Curtis Granderson

Francisco Lindor Will Have Huge Second Year With Mets

In 2005, after signing what was the largest contract in New York Mets history, Carlos Beltran couldn’t have had a worse season. He went from an All-Star and postseason hero to a below average hitter with a 2.9 WAR. Things were so bad, he even would even have a horrific collision with Mike Cameron in the outfield. He was literally bloodied and broken from his first year with the Mets.

On Opening Day the following season, there was a smattering of boos for Beltran. That seems odd considering the Mets actually had some postseason aspirations for the first time since the 2000 World Series. It turned out to be outright stupid given what Beltran would do in 2006.

That 2006 season could very well be seen as the best individual season a Mets position player has ever had. Beltran had an astounding 8.2 WAR. He hit .275/.388/.594 with 38 doubles, one triple, 41 homers, and 116 RBI. The numbers almost don’t do it justice. It was a season of Gold Glove caliber defense in center and clutch homers. It is difficult to go through that season and choose just one highlight.

It was that season where Beltran put himself on a Hall of Fame path. Over a three year span, he had a 20.6 WAR. There were Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, and All-Star appearances. He did all he could do in that stretch to get the Mets to the postseason and win the World Series.

Certainly, Beltran isn’t unique in those first year struggles with the Mets. Mike Piazza was actually booed before becoming one of the most beloved players in team history. Curtis Granderson went from massive disappointment to a team leader who brought the Mets to the doorstep of the World Series, and in the end, became one of the most respected men to ever don the Mets uniform. The examples are countless with this franchise.

That includes Francisco Lindor.

Lindor came to the Mets with much fanfare, and he signed a historic 10 year $341 million extension. Essentially, Lindor said he wanted to be a part of the Mets for the rest of his career, and more to the point, he wanted to be the first player to truly sign on to what Steve Cohen is going to bring to the Mets franchise.

It just didn’t quite work out in the first year. He hit .230/.322/.412 with 16 doubles, three triples, 20 homers, and 63 RBI. He was slightly better than 2005 Beltran with a 3.1 WAR. He was still Gold Glove caliber with the glove, but ultimately, this isn’t the player Lindor has been throughout his career. That said, there were some flashes:

That’s the thing with Lindor. The talent is still there. Just like with Beltran in 2005 or Piazza in 1998, we knew it was there. We just didn’t see it partially because those players were trying to get comfortable in an extraordinarily difficult place to play. Assuredly, the booing didn’t help any of these players.

Lindor is cut from the same cloth as Beltran and Piazza. He’s a Hall of Famer. He’s a truly great player. He just needed that first year of New York under his belt to get comfortable. He is going to succeed here because he’s a great player. He’s going to have a great year because he’s a great player. Ultimately, we saw the flashes from Lindor in 2021, and we’re going to see him put it all together in 2022.

 

Starling Marte Carries Real Regression Risk

One of the more coveted free agent outfielders at the moment is Starling Marte. He really stands out among a very thin crowd due to his speed, his ability to play center, and his not having a qualifying offer attached.

Marte is coming off a season where he had a 4.7 WAR while hitting .310/.383/.458 with 27 doubles, three triples, 12 homers, and 55 RBI. He led the majors in stolen bases while being successful in 47 of his 52 stolen base attempts. Marte had a career high 133 wRC+, and he had a 3 OAA in center.

Part of the career high 133 wRC+ were some big positives. Marte had a career best 8.3 BB%. The 39.6 hard hit percentage was also the best of his career. The 8.4 barrel percentage was also the very best of his career. Really, across the board, this was the best year of his career at the plate.

When you combine the bat with the base running and defense, it was an All-Star caliber season. In fact, by WAR, it was the fourth best year of his career. This should be the exact type of player you want to invest in during free agency. If you get him, your team should be thrilled.

Well, maybe.

There are some real red flags for Marte. First and foremost, with his turning 33 after the 2021 season was over, Marte is firmly, at least by age, on the outside of the prime seasons of his career. This may or may not be fair to Marte, but we have seen it several times.

For every Carlos Beltran with the Cardinals and Yankees or Curtis Granderson with the Mets, you get a lot of busts. The history of free agency is replete with them. When you sign players that age, it’s difficult to ascertain which way the rest of their career is going to go. That would be an argument to try to get Marte to a short-term deal, but with the amount of suitors, that may not be possible.

There are other issues beyond age. While there were some real standout numbers driving the career best 133 wRC+, there were some problematic numbers. While Marte has always had a higher BABIP, he had a .369 BABIP, a number which is going to drop precipitously. Even with the hard hit rate and barrels, Marte’s .148 ISO was the third worst of his career, and it was the second straight year his ISO dropped. It should also be noted his average exit velocity was one of the worst in the majors.

More alarming with Marte is his speed. Like with the ISO, he’s had a two year drop in sprint speed. With the drop in speed comes some problems because much of his value is wrapped up in his speed. His speed is behind his terrific base running. It is why his BABIPs have been traditionally high. It is a driving force of his defense.

Overall, Marte is a very good player. We don’t know how long he will be very good. We don’t know what his regression will look like. Perhaps, it will be gradual. Maybe, he will fall off a cliff. Standing here right now, it is very difficult to know how 2022 and the ensuing years will go for Marte.

In the end, if your team signs Marte, you should be very happy. Marte is a very good player and a real difference maker. That said, there are some real areas of concern, and no one should be surprised if he can’t replicate his 2021 season. No one should be surprised if he can’t replicate even an average Marte season.

 

Umpires Mar Great NLDS On Garbage Call

Like 2015, Wilmer Flores was the last man standing between elimination and celebration. Once again, an umpire made a horrendous call.

Back in the 12th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Home Plate Umpire Alfonso Marquez called Flores out looking despite the Wade Davis pitch being well off the plate. Truth be told that call didn’t impact the series as the Mets trailed 7-2.

That’s not the case in Game 5 of the 2021 NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers leading 2-1 in the winner-take-all game. Kris Bryant represented the tying run at first, and Flores, the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI was at the plate.

Max Scherzer was up 0-2 in the count, and Flores entered the at-bat 0-for-17 against Scherzer. And yet, there was still a chance. That was until first base umpire Gabe Morales made a call which had even Don Dekinger shaking his head:

As Jimmy Rollins said in the postgame, Morales is the only person on the planet who thought Flores swung. Curtis Granderson heavily inferred Morales choked under the pressure.

It wasn’t the only completely blown check swing call by Morales in this series. Going back to the Bryant fourth inning strikeout with five of six pitches out of the zone, it wasn’t even the only series changing blown call.

Put another way. MLB Umpires blew a call they can’t blow. It wasn’t close. It was an embarrassment to the sport. It needs to be fixed and corrected, but Rob Manfred and the Umpire’s Union has zero interest in that. Simply put, they don’t care AT ALL, and that’s why this garbage will continue to happen.

Kevin Long Again Made Case To Be Mets Manager

It was a very poorly kept secret back in 2017 if he had his druthers Sandy Alderson wanted to hire Kevin Long to succeed Terry Collins as the New York Mets manager. Long didn’t take anything for granted coming extremely prepared for the interview with binders of information. More than that, he had already had a profound impact on the Mets organization rejuvenating Curtis Granderson while transforming Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy.

However, it wasn’t to be. Instead, Jeff Wilpon got it in his mind he wanted to have Mickey Callaway as the manager. Despite Callaway interviewing poorly, it was enough for Wilpon to hire Callaway after one interview because the Philadelphia Phillies showed interest. As Mets fans can recall, this went over about as well as when the Mets included Jarred Kelenic in the Robinson Cano trade because the Phillies showed interest in Edwin Diaz.

Since then, the managerial position has been a disaster for the Mets. Callaway proved to be an awful human being harassing female reporters. After him, the Mets hired and then were effectively forced to fire Carlos Beltran. In a mad scramble, they hired Luis Rojas while completely failing to give him any chance to succeed in the position. Rather that let him continue to grow, the team has decided they need to go in a different direction.

Now, there are many moving pieces before the Mets get to hire a new manager. The biggest is the need to hire a new president of baseball operations. Presumably, that is the person who will and should have the biggest input on who the Mets next manager will be. Whatever the case, the Mets have the right to correct the mistake they made in 2017 and hire Long.

For his part, Long served the world with a reminder why he was managerial material. During the National League Wild Card Game, he was sitting next to superstar Juan Soto, a player Long has helped get the most out of his ability. Soto was wearing a Trea Turner jersey (another player Long has helped immensely) while Long wore a Max Scherzer jersey.

In that moment, you saw everything you could have possibly wanted to see from a future manager of your team. He was standing there with his star player, a player in Soto he helped take from a 19 year old wunderkind to a bona fide Major League superstar. More than that, he showed the incredibly great relationship he fostered with his superstar player, the very type of relationship a manager absolutely needs to have any level of success.

We also saw the sense of loyalty he has for his players. He went out there to support both Turner and Scherzer. It was a moment which meant so much to them Scherzer made sure to go over to the stands to celebrate his team’s walk-off win with them. Keep in mind here, Scherzer is a free agent who should be on everyone’s radar.

When we look at the modern game and the current status of the managerial role, it is increasingly about relationships with the players and the ability to communicate. It’s no longer about Gil Hodges playing a hunch or Davey Johnson trusting his eyes over the data. Increasingly, it’s about taking the game plan prepared by the front office and not just executing it, but getting the players to buy in on the plan.

Putting aside what happened in the NL Wild Card Game, this is exactly what Long does. He helped transform Cespedes from a wild swinger to a player better able to identify his pitch and become a monster at the plate. There was also Murphy who went from gap to gap hitter to a legitimate threat at the plate. Murphy showed the 2015 postseason wasn’t a fluke by any means when he became an All-Star and MVP candidate with the Washington Nationals. It should be noted Long followed Murphy to Washington, D.C.

In total, Long is what you want in a manager. He can process data and translate it to players in a way where they can understand and execute it. We also see he is a coach who can foster great relationships with this players. He is also loyal to his players, and they love him. Short of being able to steal away the Bob Melvins of the world, you’re not going to find a better managerial candidate than Long.

Alderson knew it in 2017, and he can do what he wanted to do back then and make Long the Mets manager. If that is the case, we can expect the maddening Mets offense to finally click and for this team to reach the World Series potential we know they have.

Michael Conforto, He Didn’t Give Up

In what may be the last time Michael Conforto plays at Citi Field as a member of the New York Mets, he would have a night to remember. He was 3-for-5 with a run, double, and two RBI. That double came in his final at-bat of the night:

This night was the type of night we always expected from Conforto. He had clutch hits and terrific defensive plays in right field. The fans serenaded him and begged him to stay. It was just an emotional night with him at center stage:

If we look at just last night, it was a fitting end to Conforto’s time in New York, at least the Citi Field portion. However, expanding it out, it just doesn’t feel like Conforto would be leaving the right way. There is just too much unfinished business for him here.

When Conforto was first called up, we saw a superstar. In his rookie year, he certainly delivered on that. Yes, we will always go back to the two home runs in Game Four of the 205 World Series, but it was much more than that. As an aside, the fact we don’t call that Conforto Corner is our collective failure.

He’d homer in Game 2 of the NLDS. He had a sacrifice fly in Game 1 of the World Series. In a moment forever burned in my memory, Conforto came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game Five. The Mets were down 7-2, there were two outs, and he was down in the count 1-2 to Wade Davis. Conforto didn’t give up. In fact, he would single.

In many ways, that is what should truly define Conforto’s tenure with the New York Mets – He didn’t give up.

After that rookie season, he would come out and establish himself as the best player on the Mets at the start of the 2016 season. That was until he got hurt. Between the injury and changing positions, Conforto fought it all year long. Instead of acknowledging the impact of the injury, an unfair narrative emerged. They put the label on him he couldn’t hit left-handed pitching and that Madison Bumgarner broke him.

It seems dumb in retrospect, but Conforto wasn’t quite guaranteed a starting job in 2017. Conforto would force his way into the lineup, and he would emerge as a new style of lead-off hitter. He would become an All-Star. At the time, it seemed like the first of many. Unfortunately, partially because of a devastating shoulder injury, to date, it would be Conforto’s only appearance.

It was a downright miracle Conforto was ready for Opening Day in 2018. Actually, it was a miracle and downright malpractice by the Mets organization. Instead of giving him the time he really needed, they pushed him forward. He struggled early on leaving many to wonder if he would ever fulfill his promise; if the injury robbed him of his career.

Conforto would have a strong second half in 2018, and he would carry that forward into 2019. He’d do that while moving to right field to help the team, and he would do it while being a leader. Early on, the Mets knew Conforto was a true leader. It wasn’t that the Wilpons saw and pushed it like they did with David Wright. Rather, it was what the clubhouse themselves saw.

Players like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson would take Conforto under their wing and help guide him. This would pay dividends later as Conforto would emerge as the true leader in the clubhouse. He was always front and center answering questions, and he made sure to quash any problems which could emerge in the Mets clubhouse as a result of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal.

In the disaster that was the 2020 season, Conforto was one of the best players in all of baseball. While the Mets did falter, Conforto was truly great. By OPS+, it was his best year at the plate. He was that .300 hitter we all knew he could be one day. If there was an All-Star team, he would’ve been one. This is where his career should have springboarded.

With Conforto’s Job like luck, he’d get COVID entering Spring Training. Then, he’d suffer a hamstring injury. This really robbed him of the chance to get get up to game shape and speed. Like in 2016 and 2018, he would struggle. But this is Michael Conforto, he just wouldn’t give up.

Starting in August, we saw the real Conforto again. Over his final 57 games of the season (with three still to go), he hit .266/.367/.441 with 10 doubles, seven homers, and 28 RBI. That’s in a year where he had every reason to never recover or put up any good numbers. As discussed above, he would have one final great moment at Citi Field in a Mets uniform.

Now, Conforto is heading into free agency. Between the Mets front office in flux, his agent being Scott Boras, and the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, no one knows what this means for Conforto and his time on the New York Mets. In many ways, it would be unfair to him and the fans to see it end like this.

Conforto has more in him, and he has a destiny to fulfill here. Conforto deserves a World Series, and he deserves it with the Mets. If he stays, it can and will happen. After all, as we’ve seen throughout his Mets career, he just doesn’t give up, and he will keep coming back and doing great things. The Mets need to just keep him around longer to let him do that in right field in Citi Field where he hit the two homers in Game Four.

Happy 40th Birthday Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson, one of the best human beings to ever don a Major League uniform turns 40 today. Through his charitable work and play on the field, he left an everlasting impact on the game.

If not for Granderson, the 2015 New York Mets aren’t alive to make that miracle push in August and September. He was every bit the MVP of that team, and if things shook out differently, he would’ve been the World Series MVP.

He was a true leader who left an impact on the young team. He was also very fun starting the We Follow Lucas Duda Instagram account. Everything about him was great, and it truly was a pleasure seeing him play for the New York Mets.

He’s certainly one of the best players in Mets history, and he should have a spot in their Hall of Fame. In fact, there should be a spot for him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It’s a little known fact he’s the only man to win the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award four times. That’s two more than anyone else. Of course, he has also won the Roberto Clemente Award.

That’s why, today, we celebrate the life of a great baseball player and even better human being. Happy 40th Grandy.

Taijuan Walker Setting Stage To Be Mets Fan Favorite

New York Mets fans really love their players. That goes double for those players who implicitly get it on some level. Those players become fan favorites.

It’s not necessarily limited to the David Wrights and Mike Piazzas of the world. We’ve seen it with Wilmer Flores with his crying on the field and walk-off hits. Curtis Granderson was as good and decent a man who ever donned a Mets uniform.

The key with most of these fan favorites is they let the fans know they’re loved and appreciated. On some level, the player just gets in. With respect to that, we’re seeing some of that already with Taijuan Walker.

Already, we have seen Walker give a nod to the late, great Tom Seaver, a pitcher who will forever be in Mets fans hearts, by apparently celebrating his new contract with GTS wine:

Walker has also already engaged the fans. In his career, Walker has worn both 00 and 99. Apparently, he’s heavily considering both, and on that front, he’s invited Mets fans feedback:

What’s important is none of this appears phony. It’s does genuinely seem to be who he is. After all, he recently posted videos of him dunking and his attempting to dunk.

All told, Walker is already doing all the right things to show fans he gets it. He doesn’t just want to wear a Mets uniform. He wants to be a part of the fabric of the organization. Fans will notice and love him for it.

Don’t be surprised if Mets fans suddenly adore Walker. That will go double if he builds off a strong 2020 season to be a key cog in a rotation which carries the Mets to the World Series.

Mets Need To Extend Francisco Lindor PERIOD

When the New York Mets obtain a star, some have some trepidation. There are bad memories associated with the 1992 Mets as well as with future Hall of Famers like Roberto Alomar and All-Stars like Carlos Baerga.

Yes, those names were specifically chosen. They were not just chosen because they were great players before joining the Mets. They were also great Cleveland Indians players traded to the Mets.

What does that have to do with Francisco Lindor? In reality, absolutely nothing.

Alomar was 34 when the Mets obtained him. Baerga was hitting .267/.302/.396 with the Indians when the Mets obtained him.

Lindor is the best shortstop in baseball. In fact, since his debut in 2015, only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts have a higher WAR. That’s it. That’s the list.

No one asked if Trout should get the $426.5 million he received. There wasn’t a question about Betts’ $365 million extension. Yet, somehow, we see fans and articles question whether Lindor should receive an extension at all.

Really, it’s nonsense hand-wringing. It’s assuming everything goes wrong for the Mets. It’s remembering only the bad while conveniently forgetting Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, and even Johan Santana.

The Mets traded for those stars and gave them extensions. Hernandez led to the best stretch in Mets history and the team’s second World Series.

Piazza set records for homers as a catcher, led the Mets to consecutive postseasons for the first time in their history, the homer after 9/11, and he became the second player to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

Santana had the last great moment in Shea Stadium history, and to date, he’s thrown the only no-hitter in Mets history.

The point is for every Alomar, there’s a Piazza. For every Jason Bay or Bobby Bonilla, there’s a Carlos Beltran and Curtis Granderson.

There’s also the matter of next year’s free agent class. Lindor should find himself the biggest target, but Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story will also be available.

Do the Mets want to sort through this class and have the Los Angeles Dodgers run up the bidding like they did with Trevor Bauer, or the way the Toronto Blue Jays did with George Springer. That’s nothing to say of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox who are resetting under the luxury tax to position themselves to attack free agency next year.

That’s whenever free agency does begin. Remember, the CBA expires at the end of the season, which very well may lead to a strike or lockout. In those circumstances, it makes it all the more difficult to navigate your way through the offseason.

Regardless, all of that distracts from the main point. Francisco Lindor is a top three player in the sport and future Hall of Famer who is in his prime. Instead of inventing reasons to try to justify not extending him, we should all just demand the Mets extend him.

DH Or No DH, Mets Need a Third Baseman And Center Fielder

The position of the New York Mets seems to be defense only matters when you can have a designated hitter. If you have no DH, then you need to shoehorn in as many bats as you can into the lineup. In other words, the Mets are purposefully going to put out a sub-optimal defense and torpedo their pitching staff because of one position.

It’s beyond ridiculous.

Brandon Nimmo has averaged a -4 DRS in center over the past three seasons, and that is despite his not having played more than 350.1 innings at the position in any one year. Dominic Smith has averaged -2 DRS in left over the past three seasons despite not having played more than 219.0 innings in any season. J.D. Davis has averaged a -6 DRS at third over the past three seasons despite not having played more than 269.1 innings there in a season.

All told, these three players have proven themselves ill suited to handle the positions they are currently slated to play. What is maddening when you look at Nimmo and Smith is they are actually quite good at their real positions. Nimmo has a 5 DRS as a left fielder in his career, and Smith, after taking away his rookie season, has a 0 DRS as a first baseman.

It just seems bizarre to purposefully put these players in a position to purposefully fail. Nimmo belongs in left, Smith belongs at first, and Davis belongs on the bench. If you are a team operating responsibly, that is what you should unequivocally do.

Obviously, this is not taking into account Pete Alonso. Frankly, the Mets not addressing this logjam was their way of ignoring Alonso. In reality, the Mets are carrying three first baseman with him, Smith, and Davis. That’s three players for one position. That number grows to four when you look at Jose Martinez, who was signed to a minor league deal.

The Mets unwillingness to move one of those players this offseason has created a very real problem with this roster. Unless it is all a smokescreen, which it very well might, the actual plan is to put three first baseman on the field everyday and put a left fielder in center. They then hope this plan which always fails doesn’t fail again this time.

For some reason, that is a Sandy Alderson tactic. In the early years of Citi Field, we saw him jam Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and Daniel Murphy into the lineup. We also saw him try Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson in center rather than get a player who could actually go other there and handle the position on an everyday basis. At this point, you just wonder how much this was an accident and how much this is his actual plan.

Certainly, you can and should argue Alonso, Nimmo, and Smith need to play everyday. No one will argue with that proposition. However, they can’t do it all on the same roster. Center field is far too important of a defensive position.

You have to go back to 2012 and 2014 with the San Francisco Giants winning with Angel Pagan to find a team who won with a bad defensive center fielder. Before that, you have to go to Johnny Damon with the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Before that, there isn’t publicly available DRS information. All told, in this century, there is really just three seasons teams won without an at least decent center fielder.

If you are operating a baseball team, you can’t look at purposefully punt center field defense. It’s even worse by putting a first baseman next to the center fielder in left. Then, to make sure you’ve done all you can do to screw things up, you throw a first baseman at third in front of the third baseman in left. It’s ridiculous.

Really, there is no way the Mets can go forward with this roster to begin the season. They need to add an actual third baseman and an actual center fielder. If one of Alonso or Smith has to sit, so be it. That’s the position the Mets put themselves in. If you need to move one of them in a deal to address a need, do it, but only so long as it is a good deal.

All told, it is poor planning and team building to purposefully put out a terrible defensive outfield. We saw in 2020 how much that can completely derail a season. We’ve seen it other times in Mets history. Whether or not there is a DH, the Mets still need to find everyday players at third and center.

Period.

Extend Michael Conforto And Name Him Captain

When new Mets catcher James McCann signed, it was Michael Conforto who reached out to him to welcome him to the team.

When manager Luis Rojas was asked to name team leaders, Conforto was the first name he mentioned saying Conforto “stands out.”

When Dominic Smith grappled with decisions like kneeling or even playing this summer, Conforto told him he wish he knew Smith was going to kneel so he could be by him. He was then right by Smith’s side when he spoke out about racial injustice.

When it became clear Jake Marisnick and J.D. Davis were not only part of the Houston Astros sign stealing controversy, but also cheated against pitchers on this Mets team, Conforto said three important things: (1) Astros crossed the line; (2) it was going to be addressed; and (3) there was not going to be any animosity.

He was a young player taught how to play and how to be a leader by people like David Wright, Curtis Granderson, and Jay Bruce. He’s been a leader in the clubhouse, and he’s stood by his teammates.

In the history of the Mets, there has been no more obvious choice for Captain since Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. This is a homegrown Met who is perfect to lead this team as they embark on a new era.

He’s also still a very good player who has had great moments. After he moved past his shoulder injury, he’s had a 135 OPS+. We know he’s capable of more too.

He’s an All-Star caliber player who can hit anywhere in the lineup, and he’s been a good defender. He’s also a team player willing to move to any position to help the team.

Conforto is the Captain in every possible way. Once the Mets give him the contract extension he’s earned, it’s time to formally announce him as the fifth Captain in team history.