During Spring Training, Buck Showalter has made it a point to bring Keith Hernandez down to the field. In fact, as reported by Bob Klapisch of nj.com, Showalter removed the old rule which banned Hernandez from the batting cages. Showalter made it a point to get rid of the dumb rule (which was explained away because Hernandez was a part of SNY).
Specifically, Showalter noted, “I wanted people to notice Keith next to me and it wasn’t by coincidence. To me, Keith Hernandez is Mets royalty. He can go wherever he wants around here. This is his team.”
Showalter is exactly right here. After all, Hernandez was the first captain in team history. That 1986 team constantly talks about how much Hernandez meant to that team in terms of his leadership and defense. To keep that away from the team is pure and utter Wilpon nonsense. Well, the Wilpons are gone and so is much of their stupidity.
This was something Bobby Valentine had done so well during his Mets tenure. We didn’t just see the Mets greats pass through Spring Training for a photo op and media attention. That is something we will see this Spring with Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, David Wright, and others passing through and working with the players for a day or so.
Valentine had taken it a step further than that. Valentine put Mookie Wilson on his coaching staff. We also saw it with him having Al Jackson, an original Met just inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, on his coaching staff. There many be many reasons why Valentine did that, and it could very well be because Davey Johnson once did the same thing with him and Bud Harrelson on the Mets coaching staff.
Being a Met is different than being a part of any other team. It’s being the big market target while sitting in the shadow of the Yankees. It’s having a fan base who clings to Tug McGraw‘s “Ya Gotta Believe!” who also expects Tom Glavine to implode completing the collapse. We know Gary Carter is going to start an improbable rally while fully expecting Lucas Duda to throw it nowhere near Travis d’Arnaud.
The Mets are the most unique team in all of sports, and they have the fanbase to match. Each and every player who has come through here fully understands it. After all, Carlos Beltran went from reviled while playing here to a standing ovation at the All Star Game wearing the enemy St. Louis Cardinals uniform and fans who cheered him as a conquering hero when he was brought back as the manager.
Valentine knew all of this, and he had a coaching staff reflect that. Showalter seems to get that as well, and he wants the former Mets to be a part of this team both in Spring Training and beyond. He understands the team history, and in the end, Showalter just implicitly gets it.
When the Mets have a manager who gets what being a New York Met is all about, magic happens. We saw it in 1986 and 1999. Mookie brought home Ray Knight. Robin Ventura hit a grand slam single. Seeing how Showalter is managing this team, Mets fans should be ready to see what is coming next.
The New York Mets have the rotation which can win them a World Series. That goes double when the top of your rotation is Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. That said, this is a roster which still needs help.
The outfield is more than set with Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, and Mark Canha. However, they are not a trio who historically lasts a season. That is going to leave the team shallow for good chunks of the season just hoping Khalil Lee figures it out or Nick Plummer can prove last season was him making his march to the majors.
The infield is also set, but that could be a problem as well. Jeff McNeil and Francisco Lindor seem to be well past their issues, and they promise to be an elite double play combination on the field and at the plate. Pete Alonso made strides defensively and has likely dedicated himself to be even better. However, Eduardo Escobar has always been a poor third baseman, and now, he is going to be asked to play there everyday.
The catching situation is a bit of a mess. James McCann regressed in all areas of his game last season. Unless he starts hitting or framing better, the Mets are going to have to try to pivot to Tomas Nido depsite McCann’s big contract. On that note, Nido remains elite defensively, but he still has issues at the plate.
Looking at the bench, Dominic Smith is a first baseman, and J.D. Davis has no position, which admittedly is much less of an issue with the DH. Robinson Cano has the contract and bat to justify playing everyday, but that is only if he is Cano. Really, at this point, no one knows if he can, but you have to assume with the backing of Buck Showalter he just might get the opportunity to prove he still is.
Luis Guillorme is a great defender who will struggle to find playing time. His pinch hitting ability has also been neutralized with the universal DH. Fortunately, he does seem to finally have a believer in what he brings to a team in Showalter.
Honestly, the concerns over the bullpen is muchado about nothing. Edwin Diaz can close even if he’s not the most reliable. Trevor May is a very good late inning reliever. With the injury concerns past him, Seth Lugo can get back to being Lugo. Drew Smith is on the verge of a breakout. Miguel Castro is good against left-handed batters, and Adam Ottavino gives a different look.
With all the pitching the Mets have a great mix and actual depth which goes down to the Triple-A level. It is something they have not had in quite some time. However, as noted, from a position player standpoint, this team needs some real help. It’s another reminder Michael Conforto is still a free agent, and maybe, it’s a call for one of the players in the organization to step forward and claim a spot.
The Mets need that to happen because the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers continue attacking this offseason looking to push towards winning the 2022 World Series. The Mets have the pitching to get there, but now , they really need to make sure they have everything else.
Robinson Cano came back, and he apparently offered an apology to the team and the press. Now, he wouldn’t tell us why he took the PEDs, but he said he might tell us one day. Of course, the answer was to return to form, but we’ll let him say it or his other excuse another day.
According to Buck Showalter, Cano is a guy who can hit until he is 50. That was actually something we used to say about former Met Julio Franco, and he nearly did. What is notable with Franco was he was a solid pinch hitter and clubhouse presence for that 2006 NL East winning New York Mets team. In some ways, you could compare him to 1985 Rusty Staub.
Of course, that pinch hitting role doesn’t quite exist anymore, at least, not in the same way it used to exist. Now, we have the universal DH. As a result, you’re not quite burning that guy who should be pinch hitting and not quite stepping on the field. Even if these Mets seem to acknowledge a sunk cost, it is difficult to imagine them paying Cano $20.25 million to fulfill that role.
That begs the question as to what his role will be. Jeff McNeil was announced as the starter for second base, which as we all know, is Cano’s position. The Mets gave Eduardo Escobar starter money, and as a result, we can assume he will be the everyday third baseman. That pretty much leaves Cano with either the DH or a utility role.
On the later, Cano is said to be working at second and first. We know he has played some third, and there are indications he could be good there. However, lost in all of that is the fact Cano is 39 and did not play at all last year. Overall, we don’t know where his conditioning is and just how much he can withstand the 162 game grind anymore.
Maybe, Cano can be the DH. However, the Mets have Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. There is also the fact their starting outfield of Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte, and Mark Canha have all had durability issues in their career, and they could probably use the DH break every now and then while the Mets keep their bats in the lineup.
In the end, there is really no clear role for Cano. Ultimately, that may just mean Cano sits around with the Mets picking and choosing his spots until an injury happens or someone struggles necessitating Cano to be plugged into the lineup. Whatever the case, Cano’s role isn’t so much a problem for this team inasmuch as it is something which needs addressing to make sure it won’t be an issue during the season.
With the collective bargaining agreement stalemate, and Commissioner Rob Manfred announcing the first two series of the Major League season will be canceled, minor league baseball appears to be set to be the only baseball left to be played. This was the case on August 12, 1994 until the end of that season, and right now, we don’t know how long it will be until MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement.
This begs the question about how this will affect the minor league season. In many ways, the answer is not at all, but in a more global sense, it is a huge impact due to all of the uncertainty.
40 Man Roster Issues
First and foremost, this lockout impacts players on the 40 man roster. Keep in mind with Major League rosters being capped at 26 players, the 14 players who were supposed to play in the minors are now not permitted to play with their respective organizations.
This past offseason, the New York Mets added Mark Vientos, Ronny Mauricio, Adam Oller, and Jose Butto to their 40 man roster. They’re now not eligible to play in games or participate in Spring Training. The same goes for players like Travis Blankenhorn, Khalil Lee, Patrick Mazeika, and Nick Plummer who were likely ticketed for Triple-A to start the season.
Spring Training Battles
If we look back to the pandemic shortened season of 2020, MLB had a very abbreviated “Summer Camp” with players reporting on July 1 and beginning the season on July 24. In 1995, the strike and lockout meant Spring Training was delayed. When the two sides finally agreed to a deal, Spring Training was just three weeks. We’re very likely to see something akin to that again.
As a result, we are not going to have the opportunity to see Spring Training battles breath. At least at the moment, Tylor Megill and David Peterson appear poised to battle for the fifth starter spot. With no real Spring Training, and both pitchers being shut down because they are on the 40 man roster, it would appear the Mets would be all the more emboldened to sign another starter.
Speaking of Spring Training battles, there are those veterans who signed minor league deals. For example, this offseason the Mets signed Daniel Palka who has played 154 Major League games in his career and Matt Reynolds who has played 130 games. They would be permitted to play in Spring Training, where they would not be paid, and they can then report to play in Triple-A Syracuse regardless of the status of the CBA negotiations.
Rule 5 Draft
As noted, players not on the 40 man roster are permitted to participate in Spring Training, and they can begin their minor league seasons when they are slated to begin. That is an enormous benefit for players like Carlos Cortes, Brian Metoyer, and Hayden Senger. Each of these players were on the bubble for Rule 5 protection, and the Mets opted to expose them to the draft.
This means Cortes, Metoyer, and Senger will get to play and improve. That will also give teams an opportunity to get a better look at those three players in determining whether they should be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, that also works in the inverse with the Mets getting a deeper look into players they might be targeting.
Keep in mind, there isn’t much precedent here for this. In 1994, because there was a strike but not a lockout, teams were able to proceed with their business as usual and hold the Rule 5 draft in December (even if it was delayed twice). For the 2020 season, the Rule 5 draft had already taken place in December 2019 because COVID-19 was not yet a concern.
Another important note here is as MLB cancels games, it becomes easier to carry Rule 5 drafted players. As a result, the risk in selecting a Rule 5 player has been greatly mitigated. Another factor at play here is we may see players get drafted based on early season results who may not have been otherwise considered. To sum up, this is a quagmire.
At the moment, the Mets have their minor league mini-camp. Minor League Spring Training is also set to officially begin this week. As of right now, according to their official schedule, the Mets are slated to play their first Spring Training game on March 12 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Of course, games were supposed to begin February 28, but it was delayed due to the lockout. As of right now, there is no official word if games will be delayed further. That said, there will likely be some form of a Spring Training game schedule even absent a CBA being in place to allow the minor leaguers to prepare for their season. The season for the Mets full season affiliates are set to begin as follows:
- Syracuse Mets – April 5
- Binghamton Rumble Ponies – April 8
- Brooklyn Cyclones – April 8
- St. Lucie Mets – April 8
For those Mets fans who want to attend a baseball game, the Brooklyn Cyclones home opener will be on April 12 at 7:00 P.M. against the Jersey Shore Blue Claws (Phillies).
Right now, the Mets are paying Buck Showalter a lot of money to manage a team which is not set to play. That leaves Showalter with the job of preparing to prepare for the season. In some ways, that’s extremely beneficial for the new staff with new coaches like Eric Chavez to come to work together.
It also gives them an opportunity to work with the minor leaguers in Spring Training, and perhaps, depending on the length of the lockout, to travel to work with some of the minor leaguers. This presents an enormous opportunity for players like Brett Baty, who is battling with Vientos for that future third base job. More than that, it allows some of the more unheralded prospects like a Harol Gonzalez to make an impression in camp and get an advocate from the Major League coaching staff in their corner.
That just speaks to just how different everything will be for minor leaugers. Yes, the players not on the 40 man roster will have no change to their schedule. They will report to Spring Training at the same time, and they will play the games like they normally do.
However, they will also get more exposure to Major League coaching, and they have more of an opportunity to distinguish themselves. Moreover, they will get to prepare for their season and work on their games while fellow minor leaugers who are on the 40 man roster will be at home unpaid and without a chance to work with their coaches to improve their game.
The New York Mets were on a hot streak. They hired Buck Showalter, and then they started filling out the coaching staff with some well respected candidates.
And then, nothing.
The Mets are looking for a bench coach, and they’re coming up dry. Andy Stankewicz will remain as the head coach of Grand Canyon University.
Suddenly, this search is becoming reminiscent of the Mets GM search. It was then a reminder of the beginning of the Mets offseason when Noah Syndergaard shockingly left the organization to sign with the Los Angeles Angels. Things were bad.
Out of that would eventually emerge Starling Marte and Max Scherzer. With that, the Mets suddenly changed the narrative about the direction of the franchise. Suddenly, the same old Mets became legitimate World Series contenders. It happens that fast.
At this point, the Mets keep striking out on bench coaches. That’s fine. There are still a number of qualified candidates out there, and the Mets will eventually get their guy. If they don’t, well, they still have Marte and Scherzer, so in the end, they will be more than fine.
On the bright side, Cora has the experience and pedigree. He’s a baseball lifer and well respected in the game. He was a gamer who brings the same attitude as a coach.
As a coach, he has mostly been tied to Ozzie Guillen. First, it was the Chicago White Sox, where they won the 2005 World Series. Then, it was the Miami Marlins where Guillen imploded leading the Marlins to clean house.
Notably, Cora wasn’t too big to return to the minors and work his way back up to the majors. That’s exactly what he did leading to his serving the last five years as the Pittsburgh Pirates third base and infield coach.
As the infield coach, Cora was well respected and had a strong impact. When you’re a Mets team with J.D. Davis, Eduardo Escobar, and to a certain extent, Jeff McNeil (ignoring positioning cards and Mets unwillingness to play him at third), Cora is a significant upgrade who can provide a strong impact.
However, that’s only part of it, albeit the most important part of it. Cora was also hired to be the third base coach.
If you were a Mets fan justifiably frustrated with the indecisive and inept Gary Disarcina, things aren’t getting better. In fact, against all odds, it could be getting worse.
Pirates Ranks with Joey Cora (2017-2021):
· Extra Bases Taken Percentage: T-23rd
· Outs on Base at Home: T-30th
· Percentage of Successful Advances of a Runner on 2nd Base on a Hit: 30th
— Mets Metrics (@MetsMetrics) January 4, 2022
Really, seeing his work at third, you really have to wonder why the Mets hired him for the role. While the competition for his services is unknown, you wonder if the Mets needed him that much.
Understandably, the Mets are going in another direction for the bench coach. They need a more analytically inclined individual to buttress Showalter. In the case of Clayton McCullough, you get the added benefit of grooming a potential future manager.
Whatever the thought process, the Mets are better today. Cora is a good baseball man and asset to any organization. That said, some of what his brings will be offset by putting him at third where he is a detriment to the team. It just makes you wonder if there was another role other than third they could’ve offered him.
To the surprise of no one, Buck Showalter aced his introductory press conference. If you’re a New York Mets fan, you heard everything you wanted to hear.
Two of the things you heard him speak about were the ability to play in New York and the players needed to win here. Here are two relevant quotes:
- “When you get it right, and there’s a lot of people living and dying what you do every day, so there is an accountability responsibility to it and it’s not for everybody. We’re going to try to find out who it’s for, who is in and who ain’t.”
- “I think one of the mistakes people make is when they come into a situation and think everything there isn’t good and needs to be changed.”
When reading these two quotes, you can’t help but think about Michael Conforto.
Conforto is a free agent after spending seven years with the Mets. In his time, he’s at least been a top 20 position player in team history. If he stayed, he would rewrite much of the Mets record books.
With him, we’ve seen a player who can play in and handle New York. More than that, he has emerged as a true leader, and he’s been able to handle the most difficult of circumstances.
When things have been good, so has Conforto. We know he can play in the big games and deliver.
While he most likely wasn’t referring to Conforto in any way, shape, or form, Showalter’s words endorsed a Conforto return. Conforto is able to handle New York, and as Showalter said, the Mets shouldn’t be making the mistake of changing for changing sake.
That said, if there’s an avenue to bring back Conforto, the Mets should do it. The Mets need players who can handle the gauntlet of New York, and he’s one of those players. In many ways, he’s a player Showalter proverbially wants.
While Buck Showalter may not have been the right fit for the New York Mets job, this job was the perfect fit for him. This is a job where Showalter can cement his legacy, and depending on how everything goes, it’s possible he has a shot at the Hall of Fame.
As we have seen with the media coverage, Showalter has been well respected in the game. That goes to every media person, and we have seen former players Zack Britton, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Mark Teixeira speak highly of him. There are reasons why that is the case.
Showalter has his strengths. He is a good communicator. He develops players. He knows this game inside and out. No, he doesn’t know analytics well, and he has been adverse to them, but he’s a lifer who knows the game.
The biggest knock on Showalter is teams have won after he has left. The 1996 Yankees. The 2001 Diamondbacks. Both World Series championships came after Showalter has been fired. As we saw with the Britton issue in the ALDS, there are a number of reasons why Showalter hasn’t won a ring..
However, the Mets now present that opportunity. He has Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer atop the rotation, that’s even better than Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling (who Showalter didn’t win with). As we have seen before the lockout, Steve Cohen is going to do everything he can to win the 2022 World Series. He is spending like we haven’t seen a team spend in ages, perhaps ever.
This will be a Mets team built to win in the postseason. There is the vaunted top of the rotation. Francisco Lindor in year two. Brandon Nimmo moving to right field where he will thrive along Starling Marte. Pete Alonso hitting tape measure shots. The pieces are there, and there will be more to come. The challenge for Showalter will be to let his best players win instead of going to Jack McDowell or Ubaldo Jimenez.
If he is now truly receptive to analytics for the first time in his career, wonderful things can and will happen. His reward will be completely changing the narrative on his career. Now, Showalter will be the manager who builds winners and can take them over the top.
He will then have at least three Manager of the Year awards. By winning a World Series, he would join Bobby Cox, Jim Leyland, and Tony La Russa as the only managers to win three awards and a World Series. Leyland is the only one not in the Hall of Fame. If Showalter were to win two World Series, he would join Sparky Anderson, Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre, and La Russa as the only managers to win multiple Manager of the Year awards and multiple World Series.
The Mets will put Showalter in a position to win those World Series titles. That will come in the form of both players and with information. Everything will be there for Showalter. If he is willing to grow as a manager and accept the more collaborative role, he will get that elusive ring, and quite possibly, he will be enshrined in Cooperstown.
When looking at a bench coach, you have someone responsible for running QC during a game. They’re making sure batters bat in order, keeping tabs on who is available, and chatting strategy with the manager.
The entirety of Beltran’s coaching experience is 76 days as the Mets manager. In that time, he had zero team meetings and managed zero games. Put another way, he has zero experience.
Putting him in a position to be Showalter’s right-hand man makes little sense. He’s ill equipped. Moreover, there’s no pre-existing relationship where they’re able to have a synergistic relationship.
It would also be bizarre to have Beltrán in place as a manager in training. Showalter wasn’t just hired to win in 2022. He was hired to be in place and win for as many seasons as he’s capable of doing the job.
The Mets hired the then 62 year old Terry Collins in 2011. He would manage seven more years with the Mets.
Tony La Russa managed the St. Louis Cardinals until he was 66 years old. After being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he returned to the Chicago White Sox in 2021 as a 76 year old.
Showalter is 65. Looking at Collins and La Russa, he has as many years as he can do the job. With Showalter taking the job, we can presume he’s in for the long haul.
That’s just the thing. Showalter wants to win. He’s been in this game as a manager for 20 years. He knows people, and more importantly, he knows who he wants for different roles.
Maybe he likes Beltrán. It would make sense with Beltran being a noted leader and hard worker who is very intelligent. However, no one knows if Beltrán can coach.
Can he be a hitting coach? Can he be an outfield coach? Does he know how to interpret, apply, and communicate analytics?
No one knows, not even Beltrán. That’s why putting him on a staff makes little to no sense. Grooming an inexperienced coach for a role he may never be suited doesn’t make much sense.
Unfortunately, bringing Beltran back doesn’t make much sense. If Beltran does indeed want to come back and eventually manage, he will have to do the work and go to the minors much like Edgardo Alfonzo did.
When and if Beltran does that, then maybe Showalter can and should add him to a Major League coaching staff. Until that point, it just doesn’t make any sense.
However, now that Stroman is gone Zeile calls him one of the most divisive players in the Mets clubhouse last year. He intimated things in the clubhouse are better just because Stroman is a Chicago Cub.
He didn’t say anything when there were reports of the Mets having a special chemistry. He was silent on Stroman when the narrative emerged the Mets didn’t do more at the trade deadline because they didn’t want to infringe on the clubhouse chemistry.
Zeile also was silent on Stroman when the clubhouse chemistry issue emerged with Javier Báez‘s thumbs down to the fans. There was a perfect opportunity to address team chemistry and issues. Zeile said nothing.
Time and again, Zeile was silent on Stroman’s impact in the Mets clubhouse. However, now with Buck Showalter being hired and Stroman a Cub, he is telling everyone Stroman is divisive.
Zeile sat on this information until the offseason. He sat on it during the many times the Mets clubhouse chemistry was at issue (good or bad). Now, that he never has to face Stroman, he’s more than ready to denigrate him.
This is completely unprofessional, and it highlights Zeile has little to no credibility. He had pertinent information to share in his role as analyst, and he didn’t disclose it.
Zeile didn’t have the courage to say anything while Stroman was a Met. He didn’t have the courage to say anything while the possibility of Stroman returning existed. This is as callow as it gets.
With these comments, Zeile lost credibility. It leaves you wondering what other information is he failing to disclose just to make his life easier. What is he not telling us so he can avoid an awkward conversation with a player?
Mets fans deserve better than this. The Mets players do as well.