embarrassing to them.

18. When you look around baseball, there are players like Hansel Robles, Travis d’Arnaud, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy; players who this franchise needlessly gave up on. This screams to an internal scouting problem which has been around for far too long.

19. Andy Martino is just the worst. He champions Chase Utley. He doesn’t want Alonso, a player he wanted to begin the year in the minors, to get $1 million for winning the Home Run Derby, and because of optics, he wants it all to go to charity. The charities Alonso selected weren’t enough for him. He constantly trolls the fanbase while carrying water for the Wilpons. There is nothing redeemable about him as a reporter/analyst. In an ideal world, Martino would not longer be with SNY, and he will be left to once again stalk Richard Simmons.

20. Being Mets fans, there is always hope for a second half run like we saw in 1973. If it happened once, it can happen again. With the Mets second half schedule, it’s possible. Just don’t count on it.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Ruin Everything

No one expected the Mets to sweep the Braves and perhaps get their fans excited again. Honestly, a series win seemed out of the question. The only thing up for debate was how well the Mets would have the 1969 World Series. As Del Preston would say, “That’s a whole other story all together.”

1. If you are going to hold a ceremony and an in memorium video, you actually need to make sure the players in the video are actually dead. Jim Gosger and Jesse Hudson are very much alive. Also, when you apologize for saying they were dead, you need to spell their names correctly. The fact the Mets screwed both of these things up speaks to their level of organizational incompetence.

2. Other than that inexcusably botched situation, the ceremony was great, and that partially because of Howie Rose. It was great seeing Bud Harrelson, and it was amazing to hear after all these years someone like Jerry Koosman can get recognized for what he did for this franchise. Ed Kranepool‘s speech was perfect.

3. There was a bit of melancholy with the event as this is likely the last time there will be such an event, and we are already at a point where Tom Seaver is unable to attend events. The same happening to his 1986 team is not that far off either.

4. An incredible fact is Koosman was on the mound when the last out of the 1969 World Series was recorded. He was traded for Jesse Orosco, who was on the mound when the last out of the 1986 World Series was recorded.

5. Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, and Jeff McNeil were all very deserving All-Stars. It is amazing to see the Mets have their most All-Stars in three years, and it is all the more amazing to see this is the first time the Mets have had multiple position players since 2010.

6. Alonso is the fourth Mets rookie to be an All Star, and he is the first Mets position player. There may not be many things to get excited about for the rest of the season but seeing Alonso in the Home Run Derby is going to be one of them.

7. Reports were McNeil was sitting in his locker well after the game distraught after the loss on Saturday. He responded by not just going 3-for-5, but he would also deliver the go-ahead hit in the eighth. That’s a special player and a winning one at that.

8. This is a reminder Brodie Van Wagenen was gift wrapped a core of McNeil, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman. The farm system had Alonso, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, David Peterson, Jarred Kelenic, and other high end prospects. To be nine games under .500 and closer to the last place Marlins than a postseason spot is gross incompetence.

9. Fans criticizing that core deserve this season. By and large, they have not been and really are not the problem. Sure, we can pinpoint things here and there like Rosario’s defense or Gsellman’s inconsistencies in the bullpen, but overall, you would have to be completely incompetent to screw this up, and that is before you consider Todd Frazier‘s season and Dominic Smith‘s resurgence.

10. This is an ill timed three game blip for Lugo, who has been otherwise excellent as a reliever of the Mets. This team really needs to get him a break and stop pushing him for multiple innings. Not every situation calls for it.

11. Matz also has to be better. He has completely fallen apart of late, and it is costing the team games. You can’t have a bad bullpen with both Matz and Jason Vargas not giving you length. It just doesn’t work.

12. Chris Mazza was a great story. He is a 29 year old rookie who was rewarded for his perseverance. It is a shame another bullpen meltdown cost him his first win. That said, win or no win, this will go down as one of the better moments in the majors this season.

13. With the way the bullpen continues to meltdown, it’s almost as if this was a talent issue and it had nothing at all to do with Dave Eiland or Chuck Hernandez.

14. Frazier continues to show he’s a good player with real value to this team. The Mets were right to stick by him, and he is at a minimum going to fetch something for the Mets at the trade deadline.

15. Speaking of the trade deadline, there is still too much talent here to tear things down. The top two starters are still in tact, and there is talent to build a good bullpen in 2020. The team also now has All-Star caliber players in Alonso, McNeil, Conforto, and depending on how he returns from injury, Nimmo. They’re all young and cheap. Add in Robinson Cano‘s contract, and you have little choice but to try again.

16. On that front, the Mets should be trying to get Marcus Stroman. Not only is he a top level pitcher with another year of control, but by obtaining him, the team could then get a little more in return for Wheeler as there will be more competitors for his services.

17. Seeing the Mets players last night, this isn’t a team who has completely given up. They’re still playing like they have a shot. As fans, we know they don’t, but there is just something about watching how hard this team plays that sucks you in every so often. Of course, then the team is forced to go to the bullpen.

18. Seeing how the Mets botched the 1969 ceremony a bit, you do wonder what the Mets should do about next year with the 2000 team. You could make the argument the Mets shouldn’t be celebrating not winning titles, especially when they lose to the Yankees. Still, those players are still beloved by this fan base.

19. With that in mind, perhaps it is really time for the Mets to do an Old Timer’s Day. Seeing the fans come out of the 1969 team and seeing how many beloved former players there are, you could hold this day, and it should be a near guarantee to sell out.

20. For all those killing Dolan and the Knicks over Durant going to the Nets, go ahead, but remember, it’s the Wilpons who remain the worst owners in sports.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Bullpen Saved Someone’s Season

The Mets went to Philadelphia to take on a wounded Phillies team who was aboslutely reeling. You knew after this series one of these two teams would still be standing, and the other will look like their past offseason was all for naught. Well, the Mets bullpen would make sure that would happen:

1. As noted by Michael Mayer, the last time a team blew five games where they led by at least two runs was the 2011 Mets. No, not the last time the Mets did it – the last time anyone did it. The closer that year was Francisco Rodriguez with Pedro Beato, Bobby Parnell, and Jason Isringhausen serving as setup men. Prior to this season, no one was saying “Come get us!”

2. We can talk about different parts of this Mets team getting exposed, but no one was more exposed than Brodie Van Wagenen. He mismanaged the “crisis” with Mickey Callaway and Jason Vargas. The media reported his involvement in game decisions like removing Jacob deGrom from a game. There were reports it was more than that as well.

4. This debacle is reminiscent of the 1993 Mets with Vince Coleman throwing fireworks at fans and Bret Saberhagen dousing reporters in bleach. What’s the common denominator between those two Mets teams? The Wilpons.

5. It was good for the Wilpons to take nine years to finally do the right thing by honoring Tom Seaver. Of course, they waited so long Seaver is now suffering from dementia so he cannot travel for these honors, and he may also not have the mental faculties to enjoy the honors being bestowed upon him.

6. The article by Wallace Matthews of Yahoo is completely ridiculous. Not only does he call Vargas the team’s most reliable starter, but he gets a chance to speak with Jeff Wilpon. With that access, he talks about the incident with Tim Healey instead of literally anything else. Honestly, if Jeff wants to talk about that, don’t bother. It’s a waste of time.

7. Jeff Wilpon’s silence on the state of this team and the continual inept way it is run from a number of facets should be met by fans with silence. We could call to organize a boycott or something, but in reality, the team being this soul crushingly bad is going to keep the fans away anyway. When that happens, Jeff’s silence will be met with silence.

8. Worse than that, Jay Bruce gets a key pinch hit home run and a walk off double, Robinson Cano has multiple 0-for-5’s, and Edwin Diaz blows a save. Right there, his biggest move completely busted. Actually, that’s not fair, it was a bust long before that.

9. So much for scapegoating Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez because the Mets bullpen imploded in the four game set. Worse yet, these were games the Mets absolutely should have won:

10. What Dominic Smith has done this season has been nothing short of remarkable. This team needs to be smart and really look at him in left field for the rest of the year to determine if he can be a long term solution there. If nothing else, the Mets need as many cheap bats as they can get.

11. Amed Rosario has had a number of peaks and valleys, and recently, this has been a bit of a peak. Over his last 11 games, he is hitting .342/.366/.500 with four stolen bases in as many attempts. Ultimately, there still remains hope for him.

12. The Mets need to figure out what to do with Cano, and they need to figure it out sooner rather than later. Realistically speaking, he needs to be moved to a less demanding position like third base and get some days off. As each day passes, it’s clear he can’t play second everyday.

13. Moving Cano to third solves the problem there, and it allows the team to move Jeff McNeil back to second base. This should clear that spot for Smith and hopefully Brandon Nimmo if his injury proves to not be career altering.

14. Speaking of Nimmo, only the Mets could take a talented fan favorite player like him, have him get to an All Star level, and then do all they can to completely ruin him. It’s a not so fun pattern with this team.

15. Todd Frazier has done a lot to help this team and build his trade value. The problem is he’s still a rental who is not really getting you something in return. Really, if you want to make a difference at the deadline, you need to trade major pieces, but with the young talent so close, you can’t do that either.

16. Michael Conforto continues to show himself to be both a great and underappreciated player. He should be an All Star this season. If he isn’t, it’s because this team stinks, and the organization can’t be bothered to promote it’s most talented and perhaps best position player.

17. Chris Mazza getting called up at 29 years old is a feel good story. It’s a feel good story just like Tyler Pill and Drew Gagnon was before him. He should enjoy the moment, but we shouldn’t be expecting anything from him.

18. Chris Flexen looks like a real weapon in the bullpen. Brooks Pounders may become that as well. The optimistic Mets fans could look at them joining Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman in front of Diaz, who really cannot be this bad next year, to become a formidable bullpen. As Mets fans, we should know better than to hope.

19. Callaway does sound ridiculous when he says the Mets are so close, but he’s not wrong. This team continues to fight and play hard. If they had even a capable bullpen, they’d be in a much better position. If fact, this is the only team in baseball with more blown saves (20) than saves (18). If you just take back half of those blown saves, the Mets are 47-35, which puts them a game out of first place.

20. Short of honoring the 1969 Mets this weekend, and maybe sometime late in the season to see if Pete Alonso breaks some home run records, there is zero reason to go see the Mets at Citi Field other than your love of the Mets and baseball. The latter is why the Wilpons have us and will never sell the team.

Jeff Wilpon Needs To Speak About What’s Going On With His Mets

The New York Mets are five games under .500, which is the lowest point they’ve been at any point this season. As with most teams under .500, everything seems in disarray. This is a pattern for the Mets franchise which exists even in good times. Still, things have been at a higher level of dysfunction lately.

Mickey Callaway didn’t take kindly to what appeared to be an innocuous comment from Newsday’s Tim Healey. The frustration coming from a tough loss, having to answer difficult questions, or whatever else is related to being the Mets manager came flying out. Callaway finally snapped and directed it at Healey, which he shouldn’t have done.

Things were heightened when Jason Vargas purportedly to knock out Healey, and he needed to be restrained by Carlos Gomez and an injured Noah Syndergaard.

This was an embarrassing course of events which were made all the more difficult when Callaway had to speak with reporters three times before getting the words which people wanted to hear from him out. As bad as you may want to characterize what Callaway did or did not say, it’s nowhere near are terse and sarcastic as what Vargas had to offer:

It should be noted here Callaway was at least man enough to speak with Healey personally and offer an apology. Nowhere was it reported Vargas did the same. Despite that, both were not suspended and were fined $10,000.

Of course, with this being the Mets, that’s not enough. During the game, we were reminded just how bad a job Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager. Jay Bruce would hit a pinch hit home run against Brooks Pounders, a scrap heap guy Van Wagenen had to obtain to try to piece together what was an incomplete bullpen to begin the year. That homer essentially put the game away for good.

In that game, there would be 20 runs scored and 34 hits. The only position player in either starting lineup not to register a hit? Robinson Cano. Cano was 0-for-5 dropping his stat line to .223/.270/.361. So far, he has a -0.8 WAR in year one of a five year $100 million obligation to the 36 year old second baseman.

At the same time, we have seen Edwin Diaz have the worst year of his career while Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn are progressing well in the Mariners system. According to MLB Pipeline, Kelenic is the 24th best prospect in all of baseball, and Dunn is the 67th best.

That means if Van Wagenen did not make the trade, right now, the Mets would have five top 100 prospects (Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Anthony Kay) with more on the horizon. That means the Mets farm system would have been the envy of everyone, and the team could have sold REAL hope for an under .500 fourth place team.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote an article alleging Van Wagenen called the Mets to instruct Callaway to remove Jacob deGrom from a game. The reporting has been confirmed many times over with the allegations going much further than this being an isolated event. On the topic, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post had this to say:

I asked the question to Brodie Van Wagenen this way, a few hours before the Mets would prove to be a splendid tonic for the reeling Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in serving as 13-7 patsies, a few minutes after he feigned ignorance at a subtler version of the inquiry:

“Do you tell Mickey what to do?”

*  *  *  *  *

So I asked. And this is what Van Wagenen said: “This organization is about teamwork and collaboration and the ability to trust the manager on an everyday basis.”

This is what he didn’t say: “No.”

It wouldn’t be until after the game Van Wagenen would seek to deny the reports. When he did, he would come across as less than convincing.

This is all coming off the heels of the team scapegoating both Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez while replacing them with an 82 year old Phil Regan and their bringing back Ricky Bones less than a year after he was removed from the position. We’ve also seen Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton scapegoated this year.

On top of all of this, Brandon Nimmo went from neck pain we shouldn’t worry too much about to a bulging disc he tried to play through (both in the majors and in a rehab stint) to being shut down. Jed Lowrie has yet to play this season. Overall, the handling of the medical situations has continued to be inept, and the offseason acquisitions have mostly been a disaster.

At this point, no one has any credibility, and people have long since stopped wanting to hear what Callaway and Van Wagenen have to say.

The Mets have been embarrassed by the actions of his manager and fifth starter. There’s a potential scandal brewing with the General Manager allegedly violating MLB rules. There’s the continued problems with handling injuries, and the payroll remains an issue. Fans are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the team, and they’re staying away from the ballpark. Overall, the team is five games under .500, and they are closer to last place than the division or a Wild Card.

This is the exact time Jeff Wilpon needs to speak with the media. He needs to show everyone the team is not dysfunctional. He needs to support his embattled General Manager and manager. He needs to provide a vision for the future; one which can get the fans reengaged. In the end, this team is run by Jeff Wilpon, and he is the one who has to be accountable for the decisions made.

Speaking now is what a true leader would do. When put that way, we shouldn’t be holding our breath waiting for him to be accountable for the decisions made by him and the people he put in charge.

Brodie Van Wagenen Ruined Mets Payroll Flexibility And Prospect Depth For Nothing

While Sandy Alderson had his faults as the Mets General Manager, he left the Mets in a very good position. The next General Manager would have at this disposal the assets and core necessary to build a real World Series contender sometime within the next three years. If done, properly, this could have been a stretch akin to the 1980s Mets.

First and foremost, there was a young core still under control. Michael Conforto rebounded from shoulder surgery in the second half, and he appeared ready to return to his All Star form. Brandon Nimmo had a breakout season where he was the second best hitter in the National League. Jeff McNeil emerged to hit .329/.381/.471 in 63 games showing a great contact rate while playing well at second base.

The team still had a very good starting rotation. Jacob deGrom is the reigning Cy Young winner. Zack Wheeler‘s second half was as good as deGrom’s. Steven Matz finally made 30 starts in a season. Noah Syndergaard came back from a finger issue and pitched well. Over his final eight starts of the season, he was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA.

The team also did not have an onerous long term deal which would stand in the way of really improving the team. After the 2019 season, the contracts of Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Anthony Swarzak, and Jason Vargas were set to come off the books. That was $32.5 million coming off the books. Combine that with Wheeler’s $5.975,  and that was $38.475 coming off the books.

With respect to Vargas and Wheeler being pending free agents, the team did have internal options. Justin Dunn had a breakout season, and he re-emerged as a Top 100 prospect with an ETA of last 2019 or early 2020. With a similar 2019 season, you could see him realistically being part of the 2020 rotation or possibly the bullpen.

Behind Dunn, Anthony Kay and David Peterson had an opportunity to make a push to put themselves in a position to have an ETA of 2020. Between the three pitchers, the Mets realistically only needed one more starter via trade or free agency.

Those three pitchers were not the only near Major League ready talent the organization had. Pete Alonso was Major League ready. If he wasn’t, the team still had Dominic Smith who would spend the offseason addressing his medical issues and continuing to get into better shape.

This was all part of a very promising farm system which could have made a charge to the top of the game. In addition to the pitching and Alonso, the team had Jarred Kelenic, who appeared to be a once in a generation talent. Behind him was an impressive collection of teenage talent which included Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and Mark Vientos.

If handled properly, the 2021 or 2022 Mets could have had a rotation with deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and at least one of Dunn, Kay, Peterson, or possibly Simeon Woods Richardson. The infield would been Alonso, McNeil, and two from the aforementioned group of teenage prospects. That’s if Amed Rosario didn’t have a breakout season or move to the outfield. Speaking of the outfield, an outfield of Nimmo-Kelenic-Conforto would have been the envy of the game.

Sure, not all of the prospects would have developed, but you also could have had someone like a Ross Adolph or another prospect emerge much like we saw with McNeil in 2018. There was also the impending 2019 draft class to consider. The overriding point here was the Mets had a deep well of prospects, and they had payroll flexibility.

Whoever was going to be the next General Manager of the Mets was going to be, they were taking over a job in an enviable position. There were difficult decisions in front of them like which players do you extend, and how hard exactly do you push to contend in 2019 or 2020 knowing what was on the horizon. Certainly, you had to do some of that because taking over the job was likely going to require you to sell a vision of contending in 2019.

While players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would have been well worth pursuing, realistically speaking, the Wilpons were not going to green light those signings. On the trade front, the only player available worth the Mets top prospects was probably J.T. Realmuto, but the Marlins have never seemed inclined to be reasonable in a potential deal with the Mets.

With that in mind, whatever the vision for the new General Manager, there needed to be an element of restraint. No matter what the new General Manager did, they needed to maintain that level of payroll flexibility while also not damaging the farm system to pursue short term fixes and/or underselling prospects in order to find ways to circumvent not being able to spend.

Well, in one trade, just one, Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed. In trading Dunn, the Mets lost their lone near Major League ready starter. That was important in case of an injury in 2019, and it was important because with Wheeler and Vargas being free agents, the Mets needed to find at least one cheap option for the rotation.

Worse than that, the team added Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract. Over the next five years, the Mets had $20 million on the books for a player who was going to have a steep decline in one of those five years. That player was coming in at a position already filled by McNeil and at a position which was going to be filled with young talent during the duration of Cano’s contract. You also weren’t moving Cano to first due to Alonso and/or Smith.

Yes, this is where many point out the Mets obtained a cost controlled closer in Edwin Diaz. That’s true. However, he came with a debilitating contract. He also came at the expense of Kelenic. Certainly, a prospect of Kelenic’s level is worth more than a closer both in terms of value in a trade and just in terms of a future impact on a team.

Brodie Van Wagenen would then worsen things. He would trade prospects in Adolph, Adam Hill, Scott Manea, Felix Valerio, and Santana with Bobby Wahl to add J.D. Davis and Keon Broxton (who didn’t last two months with the team). No matter your impression of those players, that’s a big chunk of prospect depth for two players who were really nothing more than bench players.

That’s not a good allocation of your assets, especially when your organization does not have the ability to absorb Cano’s contract in stride and spend their way around losing this prospect depth. Anyone taking over the Mets job knew this, Brodie Van Wagenen included.

However, despite that knowledge he went all-in on 2019. He did not maintain the payroll flexibility needed to address the loss of two rotation spots, a third baseman, and a center fielder in free agency. He traded away not just two top 100 prospects but also quality depth prospects thereby harming their ability to add at this year’s trade deadline (if everything worked out) or to build the 2020 team. Mostly, he lost Kelenic who was a franchise altering prospect, who aside from Darryl Strawberry, the organization has not seen.

Overall, not only did Van Wagenen fail to build the 2019 Mets into a contender, he hamstrung the team’s ability to build that contender in 2020 and beyond. The reason is the team does not have the payroll flexibility or the prospect depth truly needed to overcome the way the Wilpons choose to operate their team.

Consider for a moment if Van Wagenen did nothing, the Mets would have been a fourth place team much like they are now. However, if he did actually do nothing, the Mets would have had a deep farm system and real payroll flexibility to attack this upcoming offseason. That’s all gone now, and seeing what he did to this organization in less than a year on the job, it’s difficult to have any faith he can turn things around and get the franchise back on track.

20/20 Hindsight: Braves End Mets Season

The Mets went to Atlanta with an opportunity to make a statement, and they did. It was just the wrong one:

1. The Mets needed to address their bullpen, defense, and depth. Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed in his efforts.

2. The bullpen has been the biggest culprit this year. What makes it all the more depressing is Anthony Swarzak has been better this year than Edwin Diaz. It gets better when you realize Swarzak is now a Brave pitching well against his former team.

3. The Mets followed a season with the second worst defense in the National League with the worst this year. There’s being a horrible shifting team, and there is also having players like J.D. Davis way out of position in left field.

4. On the topic of Davis, Gary Disarcina‘s send of him was inexplicably bad. It was the latest in bad decisions he’s made there. When you combine that with how horribly the infield has been shifted and his inability to help Amed Rosario improve defensively, you realize he’s been a bad coach for two years now. Really bad.

5. The defense killed Zack Wheeler‘s and Steven Matz‘s starts, but that was not the only reason. Both pitchers needed to be better in their starts. They needed to pick up their defense. They didn’t, and they unraveled and lost. Their failures are as much on them as the defense.

6. For Wheeler, this follows his career splits. His Junes are always terrible. He then rebounds to have a great second half. The problem for the Mets is his following this pattern is taking them out of contention, and it’s also not letting him build up trade value for when they have to sell him a month from now.

7. As bad as they were, Jacob deGrom is back and once again pitching to a Cy Young level. Sadly, he can only pitch once every five days.

8. You get a sense of how bad things are when Mickey Callaway felt compelled to use Robert Gsellman to handle the ninth after deGrom’s start. Essentially, Callaway said he didn’t want one of his other relievers tacking on runs to his starter and ruining the good feeling that start would’ve had on his ace and the club.

9. It’s funny. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to use Stephen Nogosek to break him in easily. That said, as fans we’re never privy to the internal dynamics of a clubhouse and wanting to build up your players.

10. Nogosek and Daniel Zamora showed they are not answers to what has been ailing the bullpen. Instead, this was the team shifting deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s something to keep in mind when they previously passed on Craig Kimbrel and still have yet to sign Cody Allen.

11. That said, Chris Flexen showed us something. When he entered that game, the Braves had a real chance to put it out of reach. He stepped up and pitched two scoreless innings. In what was a lost series, he emerged as a potential bright spot.

12. Michael Conforto has been great lately with a 10 game hitting streak and a hit in 15 of the 17 games this month. In addition to his good defense in right field, he is easily the most underappreciated player on this roster.

13. After a bad May, Pete Alonso has picked it back up in June. He’s been a monster at the plate. It will be very interesting to see how this continues to play out this season.

14. Why isn’t Jeff McNeil playing in center? Juan Lagares hasn’t been good. Neither has Carlos Gomez. Really, McNeil can’t be worse and making him the everyday center fielder would allow the team to get Dominic Smith into the lineup everyday. Sure, Smith in left won’t help the defense, but he’s a better option than Davis out there.

15. For all the talk about Adeiny Hechavarria needing to play over Rosario, if you look, he’s hitting like Hechavarria again with him hitting .176/.222/.176 over the last two weeks and a .241/.276/.434 batting line overall. If you’re going to go down like this as a team, shouldn’t you be looking at Luis Guillorme in this role?

16. Both Brandon Nimmo and Justin Wilson have been shut down after the team’s repeated efforts to try to get them to play through their injuries. You really have to question how the Mets continue making this mistake with their players. It takes an extra level of a complete lack of self awareness and examination to repeatedly make the same mistake.

17. While this is a very down time for the Mets and being a Mets fan, just remember this team still has a young core, and they have been better than anyone could’ve hoped. While the hope for 2019 is fading fast (if not completely gone), there is real hope for 2020.

18. We could talk about the division being unofficially being out of reach and the Mets needing to focus on the Wild Card, but that’s only fooling ourselves. It’s time to sell. That said, if the Mets sweep the Cubs, I’ll probably talk myself into this team being a competitor. With Walker Lockett starting things off for the Mets, the chances of that happening are remote.

19. The worst place in baseball to be is inbetween being a competitor and a bad team. The Mets were in that position in 2002, and they made a horrendous trade with the Rockies trading Jason Bay as part of a package for Steve Reed. A few years later, we’d see it happen with the Scott Kazmir/Victor Zambrano trade. With Brodie Van Wagenen’s hubris, another awful deal like this is a real danger.

20. If Brodie Van Wagenen did nothing this offseason but keep what was here, the Mets would still be a fourth place team, but instead they would’ve been one with payroll flexibility and a farm system on the cusp of being the best in the game.

Mickey Callaway Has Been Doing A Good Job

The Mets are currently four games under .500, and the season is slipping away. We see the press criticize the manager’s every move, and with each passing day, you get the sense the manager is going to be the fall guy for this Mets team. Overall, it seems to be a question of when not if. Still, when you weave your way through the narrative, you see Mickey Callaway has actually been doing a good job this year.

First and foremost, this team continues to play hard for him. Look at their recent games as an example. On Thursday night, the Mets had their hearts ripped from their chest. They had their hearts ripped from their chest twice on Friday and again on Sunday. Each time that happened, the Mets responded. They played competitive baseball with their team making comebacks.

The Mets losing these games is not a matter of the team not having fight or giving up. This team has fight, and not matter how many times they have a soul crushing loss, they are getting up off the mat, and they keep fighting. Last year, in a completely lost season, the Mets had the best second half in their division. No matter what the odds or the situation, Callaway’s players play hard for him.

The young players have played well and improved under his stewardship. Brandon Nimmo was regarded as a fourth outfielder entering last year, and he finished the season as the second best hitter in the National League. Pete Alonso was regarded universally as a defensive liability. He’s played to a 1 DRS at first base while also having the second most homers in the National League. Jeff McNeil went from just a second baseman to being a positive DRS at three different defensive positions while having a 131 wRC+. Amed Rosario remains frustrating, but he has made continual improvement in his pitch selection and power.

As impressive as that is, there’s Dominic Smith. Smith was being hailed as a bust. Well, that “bust” Callaway infamously benched last Spring Training has bought into a bench role, and he finally looks like the player the Mets drafted in the first round. This year, Smith has a team leading 172 wRC+ (albeit in part-time duty), and he has a 2 DRS at first and a 0 DRS in left.

Smith is an example of how Callaway’s players have improved during his tenure, and he’s also an example of how Callaway’s players have bought in and are willing to do whatever it takes to win games.

On the pitching front, we have seen Callaway and his pitching coach Dave Eiland work well with the starting pitchers. As we all know, they got career best seasons from Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler last year. More than that, we have seen them be able to keep their starting pitchers healthy. For example, Steven Matz made 30 starts last season, and this year, when the depth was so thin, this starting staff has yet to suffer a major injury.

One thing that has been impressive with their work with the pitching staff has been their ability to adapt. This year, Noah Syndergaard noted he cannot quite throw his slider with the new ball, so he’s had to adapt. As Syndergaard put it, “I’m still trying to find that slider, but it’s forcing me to continue to develop other pitches.” That’s meant more four seamers and curves. That’s not just for Syndergaard, but also for an entire starting staff who has turned things around as they have adapted.

When you look at this team, the real issue is the bullpen. Yes, Callaway and Eiland deserve some blame because they can’t seem to get through to pitchers like Jeurys Familia, and for some reason or another Edwin Diaz has regressed (as noted the new ball may be a factor). He did overwork Robert Gsellman to dangerous levels causing a total regression. That said, the bullpen has been an arm or two short even when everyone was healthy.

No manager can win with a bad bullpen. Sooner or later, a bad bullpen will always drag a team down. Even with Callaway’s and Eiland’s reputations as pitching gurus, you cannot make bad or Triple-A caliber pitchers good relievers by waving a magic wand.

Overall, when you cut through the narratives and actually look at the team, you see Callaway has been doing a good job as the Mets manager. Sure, you can pinpoint things here and there where he needs improvement. That’s the case with all managers. Still, when you have a manager who has players completely buying in and playing hard for him, and you have young players making improvements under his tutelage, you have a manager who is doing a good job.

And believe it or not, Mickey Callaway is actually doing a good job this year.

Brandon Nimmo And His Neck Given The Mets “Treatment”

In his eponymous autobiography Pedro, Pedro Martinez detailed how Jeff Wilpon pressured him to pitch despite knowing Pedro was injured. It did not matter team doctors advised Pedro not to pitch or Willie Randolph told Pedro he was done for the year. Jeff Wilpon demanded he pitch, and pitch Pedro did.

As we would discover, this was not an isolated incident. Not by a long shot. The details to which Jeff Wilpon micromanaged injury and medical decisions was highlighted by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN:

Multiple sources said the lack of a single medical point person allows for greater involvement by COO Jeff Wilpon in areas where he’s lacking in professional expertise. They describe Wilpon as a micromanager who creates an environment in which the Mets simply whipsaw from one crisis to the next and are too often governed by how their decisions will be publicly perceived.

“Jeff gets in the middle of everything that’s going on, and he ends up doing more damage,” said a person who has been involved in the Mets’ internal operation. “He meddles. I can’t come up with a more appropriate term.”

Crasnick was far from the only reporter to indicated Jeff Wilpon was this meddlesome in medical decisions. In an interview with Michael Mayer of MMO, former Mets executive Nick Francona agreed with the assessment the Wilpons are meddlesome to the point they “have to have their finger in every pie.”

Certainly, there is an issue with how the Mets handle injuries and injured players. On Bleacher Report, Bob Klapish detailed the issues with how the Mets handle injured players, and as seen with Crasnick’s article, it is traced back to Jeff Wilpon’s involvement:

Paraphrasing one industry executive, it’s almost as if ownership—read: Jeff Wilpon—punishes players who get hurt, banishing them 1,000 miles away from New York. Some players can be trusted on their own. Others see the relatively sparse facilities in Florida, which are designed for low-level minor leaguers during the summer, and defiantly turn the empty time into a de facto vacation.

* * * * * *

What to do with players on the injured list—where to send them, how to treat them—has been a point of contention within the Mets front office for several years. Ultimately, Wilpon has used his veto power to prevent an overhaul.

Maybe it is due to Jeff Wilpon, and maybe it isn’t, but we see a continued pattern with how the Mets both report and handle injuries.

The team pressured Carlos Beltran to forego knee surgery. Both Ryan Church and Jason Bay went on long flights after concussions. It was initially reported David Wright had a hamstring injury before we discovered the real issue was spinal stenosis. Matt Harvey was pressured to pitch well beyond the innings limits purported set and agreed upon prior to the 2015 season. Yoenis Cespedes was activated for just two games, and the team at first publicly denied he needed season ending double heel surgery. There are countless other examples.

We see this pattern re-emerging with Brandon Nimmo.

During Spring Training, Nimmo was described as having a right shoulder issue. It was apparently not sufficient enough of an issue for him to miss Opening Day. A few weeks into the season (April 16), Nimmo would be removed from the game against the Phillies. What was first described as a right shoulder issue would quickly be re-characterized as a “stiff neck.”

Nimmo would miss just two games before returning to the lineup. For a month, there would be no real mention of issues related to Nimmo’s neck. In fact, the only thing we would hear about is an oblique related issue. Still, despite his having a shoulder/neck issue, getting hit on the hand, and dealing with an oblique issue, Nimmo would not land on the disabled list until May 22.

At that time, Nimmo was hitting .200/.344/.323. It is important to remember this was a year after Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League trailing just National League MVP Christian Yelich in wRC+. At 26, he was supposed to take off and build off of last year. Instead, he was dealing with some nagging injuries and a “stiff neck.”

It is important to note here Nimmo said the neck injury which landed him on the injured list was the same injury he had been dealing with since April.

Finally, after dealing with injuries in the area of the body since February and more specifically since April 16, Nimmo was sent for an MRI. The results of the MRI showed Nimmo had a bulging disc in his neck.

On June 6, Nimmo began a rehab assignment. In his first game, he was 2-for-4 with a triple. In the ensuing four games, he was 0-for-10. He was given the June 13 game off, and then he was scratched from the lineup the following day.

As detailed by the NY Post‘s Zach Braziller, the Mets had claimed Nimmo was dealing with neck inflammation until Nimmo revealed it was a bulging disc. Moreover, Mickey Callaway admitted Nimmo was playing rehab games despite the fact his neck issue had never gone away.

Now, Nimmo is going to see Dr. Robert Watkins in California. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Dr. Watkins is the same specialist who treated Wright for his spinal stenosis. The Los Angeles Daily News has called him one of the top 50 powerful sports figures in Los Angeles. This is partially due to his treatment of Peyton Manning. On a baseball front, he also treated Don Mattingly in addition to Wright.

What is interesting to note in the article lauding him is the statement, “The microdiscectomy surgery he performs on most of his sports clients provides relief for herniated discs.” At this point, we have no real way of knowing how this applies to Nimmo.

Part of the reason why is the Mets went from soreness to inflammation to bulging disc. They had Nimmo play until he could no longer play, and he was sent on a rehab assignment despite the injury not having fully healed.

To be fair, there are factors here which could absolve the Mets. Doctors could have said Nimmo could play so long as he felf comfortable playing. Certainly, Nimmo could have not told the team the full extent of his injuries, or maybe, Nimmo did feel as if he could play through it all. It would not be the first or last time any of these types of things have happened.

While we shouldn’t discount that, we cannot discount the reports regarding Jeff Wilpon’s meddling into medical decisions. We should not discount how Wright goes from a leg injury to career ending spinal stenosis or how the team was initially set against Beltran or Cespedes receiving the surgeries they required.

More than that, there was Pedro. Certainly, if an eight time All Star, three time Cy Young Award winner, and a future Hall of Famer felt pressured to go against medical and managerial advice because Jeff Wilpon demanded he play, you wonder how a 26 year old like Nimmo would hypothetically feel if he was ever put in the same situation.

Overall, we do not know exactly what transpired with Nimmo. We do not know what he said to the team or his doctors, what his doctors communicated to him and the team, or what the team instructed him to do. All we do know is Nimmo’s injury and handling thereof have fit a pattern which has existed with the Mets for over a decade now. We have seen this ruin some careers and alter others. Hopefully, we will not see the same fate befall Nimmo as has befallen other Mets.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Escape Bronx With Split

The Mets and Yankees had their first doubleheader since 2008, which was also their first doubleheader in one ballpark since the inception of the Subway Series. The Mets walked out of Yankee Stadium with a split, and they are still one game under .500. How that happened was quite eventful:

1. The Subway Series needs to stop. The Mets get four games against the Yankees while the teams they are fighting against for the division or Wild Card don’t have the same four tough games locked into their schedule all year. I don’t care how much fun it is, it is putting the Mets at a competitive disadvantage.

2. We can and should talk about payroll disparity and ownership commitment when it comes to why the Mets are the Mets and the Yankees are the Yankees. However, it’s more than that. The Yankees got Luke Voit and IFA money for essentially nothing while the Mets traded three prospects for J.D. Davis.

3. Speaking of Davis, it’s inexcusable hes’ one of three players who started both ends of the doubleheader in the field. Really, the team needs to stop trying to make this ill-advise trade work and instead focus on making decisions to help this team win games.

4. The Mets defense was terrible in the first game. Amed Rosario missed first. Todd Frazier threw one away. J.D. Davis couldn’t get to anything because he was sitting in the front row of the bleachers to make up for his lack of range. Overall, this is a terrible defensive club with a National League worst -51 DRS.

5. With respect to the poor defense, Juan Lagares is a -2 DRS in center, which seems unfathomable. However, if you look at the new stat called jump, Lagares is not getting the same read on the ball as he did over the previous two years. Who knows why that is, but until he figures it out, he’s borderline unplayable at this point.

6. Zack Wheeler needs to be better than this. Yes, the defense behind him was atrocious, but he wasn’t much better. It was not the defense who served up the homers to Gio Urshela or Luke Voit. Overall, his peripherals show he’s better than this, and he has shown himself to be a second half pitcher. You just wish he would get to being the second half Wheeler sooner rather than later.

7. Yankee Stadium is a real joke where pop flies to the infield in other parks go out. That said, Pete Alonso‘s homer in the second game of the doubleheader would have left Yosemite.

8. Alonso is becoming way too much of an all or nothing guy. Since May 1, he’s hitting .224/.300/.560 with 13 of his 30 hits being homers. He has also struck out 26 percent of the time while walking six percent of the time. As the season progresses, he looks more and more like this type of a hitter than he does the guy who set the world ablaze in April.

9. Alonso’s being in the top five in All Star voting is fun. We should celebrate that. However, it’s bizarre Mets fans are only rushing to help him when Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil have been so good all year.

10. As noted previously, McNeil is hitting like Ichiro Suzuki. This shouldn’t be sustainable, but yet, it has been. Hat tip to Jerry Beach, a man whose taste in television shows is as excellent as his taste in managers is poor, for saying McNeil is like Wade Boggs after Gare tried to say McNeil wasn’t Boggs.

11. As much as I adore Gary, Keith, and Ron, they need to stop talking about the advanced stats, especially since they clearly don’t fully understand it, and they are mostly doing it to disparage them. Case in point was Gare saying how the shift only affects ground balls.

12. Jeurys Familia has been looking much more like Familia. He now has three consecutive completely dominating innings/appearances. We are getting closer and closer to trusting him in pressure situations again. And the Mets should if everything is ironed out as this looks more like a mechanical issue than a mental one.

13. The Mets bullpen has too many bottom feeders in it. At most, you can have one of Wilmer Font, Drew Gagnon, Tim Peterson, or Hector Santiago. You cannot have four of them. That’s how you start burning out productive arms in the pen and putting games way out of reach.

14. Yesterday, Brandon Nimmo, Robinson Cano, and Justin Wilson played in a rehab game in Syracuse. The team needs all three of them back as soon as possible to help this team go on a run, but the team cannot bring them back until each one of these players is fully healthy and ready to contribute.

15. Somehow, someway, Jason Vargas escaped the third allowing just three runs, and he got out of the fourth unscathed. When all was said and done, he had a quality start and a win. That’s a big credit to him.

16. Right now, Vargas is on one of the better stretches in his career. He pitched well against two good offensive teams, and he flat out dominated a terrible Giants team. The .286 BABIP and 83.3 LOB% would indicate this is not at all sustainable. That said, Vargas is getting results, so you might as well ride this out as far as this takes you.

17. Wilson Ramos seems to be doing with the extra days off here and there. Starting in May, he played less frequently, and he started to become much more productive. When Tomas Nido hits like he did in the first game of the doubleheader, the plan to get the over 30 and injury prone Ramos more rest becomes a more viable solution.

18. Speaking of back-up catchers, good for Travis d’Arnaud for turning things around with the Rays. In addition to catching, he’s also working out at other spots in the diamond. This is what the Mets should have done with him. Instead, they rushed him up way too soon, and they then DFA’d him in a complete overreaction.

19. There was a real fear this team was going to repeat it’s horrendous June of last year. So far, the Mets are 4-4 this month meaning they are just one short of the total win total from June 2018. While things could be better, things could also be a lot worse.

20. Mickey Callaway said about the team how he believes once this team gets back to .500 they are going to take off. With Nimmo, Cano, and Wilson in Syracuse and as Syndergaard puts it, the Mets are a second half team, it’s hard not to believe him.