Eric Campbell

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Show Signs Of Life In San Diego

The Mets went out to San Diego already under .500 and incapable of scoring runs. At least for one day, they figured things out, and suddenly things don’t look so bad:

  1. The Mets schedule so far this year has been idiotic including the team having a two city road trip to Milwaukee and San Diego. Someone should get the person in charge of making the schedules a map of the United States.
  2. If Chris Paddack was a Met, the fans would love this. In fact, they did when it was Matt Harvey before he had the audacity of getting injured.
  3. If Pete Alonso is going to hit homers and celebrate on the field, he is going to make himself a target for other teams. This was a good test for him. While he failed the first part striking out twice, popping out, and whining, he responded the perfect way by hitting the go-ahead homer and having a great bat flip.
  4. Aside from needing to respond to the challenge, he needed a good game because he went into that game hitting .184/.241/.347 over his previous 13 games.
  5. It wasn’t just Alonso who got off the snide, Brandon Nimmo snapped an 0-for-28 streak which was one off Eric Campbell‘s Mets hitless record. Instead of struggling, he’s Nimmo again with him going 2-for-6 with two doubles and three walks over his last two games.
  6. At least Robinson Cano was good for a day, but the Mets needs more than just the sporadic outburst from him.
  7. No one should fault the Mets for rejiggering the lineup to try to get things going, and with the way Amed Rosario has been hitting, it was smart putting him in the second spot in the lineup. However, this is a patch and not a fix, and when Jed Lowrie is finally activated, it is time to move him back down the lineup.
  8. Once Lowrie is activated, Todd Frazier has to go to the bench. While his defense has been great, his bat has been that bad.
  9. There is way too much hand-wringing over Keon Broxton, J.D. Davis, and Adeiny Hechavarria. They’re not that good, and no one should be that worried with them being designated for assignment or headed to Triple-A. Instead, they should be worried about what makes up the best composition of the bench and how it complements the roster.
  10. Indications are if Davis goes to Triple-A, he will work on the outfield. It’s bizarre the Mets would do that with him while simultaneously not even allowing Dominic Smith to work out there.
  11. Speaking of Smith, the Mets really could have used a left-handed bat off the bench during this road trip.
  12. It’s not just Frazier who has been bad. It’s the majority of the lineup. While you may expect this to be a blip, this may be Chili Davis‘ influence as his other teams have done the same exact thing.
  13. Wilson Ramos has a career worst ground ball rate, and there aren’t really signs of him turning things around right now.
  14. Tomas Nido had offseason LASIK surgery. If his hitting is that much improved, given how well he plays defensively, the Mets are going to need to find him more playing time, especially given Ramos’ struggles.
  15. The heart says Jeff McNeil looks like an MVP candidate, but the mind sees a staggering .400 BABIP with a low walk rate and wonders when exactly the regression is going to come.
  16. Brodie Van Wagenen built a team with zero starting pitching depth, and he was forced to trade for Wilmer Font to start a game despite Font not actually being a starting pitcher. It is beyond amusing the Mets had to go to Chaim Bloom to bail them out for the actions of the General Manager who doesn’t quite know what he’s doing.
  17. After a rough start, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have been terrific, and they are giving the Mets every opportunity to win these games.
  18. Michael Conforto going in an 0-for-12 streak where he is still drawing walks and getting on base is a testament to how great a player he is becoming.
  19. More than anyone Conforto gets screwed on balls outside of the strike zone. That’s not just guessing or fan overreaction either, it’s fact.
  20. Mets fans need to stop over-criticizing Mickey Callaway. Who cares if he didn’t throw a tantrum after that bogus third strike call? The team still rallied after it, so it’s quite possible he has the pulse of this team. After all, Callaway did have the team playing hard last year.

J.D. Davis Struggles Aren’t A Small Sample Size

As is normally the case a week into the baseball season, you will see some players perform above their talent level and some below theirs. When it comes to the slow starts, people typically take more notice and begin to look for reasons and question what is wrong.

When you see Robinson Cano hitting .188 and Brandon Nimmo hitting .087, the prudent course of action is to take a wait and see approach. These are two hitters with a track record, especially Cano, and it is very possible they emerge from these struggles and return to their career norms.

While you are inclined to give Cano and Nimmo the benefit of the doubt, J.D. Davis is a different case. When you look at his hitting .150/.227/.250, it is actually fair to ask if this is what he really is as a hitter.

Certainly, it is fair to point out his 22 plate appearances is an extremely small sample size. If you want to extrapolate it further, his 203 career plate appearances, especially since they are split up over parts of three seasons, are a small sample size as well. That said, it is somewhat troubling that with his receiving more and more opportunities, his OPS+ continues to drop.

At some point, we need to investigate why and if there is more at-hand than the variations associated with a small sample size.

Davis’ biggest proponents will point out how he led the Pacific Coast League in batting average last year. Hitters league or not, Davis put together a solid season hitting .342/.406/.583 with 25 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, and 81 RBI. The disparity between those numbers and his Major League numbers do require closer analysis.

In Triple-A last year, Davis had a 9.5% walk rate and a 18.3% strikeout rate. When Davis made contact, he hit it on the ground 40.6% of the time, and he pulled it 47.2% of the time. By and large, these numbers held true throughout Davis’ minor league career, but it should be noted the strikeout rate was a career low for him. Since he started playing for full season affiliates, Davis had struck out between 23.2% – 28.4% of the time.

Putting aside his results in the majors, his offensive profile looks similar to the type of hitter he was in the minors. In his 203 Major League plate appearances, he has walked 7.9% of the time, and he has struck out 27.1% of the time. He has a 54.2% ground ball rate, and he pulls the ball 45.8% of the time.

When looking at scouting reports, Baseball America said, “It will always come with a significant number of strikeouts and he’s unlikely to hit better than .230-.240 albeit with decent on-base percentages because he draws some walks. While many Astros have embraced hitting more fly balls, Davis’ swing leads to a lot of screaming ground balls.”

Really, when you break it down, this is what Davis is. He’s a hitter who is going to hit the ball very hard on the ground. At a time in baseball history where teams shift and even over-shift, the balls Davis hit for singles and even doubles at the Triple-A level are going to go for ground outs.

Moreover, in an area with advanced data, Major League pitchers are going to be able to pitch Davis much better than a Triple-A pitcher would. They have the scouting reports and ability to pitch it in areas not only where Davis is prone to swing-and-miss, but they are also able to locate it in areas where they know Davis will just pull a grounder into the shift.”

Unfortunately, when you break it down, even though Davis’ raw power rivals that of Pete Alonso, his production is more akin to Eric Campbell, another player who hit the ball very hard on the ground to the left side of the infield. As such, until Davis makes significant adjustments, his career is not going to “launch” the way the Mets anticipated, and sooner or later, he’s going to have be “grounded.”

Callaway Didn’t Cause The Loss But . . . .

There were many reasons why the Mets lost this game. For his part, Noah Syndergaard would blame the travel schedule which had them playing a night game last night and a 1:00 P.M. start tonight, which does seem like it was avoidable.

If fact, it was with Major League Baseball giving the Mets the option to start at 4:00 with the Mets passing at the opportunity.

There was the fact the Mets were facing Stephen Strasburg, a very good pitcher having a very good day. It certainly didn’t help the Mets were 0-for-3 with RISP and left seven runners on base.

Syndergaard had some bad luck. We was squeezed in the second leading to two walks and actually a wild pitch and run bunted home. Certainly, it was an odd box score with the Nationals having a run and no hits for the first five innings.

It looked just as odd when the Nationals had two runs on one hit with Victor Robles leading off the sixth with a solo homer.

There were certainly a number of factors at play. Unfortunately, Mickey Callaway was also a factor with his decision making in the seventh inning being a key factor.

In the seventh, the Mets had Strasburg on the ropes after a pair of two out singles from Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario. With Juan Lagares due up and the left-handed Matt Grace warming in the bullpen, Callaway had a key decision to make.

With Strasburg at 108 pitches, he might’ve been coming out of the game anyway. Perhaps, things would be different if the Mets stuck with Lagares or pinch hit Luis Guillorme.

It should be noted last year batters hit .271/.322/.436 in their third plate appearance against Strasburg.

It should also be noted in a very small sample size, Guillorme has been a good pinch hitter (3-11, 2B, RBI, 4 BB). Of course, that’s if the Nationals didn’t take Strasburg out of the game.

Point is if a left-handed batter came into the game, Dave Martinez was likely going to Grace. While Guillorme might’ve given him pause, he was definitely going to Grace for Dominic Smith.

Callaway opted to go with Smith to force Grace into the game. Apparently, Callaway did this to get the matchup he wanted, which for some reason was J.D. Davis. The only acceptable explanations for this decision were: (1) Callaway has not watched one minute of Mets baseball this season; (2) Jim Riggleman was goading Jim into it so he could take over as manager at some point this year; or (3) Brodie Van Wagenen was holding his family hostage forcing Callaway to use Davis.

Given the options, Davis was probably the last option you wanted to see there. Even if the Mets were inclined to burn their best pinch hitter (which is bizarre in its own right), Davis was the absolute wrong choice as he’s done nothing to show he’s even as good as former whipping boy Eric Campbell (Campbell has a much higher OPS+).

If you take into account Lagares was out of the game, Keon Broxton is a .252/.357/.445 hitter off left-handed pitching, and the Mets needed someone to come play center with Lagares gone. Of course, sticking with Smith was also a viable option.

Instead, Callaway went with Davis who struck out looking.

This would put McNeil in left where he would make a terrible throw home on a Ryan Zimmerman sacrifice fly allowing Anthony Rendon to score the first of two ninth inning runs.

That situation was created because Callaway opted to bring in Seth Lugo to pitch the ninth despite his being ill recently and has had diminished velocity lately. With his UCL issues, we can only hope this a combination of illness and fatigue from over-use.

Callaway’s treatment of Lugo is at Terry Collins levels. Remember, Collins was the pitcher who disregarded pitcher health and used them dangerously. It would have an impact and eventually lead the end of the careers of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, and Jim Henderson.

Right now, the Mets are winning and off to their second hot start with Callaway at the helm. However, it looks like Callaway is regressing, and if he continues to do so, we may see him continue to put the Mets in disadvantageous situations.

Game Notes: Since his big Opening Day, Robinson Cano has struggled and is now hitting .188. Devin Mesoraco was officially put on Syracuse’s suspended list.

T.J. Rivera Has Overcome Long Odds Before

According to reports yesterday, Mets infielder T.J. Rivera is struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery. While people assume it is easier for position players to return from the surgery, Rivera seems to be dispelling that notion. In fact, it would appear he is struggling to return from his surgery much in the same way Zack Wheeler did. It should be noted while Wheeler had his surgery in early 2015, he was not what we believed he could be until the second half of last season. So far, Rivera is dispelling any real concerns:

When looking at his career, this is just the newest obstacle for him to overcome.

Rivera was a 22 year old undrafted free agent who had bounced around in college before landing at Troy University. Fortunately, at one of Rivera’s stops prior to Troy University, he played for former Met Mackey Sasser, who would recommend Rivera to a scout. As an undrafted player, he had an uphill climb ahead of him needing to prove himself at every turn. Rivera has done just that hitting over .300 with an OBP over .350 at nearly every minor league stop.

Really, Rivera stuck around because he hit. Yet somehow, despite his hitting at every stop, he was overlooked in the Rule 5 Draft multiple times. He had been in the minors for five-and-a-half years when the Mets were dropping like flies. Rather than give him a chance, the Mets would give playing time to players like Eric Campbell and Matt Reynolds. They’d even bring back Jose Reyes despite his domestic violence arrest and suspension. When it came time to call someone up, they’d call up Ty Kelly over him.

It would not be until the middle of August until Rivera would get called up, but he still wouldn’t get a chance. He’d be up and down a few times in August. Finally, with Walker being done for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores injuring his wrist on a collision at home plate on a very questionable send by Tim Teufel, Rivera would finally get his chance.

In 20 September games, Rivera hit .358/.378/.552. In those 20 games, the Mets would go 13-7. It’s important to consider the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot by just one game. If the team had not turned to him when they did, it’s possible the Mets miss the 2016 postseason. It’s also worth mentioning Rivera was one of the few Mets who got a hit off Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game. If someone had driven him in after his leadoff double in the fifth, we would be having a completely different conversation about him, that season, and each of the ensuing seasons.

Despite his being the hero of the 2017 season, the Mets would not so much as guarantee him a roster spot. They wouldn’t do that even with him playing well as the first baseman for a Puerto Rican team which reached the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. Instead, Rivera would spend his 2017 season up and down and the out with the season and potentially career altering UCL tear.

Seeing the depth the Mets have accumulated and the team likely adding at least Adeiny Hechavarria to the roster, 40 man roster spots are becoming tenuous. With him being unable to play, the odds are once again not in Rivera’s favor. Based upon past history, we should not count him out. In fact, for a team with postseason aspirations, he may ultimately prove to be an important player who can put the Mets over the top.

McNeil Finally Earned A Real Number

During his time in the minors, Jeff McNeil wore a couple of different numbers. Last year, he wore 12 with Las Vegas, and he wore 1 with Binghamton. Overall, he’d wear a variety of numbers including 3, 5, and 10. Naturally, when the Mets called him up to the majors, McNeil was assigned the number 68.

The significance of 68?  Well, it was just next in line.

It was something the Mets seemed to start in 2016. That year, the Mets gave T.J. Rivera the number 54, and Ty Kelly was given 55. When Kelly Johnson returned, Kelly was given 56. Over the ensuing years, we’d see the number gradually climb up and up to the point Kelly would wear 66 last year, and eventually McNeil wearing 68.

Now, this is not a practice reserved for all prospects, and it has not been a practice always in place. For example, when Jose Reyes and David Wright were called up, they were given their now iconic 7 and 5 numbers. For that matter, when Eric Campbell was called up to the majors in 2014, he went from 24, a number somewhat unofficially retired by the Mets, to 29.

Put another way, back then the Mets appeared to give their players real numbers. That happened even in 2015 when Daniel Muno wore 16, and Darrell Ceciliani wore 1.

Now, McNeil is going to wear the number 6, a number which was available all of last season. For that matter, Rivera is going to wear 19, which was a number that Jay Bruce had before he was called up to the majors. It should also be noted the 3 he wore with Las Vegas was worn by Curtis Granderson.

Now, there are some restrictions with uniform numbers. For example, recent uniform history suggests Gary Carter‘s 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s 17 are unofficially retired. They may also want to try to preserve numbers for their top prospects like how Peter Alonso was assigned 20 this Spring Training.

Still, there is a wide chasm between not allowing a player to have a certain number and giving them a number in the 50s or 60s. These players have achieved something by making it all the way to the majors. They should be treated as such by giving them a real uniform number, especially as we saw in the case with Dilson Herrera and Juan Uribe, you are going to make the young player switch when a more established player wants the number.

As a side note, it’s more fan friendly as well because if you are someone immediately attached to a player like McNeil, when you go out and get the jersey, or even shirsey, you have the right number and aren’t out money when the player is finally deemed good enough to pick their own real baseball number.

Complicated Good-Bye To Jose Reyes

Back in 2011, Jose Reyes would lay down a bunt single to preserve his batting title.  The first in Mets history.  After reaching safely, Reyes would be lifted from the game much to the consternation of Mets fans.  Much of the consternation eminated from the fact it looked like this was going to be the last time fans were going to get to see Reyes in a Mets jersey, and those fans wanted to see Reyes play just one last time and say good-bye.

Sunday, Reyes was in the lineup once again leadoff in what many believed to be his final game as a Met.  Reyes would take one at-bat, ground out, and he would walk off the field for a final time.  While the circumstances may seem to mirror what transpired seven years prior, the two situations could not have been more different.

During Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was the most electrifying player in the Majors.  He could turn anything into extra bases, and extra base hits were nanoseconds away from becoming triples.  When he was on the basepaths, he was a constant stolen base threat, and his dancing at third base helped entice a few balks leading to a run.  Reyes was so dynamic we came up with the term “Reyes Run” for him getting on, getting over, and getting in.

Reyes was more than a dynamic offensive force.  He was a shortstop with a bullet arm and a fan favorite.  His apparent joy on the field was infectious to the fan base, and it did seem to get the team going.  (Sometimes, like 2007, it would also motivate the opponents).  Mets fans would shower him with the “Jose!” chant (a chant which began Saturday, March 29, 2003).  We loved him, and he seemingly loved us too.

In 2011, you could argue it was he and not David Wright whom the Mets should keep.  After all, Reyes was the younger player, and Citi Field was built more to Reyes’ than Wright’s strengths.  Whatever the case, the Mets opted not to re-sign him, devastating a fan base, and having the organization a nd fans  looking for a new fan favorite.  Arguably, no one could fill that void like the way Reyes once did.

That was the Reyes who left New York after the 2011 season.  That Reyes was barely recognizable after leaving.

After one year in Miami, he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of that organization’s efforts to return to the postseason.  In 2015, in Reyes’ third year as a Blue Jay, it seemed the organization’s plans were coming to fruition.  They were competing for a postseason spot with hopes for the division.  It was time for a bold move, their GM Alex Anthopoulos made that bold move.  In a six player trade, Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays for LaTroy Hawkins and Troy Tulowitzki.

In a year, Reyes and the Mets were supposed to return to the postseason, Reyes instead found himself playing for the Colorado Rockies.  He didn’t want to be there, and the team didn’t want him.  This also meant instead of playing in the postseason, Reyes would be making vacation plans to go to Hawaii.

On October 31, 2015, Michael Conforto hit two homers.  Instead of going to Jeurys Familia for the six out save, Terry Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who walked two of the three batters he faced.  When Familia finally did come in, Daniel Murphy booted a grounder.  The Mets 3-2 lead would quickly become a 5-3 deficit.

While this was happening, Jose Reyes would throw his wife into a glass door in Hawaii.  His wife would need to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries, and Reyes would be arrested. Reyes faced not just prison time but also deportation.  Instead, because his wife did not cooperate with prosecutors, the changes would be dropped.

While Reyes was able to avoid legal troubles, he could not escape MLB punishment.  With a new Domestic Violence policy, Reyes would be suspended 51 games, which stands as the longest Domestic Violence suspension to date.  With the Rockies already wanting to transition to Trevor Story, they were more than happy to release Reyes.

Fortunately for Reyes, the Mets needed a third baseman.  Wright was injured again, and he was going to miss the rest of the season.  Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds, Wilmer Flores, and Kelly Johnson just weren’t to cut it.  Partially due to desperation and partially due to nostalgia, the Mets threw Reyes the rope none of the other 28 teams were likely willing to give him.

A fan base was divided.  While the “Jose!” chants returned, they did not have the same enthusiasm.  Some of the people most willing to lead the cheer would sit on their hands or boo.  Reyes beat his wife, and the Mets signing him was sending the wrong message.

Still, Reyes stayed, and he played reasonably well.  He would have some highlights including the September 22nd game where both he and Asdrubal Cabrera homered which helped turn a 6-4 loss into a dramatic 9-8 11 inning victory which helped propel the Mets into the top Wild Card.  Much like in his last postseason game with the Mets, Reyes went hitless as his team was eliminated at home.

In the subsequent two years, he was about the worst players in baseball.  Despite all of Collins’ efforts to get him going, Reyes floundered, and there would be reports he was not happy playing third base.  At the end of the 2017 season, he helped reinvent himself as a mentor to Amed Rosario.  Between that and his hitting in September, the Mets brought him back.

He was dreadful this year hitting .189/.260/.320.  He’d post a -0.8 WAR.  Worse yet, he would complain about his playing time.  He believed as a utility player he should have received more playing time, and really, without that playing time, the Mets were not giving him a chance to succeed.  While there were some who were able to compartmentalize the off the field issues, when he was bad on the field, more and more Mets fans were disenchanted with him.

However, despite the ever growing calls to release him and make way for more talented prospects like Jeff McNeil, the Mets stubbornly held onto him.  They treated him like one of the Mets greats, which he was in the first part of his career.  Against all odds, Reyes would last the full season with the Mets.  It allowed him to play alongside Wright in the Captain’s final game.

It also meant Reyes would get to leadoff in what is likely his final career game.  Between innings, the Mets showed a video tribute.  Reyes would emerge from the dugout to tip his cap to a standing ovation.

The crowd was much smaller than the sold out crowd who was there to see Wright’s final game.  The standing ovation Reyes received did not remotely compare to the one Wright received.  If you went back a decade, that would seem implausible as both were beloved players with Reyes being the one who probably generated more enthusiasm from the fans.

Personally, I loved Reyes.  The first player jersey I ever purchased was Mike Piazza, the second Wright, and the third Reyes.  Overall, I had more Reyes shirseys than any other player including a last season at Shea and first season at Citi one.  That Reyes was the most exciting player who ever played for the Mets.  When he went to Colorado, I still believed he had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.

After he left, I was left livid with the organization.  In no way should Wright and Reyes have ever been split up.  Like great Mets duos of the past, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it seemed like their destiny was to win a World Series together.  Between that, Flores’ struggles at short and Ruben Tejada not being a particularly good baseball player, I desperately wanted the Mets to make a trade with the Rockies to bring back Reyes for that 2015 run.

To this day, part of me wonders what would have happened if Reyes did return to the Mets in 2015.  Do they win that World Series, or do they still fall short?  Would Reyes and his contract stood in the way of Yoenis Cespedes returning?  Mostly, I wonder about that night.

While statistics prove differently, to this day, I hope it was an isolated incident, which could have been avoided by Reyes being in New York instead of Hawaii.  In the converse, maybe this was a pattern of behavior which grew increasingly violent, and perhaps, things could have been hidden for longer if he was never in Hawaii.  There is no way of knowing anything.  What we do know is that instead of being in New York, Reyes was in Hawaii where he forever changed his legacy by committing a vile act.

Because of all of this, I was initially irritated Reyes was sharing Wright’s spotlight, but I made peace with it because it was what Wright wanted.

At the sake of sounding hypocritical, I must admit seeing Reyes doubling and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt was exciting. Wright coming up to the plate in an RBI situation was exciting. Wright being able to drive Reyes home just one last time made the moment all the more special.

In all honesty, I was surprised nostalgia got the better of me in the moment.

Perhaps it is because I truly miss the Reyes of 2003 – 2011.  I just miss how fun it was to watch him play.

That fun completely disappeared when he returned.  He was no longer a young up and coming superstar.  He was a violent wife beater.  Some people may be able to compartmentalize it, but I wasn’t.  Certainly not for a player I once held in the highest of regards.

Now that is career is over, I honestly do wish Reyes well.  I want him and his family to be able to move on from the domestic violence to have a happy and safe home life.  If that happens, then no matter how much I was against it, Reyes returning to the Mets was worth it.  I will be happy if Reyes returning to a place he was loved and cared for led him to not only seek help but to end what might have been a pattern of abuse.  Hopefully, he is a better husband and father for the experience.

In the end, congratulations to Reyes on a great career.  You are the greatest shortstop in Mets history.  The memories of you and Wright playing together were some of the best I’ve had as a fan.  Rooting for you was never the same, and it will never be the same again.  Still, each and every Mets fan, including myself, wish you and your family well.

God bless the Reyes family.

2018 Mets Season Ends On A Sad Note

Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended.  Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him.  Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.

There is the sadness with David Wright leaving.  He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced.  He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field.  Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.

Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players.  Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform?  Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform?  Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud?  How about Juan Lagares?  With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense.  Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together?  Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?

Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again?  He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed.  Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year.  At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play.  That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.

Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away.  Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year.  Addison Reed, Lucas Dudaand Curtis Granderson were traded away last season.  Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories.  Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas.  Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.

What we have left is good, really good.  We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted.  After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half.  Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.

We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner.  Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace.  Steven Matz actually made 30 starts.  Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close.  This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.

Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30).  When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse.  In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top.  If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.

Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.

There’s a hesitation there.  After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top.  Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.

Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring.  Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different.  The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade.  But after that?  Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short.  After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.

In the end, this is a really likeable team.  Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys.  They are what makes being a Mets fan great.  We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring.  That can’t happen.

In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one.  Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here.  Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series.  I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.

Reyes Should Make Mets Fans Reevaluate Their Fandom

When you go team-by-team across Major League Baseball, players who were supposedly signed to be the proverbial 25th man do not serve as a constant distraction.  In the occasions that player becomes a distraction, they are cut.  However, most teams are not the New York Mets, and most players are not Jose Reyes.

It was just two days ago, Mickey Callaway finally had to answer the question about how much ownership’s interference has led to Callaway playing Reyes as frequently as he has.  Naturally, no one believed Callaway when he said there wasn’t any interference.  Of course, no one believes that because Reyes’ play was precipitated by his going public with his complaints.

When speaking to Matt Ehalt of nj.com, Reyes had the audacity to say, “”I believe in what I can do.  But it’s hard for me if there isn’t opportunity out there.”

Note, Reyes was signed to be a utility infielder, one who refused to get reps in the outfield during Spring Training which could have opened the door for more at-bats during the season.

And just so Reyes is aware, the last guy on the bench plays very sparingly, especially on good teams.  In 1999, Luis Lopez played 68 games, and in 2000, he would play in 78.  His former teammate, Julio Franco, started just 25 games for the 2006 Mets.

The difference between Reyes and those and many other players have been they learned how to handle the role, and they did it gracefully. More than that, they were productive.

Once again, Reyes has been just about one of the worst players in baseball.  Really, you have to spend a significant amount of time to find what he does well.

Reyes has a -0.8 WAR, 52 wRC+, and a -4 DRS in the field.  Over the last two years, Reyes has hit .231/.301/.380 with an 83 wRC+, and -1.2 WAR.  The Mets are actually paying $2 million for this.

By contrast, the Mets opted to nontender Eric Campbell a contract.  With respect to Campbell, he was a .221/.312/.311 hitter in three years with the Mets with an 80 wRC+ and -0.5 WAR.  Defensively, he was a 0 DRS, and he was willing to play every position in the field.

Bascially, Reyes has been no better than Campbell, a guy who struggled in Japan last year and is playing in Triple-A this season.  By contrast, Reyes is not only takingHea up a spot on a Major League roster, he is demanding and receiving playing time.

One of the reasons why is his ties to ownership.  Yes, Ehalt’s article noted Reyes didn’t speak with Jeff Wilpon or Sandy Alderson.  Of course, that made the failure to mention Fred Wilpon all the more glaring.  It is something Howard Megdal addressed in his Deadspin article about how often the Wilpons are around:

Oh yeah, this year, all the time,” Reyes said, when asked how often owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon are in the clubhouse and around the team. “They come here a lot. Jeff was here yesterday. Fred is here all the time.

That’s no small thing especially in light of how Reyes has seen increasing playing time he has not merited.  It isn’t just fans who feel that way, it’s people within the Mets organization.  As Megdal reported, “Pro scouting advised his removal from the roster a long time ago.”

Ultimately, that leaves us with the question, why is Reyes here?

In 2016, we knew the answer was because the Wilpons didn’t care enough about how severely Reyes beat his wife.  David Wright was done for the year, and his replacements weren’t cutting it.  The team wanted to win, so they sold their soul to host the Wild Card Game.

In 2017, the selling point was Reyes performed admirably done the stretch, and the team needed insurance for Wright’s back.

In 2017, Reyes was absolutely terrible, and the team insisting on trying to get him going was one of the more prominent reasons why that season fell apart.  Really, Reyes did not hit well until September where he went on a tear.  Of course, that was too little way too late.

Despite Reyes being terrible, he was back this season.  With the Mets signing Todd Frazier, he was going to be a bench piece.  With his September, he was supposed to be much better this year.  More than anything, he was purportedly brought back to mentor Amed Rosario.

On the Rosario front, he has been much worse this year than he was last year.  In 2017, he was a -0.2 WAR player with a 74 wRC+ and a -1 DRS.  This season, Rosario is a -1.0 WAR with a 68 wRC+ and a -16 DRS.  Seeing his play this year, the Mets are now contemplating him being a center fielder.

Seeing Rosario’s play, it leads you to ask the question, “How exactly is Reyes mentoring Rosario?”

On that front, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post said, “He’s not mentoring as much as you think.”

If we sum this all up, with Jose Reyes, the Mets have a player, who:

  1. Can’t hit
  2. Can’t field
  3. Gripes publicly
  4. Is not mentoring younger players
  5. Is not worthy of a spot on an MLB roster

That’s what we definitively know.  Based upon reports, we can also surmise he’s undermining a manager by using his influence with ownership.

That last point is important because Reyes has now gone public in saying he wants to come back.  For some reason his draw to ownership is such that coming off a horrid 2017 season, the team not only brought him back, but they gave him $2 million when most teams wouldn’t even give him a minor league contract.

In all seriousness, if Reyes is back with the Mets in 2019, even on a minor league deal, it is time for everyone to reevaluate their support for this Mets franchise.

Reyes beating his wife wasn’t enough to keep him away.  Reyes being a bad player wasn’t enough to keep him away.  Reyes not mentoring the player he was supposed to be mentoring while playing terribly has not been enough to keep him away.

Really, the only thing that ever separated the Mets and Reyes was money because back in 2010, when it came time to pay him, the Wilpons didn’t so much as speak with Reyes.

However, now that he’s a bad, cheap, and wife beating baseball player, this organization cannot have enough of him. Really, it is past the breaking point of how ridiculous this all is.  If he is back, how can anyone logically support this franchise?

Unfortunately, fandom isn’t logical, and for that reason, I know I will still be a Mets fans in 2019.  That said, my enthusiasm for the team will take another significant hit much like it took a significant hit in 2016.  At some point, there is going to be one hit too many, and at that point, who knows?

Really, Reyes is exactly how you lose a passionate fan base.  You turn people off because you tell people you have no issue with domestic violence.  You turn people off because you build a team on the cheap instead of properly investing in a winning core and have a payroll commensurate with your market size.  You turn people off because despite this player dragging your franchise down, you feel some devotion to him  you didn’t have back when he was a good player.

So yes, I’ll still be there in 2019 even if Reyes is.  I just won’t be as invested.  To that end, I really hope Reyes is worth turning away passionate fans for over 30 years for this player.  Something tells me it isn’t, and worse yet, the Wilpons don’t really care.

Embarrassing Mets Lineup Does The Expected

For quite a while, Mets fans have bemoaned the ridiculous lineup with Eric Campbell and John Mayberry, Jr. hitting in the middle of the lineup.  As bad as that lineup was, tonight’s ridiculous lineup might have taken the cake.

Despite Luis Guillorme arguably being the best defensive shortstop in the entire Mets organization, he started the game at third with Jose Reyes, a player who has been a bad everything for a few years now playing the most important position on the infield.

Dominic Smith started the game in left field because for some reason the Mets wanted to get another look at Kevin Plawecki at first base.  This meant the far superior pitch framer in Plawecki was at first base while Devin Mesoraco caught.

Taking it slightly a step further, because of the injuries to pitchers, Seth Lugo, a man who looks like Andrew Miller in the Mets bullpen, was pressed into another start.

Really, looking at this lineup, you have to wonder if the person making that lineup wanted to get fired.  Considering Mickey Callaway essentially let it be known he didn’t want to play Reyes, he may not be the person filling out the lineup card.

Whatever the situation, it was a sick joke, and it was a joke that had no one laughing, especially not Lugo.

The good news for Lugo was he would allow just one earned run in his five innings pitched.  The bad news is when he left the game in the fifth, the Mets trailed 3-0.  The reason for that is the defense behind him was terrible.

What was a surprise was both of the errors leading to the unearned runs came from Guillorme.

Guillorme couldn’t field a ball off the bat of Starling Marte.  Marte was probably safe anyway, but it was ruled an error.  The first batter of the game reached, would promptly steal a base, and he would eventually score on a Josh Harrison sacrifice fly.

It was Harrison who reached on a two out throwing error by Guillorme in the third.  He’d score on an Elias Diaz single.  It should be noted that was a ball Rosario probably fields.

Really, the only earned run against Lugo was a second inning Gregory Polanco second inning solo shot.

After Lugo labored through five, partially due to his defense abandoning him, it was time for Tyler Bashlor to make his Major League debut.  He was rudely welcomed to the big leagues by a Josh Bell excuse me opposite field line drive two run homer.

Other than that, Bashlor looked pretty good in his two innings, and it made you question why the Mets have been subjecting their fans to the Chris Becks and the Jacob Rhames of the world.

While none of this was a surprise, okay, the Guillorme defensive struggles was a bit of a surprise, the Mets fighting back in this game was a bit of a surprise.

After Jameson Taillon dominated the Mets for six innings, the team would finally get to him in the seventh.

A pair of doubles by Reyes and Plawecki scored the first run.  After Tyler Glasnow entered the game, Guillorme walked, and Wilmer Flores hit a pinch hit three run homer to pull the Mets within 5-4.

That prompted Clint Hurdle to bring in Steven Brault.  He walked Michael Conforto putting the tying run on base with no outs.  The rally would die there as Jose Bautista struck out, and Asdrubal Cabrera hit into an inning ending double play.

In the eighth, the Mets put two on with one out.  That rally fizzled as Plawecki struck out, and Guillorme grounded out.

That was pretty much it for the Mets.  In his second inning of work, Robert Gsellman couldn’t get through the ninth unscathed.  This time a tough play for Guillorme was scored a hit.  Gsellman would do well to limit the Pirates to one run when they had the bases loaded with one out, but really, who cares at this point?

The Mets aren’t doing nearly enough to win games, and now, they are putting out embarrassing lineups.

Game Notes: To make room for Bashlor on the roster, Chris Flexen was sent down to Triple-A.

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets.  Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry.  However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes.  When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.

With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right?  Let’s take a look:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation.  In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.

The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer.  Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well.  Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.

Things changed at the tail end of 2017.  Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become.  d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September.  As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.

VERDICT: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI.  He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.

Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.

VERDICT: 2015 Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.

For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.

VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.

Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.

VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015.  After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores.  Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half.  Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.

Rosario is the future of the Mets.  Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate.  However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better.  He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time.  For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.

VERDICT: 2018 Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets.  Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting.  Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup.  He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist.  Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.

With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets.  To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player.  This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.

VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers.  They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits.  In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well.  Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.

The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player.  Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder.  Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015.  Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then.  Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen.  This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year.  Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness.  One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.

When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins.  Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.

VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015.  When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived.  Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.

Right now, Callaway looks like a genius.  He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth.  He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late.  His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire.  However, the season isn’t even a week old.  Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.

Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series

VERDICT

If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation.  The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager.  Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw.  However, in reality, it’s not.  That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.

That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager.  If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level.  If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.