Yesterday, it was announced that with the Nationals season on the line, Stephen Strasburg was not going to take the ball in Game 4. There were a number of reasons cited for him missing the start on normal rest from his being off his routine, his being sick, and his not feeling prepared to pitch.
It is astonishing that Strasburg isn’t taking the ball in this spot. It was his opportunity to exercise the demons of 2012 when he was shut down on the eve of the postseason because he hit his innings limit. It was his opportunity to help save his team’s season when arguably he was the best pitcher suited to it.
The optics of the moment certainly aren’t good. That goes double when you consider an injured Max Scherzer is chomping at the bit to get into the game to help his team get to the NLCS. On top of that, Scherzer will only be on just one day of rest.
Again, Strasburg looks bad here.
Now, there is the caveat that Strasburg could really be that sick, or the team could be concealing some type of injury. Time and again, we have all been given lessons why we shouldn’t question an athlete when they say they can’t go. The most tragic of those circumstances was J.R. Richard. People questioned Richard and derided him, and so Richard pitched. That is until Richard suffered a stroke.
Still, even with the lessons we have learned with Richard, we all question Strasburg because there is a history here. Seeing what is happening with Strasburg, Mets fans should appreciate their pitchers all the more.
Back in 2015, with the same agent and predicament as Strasburg, Matt Harvey took the ball. He won a pivotal Game 3 in the NLDS. He set the tone in the NLCS with a dominating Game 1. He came so close to forcing a Game 6 with a brilliant Game 5 performance. Ironically, one of the lasting images of that postseason was Harvey demanding the ball.
It’s something we have seen with this entire Mets staff. Noah Syndergaard refused an MRI and instead insisting on pitching against the Nationals. Jacob deGrom ignored the pain as long as he could until he had to have season ending surgery. Steven Matz has done nothing but pitch through pain and injury in his Mets career.
Each one of these Mets pitchers demand the ball even when they should have taken a step back and done what was best for their careers. Who is to say the Mets pitchers are right and Strasburg is wrong. Players only have a limited time to play professional baseball and by extension to earn money. With each injury, their earning power goes down. Strasburg, who took the time off, received a seven year $175 million contract extension. There were at least discussions whether Harvey would be non-tendered.
So, maybe Strasburg is in the right here for doing what is best for him physically. However, while that may be true, it could go a long way in explaining why he’s never been out of the NLDS. It’s why he may never experience the glory we have seen Harvey experience in the postseason.
When I was talking with my Dad about the postseason, we were prattling off how most of the teams in the postseason haven’t won in quite some time:
- Astros – Never
- Nationals – Never
- Rockies – Never
- Indians – 1948
- Dodgers – 1988
- Twins – 1991
- Diamondbacks – 2001
- Yankees – 2009
- Red Sox – 2013
- Cubs – 2016
Just go back over that list again.
For nearly a century, the dream World Series matchup was Red Sox-Cubs. 1912 versus 1908. The Curse of the Bambino versus the Billy Goat Curse.
Then there was all of the Hall of Famers on both sides who never won a World Series. For the Cubs, you had absolute legends like Ernie Banks and Ferguson Jenkins. The Red Sox had Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski.
Throw in Fenway and Wrigley with the Green Monster and the ivy, this was the World Series to end all World Series because these were two teams pathologically incapable of winning World Series.
We know it all changed for the Red Sox with a Dave Roberts stolen base propelling the Red Sox to overcome an 0-3 ALCS deficit. It would be a Kris Bryant homer to start the game winning rally in Game five of the World Series. Before each of those moments, these were two franchises who seemed incapable of winning a World Series. There was also a time the Mets would take full advantage.
Now, the Mets are behind both the Red Sox and the Cubs. Now, it looks like the Mets who are the team that can’t win a World Series.
In 1988, Mike Scioscia hit a grand slam against Dwight Gooden. In 1999, Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded. In 2000, Timo Perez didn’t run out a Todd Zeile fly ball that landed on top of the wall. In 2006, So Taguchi homered off of Guillermo Mota, and yes, Carlos Beltran struck out looking against Adam Wainwright. In 2015, Jeurys Familia blew three saves with the help of Daniel Murphy overrunning a grounder and a way offline Lucas Duda throw. Last year, it was Conor Gillaspie who hit a three run homer in the Wild Card Game.
In reality, the Mets aren’t cursed even with all that ensued after the Madoff scandal. However, with each passing year, you can forgive fans for starting to feel this way. It’s been 31 years since the Mets last won a World Series. In those 31 years, the Mets have reached the postseason six times, and they were eliminated in excruciating fashion each time.
Again, the Mets are not cursed. Still, it is depressing to now live in a world where the Red Sox and the Cubs have won a World Series more recently than the Mets.
You’d be hard pressed to find a Mets fan who’d even contemplate a Yankees-Nationals World Series. After a horrible season, certainly one of the five most disappointing in Mets history, a Yankees-Nationals World Series is about the last thing Mets fans need.
Or is it?
The Mets entered the 2017 season with a $155 million payroll, which was ranked twelfth in the majors. That number was a bit deceptive as it included David Wright‘ insured contract. After the 75% reimbursement for Wright’s contract, the Mets Opening Day payroll was $140 million. That would’ve bumped them down to 15th.
Really, a Mets team who had designs on winning a World Series had a middle tier payroll. A Mets team located in the largest media market in the world was middle of the pack in spending.
That’s fine if the Mets were well constructed, but as we knew at the time, they weren’t.
Now, with the Mets facing even bigger holes this offseason, the Mets are planning to . . . wait for it . . . cut payroll. Instead of the $155 (or $140) million mark, the Mets plan to cut payroll by $135 million. They’re doing this despite having even more holes to address this offseason.
The Mets need a second baseman, third baseman, and a rebuilt bullpen. They should also consider adding a fifth starter, center fielder, backup catcher, and a capable bench. How the Mets can do all of this with less money is anyone’s guess.
Based on how the Mets have been run during the Sandy Alderson era, it seems as if the bullpen and bench will be the two poorest constructed areas. The Mets have been able to address both in the past by making in-season trades. Those trades have helped deplete the farm system.
Overall, if the Mets are going to return to being World Series contenders, they’ll have to spend. That’s hard to do unless Sandy is given more money this offseason.
That brings us back to the original Yankees-Nationals World Series point.
As much as Mets fans do not want to see it, the Wilpons want to see it even less. Remember Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports noted the Mets were “not eager” to trade Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, or really anyone to the Yankees. They didn’t want to have those players being the Mets. More than that, they don’t want to see the Yankees in the spotlight.
Likely, they don’t want to see Daniel Murphy leading the Nationals to the World Series. With everything Murphy has done since leaving the Mets, he makes the Mets look worse and worse. Seeing Murphy having a third straight terrific postseason may be too much for this franchise to bear. That goes double when you consider the Mets have a gaping hole at second base – one that could have been filled by Murphy if the Mets weren’t so eager to get rid of him.
If the Yankees and Nationals make the World Series, it would just rub salt in the Mets wounds. On the American League side, you have a team the Mets cannot bear to see successful. On the National League side, you have the Mets biggest competition in the division going to the World Series led by a former fan favorite. That’s a lot for an image conscious ownership group to bear.
Who knows? If that happens, maybe it will spurn the Mets to action. We could actually see the Mets open up their pocketbooks to address the needs of this team. Adding some players to a solid foundation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Yoenis Cespedes, and Michael Conforto could very well propel this team back to where they were in 2015.
Then again, maybe the Mets don’t spend the money they need to fix this team. If they’re not going to spend the money, then they deserve the indignity of seeing the Nationals and Yankees in the World Series. They deserve to get their own personal worst case scenario. The hope for Mets fans is it will be too much for them to bear that they will finally do something about it.
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.
You just knew the Mets and Phillies would have an extra inning game in the final series of the season. This is the epitome of a meaningless series, so you knew at least one of these games would get dragged out. That was tonight’s game.
In what was his last appearance of the season, Lugo lasted four innings allowing two runs on six hits. While he left the game on the short side, the Mets rallied to take the lead after he departed.
The big hit was a Brandon Nimmo two run triple in the fifth giving the Mets a 3-2 lead:
We take the lead! @You_Found_Nimmo with his first career triple.
— New York Mets (@Mets) October 1, 2017
The ball Nimmo hit normally would’ve gone out. That goes double when you consider it is Citizens Bank Park. It would be one of two caught in the wind for Nimmo. The Mets certainly could’ve used those runs too even with Asdrubal Cabrera hitting an RBI double in the top of the seventh giving the Mets a 4-2 lead.
The Mets needed the extra run because in his second inning of work, Paul Sewald imploded issuing three consecutive one out walks to load the bases.
Jeurys Familia came on and earned the save preserving the Mets 7-4 win. The win gave the Mets their 70th of the season. The Mets have not had a season under 70 wins since 2003.
Game Notes: On the day before the Mets were supposed to have a bullpen game with Noah Syndergaard scheduled to pitch an inning tomorrow, the Mets used eight relievers.
The one thing we never got to see with Generation K was Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson in the same rotation. In fact, we have never seen them all in the same pitching staff. That never happened because of all the injuries they suffered. Then we saw Isringhausen and Wilson traded in successive years to help the Mets chances of winning a World Series instead of them pitching the Mets to the World Series.
Whatever you want to call the group of Mets young starters (most seemed to like the Five Aces), they never appeared in the same rotation. The closest we got was seeing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in the same rotation in 2015. Coincidentally, that was also the year the Mets went to the World Series on the strength of their pitching.
The reason Zack Wheeler was not a part of that group that went to the postseason was because he suffered an injury in Spring Training. In fact, Wheeler would be gone for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For a moment, it seemed as fait accompli the group would never pitch in the same rotation because Wheeler was almost traded to the Brewers with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez. In fact, if not for Gomez’s hip, the dream would have died there.
Still to this day, we have never seen the five in the same rotation. However, we have seen them all pitch in the same season in the rotation. It may not seem like much, but it’s something. It’s also a step closer to seeing them all in the same rotation. It may finally happen next year.
Matz should be ready for Opening Day after the surgery to repair his ulnar nerve. This was the same surgery deGrom had last season, and he was able to last the entire season injury free. Both Harvey and Syndergaard were able to return and pitch before the season was over. Like in 2015 and 2016, the only question is Wheeler.
In the end, the Mets are a step closer to having all five of their proverbial aces in the rotation. At a minimum, they are a step closer to seeing them all on the same pitching staff. If it does happen, one of the open wounds Mets fans have suffered will close a bit. Howeve,r that wound will not fully heal until we see this group pitch the Mets to a World Series title.
Matt Harvey put it best tonight in his post-game presser when he said:
Matt Harvey: "The positive is that this nightmare of a season is over for me."
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) September 30, 2017
It really has been a nightmare season where you didn’t know what was going to happen next for Harvey. Just when you thought nothing worse could happen, Harvey balked:
Matt Harvey, 2017 pic.twitter.com/81YeBdSgjW
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) September 30, 2017
That third inning balk would force in the Phillies fourth run of the game giving them a 4-1 lead.
Harvey would last one more inning. His final line was 4.0 IP, seven hits, four runs, four earned, three walks, and three strikeouts.
We can talk about a number of improvements Harvey made, but he struggled again. At the end of the day, he finished the season with a 6.70 ERA, which is the highest ERA ever for a Mets pitcher with at least 15 starts.
Harvey would also suffer his seventh loss of the season because the Mets offense could only muster two runs off a pair of solo shots. The first was a Jose Reyes first inning home run. The next was a Dominic Smith fifth inning homer.
The Smith homer brought the Mets within two. After Hansel Robles struggled in his second inning of work, the score was 6-2, and the game was well out of reach.
Watching this game, there seemed to be a malaise over this team. That should come as no surprise in the aftermath of the article wherein unnamed players are front office people trashed Terry Collins.
In the end, it took David Wright, someone who has not played a game all year to say what needed to be said:
David Wright: "For a player to not put his name on the quote and to bash Terry, who has a lot of success. …that is cowardly and lazy."
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) September 29, 2017
Game Notes: Jacob deGrom will not make his last start as he is suffering from gastroenteritis.
Yesterday, the Mets sold us own Noah Syndergaard making his first start since April followed by a “relief appearance” by Matt Harvey. T0day, the selling point was to see Jacob deGrom try to get t0 200 innings for the first time in his career and to see him get his 16th win of the year.
While the Mets largely disappointed, deGrom didn’t. Despite experiencing flu like symptoms, not too long after Amed Rosario had to be hospitalized, deGrom took the mound and gave his team every chance to win. However, deGrom would not get that win.
Part it was his giving up a two run homer to Trea Turner turning a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 deficit. Another part was his teammates really let him down today. To that end, it was not much different than most deGrom starts this year.
Things were really bad in the fifth. Michael Taylor led off the inning with an infield single to third that Phillip Evans couldn’t quite make a play on. Taylor then attempted a steal of second base, and he found himself on third after Travis d’Arnaud threw the ball into center field. A Jose Lobaton RBI single later, and the Nationals had an insurmountable 3-1 lead.
It was insurmountable because the Nationals had Max Scherzer going. As such deGrom’s final line of six innings, five hits, three runs, two earned, no walks, and 11 strikeouts wouldn’t be good enough for that win.
Really, after a Brandon Nimmo first inning home run, the Mets offense couldn’t get anything going. More than that, this offense was inept. This was apparent in the seventh when Victor Robles caught a Rosario liner in right and picked Evans off first.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) September 24, 2017
The play helped kill what could have been a game tying rally. That play was even more magnified in the eighth.
With three straight singles, the Mets pulled within 3-2 with one out.
After a Nimmo strikeout and a d’Arnaud walk, the bases were loaded for Dominic Smith. It was a big moment for a big Mets prospect. The only problem is the Mets manager is still Terry Collins, a manager who has shown zero interest in developing these young Mets players.
Plawecki got ahead 3-1 in the count, but Solis would get back in the count and strike him out.
That ended the Mets last chance to beat the Nationals. Not just today, but the season.
Game Notes: Nimmo has struck out in 14 straight games.
Somewhat fittingly, Dickey was the starting pitcher for the Braves on a night when Jacob deGrom was going for a career high 15th win.
This was deGrom’s third chance to get that 15th win. That’s two more than he had in 2015. In 2015, he would only pitch four scoreless innings before being taken out of the game so he would be ready for the postseason. Tonight, with the Mets playing for nothing else, he would go as long as he needed.
deGrom would throw 101 pitches over seven innings. His final line would be 7.0 innings, five hits, one runs, one earned, two walks, and seven strikeouts.
The one run deGrom allowed was a Freddie Freeman sixth inning solo homer because it’s Freeman. With that homer, the only question was whether the Mets would score enough runs.
Tonight, deGrom got the requisite run support and then some thanks to the Mets offense exploding for seven runs thanks to the Mets young hitters.
This would prove to be enough, but the Mets offense would keep on clicking.
The doubles would continue. A fourth inning Cecchini double scored Lagares, and a seventh inning Smith double plated it two more to make it 7-1.
After deGrom exited with a six run lead, it was time for the Mets bullpen to hold the lead. After the Cubs series, it was far from a guarantee.
Jeurys Familia alleviated some of the tension pitching a scoreless eighth.
Not leaving anything to chance, Terry Collins went to AJ Ramos in the ninth to protect the lead. After a typical stressful Ramos inning, the Mets would win 7-3, and deGrom would finally have his 15th win.
deGrom winning his 15th is a big highlight in a terrible season much like Dickey winning 20 in 2012. Hopefully, prosperity will soon follow much like it did after Dickey’s magical season.
Game Notes: On Smith’s seventh inning double, Gary Cohen referred to him as Lucas Duda.
In case you forgot why the Mets are in the position they’re in right now, Terry Collins and the bullpen were more than happy to oblige in another classic Sunday afternoon debacle.
Keep in mind, the Mets are so bad on Sundays that not even the Day Man, Jacob deGrom, can get a win on a Sunday day game.
After a rough first when he allowed two runs, it looked like deGrom may not get that win. After walking Tucker Barnhart to start the second, deGrom had issued three walks in one plus innings. There was legitimate issue how much longer he would last in the game.
As it turned out, it was his last walk of the game, and he would be much better from that point forward. In fact, he’d only allows just one more hit, and he’d strike out eight batters.
His final line was six innings, three hits, two runs, two earned, three walks, and 10 strikeouts. He was in line for a career best 15th win of the season.
He was in line thanks to some help from his offense. That includes Dominic Smith. Smith was 2-5 with a run, homer, and two RBI. His third inning RBI single tied the score at 2-2. His lead-off homer in the sixth gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.
After the Smith homer, the Mets would go ahead 5-2 off a Jose Reyes two RBI double. Reyes would give those runs away in the field.
Paul Sewald was first in line to protect the lead. After allowing that first two to get on, he seemed to reblund striking out Patrick Kivlehan and getting Jose Peraza to ground into what could’ve been an inning ending double play.
Amed Rosario, who was in his first game back in about a week after suffering a finger injury, made the flip to Reyes to get the out at second. However, Reyes made an errant throw allowing Peraza to reach safely. After that, Zack Cozart tied it.
How Cozy started the comeback. 🚀 pic.twitter.com/sdjsIVh6KH
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) September 10, 2017
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) September 10, 2017
Still, even if that tag does get down, the Reds still take the lead on the play. It was a lead they were not giving up.
Throw in a Burnhart three run homer off Hansel Robles in the ninth, and you have a 10-5 final score, and a Jacob deGrom no decision.
Of course with competent defense and manager, this could all turn around. That’s not happening this year.
Game Recap: Reyes continues to pack the back of his baseball.