Well, it surprisingly took until the fourth World Baseball Classic for the Americans to finally win won. It was well worth the wait, and it was great watching a group of likeable players win this thing. For the most part, I developed a deeper appreciation for a lot of these players.
For starters, Adam Jones may now be my favorite non-Met. He had some truly clutch hits, and his robbery of Manny Machado is a play that will live on forever. More important than that, he was a player who had a lot of pride representing his country.
Marcus Stroman was absolutely dominant in the World Baseball Classic. For a pitcher who has pitched in big games for most of his young career, Stroman took his game to a higher level last night carrying a no-hitter into the seventh. It was great to see a fellow Long Islander there is one of the biggest moments in USA baseball history.
It was a delight to see Brandon Crawford play shortstop. With him playing on the West Coast, and my being a Mets fan, I really only get to see him a handful of games a year. You really appreciate how good he is watching him play on a prolonged basis. I also wasn’t aware of just how much he’s improved as a hitter.
Ian Kinsler went out there, and even he had to show a little enthusiasm on the field. He’s really about as good a second baseman as there is in baseball.
While they didn’t play as large a role as they did in 2015, it was nice seeing Tyler Clippard and Daniel Murphy win something. They certainly deserved it . . . even if Murphy didn’t deserve being frozen out.
Certainly, Paul Goldschmidt showed he was a bigger man than anyone could have expected. We did not hear one word from either him or Murphy about being benched in favor of lesser players. Speaks a lot about their character and their dedication to winning. Same goes for Jake McGee, who certainly could have been tabbed by his manager to get some of the bigger left-handed hitters out in the WBC.
In one game, Alex Bregman showed us why he’s going to be the next young star in this league. That Astros infield is going to be terrific next year and for the next decade.
Nate Jones, Sam Dyson, and Mychal Givens are much better relievers than anyone might’ve known prior to the tournament. They certainly showed that during the WBC. For that matter, Luke Gregerson showed everyone he’s a closer in this game.
I certainly was able to appreciate the skill Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton bring to the table on a game-in and game-out basis. They play the game hard, and they play it the right way. It was easy rooting for them in the WBC. Still, that won’t prevent me from rooting against them during the regular season.
Andrew McCutchen is really just a great player no matter what position you play him in the outfield. The Pirates are going to be happy they held onto him.
No, still not going to say anything nice about Eric Hosmer.
I still can’t believe Pat Neshek got out of that jam against Japan.
We all know Andrew Miller was better than he was in the WBC, but it is a testament to him that he was still willing to go out there and give whatever he could give the team despite him not being ready to be Andrew Miller yet. Same goes for David Robertson.
Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy showed everyone that despite the fawning over Yadier Molina, they are the two best catchers in the game. USA was able to share time between them and not miss and beat. Also, Lucroy had the best chest protector I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.
Nolan Arenado just went out there and played hard. Again, you have to admire someone who goes out there and just fights through it.
I appreciate what Chris Archer and Mark Melancon did. I wish their teams would’ve permitted them to participate more, but you have to admire anyone who is willing to go out there and contribute whatever they can. Certainly, Archer’s impact was lasting because he went out there the first game and dominated. He set the tone for this entire starting staff.
Finally, it was great seeing Willie Randolph out there coaching. He is a great baseball person that has not gotten the second chance to manage he so rightfully earned. He is class personified. There is no greater example of this than his wearing Jackie Robinson‘s 42 with permission from Robinson’s family. Throughout his entire career, he has deserved better from baseball, and I am hoping he finally gets that chance he so richly deserves.
Overall, it was great watching a group of Americans who were easy to root for. Top to bottom these were classy players that played hard, and they were players who had pride in representing their countries. I can thing of no finer collection of players to go out there and not only capture the title, but to also raise the interest in the WBC.
In international competition, I am an American, and as such, I will always root for the USA to prevail. In the Olympics, I root for the USA regardless of what Rangers are playing for the other country. I love Henrik Lundqvist to death, but I would root for an American team full of Islanders, Devils, and Flyers if it was ever a USA-Sweden gold medal match.
The same goes for the WBC.
Surprisingly, the closest ties USA has to the Mets is Daniel Murphy and Tyler Clippard, both of whom were on the 2015 pennant winner. Mostly, the USA roster is full of players you would rather not root for as a Mets fan.
There’s Eric Hosmer whose name cannot be mentioned in my house anymore. I loved watching Michael Conforto take Danny Duffy deep in the World Series, but to be honest, Duffy got the last laugh. Tanner Roark is a National, who also did all he could do to help blow the 5-0 lead against the Dominican Republic. While I generally like both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, when seeing them play, you cannot help but be reminded of the heartbreaking loss in the Wild Card Game last year. Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been a thorn in the Mets side on a Marlins team that seemingly exists just to be a Mets spoiler.
Overall, while I have found USA to be a likeable team, there are enough players there that harbor bad memories.
The Puerto Rican roster, on the other hand, is full of players I absolutely love.
Carlos Beltran may be the next Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. T.J. Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job last year after a number of injuries left the Mets searching for a capable player at the position as the team was fighting for a Wild Card. Rene Rivera helped Noah Syndergaard improve as a pitcher last year.
Worse yet, Seth Lugo is going to start against the USA in what should prove to be an incredibly important game. Lugo was an vitally important pitcher who helped get the Mets back to the postseason last year. He may prove to once again be an extremely important pitcher for the Mets next year whether he is in the rotation, the bullpen, or both. As a Mets fan, you do not want to see Lugo get bashed around by the USA in the WBC. Rather, you want to see him continue to improve and be in the best possible position to help the Mets next year.
Not to be wishy-washy, but you hope that Lugo pitches well and the Americans still win.
And yes, despite all the Mets ties to Puerto Rico, including Angel Pagan, who was once a pretty good Met, I am still rooting for the USA tomorrow night. Mostly, I am rooting for the USA because I am an American.
* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss
When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”
But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.
Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”
Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?
All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field
Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!
No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.
Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound
Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,
It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.
But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes! No longer on the driving range!
He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King! Perched high on a throne!
Say! That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.
But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.
A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.
But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!
A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer! They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.
But now is if fair? Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers. He needs two, at least.
Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now. They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.
The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.
The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.
And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!
With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.
And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better. Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .
. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .
A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .
A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .
No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.
He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!
FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!
But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”
There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”
“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”
Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
If you look at the initial reactions to the Tom Gorzelanny signing, it was met with some anger and derision from Mets fans. It has led to a meme where Mets fans have begun to compare him to sloth from the Goonies:
— Joe Barbito (@barbitosfritos) February 3, 2017
Obviously, this anger comes from Mets fans wanting the team to do more to sign free agent relievers to fill the obvious holes in the Mets bullpen. Namely, Mets fans wanted the team to go out and sign Jerry Blevins, who for some strange reason remains on the free agent market. Because the Mets signed Gorzelanny and not Blevins, Mets fans have understandably overreacted. They shouldn’t.
Because this is a minor league deal, the Mets are not obligated to carry Gorzelanny on the Opening Day roster like they were Antonio Bastardo last season. Essentially, if Gorzelanny does not show the Mets he is not capable of being a part of their bullpen, they can leave him in the minor leagues as depth.
Now, if Gorzelanny does show he can be a solid contributor out of the bullpen, the Mets only owe him $1 million with incentives that could increase his salary to $2.8 million. Essentially, this is a low risk, potentially high reward signing.
And there is reason to believe Gorzelanny can be a solid contributor in 2017. For his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .229/.302/.356 batting line. For the sake of comparison, Blevins allowed left-handed batters to hit .255/.313/.324 off of him last year. Now, Blevins has historically been better than that against left-handed batters. However, the Mets are looking to replace Blevins’ 2016 production, and judging from Gorzelanny’s career splits, he is more than capable of that.
Another reason to believe in Gorzelanny is his repertoire. He primarily relies upon a low 90s sinker and a low 80s slider. While he also can throw a change-up and a curveball, while he has gotten older he has more and more relied on his sinker and slider. As we have seen with pitchers like Addison Reed and Fernando Salas, Dan Warthen has been successful working with them to get better results with those pitches as they have had in prior stops. It also doesn’t hurt that Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera are excellent pitch framers that will be able to help Gorzelanny get into pitcher’s counts and get him that borderline called third strike.
Also, consider some of the success he has had against some of the left-handed batters he is sure to see during the 2017 season:
On the other hand, it might not work out. But if it doesn’t, so what? It’s a classic example of nothing ventured, nothing gained. The million Gorzelanny is potentially earning should not stand in the way of the Mets re-signing Blevins and/or signing another free agent reliever.
And in fact, it didn’t. Not too long after the Mets signed Gorzelanny, the Mets then re-signed both Fernando Salas and Blevins.
Still, Gorzelanny wasn’t the guy Mets fans wanted, but he could become the guy the Mets fans want on the mound against a left-handed batter this October.
In the three seasons before Yoenis Cespedes became a New York Met, he was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI. Since becoming a New York Met, Cespedes has been a .282/.348/.554 hitter with 162 game averages of 41 homers and 111 RBI.
In Curtis Granderson‘s first year with the Mets, he was a .227/.326/.388 hitter with 20 homers and 66 RBI. Over the past two seasons, Granderson has been a .248/.350/.460 hitter who has averaged 28 homers and 64 RBI.
In the three years before the Mets acquired Neil Walker from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Walker was a .264/.336/.438 hitter who averaged 18 homers and 67 RBI. In his Pirates career as a right-handed batter, Walker was a career .260 hitter with just six home runs over the course of seven seasons. Last year, Walker was a .282/.347/.476 hitter with 23 homers and 55 RBI in just 113 games. From the right side of the plate, he was a .330/.391/.610 hitter with eight homers.
In the three years before Asdrubal Cabrera signed a free agent deal with the Mets, he was a .249/.307/.405 hitter who averaged 14 homers and 61 RBI. Last year, Cabrera was a .280/.336/.474 hitter with 23 homers and 62 RBI. It should also be noted he was one of if not the best hitter over the last two months of the season.
With this quartet of players, we see a definite trend of what happens when the Mets hitters being working with hitting coach Kevin Long. Whatever it is he specifically does, he has the ability to help batters not only hit for more power, but also improve their OBP. While Long’s detractors will point out there are players that haven’t performed well under his tutelage like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto last year, there are players like the aforementioned players and Daniel Murphy who have improved. The point is overall hitters tend to improve in terms of OBP and slugging under Long.
With Long’s seeming ability to help players in these two key areas, Jay Bruce would be wise to work closely with his new hitting coach this season.
Over the course of his career, Bruce has been a .248/.318/.467 hitter who has averaged a 27 homers and 82 RBI a season with most of his damage being done at The Great American Ballpark where he is a .254/.328/.500 hitter. Basically, Bruce has basically been a slugger that not only does not know how to draw a walk, but he is also a product of his former home ballpark. At least that was the perception. That perception was not helped when Bruce hit .219/.294/.391 in 50 games with the Mets last season.
This is a large reason why he did not garner much interest on the trade market. It may very well be a reason why he will have difficulty getting a large free agent deal next offseason.
It’s odd when you think about it because Bruce has the potential to be a 30 HR/100 RBI hitter. He is your prototypical slugger who has been a three time All Star, two time Silver Slugger, and has a top 10 MVP finish in his career. There is real talent there. He just needs help to become a more well-rounded hitter. As we have seen with most of the Mets roster, Long has helped the Mets hitters on that front.
If Bruce does improve his OBP and he hits for more power, the Mets are going to have the left-handed power threat they thought they were getting when they acquired him in exchange for Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell. He is also going to help garner the interest for his services that we just not present this offseason. Overall, the working relationship between Bruce and Long can be a mutually beneficial relationship.
It’s a relationship both Bruce’s and the 2017 Mets’ future hinges upon.
With Baseball America‘s Adam Rubin reporting the Mets are considering using low A starter P.J. Conlon out of the bullpen, the Mets are really giving the impression that they may not sign any relief pitchers this offseason. This would coincide with earlier reports the Mets may not have the budget to acquire another player unless the team is able to trade an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce. When considering the difficulties the Mets have in trading Bruce, it’s becoming increasingly more likely the Mets will use internal options to build their bullpen.
The Mets should have varying degrees of confidence in returning relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles. Last season, Reed and Familia combined to be the best 8-9 combination in baseball. Robles has shown versatility whether it was his bailing Jim Henderson out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitching 3.2 innings because Bartolo Colon left a game in the first inning with an injury.
While the Mets should have confidence in these three pitchers, they still need at least four other arms to complete their bullpen. Here are the leading options:
RHP Seth Lugo – While he should get the opportunity to compete with Robert Gsellman for a spot in the rotation, indications are Lugo will land in the bullpen. In limited bullpen duty last year, Lugo was terrific. In his nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Pitching out of the bullpen should also permit Lugo to ramp his fastball up to 95 MPH and throw his curveball, which has the best spin rate in the majors, making him an even more dominant pitcher.
RHP Zack Wheeler – Like Lugo, Wheeler may get an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, but early indications are he will start the year in the bullpen. Wheeler’s fastball-slider combination should play well out of the bullpen, and it should lead to him recording a high number of strikeouts. Conversely, he may have a high amount of walks as well. Unfortunately, Wheeler may not be able to sustain the same workload of a relief pitcher as the Mets will likely want to ease him back after Wheeler missed two years due to Tommy John surgery.
RHP Paul Sewald – With a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a slider in the low 90s with a low 80s slider, Sewald doesn’t have the dominating stuff you would typically look for in a major league reliever. However, despite having “lesser” stuff, Sewald has succeeded at every level of the minor leagues including his being an effective closer for the 51s last year. Despite pitching in an extreme hitter’s league, Sewald had 10 saves with a 1.85 ERA, 0.945 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in the second half of the season.
RHP Erik Goeddel – If Goeddel can return to his 2014 – 2015 form, the Mets have a reliever they can rely upon. During that time, he was on the New York – Las Vegas shuttle making 41 major league appearances. Over that stretch, he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. For many, it was believed Goeddel did it with smoke and mirrors, an impression that was given credence with his 4.54 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 2016. With Goeddel able to strike out 9.1 batters per nine last year, he has at least shown he can get batters out, and as a result, should get another chance. His success in 2017 is going to depend on his ability to regain some of his fastball velocity or his ability to adapt to pitching without it.
RHP Chase Bradford – Like Sewald, Bradford has fringy stuff with a low 90s fastball and a low to mid 80s slider. However, unlike Sewald, Bradford has struggled in AAA. Over the past three years, Bradford has pitched to a 4.88 ERA, 1.454 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. It should be noted many pitchers, like Lugo, struggle in Las Vegas, only to have success in the majors.
RHP Ben Rowen – The submarine style Rowen was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The hope is that Rowen can be a modern version of Chad Bradford in what was an excellent 2006 Mets bullpen. However, given his low 80s fastball, and with both right-handed batters and left-handed batters hitting him hard in his brief 12 major league appearances, this seems more hope than reality.
RHP Rafael Montero – Despite being terrible for the Mets, he somehow remains a part of the Mets organization. As if his presence on the roster wasn’t baffling enough, Sandy Alderson even mentioned him as a possibility for the bullpen. (ESPN). It figures that this year is the year push comes to shove with Montero. Either he is finally going to trust his stuff and throw strikes at the major league level, or the Mets are going to designate him for assignment for someone who can.
RHP Gabriel Ynoa – Ynoa struggled with the Mets last year, but those struggles could have been the result of him being asked to pitch out of the bullpen when he’s never done that before and the team shifting him between the bullpen and rotation late in the year. Fact is Ynoa has real talent. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that he may be able to consistently get in the mid 90s if he was airing it out in the bullpen. His slider is also effective in generating a number of groundballs. With him in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation, he can primarily utilize his two best pitches to get batters out.
LHP Josh Smoker – There are three things we learned about Smoker last year: (1) he strikes out a lot of batters; (2) left-handed batters absolutely crush him; and (3) he is not effective for more than one inning. Now, if Smoker is able to work with Dan Warthen to develop a slider to get help him get left-handed batters out, he’s got closer potential. If not, he’s still an effective arm out of the bullpen so long as Terry Collins acknowledges his limitations.
LHP Josh Edgin – Even with his reduced velocity, Edgin still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out. Until such time he re-gains his velocity, if it ever were to happen, he should primarily be used as a LOOGY. Now, with Familia, Reed, and Robles each being extremely effective against left-handed batters, the Mets are not in dire need of a LOOGY. Still, in a division with Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper the Mets could benefit from having more than one pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.
LHP Sean Gilmartin – In 2015, Gilmartin was an important part of the Mets bullpen as the team’s long man. That season, he made 50 appearance pitching 57.1 innings going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Surprisingly, Gilmartin had reverse splits allowing a .216 batting average to right-handed batters and a .260 batting average to left-handed batters. Last, year, Gilmartin began the year in Las Vegas as a starting pitcher. Due to some bullpen issues at the major league level, the Mets had him fly on a red eye and pitch on short rest. Eventually, he would suffer a minor shoulder injury, and his promising season would tail off. Ultimately, the Mets will need a long man in 2017, and there is enough evidence here to suggest Gilmartin can competently fill that roll.
LHP David Roseboom – It’s not common for pitchers to go from AA to the Opening Day roster the next year, but Roseboom may just be capable of doing it. While a closer by trade, who is coming off a season with a 1.87 ERA, he is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Last season, he limited left-handed batters to a .141 batting average. Primarily, Roseboom is a sinker/slider pitcher who also has a change that allows him to remain effective against right-handed batters. While Roseboom primarily sits in the high 80s to the low 90s, he remains effective because he is able to effectively locate his pitches, and he induces a high rate of ground balls.
LHP P.J. Conlon – As touched on above, considering Conlon for the Opening Day roster was a surprise given he has not pitched in AA, he consistently throws in the mid to high 80s, and he was used as a starter last season. Another reason this was a surprise is the Conlon is better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. The main reason for that is while Conlon is a four pitch pitcher, his out pitch is his change-up. Like with most left-handed pitchers, Conlon’s change-up is more effective against right-handed batters than left. Overall, it is highly unlikely he will make the Opening Day roster, but he should still benefit from the opportunity to further develop his slider.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wheeler seems assured of being in the Opening Day bullpen with Familia, Reed, and Robles. Considering the Mets probably want to add another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, and the fact that he is out of options, Edgin seems to be the next best guess as to a pitcher who will make the r0ster. Based upon their performance in the bullpen last year, it is likely the next two spots go to Lugo and Smoker. Right there, the Mets have a seven man bullpen with an interesting array of arms that can both register strike outs and induce ground balls to try to get a double play to get out of the inning.
If there is an injury, suspension, or someone proves to be ineffective, the Mets have interesting options behind this group in Rowen, Sewald, and Roseboom. There is also Gilmartin and Ynoa who can provide either a spot start or be able to serve in the bullpen if needed.
Ultimately, while you would feel much better with the Mets having at least one more veteran arm in the bullpen like a Jerry Blevins or a Fernando Salas, there is at least enough quality arms in the Mets system that can conceivably build a good bullpen.
On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, faithful manager Terry Collins enters Fred Wilpon’s office.
Terry: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.
Fred: What do you mean build?
Fred: Relievers? I just gave you two guys last week!
Terry: I know, but those were minor league deals.
Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.
Terry: Well, we do owe the fans.
Terry: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.
Not long after Terry leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?
M. Donald Grant: It is.
Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?
M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.
M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?
Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!
M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!
Fred: The horror.
M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.
Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.
M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.
And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?
Before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.
Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.
Fred: Am I dead?
Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.
With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.
Fred: What a dump!
Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.
Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.
Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.
Fred: But they don’t understand.
Gary: Let’s see what happened next.
With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.
Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?
Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.
Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .
Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.
Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .
As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.
Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team failed to win the Wild Card Game. While the team acted quickly and brought back Neil Walker and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets offseason has been marked by inactivity. Recently, Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson stated the Mets were going to have to move a contract like Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson before they could sign additional players this offseason. We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.
Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!
Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.
Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.
Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2017 roster will look like.
Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.
Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –
Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re not spending any money until we move a contract. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.
Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.
Fred: Let’s be honest. The fans will let me do whatever I want so long as we’re winning. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Cespedes. We have free t-shirts. We get to hype up the starts of not just Matt Harvey, but also Noah Syndergaard. As for the players, the only thing they really care about is their salary.
Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.
A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Collins about the upcoming season.
Collins: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.
David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.
Collins: You know the whole team is behind you. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.
David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. Not with this team. We’re so close. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.
Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.
David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.
Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.
Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.
Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.
Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.
David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.
Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.
Fred: What, what happened to him?
Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.
Fred: He never won? But we had Harvey and Syndergaard. We had Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz. We had Cespedes. Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.
David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.
Woman: What happened?
David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .
As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.
Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.
Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.
Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.
Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.
Worker 1: Good riddance!
Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?
With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.
Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.
Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.
Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?
Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.
Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.
Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.
As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.
Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .
As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.
Reporter: How do you feel today?
Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.
Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?
Jeff: I’m not sure where you guys have been all these years. If you came to the park, we might’ve been able to improve the team and prevent this day from happening.
Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!
Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?
Jeff: Look guys, it’s been a hard day in what has been a hard few years. I just want to go home to my family.
Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!
With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.
The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.
Fred: It’s December 25, 2016! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!
Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Collins, Alderson, and Wright.
Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Terry the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.
Terry: Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!
David: God bless us everyone!
‘Tis the seaosn where the Mets name the player who is going to be the one who plays Santa Claus at the Holiday Christmas Party. This year the Mets went with the player who is quickly becoming the ace of the staff, the face of the franchise, and one of the more beloved Mets on the team – Noah Syndergaard.
The Mets should not go with Syndergaard to play Santa Claus this year. No, it has nothing to do with the thought of Santa Thor throwing pieces of coal at naughty kids and Mr. Met who are standing 60’6″ away. It has nothing to do with the idea of seeing Santa Thor wear a viking helmet instead of a red cap. It has nothing to do with Santa Thor going with the Yule Lads interpretation of Christmas instead of our traditional Santa Clause. It also has nothing to do with the Santa Curse that claimed Steven Matz as one of its victims last year:
Look if anyone can pull a Daniel Murphy and beat the curse, it is certainly Santa Thor.
No, the real reason why Syndergaard shouldn’t play Santa Thor is because he is the one player that all kids are going to want to meet.
Santa is a celebrity in his own right, and you can have literally anyone play him on the team, and the kids will love him. Naturally, you don’t want to pick Travis d’Arnaud because that’s just begging for trouble. However, there is no reason you can’t pick a lesser player like a Ty Kelly or a Josh Edgin to play Santa. Heck, you can even choose Jay Horowitz for what it’s worth.
By doing that, you allow the kids to get to meet Santa and Syndergaard. They get to meet both of their heroes from the artcic north, and it will make for a much better story and Christmas for each and every one of those children. For that reason, and yes the Santa Curse (knock on every piece of wood withing a three mile radius), Syndergaard should not play Santa Thor this year.
The Mets ranked dead last in the majors with a .225 team batting average with runners in scoring position. As a result of this and other issues, there was much hand-wringing over the Mets offense, and by natural extension of that, hitting coach Kevin Long. However, lost in all of the hand-wringing and finger-pointing was the fact that many of the Mets batters actually had a good season. In fact, much of this correlated with these batters working with Kevin Long. Here are some examples:
Entering the 2016 season, Cabrera was a career .267/.329/.412 hitter who averaged 28 doubles, 11 homers, and 57 RBI. Last year, the year that enticed the Mets to move quickly on the shortstop in free agency, Cabrera hit .265/.315/.430 with 28 doubles, 15 homers, and 58 RBI. Cabrera was much better than that this season.
Overall, Cabrera, while dealing with a knee injury all season long, hit .280/.336/.474 with 30 doubles, 23 homers, and 62 RBI. Judging on that alone, it was Cabrera’s best year at the plate (and his second best season as per OPS+). However, those numbers don’t tell the full story. After Cabrera came off the disabled list in August, he finished the season hitting .345/.406/.635 with 11 doubles, 10 homers, and 29 RBI. Effectively speaking, a healthier Cabrera helped power the Mets to the postseason.
Entering the 2016 season, Walker was a career .272/.338/.431 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, 13 homers, and 60 RBI. Despite this being a year in which Walker dealt with numb feet and missed the month of September due to back surgery, Walker hit .282/.347/.476 with nine doubles, 23 homers, and 55 RBI. Overall, Walker tied his career high in homers and had his highest slugging percentage and OPS. He also had his second highest batting average and OBP. It was his third highest OPS+. If Walker was healthy or played in September who knows how much better those numbers would’ve been.
On their own those numbers were great, but there was a significant improvement to Walker’s game. Despite Walker being billed as a switch-hitter, he really wasn’t. Entering the 2016 season, Walker hit .260/.306/.338 with six homers and 75 RBI over seven major league seasons. As a right-handed batter in 2016, Walker hit .330/.391/.610 with eight homers and 16 RBI. He was a completely different hitter from the right side of the plate who more than doubled his career home run total from that side of the plate. With that Walker went from a switch-hitter in name only to a real threat from both sides of the plate.
Entering the 2015 season, Cespedes was a career .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 27 doubles, 24 homers, and 87 RBI. He was a batter that struck some fear when he cane to the plate, but he was hardly considered one of the top power hitters in the game.
When Cespedes game to the Mets at the trade deadline last year that all changed. In 57 games, Cespedes hit .287/.337/.604 with 14 doubles, 17 homers, and 44 RBI. The numbers were striking as they were unexpected. This year, Cespedes proved those numbers weren’t a mirage. In 132 games with the Mets, Cespedes hit .280/.354/.530 with 25 doubles, 31 homers, and 86 RBI. It’s all the more impressive when you consider Cespedes did this while dealing with a quad issue for about half the season. During Cespedes tenure with the Mets he has hit for a higher average, OBP, SLG, and homers. He is now one of the most feared power hitters in the game.
Sometimes becoming an effective player is just focusing on the things you do well as a player. As we have seen in Flores’ young career, the two things he does well is hit for power and hit left-handed pitching. Before going down for the season with a wrist injury, Flores was at his absolute best in both departments.
In 107 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, Flores hit .340/.383/.710 with four doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI. For the season, Flores hit .267/.319/.469 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, and 49 RBI. It was a career best batting average, OBP, and slugging for Flores in a season he tied his career high in homers. It should also be noted that Flores was getting progressively better as 2016 progressed. With that, Flores showed he was not just an improved hitter in 2016, but he was a player who is poised to have an even better 2017.
Before being traded to the Mets yet again, Johnson was hitting .215/.273/.289 for the Braves. When Johnson returned to the Mets, he asked Long to do for him what Long did for Daniel Murphy. The result was Johnson hitting .268/.328/.459 with eight doubles, nine homers, and 24 RBI in 82 games. With the 34 year old Johnson didn’t just turn his season around, he might’ve also lengthened his career.
In response to the positive impact Long had on some key contributors to the 2016 season, many Mets fans will point to some of the perceived failures of Long this season. Just remember the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
With respect to Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto, their numbers will tell you both players took a major step back in 2016. However, Conforto had a wrist injury, and d’Arnaud had a shoulder injury. Those injuries most likely had a big impact on their performances especially when you consider Conforto hit .365/.442/.676 and was the major league leader in hard hit ball percentage.
Another player many fans will point to is Curtis Granderson, who took a step back from his outstanding 2015 season. It should be noted, Granderson hit .302/.414/.615 in the final month of the season, and he became the oldest Mets outfielder to hit 30+ home runs in a season.
As for the rest of the team, many suffered their injuries, and they had their ups and their downs as the season progressed. However, the Mets were able to withstand the injuries and the ups and downs of the season because the Mets got some terrific and unexpected offensive seasons from some of their players. Kevin Long goes a long way in explaining how that happened.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online
Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive. For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month. Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment. There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection. It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets. Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad). For the fourth set of grades, here are the Mets utility players:
Early on in the season, Flores mostly struggled with getting limited playing time. It was difficult cracking into the starting lineup when Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera playing well in April. As the season progressed, and the Mets became more and more injured, notably Wright and Lucas Duda, Flores was needed, and he really stepped up.
Where Flores really thrived was being used as a platoon option against left-handed pitching. Against lefties, Flores would hit an astounding .340/.383/.710 with four doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI. If you extrapolated those numbers of the course of a full 162 game season, Flores would’ve hit 36 homers and 93 RBI. That would have made him the best hitter in the Mets lineup this season. However, Flores’ numbers were nowhere near that as he struggled against right-handed pitching hitting .232/.289/.353 with 10 doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI. It should be noted Flores had 107 plate appearances against lefties and 228 plate appearances against righties.
For the season, Flores hit .267/.319/.469 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, and 49 RBI. Flores’ numbers were an upgrade over his 2015 numbers. Given how he has progressed each year over his career, and the fact that he is only 25 years old, we should see an improved Flores at the plate in 2017.
Even with some optimism, there is some doubt. Despite his improvement at the plate, he still didn’t walk enough, and he doesn’t hit right-handed pitching enough to play everyday. While he made marked improvements at shortstop as the 2015 season progressed, Flores regressed there defensively in 2016. In fact, Flores did not play all that well defensively at any position; although, he did show some promise at first base.
Part of the reason for Flores foibles could be he’s prone to the occasional gaffe (similar to Daniel Murphy). It could be him trying to do too much, it could be him having more faith in his abilities than he probably should, it could be his high effort level, or it could be something different altogether. Whatever it is, it was front and center when Tim Teufel made the baffling decision to send Flores home during that September 10th game against the Braves. It was absolutely a bad send, but it quite have possibly been a worse slide. Flores going in head first against a catcher like A.J. Pierzynski lead to his season-ending injury which required surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in the offseason.
The best thing you can say about Flores in the 2016 season was he was missed. During the Wild Card Game, the Mets were one bat short against Madison Bumgarner. With Flores’ stats against left-handed pitching, he could have gotten that one key hit the Mets needed to win that game. Except, he was injured and unable to play. The hope is he learns from this experience and comes back a better player in 2017.
After Ruben Tejada was released on the eve of the season, Campbell was a surprise member of the 25 man roster. Unfortunately, Campbell was not up to the task as he regressed yet another season. In 40 games, Campbell hit .173/.284/.227 with one double, one homer, and nine RBI. While the Mets organization was high on him to start the year (at least higher on him than most people), he didn’t do enough to justify their faith in him. It was his play that forced the Mets to go out and get James Loney to play first base after Duda’s injury.
Despite the fans apparent hatred of him, he still has use as minor league depth, and if used in small doses, he could have some benefit to a major league team as a pinch hitter and very part time player. Simply put, he was asked to do too much in 2016. That was one of the reasons he was removed from the 40 man roster, and it is why he is a minor league free agent at the moment.
Reynolds numbers during the 2016 season were lackluster. In 47 games, he only hit .255/.266/.416 with eight doubles, three homers, and 13 RBI. Still, it is hard to call Reynolds first 47 games in the major leagues disappointing because he did show some promise.
In his limited duty, Reynolds did show himself to be the Mets best major league ready defensive shortstop in the entire Mets organization. He also played well at second, third, and left field despite his playing a vast majority of his professional career at shortstop. In fact, the first ever game Reynolds played in left field was at the major league level. All Reynolds did in that game was play a representative left field and hit the game winning home run.
In 2016, Reynolds showed he could potentially be a major league bench player. As a former second round pick, many might have wanted more from Reynolds than what he has shown. That is not entirely fair at this point because he’s only played 47 games as a major leaguer, and in those 47 games, he showed he deserves another shot to be a major leaguer. With that in mind, despite his numbers being disappointing, Reynolds did have a succesful 2016 season, and we should look forward to what he can contribute in 2017 and beyond.
Ty Kelly C+
Just making it to the major leagues after his long odyssey in the minor leagues was a major accomplishment. And even though he made it to the majors as a result of a rash of injuries, he did earn his way to the majors with his hot hitting in Las Vegas. While he initially struggled, Terry Collins finally figured out what he was, and Kelly began to thrive.
Despite his being a switch hitter, Kelly was really best suited to facing left-handed pitching. While the sample size is really too small to derive a definitive conclusion, it should be noted Kelly put together much better at-bats from the right-hand side of the plate than he did from the left. As he faced more left-handed pitching, Kelly’s numbers improved, and he finished the season hitting .241/.352/.345 with a double, a triple, a homer, and seven RBI in 39 games.
In the field, while Kelly was used all over the place, and he performed better than anticipated. His best positions were probably third and left field. Unfortunately, Kelly did not demonstrate sufficient power to play at either of those positions. It should be noted that Kelly isn’t going to be a regular at the major league level. Rather, he is a bench player, so it is quite possible, his relative lack of power may not be as big an issue for him.
Ultimately, Kelly was rewarded for his hard work and resilence. He was rewarded not just with getting called-up to the majors, but also by being put on the Wild Card Game roster. In a season with a number of highlights for him, his seventh inning pinch hit single certainly has to rank well up there.
Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links. If you want to see the prior entries, here is the link for catchers, and here is the link for middle infielders.