With the New York Mets sending Dominic Smith down in a series of transactions designed to make room on the Major League roster for both Yoenis Cespedes and Jason Vargas to return from the disabled list, the Mets will have both Smith and Peter Alonso on the same roster.
This could not have happened at a worse time for either player.
When Smith was called up to the majors, he had not exactly earned his way onto the roster hitting just .260/.343/.370 in 56 games. Unfortunately, things did not improve for him when he was called up to the majors. He would play sparingly, and when he did play he didn’t hit. Overall, he has a -1.1 WAR while hitting .183/.216/.324.
With Smith struggling and Alonso dominating in Double-A, it seemed as if Alonso had easily surpassed Smith as the Mets first baseman of the future. With every homer, it seemed like that future was going to happen at some point this season.
Things changed for Alonso when he was called-up to Triple-A. In 27 games, he is hitting .178/.306/.426 with a 30.1 percent strikeout rate. One thing that has been encouraging is Alonso has not regressed in terms of his newfound plate discipline. Despite his struggles, he has maintained a solid 12.4 percent walk rate.
With both players struggling, Tony DeFrancesco not only has to find a way to get both players back on track, but he also has to find a way to find playing time for both players.
Seemingly, the playing time is the easier of the two issues. With Smith getting up to speed in left field, and the Mets having no prospect of note in the outfield, it would at least seem he could play there everyday. Another consideration is Las Vegas will have the DH available to permit the team to shift both prospects between first base and DH.
The dilemma there is Smith is by far the better defensive first baseman of the two. From that standpoint, Smith should be the everyday first baseman with Alonso at DH.
However, this is the minor leagues where organizations put an emphasis on player development over winning. To that end, Alonso needs the reps at first base much more than Smith does.
To that end, it should come as no surprise John Ricco says Alonso will get most of the reps at first with Smith mostly playing the outfield.
This is really where DeFrancesco is going to have to earn his money. Somehow, some way, he has to help both players improve, have them not just retain but improve their value, and he is going to have to make each player feel as if the organization is invested in them. That’s much easier said than done, especially when the organization is having Smith play out of position to accommodate Alonso.
Further complicating everything is Cespedes interest in possibly making a position change to first base in order to help keep his legs healthy to stay in the lineup. Given his being owed $58 million over the next two seasons, Jay Bruce being owed $28 million over the next two seasons, and the emergence of Brandon Nimmo was an All Star caliber player, it’s very possible the Mets give Cespedes every opportunity to become the Mets first baseman next year.
With that being the case, Smith and Alonso are not only in a position where they have to distinguish themselves from one another, they are also going to have to distinguish themselves to the point where the club is willing to give these two talented young players a job at first base over more established and far better paid players.
Believe it or not, even with their recent struggles both Smith and Alonso possess the talent to force the issue with the Mets organization. If we get to the point where Smith and Alonso are forcing the issue, the Mets will be in a very good position.
In some ways, the Mets final game before the All Star Break was a microcosm of the entire first half of the season. It started with a lot of promise, and things would quickly unravel from there.
Really, the biggest thing you want to take away from this game is just how good Corey Oswalt pitched. He only needed 59 pitches to get through five innings. In those five innings, he allowed just one earned on two hits while walking none.
In four of his five innings, he got the Nationals to go down 1-2-3. The only issue was the second when Anthony Rendon and Matt Adams led off the inning with back-to-back singles setting the stage for a Michael Taylor RBI ground out. Even with that rally, Oswalt still impressed inducing Matt Wieters to hit into a rally killing and inning ending double play.
Of course, with how well he was pitching, you knew Mickey Callaway was going to be double guessed for lifting him for a pinch hitter in the fifth.
At the time, the score was tied 1-1, and to be fair, the Mets weren’t really setting the world on fire against Jeremy Hellickson.
After Jose Reyes hit a one out double and advanced to third on a wild pitch, Amed Rosario had a chance to deliver the go-ahead RBI and not just get the lead but keep Oswalt in the game. He struck out. Dominic Smith, who was given a talking to by Callaway, pinch hit for Oswalt, and he was hit by a pitch.
Unfortunately, Brandon Nimmo, who hasn’t been hitting near as well since he was hit on the hand in Atlanta, couldn’t deliver.
Seth Lugo came out of the pen for a shutdown inning, but after that it was the typical Mets comedy of errors coming out of the bullpen.
The Mets would use Anthony Swarzak, Tim Peterson, and Jerry Blevins in the seventh. None of them were effective. Swarzak was the worst with him walking the two batters he faced before getting pulled. Ultimately, to add insult to injury, it was Daniel Murphy who delivered the go-ahead hit in what would become a five run inning.
In the end, the Mets lost 6-1, and they have not won a series since May. They have the fewest wins in the National League, and they continue to play Reyes everyday while not giving younger players like Jeff McNeil or Smith an opportunity.
Really, this is a bad team whose front office is managing it to the ground.
Game Notes: Blevins escaped the seventh inning jam by picking off a runner. That was his third pick off of the season tying him with Steven Matz for the team lead.
Yesterday, Chase Utley had a press conference to announce he was going to retire from baseball at the end of the season. As a Mets fan, this probably should make you elated.
After all, back from his days in Philadelphia, he has been nothing but a dirty player, and he has been a villain. For proof of that look no further than that tackle which not only broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg, but it really ruined his career. Just remember that as people write and talk about Utley being a hard-nosed player who “played the game the right way.”
Utley is also the guy who completely embarrassed Noah Syndergaard and the Mets. Really, Shawn Estes‘ message to Roger Clemens was more heartful, and really much closer, than the message Syndergaard tried to send that night. As a bonus, we did get that great Terry Collins‘ ejection video.
If you’ve been a Mets fan long enough, there are many, many, many more Utley moments which will instantly spring to mind.
So yeah, in a sense it’s good for the Mets that Utley is gone much in the same way it was good to see players like Chipper Jones retire.
However, the Mets and their fans are nowhere near a position to celebrate the retirement like Utley, even if he was a coward ducking the Mets and and their fans during the NLDS.
Ulitmately, it’s really hard to care when the Mets not only chose to employ the 35 year old Jose Reyes, but they also play him over Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, and really any player who could hit better than .164/.246/.227.
So, people can go ahead and celebrate Utley’s retirement and pretend like the bad guy is gone. It’s not true.
The real bad guy, the one who is a Met right now because he threw his wife through a glass door, is still with the Mets, and he’s become a major impediment to the Mets organization moving forward and improving for the future.
So congrats on a great career to Utley. He may have been dirty and ruined careers, but at least he didn’t beat his wife and complain to the press to help take playing time away from players he was supposed to mentor.
When Todd Frazier landed on the disabled list, one of the justifications proffered for the Mets not calling-up Jeff McNeil was the organization views McNeil as a second baseman, and at the moment, the team still had Asdrubal Cabrera.
In true Mets fashion, their narrative and their actions made this statement and position increasingly absurd. And that’s before you consider Cabrera having an MLB worst -16 DRS at second base.
First and foremost, the Mets actually had Mickey Callaway say Jose Reyes was playing well enough recently to man third until Frazier returns. It shouldn’t shock anyone that since Callaway uttered those words, Reyes is 1-for-17 at the plate.
While Reyes was hitting, sorry not hitting, Cabrera would hyper-extend his elbow requiring him to come out early from one game and not start the next.
Now, this wasn’t an opportunity to call-up McNeil. Not for a game. However, this was a chance to play Dominic Smith. After all, the former first round pick and once first baseman of the future has only started in 16 of the Mets past 28 games.
Think about that for a second, the Mets actually went out of their way to start the soon to be 31 year old den Dekker in center over giving the 23 year old Smith playing time. Naturally, the Mets are now looking to send down Smith while presumably keeping den Dekker up in the majors.
It gets better.
The average age of the Mets bench last night was 26.0 years old, and that includes the 22 year old Rosario and the 23 year old Smith.
Remember, this is a Mets team who his now 17 games under .500. Sure, you can understand the concept of playing Bautista to try to pump up his trade value. However, it is unfathomable to sit both Smith and Rosario to get Reyes and den Dekker into the lineup.
If you think this is all a sick joke and a gross mismanagement of the team, we have yet to reach the best part.
Last night, McNeil, the guy the Mets solely viewed as a second baseman, played third base for Triple-A Las Vegas. On Monday, McNeil was just a second baseman. By Thursday, he was capable of playing third base. It didn’t take the Mets a week before completely upending their own narrative.
This just highlights how completely lost this entire Mets organization is.
The player the Mets view only as a second baseman is playing third base. The man who is supposed to be the first baseman of the future has played way out of position in left field over one-third of the time. Their starting shortstop, a player upon much of the future hangs, is sat because he’s playing too well.
The Mets would have to significantly improve things in order for them to start looking completely inept and confused. Really, this is as bad as it gets. But hey, at least the Wilpons are doing well financially.
Here’s how pointless this 7-3 game was – Keith Hernandez was reading passages from the Mets media guide about the Mets Hall of Famers.
The best thing from this game was Amed Rosario going 3-4 with two runs, two triples, and an RBI. What’s shocking is both triples were to left.
Tyler Bashlor allowed just one run on three hits in 2.1 innings.
P.J. Conlon pitched two scoreless while striking out three.
Dominic Smith singled in his only at-bat.
Perhaps most important, Wilmer Flores made an impressive play in the field.
It was a terrific play in a lost game in a lost season. Flores still cares. Be very careful before you trade him.
Game Notes: Mets are 0-13-2 in their last 15 series.
Heading into the 2018 season, one of the justifications for the Mets bringing back Jose Reyes was for him to serve as a mentor to Amed Rosario. Certainly, that seemed to be the case with Rosario publicly lobbying for the Mets to bring Reyes back into the fold and with article after article mentioning this as a positive from Reyes’ dreadful 2017 season.
Now, it’s quite possible Reyes was more than willing to give his time to a young Rosario who was in the minor leagues. However, with Rosario in the majors serving as an impediment to Reyes’ playing time, it increasingly seems as if Reyes is less mentor and more malcontent.
Aside from his complaining publicly about his playing time and opportunities leading to a significant increase in playing time, there are some things which remain a real concern about his “mentoring role” which was highlighted last night:
Here's Amed's "mentor" Jose Reyes taking a ball away from Amed Rosario. Listen to Gare. Look at Amed's reaction. pic.twitter.com/RWsFbm5YyY
— Good Fundies is short for Good Fundamentals (@goodfundies) July 10, 2018
Reyes, being the “mentor” and a former shortstop, knows that’s this shortstop’s ball. He’s called off the play by Rosario. Instead of giving way, which is the correct baseball play, Reyes lunges in front of Rosario to make the catch.
Looking at it, Rosario was not happy, and Reyes was quite dismissive of Rosario’s being irritated.
Even if this is reading too much into the situation, and Reyes is really mentoring Rosario, you have to ask the question of when that mentorship is going to bear fruit?
In Triple-A, Rosario hit .328/.367/.466, but there were some warning signs in his game. Notably, Rosario had a 5.4 percent walk rate. Another issues is despite his speed and athleticism, Rosario was only successful 76 percent of the time on his stolen base attempts.
When Rosario was called-up to the majors, he struggled mightily. He hit .248/.271/.394 (74 wRC+). In the field, he had a 1 DRS. All told, he was a -2 WAR player.
The good news was supposed to be Rosario was just 21 years old, and really, he could only go up from there. That hasn’t happened.
This season Rosario has been much worse. He’s hitting .234/.279/.347 (69 wRC+). In the field, an area he was supposed to thrive, he’s at a -10 DRS. Overall, he’s a -0.7 WAR player.
He’s a -0.7 WAR player who has shown no improvement in his game. His walk rate is 5.2 percent. He’s got just a 50 percent success rate in stolen bases. When you look at him, you see a 22 year old who is just over-matched. Worse yet, his mentor is publicly lobbying for playing time which is likely to come at Rosario’s expense, and whent heya re in the field, his mentor won’t so much as defer to him on a ball that is his.
Even if Reyes is making an effort to serve as a mentor to Rosario, the results are not there. Rosario is regressing instead of progressing. Reyes’ presence is serving as a distraction, and it is now impeding the playing time of Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil.
In the end, the Mets have to really reassess this situation and see if this is a dynamic which is serving the best interests of their 22 year old former phenom. If it isn’t, the team is going to have to do what is best for both Rosario and the franchise, not the washed up veteran.
Want a perfect encapsulation of what the 2018 Mets are? Look no further than what happened in yesterday’s game.
Nathan Eovaldi was working on a perfect game entering the seventh inning. Brandon Nimmo stepped up to the plate, and he broke it up with a single. This was followed by Wilmer Flores striking out on three pitches, and Asdrubal Cabrera grounding into an inning ending double play.
At that point, the Mets were already down 7-0 because Chris Flexen pitched poorly, and his pitching was exacerbated by the defense behind him, which was just as poor if not worse. After three innings, he was relieved by Chris Beck, who was once again terrible.
Overall, this is just a bad baseball team, and they’re not even losing with a purpose as the team is starting Jose Reyes over Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith plays once in a blue moon. To make matters worse, he is playing well out of position in left field.
Simply put, this is bad and unwatchable baseball.
Game Notes: Nimmo was not named an All Star despite leading all NL outfielders with a 148 wRC+. This leaves Jacob deGrom as the lone Mets representative.
With the Mets starting Jacob deGrom tonight, the hope was deGrom could go deep enough into the game to minimize the damage the bullpen could do.
Well, deGrom did his part pitching eight brilliant innings striking out eight Rays.
The only mark against him was a Willie Adames fifth inning homer. It hurts when it’s a guy like Adames hits a homer. It hurts all the more when the Mets can’t give deGrom run support.
The only run deGrom got in support was in the third.
After deGrom made the first out of the inning, Brandon Nimmo reached on a throwing error by the aforementioned Adames. After a Jose Bautista walk, Nimmo would come around to score on an Asdrubal Cabrera RBI single.
The Mets had a chance to take the lead in the sixth, but Glenn Sherlock would have another one of his awful sends.
Todd Frazier hit a one out double to center, and for some reason, Sherlock sent Wilmer Flores, who was trying to score from first. As it usually happens when Sherlock sends Flores, Flores was out at the plate.
This all looked like it was going to haunt the Mets as the Rays loaded the bases against Jeurys Familia with one out.
Mallex Smith grounded to first. On the good side, Flores aggressively charged the ball. On the bad side, he lollipopped the throw home. The leaping Devin Mesoraco didn’t come down on the plate for the first out. Instead, he lunged to tag out Hunter Wood, who had entered the inning earlier as a pinch runner, by a hair.
#Rays challenge call that Hunter Wood is out at home plate in the 9th; call confirmed, runner is out.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) July 7, 2018
Familia struck out Adames to escape the jam and keep the game at 1-1.
In the ninth, Frazier walked, and after he couldn’t get a bunt down, Mesoraco singled to put runners at first and second with no outs.
Next, the maligned Amed Rosario laid down a great bunt to move up the runners. Of course, the decision to give away an out almost backfired immediately when Dominic Smith grounded out to the pitcher Chaz Roe, which kept Frazier at third.
At that point, the Rays had the option to face either Nimmo or Bautista to get out of the inning. They chose wrong:
— SportsNet New York (@SNYtv) July 7, 2018
After 336 homers over a 15 year career, this would be the first walk off homer of his career.
About the only thing disappointing on the night is Jake didn’t get the win. That, and we weren’t treated to one of Bautista’s epic bat flips.
Game Notes: Suspended reliever Jenrry Mejia will have a chance to resume his suspension end and renew his baseball career in 2019.
On the one hand, you knew it wasn’t June anymore because the Mets beat the Marlins 5-2. On the other hand, things aren’t that different because they played a really sloppy game.
The thing is the Marlins played an arguably sloppier one. To that end, we shouldn’t be surprised these two teams set the game of baseball back a few years.
Even with the comedy of errors, three Mets errors to be precise, Steven Matz kept the Marlins at bay.
Oddly enough, the one time the Marlins scored off of him, it featured a Matz error.
Like Matz, who lowered his road ERA to 2.25 after allowing no earned in 5.1 innings, Cabrera and Frazier would contribute to the win.
Cabrera hit a third inning solo homer off Straily. In the eighth, Frazier hit an RBI double which gave the Mets a then 4-1 lead.
That would become a 5-1 lead when JT Realmuto got cute and tried to pick Frazier off third. Instead, he threw it away allowing Frazier to score.
The Mets other runs came from a Kevin Plawecki second inning RBI double and a Matz fourth inning RBI single.
One note on Lugo entering. He came in with one out in the fifth after Matz threw 109 pitches.
That cannot happen.
Just yesterday, Reyes blatantly refused to run a ball out because he claimed to have felt something. As a result, he needed to be benched today.
He needs to be benched because: (1) he dogged it; (2) he’s hurt; or (3) both.
In any event, the Mets finally won and are out of the basement of the NL East.
Game Notes: It was revealed Dominic Smith has been dealing with a wrist injury which required an injection. Purportedly, that’s why he hasn’t been playing.
Well, in a season where the Mets are desperately looking to find rock bottom, they made a step closer to it getting their doors blown off by the Marlins in an 8-2 loss.
Considering deGrom missed time two years ago with his son Jaxon having a medical emergency, we can all only hope his family is alright.
Still, this put Oswalt in a very tough spot as he had approximately three hours to prepare for his first MLB start.
Things went well for Oswalt through two innings. Then Lewis Brinson hit the first pitch of the third out of the park to give the Marlins a 1-0 lead.
The wheels quickly came off from there with the Marlins scoring six runs on five hits off Oswalt. Oswalt would then get lifted with one out left in the inning.
This put the Marlins well on their way to an 8-2 victory. With the win, the Marlins, who actively made moves to win as few games as possible, now have one more win than the Mets this season.
Of course, there’s a question why a Double-A closer was throwing 36 pitches in almost three innings.
But that’s the Mets for you. Even when things are bad, you can always find how things are worse.