The most famed double play trio in Major League history was Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance. They were so renown that Franklin Pierce Adams would script a poem about them dubbed Baseball’s Sad Lexicon:
These are the three saddest possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bears cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
As we all saw in the Future’s Game, the Mets are developing their own trio of young stars that people will wax poetic about for years to come.
For the first time ever, Amed Rosario, Dilson Herrera, and Dominic Smith took the field at the very same time. These are the very same three players that the Mets envision to be their own version of Tinker to Evers to Chance. It was easy to believe this is the future when Mets fans got to see the Future’s Game to watch Rosario make plays like this:
— MVVM Wear (@MvvmWear) July 11, 2016
This of course followed Herrera and Rosario helping the World Team put up a crooked number in the top of the ninth. Herrera hit an RBI single to put the World team ahead 5-3, and Rosario followed him with a single to load the bases. Both would eventually come home to score Seeing Herrera and Rosario get back to back base hits and score runs is something Mets fans will start seeing in the very near future.
Smith did his part to help USA win the game. He was one of the few players on the day that would play the entire game. As anticipated, he played a good defensive first base. He also had an RBI, which at the time had put USA up 2-0.
Overall, we saw each future Mets player contribute and help their teams try to win the game. Within the next few years, they will all take the field at the same time at Citi Field. Given their offensive capabilities, they will help their pitching staff get a lead in a game. Given their defense they will be able to turn a double play or two in the game. There will be excitement amongst the fans at Citi Field while the opposition and their fans will feel dejected as the Mets double play combination will give them “nothing but trouble.” Everyone else will shudder at the words:
Rosario to Herrera to Smith
Its astounding how much 2016 is paralleling 2015. This year, like last year, 46 games into the season, they trail the Nationals in the division. Interestingly enough, this is not where the parallels end.
Last year and this year, Travis d’Arnaud had a significant injury forcing him to miss a significant period of time. This pressed Kevin Plawecki into assuming the starting catcher’s job, and he struggled. However, Plawecki kept on catching because his backup was a good defensive poor hitting catcher. Last year was Anthony Recker. This year it’s Rene Rivera.
Last year, the Mets faced the prospect of not knowing when or if David Wright could return due to his back problems. As a result, Eric Campbell played many more games than the Mets ever anticipated he would. The same thing is happening now as a result of Lucas Duda‘s stress fracture in his lower back.
Minor Leaguers Not Ready for the Majors
With the rash injuries last year, the Mets trotted out the likes of Daniel Muno and Darrell Ceciliani to try to fill in the gaps. It didn’t work. This year the Mets have pressed Matt Reynolds and Ty Kelly into action. Reynolds and Kelly are having similar difficulties.
Last year, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee were having the worst years of their careers thereby putting the pressure on the other starters. The Mets were stuck in a holding pattern about making a change as the obvious replacement, Noah Syndergaard, still needed a little more time. This year it is Matt Harvey struggling while the obvious replacement in the rotation, Zack Wheeler, still needs more time to get ready to pitch in the majors.
At this point last year, Bartolo Colon was 7-3 with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.20 This year Colon is 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. This year and last year the Mets have been able to count on Colon to take the ball every fifth day and give them a chance to win.
Mid 30’s Corner Outfielder
Through May 25th last year, Michael Cuddyer was hitting .250/.328/.372. This year Curtis Granderson is hitting .204/.304/.413. Like Cuddyer last year, the Mets are relying heavily on Granderson, and unfortunately, they are not getting the production they need from them.
Second Year Starter Stepping Up
Last year, Jacob deGrom went from Rookie of the Year to All Star. He emerged as the ace of the staff. This year that honor belongs to Syndergaard. Syndergaard has been dominating on the mound like deGrom did last year. He’s a likely All Star, and he’s quickly become the staff’s ace. Honorable mention should go to Steven Matz here as well.
Call for the AA Prospect to Get Called Up
Last year with a rash of injuries and offensive ineptitude, Mets fans shouted from the rooftops that Michael Conforto should be called up to the majors from AA. This year the fans have begun the same with Dominic Smith due to Duda’s injury and Campbell playing there everyday.
Last year, Famila was as dominant as anyone at the end of the game. He started the year a perfect 13/13 in save chances. This year Familia is back to his dominant form. He’s a perfect 16/16 in save chances. As in 2015, Familia is going to slam the door shut.
The Two Team Race
Last year the Braves were the upstarts that faltered. This year will be the Phillies. However, when the dust clears, this is really a two team race between the Mets and the Nationals for the NL East.
Just remember that no matter how bad things got last year, the Mets still won the division by seven games. This year the Mets have a much better team across the board. We may sometimes forget this when the Mets slump or have a couple of injuries. However, this is a much better Mets team that can win the division. This is still a World Series contender. That’s the overriding lesson from 2015.
After Terry Collins stated he doesn’t believe the prognosis of Lucas Duda‘s back is good, it has caused many to speculate on how the Mets will proceed in fulfilling the first base vacancy. Many of those thoughts are creative as the Mets may need to get creative to fill the void. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions will not work. Here’s why:
Move Michael Conforto to 1B
The thinking here is Michael Conforto was deemed to have all the tools to be a great 1B by his biggest fan – Keith Hernandez. This move would allow Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza to platoon in CF while moving Yoenis Cespedes to LF.
Admittedly, this sounds great. It’ll improve both the offense and the defense. However, the problem is the Mets never even sought to have Conforto to play RF. Why should we now believe they’re willing to move him to the infield mid-season. They’re not.
Move Alejandro De Aza to 1B
This one makes sense as De Aza is languishing away on the bench. He went from a platoon player to a fifth outfielder with the Cespedes signing. However, he hasn’t played there in over a decade, and he has just recently started working with Tim Teufel to get acclimated to first. He needs more than a week to get ready.
Slide David Wright to 1B
The idea here is David Wright is better suited to first now with his back and throwing issues. In actuality next to catcher, first is the last position Wright should play. The amount of twisting and stretching involved is harder on the lower back and would only exacerbate his stenosis. Furthermore, even if he could play first base, all you’ve accomplished is reshuffling the deck chairs as you’ve now moved the hole to third instead of first.
Slide Neil Walker to 1B
The problem with that thinking is Walker isn’t Murphy. Walker has never played first base in the majors. He last played first in AAA in 2009 and that was only for seven games. It’s not fair to expect him to be able to slide over with no preparation. It’s also not fair to add more things to his plate while he’s in the midst of a bad slump.
Move Asdrubal Cabrera to 1B
The thought is Asdrubal Cabrera was once a utility player who is capable of playing multiple positions. In addition, the Mets have Matt Reynolds on the roster who is a SS. There are two problems here. First, Cabrera is one of the few Mets producing day in and day out. You don’t want to mess with that especially when he’s never played first. Second, Reynolds was in the middle of a slump in AAA, and he hasn’t shown any signs he’s getting out of it in his limited major league duty.
Move Kevin Plawecki to 1B
This is a holdover from Spring Training when the Mets were looking for ways to keep both of their young catchers in the lineup while letting Duda sit against lefties. Doing this now would also open up more playing time for Rene Rivera, who has shown himself to be a terrific catcher.
The problem is this really damages your offense. Kevin Plawecki has hit .203/.300/.291 this year. Rivera is a career .209/.258/.329 hitter. It’s one thing to have either one of them in the lineup. It’s a whole other thing to have both of them in the lineup.
Call Up Dom Smith
The thinking here is if the Mets don’t have the answer at the major league level, they should go into the minor leagues to solve their problems. Who better than one of, if not the, best Mets prospect. The problem is he’s just not ready. He’s only played 41 games in AA. While the obvious counter-argument is Conforto, it must be noted, Conforto was much further along in his development offensively.
Call Up Brandon Nimmo
The thought process here is Brandon Nimmo is absolutely raking in AAA right now. He’s on an eight game hitting streak that’s seen him hit .364/.462/.636 with three doubles, three triples, and six RBI. While he has played CF almost exclusively, he should be athletic enough to play first. While these are valid points, it should be noted he’s never played first, and like with Conforto, the Mets do not appear inclined to let either one play first.
Trade for Yangervis Solarte
Yangervis Solarte makes a lot of sense for the Mets. He can not only play first, but he can also play third. In his career, he’s also played at second, short, and left. In essence, he’s a much better version of Eric Campbell. In his first full major league season last year, he hit .270/.320/.428. He’s hitting .250/.379/.375 this year. This is all the more impressive when you consider he plays most of his games at Petco.
Here’s the rub. The Padres have no incentive to trade him. He’s not arbitration eligible until 2017, and he can’t become a free agent until 2020. If the Mets were inclined to even trade for Solarte, it’s going to come at a high cost, and the Mets most desirable trade assets were traded away last year. No, if the Mets do make a move your looking at the In the interim, the Mets can inquire about the Kelly Johnsons and Ike Davises of the world.
Overall, that’s the issue. The Mets don’t have what it takes right now to address the first base position internally or externally. Although, the idea of having Travis d’Arnaud work at first during his rehab assignment is intriguing given his shoulder problems and injury history (hat tip Brian Mangan). However, short of that happening, it’s more of the same for the Mets.
This means Campbell is your everyday first baseman until Flores comes off the DL. At that point, the Mets will probably go with Flores until Duda is healthy. Ultimately, Duda needs to be the answer there because in reality any other solution is unrealistic or just a question mark.