In 2017, in a somewhat surprising move, the New York Rangers made Lias Andersson the seventh overall selection in the draft. He was supposed to be the first big move in a Rangers rebuild, and to some he was touted as a future Captain of the Rangers who could led the team to their first Stanley Cup since 1995.
So far, it hasn’t panned out that way, and worse yet, things only seem to get worse and worse.
Andersson struggled in his first year, but he seemed to learn some lessons from it. During training camp, he seemed to prove himself and earned a spot on the roster to open the 2019-2020 season. The optimism quickly soured with him not producing and the ensuing debate/drama over his being on the fourth line.
This entire situation led to Andersson being demoted to the AHL, where he again struggled. Eventually, Andersson demanded a trade and all together up and left the Rangers. Since that time, there was an active debate over handling of him and other prospects as well as Andersson on how he handled the situation.
Recently, Andersson opened up about what has transpired. In an interview translated by Blueshirt Banter, Andersson talked about how he is struggling:
There has been many incidents, but I can’t divulge everything, I will do that at a later stage. There has been many incidents that has hurt me on a personal level, things that has made me struggle mentally. In regards to hockey this might be an idiotic decision but I have to think about my private life too.”, Lias falls silent, “I feel like I have lost the hunger and drive for [hockey] at the moment – and all these incidents has affected me. I feel like I have to get this under control first and foremost.
Since the interview, we have learned more about the situation. Andersson was apparently skating on two injured feet, and there have been unspoken incidents which have troubled him. Another important note here is Andersson’s father has been clear this is not some temper tantrum about his demotion to the AHL.
Andersson is struggling with something, is dealing with injuries, and he is not yet ready to talk about it.
With hockey uncovering some bullying issues, especially from coaches, there has been some speculation as to what happened with Andersson with some of it being irresponsible. Still without quite knowing what happened with Andersson, there is a lesson to be learned here about how teams handle prospects.
Before going further, there is an interesting baseball parallel here with Dominic Smith of the Mets.
Smith was drafted by the Mets with the 11th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Since that time, we saw Smith show the tools to be a good Major League player, but there was a narrative emerging about his being overweight and lazy. In terms of his being overweight, you could see it despite his spending much of his offseasons dedicated to getting into shape.
As for the lazy part, aside from it being a byproduct of how some view overweight people, Smith would oversleep and report late to the first Spring Training game of the 2018 season. That seemed to be the final nail in his coffin as the Mets first baseman of the future.
After that point, the Mets went forward with Adrian Gonzalez to start the 2018 season. After they moved on from Gonzalez, the Mets looked to Wilmer Flores, a player they would non-tender after the season, at first base. All-in-all, they never gave Smith a chance to succeed, and eventually without a real direct competition, Smith was passed on the depth chart by Pete Alonso.
After the 2018 season, we discovered Smith had been battling sleep apnea. With it finally being properly diagnosed and treated, we not only saw Smith stay in shape for the entirety of the 2019 season, but we would also see him become an impactful player with a 133 wRC+.
With Smith, you are really left wondering how things would have been different had the team handled his development differently. It is the same exact situation with Andersson.
In recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear teams are not devoting enough time and resources to the actual development of players. While we see teams increasingly looking towards analytics and conditioning to help develop and improve their players, we are not hearing enough about teams looking to help players develop mentally, and/or learn to better handle themselves as professionals.
Many times, we hear about how this manager, coach, or veteran is going to take a certain player under their wing and help them fulfill their full potential. Looking at the Mets, we actually heard Edwin Diaz speak about his problems handling New York, and he was looking forward to new manager Carlos Beltran helping him better handle the city in 2020.
While a manager is supposed to be there to help, players need more, especially when a manager has to handle a roster of 25 players, a full coaching staff, speak with the media, and deal with the front office. It’s too much for any manager to handle players like a Smith or Andersson who are clearly struggling and need the help the team is ill equipped to provide.
The help can come in the form of a mental skills or life coach for the team. Perhaps every team should have a form of a stipend to help players seek the personal help they need but really cannot afford as prospects. Perhaps leagues need to have an ombudsman of sorts to visit minor leaguers to investigate how teams are being run and why they aren’t meeting their goals.
Point is, the Rangers have effectively lost a very talented hockey player in Andersson to something which might have been avoidable. The Mets almost missed out on Smith having a productive career for trying to turn what was a physical ailment into a mental problem. Clearly, these organizations and others are very ill-equipped to handle the mental and life skills issues of players, and as a result, we are seeing players not even be allowed to be put in a good position to reach their full potential.
That is a very real and significant problem. What makes it worse is it is avoidable, and it is time someone starts focusing on how to help these players instead of trying to tell them and everyone else what is wrong with them because clearly, they have no idea.
Due to injuries last year, Jed Lowrie was limited to just eight pinch hitting appearances. In those eight pinch hitting appearances, he would strike out half the time and draw just one walk. Obviously, this was a far cry from the player the Mets thought they were getting when they signed him to a two year $20 million deal.
When the Mets did sign Lowrie last year, it looked like a coup. It was a very reasonable deal for the 2018 All-Star. As a leader for the surprise Oakland Athletics, he would hit .267/.353/.448 with 37 doubles, one triple, 23 homers, and 99 RBI.
His 123 wRC+ and 4.8 WAR was the fourth best among Major League second basemen. As a switch hitter who has experience playing three of the four infield positions, he was a versatile, experienced, and mostly good baseball player. His presence was supposed to allow the Mets to rest Robinson Cano and allow the Mets to use Todd Frazier more as a platoon type player and defensive replacement.
Of course, that would never happen.
It started with what was diagnosed as a capsule strain in his left knee during Spring Training. When it was first diagnosed, it was anticipated he would be ready for Opening Day, but the timeline for his return would be pushed back time and again.
There would also be a rehab stint which led to him being shut down before he resumed a late August one. During that second rehab assignment, he was not able to play more than seven innings in the field, and he did not play more than two consecutive days in the field. As we know, he would not play in the field during his very short stint on the active Major League roster.
Jed Lowrie log since promotion to Syracuse
8/28 – 2B (5 innings)
8/29 – 2B (5 innings)
8/30 – off
8/31 – 2B (7 innings)
9/1 – DH
9/2 – 2B (5 innings)
9/3 – DH
9/4 – off https://t.co/Rn5pUQNMo3
— Mets Daddy (@MetsDaddy2013) September 4, 2019
Now, you could chalk this up to one lost year, and if that was the case, you could expect Lowrie to be able to contribute in 2020. After all, if healthy, you have a switch-hitter who can play anywhere in the infield even though ideally he would be limited to second and third at this point in his career. The problem with that line of thinking is the Mets don’t have the best track record dealing with injuries, and worse yet, they don’t know what is actually wrong with Lowrie.
Brodie Van Wagenen on Jed Lowrie: "We've continued to try to diagnose what Jed's issues were that kept them out this season. We'll continue to do that with the plan for him being 100 percent ready to go for spring training."
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 12, 2019
Being well aware of the situation, the Mets are reportedly looking for ways to unload Lowrie. The problem with those efforts is Lowrie will be 36 next year, expensive, and mostly, questionable about his ability to play. Ultimately, this is the biggest reason why Lowrie is still a Met.
It’s gotten to the point with the franchise where we have seen multiple reports indicating the Mets are so desperate to unload Lowrie, they are willing to attach a real asset to entice another team to do that. The name which is mostly connected with Lowrie is Dominic Smith.
It is important to note Smith was the second youngest position player on the Mets last year. In 89 games, he had a 0.7 WAR and a 133 wRC+. For all the talk about his being “blocked,” he was a late inning defensive replacement at first, was able to play capably as a stop gap left fielder, and was a good pinch hitter.
With respect to that last point, Smith hit .286/.459/.571 in 37 pinch hitting attempts. As a reserve, he hit .318/.434/.568. He had a number of big hits in games he came off the bench including his walk-off homer to end the 2019 season. Even if you want to argue he is blocked or would be better served as a starter elsewhere, he has shown himself to be a very effective bench player for the Mets.
More than that, as it stands now, he is the only left-handed bat on the Mets bench. In an era where there are no more LOOGYs, his value in that role is of increased importance. The Mets can ill afford to just part with that for the sake of just getting rid of Lowrie’s salary.
Ideally, the Mets would just eat some or all of the contract to trade him while getting some lottery chip in exchange from a team like the Oakland Athletics or Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, the Mets don’t operate that way. They would rather part with a good player for short term savings.
At the end of the day, if Lowrie can play, you play him and see what happens. However, if he can’t play, the Mets just gave give away players like Smith who are under team control until 2025. That makes zero to little sense, and if that is the direction the Mets are going, they should just designate Lowrie for assignment because the team would be better off in 2020 and in each of the ensuing years.
Unless you are the Los Angeles Angels with Mike Trout or maybe the Boston Red Sox with Mookie Betts, no baseball team can definitively say they have a better player on their team than Nolan Arenado. Since 2015, he has been a top eight player in the league in terms of fWAR, and he has been a top six player in terms of DRS.
Arenado has won seven straight Gold Gloves, been an All-Star for five straight seasons, and he has won a Silver Slugger in four of the last five seasons. It should come as no surprise he has been a top five finisher in the MVP voting over that five year stretch.
Arenado has proven himself to be the rare player who has the ability to impact the game in the field and at the plate. He is one of the best in the sport, a future Hall of Famer, and at 28 years old, he is in his prime. When players like this are available, you do everything you can do to acquire them.
That should include the Mets.
If Arenado was on the Mets in 2020, his 5.7 WAR would have been the best on the team. To that end, the Mets have not had a position player have a WAR over 5.0 since Juan Lagares in 2014, and they have not had a position player with a WAR better than Arenado’s 5.7 since David Wright had a 5.9 WAR in 2013.
If you think about it, that’s what Arenado is. Both are Gold Glove caliber and Silver Slugger players who are top 10 players in the sport. The key difference is Arenado is healthy and playing now. When players like Wright come along, and Arenado is that level of player, you do what you can to get him.
When you look at the Mets roster as a whole, the only player they have better than Arenado right now is Jacob deGrom. When you consider deGrom is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he is signed to a very reasonable contract extension, you cannot trade him for Arenado.
Any other pitcher on the Mets roster, Noah Syndergaard included, can and should be considered in a potential Arenado trade.
As for the rest of the Mets team, you can and should consider trading all of them if the price is right.
Yes, that means you should consider trading players like Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo. It would hurt to lose either player, but you will have one entrenched in one of the corner outfield spots, and you can move Jeff McNeil to LF on a permanent basis to accommodate that loss.
For what it is worth, the Mets should be willing to trade McNeil for Arenado as well. After all, Arenado is a better baseball player than McNeil, and if you’re going to choose between the two as who you want to be your third baseman for the next five years, you are going to chose Arenado.
Finally, yes, you can also consider trading Pete Alonso. If the Mets traded Alonso for Arenado, they still have Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis (who is really only just a first baseman) to play first. At the end of the day, you hate losing Alonso who has proven to be not just a very good player, but also one who has captured the hearts and minds as Mets fans.
That said, Arenado is a better baseball player than Alonso. More to the point, the Mets are a better team with Smith/Davis at first, Arenado at third, and an outfield of McNeil-Nimmo-Conforto than have a team where they either play Jake Marisnick everyday or have a platoon of first basemen in left field.
They’re also a better team with Alonso and Arenado at the corners. To that end, if you can swing a deal without giving up Alonso, or any of their other core players which include Conforto, McNeil, Nimmo, and Syndergaard, you do it. The problem is the Mets don’t necessarily have that farm system after all the damage Brodie Van Wagenen did last offseason.
To that end, if the Rockies want a player the ilk of Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Andres Gimenez, Matthew Allan, Brett Baty, or whomever else the Rockies inquire, the Mets should be willing to listen. Of course, if the Rockies want to go this route, the caliber of Major League player the Mets should be willing to part in such a trade comes down a significant peg from the aforementioned core.
Now, it should be noted Arenado has an opt out after the 2021 season. If you are the Mets, you don’t disrupt your core without getting him to waive that or renegotiate the contract. That is where Steve Cohen and his money should hopefully come into play.
If the Mets can get Arenado to waive his no trade clause and opt in to his contract, short of Jacob deGrom, there is no one the Mets should not discuss in a trade because at the end of the day, the Mets do not have a player as good as the one Nolan Arenado is.
The emergence of Pete Alonso could have created a Dominic Smith problem for the Mets. After all, Smith and Alonso play the same position. With Alonso hitting 53 homers and winning the Rookie of the Year award, it’s clear the Mets view Alonso as not just part, but really, the core of this team.
While Smith is no longer going to get a chance to be the Mets first baseman of the current and future, he proved himself to be a very useful Major League player. In 89 games, he hit .282/.355/.525 with 10 doubles, 11 homers, and 25 RBI. He proved himself to be a good defensive baseman, and he showed he is quite capable of playing left field for some stretches.
He would also prove his mettle as a bench player. In 37 pinch hitting appearances, he hit .286/.459/.571 with two doubles, two homers, and six RBI. In the 34 games he entered as a substitute, he hit .318/.434/.568 with two doubles, three homers, and 12 RBI.
All told, Smith proved capable of doing something very difficult. He proved he could be a productive Major League bench player. Through the years, we have seen that’s easier said than done. More than that, he proved he is a Major League caliber player, and at 24 years of age, he’s showing he is still a very promising player.
There are plenty of Major League teams who could use a young first baseman. To that end, a Mets team who needs a fifth starter, bullpen help, a center fielder, and depth should really consider moving Smith to fill one or more of those needs. What the Mets should not be looking to do is just dumping Smith to do that.
However, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic the Mets are doing just that. Specifically, Rosenthal says the Mets are looking to use a player like Smith to entice teams to take on a bad contract like Jed Lowrie or Jeurys Familia.
This is because the Mets are going to refuse to exceed the luxury tax threshold despite receiving insurance proceeds from the David Wright and Yoenis Cespedes contracts. They are going to do that despite $12 million of Jacob deGrom‘s $25 million salary. That’s literally tens of millions of dollars the Mets are pocketing, and yet they are not going to be willing to take that next step.
This once again emphasizes the Wilpons mismanagement of team resources, and it highlights just how bad the Robinson Cano trade was for the Mets.
The 37 year old Cano is due $24 million in 2020 and in each of the ensuing three years. When you take out the $3.75 million covered by the Seattle Mariners, the Mets are paying Cano $20.25 million. That is essentially the money the Mets are paying to Familia and Lowrie combined.
Really, when you take the trio combined, that is $41.92 million in money the Mets are begging to get out from under. The Mets got almost literally nothing out of Lowrie. In terms of WAR, they got less than that from Familia. That leaves Cano and his injury prone season as the best of the group. That’s good because he and his 0.3 WAR is making more money than Lowrie and Familia combined.
The Cano trade has so far meant the Mets do not get to see Jarred Kelenic play in Queens. It has meant the Mets will not be able to just replace Zack Wheeler in the rotation with Justin Dunn while using their money to fill other needs. One of those needs is now the fifth starter spot, and right now, Wheeler is not going to be a part of that equation.
As if that all wasn’t bad enough, it could also mean the Mets are just going to give Smith away.
The short term ramifications of the Cano trade were quite bad with Cano having a subpar injury plagued year and Edwin Diaz having one of the worst seasons a Mets closer has ever had. The fact that this won’t be the nadir of the trade speaks to just how disastrous that trade actually was and will continue to be.
With today being Thanksgiving, it is time to go around the Mets roster and say things we are thankful for:
Pete Alonso – he’s been better than even the highest and most absurd expectations anyone could have of him both in terms of his on the field play as well as the type of teammate and person he is
Carlos Beltran – for coming home
Robinson Cano – showed some late positive exit velocities showing there is some hope for a 2020 rebound
Yoenis Cespedes – for everyone questioning the drive of a man severely injured and needing career saving surgery, he is out there in the cold taking batting practice
Michael Conforto – re-established himself as one of the best young corner outfielders in the game, and with his talent, he’s on the verge of an MVP caliber season
J.D. Davis – quickly became a fan favorite and like few others seemed to really enjoy being a New York Met.
Jacob deGrom – best pitcher in baseball and starting to etch his likeness on the Mets Mt. Rushmore
Edwin Diaz – he survived the season, made no excuses, and he is doing what he needs to do to be the pitcher he was in 2018.
Jeurys Familia – he stopped using “Danza Kudro” meaning we no longer go to very bad places when that music begins blaring
Luis Guillorme – proved if given a chance he is a Major League caliber player giving the Mets some real needed middle infield depth
Chris Flexen – his move to the bullpen gives the Mets an interesting upside option in the bullpen
Robert Gsellman – he is one of those throwback type reliever who is always willing to take the ball no matter what
Sam Haggerty – it’s not often a player comes out of nowhere to provide real value to an organization the way Haggerty did with this speed
Jed Lowrie – to his credit, he did everything he could just to get those pinch hitting appearances late in the season
Seth Lugo – the best reliever in baseball who now gives Beltran a reliever who can break knees with his curve
Steven Matz – took that step forward and put to bed the unfair and wrong mentally weak narrative
Jeff McNeil – the man just does it all. He hits, plays everywhere, and he saves puppies.
Tomas Nido – became the defensive minded back-up catcher many believed him to be, and he played a part getting Mets pitchers head in the right place during different parts of the year.
Corey Oswalt – he put behind some injuries and gross mishandling by the organization to show he is a viable depth starting option for the organization
Wilson Ramos – drove in a number of big runs last year, and he has promised to be better behind the plate in 2020.
Amed Rosario – just a tireless worker who seems to be on the cusp of fulfilling the immense potential we all saw he had in the minors
Paul Sewald – he keeps proving himself to be better than the narrative, and he finally got his first Major League win to put an exclamation point on what is one of the better stories of the Mets farm system
Dominic Smith – that walk-off homer was a beautiful exclamation point on a season where he proved everyone who ever doubted him to be very wrong
Marcus Stroman – few have fully embraced being a Met like he has and fewer have been ready to thrive on the New York stage
Noah Syndergaard – not just a great pitcher, but also a guy who wants to be a New York Met.
Justin Wilson – was terrific in 2019, and with the LOOGY rules, he becomes an even more valuable bullpen piece in 2020
In terms of the talent still here, there is a lot to be thankful for. Hopefully, we will see the return of Zack Wheeler giving us all the more to be thankful for in 2020 and beyond.
There were plenty of reasons to fire Mickey Callaway if you wanted. In fact, his incident with Tim Healey in and of itself was grounds for firing. To the extent it was Callaway and not the front office making some of those curious moves, you certainly have further justification.
However, what you really can’t do is pin the Mets failures to make the postseason at Callaway’s lap, which is what firing him does. That was all the more the case when Brodie Van Wagenen was trying to spin the 2019 season as a positive, including but not limited to noting Edwin Diaz had 26 saves.
Before proceeding, some background is necessary here.
By and large, the Mets were seen as a third or fourth place team in the division with around 85 wins. For example, ZiPS predicted the Mets would finish the year 87-75 in a three way tie for second place in the division. Looking at the 2019 season, the Mets Pythagorean was 86-76, and it just so happened, that was the Mets final record as they finished in third place in the division.
To that extend, the Mets neither over nor underachieved. Rather, you could argue they performed as expected. Of course, lost in that was all that happened during the season.
Pete Alonso had a season greater than anyone could’ve imagined. Jeff McNeil was an All-Star. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half. The Mets got more production from J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith than they could’ve reasonably expected.
Looking at that alone, you would say the Mets should’ve finished much better than they did. After all, when you are getting that level of production from your young players, the Mets should have been in the Braves position. They would fall far short of that.
There were many reasons for that. Brandon Nimmo would miss over three months of the season. Jed Lowrie would record no hits in only nine pinch hitting attempts. Robinson Cano had an injury plagued year, and when he did play he was not up to his typical standards. Aside from Seth Lugo, the bullpen was mainly a mess. Noah Syndergaard would struggle with the new ball and the new catcher.
The Syndergaard point brings up another interesting point. All the moves Van Wagenen made this offseason proved to be a downgrade from what was already on the team.
Ramos’ 1.4 fWAR was lower than Travis d’Arnaud‘s 1.6. Another interesting note is d’Arnaud would have a 107 OPS+ with the Rays, which is the same Ramos would have with the Mets the whole year. The Mets would cut d’Arnaud after one horrible game leaving the Mets with Tomas Nido as the backup for the full season. He’d have a -0.5 fWAR, which is lower than both d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (0.2).
Cano’s 0.3 WAR was lower than McNeil’s 5.0. Worse yet, it was only 0.1 higher than Justin Dunn‘s 0.2 in four games with the Mariners this year. In fact, Dunn’s 0.2 WAR was much higher than Diaz’s -0.6. Things get worse when you consider Anthony Swarzak had a 0.0 WAR.
Long story short, the Mets would have been better off in 2019 if this trade was never made. What makes this all the more scary is this was supposed to be the year the Mets benefited most. Things are going to get much worse as Jarred Kelenic continues his way to the majors.
Now, people will want to say not all of Van Wagenen’s moves were bad with Davis being held up as the ideal. On that note, Davis was terrible in the field. Among players with at least 550 innings in left, his -11 DRS was the worst in the National League. Among third baseman with at least 200 innings, his -9 DRS was the third worst in all of baseball.
All told, Davis had a 1.0 WAR on the season. That’s just 0.2 higher than Wilmer Flores despite his having played 51 more games. All told, the Mets would have been better off keeping Flores over trading for Davis and signing Lowrie. It would have been a much better allocation of resources than what Van Wagenen actually did.
Beyond all of that, the Mets had players like Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez serve as outfield depth. They’d cycle through relievers like Tim Peterson, Stephen Nogosek, Hector Santiago, Brooks Pounders, and the like all season rather than adding that one other arm the bullpen needed. That would make Jeurys Familia‘s season long struggles and Justin Wilson‘s needing to be limited all the worse.
In the end, you can see all the good mitigated against all the bad. In fact, you could argue given all that happened, the Mets probably could’ve been worse than their third place finish. This is all to say the Mets probably did about as well as could have been expected.
That brings us back to Callaway.
Given the Mets did not underachieve, you have a difficult basis to fire him. If you want to argue a better manager could have gotten more from this team, you certainly have a point. If that is the case, the Mets have to now go out and get that guy. That means you hire Joe Girardi or maybe Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker.
But make no mistake here. By firing Callaway, the Mets are essentially pinpointing him as the reason why this team missed the postseason. In the end, if the Mets are going to sell everyone Callaway was the problem, the next manager is going to have to take the Mets to the postseason. That is the bar which has now been set.
If the Mets don’t make the postseason, then we’ll know what we have known since Spring Training. The Mets weren’t good enough not because of their manager. No, they weren’t good enough because the Wilpons didn’t invest enough money into this team, and the General Manager they hired failed to assemble the roster good enough to back up the “Come get us!” hype.
In the very near future, the New York Mets will be meeting to discuss whether Mickey Callaway will return as the manager in 2020. There are reasons to both keep and fire Callaway, and in making the decision, the Mets will need to determine who is the best person to lead the Mets to their first World Series since 1986.
Like any other decision, there needs to be a balance of the present and the future. Both considerations should include what to do with Luis Rojas.
The Mets thought so much of Rojas they promoted him from the team’s Double-A manager to their Quality Control Coach. He was more than that. He also served a role working with the outfielders. Of note, he helped Jeff McNeil get up to speed in the outfield during Spring Training. During the year, McNeil would have a 2 DRS in 671.0 innings split between right and left.
Rojas’ working with McNeil is not the only impact he has had on this current club. As noted, he was previously a minor league manager. As a result, Rojas has had a hand in the development of many of the players on the Mets roster including Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith. When you have that type of an impact, it is no wonder the Mets see him as a potential future manager.
In fact, as Mike Puma of the New York Post noted, the team views Rojas as a “rising star.”
The question is whether the team views the 38 year old as ready to assume control of the team. While he has managed many of the players on the team, he would have to also be managing players who are, in terms of age, peers to him. These players include Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos.
While it is fair to say he’s not ready from that standpoint, the Mets have to determine if they want to give him the role before he is not yet ready and have him grow into the role, or if they are willing to lose him.
At the moment, we do not know if any of the teams looking to hire a manager would have an interest in Rojas. The chances are they don’t. However, they may look to him as an option to join their new coaching staff. On that note, the San Diego Padres are interested in hiring Moises Alou as their manager. If Alou were to get the job, you do wonder if he would want his brother who is very good at working with young players and has a sharp analytical mind on his own coaching staff.
Really, when you look at it that way, you wonder why the Mets wouldn’t want that themselves. On the front, if they are truly grooming Rojas to be the next manager, they should be taking a proactive step in that direction. What that step is anyone’s guess.
On the front, the minimum the Mets should be considering is moving him up the ladder to be the Mets next bench coach replacing Jim Riggleman, who did not appear to have any real impact this year. If nothing else, Rojas on the bench would prepare him all the more to be the Mets next manager. In fact, you could argue that is what the Mets should do.
The Mets could keep Callaway and have Rojas waiting to take over for him. If nothing else, this would further prepare Rojas to be the manager the Mets want him to be. It would also prevent them from hiring another novice who could potentially hire the next Callaway.
In the end, no matter what the Mets do, they should be making a decision from the perspective of what they want to do with Rojas more than what they want to do with Callaway.
The New York Mets season is officially over with the team finishing with an 86-76 record. It is just the third time they have had a winning record since the team began playing in Citi Field. To that end, the season has been a success even if it was disappointing from what was promised:
1. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Aaron Judge‘s rookie record and a whole host of rookie and Mets records during the 2019 season. He proved he was ready, and he showed himself to be more than that by donating money to charity, spear-heading the cleats and donating them to the 9/11 Museum this week, and just being a great teammate.
2. On the first base topic, you can’t help but feel great for Dominic Smith. He not only proved himself to not be a bust, but he would also show he’s a terrific team first player who is actually a tireless worker. He earned that at-bat late in the game, and he ended the season on about as high as note as you can end the regular season.
3. Of course, the Mets were in that position because the bullpen blew another lead. Unfortunately, it cost Paul Sewald his second career win. It won’t be his last time in the Majors, but it might be the last time he is with the Mets. If so, that would be a sad way to end his career after his being just a feel-good story who has overcome so much to be in the majors.
4. It was really unfortunate Juan Lagares did not get into the game on Sunday. It might’ve been his last time ever wearing a Mets uniform, and it would have been nice to see the best Mets defensive outfielder ever get one final ovation and thank you from the fans.
5. Hopefully, this won’t be a good-bye for Noah Syndergaard, who once again reminded everyone he is actually a very good pitcher, and that when you set him up to succeed with a good catcher like Tomas Nido he is going to succeed.
6. Syndergaard’s final start (of the season) and Smith’s walk-off was a feel good way to end the season, and we hope those positive vibes carry forward into 2020 and beyond.
7. Part of that is the Mets being much better run. There are reasons to both keep and fire Mickey Callaway. He has a two year body of work, and yet, somehow the Mets aren’t even going to meet to discuss his future. This is further evidence the Mets would have to rapidly speed up their processes to be considered reactive.
8. One of the biggest areas to address this offseason is going to be the bullpen. Given the budget, the team is going to have to hope players like Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz return to form. As we saw with Diaz’s final appearance, that is certainly a possibility.
9. It was great seeing Luis Guillorme have a strong finish to the season. This was just another example of how he has further cemented himself a real depth piece going forward who needs to be on the Opening Day roster.
10. If that was it for Todd Frazier, good luck to him. He gave the Mets what he had, and he earned his contract. Whoever gets him next year is going to get a real asset.
11. Considering his wanting to stay in the New York area, and the Mets not faring well against left-handed pitching, the Mets may well consider keeping him to play in the Jed Lowrie role which Lowrie, himself, couldn’t fulfill.
12. One note with Lowrie is he finished the season with fewer hits for the Mets than Marcus Stroman, a pitcher who spent the year with the Blue Jays. With respect to Stroman, his finish to the season gave us reason to be excited for his 2020 season.
13. Local players Brad Brach and Joe Panik really contributed to the Mets and their push for the Wild Card. They are winners who brought something to the team. It will be interesting to see if the team could keep them around next year.
14. On the topic of local Mets, Steven Matz had yet another strong start to finish his season. He has certainly been a different pitcher in the second half which is partially attributable to his moving to the middle of the rubber. The Mets should really consider signing him to a team friendly extension this offseason.
15. The Mets having a very local flavor is one of the reasons why this proved to be a fun season. A bigger reason why was this was a very resilient team who fought like few other Mets teams. Top to bottom, this roster earned our admiration and respect.
16. It doesn’t matter than it may or may not have counted for anything, sweeping the Braves is always a great thing. Hopefully, this sweep set them up for postseason disappointment. Of course, there’s no point in rooting for anyone in the NLDS because they are facing off against the Cardinals.
17. On the topic of the postseason, congratulations to Travis d’Arnaud on turning his season around and being a key reason why the Tampa Bay Rays made the postseason. Considering all he gave the team, Mets fans should be rooting for him.
18. The use of Seth Lugo for two innings on Saturday was just stupid, but we should note Callaway was very judicious in using him all season. This year, he was ticketed for 100 innings, and he was only used for 80, which is all the more surprising considering the team lost Robert Gsellman during the season.
19. Lugo may want to start, and he’s earned that right, but if the Mets were smart, they’d keep Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard making this a moot point. Like has been said a few times in this post, he should be signed to an extension.
20. For the last time this season – LFGM.
With what happened this year, it was just perfect seeing the bullpen blow-up. It blew up all year, and unfortunately it would today. Sadly, when Adeiny Hechavarria homered off of Paul Sewald, the Mets would blow their 28th save of the season moving them into a tie with the Cubs for the fifth most blown saves in baseball.
It would also cost Sewald of his second straight win after not earning a win over his first 118 Major League appearances. That ended one feel good story. Actually, it was two feel good stories ended as local guy, Joe Panik, had hit an eighth inning homer to put the Mets ahead 4-3.
Lockett allowed back-to-back homers to Hechavarria and Adam Duvall to put the Mets down 6-4. It seemed like that was the sour note upon which this season was going to end.
Of course, that overlooked how this team constantly got up from gut punches. It also overlooked how forgotten and overlooked players took full advantage of their chances. We saw that again in the 11th when Luis Guillorme hit a leadoff single against Jerry Blevins.
Then came a string where all three Mets catchers would bat. That should serve as a subtle reminder this is the last time there will be 40 man rosters in September. Of the trio, Wilson Ramos would get a single off Anthony Swarzak putting the tying run on with two outs.
That brought up Dominic Smith. Smith had not had an at-bat since July 26 when he landed on the IL with a broken foot. He was just activated last week but had not played until today. On the second pitch he saw from Grant Dayton, Smith would end the Mets 2019 season:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 29, 2019
This was a great moment for Dom. Not only did he get back from a broken foot, but it put an exclamation point on a season where he rejuvenated his career. He earned this moment due to all the hard work he put in during the offseason and just to get back from his broken foot.
As Dom celebrated dancing his way to the plate, he and the Mets would walk off into the sunset. There’s a lot of different ways this Mets season could’ve gone better, but in the end, these players were easy to root for, and we should all look forward to seeing them all play next year.
Game Notes: Noah Syndergaard started the final game of the year for the fourth straight year. He took a no decision after allowing three earned and striking out nine over seven. Chris Mazza picked up his first career win.
The Mets need to be very careful before they decide to fire Mickey Callaway and let Brodie Van Wagenen, the same man who built this flawed roster, replace him with another manager. Believe it or not, there are things he does well, and those things are a good fit for the Mets plan to contend.
First and foremost, since he’s been the Mets manager, we have seen him keep this Mets pitching staff very healthy. Considering the history which predated him, that’s no small feat.
Steven Matz has pitched in 30 games and pitched in 150+ innings in consecutive seasons after only topping 100 innings once.
Zack Wheeler has consecutive seasons with over 180 innings. He and Matz have also reached their potential with Callaway has been at the helm.
Of course, no one has raised their game as much as Jacob deGrom. Since Callaway’s arrival, deGrom has gone from a staff ace to the best pitcher in baseball, and he’s poised to win his second straight Cy Young.
Like deGrom, Seth Lugo has raised his game as well. Like the starters, Callaway has helped keep him healthy. That’s all the more of a challenge with Lugo and his partially torn UCL.
Remember, at its core, this is a Mets team built on pitching. We’ve seen Callaway and his pitching acumen have a real positive effect on these pitchers in terms of getting the most out of them and keeping them healthy.
In addition to the pitching, we have seen the young position players continue to improve under Callaway and emerge as good to very good players.
Entering last year, some considered Brandon Nimmo a fourth outfielder. As it turned out, he was the second best hitter in the NL last year, and when he was healthy this year, he put up similar numbers.
The Mets thought of Jeff McNeil as just a second baseman, and there were concerns he was just a role player. McNeil would turn into a modern Ben Zobrist playing all over the field and becoming an All-Star this year.
Pete Alonso improved his defense significantly from where it was at the end of last year, and he has the rookie home run record.
Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith entered this year being viewed as busts. Smith was very good at the plate forcing his way into the everyday lineup. Rosario had a big second half making huge strides on both sides of the ball.
The impact goes well beyond that. Even if you don’t want to give Callaway specific credit for what these players have accomplished, we see Callaway has created an environment where young players learn, improve, and prosper.
That is part of Callaway having the pulse of his clubhouse. Certainly, that’s been a factor in the Mets playing hard to the finish in each of the past two years.
Last year, the Mets had nothing to play for, and yet, they didn’t just play out the string. Instead, they played hard and had strong ends to their seasons.
In 2018, the Mets 38-30 second half record was the 11th best in baseball and the best in the National League. In fact, it tied the Braves for the best in the division.
This year, the Mets turned their season completely around. They went from 10 game under at the break to eight games over .500 in the second half. That run got them back onto the race.
Despite that, many will argue Callaway and his in-game moves hold the team back. While we know Callaway isn’t making many of these decisions and is fielding texts with instructions on moves to make from his GM, it’s difficult to defend some of these moves and decisions.
And yet, we see it’s not holding the team back. Last year, their Pythagorean was just one game better than their actual record. That’s the same thing this year. While there are other measures, we should acknowledge this indicates Callaway has gotten what he should’ve from the team.
On that point, you could argue another manager could’ve gotten more out of this roster. That’s fair, but the managers who can do that aren’t readily available. There’s also the doubt the Mets will pony up for a big name like Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, or whomever else with a track record you COULD trust to take the Mets over the top.
If the Mets ate getting that top flight manager, then, by all means, get him. Callaway and his potential as a manager should not stand in the way.
If they’re not, they better be sure they’re getting a real upgrade. That’s easier said than done. The replacement needs to be able to keep the pitching healthy and performing at a high level to shield against the lack of depth.
The manager needs to be adept at developing talent and having the team fight like this team has fought the past two years.
Finding someone who can do these things are much easier said than done. Given the Mets history and Van Wagenen’s brief tenure, it’s more likely they do worse, much worse. With that in mind, absent the proven commodity, the Mets may very well be best suited to sticking with Callaway.