The Mets are three games over .500 for the first time since April 23rd. They are now just one game behind in the Wild Card race, and they are eight games out in the division. Things are much more interesting in Queens.
1. The Mets went 14-2 against an easy stretch of games which included the Padres, White Sox, Pirates, and Marlins. Malign this all you want, but this is exactly how good teams play against bad teams.
2. The pivotal point in this series was with the Mets trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh in the second game of the doubleheader. The homers by J.D. Davis, Michael Conforto, and Pete Alonso saved the game, and it served not just as a launching pad for the Mets winning that game but also sweeping the series. Who knows how much further that inning will take them.
3. Davis has been the Mets best hitter at home. For some reason, Citi Field is like Coors Field to him. With the Mets having a lot of home games remaining, he becomes increasingly more important to the team.
4. Conforto has arguably been the Mets best player in the second half. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .315/.406/.641. Before his concussion, Conforto was hitting .274/.412/.519. Ultimately, when he is healthy, this is the level of player Conforto is, and that level is being a great player.
5. Alonso has homered in three straight, and he is just two behind Cody Bellinger‘s National League Rookie record. He is four behind the Mets single season record shared by Todd Hundley and Carlos Beltran. He’s followed every bad month with a good month. His defense has been much better than it was last year. What else is there to say about him?
6. Like many of the Mets players, Wilson Ramos has stepped it up. So far in August, he is hitting .417/.440/.708. To a certain extent, this outburst should have been foreseen. Traditionally, August is Ramos’ second best month of the season, and he hit .337/.396/.483 in the second half for the Rays and Phillies last year.
7. The Mets need these bats and others to step up in Robinson Cano‘s absence. While Cano has been frustrating at times, his replacements have not fared that well this year. The combination of Aaron Altherr, Luis Guillorme, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Juan Lagares have combined to go 2-for-26 with a run, three walks, a double, and 10 strikeouts.
8. Seeing this production, the Mets should go out and claim Joe Panik. As noted yesterday, even at a 69 wRC+, Panik would be the best hitter of this group. His defense would also be an improvement over what Cano offered. It should also be noted Panik has some upside as well.
9. On the idea of upside candidates, the Mets need some bullpen help. The Mets appear loathe to use Donnie Hart and Chris Mazza, and the Mets cannot continue to operate with no trust at all with two of the arms in their bullpen. On that front, Cody Allen, Brad Brach, and Greg Holland are available. The Mets also have quality organization options in Chris Flexen, Eric Hanhold, and Paul Sewald.
10 One interesting development with no August trades is we are seeing teams designate players for assignment now instead of floating them through waivers and holding onto them until competing teams look to obtain them right before rosters expand to 40 in September.
11. As we have seen with Lee Mazzilli and Addison Reed, the player the Mets obtain in August can make a huge different for a team looking to win a pennant and a World Series. Given the team’s depth and bullpen issues, they need to take a hard look at whomever hits the waiver wire over the next few weeks.
13. Remember most discussions about the manager are narrative driven and are reflective of a team’s performance. They are rarely, if ever, resultant of actual analysis of player progression and effort.
14. The Mets need better than Wayne Randazzo on the radio. He has no sense of team history, and as evidenced by his being unaware of egg creams, he’s not even well versed in the area. Really, when you break it down, you really have to question what he does well.
15. It certainly isn’t analysis with his attributing Conforto’s success to Alonso. Aside from the studies refuting the concept of lineup protection, it’s absurd a hitter as good as Conforto needed lineup protection to succeed.
16. The Mets radio play-by-play job is perhaps the radio job with the highest standards there are. Two of the greatest to ever do it, Bob Murphy and Gary Cohen, have held that job. Howie Rose is every bit their peer. We need better than Randazzo.
17. The Mets defense has been much better of late. We saw this with the Mets infield turning 10 double plays against the Marlins. When you play defense this way, all the pitchers look better. The real key has been Amed Rosario becoming a plus defender at SS.
18. Jason Vargas getting roughed up by the Diamondbacks is a reminder bad players outplaying their peripherals regress, and the Mets trading him to the Phillies was the one trade which really helped the Mets chances of grabbing a Wild Card.
19. The last time things were like this with the Mets, they had just obtained Yoenis Cespedes right before sweeping the Nationals to tie for the division lead and make a march towards the pennant. This year is starting to have the same feeling.
20. Marcus Stroman‘s first Citi Field start is going to be absolutely electric. That game and the series cannot get here soon enough.
After coming here in the Carlos Beltran trade, which was arguably the first significant move in a rebuild which culminated in the 2015 pennant, after the Tommy John surgery and set back, after Carlos Gomez‘s hips negated a trade, and after all the drama with necessarily comes with being a member of the New York Mets, Zack Wheeler took the mound for what could be the last time as a member of the team.
With his free agency looming and the Mets being sellers, Wheeler may soon be gone. If he does go, he’s going out a winner.
Coming off the IL, Wheeler had a pitch count. Through the first five, he was terrific. That’s been par for the course for Wheeler during the second half of the season. Up until that fifth, he allowed just one earned off three consecutive second inning singles.
In the fifth, Wheeler tired. After he allowed a two run homer to Adam Frazier, the Mets lead narrowed to 4-3. Mickey Callaway gave him a little rope, but he eventually had to get Wheeler. He would depart the mound to a well deserved standing ovation:
Zack Wheeler with a solid outing in his return from the IL 🙌
The fans at Citi Field show him some love as he leaves the field 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/lNEppP9DTo
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 27, 2019
He’d also depart a winner because the Mets offense hit the long ball, and the bullpen continued their best stretch of the season.
Jeff McNeil gave the Mets the lead with a three run homer in the third which just cleared the right field wall. Todd Frazier hit a solo shit in the fifth, and Wilson Ramos and Pete Alonso hit solo shots in the sixth. That accounted for the Mets six runs.
From the bullpen front, Luis Avilan continued his strong stretch getting Wheeler out of his sixth inning jam. With Edwin Diaz getting hit on the foot yesterday, it was Robert Gsellman and Justin Wilson setting up for Seth Lugo who recorded his first save of the year and fourth of his career.
Overall, however, tonight was about Wheeler. He earned his 40th win as a Met. Who knows which uniform he’ll be wearing for his 41st win.
Game Notes: Amed Rosario made his first error since June 28. Alonso misplayed his throw going into foul territory and losing his glove trying to get the ball. Later in the game, Alonso dropped a foul pop up.
Well, it’s not the Mets unless they do something completely bizarre while also completely blowing an opportunity. Still, this seemed like a new one for the Mets:
1. First things first, we should be talking about Pete Alonso. He already broke Darryl Strawberry‘s rookie home run record, and he now has his sights set on the single season record shared by Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley. He also has his sights on the single season extra base hit mark (80) shared by Beltran and Howard Johnson.
2. What Alonso is doing this year is truly special, and more than anything he needs to be commended. He also needs to be commended for responding for a subpar May with a big June. More than the homers or anything else, that’s special.
3. Of course, we are not talking about Alonso because Mickey Callaway blew up at a Tim Healey of Newsday, and Jason Vargas challenged him to a fight while needing to be held back by Carlos Gomez and an injured Noah Syndergaard.
4. Callaway completely and utterly overreacted to Healey, and as the manager, he can’t do that. There’s no excuses even if the media is out there gunning for his job. As for Vargas, well, it is good to see this team is willing to fight for him, but needing to be held back is taking it way too far.
5. After the incident, the media members took their rounds discussing the altercation. The most eye opening statements came from Mike Puma of the New York Post who said Callaway is a puppet just following orders, inclusive of the bullpen. He also said he thinks Callaway was trying to get fired.
6. On that front, it’s bizarre how the media believes Callaway is a puppet making no decisions, and yet, they want him fired, and they’re not pursuing the answers to the questions they want answered. As a fan, we don’t know anything because it’s not at all being reported.
7. With respect to the blown game, Seth Lugo was pushed too far. He needed to be pulled after the 20 pitch seventh. He didn’t have it, and you got a clean inning out of him. Going beyond that was too greedy. Normally, this is where you criticize Callaway, but after Puma’s comments, who knows anymore?
8. On the bullpen, Brooks Pounders, Chris Flexen, Wilmer Font, and Stephen Nogosek combined to pitch eight scoreless innings in the series. That is a huge accomplishment, especially with the Cubs having the fourth best offense in the National League.
9. While you may want to attribute some of this to Phil Regan, as well as Edwin Diaz‘s clean inning, it would be surprising if this was all because of his working with the staff over a few days and not just things Dave Eiland had been working on with them.
10. With respect to Eiland and Chuck Hernandez, they join Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton as scapegoats for an ill conceived roster. We will see how much further the scapegoating goes as the season progresses. What makes the scapegoating even worse was Brodie Van Wagenen’s refusal to accept any personal responsibility for the failures of the team. That’s callow especially when you’re firing two people.
11. One of the interesting tidbits which emerged after Eiland’s firing was how the pitching staff was frustrated with Wilson Ramos. The pitch framing stats shows part of the reason. You also see it when he seemingly doesn’t even bother on some passed balls and wild pitches. If he’s going to be this way behind the plate, he needs to hit much more than he is.
12. While respect to Zack Wheeler, this is the time of the year he typically turns things around. July is his second best month of his career, and his second half ERA is more than a full run lower than his first half ERA. With the way things are going, it seems like the has time to really raise his trade value.
13. Going back to Diaz, we already know how he’s used it dictated by the front office. Once again Callaway was left holding the bag while the reporters did not ask the specific question whether he was allowed to use Diaz for more than four outs. If you think Callaway is a puppet, the questions need to be asked accordingly.
14. Too much was made of Sunday’s lineup. Players need days off, and Cole Hamels was going. In addition to that, the Mets had Jacob deGrom. You can fly with the defense first lineup in these situations, especially if the team is just going to blow the lead in his starts anyway.
15. Jeff McNeil continues to show just how valuable he is. He played three positions well, hit a homer, and he deked Anthony Rizzo into a TOOBLAN to get Lugo out of a jam. This guy is a real baseball player who is not getting nearly enough attention.
16. The fact McNeil and Michael Conforto were not in the top 20 in outfield voting was a really bad job by Mets fans. On the topic of Conforto, he is as unappreciated a player as there is in baseball and really among this fanbase.
17. Todd Frazier went from a .164/.179/.291 batting line to a .267/.357/.453 batting line with a 1.3 WAR. That is a remarkable turnaround, and it is one of the few things which has kept this team (barely) afloat.
18. With respect to Frazier his throwing his bat in disgust on a homer shows how much the ball is juiced as well as what happens when the ball is blowing out in Wrigley.
19. It’s funny how completely in disarray the Mets have been before and after Sandy Alderson. Say what you want about Sandy, but he was able to control message, deflect attention, and he was able to make the Mets seem like a well run organization. Now that he’s gone, the team looks like a Mickey Mouse operation all over again.
20. The real problem with this team is Jeff Wilpon. Instead of calls for Callaway’s head, we need to have more and more articles and media attention criticizing him. If the attention is on Callaway for following orders, all you’re doing is throwing jabs at Jeff’s designated punching bag.
One of the burdens for a first time dad is figuring out just how you can make your child a Mets fan. The Yankees have long owned New York, they win, and they always have the bigger stars. As a parent, you make do with what you have.
Back in 1983, that was Darryl Strawberry.
Strawberry was the biggest thing to happen to the Mets since seemingly Tom Seaver. He was the first overall pick of the 1980 draft, and he was hailed as the black Ted Williams. He’d be called up in 1983, and he’s actually live up to the hype that year.
Strawberry electrifying baseball and the Mets made selling the team easy to young impressionable baseball fans. The ensuing run for the team made it all the easier. While we talk about players like Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter, and justifiably so, Strawberry was the first to burst onto the scene and give everyone a glimpse into what would soon be.
Some of Strawberry’s Mets rookie records still stand today. That includes his 26 homers, which was 26 if his still team record 252 homers as a Met.
The latter still stands, but for who knows how long. In today’s 10-2 route over the Cubs, Pete Alonso hit his 26th homer of the season tying him with Strawberry atop the Mets all-time rookie leaderboard:
It's June 22nd. pic.twitter.com/CAYrv6u1LP
— New York Mets (@Mets) June 22, 2019
With 85 games remaining in the season, Alonso is not just assured to surpass Strawberry, he’s going to obliterate the record. In fact, Todd Hundley‘s and Carlos Beltran‘s Mets single season home run record (41) is in jeopardy.
Other records like Beltran’s and Howard Johnson‘s 80 extra base hits or Mike Piazza‘s .614 SLG may fall as well. Seeing how these power records are in jeopardy, you understand why Alonso’s at-bats have become must see TV. You have to stop to watch him hit because you don’t know what’ll happen next.
Combine that with his being a great teammate, and his doing fun Step Brothers spoofs with Jeff McNeil, you see how he and his epic home run blasts have made him a fan favorite. Much like Strawberry, you not only see how he provides hope for the future, but you also have a seminal figure who makes it cool to be a Mets fan, which is a relief to fathers everywhere.
So, with him hitting his 26th homer congratulations to tying a record which had stood for over 35 years and a record which exists for a franchise which is 57 years old. More than that, congratulations are in order for being a terrific ballplayer whose skills are only surpassed by being the teammate he is. Overall, congratulations to Alonso for being Alonso. As we see, that’s a very special thing to be.
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.
This offseason, the Mets have begun hiring some former fan favorites as special advisors to Brodie Van Wagenen. David Wright was the first with the team recently hiring Al Leiter and John Franco. We have also seen the team swap Nelson Figueroa with Todd Zeile for the postgame. In addition to those moves, Mike Piazza made his annual stop at Spring Training.
Seeing how the Mets are focusing more on their history, and recent history at that, you wonder who exactly the team will bring back next. We answer that question in our latest roundtable:
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
I want to see Justin Turner come back and play third base.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
My list of ex-Mets I’d welcome back in some capacity is too numerous to detail. I love the idea that these guys are forever part of the family as applicable.
Tim Ryder (MMO)
I’d like to see Carlos Delgado back representing the Mets in some capacity. His dedication to his craft (remember that notebook he wrote in after every at-bat?) would play well in this young-ish clubhouse, as well as through the organization.
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
Does Jarred Kelenic count?
Really though, this is more of an overall thought than a concrete idea, but Billy Wagner is one of the least-recognized greats in baseball history. By pretty much any measure he’s the second best modern-style closer of all time, and he’s already pretty much forgotten. I’m not sure the Mets should be the ones to honor him, but someone needs to.
Previously, I opined how Johan Santana could be a real difference maker in the organization if he were able to teach pitchers his changeup much in the same way he once did with Jacob deGrom. However, from a pure standpoint of wanting to bring a player back into the fold, I would like to see Carlos Beltran return to the Mets.
As it stands, Beltran is going to be in a position where he can choose a Royals, Mets, or a blank cap when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame. When you’re the Mets, and you only have two Hall of Famers in Tom Seaver and Piazza, and Seaver is no longer making public appearances, it would see a team should do all they can do to bring one of those Hall of Famers back to Queens.
Once again, I appreciate each of these writers taking their time to contribute to these roundtables, and I hope each person who reads this takes the time to visit the other writers sites to see their excellent work.
Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.
Come this July, the Baseball Hall of Fame will see the largest Hall of Fame class we have seen in over 50 years. In this class, there will be six new Hall of Famers, none of whom even wore a Mets cap during his career. As we know, Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza are the only two players inducted as the Mets in the Hall of Fame.
Looking further, there are questions as to where the next Mets Hall of Famer will come.
Seeing how the Veterans Committee, or rather the Today’s Game Era Committed, elected Harold Baines and Lee Smith into the Hall of Fame, there is a chance for previously overlooked candidates who played in the 1980s to bet inducted into the Hall of Fame. Foremost in most Mets fans minds is Keith Hernandez.
With his being the best defensive first baseman of all-time, his 1979 NL MVP, five All-Stars, and two World Series titles, Hernandez has a strong case. When you look further, you see how every player who has led his position in Gold Gloves is in the Hall of Fame. Breaking it down further, Hernandez and Andruw Jones, who is still eligible, are the only two players with 10 Gold Gloves or more who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Put another way, Hernandez is a worthy candidate who may very well be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the near future. The problem when it comes to Hernandez is he will likely be wearing a Cardinals or blank cap. With his playing seven years in St. Louis along with his obvious love of the organization, it’s possible the Hall will push him to wear a Cardinals or a blank cap similar to how they chose an Expos cap for the late Gary Carter. Admittedly, the case for Hernandez wearing a Mets cap is stronger than Carter’s was.
Past Hernandez, the next best case is Carlos Beltran. Judging from WAR, Beltran is the eighth best center fielder of all-time. That puts him ahead of of Hall of Famers like Duke Snider, Andre Dawson, and Kirby Puckett. Combine that with his ranks among all-time switch hitters, being a nine time All-Star, and his postseason exploits, and we can all reasonably assume Beltran will eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
However, like Hernandez, the cap may be an issue. In his career, Beltran played 44 games more with the Mets than the Royals giving him a reasonable option for either team. He may also feel a pull towards the Astros due to his postseason exploits and World Series ring, but he does not have nearly the time with them to wear an Astros cap.
When you consider how the Mets have consistently reissued Beltran’s number 15, the acrimony of Beltran receiving career saving knee surgery, and Fred Wilpon’s negative comments about Beltran in the infamous New Yorker article, it’s hard to imagine Beltran feeling a pull to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
After that, there’s an issue. While David Wright is a beloved player, he likely falls far short of meriting induction. Just look at Scott Rolen. Rolen had a better career than Wright, and he has only been able to muster 17.2 percent in his second year on the ballot.
After Wright, you are looking towards current Mets players. Among the group, Jacob deGrom probably has the best shot. So far in his five year career, he has a Rookie of the Year Award and a Cy Young along with his epic 2015 postseason. His career 143 ERA+ currently ranks 10th all-time putting him ahead of Hall of Famers like Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and even Seaver.
It should also be noted deGrom is 30 years old, and he has only played five seasons. He is going to have to pitch at his 2018 level for a few more seasons to truly enter the discussion. While it may be an uphill battle, we have seen pitchers take off after turning 30. For an example, we need not look any further than Max Scherzer, who is making his own Hall of Fame case.
As for Noah Syndergaard and even Michael Conforto, both have age on their sides. They have shown periods of dominance, but they have had health issues, which have also prevented them from putting up big years early on in their careers from building a more solid foundation to their Hall of Fame chances.
Breaking it down, in an odd sense, the Mets player with perhaps the best chance of induction is John Franco – seriously.
The Today’s Era Comittee just opted to induct Lee Smith, and they opted to elect Baines from seemingly out of nowhere. When you stack Franco up against Smith, Franco has a better ERA+. Franco also has a higher ERA+ than Hall of Fame closers Bruce Sutter, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley. Moreover, Franco is just one of six closers in baseball history with over 400 saves, and he is the all-time leader in saves for left-handed pitchers.
For those who don’t believe in Franco ever being able to be inducted in the Hall of Fame, the doubt is understood. After all, Franco, like Baines, fell off the ballot in his first year after he garnered just 4.6 percent of the vote.
The dubiousness underlying Franco’s chances underlies just how long it may be before we ever see another Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. That should surprise no one as the organization did not see its first Hall of Famer until the franchise was 30 years old. It then had to wait another 24 years for its next Hall of Famer.
Right now, the Mets are once again choosing to operate like a mid-market team, which to be honest is a kind characterization. The Mets decision is all the more inexcusable because the team has already mortgaged the future in trading Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn while simultaneously taking back $100 million of Robinson Cano‘s contract.
The Mets have also watched their NL East competition improve their teams to the point where it is entirely possible the Mets finish in third or even fourth place. The team’s chances in 2019 would be significantly improved to the point where they would become division favorites or even World Series contenders/favorites if they went out and signed Manny Machado, which is just not happening, or Bryce Harper, which is not happening but is more likely than Machado.
While the Mets should be chastised for their lack of a pursuit of Harper, they are not the only team immune from cricisim on their front. In fact, almost every team in baseball could use him, and few of them have an excuse:
Red Sox – The defending World Series champions may be one of the few teams with an excuse to not pursue Harper. Arguably, they have the best outfield in baseball, and their DH position is occupied by J.D. Martinez. Still, if Harper is willing to move to first base, you have to question why Mitch Moreland and his $6.5 million should stand in the way.
Yankees – The Yankees need a left-handed power hitter to balance out that lineup. The team seems to have no issue using Giancarlo Stanton as a DH and Brett Gardner as a fourth outfielder. This leaves a team under the luxury tax zero reason to not sign Harper, especially if they do not get Machado.
Rays – The Rays are on the verge of contention and with the moves they’ve made, they’re even closer. Still, that outfield is a disaster, and that lineup as a whole needs a big bat. A team who has issues drawing fans could also use a superstar and gate draw like Harper.
Blue Jays – The argument the Blue Jays are rebuilding does not hold water for the Blue Jays or any other team. Harper is a 26 year old future Hall of Famer. He is a player who not just helps jump the rebuild, but he is also a huge trade piece in the future should you look to move him.
Orioles – For a 115 loss team with not much Major League or even Major League ready talent, the Orioles could sure use some young talent and a player who can draw fans to the ballpark.
Indians – The Indians are a win-now team whose World Series window is closing as Corey Kluber edges towards free agency. With Michael Brantley departing in free agency, they have absolutely nothing in the outfield. Harper would completely change the dynamics of that team and the postseason.
Twins – With Joe Mauer‘s contract coming off the books, the Twins seem to be going for it a bit this offseason, albeit haphazardly. Adding Harper would make it a real division race between them and the Indians, and it could shift the balance of power in 2020 and beyond.
Tigers – Even if you assume the Tigers and their improving farm system are a few years away, how many chances do you get to add a player like Harper? Wouldn’t you be better off having an in his prime Harper with your young players when your team is about to take off?
White Sox – To their credit, the White Sox understand the opportunity present with Harper and Machado, and they are doing what they can to obtain either or both.
Astros – Even with the team having signed Brantley, this team is still a bat short, which was something which hurt them against the Red Sox. If they want to overtake the Red Sox, they need another bat or two, especially with Marwin Gonzalez likely gone. Adding Harper would make them clear favorites to win the World Series.
Athletics – The Athletics were a surprise 97 win team, which meant they only got a Wild Card Game out of it. One and done. While the Athletics don’t normally swim in the deep end of the pool, Harper could keep them not just in contention, but he could become a face of the franchise as the team hopes to move a new ballpark.
Mariners – For all of their talk of rebuilding, the Mariners have been sneakily building a team which could compete this year with players like Jay Bruce, Dee Gordon, J.P. Crawford, Kyle Seager, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mitch Haniger. Harper could push them into the Wild Card mix.
Angels – As Mike Trout moves towards free agency, the Angels need to do everything they can do to get him a chance to win a World Series in an Angels uniform. An outfield of Trout and Harper instantly makes this the best outfield in baseball, and it may change the dynamics of the American League.
Rangers – The Rangers actually have a young outfield core, and where they are as a on organization, they are probably justified passing on Harper to give their younger players a chance, especially because Harper is not likely looking to move to first base for what should be a last place club.
Braves – Right now, Nick Markakis is a free agent leaving a hole in right field. Also, the team had over $50 million in salary come off the books leaving them with around $30 million to reinvest even after signing Josh Donaldson to a one year deal. In what is an increasingly competitive NL East, the Braves lack of a pursuit may be the most inexcusable.
Nationals – The Nationals know what they had in Harper, and they are rumored to have offered him a contract over the initially reported 10 year $300 million deal. The owner met with Harper right before Christmas. They’re doing what they can to re-sign him to recapture NL East supremacy.
Phillies – The Phillies are doing all they can do to land Harper or Machado including making the team around them better.
Mets – There is no justifying their payroll or their inaction here. For as difficult as it is to hit at Citi Field, Harper has excellent numbers there, and he is a young superstar akin to Carlos Beltran, who can take the Mets to a new level. If you’re mortgaging the future, you need to go for it.
Marlins – This team needs to start somewhere in terms of adding talent, and if they are really intent on wanting to keep J.T. Realmuto in a Marlins uniform, and they seem to be considering how they are handling the trade discussions, it would go a long way to have Harper there to convince Realmuto to stay.
Brewers – Ryan Braun is essentially done being a good MLB outfielder. Brewers should cut their losses, make him a backup and/or first base option (behind Jesus Aguilar), and they should add Harper to make that lineup all the more long and dangerous. Doing so insulates them from some regression from some players, and it probably buys some more time for their starting pitching to truly develop.
Cubs – The Cubs still have a young core, albeit one which needs some help. The team could move Jason Heyward to center to accommodate Harper, or they could trade Kyle Schwarber to help address other needs. Overall, they are facing tougher competition, and they are going to have to find some way to improve.
Cardinals – The Cardinals are right in the thick of teams who are projected to be in postseason contention next year. While adding Paul Goldschmidt makes them significantly better, they probably still need to add one more significant player to move ahead of the Brewers and Cubs. Harper could well be that guy.
Pirates – The Pirates made an all-in type of move giving up a lot for Chris Archer, but they have not backed that up by signing a position player. Right now, they have fewer prospects, and they are really on the outside looking in when it comes to postseason contention. Really, if their goal is to matter in a loaded NL Central and increasingly top heavy National League, they need Harper to move them into the discussion.
Reds – The Reds just made an interesting trade with the Dodgers to help them try to win now. While many may be skeptical, the Reds are seemingly of the belief they can contend next year. While they already have a lot of names to sort through in that outfield, none of those players are on the level of Harper, nor will they be over the period in which the Reds intend to contend. Tangentially, adding Harper would free up some talented young players to move them in deals for upgrades at other positions.
Dodgers – The Dodgers barely won the NL West last year and made it back to the World Series. During the year, they had more surprising contributions, but they also saw a player like Cody Bellinger regress. Fact is, they could use a player like Harper to help them stave off a team like the Rockies while also helping them capture their first World Series since 1988. After all, the Dodgers are now essentially a World Series or bust team.
Rockies – The common mistake with the Rockies is assuming that just because they are in Coors Field, they are fine offensively. They’re not. In fact, they’re not very good, and they are especially bad in the outfield. Harper is the guy who could put up superhuman numbers there while helping the Rockies potentially nudge past the Dodgers.
Diamondbacks – Even after trading Goldschmidt and with A.J. Pollock a free agent, the Diamondbacks are not intending to strip it down and rebuild. If they’re not, they can replace Goldschmidt’s production with Harper, which could put them back in contention in the division. After all, the Diamondbacks did lead the NL West heading into September last year.
Giants – It may seem like a new age with a new GM with the Giants, but the team still appears to be going nowhere. They have older players and contract which will be difficult to move, and with Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, they still have the last vestiges of their World Series titles. If the team is not moving towards a rebuild, Harper deepens and lengthens that lineup, and he would put them back in the conversation.
Padres – Much like the Reds, the Padres appear to believe they’ve arrived before everyone else believes they have arrived. Adding Harper to this team may not bear fruit in 2019, but in 2020, when we will see the likes of Fernando Tatis, Jr. and their other top prospects emerge, the team will need Harper. They could have him for what could prove to be an extended period of dominance for the Padres.
So, overall, Harper is an improvement for every team in baseball, and at his age, rebuilding is no excuse. The only excuse is team’s do not want to spend the money, which at the end of the day, is a very lame excuse considering how profitable each one of these franchises truly are.
The Mets have been quite busy this offseason, and they have improved their roster. Their bullpen now has Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia. Robinson Cano is now the everyday second baseman with last year’s revelation, Jeff McNeil, hopefully becoming a super utility player in the ilk of Ben Zobrist. Wilson Ramos replaces an uninspiring group of Travis d’Arnaud, Jose Lobaton, Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido, and Kevin Plawecki behind the plate.
All told, the Mets are undoubtedly better. In fact, they have gone from being a 77 win team to Fangraphs projecting they will win 85 games. That’s a big eight game improvement, but when you dig deeper, it’s not enough.
Assuming the projections are correct or reasonable, that 85 win mark puts them six games behind the Nationals, and it has them just two games ahead of the Braves for second place in the division. Moreover, it has the Mets capturing the second Wild Card. It is very difficult to believe the Mets are doing this for just the second Wild Card.
Then again, despite Brodie Van Wagenen’s bravado, the Mets may be lucky to capture that second Wild Card.
First and foremost, you’re relying upon a Braves team who signed Josh Donaldson to win eight fewer games. More than that, you’re relying on the Phillies not going out and making significant additions this offseason.
We know the Phillies owner wants to spend a stupid amount of money. He has reached that threshold, but the Phillies have improved the team. The Carlos Santana trade permits the Phillies to move Rhys Hoskins to first base, which is where he belongs, and they replaced Santana’s disappointing production with Andrew McCutchen. In that Santana trade, the Phillies obtained Jean Segura, who presents a massive offensive and defensive upgrade over what the Phillies had last year.
The Phillies are also rumored to be hot in their pursuit of Manny Machado. It’s possible the Phillies will lose out on him to the Yankees or even the White Sox, who made a trade for his brother-in-law Yonder Alonso. If they lose out on him, you can guarantee they will be even more dogged in their pursuit of Bryce Harper. Either player is a game changer.
At a minimum, that makes the Phillies more of a player in the division, and it makes the Mets efforts to win the division or to even capture one of the Wild Card spots all the more difficult. Even the most ardent believer in what the Mets have done this offseason has to admit Machado or Harper on the Phillies severely complicates matters.
If nothing else, this is why the Mets have to stop it from happening. We know they will not be in on Machado, but there they can let the Yankees do their dirty work, but when it comes to Harper, they are going to have to do their own heavy lifting. They are going to have step up and try to sign Harper much in the same way they stepped up and gave up Jarred Kelenic to ensure Diaz did not go to the Phillies.
An outfield of Michael Conforto–Brandon Nimmo–Bryce Harper would be among the best in baseball. For those wringing their hands over Yoenis Cespedes, both Harper and Cespedes have indicated this past year they would be willing to move to first base. Then again, no one should be counting on Cespedes to return at any point in 2019 let alone be the type of player again who can force anyone to the bench.
More than anything, Harper is one of the best players in baseball, and he’s just only 26. He’s one of the more recognizable players in the game, and he could have a Mike Piazza like impact on the field, with attendance, and on the back pages. He could be the next Carlos Beltran. With his talent anything is possible, including not just one but multiple World Series titles.
The main point here is the Mets are far from done building this team into a World Series contender. The same goes for the rest of the division including the Phillies. One team is going to be willing to do everything it takes to win. For the first time in over a decade, it would be nice if that team was once again the Mets.