If you look at the Mets bullpen, the theme appears to be “If.” If this bullpen is healthy, and if this bullpen performs to its full potential, it is going to be one of the best in the game.
The flip side of that is if it isn’t, we’re going to see more of the same.
That’s the way it is with bullpens. You just try to acquire as many quality guys as you can, and you hope it works. Perhaps with Jeremy Hefner, this is more primed to work.
One thing we do know is starting pitching can help a bullpen. The deeper starters can go, the less you need to go to the well. This keeps your relievers healthier and fresher which hopefully leads to better productivity.
That brings us back to what the Mets have opted to do with their pitching this offseason.
In signing Betances, Wacha, and Rick Porcello, the Mets have spent $23.5 million guaranteed. That number rises to $30.5 million if Wacha hits all of his incentives.
That $23.5 million figure is important because that’s just a hair off of what the Phillies are paying Zack Wheeler per year.
Essentially, the Mets believed Porcello plus a reclamation project in Wacha and Betances. With Betances, remember prior to the Achillies, he had dealt with a shoulder impingement and lat issue all through the 2019 season.
Even when Betances did return, he admitted to his stuff and velocity not being there. That was before he partially tore his Achilles.
Yes, Betances is an arm well worth the gamble. Not only has he shown the ability to flat out dominate, but he’s also shown the ability to do it in New York. That’s important.
Still, you really have to wonder about the wisdom of rolling the dice on three relievers when you’re already rolling the dice on two relievers who were supposed to be your top two relievers. Add to that the significant downgrade from Porcello, who you’re also rolling the dice on, from Wheeler, and you’re left wondering if this was the best allocation of resources.
That does double when you consider Wheeler stays in the division making the Phillies significantly better.
Ultimately, the 2020 bullpen and pitching staff as a whole may be better. Then again, the bullpen could be more of the same with the pitching staff as a whole far worse.
Of course, the Mets bullpen could’ve remained the same and been far better as a result of Diaz adapting better to New York, and the elimination of the super ball helping him, Familia, and the rest of the bullpen.
That’s the gamble the Mets took. They decided on adding a group of lesser pitchers being better than the known quantity in Wheeler.
It’s not a smart bet, but it’s still possible the Mets bet pays off. No matter what, the Mets better be right here.
No matter how good things are for the Mets, it appears like the Marlins are always there to ruin things. There are awful memories stemming from Tom Glavine, Scott Schoeneweis, and even Duaner Sanchez‘s cab ride. No matter how good things are, it seems like Miami is there to screw things up for the Mets.
To matters worse yesterday, the Marlins were starting Caleb Smith, who has pitched very well against the Mets.
Things did not start out well yesterday with Smith striking out Amed Rosario, Pete Alonso, and Robinson Cano to start the game. Then, in the bottom of the first, Wilson Ramos botched catching a third strike allowing Miguel Rojas to reach. One bad pitch from Steven Matz later in the inning, and Starlin Castro would make it 2-0.
What was interesting about McNeil hitting the double was he got the hit off the left-handed pitcher Smith a day after being benched against Patrick Corbin. There were a few reasons for this including his historic performance against left-handed pitching and the Mets apparently wanting to get J.D. Davis into the lineup. You really have to wonder why that is.
It’s true Davis did hit his second double of the season, and that lead-off double in the fourth led to the Mets tying the game against the Marlins (scored off a wild pitch). However, when you look at his performance thus far, he is very much the same player who struggled in his limited Major League appearances with the Astros.
While he had the double, Davis again continued to struggle in the field. He would lollypop two throws to second with one of those throws putting Cano in position to get blown up. He cost Juan Lagares an assist when he failed to catch a ball and tag out Rosell Herrera. He also couldn’t field a ball off Castro’s bat leading to a run being scored.
With the Mets trading Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, and Scott Manea, they gave up a lot for Davis, so apparently they are going to force this work, at least until Todd Frazier or Jed Lowrie return. It’s at the point where he is playing more than Keon Broxton and Lagares, and as we have seen, he has hit clean-up twice with him hitting ahead of hitters like Conforto and Ramos.
Davis playing third nearly cost the Mets this game too. His weak throw to Cano on a Herrera grounder prevented the team from turning a double play. As noted, he couldn’t field Lagares’ throw when Herrera froze on a Brian Anderson liner. He then didn’t have the range to get a Castro hit.
This gave the Marlins a 3-2 lead, and it put Steven Matz in a position to take the loss.
With respect to Matz, he shook off the first inning, and he would pitch pretty well. Over 5.2 innings, he allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts. If not for shoddy defense, he may have shut out the Marlins, and he might have been able to get through the sixth. Overall, he was not great, but he was certainly good enough to beat the Marlins (or even a Major League team).
While Lagares was not able to make a difference in the field (thanks to Davis), he would actually make a difference at the plate. The Marlins brought in the right-handed Tyler Kinley to face him, and Lagares would launch his first home run of the season:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 2, 2019
Tim Peterson stepped up pitching 1.2 scoreless. His performance not only allowed the Mets to tie the score, but it would save a bullpen which had started to accumulate some innings. This and the scoreless inning from Jeurys Familia was exactly what this bullpen needed, and it was what the team needed to try to win the game. They would thanks to a big ninth inning rally against Drew Steckenrider.
The rally started with Dominic Smith pinch hit single. In not too surprising fashion, the Mets opted to have Lagares even though there’s more than enough evidence to suggest it’s the wrong play. Fortunately, the Mets were bailed out as Steckenrider would hit Lagares with the pitch (x-rays on the finger were negative), and the umpires would completely miss Lagares failing to pull back the bunt in time.
After Brandon Nimmo struck out (he’s really struggling), Rosario would come up huge with the go-ahead RBI single giving the Mets a 4-3 lead. Speaking of huge, Alonso would follow with his first career homer:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 2, 2019
Alonso absolutely destroyed that pitch. The 444 homer had a 112.8 exit velocity. The homer gave the Mets a 7-3 lead meaning the warmed up Edwin Diaz was entering the game in a non-save situation.
Perhaps it was just yesterday, but we saw Diaz is like most closers where his focus is not quite what it is in a save situation. He’d load the bases to start the ninth before unleashing some filthy sliders to strike out Jorge Alfaro, the evil Peter O’Brien, and JT Riddle to end the game.
If you want to harp, there was a lot not to like. Davis was poor, and the Mets defense failed Matz. This was a battle against a clearly inferior team. However, at the end of the day, the Mets got the win, which is what matters most.
Game Notes: Smith has been off to a terrific start in his own right hitting .500/.600/.500 earning him the start in today’s series finale against Jose Urena.
With reports Brandon Nimmo getting sick from cooking his own chicken dinner, it does inspire many to say, “Same old Mets!” Certainly, the Mets have had their fair share of bizarre injuries and illnesses over their 57 year history. There are plenty of stories, and the Mets bloggers share some of the more infamous in Mets history:
I love Noah Syndergaard, but the hand, foot and mouth disease is easily the standout injury in recent memory for me.
Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)
Valley Fever…and it’s not close. Single-handedly ended Ike Davis‘ career.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
I’ll bring up Ryan Church here. Not that a concussion is bizarre, but putting him on an airplane to Denver and then Snoop Manuel surreptitiously chastising him for not being tough enough to handle it will always be the benchmark for bizarre in Flushing.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
Gotta go with what happened to reliever Ken Sanders between innings one Sunday afternoon in 1975: “I was taking my warm up pitches and lost the return throw from John Stearns and it hit me directly in my right eye. I never touched it. It actually knocked me out. There was no action on the field at the time of the accident.”
Tim Ryder (MMO)
Sasser hit .297/.328/.416 from 1988 thru 1990. Once his head got the best of him, everything came crashing down. The conventional injuries didn’t help either.
Bre S. (That Mets Chick)
Weirdest Mets illness: Ike Davis, valley fever in 2012. Valley Fever is an infection that is released from the dirt in desert regions of the Southwest and is inhaled. It can be stirred up by construction and winds.
Fast forward to 2014 and Davis still complained about having Valley fever! Its mind boggling how that infection stayed with him throughout the years. “You have no energy, no nothing. It was definitely a weird one. It’s supposed to go away on its own, but when I had an X-ray last year, it showed I still had it. I’m hoping that’s over and done with.” – Ike Davis
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
It’s gotta be “Valley Fever,” for me…it’s got all the hallmarks of a Mets injury. It’s a disease that sounds fake, like it’s almost a parody, and also sounds like a cruel act of God.
Strangely enough, Ike’s other injury is high on the list too — the time the training staff had him wear a walking boot nonstop, and it turned out the boot was basically suffocating his ankle, and it turned into him missing the 2011 season and pretty much ended his career. That…that’s the Mets right there.
Jerry Blevins slipping over a curb and re-breaking his arm. Sure, you can understand his arm breaking when he was hit with a comebacker, but a professional athlete breaking the arm again slipping on a curb takes the cake.
What’s interesting here is we had no mention of Tom Glavine losing his front teeth in a cab ride. What’s interesting to note with him is that while he thought that to be heart breaking, he was not devastated after killing the 2007 Mets season. Speaking of cab rides, we should never forget Duaner Sanchez.
There are many, many more here to list. We all know them, especially those who have participated in these roundtables. They know much more than the injuries, which is yet another reason to visit their sites and read their quality work.
Years ago, the Mets actually had a team cookbook available for sale entitled “GourMets.” Unfortunately, that book is no longer in publication leaving Brandon Nimmo on his lonesome when attempting to make himself a piece of chicken for dinner. Things did not end well:
Brandon Nimmo says he lost four pounds throwing up from his chicken and sweet potato dinner. He confirms he was NOT smiling while throwing up… but he can laugh about it now. pic.twitter.com/ufelZJJurq
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 28, 2019
In typical Nimmo fashion, we see him smiling and laughing about an ordeal which saw him throwing up all night and losing four pounds. We should also note it’s typical Mets fashion to see a player go down with something as simple as cooking and eating chicken. After all, as we have seen with Tom Glavine and Duaner Sanchez, Mets players can’t be trusted with so much as a cab ride.
While Glavine’s and perhaps Sanchez’s ordeals seemed to be not their fault, it would seem like Nimmo’s ordeal is completely avoidable. With that in mind, let’s review what Nimmo should have done differently.
First and foremost, if you have no idea what you are doing, don’t start with chicken. If you really want chicken, order out. If you don’t want to order out, get in touch with someone who knows what they are doing. Don’t try to cook the chicken yourself and risk food poisoning.
If you are undeterred and really want to cook that chicken, then by all means do it, but make sure you are handling it properly. The chicken you are looking to cook should be properly stored in the refrigerator. If you picked it up on your way home, just make sure it wasn’t sitting in your car too long, especially in a warm Florida climate. Chances are if it smells off before you even thing of cooking it, you’re going to get sick.
Also, you need to be really careful how you handle the chicken. If you are handling it and seasoning it before you cook it, you should be washing your hands. You should also be cleaning and disinfecting the area where you prepared the chicken. After all, even if you have cooked the chicken properly, you can still get sick from what you did before you cooked the chicken.
If you are cooking for the first time, put it in the oven where you can reduce the amount of times you actually handle it. If you are cooking at 350 degrees, it will probably take 25-3o minutes. It could take more. The best way to tell if it is done is to insert a thermometer to make sure it is cooked to 165 degrees. If not, cook longer. If you don’t have a thermometer, just cut it in half and look to see if it is cooked all the way through.
If you don’t want to use an oven, you can use things like a grill, Foreman grill, or even a pan. The best bet for any of those is to look online for a recipe and instructions on cooking temperature or time.
Ultimately, when cooking a chicken the most important thing to do is to make sure it is properly stored, and you are keeping your hands and all surfaces clean. To hear Nimmo tell it, the chicken looked cooked through and tasted good. If that is truly the case, the chances are he either mishandled or improperly stored the chicken.
At the end of the day, considering this is the Mets, all the players should probably avoid cooking their own meals all together. They should probably avoid taxi cabs to go out and get the food. Really, they should be ordering food to be delivered while sitting in their hotels or homes in bubble wrap.
The last time the Mets lying to everyone about an injury worked out was when they hid the fact that Duaner Sanchez was done for the season after his ill-fated cab ride. Keeping the injury under wraps allowed the Mets to move Xavier Nady for pitching help at the deadline. Certainly, if teams knew the Mets were desperate, the price for a reliever or an additional starter likely would have gone up.
However, when it is still April, the Mets gain nothing from lying to the fans. In fact, it only serves to further sow distrust with the fan base and to make them angry.
Last year, the line was Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz were all dealing with “mechanical issues.” That turned into deGrom having a series of physical problems including his needing season ending surgery to help repair a nerve in his pitching elbow. Harvey’s mechanical issues turned out to be Thoracic Outlet Syndrome which also required season ending surgery. Finally, Matz’s mechanical issues was a massive bone spur in his elbow the Mets had him pitch through until he could no longer. Like deGrom and Harvey, he also needed season ending surgery.
Based upon this and the many many lies this team tells, you can’t trust them at all.
For example, what really is the issue with Noah Syndergaard. First, it was reported he had a blister. Then that became it wasn’t a blister, but a nail that ripped off while he was pitching. Despite these minor issues, he was slated to pitch on Wednesday until he didn’t. According to the Mets, there was a miscommunication, and Robert Gsellman was not supposed to be skipped in the rotation.
Then, it was a tired arm which became a shore bicep. That sore bicep became tendinitis. Syndergaard’s explanation was much more daunting when he said he felt pain in his shoulder when he threw the ball.
Speaking of Gsellman, we saw his velocity drop from 94 MPH to 90 MPH as the game progressed. Now, we’re hearing that he has mechanical issues. I think we know where this ends up.
Now, no one is truly forthright when discussing injuries. It is part of the territory with professional sports. If you follow the NHL, you’ll notice how “upper body injuries” are terms that mean needs 10 offseason surgeries. In MLB, a tired arm means an eventual visit to Dr. Andrews. We know that. The issue is the Mets seemingly lie more than anyone, and frankly, they’re not even that good at it.
With respect to Syndergaard, just tell the fans he is being skipped with a tired arm, and he will see the doctor. Don’t announce he’s starting Wednesday to presumably try to drive up attendance. Don’t conjure explanations when you can simply say he’s going to see a doctor. This sows distrust, and yes, a bit of panic with fans. Panic, which Sandy Alderson has mocked Mets fans for having in the past while he was doing nothing to improve the team.
You are already seeing an angry fan base. Despite the Mets having World Series aspirations, Citi Field has looked largely empty. It’s looked as empty as it did anytime from when it opened until 2015. The fans aren’t happy. The least you can do is level with us.
At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series. At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman. Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury. However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.
Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:
The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues. He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.
Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury. Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight. That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old. In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI. He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.
Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career. Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish. In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons. He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011. From there, he would play four years in Japan. In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes. Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.
Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015. No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016. In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.
Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team. The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history. For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.
Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012. Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen. In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.
His best work was in the 2014 postseason. That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game. Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher. In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.
In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016. He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.
In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP. Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.
The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.
Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks. While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it. He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.
Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream. Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball. He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP. At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.
The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado. The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.
In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games. While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels. Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues. His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.
After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI. As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.
At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.
The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.
The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.
With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good. With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system. Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss. This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets. In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.
Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets. Santana and Humber would both enter immortality. Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game. It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history. He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game. He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets. Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.
In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons. In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts. In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate. In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.
Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016. He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016. He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.
Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects. He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.
In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins. However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level. Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.
In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star. He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.
Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision. Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers. In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline. The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases. He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.
From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect. Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran. Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.
F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets. Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions. As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.
F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI. Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth. After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.
In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues. Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.
Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball. Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop. The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.
Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman. On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch. However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level. That fact may have forever changed Mets history.
Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game. Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases. From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end. Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.
Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level. The Mets gave up waiting. In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.
Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI. While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.
From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA. For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues. In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey. It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.
Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC. He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets. Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation. There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.
Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP. While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts. Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year. By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation. With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.
With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos. It was a trade that was detrimental for both players. Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP. Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.
After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants. Bannister would never pitch for the Giants. After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball. Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.
Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006. He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.
Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007. In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues. He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.
At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.
What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit. Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.
Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust. It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series. There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group. While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.
The Mets have a $140 million payroll. The strength of the team is its young, cost-controlled pitching. The pre-arbitration pitchers make little money by baseball standards. However, their $500,000+ salary should allow them to live comfortably.
Families make a lot less than that, and they can put a roof over their families heads and put food on the table. One of the crazy things a family is able to afford, even with relatively modest means, is a mattress for everyone. When they go away to places like Florida, they can stay at places that have decent mattresses. So with that said, why can’t the Mets and their players?
Last year, Steven Matz almost missed the postseason because he injured his back sleeping on a Barcalounger. Yesterday, Jacob deGrom missed his Spring Training start because he tweaked his back sleeping on a mattress that was too soft. He was able to throw a bullpen. He then counseled with Matt Harvey who, like Baby Bear, had a mattress recommendation that is just right.
I know, I know. We should calm down. Matz was able to pitch in the postseason, and deGrom was able to pitch a pain free bullpen. However, I get nervous because it’s the dumbest things that interfere with a great or potentially great season.
The 1987 Mets never got traction with their pitchers missing time. Most notably was Dwight Gooden and his cocaine suspension. Aside from Gooden, I think every Met pitcher had an injury including the guy who threw batting practice.
In 1988, the Mets returned to form, but there was a strange injury that hurt their chances at another World Series title. On the day the Mets clinched the NL East, Bob Ojeda, who was amazing in 1986, nearly severed the middle finger on his pitching hand while trimming the bushes in his front yard. The Mets, who dominated the Dodgers in the regular season, lost the NLCS in seven games.
In 2006, Duaner Sanchez suffered a season ending shoulder injury during a late night cab ride to get a late night bite. This caused a number of moves to try to replace his spot in the bullpen. In the seventh inning of Game Two of the NLCS, Guillermo Mota shook off Paul Lo Duca and threw a change up that Scot Spiezio turned into a game tying triple. In Game Seven, Aaron Heilman allowed Yadier Molina to hit the series winning homerun. It’s possible Sanchez would’ve closed the door in either situation. Instead, he was unavailable.
The overriding point is that it’s not just the Tommy John surgeries that kill your chances. It’s also the yard work and can rides. It’s the unforeseen problems that arise. Maybe the Mets win in 1988 if Ojeda hires a gardener. Maybe the Mets win in 2006 if Sanchez orders room service. I don’t want to say maybe the Mets win in 2016 if their pitchers had better mattresses.
If in the equipment manager, I’m ordering a mattresses that Harvey recommended for every player. The 2016 season cannot be derailed by a bad mattress.
I still remember the first Mets prospect I followed though the minors. It was Jae Weong Seo, or Jae Seo as he liked to be called.
Unlike recent big leaguers from South Korea, Seo signed a free agent deal right out of high school before he played in the Korean Leagues. He was a big time prospect with a big time repertoire. They thought so highly of him, they gave him $1 million right out of high school. He was a well regarded prospect. He was good he was tabbed to start the 2001 Future’s Game. While he had some injury issues, few questioned if he was going to be a big leaguer.
Seo made his debut in a relief appearance on July 21, 2002. He pitched a the next year he would join the rotation where he would have two disappointing seasons. Then in 2005, Seo appeared to turn his career around at the age of 27.
I thought the seminal moment of his career was going to be the night Rick Peterson challenged Jae Seo to pitch better, to throw harder. Seo seemed to take it to heart. In 2005, Seo went 8-2 with a 2.59 ERA and a 1.107 WHIP in 14 starts. He seemed ticketed for a spot in the rotation on a young and emerging Mets team. Omar Minaya had other ideas. He traded Seo at his peak value for Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll.
Sanchez was a huge part of the Mets bullpen in 2006 until his ill-fated cab ride. Seo, on the other hand, never reached the heights he reached in 2005. He was out of the league two years later, and he returned to his native South Korea. He got to be a part of a championship team with the 2009 Kia Tigers. He set a record with 44 consecutive scoreless innings in 2012. Now, he’s retiring. Apparently, he’s so well-regarded that the team wants him to remain on as a pitching coach.
So no, Seo might not have had the career we all envisioned he might. However, he did have a good career. He won a title. He set records. He earned the respect of his peers along the way. In the end, that’s a great career. One that anyone would admire.
Congratulations on a good career Jae Weong Seo.
With my Back to the Future post yesterday, I began to think about how some seemingly innocuous decisions had an impact on the Mets future. In 2004, the Mets organization put way too much stock in Spring Training performance and gave Tyler Yates a rotation spot and sent Aaron Heilman to AAA.
Yates was terrible as a starter. He allowed batters to hit .317/.405/.475 against him in seven starts. He had a 6.34 ERA and a 1.929 WHIP. I’m still stunned he went 1-4. He should’ve gone 0-7. Actually, he should never have started a game. The spot should’ve gone to Heilman.
Instead, Heilman spent most of the year in AAA. He made a few starts in 2004 and 2005, but he was mostly used as a reliever. Going into the 2006 season, Heilman found himself in another battle for the fifth starter spot. He lost the battle, but he became a quality set-up man.
Heilman started as the seventh inning guy. He took over the eighth inning after Duaner Sanchez‘s cab ride. For the year, he went 4-5 with a 3.62 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. He allowed batters to hit .231/.298/.332. However, we remember none of this. We remember him as the guy who allowed the Yadier Molina homerun. We remember him as the guy who lost Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Ironically, we don’t have the same memories of Rick Aguilera.
The reason is the Mets rallied in 1986 whereas the 2006 Mets didn’t. Maybe the Mets aren’t in that position if Heilman made the starting rotation in 2004 and stayed there. It’s possible Heilman would’ve gone the way of Masato Yoshii or Mark Clark. They were good pitchers that were with the Mets for a short time. However, unless you’re a diehard, you have no lasting memories of them.
We do have a lasting memory of Aaron Heilman. His path there was all started because the Mets thought Tyler Yates was a better starting pitcher in 2004.
After Duaner Sanchez‘s infamous cabride, Omar Minaya made a trade to acquire Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez. While the thought process might have been to get another reliever, it was Perez who was pressed into action.
At first, Perez seemed like an asset for the future. More likely, he was a throw-in. However, Pedro Martinez‘s season ended in September because he needed rotator cuff surgery. El Duque was injured right before Game One of the NLDS. Steve Trachsel was horrid in the NLDS and the NLCS. The Mets had no option but to press Oliver Perez into action.
With the Mets down 2-1 in the NLCS, Perez pitched reasonably well. Through five innings he only let up three runs. He started to lose it in the sixth, but that was only after the Mets expanded their lead to 11-3. Then came that epic and tragic Game Seven. Perez was pressed into action again. This time it was on three days rest.
By the way, I was there. I’ve never see Shea like that. For all the good Citi Field has to offer, it will never be like it was at Shea after that catch. I don’t need to continue as to what happened next.
In 2007, Perez went 15-10 with a 3.56 ERA. In 2008, he wasn’t as good, but he was effective going 10-7 with a 4.22 ERA. He started the last game at Shea with another collapse on hand. He gave the Mets 5.1 innings with two earned allowed. He kept the Mets in the game allowing Carlos Beltran to tie the score in the sixth on a two run homerun. The season effectively ended when Jerry Manuel brought in Scott Schoeneweis.
Imagine if that was the end of Oliver Perez. He would’ve been remembered as a gamer. He would’ve been remembered for two decent seasons. Unfortunately, he signed that contact, and he was terrible. That was the lasting memory; not his clutch performances.
It’s a shame. He could’ve been beloved by Mets fans forever instead of the villain he is. While good-byes are hard, sometimes it’s harder when the player stats too long.