Jacob deGrom

Patrick Mahomes Could Thrive In New York Like His Father Did

Tonight is a jam packed sports night.  For Mets fans, no matter how bad things are, you are turning into the game against the Braves if for no other reason than to see Noah Syndergaard  pitch.  For Rangers fans, it is the first game of the Eastern Conference semi-finals against the Ottawa Senators and their old friend Derick Brassard.  However, as we all know the first round of the NFL Draft will get the largest share of publicity.  The NFL gets the lion share no matter what it is doing.

The NFL Draft does present someone of an intriguing possibility for Mets fans.  One of the top QB prospects in this draft is Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes.  He has quite the pedigree with him being the godson of former Mets reliever LaTroy Hawkins.  Oh, and Patrick Mahomes is the son of former Mets reliever Pat Mahomes.

Unlike his son, Mahomes wasn’t really on anyone’s radar heading into the 1999 season.  Through six major league seasons, he was 21-28 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.627 WHIP.  After a poor 1997 season, where he was only able to pitch in 10 games for the Boston Red Sox, Mahomes found himself pitching for the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese Leagues.  In his eight starts and two relief appearances, he was far from impressive going 0-4 with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.510 WHIP.  Still, Mahomes must have done something right in that stint as the Mets signed him to a minor league deal in the offseason.

With Josias Manzanillo struggling to start the year, there was an opening in the Mets bullpen in 1999.  Mahomes was called up, and he took complete advantage of his opportunity.  Mahomes became the long man in the Mets bullpen, and he thrived in that role.  While the long man in the bullpen is an overlooked role on most teams, it was vitally important to that 1999 team.

Al Leiter and Kenny Rogers were the only pitchers who averaged more than six innings pitched, and Rogers didn’t come to the Mets until July.  One of the team’s better starters, Bobby Jones, was injured leading to a revolving door of fifth starters.  Top options in Jason Isringhausen and Octavio Dotel had the talent, but they couldn’t go deep into games.  Overall, the team needed a good long man.  Mahomes was that and more.

During the season, Mahomes would make just 39 appearances, but he would pitch 63.2 innings.  It should be noted Mahomes was partially able to pitch those innings because unlike most relievers Bobby Valentine could trust him at the plate.  During the 1999 season, Mahomes was 5-16 with three doubles and three RBI.  However, we all know Valetine kept going to him because of the results Mahomes got on the mound.

In Mahomes’ 39 appearances, he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.272 WHIP.  As a result of his terrific pitching, he finished the season with a perfect 8-0 record.  Considering it was the steroids era, those are truly impressive numbers.  Considering where he was just a season ago, they are inspiring.

Mahomes would continue pitching well into the postseason where he had a 2.25 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP in eight innings over four appearances.  Notably, Mahomes pitched four shutout innings in at epic Game 6 of the NLCS which permitted the Mets to get back into the game.  What was once unfathomable when Leiter gave up five innings in the first inning, the Mets took the lead in the seventh inning.   While the Mets did not win that game, they were in that position because Mahomes stepped up big in that spot.  That was a theme for him during the 1999 season.

So to that extent, we know that big game ability is in the Mahomes gene pool.  We also know the ability to play in New York in high pressure situations is as well.  To that end, maybe, just maybe, Patrick Mahomes would be a fine fit with either the New York Giants, as Eli Manning’s successor in waiting, or the New York Jets as the latest franchise quarterback.

The talent is there.  In a recent Peter King MMQB column, Mahomes was compared favorably to Brett Favre.  With talent like that and his background, there should be no doubt Mahomes can thrive in not just the NFL, but also in New York.  His name may not get called tonight, but it will likely get called on Friday.

Whatever the future holds for him, the best of luck to Mahomes.  His father was one of the players that made one of the most enjoyable seasons in Mets history happen.  Hopefully, wherever Mahomes lands, he can provide those fans the same joy his father provided Mets fans.  With any luck, that will be with the Giants.

Bullpen Needed This Rest

One of the ongoing jokes during yesterday’s rain out was that despite the rain out, Terry Collins had Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas warming up in the bullpen in case the game started on time.  As with most jokes, this one did have a twinge of truth to it.

So far this season, the Mets bullpen has been going on an unsustainable rate.  Mike Marshall holds the single season record for appearances by a reliever with his making 106 appearances for the 1974 Dodgers.  The Mets record for appearances is Pedro Feliciano with 92 appearances in 2010.  This was the reason why Gary Cohen dubbed him Perpetual Pedro.  Interesting enough, Felicano’s record is tied for fourth all-time with Marshall, who had 92 appearances for the 1973 Expos.  Right now, the Mets bullpen is set to challenge these records at an alarming rate.

Blevins is on a pace to make 102 appearances this season.  Hansel Robles is on pace to make 94 appearances this season.  Addison Reed and Salas are on pace to make 85 appearances this season.  Josh Smoker is on pace to make 77 appearances this season. Obviously, this would be career highs for each of these pitchers.

If they are to keep up this pace, Blevins would be second all-time for single season appearances by a reliever, and Robles’ 94 appearances would tie the now standing second place position.  Looking over the record list, no one has made more than 74 appearances in a season over the last five years.  The bullpen’s usage is unprecedented in terms of how many appearances these relievers are making.  It is utterly amazing that the current pace of these relievers would put them at the top five appearances made by a reliever in single season over the past five seasons.

When you combine the appearances with the amount of times these pitchers warm up, they are going to be on fumes.  Certainly, we have seen some diminishing returns already from Salas.  The rest of the bullpen may not be too far behind him.  This bullpen needs a rest and the subsequent rain out helped.  However, they need more help.

They may receive some help now that Jeurys Familia has returned from his suspension.  Certainly, he is the reliever Collins’ trusts most, and he will likely be the one Collins over uses next.  More than Familia, the bullpen can use some length from their starting pitching.

Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom are the only relievers averaging at least six innings per start.  Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are averaging just over five innings per start.  This means every night the bullpen needs to pick up at least 3-4 innings.  With the Mets having already played four extra inning games to start the season, it has been much more than that.

The relative lack of length from the bullpen is understood.  Harvey and deGrom are coming back from season ending surgeries last season.  Wheeler has not pitched since 2014.  Gsellman has not thrown more than 159.2 innings in a season.  Really, you’re only workhorse right now is Syndergaard.

However, sooner or later something is going to have to give.  The starters are going to have to give more length, or Collins is going to have to trust some of the other guys in the bullpen more.  It’s understandable he hasn’t when Josh Edgin is a LOOGY with a 3.68 ERA, and his former long man, Rafael Montero, managed to get worse.  The long story short here is someone has to step up.  Otherwise, the bullpen may not last very long.

 

Mets Lose In 3-1 Blowout

If we’re being honest, this isn’t the greatest Mets lineup even when the team is healthy. It’s full of guys who certainly can all hit the ball out of the ballpark, but it’s also full of players with poor on base percentages. When you lose Lucas Duda and Yoenis Cespedes to injury the problems become even more exacerbated. 
Now, the Mets have the pitching to win games no matter who is in the lineup. We saw that in 2015 as the pitching and Curtis Granderson kept the team afloat playing near .500 ball until reinforcements arrived. 

In those games the Mets did win, they needed their pitcher’s to be great. At the state the Mets offense is now, the 2017 Mets are back to that point. Yesterday, Jacob deGrom was good. 

He was mowing the Nationals down for the first three innings until his wildness caught up to him in the fourth. A Daniel Murphy single was bracketed by walks to Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon loading the bases. 

The Mets got a bit lucky as the Nationals third base coach sent Murphy on the ensuing RBI single by Matt Wieters

In the fifth, the Nationals got to deGrom again. Adam Eaton and Trea Turner hit back-to-back one out doubles to make it 2-0. After Harper was just told to go to first base (essentially what the new intentional walk rule is), Ryan Zimmerman hit an RBI single to make it 3-0. 

The Nationals wouldn’t score again in the sixth thanks in large part to Granderson:

After getting the first two out, deGrom got in trouble again issuing yet another walk, this time to Eaton, and then allowing a single to Turner. At this point, Terry Collins turned to Josh Edgin to get the Mets out of the jam. Somewhat surprisingly, he did by striking out Harper. 

Overall, it was a tough day for deGrom who issued a career high six walks. He was obviously ramped up early getting it up to 98 MPH and recording a lot of strikeouts. The early adrenaline wore off, and deGrom was left throwing 94 MPH and missing his spots. This was an uncharacteristic start for deGrom. His final line was 5.2 innings, eight hits, three runs, three earned, six walks, and 10 strikeouts. 

Given the current state of the Mets offense, 3-0 might as well have been 30-0. This game was no different. 

For the second time this season, the Mets offense was no-hit through five innings. This time, it was done by Gio Gonzalez. Though the Mets offense looked overmatched and lifeless, they would break through in the sixth. 

Jose Reyes pinch hit for Edgin and worked a one out walk. Then, Juan Lagares broke up the no-hitter with a single. More than that, the Mets had a rally going. 

Michael Conforto didn’t help the narrative he can’t hit left-handed pitching by striking out and going hitless on the day. Where Conforto didn’t come through, a hobbled Asdrubal Cabrera did hitting an RBI single to make it 3-1. That was as close as the Mets would get. 
Jay Bruce and Neil Walker had back-to-back strikeouts ending the Mets only rally of the game. The offense then made a struggling Nationals bullpen look like the 1990 Nasty Boys. 
Blake TreinenEnny Romero, and Koda Glover did their best Norm CharltonRob DibbleRandy Myers impersonation to slam the door shut on the 3-1 victory. 
With that, the Mets are 8-10 and are in fourth place 4.5 back. They’re having trouble beating the Phillies and can’t even hit a poor Nationals bullpen. It’s still April, so it’s still early, but things do not look good right now. 

Game Notes: Cabrera tried to leg out an infield single in the fourth.  He was noticeably hobbled, and he came out to take his position right before the first pitch of the fifth inning. For the second day in a row, an injured Yoenis Cespedes informed the team he was too injured to pinch hit. Once again, Travis d’Arnaud was limited to pinch hitting duty. T.J. Rivera got the start at third base over a healthy Reyes. He was 0-3. 

Hard Fought Loss Is Still A Loss

As if the Mets weren’t injured enough, the team had a new rash of injuries heading into tonight’s game. 

Wilmer Flores and Lucas Duda went on the disabled list. Travis d’Arnaud and Yoenis Cespedes didn’t, but they couldn’t start. At least d’Arnaud was available to pinch hit. To make matters worse, Asdrubal Cabrera is now dealing with a hamstring injury keeping him out of the lineup, and Jacob deGrom woke up on the wrong side of the bed. 

With deGrom waking up with a stiff neck, he missed tonight’s start, and he probably needs someone to start for him tomorrow. 

With so many people out of the lineup, the Mets needed someone to step up. The Mets had people stepping up all over the place tonight. 

First was Matt Harvey who was the surprise starter. Harvey gave his team a chance to win pitching seven innings. His final line was seven innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, two walks, and two strikeouts. 

Harvey pitched well, but he was tripped up by the long ball. In the first inning, he grooved one to Bryce Harper who launched it for a two run homer. It was a strange site to see when you consider Harper couldn’t get a hit off pre-TOS Harvey. The third run off Harvey came off a Jose Lobaton solo shot in the fifth. 

Despite the two homers and the makeshift lineup, Harvey had a no decision.  

He was first helped by a Michael Conforto first inning blast off Tanner Roark‘s first pitch of the game:

The second and third runs came courtesy of Curtis Granderson. In the fourth, Granderson had a two out RBI single scoring Jay Bruce. He then tied the score in the sixth:

It was a terrific night for Granderson. Coming into the night, he was hitting .143/.197/.214. Just like he’s done in his entire Mets career, Granderson stepped up when the Mets needed him most going 2-4 with a run, two RBI, one walk, and the home run. 

The Mets nearly took the lead in the seventh. Zack Wheeler hit for Harvey and hit a pinch hit double. The Mets would load the bases, and the Nationals would go to Oliver Perez, who got Bruce to line out to end the inning. 

In the ninth, there was some craziness. Rene Rivera earned a lead-off walk off Joe Blanton, and Terry Collins opted to pinch run Robert Gsellman. T.J. Rivera then bunted Gsellman to second. 

Cabrera then pinch hit for Addison Reed and drew a walk. Given his hamstring issues, Collins sent out Kevin Plawecki to pinch run for him. No, it didn’t make sense to do this and force the pitcher’s spot to come up earlier in the lineup, but nothing in this inning made much sense. 

In the long run, Blanton worked his way out of the inning. Another side effect of the inning, Collins’ mechanations led to the pitcher’s spot coming up three spots earlier in the lineup. He did that in a game where the Mets had a short bench. Just an inexcusable move. 

The Mets certainly could’ve benefitted from better managing as the pitcher’s spot did come up in the bottom of the 11th with the Mets down 4-3. 

The Mets were down 4-3 because Jeurys Familia is still rusty. Keep in mind, he only made two relief appearances in the minors before his suspension was over. 

After Josh Smoker allowed a lead-off double to Harper, Murphy was intentionally walked, and Familia entered the game. He threw a wild pitch allowing Harper to go to third. It didn’t matter much as he issued back-to-back walks to Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner to force in a run. Familia settled down after that, but it was too late. The Nationals took the lead. 

Shawn Kelley came on in the 11th and pitched a 1-2-3 inning to earn the save. With that, the Mets fought valiantly, but still lost. They’re now under .500, and who knows who will be healthy enough to play tomorrow. 

Game Notes: Daniel Murphy‘s 19 game hitting streak came to an end. He was 0-4, and he was intentionally walked in the 11th. Apparently, Reed wore the wrong hat during his appearance. 

Please Don’t Mess Around With These Injuries

One of the best things to come out of the past offseason was Major League Baseball shortening the stint on the disabled list from 15 days to 10 day.  Presumably, that change made it easier for teams to place their players on the disabled list to allow them to recover.  Someone should tell that to the Mets.

Last night, with the Lucas Duda injury and Wilmer Flores infection, Jay Bruce was forced to play first base for the first time since he played three games there in 2014.  That also put Juan Lagares in the position of being the team’s lone back-up outfielder and middle infielder.  Lagares was initially signed by the Mets as a shortstop, but he has not played the middle infield since he played six innings for the Single-A Savannah Sand Gnats as a 20 yeard old in 2009.  To put it in perspective how long ago that was, back in 2009, Citi Field just opened, and Daniel Murphy was considered a left fielder.

When Cespedes had to leave the game with a hamstring injury after running the bases in the fifth inning, the Mets were in trouble.  If the game were to go deep into extra innings, the Mets were likely going to have to consider which infield position other than first could Kevin Plawecki handle.  They might have followed through with the plan to put Zack Wheeler at first base like it was contemplated during the 16 inning game.  If things got bad enough, the team might have had to lean on Jacob deGrom‘s experience as a collegiate shortstop.

Simply put, this is unacceptable.  Year-in and year-out the Mets find themselves in this position, and they are more than willing to play with short benches with players not even available to pinch hit.  Worse yet, they ask players to do too much.

Last year, the Mets saw Asdrubal Cabrera deal with a knee injury all season.  From the middle of May until the end of July, he was hobbled and struggling.  Over that stretch, he hit .232/.285/.436.  The Mets finally put him on the disabled list so he could rest his knee.  He responded by becoming the 2015 Yoenis Cespedes and willing the Mets to the postseason hitting .345/.406/.635 over the final 41 games of the season.

Speaking of Cespedes, the Mets were also stubborn about putting him on the disabled list.  On July 8th, he suffered an injured quad.  He would not go on the disabled list, and he would not play in another game until July 17th.  When he did play, he was noticeably hobbled.  From July 17th to August 3rd, Cespedes hit just .205/.302/.318 in 14 games before the Mets finally put him on the disabled list.  When he came back, he hit .259/.335/.490 over the final 38 games of the season.

Then there was Michael Conforto.  We are not quite sure when he was injured, but we do know that he received a cortisone shot in June of last year.  Clearly something was bothering him as Conforto went from the best hitter on the team in April to a guy who hit just .174/.267/.330 for the rest of the year.  Instead of a disabled list stint, the Mets treated him to multiple demotions to Triple-A, where he absolutely raked, and being stuck to the bench for far too long stretches.  Perhaps if the Mets put him on the disabled list, his second season would have gone much differently, and the Bruce trade might not have been necessary.

You would think the Mets would have learned from that, but they clearly haven’t as they are already repeating the same mistakes.

While it is not ideal with six of the next nine games coming against the Nationals, the Mets can definitively get away with Bruce at first with an outfield of Conforto-Lagares-Curtis Granderson from left to right.  While it does not have the offensive punch you would like, that is a really good defensive outfield.  On the infield, the Mets could recall T.J. Rivera, who showed the Mets last year he has a place in the major leagues.  The Mets could even get bold by calling up Gavin Cecchini to play second and moving Neil Walker to third.  At a minimum, it would get a struggling Jose Reyes out of the lineup.  It could also allow the Mets to pick and choose their spots with Reyes to allow him to be an effective pinch hitter or pinch runner in late game situations.

The overriding point is the Mets have talent on the 40 man roster even if Duda and Cespedes went on the disabled list.  With the Mets throwing Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, and Matt Harvey, the Mets can still win a fair share of those games to keep the team afloat until Duda and Cespedes are ready to return to the lineup.  In fact, the team might be better off because you’d rather have two healthy sluggers mashing all season than two injured players trying to find a way to produce to their normal levels.

That is something that didn’t work last year, and we can’t expect it to work this year.  It’s about time the Mets learned how to properly utilize the disabled list and field a team of healthy players.

Get Rid Of Rafael Montero Now

Last night, the score was tied 2-2 entering the 10th inning. With the heavy bullpen use of his key relievers, Terry Collins was certainly justified in pulling Addison Reed after one inning. However, for some reason, Collins decided the move that best helped the Mets win that game last night was to bring in Rafael Montero. It was the latest incident in what has been a bizarre fascination with him.

There was a time back in 2014 where Montero was regarded as the Mets best pitching prospect. In fact, he was better regarded than Jacob deGrom. Believe it or not, the belief was justifiable. Back then, Montero was a three pitch pitcher that had a fastball he could get into the mid 90s. With that, he had a pretty good change-up and slider. In fact, he still does. However, what set Montero apart back then was he had exceptional control. That control has escaped him, and as a result, he’s not even a shadow of the highly touted prospect.

During his time with the Mets, we have seen Montero get chance after chance after chance. It’s a mixture of his talent, injuries, and just pure stubbornness to move on from him. Last season, Montero was the first player cut from Major League camp in Spring Training. He struggled so much in Triple-A, he was actually demoted to Double-A. However, due to the Mets pitching staff becoming a M*A*S*H* unit, he was called up to the majors. He rewarded their faith by pitching to an 8.05 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP in nine appearances, and somehow, he probably wasn’t even that good.

After that season, he is still somehow with the organization. In the offseason, the Mets had to make multiple 40 man moves to accommodate free agent signings. The Mets would DFA Ty Kelly. In separate deals, they traded both Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa for cash. Each one of these players has either had some measure of major league success, had some value to the team, or had some level of promise.

It’s just not the Mets front office. It’s also Collins. Last night, he had a well rested Sean Gilmartin, and instead he went with Montero. Keep in mind, Gilmartin has had success with the Mets as a long reliever. In 2015, Gilmartin made 50 appearances going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP. That season is better than anything Montero has ever done in the majors.

Arguably, Gilmartin on his worst day is better than what you can expect from Montero. Montero entered the game and did what you expected him to do . . . he lost it. In 0.1 innings, he allowed three hits and four runs. The only out he recorded was on a sacrifice fly hit to the right field wall.

Including last night’s game, Montero has made 30 appearances and 12 starts going 1-7 with a 5.51 ERA and a 1.800 WHIP. On the season, Montero is 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA and a 3.600 WHIP. His BB/9 is an almost impossibly high 10 .8. It is all part of Montero not being the same pitcher the MEts thought he was. It continues the trens of Montero getting worse each and every season.

The Mets shouldn’t even wait for Jeurys Familia to be available on Thursday to send Montero to Triple-A. Send him on the first plane back. Bring up Paul Sewald for a day if you want an extra bullpen arm. If you want to lengthen what is a short bench, call up Matt Reynolds, which as an aside, may not be a bad move considering the poor defensive options the Mets have at third base. Seriously, the Mets should do anything . . . literally anything because anything is better than having to see Montero pitch in another game.

Travis d’Arnaud Putting Together An All Star Caliber Year

We have been teased by Travis d’Arnaud‘s talent in the past.  In fact, back in the 2015 season, d’Arnaud had the second highest wRC+ among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances.  While he had always been knocked for his throwing, he caught 33% of base stealers, which was higher than the league average of 28%.  d’Arnaud did this in conjunction with his terrific pitch framing skills behind the plate.  Unfortunately, d’Arnaud did not build off of this terrific season.  Instead, in 2016, d’Arnaud had another injury plagued year where he regressed in almost every aspect of his game.

This offseason saw the Mets hire Glenn Sherlock as a catching coach to help d’Arnaud sure up those aspects of his game where he regressed.  He worked with Kevin Long to eliminate the wrap in his swing.  While it is still early in the season, d’Arnaud not only seems to be back to his 2015 form, he appears to be better than that.

After his early season struggles, d’Arnaud is now hitting .323/.417/.645 with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, and nine RBI.  His most recent home run was the game winning home run after he had already caught 15 innings.  For all the concerns about his throwing arm, no one has been running against him this season.  Through 10 games, there has only been one stolen base attempt against him.  This includes two games against the Marlins, whose running game Terry Collins was so intimidated by he started Rene Rivera over him in one game.

Another aspect of d’Arnaud’s game that has been overlooked has been his adeptness around the plate when it comes to tagging out base runners.  While both Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto deserve a lot of credit for making strong accurate throws, d’Arnaud deserves credit as well.  Each time, d’Arnaud cleanly fielded the throw and got the tag down before the runner could touch the plate.  Over the past weekend that stopped four runs from scoring.

But there is more to it than just that.  We have seen d’Arnaud improve as a pitch caller.  During Jacob deGrom‘s second start of the season, the two adapted on the fly and called a different game to much better results.  And yes, he has continued his terrific pitch framing.  He is adept at both making sure strikes are called strikes and in getting that extra inch on the corner for his pitchers.

Overall, d’Arnaud is excelling in each part of the game right now, and he is quickly becoming one of the best catchers in the National League.  Because of this, he has started to move up in the lineup.  If it continues, we may not be talking just about where he is in the Mets lineup, but where he will be in the All Star Game lineup.

Terry Doesn’t Know Who To Abuse

After what was a shaky second inning where he allowed back-to-back homers to Justin Bour and Marcell OzunaJacob deGrom settled in and found his dominant form yet again.

The Marlins had no chance against deGrom who had all his pitches working. His velocity was back as well with him even hitting 99 on the gun. Through seven innings deGrom had only allowed four hits, which includes the two solo home runs, and one walk while striking out 13 batters.

After seven innings, deGrom had thrown 97 pitches, and with a 4-2 lead, he seemed poised to win the game.

deGrom was on the long side as the Mets bats finally hit Adam Conley whose start was pushed back a day with Don Mattingly using him in the 16 inning game.

You knew Conley wasn’t going to have it when he walked Jose Reyes to lead-off the game. By the way it’s interesting that it only took Reyes to be good in one hand for him to reclaim the lead-off spot on the team. It should be noted after the leadoff walk, he went 0-3. Still, Reyes would score on a Neil Walker double giving the Mets a 1-0 lead.

The Mets tied the game in the seventh on a Curtis Granderson RBI triple. The ball tipped off Christian Yelich‘s glove with Yelich trying to emulate a catch Juan Lagares made earlier in the game. Granderson scored on Michael Conforto‘s sacrifice fly giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.

When Asdrubal Cabrera hit a solo home run in the eighth, it seemed as if the Mets’ 4-2 lead would be enough to win the game. It wasn’t.

To much consternation, deGrom didn’t start the eighth. However, it was a very defensible position considering deGrom was already at 97 pitches and his having season ending elbow surgery last season.  It was also a very defensible position to use Fernando Salas in the eighth inning.  That’s the reason the Mets signed him in the offseason.  He was to be the eighth inning guy until Jeurys Familia returned from his suspension.  At that point, Salas would become the seventh inning guy.

As happens in baseball, Salas didn’t have it.  It’s part of being a reliever.  Sometimes you just don’t have it.  It also happens when you lead the majors in appearances this season.  In fact, dating back to September 1, 2016, his first game with the Mets, Salas is the most heavily used reliever in all of baseball.  He was bound to struggle sooner rather than later.

What was strange with Salas was how quickly it just happened.  He made quick work of Ichiro Suzuki and Dee Gordon to begin the inning.  Then he issued a four pitch walk to Miguel Rojas.  Believe it or not, this was Salas’ first non-intentional walk as a member of the New York Mets.  This set the stage for a matchup against Yelich.  Now, it should be noted Jerry Blevins was warming up just for this situation.  If you are going to have Blevins warming up, this is the exact situation you bring him into the game.  Plain and simple.

Instead, Collins elected to go with Salas.  Note, Salas pitching to Yelich wasn’t a bad move per se.  Salas is your guy for this spot, and he did make quick work of the first two batters.  However, Blevins was already warming in the pen.  If he’s up, bring him in, get out of the jam, and give Addison Reed a two run lead.  Instead, Collins left in Salas, who gave up the game tying home run to Yelich.  He then gave up a go-ahead home run to Giancarlo Stanton.  To add insult to injury, Collins brought in Blevins to get out Bour to get out of the inning.

And with that, the Mets 4-2 lead became a 5-4 loss.  Sure, you can’t completely pin the loss on Collins as he made some defensible moves.  That was at least until he left a warm Blevins in the pen.  You could argue that doesn’t mean Salas should give up a home run.  You’d be right, but you’d also ignore the simple fact that Collins didn’t put his team in the best position to win.  Because of that, this loss is on him.

Perhaps knowing that, he was angry and downright rude to the beat reporters after the game.  In the video, Collins explained every reason for his decisions, omitting some key facts:

Look, we all agree the starters should be protected, but that doesn’t mean you ruin the arms and the careers of the relievers.  There’s a balance, and the fact that Collins doesn’t see that is downright frightening.  It’s probably the reason why we saw him run through damaged relievers like Tim Byrdak and Jim Henderson in his career.  Apparently, Collins only protects the arms of those pitchers he deems more valuable.

That’s not right, and it needs to stop.  Another thing that needs to stop is the faulty logic.  If Collins was that concerned over Blevins, under no means do you have him warming up.  You either want him rested, or you want him pitching.  If you want him pitching, get him in the game against the big left-handed threat in the lineup.  Afraid of Stanton, get Reed up.  He’s the most rested reliever in that bullpen.  Considering how the long games has wrecked havoc on the bullpen, it actually made sense to go with Reed for a four out save.

Right now, Collins is picking and choosing who to abuse and who not to abuse.  It is having a tangible effect on the effectiveness of the relievers.  It may soon have an effect on their health.  We have seen this before with Collins.  Hopefully, we won’t see it again.  On that front, no one should be hopeful.

Game Notes: With the left-handed Conley on the mound, Collins went with a Yoenis Cespedes-Lagares-Granderson outfield to start the game.  Rene Rivera got the start over Travis d’Arnaud giving d’Arnaud two days off after he caught 16 innings.  Mets have now lost four of seven to the Marlins.  Last year, the Mets were 12-7 against the Marlins.

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.

Fortunately Robles Pitched 

Hansel Robles had pitched in three straight games and four out of the last five. In his last appearance, he appeared gassed. As such, even with Robert Gsellman not getting out of the fifth and the game going deeper and deeper into extra innings, Terry Collins did all he could do to keep Robles out of the game. 

Rafael MonteroFernando SalasAddison Reed, and Josh Smoker all pitched more than an inning. For his part, Smoker threw a career high three innings. With the bench already empty, Jacob deGrom pinch hit for Smoker in the top of the 15th necessitating the pitching change. 
With Robles as the last man standing, he was the obvious choice. Despite him looking absolutely gassed, he managed to pitch two scoreless and pick up the win. It almost didn’t happen.

According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Collins’ Plan B was to pitch Rene Rivera if Robles told him he couldn’t go. There was just one tiny little problem – the Mets were out of bench players. 

This meant Collins was going to have to use a pitcher in the field. The natural choice was probably deGrom, who was a collegiate shortstop, but that wasn’t Collins’s choice. Instead, Collins decided that Zack Wheeler would’ve entered the game to play first base. 

It seemed like the Mets 16 inning win had everything, but apparently it did not. That’s a good thing because Rivera pitching was likely not going to go well. Wheeler at first might’ve gone even worse. 

Lucky for everyone involved, Robles not only took the ball, but he earned the win. He gave his team a chance to win. He gave his team a chance to keep catchers from pitching and pitchers from playing first base.