If you break it down, the Mets clearest path to the postseason is for the team to win at least 60% of Noah Syndergaard‘s and Jacob deGrom‘s starts. These are the Mets c0-aces, and they are the surest bet each time the Mets go through their rotation. Assuming they make 30 starts a piece, and the rest of the rotation pitches at least .500, the Mets will win at least 87 games, which should be good enough for one of the two Wild Card spots.
While wins are not pitcher dependent, there is usually a correlation between a pitcher pitching very well and his team having a chance to win the game. More often than not, if a pitcher is going to dominate the opposing offense, you are going to see your team win games. Overall, while you may not see Syndergaard or deGrom walk off the mound with the “W,” you may see the team have one once the game is over, and that’s what matters for this discussion.
We have seen both starters accomplish the feat. Back in 2015, the Mets were 20-1o (67%) in games started by deGrom. In 2016, the Mets were 19-12 (61%) in games started by Syndergaard. This isn’t to say it will happen. Rather, it suggests it is possible, and it looked all the more possible in their respective starts.
Still, for the formula to work, the rest of the rotation has to pull together to give the Mets at least a combined .500 record. With the injuries and struggles the past few seasons, that is far from a certainty.
Steven Matz‘s first start had to give you some reason for concern. Yes, he was squeezed by CB Bucknor, but the home plate umpire was not the reason why Matz was leaving pitches up in the hitting zone. Bucknor was just reason why Matz walked three and needed 89 pitches to get through just four innings.
Normally, you say Matz can only go up from here, but that would ignore how the Mets pitching performed in 2016 and 2017.
Where Matz failed, the Mets now need Matt Harvey to step up. Perhaps more than anyone Harvey has symbolized the Mets rise and fall and hopefully their rise again. There was hope with the Mets when Harvey returned in 2015. His ineffectiveness and further injury was a part of the 2017 despair.
Now, Harvey has a manager in Mickey Callaway and pitching coach in Dave Eiland, who believe in his talent. Neither wanted to see Harvery traded, and they gave him one of the top four spots in the starting rotation. Purportedly, they found and fixed the mechanical issue Dan Warthen has been talking about for years and had not been able to fix.
Is Harvey really fixed? We don’t know, and until Harvey puts together a significant number of good starts together, there will be doubters. Understandably, there may be doubters long after that.
What we do know is the Mets need to piece together wins in the games Syndergaard and deGrom do not pitch. Yesterday, Matz didn’t step up to prove he’s the next guy. Jason Vargas won’t pitch for a while, and there are questions after his second half last year. Seth Lugo won the job out of Spring Training, but there are issues about his long term viability in the rotation with his inability to go three times through the order.
That leaves Harvey, and that is why in many ways, the 2018 season truly begins today.
After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week. This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”
Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.
Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.
The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.
Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.
The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.
When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.
With the Mets hiring both Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland coupled with the team possibly only adding Anthony Swarzak to the pitching staff this offseason, it appears much of the hope for the 2018 Mets are tied to the current Mets pitchers improving. Fortunately, the team has both the right coaching staff in place as well as a talented group of pitchers who underwhelmed last year. Here are five different pitchers who may take a step forward next season under Callaway’s and Eiland’s tutelage:
After his 2016 stint in the majors, many believed Gsellman would emerge as one of the front-runners for the Rookie of the Year Award. Instead, he had about as poor a 2017 season as you could imagine with him being ineffective, suffering an injury, and his being dismissive of Sandy Alderson’s critique of his performance.
Looking over his stats last season, none of his pitchers were really working. That should come as no surprise when opposing batters hit .280/.345/.462 off of him. Still, as we saw in 2016, this is a pitcher with talent, and he is now working with a coaching staff that helps get a pitcher maximize his talent.
While much has been discussed about Callaway’s focus on the two seamer, fact is he has also successfully worked with sinkers. As noted by Let’s Go Tribe, Callaway has gotten his sinker ball pitchers to focus less on pounding the sinker and more in mixing their pitches and throwing a more diverse fastball selection. From that, we have not only seen Corey Kluber emerge as a perennial Cy Young candidate, but we have also seen pitchers like Trevor Bauer and Carlos Correa maximize their talent.
A similar handling of Gsellman, who threw his fastball and sinker 63% of the time last year, could well yield similar results to those pitchers in Cleveland.
One thing that was clear from Lugo last year was he struggles the third time through the lineup. In his brief Major League career, batters have hit .299/.352/.425 during his third time through the lineup. In that sense, Lugo is not unique as we have seen that happen to other quality pitchers.
However, if utilized properly, Lugo could very well be a very good Major League pitcher. All that is needed is someone to be forward thinking in how he is handled.
One example of this is Kyle Hendricks. He historically struggled the third time through the lineup, so his manager Joe Maddon limited the times Hendricks did this, and the result was Hendricks finishing third in Cy Young voting in 2016.
Another avenue to pursue is to make Lugo a reliever. We have seen Eiland have success converting starters into relievers with his work with pitchers like Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis. Also, given Callaway’s influence on how the Indians utlizied Andrew Miller, Lugo could become a real weapon in that bullpen.
Robles is prone to stretches of both complete dominance and complete ineptitude. For example, from Opening Day to May 18th, Robles had made 18 appearances going 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, and a 9.5 K/9. During that stretch, opposing batters hit just .169/.295/.277. After that, he had a three appearance stretch that saw him give up at least four earned in each appearances leading to his demotion to Triple-A where he continued to struggle.
One of the reasons why we see those stretches of dominance from Robles is his stuff. He throws a mid to high 90s fastball with a good mid 80s slider. What he needs is to learn how to become more consistent. That could be accomplished with a more defined role, conservative usage, and really, better coaching.
Smoker has great stuff. He combines a mid to high 90s fastball with a devastating split. It’s a large reason why even when things go wrong, the left-handed pitcher struck out 10.9 batters per nine at the major league level. Aside from the stuff and the good strikeout rate, there were many problems with Smoker.
Smoker had shoulder issues again, likely related to his being overused, and he struggled with left-handed batters, at least until September. Perhaps most alarming, and possibly a reason for his struggles, Smoker walked 5.6 batters per nine last year.
At this point in his career, Smoker needs someone who can help him better command his stuff. With Callaway being an exceptional teacher and proponent of the curveball, he could get Smoker to make that pitch a that could be a weapon against left-handed batters. If so, Smoker can get back to the point where he was entering the 2017 season – a hard throwing reliever with real upside.
Look, 2015 is a long way away, and 2013 is even further away than that. During the last season, we not only saw Harvey broken down physically (again), but we finally saw some cracks in his self confidence. This wasn’t the Dark Knight anymore. This was just plain old Matt Harvey. And we don’t know if Matt Harvey can be an effective Major League pitcher.
What we do know is that he was completely mishandled from the get-go last year. By Dan Warthen‘s own admission, Harvey was not going to be 100% until May. Despite that, Harvey was in the Opening Day rotation, and he pitched and pitched until he could pitch no more. His results were blamed on poor mechanics.
The truth was the muscles in Harvey’s pitching shoulder had atrophied, and he was suffering a stress reaction. Fact is, he wasn’t ready to go. Harvey may very well have pushed to pitch, but the Mets never did stand in the way to protect Matt from himself. Moreover, they never did fix the mechanical issues all parties purported him to have.
With Eiland, the Mets have a pitching coach whose bread and butter is mechanics. Both Callaway and Eiland pushed the Mets to keep Harvey rather than trade him because they believed in him. They believed in him because they see something in him that perhaps no one else sees anymore. With them in place, there are coaches who believe in his talent and know how to get the most out of it. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
On Thanksgiving, it’s time to go around the Mets 2017 roster and name something each player should be thankful for:
Nori Aoki – He looked so much better in September than he did in all of 2017 by being competent while playing on a dysfunctional team.
Jerry Blevins – Throughout all the stress of the season and his extreme workload, the man didn’t even put on one pound.
Chasen Bradford – With his call-up to the majors, he’s now on the short list for best beards in Mets history.
Jay Bruce – He learned from his experience last year, and he played well for a team that acquired him in a trade.
Asdrubal Cabrera – As we found out this season, all he wanted the Mets to do was to pick up his option so he could provide for him family. With the Mets having done that, he can now rest easy.
Jamie Callahan – One day when bards tell the tale of the six right-handed relievers the Mets acquired at the 2017 deadline, they will regale us all with stories of how Callahan was the first of them to finish out a game the Mets won.
Gavin Cecchini – He made the switch from short to second where it will be easier for him to make it to the majors. That goes double if the Mets who are tightening payroll off a poor season don’t bring in a free agent to play the position.
Yoenis Cespedes – With Cespedes missing half the season, that left a lot of time for him to hit the course.
Michael Conforto – Collins is gone meaning no one is standing in his way from being a superstar anymore.
Travis d’Arnaud – He became the greatest defensive second baseman in Mets history by posting a 1.000 fielding percentage at the position.
Jacob deGrom – With him pitching so well this year, he knows he will finally be able to cash in in arbitration thereby allowing him to afford a haircut.
Phillip Evans – After winning a batting title in 2016, having a good Spring Training, and a good second half for Vegas, the Mets finally decided to let him post similarly good numbers for them in September.
Jeurys Familia – Blood clots in his shoulder costing him most of the season made most people forget why he missed the beginning of the season.
Wilmer Flores – He fouled a ball off his face, and he lived to tell about it.
Sean Gilmartin – With his going from the Mets to the Cardinals, he was able to prove he wasn’t bad. It was just the Mets as an organization did not employ anyone capable of knowing he was actually injured.
Erik Goeddel – No matter how much he struggled this season, he will never be the most hated person in pro sports with the last name pronounced GO-dell\n
Curtis Granderson – He had a front row seat to seeing Chase Utley fail in the postseason.
Robert Gsellman – He has so much self confidence he doesn’t care what anyone things of him.
Matt Harvey – Between the Tommy John, TOS, and the Mets rushing him into the rotation with atrophied muscles in his throwing arm knowing he wouldn’t really be ready until a month into the season, he should be thankful for getting out of the season with his right arm still attached.
Ty Kelly – He got out of here after one game thereby preventing Nurse Ratched from getting to him and ending his season.
Juan Lagares – With all the injuries and the Mets looking to cut payroll, he is once again the center fielder of the future.
Steven Matz – With him suffering the same injury deGrom suffered last year, we all know he can come back from this to be the same exact injury prone pitcher he was before the surgery.
Kevin McGowan – He will always have a special place in Mets fans hearts as it was his call-up that forced Ramirez off the roster.
Tommy Milone – He was able to find a team that was okay with him having an ERA over 8.00.
Rafael Montero – For the first time in his life, he wasn’t a complete abomination as a pitcher.
Tomas Nido – Even with his struggles at the plate in Binghamton, he can rest easy knowing the Mets don’t expect an OBP over .300 from their catchers.
Brandon Nimmo – No one, not matter what, has been able to wipe that smile off of his face.
Tyler Pill – In a year of embarrassing pitching performances by Mets pitchers, Pill actually acquitted himself quite well before suffering his season ending injury.
Kevin Plawecki – He’s so well liked by his teammates that someone left him a present in his locker, which apparently has inspired him to hit the ball harder and longer thereby resurrecting his career.
Neil Ramirez – Somehow, someway, he was not the absolute worst pitcher on a team’s pitching staff.
AJ Ramos – To him, getting traded to the Mets meant he was traded to a team that actually spends money in the offseason.
Addison Reed – He was so good this year he was worth not just one but three right-handed relievers.
Jose Reyes – The Mets didn’t cut him or his playing time no matter how horrible he played during the 2017 season.
Matt Reynolds – He got that long look in September Sandy Alderson promised him. Unfortunately, that only amounted to him getting 10 games to show what he could do at the MLB level.
Jacob Rhame – He’s with an organization that has had success getting flame throwing right-handed pitchers who have slimmed down since getting drafted reach their full potential.
Rene Rivera – After failing to whisper loud enough to help the Mets pitchers pitch better, he was able to go to the Cubs to help their pitchers lead them to an NLCS berth.
Hansel Robles – In his mind every ball hit in the air is an inning ending pop up.
Amed Rosario – He didn’t have to have his development hampered by being expected to be the savior when he was called-up to the majors as the Mets were well out of contention on August 1st.
Fernando Salas – Despite his rough stint with the Mets, he was able to land with the Angels to end the season thereby proving it was the Mets handling of pitchers and not him that was terrible.
Paul Sewald – As a reward for all of his hard work in Vegas, he got the privilege of being the arm Collins loved to abuse during the season.
Dominic Smith – He finally got his call-up in August in Philadelphia of all places allowing him to celebrate the accomplishment and the win with a cheesesteak from Pat’s. (NOTE: not a cheapshot at his weight, this actually happened)
Josh Smoker – After the Mets finally gave up on using a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues as the long man in the pen, he showed the team in September that he could be as a lefty out of the pen to get lefties out.
Noah Syndergaard – Mr. Met flipped off someone this year other than him.
Neil Walker – The Mets moved him to the Brewers where he was able to re-establish his free agency value by being productive and by staying healthy, which was coincidentally was when he was away from the Mets medical team.
Adam Wilk – Because Harvey was at home one day in his pajamas, he set off on a path where he would become eligible to earn a share of the postseason money awarded to the Twins for claiming the second Wild Card.
Zack Wheeler – Instead of missing two years due to injury, he missed two months.
David Wright – Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Mets still have not given up on him.
Terry Collins – At the end of the day, he was able to make a friend of Fred Wilpon who had his back no matter what. We should all be so lucky.
Dan Warthen – He found a new group of pitchers in Texas who have elbows waiting to learn how to throw that Warthen Slider.
Sandy Alderson – Collins was so poor at managing, he was able to convince ownership it was all Collins’ fault and not his for poorly constructing a roster.
Mets Fans – Well, even if it wasn’t at this post, we all still have a sense of humor, and we can still laugh at what we put up with from this team on a daily basis.
In the end, this Mets season was just one large Scrubs season. It wasn’t quite a comedy. It wasn’t quite a drama. Not nearly enough people should have appreciated it. And, oh yeah, the players resembled the characters:
J.D. – Michael Conforto
There are many ways we can choose to compare the two with how they are treated by authority figures and seem to be dreamers. Overall, it’s the Janitor who shows how the two are unmistakably intertwined:
Turk – Noah Syndergaard
Like Turk, Syndergaard can be both silly (his hatred of Mr. Met), had their bromances that ended when their bff departed (Bartolo Colon), and are serious about their craft (60′ 6″ away). Both had serious health issues (Turk – diabetes; Thor – torn lat), that they largely ignored until they could no longer.
Dr. Cox – Sandy Alderson
Both are brash, saracastic, and quick witted. They want everyone to conform, leave them alone, and they want the higher ups to give them the revenue they need to do their jobs because secretly they care. Both have to deal with the hand they are given and do better than possibly anyone else would in their position.
Elliott – Jacob deGrom
The precocious blonde with long locks has gone from being overlooked to front and center. Now, after a drastic haircut, we see them all grown up and in charge
Carla – Curtis Granderson
For much of the show, Carla was really the only adult in the room. She was the one who was a parent and a friend to everyone. There was no Met who has ever embodied that better than Granderson.
Kelso – Fred Wilpon
He’s the penny pinching curmudgeon who deep down believes he cares about the place more than anyone. As time goes on, and they become more separated from the day-t0-day affairs, they become more likeable as newer villains begin to run interference. In reality, they haven’t changed one bit. Just ask Enid.
Janitor – Asdrubal Cabrera
He was once a guy with dreams and wanted to be someone. Instead, he’s stuck around this place finding himself not wanting to be fired despite not being good at his job and terrifying everyone. Oh, and now he needs this job to provide for his family.
The Todd – Yoenis Cespedes
Both seem like all flash and no substance with high fives, bat flips, cars, banana hammocks, chains, and compression sleeves. However, once you get past all of that and look at their abilities, they are among the best at what they do.
Ted – Travis d’Arnaud
There was probably a time where dear old Ted had the world as his oyster much like d’Arnaud did when he first joined the Mets organization. At this point both are beaten down and quite possibly both are forever broken. In d’Arnaud’s case that’s probably more physical than spiritual.
Jordan – Terry Collins
As we found out in Marc Carig’s piece about Collins’ firing, the manager had contempt for most everyone around him except for a small few he treated kindly. Of course to him that meant hurting them (ruining their arms). That’s Jordan in a nutshell – hates almost everyone and is still nasty to those she likes.
Murphy – Ray Ramirez
They want to help, but they just keep killing everyone in their path. Like with Dr. Murphy, the Mets have finally found a place where he could do less harm.
Keith Dudemeister – Lucas Duda
Aside from the fact that their surnames practically beg for the comparison, both seem like people we could have all been friends with under completely different circumstances.
Laverne – Jose Reyes
Just when you thought they were dead and gone, they’ve come back. For Laverne, she came back under a different name. For Reyes, it was a different position.
Enid – David Wright
Both were quite loved in their day, but now they are broken down and our eyes look elsewhere for something younger and sexier to take their place.
Sean – Kevin Plawecki
They seem like perfectly nice guys who try hard. In the end no matter what they do, no matter how good it is, it elicts the same response. “Nobody cares!”
Bearfacé – Chasen Bradford
Of all the Mets, Bradford was the only Mets player who put together a beard that could come close to Beardface.
Extra points to Bradford for Baseball Reference not quite knowing if it’s Chase or Chasen similar to how Dr. Beardface constantly corrects everyone screaming it’s BEARD-FAS-AY!
Hooch –Hansel Robles
When Robles points to the sky as if to suggest a home run is just a pop fly, you know Robles is crazy. Like Hooch, the craziness was comical at first, but now it is just downright scary.
Lloyd – Jeff Wilpon
He’s got the job because of who his father is, and someone he has a place on the Brain Trust.
Dr. Wen – Dan Warthen
They were tutors for a young talented group, but in the end, their time came as they refused to adapt. For Warthen, it was teaching a slider when everyone was focusing on the curve. For Dr. Wen, it was:
Ben – Neil Walker
He came here sick, and the Mets just couldn’t fix him no matter what they did. Before we knew it, he was gone, and we were all looking for someone to blame.
Dan – Jay Bruce
When he first appeared, he was useless, and yet, somehow people seemed to love him. He was an older brother that tried to take people under his wing, but he, himself, was the one who needed help. Eventually, he got himself together just before we all said good bye to him.
Leonard – Seth Lugo
It’s the giant hook and the impressive hair (afro, blonde).
Julie – Wilmer Flores
Both are young, lovable, and so accident prone. In the entire Scrubs series, the only way capable of breaking their own nose the way Wilmer did was Julie.
Jill – Matt Harvey
We all just assumed the worst in their intentions. However, in the end, we discovered it wasn’t anything they did particularly wrong. Rather, it was a problem related to something else entirely that if someone detected it earlier, everything might have changed. Instead, a waste of a 2017 ensued.
Gift Shop Girl – Carlos Beltran
We had our chance with him, but we blew it. We forgot about him for a long time, but now that we remember him, he’s now got a ring on his finger.
Paige – Brandon Nimmo
Both are extremely religious, and you cannot wipe the smile off of either one’s face . . . no matter how much you try.
Mickhead – Barwis
We all know Barwis murdered the Mets season. We just don’t have the proof.
With the Mets hiring Mickey Callaway as their new manager, they now have to hire someone to succeed Dan Warthen as the team’s pitching coach. When making this hire, the Mets have to walk a fine line here. First and foremost, they need someone who is going to help the Mets pitching staff pitch to the best of their ability. Close behind, they need someone who is going to work well with Callaway.
Rationally speaking, that would be an individual that has worked with Callaway in the past.
The overriding reason why Callaway got the Mets managerial job is because of his work with the Indians pitching staff since the 2013 season. During that time, Callaway has certainly developed not just a style of working with pitchers, but also a philosophy. As the manager of the Mets, he is likely going to want to see his philosophy instilled into this Mets pitching staff.
If it isn’t, it could create some problems. As is human nature, if Callaway does not believe his message is getting through to the pitchers through his pitching coach, he is more likely going to meddle. That will have repercussions. One such repercussion is his pitching staff may now be getting conflicting messages causing them to struggle, if they weren’t struggling already. Another potential issue is while Callaway is addressing the pitching staff, he may be distracted from handling his other managerial duties. Certainly, there could be other issues with far more reaching implications.
The best way to counteract these issues is for the Mets to hire a pitching coach who has had a working relationship with Callaway. Certainly, if a rapport already exists between Callaway and the new pitching coach, it would ensure things work out as smoothly as possible when it comes to Callaway getting his message across to his pitching staff.
This will also help ease the transition for Callaway from pitching coach to manager. It is important the Mets do this as Callaway has no professional managerial experience.
Fortunately for the Mets, there are two pitching coach candidates available for the Mets who have previously worked with Callaway. The first is Jason Bere, who was the bullpen coach for the Indians the past three seasons. With Callaway and Bere coaching the Indians pitching staff, the Indians have had the best American League in the American League and third best in baseball during that time span. During that same 2015 – 2017 time span, the Indians led the American League in strikeouts. For a Mets staff that struggled with walks last year, it should also be noted the Indians had the fewest walks allowed in the majors over that time frame.
Now, if Callaway and/or the Mets don’t see Bere as a fit, the team should look to the Indians Minor League Pitching Coordinator Ruben Niebla. As previously noted, it was Niebla who helped cultivate the talented Indians pitching staff that Callaway and Bere coached so effectively at the Major League Level.
In the end, the pitching coach hire is the most important one the Mets will make for Callaway’s pitching staff. They need someone who is not only going to help their pitchers, they need someone who is going to help Callaway succeed. Unless Callaway does not want to hire Bere or Niebla, the Mets should be doing all they possibly can do to bring them in and help their manager and pitching staff have all the tools they need to succeed.
Ideally, the Mets would bring on both Bere and Niebla on board as the Mets have vacancies at both pitching and bullpen coach. After all, if you are looking to replicate what the Indians had when you hired Callaway, you might as well bring everyone responsible for their success to the Mets.
Now that Mickey Callaway was named as the 21st manager in Mets history, both he and the Mets now begin the process of building a coaching staff around him. That process includes hiring a new pitching coach to replace Dan Warthen.
So far, we have heard the Mets are considering a number of names including Dave Righetti, Dave Eiland, and Chris Bosio. Other candidates who were considered were Mike Maddux and Jim Hickey, who have taken jobs elsewhere, and Ricky Bones, who is rumored to be joining Alex Cora‘s staff in Boston.
The Mets have certainly compiled an impressive list. However, one name is missing from that list whom the Mets should consider – Ruben Niebla.
In 2013, Callaway and Niebla would swap roles for the Indians. With Callaway being promoted to become the Major League pitching coach, Niebla would become the minor league pitching coordinator after serving as the Indians interim pitching coach. As a tandem, the two have helped build the impressive Indians pitching staff.
With respect to Kluber, Niebla is the one who was pinpointed for taking the pitcher to the next level. The moment began when Niebla one day said to Kluber, “We want you to try throwing a two-seamer.” (Washington Post).
From that point forward, Kluber’s stock rose, and he’s now a perennial Cy Young contender. That moment began when Niebla not only made the suggestion, but also showed Kluber his preferred grip.
In fact, if you look at the Indians staff, many throw Niebla’s two seamer. That two seamer has helped the Indians post the best team ERA in the majors.
If this pitch is truly responsible for part of the success of these pitchers, we may soon hear the Niebla two seamer in the same breath of the “Warthen Slider.” For that to happen, Niebla needs a chance.
As reported by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Niebla has drawn interest in a major league coaching position. While the Mets have not been linked to Niebla, they very well might soon be with the hiring of Callaway.
Certainly, there’s already a level of report between Callaway and Niebla. The question is whether it’s enough for Callaway to want to bring him aboard. It’s also a question if the Mets want to give him that job.
Overall, it seems like Niebla may very well get a job as a pitching coach this offseason. With the Mets hiring Callaway, presumably in large part due to his work with Indians pitchers, the Mets should take a long look at the coach who helped Callaway make those pitchers so successful.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMO
Mets Hitting Coach Kevin Long
Current Position: Mets Hitting Coach (2015 – present)
Age: 12/30/66 (50)
Managerial Experience: 1998 Wilmington Blue Rocks (A) 6-1; Spokane Indians (A) 44-32 (League Champs)
After a dismal 2014 season, the Mets fired Dave Hudgens and brought Long aboard to serve as the team’s new hitting coach. Certainly, Long’s previous working experience with Curtis Granderson, and the Mets wanting to get the biggest free agent acquisition in the Sandy Alderson Era going didn’t hurt. In his time with the Mets, Long has certainly distinguished himself to the point where he’s actually been referred to as a “rock star.” (MLB.com).
To name a few, we have seen Granderson, Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Neil Walker become better hitters under Long’s tutelage. Generally speaking, when Long’s message gets through, we see players both increase their OBP and their slugging. As noted in a New York Times article, 0ne of the reasons why Long is able to help players improve as hitters is they compile all the relevant data, they filter it down, and they convey that information to the players in the hopes they absorb it and to put it to good use.
In terms of not just the modern manager, but any manager, you are looking for an individual who not only has the ability to understand the data provided to him, but also the best way to convey that data to the players in a way that is effective. As noted with player like Murphy and Cespedes, it has worked. Conversely, we have also seen Long fail to help Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares reach their offensive ceilings. That’s certainly something that has held the Mets back and forced the team to acquire some players over the past few seasons.
Another issue with Long is his lack of managerial experience. He has not managed anywhere since 1999, and he has not managed above short season Single-A ball. Accordingly, we really have no idea how he would handle being in charge of every aspect of a clubhouse, a pitching staff, personalities, and playing time.
To that end, it should be noted Long has a good relationship with former Yankees and Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, who is noted for helping fix pitcher’s mechanics. After all the times the past few seasons we have heard Mets pitchers point to mechanical issues, the team could certainly use a pitching coach like Eiland to replace Dan Warthen.
Still, with Long, we have seen a coach that already has the respect of the players in the Mets clubhouse, and he has a report with the front office. We see someone who is a good communicator and someone who has the ability to understand and translate data. Ultimately, we may not know what type of manager he would become, but we do know he has the tools to succeed as a manager.
What The Players Say:
Granderson: “If that were to happen, obviously he’d be up for the challenge. He’s always energetic, he communicates, which I think is the biggest thing a manager needs to have . . . So many things can be resolved if people just communicate.” (Newsday).
Alex Rodriguez: “And that’s why I think Kevin Long could be a good manager. It’s more like a CEO of a public company. You’re basically getting information from your board and ownership and you’re transferring it to your shareholder which are the players.” (WFAN)
Understandably, Mets fans probably want someone with more experience, and some want a completely new face. However, with the current front office going nowhere, you are going to need someone who you know has a good working relationship with the front office. It also helps that Long has a respect in the clubhouse, and the ability to communicate with this players.
Due to his strengths, Long would be a fine choice for manager with one caveat. With his lack of experience, Long is going to need a strong staff with an accomplished pitching coach and a veteran bench coach to help guide him. Short of that, and the Mets are really just setting up Long for failure.
Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting. He will not be returning as Mets manager. While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring. The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.
In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started. The Mets were bad and injured. It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag. What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.
Part of being human is being emotional. We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences. And yes, we’ve seen him cry. Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality. In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory. In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.
He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title. He left Santana in for that no-hitter. He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult. Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.
Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players. It would be the source of much consternation among fans. This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto. What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.
In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed. You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop. Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.
But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers. It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players. Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner. It wasn’t just those players. Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.
With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets. Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets. Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.
Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see. A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young. A Mets player won a batting title. There was actually a Mets no-hitter. Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.
Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that. Collins got the best out of his players. It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.
And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans. More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect. He returned their affection. That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) October 22, 2015
It was more than the celebrating. Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants. At his core, Collins is a good and decent man. It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.
Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake. Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers. This was just one aspect of his poor managing. There were many times where he left you scratching your head. It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.
However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins. To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season. We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.
He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history. When he was hired no one expected him to last that long. Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure. In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.
I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him. My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man. Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled. Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.
With the rumors the Mets will be looking for a manger to replace Terry Collins this offseason, the teams is likely going to focus on the obvious candidates. This includes Tim Teufel, Bob Geren, and Dick Scott. Each candidate have their own merits, but none of them are really a bold move the Mets may need to make this offseason to help turn their team around. In order to do that, the Mets may have to think outside the box.
To that end, maybe the Mets should consider hiring Alex Rodriguez to be their new manager this offseason. Many will be quick to dismiss the notion, but there are many reasons why A-Rod could be a worthwhile choice to succeed Collins:
#1 A-Rod Understands What Sandy Wants in His Manager
During an August 17, 2017 WFAN radio interview with Mike Francesca, A-Rod described the modern manager’s role as one of “a CEO of a public company.” The basis of this comparison is A-Rod believes the manager’s job is now to take the information provided by the front office and to find the best way to communicate that information to the players.
By reputation, Sandy Alderson does not want the old school manager who flies by the seat of his pants and controls everything in the dugout. He wants someone who goes out there and follows his instructions. Based upon the comments A-Rod has made, it would seem he has a fundamental understanding on what Alderson wants.
#2 A-Rod Has a Relationship with Kevin Long
While the Mets might be looking for a new manager, it seems the team may well want to keep both Dan Warthen and Kevin Long in place. If that is the Mets intention, they are going to need to find a manager who will work well with the retained coaches. That could be Geren based upon his tenure as the Mets bench coach. That could also be A-Rod, who worked well with Kevin Long during their mutual time together with the Yankees. More importantly, there is a mutual respect between the two, which would serve as a solid foundation for a new working relationship.
#3 A-Rod Works Well with Young Players
During his tenure with the Yankees, A-Rod has been given credit for serving as a mentor for young players like Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. Apparently, that was not just a special relationship he had with those players, but rather a willingness to serve as a mentor to young players. That is something that continued with the current crop of young Yankees. As Gary Sanchez said of A-Rod, “He’s always given us good advice. On and off the field, he’s always been there for us, he always has time for us. One thing he has told me is about creating a routine, a routine that I can use to prepare myself for every game.” (Newsday)
With A-Rod, you have an individual who has a willingness and an ability to effectively communicate with young players. Better yet, he’s able to show them how to best succeed at the Major League level. With so much of next year and the next decade hinging on young players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, you need someone who is best able to get through to them and help them. That could be A-Rod.
#4 A-Rod Is Bilingual
If you pay attention to the post-game, you will see Melissa Rodriguez translating for Spanish speaking players like Yoenis Cespedes. That is all well and good for an interview, but that’s not good for the player-manager relationship. The two need to be able to communicate. A-Rod’s ability to speak English and Spanish permits him to effectively communicate with all of the players in his clubhouse.
#5 A-Rod Has Played for Great Managers
During A-Rod’s playing days, he has had the opportunity to play for Lou Piniella, Johnny Oates, Jerry Narron, Buck Showalter, Joe Torre, and Joe Girardi. That group of managers have won 10 Manager of the Year Awards, 28 division titles, 8 pennants, and 6 World Series.
Each of these mangagers were good to great in their own right, and each one of them had different managing styles. Certainly, each one of them left an impression on A-Rod as to what is the best way to manage a team and how to best communicate with your players. Like all first time managers, A-Rod will have to find his voice. He will be aided in doing so by his having played for some of the best managers of his generation.
#6 A-Rod Understands Decline
Throughout the 2016 season, A-Rod struggled to the point where the Yankees finally had to inform him that if he didn’t retire, the team was going to release him. At that point, A-Rod had to face reality and admit he was no longer the player he once was. That’s an avenue this current Mets team is going to have to navigate.
Both David Wright and Matt Harvey have dealt with a number of physical problems. With each day that passes, each of them is further and further away from being the players they once were. Having someone like A-Rod as the manager would provide both players with a sounding board to help them navigate the season both physically and mentally.
#7 A-Rod Understands the Media
A manager of a New York team is also a media personality. They have to be able to face the media multiple times a day and answer the tough questions. With his postseason struggles and his PED suspension, A-Rod has had to face the tough questions time and again. He’s weathered the storm, and he has come out the other side.
And now that he’s retired, A-Rod is a member of the media. He does studio shows for Fox earning rave reviews, and he has done a few games as a color commentator. With that, he’s become even more polished than he already was leaving him better able to face the media.
#8 A-Rod Creates Buzz
Look, after the 2017 season the Mets need to change the narrative. They’re an injury prone team who doesn’t go out there and spend money. This has led the fans to become either angry or apathetic. That’s not a good situation for a Major League organization, especially one that is raising ticket prices for next season.
At a minimum, hiring A-Rod would create a buzz. Love it or hate it, it would be a bold move for the organization, and bold moves typically generate excitement. That type of excitement can at times become infectious and energize an entire organization.
There’s also the fact the Mets will need to pursue a number of free agents. Possibly, A-Rod, a player who is still respected by many players across the majors, could be used as a recruiting tool. If true, that will create an even bigger buzz because better players mean more wins which will help turn those angry and apathetic fans into excited ones.
#9 A-Rod Loved the Mets
Back in the 2000 offseason, it was assumed A-Rod was going to be a Met because A-Rod grew up a Mets fan. Like the rest of us, A-Rod loved that 1986 Mets team, and he wanted to bring the Mets their next championship. He never did get that chance after Steve Phillips described A-Rod as a 24 and one player.
A-Rod has been able to accomplish much in his career, but the one thing he was never able to do was to wear a Mets uniform and deliver a World Series to his favorite team. It could be an opportunity that he couldn’t overlook, and it may be one that drives him.
#10 A-Rod Is Fireable
For all the calls from Mets fans to make Wright the Mets next manager, is the fact that one day the Mets will have to fire him. Managers are hired to one day be fired. No Mets fan wants to see their beloved Wright be fired by the team. No, you want a manager who could readily be fired. That’s A-Rod.
However, in order to be fired, you need to first be hired. There are certain impediments there from his lack of experience to whether he’d ever be interested in managing in the big leagues. If he is somehow interested, the Mets should definitely inquire because he just might be exactly what the Mets need in their next manager.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MetsMerizedOnline