One of the narratives which is beginning to emerge is the Mets need Pete Alonso to be on their Opening Day roster because the Mets are a win-now team. Considering how tight the National League East race is going to be the argument is it’s worth carrying him for 16 days and foregoing control over him for the 2025 season. In essence, those 16 days are worth much more than one year of Alonso’s prime.
Putting aside the fact Dominic Smith could potentially be a better option than Alonso to open the season, especially with the Mets facing Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg twice, the question is why has Alonso become ground zero for the Mets doing everything they can do to win?
Since the 2017 All Star Break, Jason Vargas has a 6.04 ERA, and opposing batters have hit .278/.351/.506 against him. At the moment, he is slated for 30 plus starts. Behind him, the Mets pitching depth constitutes a group of pitchers who have posted an ERA over 5.00 as a starter over the last year.
It would seem to be contradictory to say every game counts as a justification to play Alonso 14 games while trotting out well below league average pitching for over 30 games. They’re doing this despite Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel still being free agents.
The Mets entered the offseason with a need for a center fielder. They traded for Keon Broxton, who hit .179/.281/.410 last year while playing in a very hitter friendly park. That would be the only outfielder they added to the 40 man roster this offseason. This left them to consider playing Juan Lagares more, a player who has averaged 68 games over the past three years.
This has led the Mets to consider playing Jeff McNeil in left field, a position he played all of 17.0 innings in Triple-A last year. This has forced Brandon Nimmo into center, a position the Mets had purportedly decided he shouldn’t play at the Major League level. A -5 DRS in 434.2 Major League innings there seem to substantiate the Mets previous decision on that front.
It may not matter anyway because Spring Training injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie, two players who are over 33 years old, have forced McNeil to third base, a position the Mets did not want him to play last year. Of course, this puts the Mets back towards relying on Lagares and Broxton, which they clearly did not want to do.
Oddly enough, for a Mets team putting a premium focus on 14 games, they ignored the other 148 when it came to building their outfield. In fact, they stood aside when the Braves signed Nick Markakis and the Phillies signed Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen. Don’t forget the Braves also added Josh Donaldson too, which is something to consider if the Mets wanted to go the route of putting McNeil in left field.
The overriding point here is the Mets ignored and cut corners on various part of their roster. They’re gambling with over 30 starts from their rotation. They’re playing an infielder in the outfield hoping he will be able to get up to speed quickly gambling on 162 games at that position. Overall, the Mets are gambling at two key positions over the course of the season.
Yet somehow, the Mets are potentially going to tell us they desperately need those 14 games out of Alonso at first base because, you know, those 14 games at first base matter much more than the fifth starter spot and a starting outfield position over the course of full season.
In Pete Alonso‘s first two at-bats of Spring Training, he hit a home run and a double. It seemed those two hits were the beginning of something special, and regardless of service time, Alonso was going to force his way onto the Opening Day roster. After that double, Alonso cooled off a bit at the plate. He would go three for his next 12. With him not hitting tape measure shots, Dominic Smith would begin to grab some headlines.
Through his first seven games, Smith was actually out-hitting Alonso going 8-for-16 with a big three run homer. Mets Manager Mickey Callaway spoke glowingly about Smith. There were articles written about how Smith has turned the corner, and some were suggesting Smith had a real chance to win the Mets first base job.
Yesterday, Alonso reminded everyone why he’s a top prospect and why people were excited about the possibility of his playing first base for the Mets this season:
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) March 4, 2019
In the game, Alonso was 2-for-3 with a double, homer, and an RBI. As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, Alonso’s OPS is now 1.356 putting him not too far ahead of Smith’s 1.256. Put another way, there is little separation between the two. The reason is both players spent all offseason preparing to give themselves the best possible chance of winning the Mets first base job.
As a fan, this is fun to watch. Alonso starts off with big power numbers, and Smith responds with great defense and a .500 batting average. Alonso then hits another tape measure shot while Smith maintains his .500 Spring batting average. This is exactly what everyone wants to see. They want this to be a difficult decision, not just for Spring Training but for the future.
This is not too dissimilar from 2014 when the Mets had to choose between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. The Mets decision there may not have been popular, but it proved to be the correct one. That decision would play a role in the Mets going to the World Series. As Mets fans, we can only hope the same thing happens with this team.
Editor’s Note: this was originally published on MMN
With a -1.8 WAR and 79 wRC+ through his first 105 games at the Major League level, the building consensus has been Dominic Smith was a first round bust putting him in a ground of renown Mets bust. Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Alex Ochoa, Fernando Martinez, Bill Pulsipher. The list goes on and on.
It is a large reason why Pete Alonso has surpassed him on the depth charts heading into Spring Training. Truth be told, it probably happened some time prior to that. After all, while Alonso was becoming the first ever Mets minor leaguer to lead the minors in home runs, Smith was having a nightmare season.
The narrative had become he was lazy. He contributed to that by struggling to keep in shape. He would be late for the first Spring Training game last year, one he was slated to start. He didn’t hit well with the Mets, and he didn’t hit well in Las Vegas. To hear many tell it, he was a lazy player and his laziness had led him to be a bust.
Lost in that narrative was the fact Smith was still just 23 years old, a little more than six months younger than Alonso. Really lost in all of that was the fact Alonso was not lazy. Rather, he was just young and trying to find his way.
As Smith would tell Kyle Glasser of Baseball America, he used his time in the majors well. He watched players like Bryce Harper play, and he learned he needed to make changes. That meant not just losing weight but also getting into shape. He wanted to be an athlete first and a baseball player second. He also needed to make his swing more mechanically sound.
Smith has also learned the importance of sleep in his routine. He has refitted his sleep apnea mask.
Seeing Smith report to Spring Training detailing his diet, workout routine, and the importance of sleep, you are seeing a much more mature person. As a result, you are also seeing a better baseball player, the player the Mets believed him to be when they drafted him in the first round (11th overall) of the 2013 draft. Right now, you are seeing the best hitter in baseball.
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) March 3, 2019
As noted by Mathew Brownstein of MMO, Smith is the leading hitter in the majors this Spring with a .500 OBP and .579 OBP. Overall, he is 8-for-16 with three walks, a homer, and five RBI.
Looking at it, Smith is a much different player than he was last year. Remember, last year, Mickey Callaway said of Smith, “I think we had expectations for guys, and if they don’t meet that expectation, we have to hold them accountable.” He would also say how he was shocked how someone fighting for a job could do what Smith did.
Now? Well, now, Callaway has this to say about Smith, “Obviously, the defense is always gonna be there and the offense looks special right now. He’s putting great swings on the ball. He’s got great energy and I love what I see so far.”
Everyone has to love what they are seeing with Smith right now. Somewhat unexpectedly, he is making this a first base battle. More than that, he’s just battling. This was a young player, who had been knocked down and been humiliated. He struggled, and he’s seen perceptions of him change dramatically. He’s now much more mature, and like the mature person he is becoming, he is using his past experiences to make himself better.
With Jed Lowrie and Todd Frazier suffering injuries during Spring Training, the Mets depth is being tested early. Most will point to how this clears the path for Pete Alonso. You could see how this in an opportunity for J.D. Davis. While the Mets may not initially want to move Jeff McNeil to third, if they would it could present an opportunity for Dominic Smith to make the roster.
Francesa on the #Mets injuries to Lowrie/Frazier: "What it does is two things. Number 1: it opens up a bigger opportunity for Alonso and I hate to say this, but it opens up a bigger opportunity for Tebow to start the season on the big team.''
— Brian Monzo (@BMonzoRadio) February 26, 2019
Okay, well almost anybody. Really, to suggest Tim Tebow has an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster borders on the absurd. Really, just look at the Mets complete left field depth chart:
- Michael Conforto
- Jeff McNeil
- Brandon Nimmo
- Juan Lagares
- Keon Broxton
- Rajai Davis
- Gregor Blanco
- J.D. Davis
- Rymer Liriano
- Dominic Smith
- T.J. Rivera
- Dilson Herrera
- Danny Espinosa
- Kevin Kaczmarski
- Braxton Lee
Also consider the Mets have the option to move players like Cecchini to the outfield. As the season progresses, players like Desmond Lindsay may move ahead of Tebow. However, this is about right now, and right now there is nothing to suggest Tebow is anywhere close enough to cracking the Mets Opening Day roster. Really, the mere suggestion of it is beyond absurd.
At this moment in time, with perhaps a very minor move or two, it would appear the Mets are done adding pieces this offseason. The different holes in the roster have been noted, but what we have not really seen done is an examination of the Mets decision making process. It is something which should be done more earnestly.
Dumping Swarzak’s And Not Frazier’s Contract
Purportedly, one of the selling points of the trade to obtain Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz was to move the contracts of Jay Bruce (2 years, $28 million) and Anthony Swarzak ($8.5 million). While moving Bruce was certainly understandable, it was curious the Mets moved Swarzak instead of Todd Frazier ($9 million).
As we have seen relievers tend to be mercurial, and it is quite possible with a healthier season, Swarzak could have been much more productive in 2019. Depending on the moves the team made in the offseason, he reasonably could have been the last man in the bullpen.
As for Frazier, we have seen the Mets make his spot on the roster tenuous. Pete Alonso appears poised to be the first baseman sooner rather than later, and the Mets brought in Jed Lowrie with the purpose of playing him everyone, albeit at different positions across teh diamond.
Seeing there being a multitude of free agents who could play third base, wouldn’t it have been better to move Frazier over Swarzak? As we saw, the Mets could have replaced Frazier with Lowrie. Other options included Mike Moustakas, Marwin Gonzalez, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Neil Walker. The Mets could have accomplished the same versatility they sought to accomplish by signing multiple players from this group, and they could have had platoon options over Frazier’s bat. It’s noteworthy with the exception of Moustakas these are switch hitters making them more useful bench players than a player who has never played a reserve role in his career.
Why Didn’t McNeil Play Winter Ball?
The very minute the Mets obtained Cano, it was clear Jeff McNeil was going to play some outfield. Now, it could be argued the amount of outfield he played depended entirely on the other moves made this offseason, but nevertheless, the plan was always to have McNeil see some time in the outfield.
Considering McNeil played exactly 17.0 innings in left field in Triple-A last year and just 56.1 innings in the outfield in his six years in the minors, you would have thought the team would have found a spot for him to play winter ball to hone his craft. After all, the team did try to get Dominic Smith time playing outfield in the Dominican Winter League (it didn’t work out).
Now, because the team couldn’t make any moves to improve the outfield, they are going to play McNeil in left all Spring with the hopes he can get up to speed over the course of less than two months worth of games. It should also be noted this decision is moving Michael Conforto from his best defensive position to right, and it is forcing Brandon Nimmo to center, a position the Mets have been reticent to play him at the Major League level.
Why Trade Plawecki if d’Arnaud Wasn’t Ready?
In his four year career, we have all seen Kevin Plawecki‘s warts, but through it all, he has established himself as a viable backup catcher at the Major League level. While the Mets may have felt the need to choose between him and Travis d’Arnaud, that decision would not have been forced upon the Mets until the moment d’Arnaud was ready to play. As we see now, d’Arnaud is not ready to play.
Instead of keeping Plawecki, they traded him for an underwhelming return in the form of Sam Haggerty and Walker Lockett. The only player of value in the trade was Lockett, and he had been previoulsy traded for Ignacio Feliz, an 18 year old who signed for an $85,000 bonus out of the Dominican Republic two years ago.
Instead of hedging their bets wisely, the team instead signed Devin Mesoraco. Say what you will about Plawecki, but he is far superior to Mesoraco. He’s a better pitch framer, and he is the better hitter (93 to 92 wRC+). And before anyone invokes Jacob deGrom, you need to explain how Mesoraco was the reason why deGrom was so great.
Where Are the Extensions?
There has been a growing trend in baseball for teams to lock up their young players. For example, the Yankees have already locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks, and they are working on locking up Dellin Betances as well. These actions promise to keep the Yankees core together while keeping them cost controlled to what promises to be a team friendly discount.
At the moment, the Mets have free agency concerns of their own. After 2019, Zack Wheeler will be a free agent. After 2020, deGrom will be a free agent. After 2021, a significant portion of the Mets current Mets core will be free agents with Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz will be headed to free agency.
We know deGrom has put himself on the front burner, but what are the Mets doing besides him? After all, if CAA is in town, it means the team can negotiate extensions for both deGrom and Syndergaard. There is also nothing preventing them from reaching out to the agents for the other players.
Really, this is the biggest part of the offseason which needs examination. What exactly is the plan going forward? Do the Mets have intentions of building something much sustaining, or is this a one year gamble? Are the Mets playing things out in 2019 and reassessing. At this moment, we don’t know. Hopefully, the Mets do.
Heading into Spring Training, the Mets have continuously promised to carry the best 25 players on their roster regardless of any service time issues. Considering prevailing wisdom, and the Mets adding plenty of first base depth with Todd Frazier, J.D. Davis, Dominic Smith, and even Robinson Cano playing first, you wondered if it was going to be mere lip service so as to avoid a grievance.
Jed Lowrie has a lingering knee issue. Should he be unable to go on Opening Day, Frazier is going to be the team’s third baseman. If he’s at third, the path for Alonso has become much clearer. With the way Alonso has begun Spring Training tearing the cover off the ball, the Mets hands may be forced in putting him on the Opening Day roster.
Pete Alonso my GOODNESS pic.twitter.com/RO6IiLdhot
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) February 23, 2019
Still, you have to question the Mets wisdom in doing that. If Alonso is on the Opening Day roster, he’s likely going to be on the roster for the full season. If that is the case, the Mets would be just giving away one year of control over Alonso, and that would be at a time when he is in his prime when he would be at his most expensive.
Seeing how the Jacob deGrom extension discussions are transpiring, the Mets should not be flippant about one year of control over a player. Remember, Brodie Van Wagenen was deGrom’s agent putting him in the unique position of knowing exactly the bare minimum of what deGrom would want in an extension. Even with Van Wagenen having that important inside information, the Mets still could not handle extension discussions without it being a distraction entering Spring Training.
But it’s not just the Mets. Every team values that year of control. It’s why the Cubs held back Kris Bryant in the beginning of the 2015 season. We will see the same this year with players like Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Smart and well run teams see that year as a real asset. If you’re a smart team, and you want that player on your Opening Day roster, you strike a deal.
That’s what the Phillies did with Scott Kingery. Before he played even one MLB game, the Phillies signed him to a six year $24 million contract with three succeeding team options. The carrot was Kingery making more than the league minimum over the first few years, and it provided him some certainty going forward.
If the Mets truly want Alonso on the Opening Day roster, they have to strike a Kingery type of deal with him. That doesn’t mean the Kingery salary is something that should be the framework for an Alonso deal, nor does it mean Alonso would be willing to entertain a discussion. Still, the Mets dangling the carrot of being the Opening Day first baseman and not giving someone like Dom a chance could be enough to bring Alonso to the table.
Fact is, if you’re not pushing for this, the Mets aren’t pursuing every avenue to make the 2019 team better, nor are they looking to create some cost certainty for this club. At the end of the day, if the Mets truly want Alonso on the Opening Day roster, they need to push for a Kingery extension now. Absent that, they should be telling Alonso to find an apartment in Syracuse for at least a few weeks because that’s what smart teams do with players they view as the cornerstone of their franchise.
With the way the free agent market has played out, Manny Machado signed an arguably under-value contract after position players reported to Spring Training. Many cite top end free agents like Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Craig Kimbrel still being on the market as a sure sign there is a problem with free agency.
Those making that claim are right, but the problems do go deeper than that.
Take for example Jose Bautista. Last year, the Mets literally signed Bautista while he was sitting on his couch. He’d fly to New York, and he would prove himself to still be a capable Major League player.
In his time with the Mets, Bautista was an above league average hitter (104 OPS+). In 83 games, he hit .204/.351/.367 with 13 doubles, nine homers, and 37 RBI. He’d play all over the diamond as well, and he would actually play well defensively. Bautista was actually a 1 DRS in 109.2 innings in left. He was serviceable elsewhere with a -2 DRS in right and a -1 DRS at third base. He would show himself to be quite a versatile defender also playing 14.2 innings at first and even an inning at second base.
What is interesting is when Bautista was traded to the Phillies, who were still fighting for a postseason spot, Bautista raised his game. In 27 games for the Phillies, Bautista would hit .244/.404/.467 with four doubles, two homers, and six RBI.
Now, there is no question Bautista’s skills have diminished. He is far from the All-Star and MVP candidate he was in 2015. Still, not all of his skills have eroded. He still has a good eye at the plate, and he has maintained an excellent walk rate (16.8 percent). He had an above-average .175 ISO and 13.1 percent HR/FB. Ultimately, this is a player who still has power and a flair for the dramatic:
At this stage in his career, the 38 year old Bautista is no more than a bench or utility player. He is a power source off your bench. As he showed last year, he still has something in the tank. Really, in a normal free agent market you would see a team signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.
Remember, Bautista showed last year he was not above that. He signed such a deal with the Braves, and he spent time in the minors to prove himself as a third baseman. It didn’t work there, but it did with the Mets and the Phillies in a different role. Bautista could work well for another team in 2019 if just given the chance.
From a Mets perspective, you could see why they haven’t brought him back. They have Gregor Blanco and Rajai Davis fighting for outfield spots. Younger players like J.D. Davis and to a certain extent Dominic Smith are fighting for a Major League bench spot. There’s also Dilson Herrera, Gavin Cecchini, Will Toffey, Luis Guillorme, and David Thompson who could be fighting for a role not just for the Major League team but also the Syracuse Triple-A team.
To that extent, you understand the Mets not bringing back Bautista. But that’s just the Mets. What are the other 29 Major League team’s excuse?
In what seems to be a right of passage for any Mets player, Jed Lowrie is dealing with a knee issue. While the team is giving their usual spiel about how this is not a big concern, they are also sending Lowrie for an MRI. Time will tell if this is just a Spring Training ache and pain or if this is something more serious.
On the one hand, you could well argue this is what a team should expect when they sign a soon-t0-be 35 year old middle infielder. Older players are less durable, and as a result, tend to suffer more injuries. With that being the case, you could use this as a basis to criticize the Mets, but you shouldn’t.
Once the team made the trade for Robinson Cano, they were left with having to decide how to handle the construction of their team. On the one hand, they could have looked at Cano and saw a player who absent suspension hasn’t played fewer games than 2006. They could have looked at Jeff McNeil as a capable back-up for the 36 year old in the event Cano does break down, or possibly, faces another suspension.
Still, the team would have been faced with dealing with a 33 year old Todd Frazier. For his part, Frazier has typically been a healthy player. However, with the Mets, he would have the first two DL stints in his career. If this were a sign of things to come, it would be difficult to have McNeil backing up both Cano and Frazier simultaneously.
Looking at it, this left the Mets with a question how to properly build depth. Astutely, Brodie Van Wagenen signed [his former client] Lowrie to serve as that depth. In Lowrie, the Mets were getting an All-Star who hit .267/.353/.448 with 37 doubles, a triple, 23 homers, and 99 RBI (120 OPS+) while playing for the A’s last year. In Lowrie, the Mets obtained a player who could probably be an everyday player for any of the 30 Major League teams.
With Lowrie, the Mets have a play who can play second or third base. It gave the team options at those positions as well as first base with Frazier’s and Cano’s ability to play there. Without him, the Mets are back at square one with Cano and Frazier, two All-Stars who are good defenders at their positions. Without him, they still have plenty of options at first with Peter Alonso, J.D. Davis, and the overlooked Dominic Smith.
The team still has the option to move McNeil back to the infield to buttress the infield depth.
Overall, even if Lowrie goes down, the team has the ability to sustain that injury. If it was Cano or Frazier who went down with injury instead, the team would have had Lowrie. That is exactly why you sign Lowrie, and that is why even if this injury is more severe than expected (as is the Mets way), the team has already been proven right in signing him.
Assuming the Mets carry five bench spots, which is the norm for a National League team, the race for the last spot on the bench became much more crowded and complicated with the team’s signing of Adeiny Hechavarria. That question becomes further complicated when you question just what exactly the Mets real intentions are with Peter Alonso.
Assuming Alonso begins the season in Triple-A, the Mets already have bench spots allocated to Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton. One of Juan Lagares or Jeff McNeil is going to play everyday meaning the other is going to be on the bench. That is three bench spots spoken for with two remaining. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out.
Considering the Mets parted with a package headlined by Luis Santana in what has been an oft criticized trade, you could see the pressure to carry J.D. Davis. Aside from the pressure, whether it be real or imagined, Davis does have the ability to play both corner infield spots adequately, and despite his deficiencies out there, the does have outfield experience.
The real positive for Davis is the power he could provide off the bench, but in order for that to be realized, he is going to have to increase the launch angle in his swing and his corresponding high ground ball rates. There is also a real question whether Chili Davis is the hitting coach to get him to realize his full power potential.
If the Mets are looking for a versatile infielder who can play the outfield, there is forgotten man T.J. Rivera. Rivera missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, but reports this Spring have been overly positive. While we know Rivera is not a particularly good defender, the Mets also know Rivera can be trusted to start at any position over a long stretch. Between the 2017 season and the World Baseball Classic, we have also seen him able to raise his game in big games.
The issue both players have is neither plays shortstop. For that matter, neither does Jed Lowrie, which arguably led to the Mets signing Hechavarria to a minor league deal. The one thing we do know with Hechavarria is he can play shortstop and play it well. Over the last four seasons combined, he has amassed a 26 DRS. The problem with him is he can’t hit as evidenced by his career 72 wRC+.
Hitting was also an issue for Luis Guillorme. In his brief time with the Mets, he was only able to muster a 53 wRC+ in 35 games. That is partially because Guillorme received uneven playing time. It is also because he has never been considered to be a great hitter. Still, there are two factors in Guillorme’s favor. First, like Hechavarria, he is a good defender. Second, Guillorme did show himself to be an adept pinch hitter last year hitting .273/.467/.364 in 15 pinch hitting appearances.
Now, if the Mets are looking for a more offensive oriented middle infielder who could play shortstop, the team does have Gavin Cecchini. Heading into last season, Cecchini had worked on his swing, and it had paid dividends with him hitting .294/.342/.468 in 30 games for Las Vegas before fouling a ball off his leg effectively ending his season. If Cecchini shows he is able to hit the same way, he could make a case for a bench spot for himself.
Standing in Cecchini’s way is his not being on the 40 man roster and his shortstop defense having pushed him to second base. The same could also be true for Dilson Herrera. For his part, Herrera was never truly considered anything more than a second baseman and that was before his shoulder injury. That shoulder injury cost him some of his offensive output until he rediscovered his stroke last year hitting .297/.367/.465 for the Reds Triple-A affiliate.
One other overlooked name for the Opening Day bench is Dominic Smith. If Alonso were to start the year in Triple-A, the Mets would have to find playing time for Alonso, Gregor Blanco, Rajai Davis, Rymer Liriano, and Tim Tebow between first base, three infield spots, and DH. Even with how down the team may be on Smith, it is difficult to believe they would leave him in Syracuse to fight for playing time between those three spots.
Instead, the team could carry him on the Major League roster. Certainly, Smith reporting to camp with not just his keeping the weight off but also adding muscle, helps improve his chances. His being a good defensive first baseman capable of playing left field in a pinch should also help him.
Of course, Smith would have to compete with all of the aforementioned players as well as Danny Espinosa just to claim a bench spot. He would also have to count on the team not putting Alonso on the Opening Day roster, which judging from the improvements Alonso has made, is not a safe assumption.
Really, when breaking it down, the Mets have plenty of options to fill out their bench, and ultimately for this team to reach its full potential, they are going to have to find the right mix of players to complement their everyday players. Hopefully, everyone comes to play making this as difficult a decision as the Mets will have all year.
Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.