Eric Campbell

Luis Rojas Did Not Blow That Game

Let’s rewind to the exact situation. David Peterson had retired 17 in a row and was at 83 pitches. The Mets had a 2-0 lead entering the bottom of the eighth with the bottom of the order due up.

The Tampa Bay Rays 7-8-9 hitters were particularly terrible. Here’s now they had faired in the game up to that point:

Simply put, Peterson dominated this trio. He had not thrown many pitches, and since the second inning, Peterson was literally generating pop outs, ground outs, and strikeouts.

There was absolutely zero reason to believe the Rays could mount any realistic threat in the eighth. That goes double when you look at the hitters careers:

  • Zunino – 72 wRC+ since 2018
  • Padlo – Zero career hits
  • Phillips – career 71 wRC+

There was absolutely zero reason to anticipate trouble. Peterson’s pitch count was down, and the batters due up were dreadful. To put things in perspective for Mets fans, Eric Campbell with his career 80 wRC+ would’ve been a better option.

Seeing it that way, Luis Rojas was right to send Peterson out for the eighth. That’s even the case with no safety net.

Remember, this isn’t the postseason. You don’t just get guys up and throwing just in case. You’re managing for 162 games, and the Mets are slated for a bullpen game.

The Mets needed Peterson to get through that eighth, and again, there was no reason to believe he couldn’t. Of course, with this being baseball, he didn’t.

Zunino, who has a career .387 SLG against LHP in his career homered. Padlo, who was 0-for-10 in his career doubled. It sucks, but it happens.

From there, Peterson struck out Phillips (who failed in his bunt attempts), and he was relieved by Trevor May. Obviously, no one is going to question that because no one wanted Peterson going through the lineup a fourth time.

Remember, at that time, the Mets still had a 2-1 lead. It was a hard out, but May retired Randy Arozarena. That left May facing Manuel Margot, who is a career .240/.289/.373 hitter off RHP. He’s also a career .232/.316/.297 hitter with two outs and RISP.

This is the exact match-up you want. You wanted May to get an overmatched Margot to get out of the inning, so the Mets could go to Edwin Diaz in the ninth.

Instead of ending the inning, Margot hit a game tying double. May just stumbled here after being great all season. Again, it happens.

This is what caused Mets fans fury. They expected Rojas to not let Peterson start the eighth or to not permit him to pitch against a batter with zero career hits.

Even if you had a preference, that’s not the same as saying Rojas blew it. Rojas had made sound decisions and put his pitchers in a position to succeed.

They just didn’t. It happens.

The same goes for Jeff McNeil failing to deliver with two on and two out in the second. McNeil hit a one out double in the eighth, but Michael Conforto and Francisco Lindor failed to drive him home.

Failing to deliver those insurance runs proved costly. Even more costly was James McCann grounding out with two out and two on in the ninth.

That’s emblematic of what happened in the eighth. The Rays delivered in the big spots, and the Mets didn’t. That’s on the players, not the manager.

In the end, Peterson allowed extra base hits to two flat out bad hitters. May couldn’t get a batter who couldn’t hit RHP out. The Mets couldn’t get the key hit they needed to expand or reclaim the lead.

That’s what happened, and it’s difficult to pin the Mets inability to deliver in these spots on the manager. Overall, there is plenty of blame to go around, but none of I should be directed at the manager.

Rojas managed that game well, and he put his team in a position to win. His players just didn’t take advantage. It’s just time to move past this game and start a new winning streak. With Rojas at the helm, they should.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Get Red Sox Knocked Off

The New York Mets had not lost a home series or been swept once this season. That was until the Boston Red Sox came to town:

1. The best way to sum up Jacob deGrom‘s greatness is a bad start is one run over six innings.

2. In four starts, deGrom is 2-2 with a 0.51 ERA. That’s beyond absurd.

3. The long story short is if deGrom doesn’t shut ’em out and hit one out, he’s going to lose the game.

4. That may not be a deGrom thing anymore. The Mets offense has been that bad lately.

5. This isn’t exactly by chance. The Mets are following the pattern of teams who previously retained Chili Davis as hitting coach.

6. As noted and will continue to be noted, Francisco Lindor is a slow starter. If you’re booing him over that, you’re an idiot.

7. Also, imagine booing him when he makes a great play to turn an unassisted double play.

8. Speaking of defense, Pete Alonso has been great at first. While we note the diving play, that stretch on the James McCann throw was excellent.

9. With the Mets offense the way it is, making bad pitching look great, they need all the great defense and pitching they can get. Fortunately, the pitching has been great leading the league in FIP.

10. Keep in mind, this is before Carlos Carrasco, Seth Lugo, and Noah Syndergaard come off the IL. That’s how good the pitching has been.

11. Mets really need to navigate this Brandon Nimmo hip issue because he’s the one consistent bat in this lineup. He’s also playing well in center.

12. Jeff McNeil homered and was dropped in the lineup. It’ll be interesting to find out what Sandy Alderson comes up with to bench McNeil again and/or drop him in the lineup again.

13. Mets held the best offensive team in 2021 to three runs TOTAL over two games. Somehow, the Mets were swept over the two game set.

14. With the Mets pitching and hitting this way, it’s reminiscent of the summer of 2015. The only difference is these Mets are healthy and the other batted Eric Campbell and John Mayberry in the heart of the lineup. These Mets are healthy.

15. It’s way too soon to panic or overreact, but the Mets problems have gone from bad to worse. That said, there is still plenty of time to turn things around.

16. The at-bats by Michael Conforto and J.D. Davis at the end of the second game where literally as bad as you can get. They were swinging at pitches in the dirt.

17. Jeurys Familia and Trevor May have been nearly unstoppable since their struggles in their first appearances. Miguel Castro has been unstoppable all year.

18. Jerry Blevins seemed to be a casualty of the dumb three batter rule when he announced his retirement. Same goes for former Met Oliver Perez who was designated for assignment by the Indians despite pitching well.

19. As Joe Girardi was rightfully flipping out over Genesis Cabrera hitting Bryce Harper in the face and Didi Gregorius in the ribs, he has no issue putting Jose Alvarado on the mound who threw consecutive dangerous up and in pitches to Conforto. If you’re going to be upset about hard throwers with zero control endangering batters, don’t put one on the mound yourself.

20. Despite what people want to tell you, the Mets are going to be fine. They’ll finish April near or at first, and they’re primed for a big May.

Justin Turner Flat Out Better Than Mets Third Basemen Since 2014

After the 2013 season, the New York Mets non-tendered Justin Turner for what is still inexplicable reasons. By any measure, it was a mistake to part with a player who was quality and versatile infield depth.

What we couldn’t have fully appreciated was just how much of a giant mistake it was. Really, it was an off the charts horrendous decision.

Since 2014, Turner was an All-Star, NLCS MVP, and part of the 2020 World Series champion Dodgers. While second baseman Daniel Murphy was the NLCS MVP the preceding season, no Mets third baseman accomplished these feats.

Since 2014, Turner has a 141 wRC+, 22 DRS, and a 26.6 WAR.

As a group, Mets third basemen have collectively amassed a 103 wRC+, -57 DRS, and a 17.9 WAR.

Turner has outhit, outfielded, and was just a flat out better player than anything the Mets put out on the field since he left the team. Certainly, that’s not something we ever expected from a team who had David Wright.

No one, and I repeat, no one should have realistically believed Turner would be far superior to Wright. That was absurd then. However, that wasn’t the point.

The Mets were making the claim Turner’s late season improvements weren’t of any value. They were claiming Eric Campbell was a better player. Even in 2013, those were both dubious claims.

With that, the Mets parted on cheap depth. They parted with a player on the cusp of a huge breakout. They parted with a difference maker.

Now, they’re in a position where Turner is STILL a massively better option than what the Mets have in-house. It makes you wonder if the Mets now realize this and try to bring him back, or if they’re going to keep going down this same path.

Mets Scapegoated Wrong Coach For Brodie Van Wagenen’s Failures

A night after the Mets blew a game partially because Gary Disarcina had an unfathomly bad send of J.D. Davis, the Mets decided to fire pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez. Seeing Brodie Van Wagenen’s press conference where he refused to accept any personal responsibility, you could see this was nothing but a scapegoat decision to deflect from his failures as a General Manager. In typical Van Wagenen fashion, he scapegoated the wrong person because that’s what a terrible General Manager with no accountability does.

On the surface, you may want to pinpoint how the pitching has not lived up to its billing. After all, the Mets team 4.74 ERA is the 11th worst in baseball, and their 5.37 bullpen ERA is the third worst in baseball. Of course, there are some other considerations behind those numbers.

On the starter ERA front, the Mets top four starters have a 4.27 ERA. While not where you may not want it, it’s still a half a run lower than the staff ERA. That is because the rest of the staff including Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, and Wilmer Font have combined for a 7.19 ERA.

The bullpen ERA also needs to be put in perspective as well. That ERA comes from pitchers like Drew Gagnon (7.65 ERA), Tyler Bashlor (5.40 ERA), Luis Avilan (9.28 ERA), Hector Santiago (6.57 ERA), and Jacob Rhame (8.10 ERA). Say what you want about Eiland, but much of the team’s pitching struggles are related to the team not having Major League quality arms and having a complete lack of pitching depth.

Another factor is the Mets horrible defense. Their -55 DRS is the second worst in the Majors. That’s a year off of them being the second worst team in the National League with a -121 DRS. Their inability to field is part of the reason why the Mets pitching staff has a 4.27 FIP, which is 11th best in the majors. That includes a 3.99 FIP for their starters.

On that front, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler each have an FIP better than that mark with each of them in the top 30 among Major League starters meaning they are actually pitching like top of the rotation starters. Put another way, Eiland had the good pitchers on this staff actually pitching well, at least most of them.

Going back, what hasn’t been happening is the Mets playing well defensively. As noted by Mark Simon of The Athletic, the Mets are the worst shifting team in baseball. In fact, they are one of just a few teams whose shifting has cost the team runs. As noted by ESPN‘s Paul Hembekides, the Mets infield defense has an MLB worst 70 percent out rate on ground balls, .270 batting average on ground balls allowed, and 218 ground ball hits allowed.

That wasn’t the case back when Tim Teufel was the infield coach. No, he had the team where they needed to be, and in fact, back in 2015, when the Mets had Daniel Murphy at second, Wilmer Flores playing shortstop, and Eric Campbell playing more infield than anyone, the Mets had a positive 15 DRS.

No, things went real south when they hired Disarcina.

On the topic of Disarcina, we have not only seen Amed Rosario not fulfill his Gold Glove promise, but he has really struggled defensively. Part of that is the shifting, and part of that is Disarcina not doing the job he was hired to do. That is not too dissimilar from when he sent Davis home (another player he has not been able to help with his infield defense) among his other bad sends this year. It’s also not too dissimilar from when he failed to properly run quality control last year as the team’s bench coach last year leading to Jay Bruce batting out of order.

If you’re looking to scapegoat a coach, the Mets should have scapegoated the coach who has not performed well in his job. On that topic, Glenn Sherlock hasn’t performed well either. We have seen both Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki pick it up to the levels they were with Bob Geren, but that required them leaving the organization and getting competent coaching elsewhere. There’s also Chili Davis, who is the hitting coach for a team hitting ground balls 46.0 percent of the time and a hard hit rate of 35.3 percent (both bottom six in the majors) at a time when the juiced ball is flying out of ballparks.

If the Mets were looking to scapegoat a coach for the poor job Van Wagenen did to build this roster, he should have picked Disarcia, Sherlock, or Davis. Instead, he picked Eiland, a pitching coach with two World Series rings, a man who was actually doing his job well because he needed a scapegoat to hide from his complete failure to build necessary pitching depth.

At some point in time, Brodie Van Wagenen is going to have to finally take some personal responsibility, something he refused to do yesterday, and admit he has done a very poor job. Maybe at that point, he can stop with the half measures and scapegoating and instead focus on making the changes needed to turn the Mets into they type of club he hyped them to be heading into the season.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Blow Another Series

You can understand blowing games against the Dodgers. They are both a really good and a relentless team. It really becomes an issue when you do it against mediocre teams like the Diamondbacks:

1. The most bizarre criticism of Mickey Callaway was his lifting Pete Alonso for a pinch runner in the eighth inning of a game where the Mets had a four run lead. By lifting him for Juan Lagares, you’re getting more speed on the basepaths, and you are helping bolster both the infield and the outfield defense. It was 100% the right decision.

2. The criticism over his use of Jeurys Familia and Robert Gsellman was understandable, but let’s not pretend there was another real option. Drew Gagnon was bad in his last two pressure situations. Tyler Bashlor had three consecutive blown saves, and he wound up being the losing pitcher in the game. Really, other than those two and with it being too early to utilize a fatigued Edwin Diaz, there really wasn’t a better choice.

3. On Familia, there appears to be two problems. The first is he’s walking too many. The second is the defense behind him. He has a career worst .344 BABIP (.312 career) and a 66.2% LOB (75.4%) career. Essentially, the Mets are combining a ground ball pitcher with a bad infield defense. Not a good mix.

4. We should again note that as of today Craig Kimbrel no longer has draft pick compensation attached to him. We should also note he is now only going to get a prorated portion of the salary he wanted. If you’re all-in, there’s absolutely no excuse for the Mets to not sign him today.

5. The Mets have a National League worst -48 DRS with Amed Rosario (-13), J.D. Davis (-9), Wilson Ramos (-7), and Robinson Cano (-4). That’s -26 DRS from your infield.

6. Davis had a hot start, but he’s regressed to the mean, and he’s now one of the problems with the team. His defense is unplayable across the diamond, and he has been hitting .248/.313/.385. Since May 1st, Davis is hitting .208/.238/.351. As a point of reference, Eric Campbell hit .221/.312/.311 in his career with the Mets.

7. Seeing Arizona is a reminder how much the Mets miss Wilmer Flores. Aside from the things he did well as a player, he would have been great for this clubhouse. Flores went through this in 2015 and 2016. He also knows what it’s like to go from struggling to fan favorite. His attitude, rapport with his teammates, and his ability to play is needed on this team.

8. Looking at the team Brodie Van Wagenen assembled, the players he brought in have combined for a -0.7 WAR. The best position player he has brought aboard was Adeiny Hechavarria. Not to unfairly dump on Hechavarria, who is playing the best baseball of his career, but no General Manager in the history of baseball should ever be in a position to say the most productive position player he added to the roster was Adeiny Hechavarria.

9. The Mets are winning behind the talented players left behind by Sandy Alderson. One of those players has been Dominic Smith, who the team didn’t even want to give a chance to win the first base position in Spring Training.

10. Smith has really proven himself. He’s in the best shape of his life, and he’s a better player having had better treatment of his sleep apnea. He’s been great in the clubhouse, and he finally got his chance. It’s an extremely small sample size, but he’s hitting .359/.519/.609 with a 1 DRS when he’s a left fielder.

11. The Mets are playing Smith and Davis in left field because the team went into the season with just two starting everyday outfielders. This has also led them to flipping coins over whether Carlos Gomez (79 wRC+, 0 DRS), Aaron Altherr (-40 wRC+, 0 DRS), and Lagares (40 wRC+, -1 DRS).

12. It should also be noted the Mets had a chance to give Keon Broxton more playing time to see if they could salvage him. Instead, they cut him so they could call up Gomez. Since being traded to the Orioles, Broxton is hitting .250/.300/.500 (0.2 WAR). That’s a clear upgrade over the mess they have now.

13. Between Broxton and Davis, that’s just five prospects and Bobby Wahl thrown away from nothing.

14. That is a good reminder when Adam Jones hit that game tying three run homer off of Gsellman. It’s important to remember here Jones signed for just $3 million. THREE MILLION!

15. Steven Matz needed to be better than what he was on Sunday. The team needed a lift, and he gave up two runs before he even recorded an out. He gave up five runs total. Yes, the offense and defense didn’t show up either, but the Mets needed more from him. To be fair, he at least gave them length to help the pen, and unlike most of the lineup, he actually had a hit.

16. This team sure looks a lot different when Seth Lugo is available. His ability to pitch well and give the team length certainly masks a lot of problems with the bullpen.

17. It is great to see the Jacob deGrom of last year return. Maybe it’s Tomas Nido, and maybe it’s just getting back into a groove, but he’s looked like the guy he was last year. Since May 1st, he’s allowed two earned or fewer in six of his seven starts. Even with the inexplicable clunker in Miami, he has a 2.68 ERA, 1.008 WHIP, and a 4.6 K/BB over this stretch.

18. The hysteria about the personal catcher for deGrom is muchado about nothing. If deGrom pitches well to Nido, let him pitch to Nido. We should also note his pitching to Nido also affords Wilson Ramos a little extra rest. That seems to be working for him with him hitting .293/.376/.500 since May 1.

19. Zack Wheeler could’ve been better on Friday, but he did give the Mets a chance to win that game, and he gave them length to help save that bullpen.

20. After playing 20 consecutive games and going 9-11 over the stretch, the Mets are in need of today’s day off. Seeing Mets fans completely overreact to Callaway’s every look and smile, the fans can use the day off as well.

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.