In Mets history, there have been a number of people who have worn the number 2, and to some extent it is an almost cursed number in team history. Perhaps that is a function of Marvelous Marv Throneberry being one of the first people to ever wear the uniform.
Over time, we would see many wear the number and fall far short of expectations. It was the number of Jim Fregosi. It was also the number of Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini. It was also the number of Justin Turner who had better days after leaving the Mets.
Seeing all the number is and what is represents, perhaps Mackey Sasser is the best Mets player to ever to wear the number.
Knowing Gary Carter‘s days being a top catcher were going to be limited, the Mets were proactive, and they addressed the future of the position by obtaining Sasser from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the eve of the 1988 season. That would make Sasser the back-up catcher for the Mets last division title of the century.
That 1988 season was the worst of Carter’s career, and the Mets needed their back-up catcher to contribute more than in year’s past. That season he was an above-average offensive catcher. In fact, he was better than that with his having the sixth best wRC+ among National League catchers with at least 90 PA.
That was the case for his two year tenure as Carter’s back-up. It was Sasser’s play which allowed the Mets to feel comfortable making the very difficult decision in releasing Carter at the end of the year to hand the reigns to Sasser. In 1990, Sasser would reward the Mets faith in him.
In 1990, Sasser would play a career high 100 games that season, and he would catch a career high 87 games. During that season, he would do what had been previously impossible by becoming the first Mets catcher to throw out Vince Coleman attempting to steal a base.
Up until that time, Coleman was a perfect 57/57 in stolen base attempts against his future team. Aside from the throwing highlight, Sasser proved his offense could withstand a heavier defensive workload with his being now the fifth best offensive catcher in baseball. Unfortunately, this season would be it for Sasser behind the plate.
The beginning of the end came on July 8, 1990. In that game against the Atlanta Braves, Sasser was already 2-for-3 at the plate raising his season stats to .336/.381/.455. In the game, Jim Presley ran over Sasser at the plate. Sasser would get the out (he was quite adept at the tag), but he would depart the game with a badly sprained ankle.
From there, Mackey Sasser Disease, the cousin of Steve Blass Disease was born. Sasser would soon begin having issues throwing the ball back to the catcher. This effectively ended his career even with the Mets keeping him around a few more years as a backup and utility player.
That would not be the end of Sasser’s impact upon baseball or the Mets. As it turns out, Sasser wanted answers to why he had the yips. He would seek them out, and as he said to Anthony McCarron then of the New York Daily News, he got that help from Dr. David Grand.
With that help, he was able to successfully be able to throw the ball again, and he would not have issues doing things like throwing batting practice. That would partially help him have a coaching career. In that coaching career, he would again help the New York Mets.
During his coaching career, Sasser would find himself coaching a young infielder named T.J. Rivera at Troy University. When Rivera was undrafted, Sasser called to the Mets and recommended the team sign him. This would eventually lead to Rivera becoming the team’s everyday second baseman in September 2016 and helping that Mets team claim the top Wild Card spot.
More than that, Sasser has made himself available to help those players who have had potentially career altering yips the way he once did. That included calling up Mike Pelfrey when the young right-hander was experiencing issues with balks.
Overall, Sasser not only helped the Mets as a player, but he did what he could do to help the organization after his playing career was over. As we saw, he did hit part to help save Pelfrey’s career, and he helped launch Rivera’s. Even with Turner having his moments and Juan Uribe becoming an instant Mets folk hero, it is difficult to argue any Mets player who wore the number 2 having a bigger impact on the franchise than he.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Sasser was the second best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 2.
Just when you thought the New York Knicks were maybe starting to get it, they go out and hire Leon Rose to be their new team president. While there are some who believe this could be a boon for the Knicks much in the same vein Bob Myers with the Warriors or Rob Pelinka with the Lakers, we remember everyone thought it was a good idea to get Rose in the past.
That was the trade with the Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose. That ended with Rose disappearing and having one of, if not the, worst season of his career.
Looking forward, we see with the Mets hiring a CAA agent is not exactly the best route to success. In fact, aside from not selling the team to Steve Cohen, hiring Brodie Van Wagenen to become the Mets GM has been one of the worst decisions the Wilpons have made over the past two years.
In very short order, Van Wagenen ruined the Mets prospect depth and payroll flexibility. Part of that was his fulfilling Robinson Cano‘s request to come back to New York, and his signing Jed Lowrie, who was physically unable to play last year. Notably, both players were his former clients.
Van Wagenen has also fired Carlos Beltran for being part of the Astros sign stealing scandal despite trading for two former Astros, J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick, who had also taken part in that scandal. While Van Wagenen denied any knowledge of the scandal, he notably traded for Marisnick after the news broke.
He has portrayed Hector Santiago as a bit of a savior while also allowing Zack Wheeler to go to a division rival (partially due to budgetary restraints). He also proved to not be true to his word forcing Devin Mesoraco into retirement, cutting Adeiny Hechavarria before he accrued a bonus, and never calling up Dilson Herrera.
As bad as the Wilpons are and continue to be, Van Wagenen has made everything worse.
While Rose may be different than Van Wagenen, the Wilpons are not discernibly different from James Dolan in terms of running a professional sports franchise. Ultimately, while it may not be fair to look at Rose like the next Van Wagenen, you do have to fairly question whether Dolan is more Wilpon or whether he is more like the Warriors or Lakers.
Seeing how Rose’s representation of Carmelo Anthony helped foster the relationship with Dolan much like how Van Wagenen’s representation of Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier fostered the relationship with the Wilpons, you shudder as a Knicks and Mets fan.
Hopefully, Rose is different than Van Wagenen, and he proves to actually know what he is doing. After all, you can cross your fingers Dolan has some clue with how he operates the Rangers. You don’t have the same faith with the Wilpons with their inability to even earn a profit of over a billion.
In the end, the Rose hire may be very different than the Van Wagenen one. No one should have that faith just yet.
Yesterday, the Mets made the announcement of the non-roster invitations to Spring Training. If you follow the minor leagues closely, you saw some interesting names who may help the Mets in 2020 like Kevin Smith, Patrick Mazeika, and Ryley Gilliam. Of course, none of those names garnered attention.
The headline as usual was Tim Tebow.
On the surface, inviting Tebow to Spring Training isn’t that big of a deal. After all, the Mets once invited country music star Garth Brooks to Spring Training in 2000 as part of the singer’s promotion of his Teammates for Kids charity.
It should be noted Brooks participated during the 2000 Spring Training, which was the year the Mets won the fourth pennant in their history. In the end, these celebrity and gimmick appearances at Spring Training really have no impact, and at the end of the day, it really doesn’t serve as any sort of distraction.
To his credit, Tebow hasn’t been a distraction during Spring Training. Rather, he is a draw due to his popularity, especially in the Florida area from which he hails. Honestly, if he is there drawing people to St. Lucie making money for the Mets, it’s not a bad thing at all.
The real problem is what happens afterwards.
To put things in perspective, last year Tebow hit .163/.240/.255 in 77 games for Triple-A Syracuse before succumbing to a season ending hand injury. While you could argue he had handled himself well in the lower levels of the minors, especially with a 106 wRC+ for Double-A Binghamton, he was completely over-matched last year.
Part of the problem appears to be his level of dedication.
We have seen Tebow travel and work with the SEC Network during the offseasons. Of note, he has previously left the Instructional Leagues to attend to those duties. On that note, he has also scheduled his charity golf outings during Spring Training, and as a result, he has left Spring Training for a day or two to attend to the golf outings for the charity he purportedly runs.
Now, you can argue this is not entirely fair to bring up because players do all sorts of stuff during their offseasons and during Spring Training. Plenty of players golf and do TV work as well as other things. While true, the level of dedication needed to be a top analyst is different than a promotional television or radio spot.
More to the point, Tebow has suffered season ending hand injuries in two successive seasons. You can make a very real and fair point he is just not getting himself the necessary training he needs to get himself into baseball shape. This is also besides the point.
Last year, the Mets had Tebow play in 77 of the team’s first 100 games despite the fact he probably deserved to play in none of them. While that was happening, Dilson Herrera was not getting any time in the outfield to help prepare him to be a useful Major League utility player. We also saw players like David Thompson get demoted partially due to a roster crunch.
It’s more than that. There were players like Jason Krizan who waited far too long in Binghamton before a move up to Triple-A. The same could be said for a Sam Haggerty who did eventually receive a call-up to the majors. The overriding point here is the Mets have allowed Tebow’s presence to interfere with the development of players who could have helped contribute in 2019 and potentially in 2020.
While it is fair to say part of the reason Tebow is getting these chances is because of how thin the Mets outfield is at the upper levels of the farm system, we are also seeing Tebow’s presence is serving as a hindrance to the Mets even giving players a look in the outfield.
Ultimately, when you have a player who is 32 years old and cannot get himself in sufficient shape to last a full season, he simply does not merit this amount of playing time. That’s why at the end of the day Brodie Van Wagenen has to do what’s right by the Mets and not by his former client and treat Tebow like the 32 year old non-prospect he is.
With yesterday being Black Friday, people ran out to stores and websites looking for deals, and today, they’re assessing what they got and still need to get. Being Mets fans, we expect the team to spend most of the offseason diving through the discount bins.
To a certain extent, every team needs to do that. The player signed to a minor league deal or on the cheap emerges to be much better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. Many times, when that happens, your team takes it to the next level. In honor of Black Friday, here are some of the best bargain signings the Mets have made in their history.
For this list, we are only looking at players signed to minor league deals, and as this is the Mets we are talking about, it’s being run on Small Business Saturday.
C Todd Pratt – he went from delivering Dominos to being signed to a minor league deal with the Mets. Three years later, Pratt would hit a walk-off homer off of Matt Mantei clinching the first NLDS in team history.
1B James Loney – in 2016, the Mets were left without a first baseman due to Lucas Duda‘s back injury as well as a host of other injuries on the team. Loney would step in and help the team hitting .305/.367/.463 over his first 22 games to help keep that team afloat and make that push for the Wild Card.
2B Jose Valentin – the Mets signed Valentin to be veteran depth only for him to fill the vacuum left at second base by Anderson Hernandez‘s offensive struggles and Kazuo Matsui‘s injuries. In addition to his 3.6 WAR in 2006, he would hit two homers in the NL East clincher.
3B Matt Franco – signed a minor league deal with the Mets entering the 1996 season. He’d emerge as a good pinch hitter who hit a game winning single off Mariano Rivera clinching the Mets first series win in the Subway Series.
SS Omar Quintanilla – the Mets let Jose Reyes go due to a mixture of the Madoff scandal and the belief Ruben Tejada was ready to be the every day shortstop. When Tejada wasn’t Quintanilla was a pleasant surprise with a career year before being traded for cash considerations.
LF Melvin Mora – Mora signed a minor league deal coming out of Japan. In the 162nd game of the 1999 season, he scored on a wild pitch enduring the playoff game. In the Grand Slam Single game, he hit the cut off man leading to Keith Lockhart getting cut down at the plate. In that postseason, he hit .400/.500/.600.
CF Endy Chavez – signed as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, a season where he’d have the greatest catch in NLCS history. He’d also have other defensive gems and game winning bunts in his Mets career.
RF Marlon Byrd – back in the cavernous Citi Field days, Byrd came to the Mets on a minor league deal in 2013 and hit 21 homers before getting traded to the Pirates in a deal which netted Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.
RP Pedro Feliciano – soon dubbed Perpetual Pedro due to his rubber arm, he’d be a key piece of a great 2006 bullpen, and he’d emerge as the best LOOGY in franchise history.
SP R.A. Dickey – this is the gold standard. Dickey was signed to a minor league deal in 2009, and a few short seasons later, he would become the biggest surprise Cy Young winner in Major League history. The Mets then selling high on him and getting Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud for him makes signing Dickey all the more legendary.
The New York Mets completely blew it last night. Behind that loss was a a number of players failing. Todd Frazier couldn’t get a hit in two key RBI situations. Steven Matz allowed a grand slam. Brad Brach failed to cover first in time. There’s obviously more.
Behind the players failing was a number of questionable to flat out indefensible decisions from Mickey Callaway.
Callaway should not have let Matz face Jorge Alfaro. With the team having zero margin for error, you cannot use Walker Lockett under any circumstance. There’s no saving the top arms in the bullpen to fight for another day because if you lose, there isn’t going to be another day.
There were other decisions like not starting Brandon Nimmo or allowing Michael Conforto to bat against Brian Moran. You could also question using Rajai Davis as a pinch hitter in the sixth over Nimmo. To be fair, these decisions were mitigated by Juan Lagares going 1-for-3 with a run and a walk, and Amed Rosario hitting a grand slam.
The pinch hitting decisions were mitigated by the actual options available. Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera are not good hitters. Jed Lowrie hasn’t had a hit in his limited pinch hitting appearances, and he has just one right-handed at-bat all year. That’s it for the right-handed bench options against the left-handed pitching the Marlins had out there in the form of Caleb Smith and Moran.
It certainly makes you question why the Mets never made a roster move to add Dilson Herrera to the roster. After all, they lost Eric Hanhold so they can have Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart on the roster, neither of whom have pitched one meaningful inning in September.
Taking that into consideration, you have to look at the bullpen again. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson are the only reliable arms down there. You can trust Brach against right-handed batters but not left, and vice versa for Luis Avilan. After that, it’s a straight roll of the dice. Sadly, it’s a heavily weighted pair of dice putting the odds stacked against the Mets.
Look at those ERAs again. Lockett wasn’t even the worst ERA available in the bullpen last night. He wasn’t the only one with an ERA over 5.00. In fact, taking away the top two relievers, there were only three relievers with an ERA under that mark, and one of those, Hart, has only pitched 1.0 innings.
Put aside for a moment the Mets entered the season with Tim Peterson in the bullpen putting the team 1-2 relievers short to start the season. At the trade deadline, the Mets went out and got Marcus Stroman, and they didn’t back it up with another move. Sure, they got Brach, but he fell into their laps. It wasn’t a proactive move on the Mets part.
The bench has always been an issue too. We have seen the Mets cycle through Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ruben Tejada while rage cutting Travis d’Arnaud. Again, the Mets did little to address this at the trade deadline with Joe Panik falling into their laps like Brach did.
This team was ill constructed from the get-go, and for some reason when the Mets doubled down at the trade deadline, they did nothing to fix their two biggest problems – the bench and the bullpen.
Now, it’s possible a very good manager like Terry Francona or Bruce Bochy could’ve navigated their way around these problems, but we know Callaway couldn’t. The Mets knowing that and handing him a roster which feeds into his deficiencies as a manager makes what Brodie Van Wagenen did all the worse.
So, yes, Callaway screwed up yesterday, and he has screwed up in other spots. But make no mistake, this was largely the result of the roster he was given. For that, Brodie Van Wagenen should shoulder the blame he was absolutely unwilling to accept earlier in the year.
So far this season, Aaron Altherr is hitting .085/.141/.169 (-20 wRC+) in 47 games this season. Last year, Altherr played 105 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, and he hit .181/.295/.333 (75 wRC+). As on outfielder this year, Altherr has a -1 DRS in 127.1 innings, and he was a 1 DRS in 524.1 innings last year. That followed a -4 DRS in 837.1 innings in 2017.
Taking everything into account, Altherr is a bad baseball player, and he has been one for two years now. Despite that, the Mets have continued to keep him on the roster, and they do little to challenge his roster status.
When Jeff McNeil went down, the Mets had a need for someone who could fill-in in the outfield. Instead of a Dilson Herrera who has some outfield experience, the Mets instead went with Ruben Tejada, who was no threat to taking away his outfield reps. The team also didn’t call-up Rajai Davis, who also could have presented a threat.
On Davis, most fans remember his Uber ride and his hitting a pinch hit homer. What they don’t see is his hitting .287/.334/.410 with Triple-A Syracuse. That’s not as good as the .274/.384/.565 batting line Altherr put up in admittedly far fewer games with Syracuse. On the one hand, that makes the Mets decision to go with Altherr over Davis defensible. However, it is still curious why you would not even challenge Altherr when you needed that extra outfielder.
What’s all the more baffling is how the Mets let Billy Hamilton go to the Braves.
There are many things you can say about Hamilton and his deficiencies as a player. In 93 games with the Royals this year, Hamilton hit .211/.275/.269 (44 wRC+). That’s actually a step backwards for him as he hit .239/.299/.327 (69 wRC+) in 153 games for the Reds last year. No matter how you look at it, Hamilton is a bad hitter. Terrible actually.
That makes the fact he’s been a significantly better hitter than Altherr all the worse. Hamilton is also a much better outfielder. In fact, Hamilton is an elite defensive outfielder. In 716.1 innings this year, Hamilton has a 9 DRS. Since he was called up in 2013, his 60 DRS trails only Lorenzo Cain among qualifying center fielders.
Right there, Hamilton is a significantly better hitter and fielder than Altherr. When you factor in Hamilton’s great speed and base running, you realize Hamilton does EVERYTHING better than Altherr. Everything.
With rosters expanding in September, and the Mets depth depleted to the point where they have to not only carry Altherr on the roster but also play him, there is zero reason to not put in a claim for Hamilton. He was a significant upgrade, and he was someone the Mets were going to be able to carry on the roster into September. If the Mets were lucky enough to make the postseason, Hamilton would have been a huge weapon as a late inning pinch runner and/or defensive replacement.
Go back and ask the 1969 Mets about the Ron Swoboda and Tommie Agee catches. Go back and ask the 2004 Red Sox about Dave Roberts stealing a base. The ability or a player to make that one impact can make all the difference in the world. Instead, the Mets just let Hamilton go to the Braves, who were lower in the waiver priority, unchallenged.
The Braves will get the benefit of his base running and defense while the Mets cross their fingers on Brandon Nimmo being able to return from a bulging disc in his neck. They’re also hoping Dominic Smith, who is still in a walking boot and using a knee scooter, can return. They’re hoping J.D. Davis‘ leg won’t continue to be an issue. Same for McNeil, who has gone from being able to immediately come off the 10 day IL to needing a rehab stint. There’s also Jed Lowrie, a player who has fewer pictures of him in a Mets uniform than people have photos of Big Foot or the Lockness Monster.
Going into the season, Brodie Van Wagenen kept telling us the Mets were all-in, and the team would have no ifs. It’s August 20, and the team wouldn’t go all-in on improving their roster, and they are seeing IF one of their injured players could contribute. Mostly, they’ve decided the team is better with Altherr, who has been terrible for over a year now, than any of the better alternatives . . . like Hamilton.
On Sunday, I was invited to join Tim Ryder for the Simply Amazin podcast to discuss the series against the Royals as well as other Mets matters. Off the top of my head, I remember mentioning J.D. Davis, Pete Alonso, Ruben Tejada, Brandon Nimmo, Dilson Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Amed Rosario, Seth Lugo, Jeurys Familia, Justin Wilson, Luis Avilan, Jeff McNeil, Joe Panik, Juan Lagares, Dominic Smith, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Rajai Davis, Luis Guillorme, and others.
Please take a listen and keep an eye (or ear) out for Thursday when I’m next scheduled to appear.
The Mets went to Kansas City looking to sweep, and they wound up having to settle for less than that. Ultimately, they got the job done even if they did not perform well at all:
1. Alex Gordon may be the only Royals player remaining, but it was still good to see the Mets win a series in Kaufman Stadium, and it felt even better seeing Jeurys Familia get the win in a deciding game.
2. It’s also great to see Michael Conforto homer in a game against the Royals and not watch the Mets not blow the game. Seeing where Conforto hit that homer, we should have called that a Blue Moon Shot.
3. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Cody Bellinger‘s National League rookie home run record. He now joins Mark McGwire and Aaron Judge as the only rookies to hit 40 homers in a season. This has been a great ride, and he’s now in line to join Darryl Strawberry as the only other Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.
4. It is criminal that when Alonso broke the record the call was made by Wayne Randazzo on the radio side and Gary Apple on the TV side. The Mets have all-time great broadcasters, and somehow that’s what we were left with for this great moment. Mets needs to do better when there are vacations.
5. There were two different times Alonso looked like he was going to break that record. The first ball was called foul, and to his credit, Alonso shook it off and delivered with a huge go-ahead two RBI single. The next time the ball actually hit the foul line towards the top of the right field wall. Many times we see people struggle or slump as they near a milestone; Alonso powered onward.
6. Jacob deGrom had his 12th start of the season pitching 7.0+ innings allowed two earned or fewer. That mark ties him with Hyun-Jin Ryu for the most in the Majors. This should only highlight how great deGrom has been this year and how deserving he is of another Cy Young.
7. Yes, Ryu is having a great year, but deGrom’s year is arguably better. For starters, deGrom has more innings pitched and strikeouts. Moreover, he has a higher K/9, K%, K-BB%, FIP, xFIP, fWAR, and bWAR while leading in other other categories as well.
8. One of the reasons the Mets took this series was Joe Panik playing great. Since joining the Mets, Panik is hitting .333/.379/.444 with a double, triple, and two RBI with two walks. On a side note, he was the second baseman when the Giants beat the Royals in the 2014 World Series.
10. With the way Panik and Lagares are playing, it appears Todd Frazier is the guy who has to go to the bench. Since the All Star Break, he is hitting .192/.239/.377. If he’s hitting this way, he cannot be in the lineup.
11. Going forward, Frazier has hit .283/.359/.543 off left-handed pitching. To that end, he should work out a de facto platoon with Panik, and given his glove, he should be the third baseman when Marcus Stroman is on the mound. Short of that, he should be a power bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement.
12. These two were needed all the more with J.D. Davis twice going down with a calf injury in this series. With how hot he’s been hitting, the Mets need his bat in the lineup, and they were without it in a series against the Royals. One side point here, good for Mickey Callaway for being cautious in taking him out rather than leaving him to run 90 feet.
13. Davis coming out of Sunday’s game forced Amed Rosario to play left field. It didn’t take long for the ball to find him, and the played the ball like he’s been out there all year. He also doubled in his only at-bat as an outfielder. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise because Rosario has been legitimately great lately.
14. Since the All Star Break, Rosario has hit .368/.403/.544. He’s a 3 DRS at shortstop. When McNeil went down, he took over the leadoff spot, and he’s been hitting .333/.383/.535 in the leadoff spot. He is literally doing all that is being asked of him, and he is emerging as a legitimately great player. This has been a real joy to watch.
15. Rosario having to play left field only highlights the stupidity of the Mets going with Ruben Tejada over Dilson Herrera. What makes the move all the more hilariously stupid was the Mets justification for going with Tejada over Herrera was versatility. Between the two, Herrera is the only one with outfield experience. Since Tejada rejoined the Mets, he is 0-for-8 at the plate with two strikeouts and someone already a -0.3 WAR. Herrera is hitting .294/.368/.706 while playing second base and left field. Again, this decision made zero sense.
16. On the topic of baffling decisions, when Robert Gsellman landed on the Injured List, the Mets called up Walker Lockett over Chris Flexen. Between the two, Flexen has the better stuff, and he has experience pitching out of the bullpen.
17. One area where Callaway was criticized for making a baffling decision was using Edwin Diaz to get out of a bases loaded no out situation. While it was a near disaster with a grand slam overturned on replay, Diaz got out of the inning allowing just two runs. In his next appearance, he pitched a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts. Maybe, just maybe in the long run, this was a great decision by Callaway.
18. Zack Wheeler‘s start against the Royals was disappointing. That’s two straight disappointing five inning starts from him. This time, it was probably more bad luck than anything. However, this is his first real postseason race, so it will be interesting to see how he handles things in his next start.
19. The Mets would have been better off with a sweep, but they still won the series. They’re also just two games back of the second Wild Card. Overall, when looking at this stretch of six games, many are discounting just how hot and grueling that stretch of road games are in Atlanta and Kansas City along with their losing one of their hottest hitters.
20. Good for the White Sox for having Bill Walton and Michael Schur do color commentary with Steve Stone out. As noted on Saturday, that is what the Mets should have been doing by using the multitude of great local broadcasters and fans in Gary Cohen’s and Howie Rose’s absence. On a final note there, John Sadak did a great job on the radio. Here’s hoping there’s a spot for him in 2020.
Depending on how you look at things, the Mets either showed they can play with the Braves, or they showed they are not in the same class as the Braves or the best teams in baseball leaving the postseason hopes all the more futile. Really, this was a wild three game series with a lot happening:
1. The one injury the Mets could ill-afford to handle was Jeff McNeil. His versatility is arguably more important than his bat. In any event, his absence really exposes not the Mets lineup but really their depth.
2. As we saw with the Mets yesterday, they can compete without McNeil. For that to happen, Pete Alonso needs to be the first half Alonso, and Amed Rosario needs to continue his breakout. The Mets need higher levels of production from Michael Conforto, and ultimately, they need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to be everyday players.
3. It has been a pure joy to see Lagares become good again both in the field and at the plate. Of note, Lagares has had as many hits in this series as he’s had in his previous 15 games combined. If Lagares plays like this, he’s an everyday player especially with that glove in center.
4. With respect to second, Panik has to play everyday because Ruben Tejada isn’t good. In one game, he showed why he hasn’t been in the majors in two years, and he looked skittish with his back turned on double plays. You can point to his Triple-A stats, but that ball is all the more juiced than the Major League ball is.
5. Since the Mets opted to go with Tejada, Dilson Herrera has responded by going 3-for-6 with three runs, two homers, five RBI, and two walks in the past two games. He is red hot with a seven game hitting streak. While you may want to say the juiced ball theory applies to him as well (it does), his production was near this level last season. Tejada’s wasn’t.
6. It should be noted the Mets are carrying an extra pitcher with Drew Gagnon, who was beyond terrible last night, and really that spot in the bullpen has been terrible all year no matter who has filled the role. Given how the Mets need some power off the bench, and Herrera presents another player who could play outfield, there is no reason why he spends another day in Syracuse.
7. While Gagnon was terrible out of the bullpen, the rest of the bullpen has stepped up. Brad Brach looks as rejuvenated as Jeurys Familia does as late. Along with Justin Wilson, this gives the Mets three battle tested relievers who are pitching very well right now in front of Seth Lugo. That’s suddenly a good bullpen.
8. Lugo blew it on Wednedsay. We can try to say he didn’t have time to warm up (he did), or say it was another problem (not really), but he just wasn’t good. Fortunately for the Mets, he’s going to rebound from this and continue to be great.
9. Mickey Callaway was right in lifting Lugo for Steven Matz. There were many factors at play with that decision, and he ultimately went with the team’s best available pitcher in a high leverage spot. When he doesn’t have it, the Mets aren’t going to win those one run games.
10. On Matz, he was brilliant, and he has been much improved in the second half. In his six second half starts, he is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.047 WHIP. If you’re getting that from your fifth spot in the rotation, you can beat the good and the bad teams.
11. Don’t make too much about Marcus Stroman‘s “struggles” since joining the Mets. He is adapting to a new team and a new pitching philosophy. The main takeaway from him is he has given the Mets a chance to win in his first three starts. This is probably the floor for his performance, and we should see him take off soon.
12. With Zack Wheeler, it was one poor start. Just one. Don’t overreact and just look forward to his next start against the Royals. On that front, it is interesting he is finally getting that chance to pitch against the Royals after he was supposed to be one of the team’s best starters in 2015 and his almost being traded away for Carlos Gomez that year.
13. The Mets really needed that game from Pete Alonso. He’s been struggling in the second half, and with McNeil down, they really need him to get back to being the All-Star level player. His five hit game was a reminder of just how good he can be. His tying Cody Bellinger‘s National League home run record with more than a month remaining in the season is a reminder as to just how good he has been.
14. Alonso and Rosario each having a five hit game in the same game was not only the first time it happened in team history, but it is a reason to get excited for the rest of the 2019 season and each of the ensuing years.
15. Yet again, we need to point out Rosario has figured things out, and he is now one of the best players on the team and emerging as one of the best shortstops in baseball. Since July 1, he is hitting .364/.399/.536, and in the second half he is a 3 DRS. Don’t be surprised, be ready.
16. Mets should have won this series, but they just couldn’t get that one big hit in either of the first two games. The main culprit was Conforto, but Wilson Ramos was also really bad. It should also be noted in Wednesday’s debacle, almost everyone was bad with the exception of Rosario, J.D. Davis, Luis Guillorme, Panik, and the pitchers not named Lugo.
17. Glass half full is the Mets showed they can play with the Braves. Glass half empty is the Mets chances of winning the division went from realistic to near pipe dream.
18. Starting this pivotal stretch of games 3-3 and being two out of the Wild Card is not a bad start. The Mets now have to make real headway in Kansas City before taking care of business at Citi Field. If they do that, we will have real season to be excited for the meaningful games in September.
19. Congratulations are in order to Howie Rose for being inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. This is an honor long overdue, and it should hopefully serve as a precursor to both he and Gary Cohen being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
20. Gary Cohen and Howie Rose are no longer allowed to take time off at the same time. Gary Apple is terrible. He should never be allowed to do play-by-play again. Given his smug attitude, I wouldn’t care if he was gone from SNY all together.
First and foremost, it’s obvious there is no replacing Jeff McNeil. The Mets can’t do that. As noted earlier, the Mets need Juan Lagares and Joe Panik to play like everyday players while hoping the healthy players on this roster raise their games. The Mets are also going to need production from the player who occupies McNeil’s spot on the roster (should he land on the IL).
According to various reports, the first person under consideration is Ruben Tejada. Part of the reason the Mets are considering Tejada is the great year he is having in Syracuse. Through 71 games, he is hitting .330/.408/.476 with 19 doubles, a triple, six homers, and 38 RBI.
It should be noted like the Major Leagues, there has been a juiced ball issue in Triple-A, and Tejada’s numbers could be attributed to that. For example, Tejada hit .230/.291/.298 in 101 games for Triple-A Norfolk last year. Tejada last played in the Major Leagues in 2017 when he hit .230/.293/.283 in 41 games for the Orioles.
The bigger issue with Tejada is the fact he has never played the outfield in his professional career. One of the things which made McNeil so important was his versatility and ability to play almost all seven defensive positions. With respect to Tejada, he has mostly played third base this year along with some time at second and short. Overall, while Tejada may hit, he is not going to be able to provide the versatility the Mets need causing the team to have to lean on Aaron Altherr all the more.
Another former Met on the Syracuse roster who should merit consideration is Dilson Herrera. Unlike Tejada, Herrera has some outfield experience playing 10 games in the outfield for Syracuse and 11 games for the Reds last season. It should be noted Herrera did not rate well with a -2 DRS in 56.2 innings for the Reds last year, but he should have the opportunity to work with Luis Rojas, who has done a fine job helping Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis not be nightmares in left field this year.
Offensively, Herrera has had a very good year in Syracuse hitting .255/.332/.528 with 26 doubles, a triple, 22 homers, and 53 RBI. Now, the juiced ball effect should be taken into account for Herrera like it was with Tejada. That said, Herrera hit .297/.367/.465 in 71 Triple-A games last year. Herrera did not impress during his call-up to the Reds last year hitting .184/.268/.414 in 53 games. However, it should be noted he hit five homers for the Reds last year showing Herrera could help provide some pop off a bench currently bereft of it.
Looking at former Reds currently in the Mets system, the team should also consider Arismendy Alcantara. Looking at his Major League numbers, Alcantara has hit less than Tejada or Herrera. In fact, over the course of his limited playing time from 2014 – 2017, he hit .189/.235/.248. Like Tejada and Herrera, he his having a good year with Syracuse hitting .302/.363/.523 with 12 doubles, five triples, 10 homers, 41 RBI in 73 games.
Defensively, he is much more versatile than either Tejada or Herrera. In fact, over his career, the two positions he has predominantly played have been center field and second base. In many ways, that makes the switch hitter a very good replacement for McNeil as he is going to provide the same level of versatility the Mets need.
If the Mets wanted to look outside the organization, Josh Harrison was released by the Detroit Tigers on August 9. In 31 games for the Tigers, he hit just .176/.219/.265. Part of his struggles could be attributable to his having an injury plagued year with him having a shoulder injury in March and a left hamstring tendon strain which landed him on the IL on May 28. Harrison has not played in the Majors since then.
Harrison has not played well in his seven game rehab stint before his release. Of course, the long layoff could have been a factor. However, it should also be noted Harrison hit .250/.293/.363 in 97 games for the Pirates last year.
One other note with Harrison is he’s not as versatile as you would believe. Since 2016, he has predominantly played second base, and he last played more than one game in the outfield in 2017. He last played more than 10 games there in 2015. Put another way, he is really now just a 31 year old infielder who is on the decline.
Looking at all the options, the Mets need to consider what they want for the bench piece. Are they looking for a platoon for Panik at second? Do they want the best possible hitter to pinch hit? Are they looking to catch lightning in a bottle? Do the Mets value versatility, comfort with a particular player, or possibly a name which could inspire faith among the team and fanbase?
The Mets focus is going to dictate which direction they should go. Ultimately, given the ability to play multiple positions and the team’s need for a bat off the bench, arguably, the Mets should look towards Dilson Herrera. However, the decision is not that clear cut, and the Mets can very justifiably decide to go with any of the other aforementioned players.
UPDATE: According to reports, the Mets are going with Tejada.