Well, the impossible has finally happened. The New York Mets have FINALLY parted ways with one time top prospect Rafael Montero. It is somewhat ironic it comes in the same month when Jacob deGrom is likely to win the Cy Young Award. Mostly, it’s just shocking and strange.
This was a long anticipated moment, and yet one in which many believed would never happen.
Looking back, it was Terry Collins who first made an issue about Montero’s ability to pitch. With the Mets coming off a pennant, Collins went out of his way to challenge/chastise Montero. Collins would tell him the Mets re-signed Bartolo Colon because Montero had not held up hid end of the bargain because he was not good enough to be a part of the Mets rotation.
The reason Montero wasn’t ready to take on that role was because he was hurt. At least, that is what he said. He kept alleging it, and the Mets doctors never found anything, at least not anything they deemed sufficient enough for his complaining of pain. While he was complaining of pain, we were all complaining about the results.
In 2016 and 2017, he was 5-12 with a 5.87 ERA, 1.790 WHIP, and a 1.61 K/BB ratio. Things got so bad with him many talked themselves into him being a late bloomer when he had a 4.15 ERA in August 2017.
That included the Mets who kept Montero over relievers like Josh Smoker, Chasen Bradford, and Erik Goeddel. The later two had good 2018 seasons, which was something which stung all the more when you saw how much the Mets needed relief help.
The Mets releasing players who contributed elsewhere just so the Mets could stubbornly see what they had in Montero was becoming the norm.
Fact is, the Mets were in this deep, so they might as well see how all of this played out. Then a funny thing happened. The guy who always seemed to complain about injuries was actually injured.
On the eve of the 2018 season, it was discovered Montero had a torn UCL, and he needed season ending Tommy John surgery. While it could be a different injury than the ones he had which had caused him pain in the past, it was certainly interesting to see him finally diagnosed with an injury which COULD explain his struggles.
With the surgery, it is likely he would not pitch until sometime around the 2019 All Star break. Looking at Zack Wheeler, there was a chance he may not pitch at all in 2019. With him being out of options, there was a legitimate question if he’d ever pitch for the Mets again.
Still, the Mets had gone this far down the rabbit hole with Montero, and to a certain extent, they were almost obligated to see how he could pitch when he was finally healthy and/or not complaining of pain to his pitching arm.
Maybe, the poor pitching we’ve seen was the result of a torn UCL. Maybe, just maybe, with a surgically repaired elbow, Montero could be the pitcher the Mets envisioned he could be, or at the very least, he could become a competent MLB pitcher.
Well, if that does happen, it’s going to happen somewhere else because the Mets out-righted Montero to get the roster back under 40 players. Montero then opted to become a free agent.
The Mets out-righted Montero while keeping Drew Gagnon, a 28 year old rookie with a 5.63 career Triple-A ERA. Say whatever you want about Montero, but from a pure talent standpoint, he is better than Gagnon. It’s the reason why Montero got so many chances.
And that where’s we are with Montero. The Mets and Montero are parting ways instead of seeing if Montero could pitch like the pitcher the Mets stubbornly believed he could be. Instead, after all that time and seeing all those other pitches go and produce elsewhere, Montero is an ex-Met.
For all the times the Mets should have parted with Montero, the organization chose to do this now instead of all those other times when they should have held onto another player. They chose now even though Montero was finally the player they should have kept.
If the Mets had done this at any other time, and Montero succeeded, many would have understood. Fact is, most probably still will. And yet, if a healthy Montero does prove himself to be competent MLB pitcher and Gagnon pitches like someone with a career 5.63 Triple-A, the Mets will have definitively made the wrong choice here . . . just like all those other times they cut good players from the roster to stubbornly keep Montero.
When Justin Turner hit a first inning home run off of Jacob deGrom, it was evident deGrom did not have his best stuff. After all, deGrom had not allowed a home run in his last 42 innings pitched. As it turned out, it really was a struggle for deGrom with him needing 109 pitches to get through six innings. That’s notably because he threw 108 pitches in each of his last three starts, and he went 9.0, 6.0, and 8.0 innings respectively.
Through all of his troubles tonight and him fighting it, deGrom’s final line was 6.0 innings, two hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and six strikeouts.
It’s at the point where deGrom is so good his inability to find himself and be on his A game leads him to having an absolutely terrific and dominant start. He’s been having a lot of those lately. In fact, with this quality start, deGrom set a new Mets record with 20 straight quality starts. It gets better. With deGrom allowing three earned runs or less in his past 25 starts, he has set a new MLB record.
And to think there are some people who don’t want to give him the Cy Young. Of course, those people’s justification is wins. Well, tonight was another exercise of how absurd that is.
While deGrom has been great all season, Alex Wood has been great of late, and the Mets do not hit left-handed batters well. More to the point, for some reason when the Mets have been playing good teams of late, they find ways to shoot themselves in the foot. Tonight was no exception.
In the first Wilmer Flores hit into an inning ending double play. In the second, Todd Frazier, who had made a fine catch in the game diving into the stands, was thrown out stealing to end the inning. In the third, Austin Jackson struck out to end the inning with runners at second and third. After all of that, deGrom needed to take control of things himself in the fifth inning.
After a Jay Bruce leadoff walk and a Devin Mesoraco single (he was lifted from the game and Jose Reyes pinch ran for him due to injury), Jeff McNeil hit into a double play leaving it up to deGrom to get Bruce home from third. With him using McNeil’s bat, deGrom delivered the RBI single tying the game at 1-1. Really, deGrom was doing all he could do out there with him combining his excellent pitching with him going 2-for-2 at the plate.
There was a chance deGrom was going to get into the seventh inning in this game to just allow him to hang around long enough to hope beyond hope the Mets put him in a position to win. However with an Amed Rosario error in the sixth inning, that pretty much ended that hope meaning the 8-8 deGrom was saddled with another no decision, and this was going to become a battle of the bullpens.
The Mets would win that battle as the offense would eventually break through and because the Mets bullpen did not break.
In the seventh, the Mets were close. They had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jackson couldn’t deliver the key hit. Well, if the Mets thought they were close, the Dodgers were even closer.
In the eighth, Drew Smith issued a two out walk to Turner which almost blew up in his face. If not for the low right field wall in Dodgers Stadium, it is likely Manny Machado‘s double gives the Dodgers a 2-1 lead instead of being a ground rule double putting runners at second and third with two outs. After getting Enrique Hernandez to fly out to center, Smith officially dodged a bullet.
Kenta Maeda was not dodging the same bullet in the ninth. After a Bruce leadoff double, Kevin Plawecki sacrificed him over to third base. After McNeil was hit by a pitch, the Mets had runners at the corners with one out setting the stage for Brandon Nimmo, who came on to pinch hit for Smith:
GOODBYE! 4-1 in the 9th! pic.twitter.com/CIzSoQvTGi
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 4, 2018
With Nimmo’s pinch hit three run homer, the Mets had an unlikely 4-1 lead, which Robert Gsellman had the task to save. It was not going to be easy for him and the Mets. After a replay review, the Dodgers had runners at the corners with no outs. The game was 4-2 after Grandal brought a run home with a sacrifice fly. That would be the final score as Gsellman induced Matt Kemp to hit into the game ending 6-4-3 double play.
So overall, the Mets won a game partially because of the six dominant innings he gave them, but for some reason, there is going to be a voter out there who is not going to put him atop the Cy Young ballot because of his 8-8 record.
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.