Back in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds had their second consecutive 90 win season. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to make the postseason like they were the previous year when they were bounced from the NLDS by the San Francisco Giants. Due to a number of factors, there was an open question after that season how long the Reds could keep this core group together.
At the same time, the New York Mets finished the season in third place in the National League East with a 74-88 record. In that season, the team saw a rejuvenated David Wright, and Matt Harveywas the talk of the town, at least until he needed Tommy John surgery.
Using that all as a backdrop, imagine explaining to a person from 2013 how the Harvey deal went down . . .
2018: Well, no . . .
2013: So wait, tell me which Reds are members of the Mets now.
2018: Well, no, not exactly.
2013: I’m guessing Davis never got over the Valley Fever.
2018: While I’m not sure if it was Valley Fever, Davis is no longer in the majors. In fact, he’s trying to pitch now.
2013: And I’m guessing despite the team shoving him down our throats, I’m assuming Duda never panned out.
2018: Actually, he became a 30 home run hitter.
2013: Really, so if that’s the case, why are the Mets looking to move him off first? Do they really think he can play the outfield? He was dreadful out there.
2018: No, no, no, no. Duda signed as a free agent with the Royals.
2013: Ok, so the Mets got Frazier to play first.
2018: No, they signed him to play third.
2013: So, Wright is playing first.
2018: About that . . .
2013: Francesca always yammered on and on about how he belongs at third because of his arm. Honestly, I can’t believe the Mets listened to that blowhard. Speaking of which, I’m sure he gloated about that for at least a week.
2018: Believe it or not, Francesca was retired when the Mets got Frazier.
2013: With Francesca retired, who is now on during the drive home?
2018: It’s a long story, but it’s Francesa. He unretired.
2013: Of course he did. And he’s probably telling us all the time how Wright shouldn’t be compared to Derek Jeter because Wright hasn’t won, and Jeter does everything perfect.
2018: Believe it or not, Jeter owns the Marlins.
2013: Like, he’s still playing, and he won the World Series MVP?
2018: No, he’s actually a part owner of the Marlins.
2013: The media must love him and the Marlins now.
2018: People think Jeter is a prick now. He fired a cancer patient while he was in the hospital.
2018: Oh yeah, he’s alienated everyone, including their biggest fan, Marlins Man.
2013: What’s a Marlins Man?
2018: It’s this guy who goes across the country sitting behind home plate of every nationally televised game while wearing an orange Marlins jersey.
2013: That’s a thing?
2018: For a while now.
2013: So let me get this straight. In the future, Jeter owns the Marlins. Francesca pretends to be Brett Favre. There is some guy who is a celebrity because he’s rich and wears an orange Marlins jersey, and the Mets displaced Wright in favor of Frazier.
2018: I hate to tell you this, but Wright’s career is done.
2013: With the Mets? I knew the Wilpons wouldn’t pay him. Where did he go? Please don’t tell me he’s a Yankee.
2018: No, Wright’s baseball career. It’s over.
2013: Shut up. He would be just, what, 34?
2018: He’s 35.
2013: So, what? He’s the Mets Don Mattingly?
2018: He is. Back in 2015, when the Mets went to the World Series
2013: THE METS WENT TO THE WORLD SERIES?!?!?!?!?
2018: They did.
2013: Wow, Terry Collins must’ve really turned things around with better players.
2018: Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.
2013: Sorry, you were saying about Wright.
2018: Anyway, Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He was actually able to play in the World Series, but after that point his career was essentially over.
2013: That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.
2018: Well, it gets worse.
2013: How could it get worse?
2018: Well aside from the Mets losing the 2015 World Series –
2013: Oh, they lost? To who?
2018: The Royals.
2013: HOW! THEY ALWAYS SUCK!
2018: Well, for two years they didn’t, and they were helped along by some really bad decisions by Collins in that World Series, including leaving Harvey out too long.
2013: Let me guess. Hurt again.
2018: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but not because of that. At least, I don’t think.
2013: Thor – what?
2018: No, not Noah Syndergaard. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
2013: Wait, Syndergaard calls himself Thor.
2018: Yeah, and he picks fights with Mr. Met on Twitter.
2013: I thought Mr. Met doesn’t talk.
2018: Yeah, it’s this whole thing. You know what. Nevermind, it’s even dumber when you explain it.
2013: Fine, what’s the deal with Harvey again?
2018: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. At best it’s a shoulder condition that changes your career. For some, it ends it. Remember Josh Beckett?
2013: Yeah, he was bad last year.
2018: That’s why.
2013: So wait, the Mets went to a World Series with an injured Harvey and Wright?
2018: Well, Harvey wasn’t injured yet.
2013: But now he is. Well, I got to give it to Sandy. He was able to turn Harvey and Herrera into Bruce, Frazier, and Mesoraco, who was a promising catcher.
2018: Well, the Mets did use Herrera to get Bruce. Frazier was a free agent, and the Mets used Harvey to get Mesoraco.
2013: Wow, that was one first round draft pick which really must’ve worked out for the Reds. You’d hope for more for Harvey, but still, you have to give Sandy credit for getting a young impressive catcher for Harvey before Harvey broke down.
2018: Oh, Mesoraco is broken down himself. He’s had shoulder and hip issues. He can’t play everyday, and he’s been hovering around the Mendoza line for years.
2013: So, let me get this straight.
2018: Go ahead.
2013: Wright is broken. Harvey is broken. They also got Mesoraco, who is also broken. Ike is both broken and a pitcher.
2018: Pretty much.
2018: You know what? I think that’s enough for right now.
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals. With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:
East – Boston Red Sox
Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)
Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.
RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)
Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.
RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)
Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.
OF Chris Young (2014)
After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.
Central – Cleveland Indians
First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)
Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007. He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.
RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)
Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.
RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)
Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons. Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.
West – Houston Astros
DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)
Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform. Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.
C Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)
Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)
Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.
Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)
Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark. While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)
Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick. He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)
Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.
Wild Card – New York Yankees
RHP Luis Cessa
Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
Wild Card – Minnesota Twins
Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)
While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.
RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)
“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse. There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.
RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)
Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability. He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.
East – Washington Nationals
OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)
De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets. He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.
Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)
Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.
2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)
Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase. Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant. Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.
LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)
Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season. He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract. Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.
Central – Cubs
Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)
“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.
C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)
Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners. It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.
West – Dodgers
Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)
Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers. Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.
OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)
Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform. He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most. Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series. His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.
3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)
Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible. Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.
Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)
Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.
Wild Card – Diamondbacks
RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)
Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed. While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.
Wild Card – Rockies
Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League. Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.
Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting. He will not be returning as Mets manager. While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring. The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.
In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started. The Mets were bad and injured. It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag. What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.
Part of being human is being emotional. We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences. And yes, we’ve seen him cry. Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality. In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory. In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.
He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title. He left Santana in for that no-hitter. He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult. Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.
Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players. It would be the source of much consternation among fans. This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto. What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.
In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed. You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop. Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.
But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers. It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players. Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner. It wasn’t just those players. Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.
With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets. Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets. Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.
Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see. A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young. A Mets player won a batting title. There was actually a Mets no-hitter. Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.
Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that. Collins got the best out of his players. It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.
And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans. More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect. He returned their affection. That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) October 22, 2015
It was more than the celebrating. Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants. At his core, Collins is a good and decent man. It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.
Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake. Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers. This was just one aspect of his poor managing. There were many times where he left you scratching your head. It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.
However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins. To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season. We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.
He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history. When he was hired no one expected him to last that long. Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure. In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.
I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him. My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man. Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled. Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.
With the Mets trading Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays, we bring an end to the Mets career of one of the better Mets in their history, and we also see the beginning of the end of an era of Mets baseball.
Duda was a player with a promising bat the Mets that first Omar then Sandy tried to get into the lineup. With players blocking his path to his natural first base position, Duda would be moved to the outfield. Duda would be standing there ins what was then a fairly cavernous right field when Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Lost in that game was Duda homering in the sixth to put the game away.
Despite Duda being in the outfield during one of the biggest moments in Mets history, it became increasingly clear he wasn’t an outfielder. He belonged at first base. The fact he even forced a competition for the spot with Ike Davis was impressive. Duda did all he could to wrestle that spot from Davis, and he finally showed the Mets what he could do hitting 30 home runs in 2014. He had more in store in 2015.
When people have typically written about the 2015 season, they usually credit with Yoenis Cespedes for winning the National League East. This overlooks how Duda almost single-handedly pulled the Mets into first place in 2015:
In that pivotal series that saw the Mets go from second to first place, Duda was 8-9 with a double, three homers, and five RBI. With Mets fans debate over whether Duda was clutch or not, this series should answer the question in the affirmative.
As we know that season would eventually end in heartbreak. Duda played his part throwing away the ball in Game 5 allowing Eric Hosmer to score the tying run. It was hard to watch, and unfortunately, it masked all the good he had done that season including his grand slam in the division clincher and his homer effectively sealing the pennant:
These are many of the many great things Duda has done in a Mets uniform. He was the second Mets player in history to hit three home runs in a game at home. Shockingly, he was second to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Speaking of homering at Citi Field, Duda leaves the Mets as the all-time leader in home runs at Citi Field.
Hitting homers was one of the things Duda did well. This year, he passed notable Mets like Edgardo Alfonzo, Kevin McReynolds, and Todd Hundley to finish his Mets career with the seventh most in Mets history. Depending on whether you view Dave Kingman as an outfielder or first baseman, Duda’s 125 Mets homers are either the most or second most for a Mets first baseman.
There were many great moments with Duda, but none of the aforementioned moments were my favorite. My favorite Duda moment was a seemingly meaningless Spring Training Game in 2015.
One night, I was sitting up watching the game with my then one year old half watching a Spring Training game when Duda ripped a double leading to an enthusiastic Gary Cohen call to the effect of “LUCAS DUDA rips an RBI double . . . .” My son immediately latched on and began screaming Duda, and he wanted to see Duda play more and hit more. As that season wore on, he became more and more interested in baseball, and he would learn the Mets players. First one he’d learn:
That was a magical year as both a father and a Mets fan. I’d get to see the Mets go to the World Series for the third time in my life, but it would be the first time I’d get to experience it with my son. I still remember him trying to stay up to watch the games with me. I remember him getting me a Duda jersey for Father’s Day and getting the Duda growth chart at one of the Mets games. Even with Duda gone, we will still use it. I also remember him going crazy during that World Series cheering for the Mets:
Duda leaving does not only mean we are saying good bye to a good player who began his career with the Mets. We are also saying good-bye to a part of a Mets era. It was an era that saw the Mets go from a frustrating team a team that came so close to winning a World Series.
On a personal note, I see Duda leaving as part of the ever changing realization that my son is no longer a baby – he’s now a little boy. He doesn’t just snuggle up with me at bedtime trying to watch Mets games, he now goes outside and plays baseball with me.
Like Granderson, I still want to hold on to not just Duda, but all of these memories. In reality, it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. With that said, I enjoyed each and every minute Duda was a Met (except for that throw), and I appreciate all he has done in a Mets uniform. He was a class act, who was always there to answer questions in even the hardest of times. On a personal note, he helped make another great fan. He deserves another opportunity to win a World Series, and I hope he does get that ring.
Good luck Lucas Duda.
As the Mets take the field today against the Oakland Athletics, they will play their last home game before the trade deadline. With the Mets looking to sell, this will likely be the final home game for many of the Mets players. If so, it has been a fun ride.
Lucas Duda – Duda has had an interesting Mets career. He was the right fielder for the Johan Santana no-hitter. He won the first base job from Ike Davis. He become a power bat in the middle of a Mets lineup that went to the World Series. He is a grand slam in the NL East clincher. He hit a three run homer in the NLCS clincher. He made a bad throw allowing Eric Hosmer to score. Overall, he has been an underrated Met, who became one of the team’s rare power threats at the position.
Curtis Granderson – Granderson has been the consummate professional, and he was the first major free agent to come to the Mets in the Sandy Alderson Era. He kept the Mets afloat in the 2015 season as the team dropped like flies around him. All three homers in the World Series gave the Mets a lead. He had a great September last year leading the Mets charge to the Wild Card. He accepted a bench role this season. He has been a great Met and an even better man doing more for the community than perhaps any Mets player we have ever seen.
Asdrubal Cabrera – It was his hot hitting bat that helped the Mets get the top Wild Card. After years of poor shortstop play, he was a steadying force. Things have not gone as well this year, but he is now doing all he can do to help the team.
Addison Reed – Reed was a shot in the dark when the Mets grabbed him before the waiver trade deadline in 2015. From there, Reed became the Mets best reliever, and perhaps the best reliever in baseball over that timeframe. He went from 7th inning reliever to a pennant winner to a dominant 8th inning guy last year to a lights out closer this year. He is the biggest trade chip, and he’s most likely going to be the first player gone. When he goes, he will leave behind a spot in the bullpen that will be near impossible to fill.
Jay Bruce – It is a testament to Bruce that he is having a career year this year after playing some of his worst baseball when he first put on a Mets uniform last year. He’s on pace for his first ever 40 home run season, and he has given the Mets a reason to consider trying to bring him back.
Jerry Blevins – The lanky Blevins is perhaps the least likely player to be traded of all that are on trading block due to his team option. If he goes, out the door goes the player who has made more appearances out of the bullpen than anyone this year. With him would go a terrific LOOGY out of the pen who pitched his best baseball in a Mets uniform.
There are other players we do not reasonably anticipate to go, which makes watching today all the more important. For any of the aforementioned players as well as some other players like Wilmer Flores, this will be the last time they will wear the home jerseys at Citi Field. Each one of these players have given us reason to cheer. Hopefully, they get an extra big cheer today.
With the Yankees pulling off that blockbuster last night, which included Todd Frazier, one of the few logical landing spots for Lucas Duda might have been eliminated. Considering the Tigers got a less than impressive haul for J.D. Martinez, who was widely considered the best bat on the trade market, it makes you wonder if the Mets are going to be able to get anything of value in exchange for their trade pieces – namely Duda. Certainly, that is troubling considering the Mets don’t want to lose the impending free agent without getting anything in return for him.
The soon to be 32 year old Duda is having another good year at the plate for the Mets. Through 67 games, the slugger is hitting .244/.351/.542 with 16 homers and 34 RBI. His 132 wRC+ is in the top 10 in the major leagues among first baseman with at least 250 plate appearances. Essentially, Duda is in the top third of first baseman. It is a position he has been since he took over the first base job from Ike Davis in 2014.
Arguably, a player like that is a second round draft pick or similar talent as the new free agent compensation system in place awards teams a second round pick for players the reject a qualifying offer and sign elsewhere.
Generally, one WAR is worth approximately $8 million. (Business Insider). In 2014 and 2015, Duda averaged a 3.3 WAR. After a lost year last year, Duda is seemingly back to being that player, which would make him worth about $26 million per year. With last year’s qualifying offer being $17.2 million, Duda is arguably worth whatever the qualifying offer number will be for the 2018 season.
But there is a difference between being worth the money and whether giving Duda roughly $20 million is a good allocation of resources. The Mets have significant holes that need to be addressed this offseason. The team needs to overhauled their bullpen. They also need a second baseman, third baseman, center fielder, and possibly a catcher. With the 22 year old former first round pick Dominic Smith waiting in the wings, the real question is whether another year of Duda is worth it?
There’s just no clear cut answer to that question. As easily as you can point to Duda’s production and the value in giving Smith more time to develop in the minors, you can also argue Duda hinders the Mets ability to build the best possible team in 2018. Moreover, there is the risk Duda could re-injure his back.
Of course, Duda can also reject the qualifying offer. Coming off his 2014 season, he rejected a three year $30 million contract extension. He could similarly reject a qualifying offer to get the contract he believes he is worth.
No matter which direction the Mets go there is a risk. Considering the likely worst case scenario is the Mets are stuck with a first baseman with a good OBP capable of hitting 30 homers a year, keeping him instead of moving him for something less than what he is worth is a risk well worth taking.
At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series. At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman. Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury. However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.
Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:
The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues. He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder. Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.
Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury. Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight. That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old. In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI. He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.
Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career. Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish. In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.
Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons. He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011. From there, he would play four years in Japan. In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes. Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.
Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015. No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016. In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.
Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team. The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado. Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history. For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.
Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012. Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen. In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.
His best work was in the 2014 postseason. That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game. Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher. In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.
In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016. He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.
In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP. Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.
The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca. Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.
Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks. While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it. He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.
Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream. Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues. Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball. He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP. At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.
The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado. The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.
In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games. While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels. Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues. His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.
After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012. In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI. As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.
At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.
The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.
The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.
With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good. With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system. Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss. This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets. In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.
Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets. Santana and Humber would both enter immortality. Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history. Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game. It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history. He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game. He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets. Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.
In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons. In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts. In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate. In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.
Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016. He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016. He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.
Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects. He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.
In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder. He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins. However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level. Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.
In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star. He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores. As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.
Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision. Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers. In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline. The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.
Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases. He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.
From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect. Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran. Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.
F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets. Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions. As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.
F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI. Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros. With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth. After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.
In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues. Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.
Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball. Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds. Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.
The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop. The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.
Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman. On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch. However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level. That fact may have forever changed Mets history.
Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game. Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases. From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end. Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.
Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level. The Mets gave up waiting. In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.
Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI. While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.
From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA. For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues. In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey. It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.
Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC. He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets. Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation. There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.
Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP. While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts. Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year. By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation. With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.
With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos. It was a trade that was detrimental for both players. Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP. Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.
After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants. Bannister would never pitch for the Giants. After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball. Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.
In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba. The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.
Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006. He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP. His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.
Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007. In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues. He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues. Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.
At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.
What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short. This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit. Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.
Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust. It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons. Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series. There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group. While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.
Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.
The first real playoff team Terry Collins managed with the Mets was in his first season with the team. It is hard to believe now, but that team was full of players that are now members, if not significant contributors, to teams that reached the postseason this year:
- Josh Thole – Toronto Blue Jays (not on the ALDS roster)
- Daniel Murphy – Washington Nationals
- Justin Turner – Los Angeles Dodgers
- David Wright – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
- Jose Reyes – New York Mets
- Angel Pagan – San Francisco Giants
- Carlos Beltran – Texas Rangers
- Lucas Duda – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
- R.A. Dickey – Toronto Blue Jays (not on the ALDS roster)
- Jon Niese – New York Mets (injured; not on the Wild Card Game roster)
Reading the names on that list, the two that immediately jump off the page are Murphy and Turner. They jump off the page for a myriad of reasons. The first reason is the two players are currently facing off against one another in the NLDS between the Dodgers and the Nationals. The series is tied at 1-1 in large part because Turner and Murphy have continued to be terrific postseason player.
Last year, Turner hit .526/.550/.842 with six doubles and four RBI against the Mets in the NLDS last year. Overall, in Turner’s postseason career, he is a .500/.538/.875 hitter with six doubles, one homer, and six RBI.
Murphy was the bat that helped carried the Mets to the World Series last year. In consecutive games, he hit homers off of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. He would also homer off Fernando Rodney in what was a stretch of six straight games with a home run. In addtion to the homers, Murphy’s going from first to third on a walk in Game Five of the NLDS helped changed the complexion of that game. Additionally, up until the World Series, he had played exceptional defense (which admittedly is a rarity for him). So far in the NLDS, Murphy is 4-6 with a walk and two RBI. The first of the two RBI was the go-ahead RBI in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Between Turner and Murphy, the Mets had at one time two second baseman who have established themselves to be extraordinarily clutch and terrific postseason players. They were also two players the Mets were eager to replace.
Turner was surprisingly non-tendered a contract after a 2013 season where he seemed to solidify himself as a utility or platoon player (at a minimum). Instead, the Mets let him go with rumors circulating that he was a me-first player that didn’t hustle. He was also characterized as a player that wasn’t progressing because he liked the night scene a little too much. He would go to Los Angeles and blossom as a player. The Mets internal replacement? Eric Campbell.
When Murphy became a free agent, the Mets first aggressively pursued Ben Zobrist. After failing to land him, the Mets quickly moved to trade for Neil Walker. At no time did the Mets even make Murphy an offer. Unlike Turner, Walker was an actual replacement with Walker having a great year for the Mets before needing season ending back surgery. However, despite how good Walker’s year was, he still wasn’t anywhere near was good as Murphy was for the Nationals.
It should never have come as a surprise that both of these players were gone because the Mets, under Sandy Alderson’s reign as General Manager, never really wanted either player. If you go back to that 2011 season, the Opening Day second baseman was Rule 5 Draft pick, Brad Emaus. After a couple of weeks of him struggling, the Mets moved on and finally went to Murphy and Turner at second base. Murphy would get the bulk of the playing time there until Ike Davis‘ ankle injury that allowed them to play side-by-side. With Davis’ healing up and being ready for the 2012 season, the Mets proceeded with Murphy as the second baseman and Turner as the utility player. As we know, that lasted just two year.
Ultimately, the Mets made the postseason this year without either player. And yes, both players got their first chance with the Mets. Quite possibly, neither player would be in the position they are in now without the Mets giving them a chance to prove they are major league players. However, the Mets also made clear they didn’t want either player starting all the way back in 2011 when they anointed Emaus the everyday second baseman. Eventually, the Mets would get their chance to move on, and they took advantage of that opportunity.
With that, Murphy and Turner are in the NLDS after the Mets lost the Wild Card Game with T.J. Rivera starting at second base. One of those two will be in the NLCS with a chance to go to the World Series, a position the Mets thought they were going to be in as the season started. With all that in mind, it begs the question: how much differently would the Mets season have gone if they had kept either Turner or Murphy?
One of the reasons the Mets went out and obtained Jay Bruce at the trade deadline is the team felt they needed another power bat in the lineup other than Yoenis Cespedes. Unfortunately, that trade hasn’t panned out well with Bruce hitting just .192/.271/.315 with just four homers and 11 RBI in 36 games as a Met. Worse yet, the Mets gave up Dilson Herrera, who could’ve taken over as the second baseman when Neil Walker required season ending back surgery and Wilmer Flores injured his neck.
Bruce’s struggles could be alleviated if the team was getting production at first base. However, James Loney has similarly struggled. Since the All Star Break, Loney is hitting .249/.276/.329 with only eight extra base hits in 51 games. These numbers are even worse when you consider Terry Collins has done all he could do to help Loney offensively by playing Flores at first against left-handed pitching. Worse yet, Loney’s reputation as a Gold Glove caliber first baseman has been greatly overblown. While defensive metrics for first base can be seen as imperfect, and cannot be fully trusted in a single season sample size, Loney has a -3.2 UZR and 0 DRS. Combining that with the prior two seasons, Loney has averaged a -2.4 UZR and a -1 DRS. Overall, these numbers speak to Loney’s lack of range and his failure to stretch on balls thrown to first base.
The solution to both of these problems would be Lucas Duda. In 2014, Duda beat out Ike Davis to become the Mets first baseman. In his two seasons as the Mets first baseman, Duda was a .249/.350/.483 hitter who averaged 28 homers and 82 RBI. Entering the season, Bruce was a .248/.319/.462 hitter who averages 26 homers and 80 RBI. Accordingly, Duda was a better power hitter and “run producer” who also got on base at a higher clip. Naturally, Duda far surpasses Loney has a hitter.
Defensively, Duda’s poor defensive reputation really rests on one bad throw in the World Series. Over his career, he has a 2.5 UZR and an 11 DRS. Over the two seasons he was the everyday first baseman, Duda averaged a 0.1 UZR and a 5 DRS. Using these advanced metrics, Duda is a much better defender than his reputation suggests, and he is a better defender than Loney. More importantly, as Keith Hernandez consistently pointed out over the past few seasons, Duda cheats to get to each and every ball thrown by an infielder. He stretches as far out as he can to help the Mets get the out calls on the close calls at first base.
Offensively and defensively, Duda is exactly what this Mets team needs for the stretch run and the postseason. Unfortunately, Duda suffered a stress fracture in his lower back. With a few setbacks during his rehabilitation, Duda was supposed to be gone for the season.
As it turns out, he wasn’t. Duda was able to get enough stationary bike riding and batting practice in for the Mets to feel comfortable activating him from the disabled list on Saturday. Even better, he got the surprise start on Sunday.
He would go 0-2 with a strikeout looking rusty at the plate. He was eventually lifted for Asdrubal Cabrera when the Twins brought in the left-handed Buddy Boshers to pitch the sixth. In the field, Duda was back to his normal form stretching out to give his team the best chance possible to get the base runner.
Getting on the field was a good start. However, if the Mets are going to make a run in the postseason, they will need Duda’s bat. There are 13 games left in the season for him to get into form. Hopefully, Collins will give him every opportunity to get going before the Wild Card Game.
If so, we have seen a hot Duda bat carry the Mets for long stretches. It just might carry the Mets to the World Series.