With it being a day game and Tomas Nido behind the plate, it was a mild disappointment Jacob deGrom didn’t throw a no-hitter in the first game of the doubleheader. That was a dream which died with a Jon Berti single to begin the game.
Even though he didn’t get the no-hitter, or even the shut out, he would pick up the win with a typical deGrom effort. He struggled in the beginning, and he would eventually settle in and dominate.
Over 7.0 innings, he would allow two runs on five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. One of those two runs was a homer from Isan Diaz, who was making his Major League debut. It was a great moment with his family in the stands.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 5, 2019
Aa a fan you can enjoy these moments because the Mets won and pulled themselves back to .500.
Welcome to the bigs. pic.twitter.com/rN7SWRf7Aa
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 5, 2019
Heading into the third, the score was tied 1-1 when Amed Rosario hit an opposite field blast.
The bullpen would pitch two scoreless, and suddenly, the Mets were a .500 team for the first time since May 28th. They would have a chance to go over .500 for the first time since May 2nd in the second half of the doubleheader.
With the sinkerballer Walker Lockett going for the Mets, and this being the second end of a doubleheader, the Mets went with a pure defense first infield with Luis Guillorme at second and Adeiny Hechavarria at third.
That already compromised lineup took another hit when McNeil was forced to depart the game in the top of the third with a leg cramp. That basically left the Mets hoping the Michael Conforto two RBI single in the first and Lockett would hold up.
It didn’t happen.
Lockett cruised through the first three innings, but he would get into trouble when Brian Anderson led off the inning with a double. He’d come around to score on a Harold Ramirez RBI single. Lockett would do well to escape this jam, but he wouldn’t be so lucky in the fifth.
Bryan Holaday tied the score at 2-2 with a fifth inning leadoff homer. The homer didn’t kill a rally, and with two on and two out, Mickey Callaway would lift Lockett for Robert Gsellman to face Curtis Granderson.
The move didn’t work with Granderson hitting a go-ahead two RBI double giving the Marlins a 4-2 lead. With their having their All-Star Sandy Alcantara in the mound, the Mets ability to come back was very much in question.
It was even more in question with the Mets blowing a chance to score in the sixth. After back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, Guillorme was called upon to bunt even with the bottom of the Mets lineup coming up.
Guillorme’s bunt didn’t get close enough to the third base line allowing Jeff Brigham to nail Alonso at third. After that Hechavarria struck out, and Todd Frazier pinch hit for Gsellman and grounded out to end the inning.
Brigham would not have the same luck in the seventh as he allowed homers to Davis,
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 6, 2019
Clutch moonshot. 💪💪💪 pic.twitter.com/hZ6y8BHtIm
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 6, 2019
and finally Alonso.
Clutch polar bear. ❄️🐻 pic.twitter.com/5PTjnMo9wM
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 6, 2019
The blast was a huge one for Alonso who had the longest homerless drought of his career. He may not be hitting as many homers in the second half, but he is sure making them count right now.
With the doubleheader sweep, the Mets are now over .500 for the first time since May 2nd. At the moment, they’re 2.0 games back and will be either 1.5 or 2.5 games back depending on what the Nationals and Phillies do.
The Mets also find themselves 8.5 games back of the Braves with nine head-to-head matchups allowing us to still dream.
Game Notes: Robinson Cano was placed on the IL with a torn hamstring. Juan Lagares got the first chance to replace him in the lineup with McNeil at second. In the doubleheader, Lagares was 0-for-3 with three walks and a strikeout.
The Mets went to San Francisco with a chance to take a series against the Giants, pull to at least five games under .500, and surpass the Giants in the Wild Card standings. Instead, they managed to blow three games and probably leave their chances of making the postseason in San Francisco.
1. The Mets outscored the Giants by a healthy margin in this series, but that was only because of Saturday’s blowout. Putting that game aside, both teams were as feckless as can be at the plate. In some ways, both teams being alive in the Wild Card chase is a black mark for baseball.
2. The play which blew the Friday night game perfectly encapsulates the season. Dominic Smith doesn’t make a play partially because he is playing out of position. Unlike Robinson Cano, Alex Dickerson hustled around the base paths. Then, after Todd Frazier astutely cut it off, Wilson Ramos was nowhere near the play, nor did he even attempt to get into position.
3. In short, on one play we saw the effects of the Mets playing guys out of position, playing poor defense, and having their high priced veterans not perform up to the level they need to perform. Throw in the Mets blowing a completely winnable game, and you have the 2019 Mets in a nutshell.
4. The more you look at it, the more you realize Ramos is the biggest issue with this team. His catching has forced the pitching staff to bring pitches up in the hitting zone because of his framing and inability to effectively block pitches. As we saw on Friday night’s play, there are times you question how fully engaged he is. Finally, he’s a shell of himself offensively. Moving him at the trade deadline needs to be a priority.
7. The way Smith responded to the play was incredible. On the first pitch he saw, he would hit a homer. In that game, he was 3-f0r-5 with that homer and four RBI. The way Smith put everything behind him speaks well to his future.
8. Of course, we should not be surprised about Smith’s response. After all, this is the same guy who responded to struggling in parts of his first two Major League seasons, getting surpassed on the depth chart, and his battles with sleep apnea. Smith is a fighter and a hard worker. Dealing with him this offseason is going to be a conundrum.
9. As we saw with his snapping the bat over his leg, Pete Alonso is both fatigued and frustrated. That sums up how every Mets fan feels after staying up or trying to stay up for the Thursday and Friday night debacles.
10. Alonso sitting on Saturday is a testament to the veteran presence of Frazier, who told Alonso and Mickey Callaway about the fatigue which sets in after the Home Run Derby. Considering how the Mets clubhouse fell apart when the Mets moved Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce in 2017, the Mets should consider keeping someone like him around to help this team continue to develop and prepare to be contenders in 2020.
11. It should also be noted with all the deals Van Wagenen has made in his Mets tenure, no one should trust his ability to trade anything for any value at the trade deadline. In all likelihood, when he is done, we will long for the days of the return of “prospects” like Nogosek, Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan, Ryder Ryan, Will Toffey, Drew Smith, etc.
12. Maybe it is time Jeff McNeil gets a day off. So far in the second half, he is hitting .268/.318/.488. Mets need much more from him than this.
13. It gets frustrating seeing how Mets fans choose to overlook some guys while constantly making others a perennial target. For example, Michael Conforto was chastised for not coming through in one pinch hitting attempt on Friday night, but McNeil, who three times failed to knock in the go-ahead run, had nary a bad word said about him.
14. Really, Mets fans don’t deserve Conforto much in the same way they don’t deserve Noah Syndergaard. With both players, all we hear is nitpicking over them instead of just enjoying them for the really good players they are.
15. The Mets offensive cold snaps were beyond frustrating in this series. After scoring a run in the first inning of the first game, they did not score another run until the 16th inning. After that, they didn’t score another run until Saturday’s game. After hitting two homers in the second inning Sunday, they didn’t score another run. If you’re not scoring runs, you can’t win.
16. The pitching staff was as good as you could ask during this series. The only blips were Chris Mazza and Stephen Nogosek. For Mazza, he was pressed into action in a spot where it was going to be difficult to succeed, and Nogosek struggled in mop up work.
17. Going back to Mazza, it shows how seemingly meaningless decisions come to matter. When the Mets needed someone to wrap things up in what became a laugher in Minnesota, the Mets turned to Mazza for the final two innings. The team did this despite knowing Jacob Rhame had a suspension looming. The end result was being an arm short in a 16 inning game the subsequent day pressing Mazza, a pitcher who just threw two innings, to work multiple innings again.
18. In what is becoming a lost season (if it wasn’t one already), the Mets need to stop pushing Seth Lugo. He’s too valuable a bullpen arm going forward. Don’t mess that up to chase games in July and August when you did nothing to really build the bullpen when you had the opportunity.
19. The hopes for a Cano turnaround are quickly fading with him now three for his last 21. If Brodie Van Wagenen had a clue, he’d spend the offseason finding a way for a team to take on Cano’s contract because Cano is one of the reasons why the Mets are going to struggle to compete in the ensuring seasons.
20. It was sad to see Matt Harvey get designated for assignment. For years, he was the source of hope for Mets fans, and he really did all he could do to get the Mets a World Series in 2015. Hopefully, he finds a way back to the Mets to work with Phil Regan and build himself back to being a good pitcher. More than that, here’s hoping he finds a fit like he did in Cincinnati last year where he can get the most out of the stuff he still has.
Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Mets have a real opportunity to get on a run at least get near being a contender for the first time since 2016. So far, well, they did the bare minimum:
1. Brodie Van Wagenen had a press conference with beat reporters where he accepted no personal responsibility, made attempts at self deprecation (saying they got us), and offered no apologies for his throwing a chair in a meeting with his coaching staff.
2. If both Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom prefer throwing to Tomas Nido, why wouldn’t the Mets split them up in the rotation? By not doing that, the Mets had Wilson Ramos catching deGrom on Sunday because it was a day game after a night game. It makes zero sense.
3. It also made sense to come out of the break in a very crucial stretch with Jason Vargas. Since his threatening to assault a reporter, Vargas is 0-2 with a 5.94 ERA. At what point do the Mets really question whether he is worth all the drama and under-performing?
4. Syndergaard looked like the Syndergaard of old. He had much more confidence not only on the mound but also in his slider. He struck out nine and walked none. Historically, he’s pitched well at Marlins Park, so let’s see him be able to replicate this start again.
5. It doesn’t matter that it came against the Mets. It was awesome to see Curtis Granderson homer and steal a homer in the series. Granderson was a good Met, and he is one of the best people to ever don a Major League uniform.
6. There were signs of life from Robinson Cano who had two homers and a four hit game in the series. With the Mets ability to make a miracle run this second half and really just to compete for the postseason in the ensuing four years, the Mets need him to look like the Cano of old and not just an old Cano.
7. One thing Cano pointed to was his getting hit on the hand twice earlier in the year. It’s a fair statement as we have seen this impact many players. On that note, Cano is hitting .344/.364/.563 in July.
8. On the topic of Cano, it is interesting to see Amed Rosario benched for failing to run out a ball that is caught 99.99% of the time while Cano was defended time and again by Mickey Callaway. This certainly sends a mixed message to everyone.
9. On the topic of mixed messages, it is beyond bizarre Callaway would tell beat reporters this was a planned day off for Rosario while also telling SNY this was a punishment. There really has to be something wrong here when Callaway is clearly giving different messages to everyone. Is this just a Mets thing, or is this a Callaway thing? You just never know with this organization.
10. The Rosario ordeal overshadows just how well he has played of late. In July, Rosario is hitting .385/.429/.462. Over his last 22 games, he is hitting .347/.370/.467. In this series, he also looked as good as he has ever looked in a Mets uniform.
11. On Rosario’s defense, it’s noteworthy Van Wagenen is tweeting out how Rosario is being worked out by the team on areas where his is deficient just days after Van Wagenen once again outright refused to accept any personal responsibility for his role in assembling what has been a bad team.
12. On that front, good for Mike Francesa for letting Van Wagenen know he has been terrible and that the fans have no trust in him. If only Francesa would do the same to Jeff Wilpon who is the biggest source of problems with this organization.
13. As Matt Ehalt of Yahoo pointed out, Jeff McNeil has moved towards being more reckless than aggressive on the basepaths. We saw that manifest with him over sliding a base to end an inning during this series.
14. With McNeil doing so many things well this year like playing multiple positions more than adequately, leading the league in hitting, and getting a hit in three straight coming out of the break, we shouldn’t over dwell on the base running. In fact, in some ways, it’s nice to know he is human.
15. With Pete Alonso going 1-for-10 in the series, lets not start this nonsense saying the Home Run Derby ruined him. Lost in those stats, Alonso drew two walks, and he did have a homer robbed by Granderson.
16. If you want caution with Alonso, it’s the fact he is not quite as good the second or third time against a team. For example, in his first series against the Marlins, he was 3-for-10 with a double, homer, and four RBI. In the ensuing eight games, he is 4-for-26 with three homers, and four RBI. We have seen something similar with the Phillies and Nationals.
17. This is the second time this year Dominic Smith has slumped, but it is the first time he has done so as a starter. Given all he has overcome just to become the team’s starting left fielder, there is hope he can once again figure things out and start hitting again.
18. Of all the positive developments of the year, one of the most amazing has been Smith’s play in left field. At times, he looked clueless out there last year. This year, he has actually played to a 1 DRS. That is a small sample size, but it sure does seem miraculous.
19. Before Michael Conforto sustained a concussion in his collision with Cano, he was hitting .271/.406/.521, and he seemed to be a pretty good bet to be an All Star. Since his concussion, he is hitting .213/.307/.419. While he may have been cleared to play, it is very possible he needed more time to recover.
20. This was the Mets first road series win since they ripped off two straight to begin the year. As a result, they have the worst road record in the National League. If they want to perform a miracle this year, they are going to have to start playing much better on the road. Winning the series against the Marlins was a start. Winning a series in Minnesota would be an actual reason for hope. We’ll see.
Entering the All Star Break, the Mets were 10 games under .500 which was good for the second worst record in the National League. That all but forced Brodie Van Wagenen to admit the National League did come and get his Mets.
For some reason or other, the Mets opted to pitch Jason Vargas coming out of the break. Vargas would pitch like Vargas allowing back-to-back homers to Curtis Granderson and Garrett Cooper in the third helping to turn a 2-0 lead into a 4-2 deficit.
That would be the score as the Vargas and his hat coveted in some form of white powder began the sixth. He couldn’t get an out, and he’d allow an RBI double to Cooper. Robert Gsellman was of no relief allowing a homer to Brian Anderson. When the sixth was finally over, it was 7-2 Marlins.
Since threatening Tim Healey of Newsday, Vargas is 0-2 with a 5.94 ERA. Perhaps like Van Wagenen, Vargas should spend less time challenging others and more time focusing on not being terrible at his job.
The Mets began a ten game road trip where they could get back into things getting manhandled by the Marlins. We’re running out of things to say about this terrible team.
Game Notes: Wilmer Font was designated for assignment before the game to permit the Mets to call up Mazza.
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 10, 2019
By the time the first inning was over, it was 8-0 Mets, which essentially meant it was game over. Really, the Mets abused Lopez. The young pitcher allowed 10 earned over two innings.
Conforto crush job. 😳 pic.twitter.com/W0bmgxJaSP
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 10, 2019
Conforto snapped an 0-for-12 streak heading into the game. He would not make an out going 3-for-3 with a walk, HBP, three runs, and the aforementioned homer.
Later in the game, Jeff McNeil hit a homer of his own, and Nimmo had an RBI single giving the Mets an 11-2 lead.
Every Mets starter, including Wheeler, reached base safely. Pete Alonso was the only Mets starter without a hit, and he’d still walk twice and score a run.
Overall, a Mets team scuffling and incapable of scoring runs got real healthy against a terrible Marlins team. This is what the Mets are going to have to continue to do to not just get to .500, but also make headway in the division.
This past offseason in an effort to build outfield depth, Brodie Van Wagenen traded prospects Adam Hill and Felix Valerio along with Bobby Wahl to the Brewers for Keon Broxton. With Wahl suffering a torn ACL in his knee, it does not appear like the players given up by the Mets will haunt them this year. It will be quite a while before Hill or Valerio have a chance to establish themselves, and by that point, this trade will largely be a distant memory.
When looking at this trade, the issues aren’t so much the prospects traded. It is about Broxton as a player.
After impressing as a 26 year old rookie in 2016, Broxton has not been a good baseball player. In his only full season as a starter, he had an 85 wRC+ and a – DRS meaning he was subpar at the plate and in the field. Certainly, this was one of the reasons which drove the Brewers to sign Lorenzo Cain as a free agent.
As a bench piece last year, Broxton did show some value as a defensive replacement. In 134.1 innings, he had an 11 DRS and a 6.5 UZR. Now, the UZR was a complete outlier for him, but it should be noted Broxton did have a 9 DRS two seasons prior. In essence, there was every reason to believe Broxton was a good defensive outfielder. He may not have been great, but you could make the case he was good.
When you look at the Mets team, they didn’t have a need for that type of player. In fact, the Mets already had that in Juan Lagares, who the team was already scheduled to pay $9 million. Considering Lagares’ contract was going to be next to impossible to move, the team was really adding a duplicative player who played worse defense.
There could be an argument here that even at 28 Broxton had some untapped offensive potential. After all, this was a guy who had good power, and he had a very good 24.1 percent HR/FB ratio. If you could get him to stop striking out at an insanely high clip (36.9 percent) and get him to lift the ball more (1.45 GB/FB), maybe you had something there. Reasonably, the Mets could have believed Chili Davis was the hitting coach to bring that out of him.
Herein lies the issue with Broxton. The Mets needed a contingency for what if Davis couldn’t get through to him right away. Typically speaking, you’d like to send a player like that down to the minors, especially since you have a player like Lagares on the roster. However, the Mets can’t do that because Broxton is out of options.
To make matters worse, the Mets are bereft of outfield depth. That’s one of the reasons why Jeff McNeil became an everyday outfielder on this team (the other is the team has far too many duplicative infielders). Partially due to Broxton’s presence, the Mets sat idly by while quality outfielders like Curtis Granderson (who also could have served as a left-handed bat off the bench) signed cheap free agent deals with other teams.
So far, the Mets have made a mistake bringing Broxton aboard. He is someone who is duplicative, and he is someone without options. Unless Van Wagenen is willing to do to Broxton what he did to Travis d’Arnaud, Broxton is going to continue taking up space on this roster while contributing very little. There is time for that to change, but it’s hard to see it changing without Broxton getting the at-bats he needs to improve as a player.
Brandon Nimmo got it started with a leadoff single, and he would end the inning with a groundout. It was exactly that type of start with the Mets scoring five runs in the first highlighted by RBI singles by Wilson Ramos and Dominic Smith and an RBI double by Amed Rosario.
In the first, Vargas would make that lead look tenuous. Starting with old friend Curtis Granderson‘s double, the Marlins were hitting the ball very hard off Vargas. Really, as Tim Ryder pointed out, the Marlins were hitting rockets off him.
It was a miracle Vargas only allowed two runs on eight hits through five innings.
The Mets would have spurts here and there, but it would not be until the seventh that the Mets scored another run, and it would cost them.
The Mets loaded the bases against Nationals reliever Wei-Yin Chen. One of those hits was an opposite field single. His two opposite field singles on the day were reminiscent of Tony Gwynn and the 5.5 hole.
Entering the game, Nimmo was struggling mightily going 1-for-13. Today, he looked much more like Nimmo going 1-for-3 with a run, walk, and HBP. The HBP forced home a run, and it would be costly as it forced him from the game. While preliminary x-rays were negative, the hand tends to be fickle.
After two quick outs in the seventh, JT Riddle singled. Lugo then hit Jorge Alfaro before allowing RBI singles to Lewis Brinson and Peter O’Brien (who was apparently taking the night off from kicking puppies).
Now, Lugo had been double switched into the game with Jeff McNeil again being the player lifted from the game. This was an indication Mickey Callaway was looking for two innings from him. Still, seeing Lugo’s seventh, bringing him in would be completely tone deaf.
Apparently, Callaway is time deaf.
Wilson came up huge getting Riddle to hit an RBI groundout before striking out Alfaro to escape the jam.
Then, for some reason, even though he’s not a real multi-inning reliever, Callaway kept Wilson in to get the save.
Fortunately, two of those hard hit balls were liners right at Rosario. The latter of which Rosario turned into an inning ending double play after O’Brien fell trying to get back to second.
The Mets needed all the help and luck they could get, and they got it. As a result, they overcame poor starting pitching, a struggling Lugo, and an asleep at the wheel Callaway in the 6-5 win.
Game Notes: Smith got his first start and went 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. Pete Alonso got the night off and struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh off Chen. Despite going 0-for-4, Juan Lagares was on base three times tonight (fielder’s choice, wild pitch on strikeout, walk).
Like with most prospects, Pete Alonso has been mostly adjudged by his tools and his production on the field. His biggest proponents see a power hitter whose game translates well to the Major League level. His detractors see a poor fielding first baseman who may never hit quality pitching. Universally, people who have met or analyzed Alonso come away with the impression that he is a hard working player who is going to get the most out of his talent.
Over the past year, another factor is becoming increasingly obvious. Alonso has not only been a popular teammate, but one who has seen his former teammates jump at the chance to either laud him or come to his defense.
For most people, we first became aware of how good a teammate Alonso was in July 2018. In response to a question about Jeff McNeil‘s projectibility at the Major League level, ESPN‘s Keith Law largely discredited McNeil’s production citing his age and the hitting environment. Alonso did not miss this exchange, and he felt compelled to stick up for this teammate:
@keithlaw The kid rakes and has hit pretty much everywhere he’s been. How can you discredit a .400 average in AAA?
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) July 6, 2018
As we know now, Alonso and McNeil had grown close during that 2018 season as both players were doing all they could do to force the Mets to call them up to the majors. Whenever asked the question, McNeil would say how Alonso is going to hit for power at the Major League level, and he made it a point to show Alonso’s highlights on his Twitter account.
With Alonso, it is more than just his teammates having fun and sharing in his highlights. Recently, we have also seen his teammates come rushing to his defense in a similar fashion to which Alonso once did for McNeil.
Notably, when an unnamed scout told Baseball America Alonso has never hit a slider and may not have the “skills to be a hitter,” his teammates would have something to say about it. Among those players expressing bemusement or stepping up to defend Alonso included Anthony Kay.
When he was called up to the majors, most of his former teammates took time to celebrate and congratulate him. In that first game, Alonso was one the first guy to congratulate Dominic Smith after he scored the second run of the game. What made that moment all the more inspiring was how these two players are rivals for the same position, and if Alonso were to slip up, Smith would be in a position to take over his role. That didn’t matter to Alonso, who was just happy for his team and his teammate.
This should come as no surprise as Alonso said of Smith during Spring Training, “Me and Dom, we played together last year, we spent some good time this year. I’m really happy he’s playing well this spring. I don’t want anyone to do bad. He’s a teammate of mine. I want him to do his best as he can and do the best I can.” (Matt Ehalt, Yahoo).
That attitude has long been noticed and appreciated by his teammates as he has gone through the Mets minor league system. That’s why when MMO‘s Michael Mayer shared the moment on Twitter, former Mets prospect Anthony Dimino would tweet, “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking the field with! Deserves to be up there and will be for a long time.”
While we have seen the prodigious homers from Alonso, we are now seeing how his power may pale in comparison to the type of person and teammate he is. These are the qualities which once endeared Mets fans to Curtis Granderson, and it is the type of qualities which will make Alonso a fan favorite in very short order . . . if he isn’t one already.
During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.
The significance of 68? Well, it was just next in line.
It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.
Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.
Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.
Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.
Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.
As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.
Back in 1987, well after Spring Training had begun, a defeated and dejected Andre Dawson went to the Chicago Cubs and gave them a blank contract where they could fill-in his compensation. Dawson was forced to do that because no Major League team, not even the Montreal Expos where he had spent 11 years, had shown an interest in signing him.
At that time, Dawson was 31 years old, and he was coming off a season where he hit .284/.338/.478 with 32 doubles, 20 homers, and 78 RBI. In his then 11 year career, he already had won the Rookie of the Year, six Gold Gloves, and he was a three time All-Star. To think no one wanted his services is beyond ludicrous.
As we would later discover, this was the result of collusion among owners, which continued to sow the mistrust between owners the MLBPA.
Since that time, things have dramatically improved to the point where the last two Collective Bargaining Agreements were ratified without so much as a hint of a work stoppage. Owners, players, and even fans have been able to enjoy the financial success of the sport, and they have seen the sport grow.
However, now, there are the seeds of mistrust being sown again.
This is something which has been building for a while now. It seems each offseason there is increasingly less activity during the Winter Meetings. Seemingly, teams are all individually yet collectively trying to wait out the market. Teams will tell you they are smarter than they have been in the past, and maybe they are, but there is something suspicious about what is transpiring.
Pitchers and catchers have less than one week before they have to report to Spring Training. Typically, this is the time of year where teams are finding their last pieces of the puzzle. They are signing cheaper veterans, and they are looking to hand out minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training to help sure up their bench and depth.
That’s not the case this year. Rather, there are real difference makers still available in free agency in a way that we have never seen before in the history of free agency:
Craig Kimbrel is the active saves leader, and he is coming off his third consecutive All-Star season where he saved 42 games, which was the third most in the Majors last year.
Gio Gonzalez is one year removed from a top six Cy Young finish, and he was 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in five starts for the Brewers as they fought for the Central Division title down the stretch.
Additionally, Mike Moustakas has the third most homers among third basemen over the past two seasons, and Adam Jones is a five time All Starhe has been an above average league hitter in nine of the past 10 seasons including his being just one of 37 outfielders with a wRC+ over 100 over the past two seasons.
While you can make a case for or against each one of these players, the fact these players remain on the free agent market in addition to other valuable commodities is ponderous. There is also the issue with Curtis Granderson and Jerry Blevins needing to accept minor league deals despite having been valuable Major League players for the past few seasons.
As bad as these instances are, there is Jacob deGrom.
Just last summer, his agent said, “We have discussed Jacob’s future with the Mets at length. Jacob has expressed interest in exploring a long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come. If the Mets don’t share same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”
This was as soft a trade demand as you can get. Really, this was a demand for a contract extension. The hope was with a new General Manager in place with a new plan, the Mets could pursue that extension. The only problem is the Mets would hire deGrom’s agent as their new General Manager, and Brodie Van Wagenen has not seemed intent on giving his former client the contract extension he asserted deGrom deserved.
That’s the current state of affairs between the players and owners. The owners are keeping player salaries down, and they are hiring player agents and having those agents not making good on their own demands. Even if you think what the owners are doing is justifiable, it is clear the players are not getting the same deals they once were on the free agent market.
This is why you see players like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt looking for contract extensions with their current teams so as to not be in the same position as this year’s group of free agents. It is why you will eventually see the union striking before the end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.