On August 16, 2009, David Wright stepped up to the plate against Matt Cain, and he would get hit on the helmet knocking him unconscious. As a result of the hit by pitch, Wright would sustain a concussion. Up until that point in the season, Wright was hitting .324/.414/.467. He would miss 15 games, and in the 29 games after he returned, he would wear a ridiculously large helmet and hit .239/.289/.367.
For years, there would be questions about whether Wright could ever be the same player after getting hit by that pitch. Some would surmise he was gun shy on inside pitches. There were other theories as well. However, what is not oft discussed is whether the Mets were sufficiently cautious in bringing him back from his concussion.
That’s not a discussion people had with respect to Ryan Church,. In real time, people thought the Mets handling of him and his concussion went well beyond negligence. In fact, they showed ignorance and stupidity.
On May 20, 2008, Church slid into second base in an attempt to break up a double play. On the slide, Yunel Escobar‘s knee hit him in the helmet with such force it rendered Church unconscious. It was his second concussion in little more than three months. After missing just one game, he would board a plane and fly with the team to Colorado. It would be a couple of weeks before he hit the disabled list.
Prior to the concussion, Church as a revelation for the Mets. Over his first 43 games, he was hitting .311/.379/.534. After the concussion, he hit .241/.313/.342. He wasn’t much better in 2009, and to add insult to injury Mets manager Jerry Manuel questioned his toughness and went so far to cite how Wright came back from his concussion.
Of course, Manuel was such a terrible manager he was never aware of how Wright struggled after his concussion.
Effectively speaking, this concussion and the Mets handling of it ended Church’s career. He was never quite the same player again, and after the 2010 season, he was out of baseball. The same was likely the case for another Mets outfielder.
On July 23, 2010, Jason Bay ran head first into a wall at Dodger Stadium, and he suffered a concussion on the play. He’d fly back with the team from Los Angeles to New York.
While we remember Bay’s tenure with the Mets as a complete disappointment, at that point in the season he was an above average hitter with a 1.5 WAR on track for a near 3.0 WAR season. Despite the concussion, Bay would actually play two more games before being shut down for the rest of the year. To be fair Bay was not the hitter the Mets expected him to be. Although, no one was in the days of the Great Wall of Flushing.
As bad as Bay was in 2010, he kept getting worse in the ensuing years. He’d retire at the age of 34 after his $66 million contract expired.
If we are being honest, we do not know what impact concussions had on any of these players. With each player, there were extenuating circumstances. We have also seen concussions are not a death sentence for anyone’s career.
For example, Wright had a great 2010 season, and he would have great years leading up to his career ending spinal stenosis. Mike Piazza was concussed by a Roger Clemens fastball on July 8, 2000. He would return five days later, and he would hit .294/.380/.518 (which was a big drop-off for him) in a season where he would led the Mets to the World Series. He would also show no ill effects going forward with a great 2001 season. Ultimately, it was the wear and tear from catching and age, not the head injury, which led to the end of Piazza’s career.
No player is alike, and we have seen seemingly recovered athletes struggle from their returns from concussions. When handled poorly, you have the potential to ruin careers. We saw that with Church, and we have seen it with athletes in other sports as well.
This is the dilemma facing the Mets right now. So far, they have done everything right with Michael Conforto. They have apparently learned from their lessons from their gross mishandling of concussions in the past. That said, there is the natural pull from the team to rush him back from this injury.
With Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Robinson Cano on the IL, the team desperately needs him in the lineup. That said, they need a healthy and ready to play Conforto. When that time will be is anyone’s best guess. The key here for the Mets and especially for Conforto and his career is they guess right.
The Mets went to Washington to face a bad Nationals team, and they cam out of the series looking like the bad team. They’re now not just bad, but also injured. Things are going south real fast:
1. The Mets absolutely did the right thing pulling Michael Conforto from that game. The team should be commended not just for pulling him but also for sending him to New York by train. It’s good to see they’ve learned something from how they mismanaged the Ryan Church and Jason Bay concussions.
2. It’s not his fault per se, but Robinson Cano cannot both be bad at the plate and in the field while also taking out the team’s best player.
3. With Conforto and Jeff McNeil having injuries, Cano needs to step up now. Same goes to Todd Frazier, who should begin to see some regular playing time, which should allow him to get into a groove. Not only do these two players need it to happen, Brodie Van Wagenen does as well.
4. Other than Edwin Diaz not one move Van Wagenen made this offseason has panned out,and it looks all the worse considering how much the team gave up in terms of prospects in an attempt to improve the team.
5. Drew Gagnon made Van Wagenen look bad when he out-pitched Wilmer Font who looked like a 29 year old reliever with a career 6.81 ERA trying to be a starting pitcher. Looking at Gagnon, you realize, not only was the trade unnecessary, but also giving up a prospect for a when you had a better version of him was plain dumb.
6. Gio Gonzalez continues to make the Mets look worse. In four starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA and a 1.078 WHIP. In all four of his starts, he has gone at least five innings, which is something the Mets have only gotten twice from their fifth starts in their 10 starts. That includes Jason Vargas, who is averaging 3.2 innings per start.
7. As if Gonzalez performing well isn’t enough, and knowing the team passed on him thinking Vargas was better and Steven Matz was dealing with elbow issues, we now find out the team never actually made him an offer.
8. Van Wagenen did the same exact thing with his outfield. The Mets entered the year with just two starting caliber starting outfielders, and the team brought in Keon Broxton, who was a worse version of Juan Lagares. As a result, Broxton has seen almost no playing time.
9. It may not be a good look for Broxton to complain after his noncompetitive at-bat to end the game, but he does have a point. The team traded real assets to obtain him only to superglue him to the bench and not give him a real chance to establish himself.
10. Because of the Mets stubbornness not letting Dominic Smith play left field, the team is forced to play J.D. Davis in left field despite his not having the speed to play left field and his hitting .219/.219/.250 during the month.
11. It is going to be fun seeing Carlos Gomez wear a Mets uniform again. He was the big time prospect who was supposed to take us to the next level, except he didn’t because he was traded for Johan Santana. Then, he didn’t come back because he failed his medicals, which was fine by Mets fans as Wilmer Flores became a folk hero. Through all that has happened, it would be great to see Gomez be the key piece to a Mets winner like we thought he would be in 2007 and 2015.
12. The league has caught up to Pete Alonso. In May, Alonso is hitting just .191/.255/.383 while striking out 29.4 percent of the time. You wonder how long this goes on for before either Alonso adjusts or the Mets are forced to make a decision.
13. Even with Robert Gsellman struggles yesterday, the Mets bullpen has been great in May with the best ERA in the National League.
14. Too much is being made of Gsellman not pitching over eight days. This is a guy the Mets intend on leaning on heavily to pitch multiple innings, and anywhere you can get him a bit of extended rest you do it. It should also be noted between off days and the rain outs, the Mets haven’t played much over the past eight days.
15. So far, Tyler Bashlor has really stepped up and taken advantage of the opportunity given to him. With the way he is pitching, he may be an important piece to this bullpen.
16. Noah Syndergaard is finally looking like Syndergaard again with two of his last three outings being completely dominant.
17. Zack Wheeler‘s own run was broken up with a very disappointing effort against the Nationals. In that spot against that team, Wheeler needed to be better.
18. While we should expect more from Wheeler in that spot, it’s hard to get on Mets pitchers as a whole, as they are the reason the Mets are even close to .500. It’s also important to remember Wheeler is a second half pitcher, and as Syndergaard will tell you, the Mets are a second half team. The trick there is being close enough in the standings to take advantage of that.
20. There are valid criticisms of Callaway like his dry humping Diaz and using Seth Lugo the day before Font was set to start. However, make no mistake, he’s only on the hot seat because none of Van Wagenen’s moves have worked. Ultimately, that makes Callaway the fall guy for a novice General Manager who has looked to be in over his head.
Nothing like the league worst Marlins to come into town to help the Mets offense get rolling:
3. Batting Conforto fifth is plain stupid and reactionary, especially when he’s their best hitter. Same goes to batting Brandon Nimmo sixth.
4. Alonso’s numbers look good due to his first 12 games. Since that time, he’s batting .222/.316/.444. He’s increasingly becoming an all or nothing hitter, albeit one with the propensity for the big hit.
5. Nice to see the Mets wait too long before putting Steven Matz on the IL. It’s like for all of Brodie Van Wagenen’s boasting about things being different, nothing has changed with him in charge.
7. Say what you want about Jason Bay, but at least he played for the Mets.
8. The Mets giving Mickey Callaway no information on Lowrie and then having him be the one answer questions about his status once again shows nothing has changed under Van Wagenen.
10. Seeing how well things worked with Wilson, the Mets are using the same plan of action with Jeurys Familia.
11. You have to admire Van Wagenen’s refusal to learn and adapt on the job.
14. If Tomas Nido starts hitting that’s a game changer. Over his last three, Nido 4-for-11 with a homer.
15. While it was overlooked, Nido had LASIK surgery in the offseason. It may take time to adjust, but if he’s seeing the ball better, he may begin to hit better.
17. Amed Rosario went from a below average hitter over the first month to a 111 wRC+ so far in May. Seeing his offense progress this way, maybe there’s still hope for his glove to catch up.
18. Keon Broxton has been worse than terrible, and Carlos Gomez has been hot in Syracuse. That doesn’t erase the past few years, and Broxton should get a longer rope considering he’s out of options, has actually been a successful bench player, and has arguably been a better player over the past few years.
19. Mets going a perfect 5-for-5 for the Marlins is no small feat. It’s exactly what they need to do, and destroying bad teams is exactly how the 2015 Mets won the division.
20. Whoever came up with the new backpack policy is an idiot, and the Mets deserve to have decreased attendance for having implemented it.
Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.
Last year, Player’s weekend was a hit as fans got to see their favorite players wear fun jerseys featuring their nicknames on the back of their jerseys. Believe it or not, some of those were nicknames were rejected for various reasons.
For example, Brandon Nimmo wanted to use his Twitter handle, You Found Nimmo, but MLB was afraid of copyright issues. When it came to Kyle Seager, he wanted to go with “Corey’s Better.” With that rejected, he paid homage to his brother Corey Seager by merely noting on his jersey he was “Corey’s Brother.”
Well, the Mets officially approved Player’s Weekend nicknames and jerseys have been released. However, as noted with Nimmo, there were other names the players wanted which were rejected by MLB:
Tyler Bashlor – Mickey, I’m Available To Pitch
Jose Bautista – Trade Value Going, Going, Gone!
Jerry Blevins – One Magic LOOGY
Michael Conforto – Shouldering The Load
Travis d’Arnaud – d’L
Phillip Evans – DFA TBA
Wilmer Flores – 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
Robert Gsellman – Don’t Care What You Think
Austin Jackson – 2019 Opening Day CF
Juan Lagares – Out For The Season
Seth Lugo – Quarterrican (That’s perfection; you don’t mess with that)
Steven Matz – Not So Strong Island
Jeff McNeil – 2B/3B/OF
Devin Mesoraco – Harvey’s Better
Brandon Nimmo – Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Corey Oswalt – Vargas (figured it was the only way he would get a start)
Kevin Plawecki – Plawful
Jose Reyes – Melaza Virus
Amed Rosario – Mentor Wanted
Paul Sewald – AAAAll Star
Dominic Smith – Waist And Future Gone
Drew Smith – Mickey, I’m Available To Pitch (Yes, it’s a repeat of Bashlor. They’re trying to prove a point.)
Anthony Swarzak – Still Just One Good Season
Noah Syndergaard – 60’6″ Away
Jason Vargas – $16 Million Dollar Man
Zack Wheeler – Finally Good
David Wright – Hurts Here Doc
With the way things are going with the New York Mets, it is becoming increasingly clear this team will be in position to sell at the trade deadline. The question is what in the world do the Mets have to sell.
Well, the biggest asset the Mets have right now is Jacob deGrom. If he was ever truly available, you would have 29 teams lining up to give you their best prospects. The problem with that is, you could assume the Mets will not deal with either the Yankees or the Nationals. With the Yankees, you are taking one deep farm system off the table, and that is assuming the Yankees would part with their top prospects in a trade with the Mets.
Overall, based on recent comments from Sandy Alderson, it does not appear the Mets are trading deGrom anytime soon, which is a relief because Sandy really does poor work at the trade deadline. He’s much better working deals in the offseason.
So when looking at players to trade, you obviously begin with guys on the last year of their deals. Well, the Mets don’t have much to offer there:
Jerry Blevins – the LOOGY has a 5.28 ERA, 1.761 WHIP, and a 6.5 BB/9. Worse than that, left-handed batters are hitting .351/.415/.514 off of him.
Jose Bautista – When he was released, the Mets were seemingly the only team who called him, and it’s hard to imagine teams giving up much for a second division bench player with a .366 SLG.
Asdrubal Cabrera – A year after the Mets found no takers for him, they may be in the same position after having him play through injuries. Since April 24th, he’s hitting .233/.269/.423 while playing the worst defensive second base in the majors (-10 DRS).
Jeurys Familia – If he returns from the DL healthy, Familia has real value because he has once again shown himself to be a good reliever and closer. The issue with him is Sandy Alderson flipped Addison Reed, who was healthier and having a better year, for an uninspiring group of Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan, and Stephen Nogosek.
Devin Mesoraco – Briefly, Mesoraco was a revelation showing power and helping buttress a struggling Mets lineup. The hot streak has worn off, and he’s hitting .107 with no extra base hits over his last nine games.
AJ Ramos – Ramos is contemplating season ending shoulder surgery. That would take him off the table. The same can be said for his 6.41 ERA.
Jose Reyes – He’s the worst player in all of baseball this year; one the Mets are reportedly asking to retire.
Alright, so the Mets don’t have much in terms of players on expiring deals. Maybe, the team can look at players whose deals are expiring after the 2019 season:
Todd Frazier – The normally durable Frazier landed on the DL, and he has not been the power hitter he has been in his career. The positives are he’s kept a solid walk rate while playing a solid third base. Overall, he’s the type of player who is of more value to you than to what you would get back in a deal.
Jason Vargas – He’s now a five inning pitcher with a 7.39 ERA.
Zack Wheeler – Wheeler is an interesting case because he has shown promise, but he is still prone to the occasional hiccups. He’s probably not due for a large arbitration increase from his $1.8 million, which should be enticing for a Mets team who probably doesn’t want to spend $8 million to replace him with next year’s Vargas.
So, right now, looking at the expiring deals by the end of the 2019 season, the Mets assets basically amount to Familia and maybe Frazier and Wheeler. Arguably, Frazier and Wheeler are not bringing back the type of players who would be key pieces of a rebuild. To that extent, you at least have to question why you would move them on a Mets team with a fairly solid core which includes Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Noah Syndergaard, and deGrom.
And really, past that group, there isn’t much else available for the Mets to trade to justify blowing it up.
Jay Bruce is injured, and he already looks like he’s in a group with Jason Bay and Vince Coleman for the worst free agent mistake in Mets history. Yoenis Cespedes is both injury prone and has a no trade deal, which will likely limit their ability to move him.
Really, what the Mets need to be doing is some soul searching.
Much like they did when they extended David Wright, the team needs to assess whether players like deGrom and Syndergaard will be here when promising young players like Andres Gimenez, David Peterson, Justin Dunn, Mark Vientos, and Jarred Kelenic are here to open the Mets next World Series window.
If they’re not, you’re doing the franchise a complete disservice by hanging in this if everything breaks right structure. Really, things only broke right in 2015, and the team has been ill designed every since.
Blow it up now, or start spending money on players like Manny Machado this offseaosn. If you’re not doing that, this Mets team isn’t going anywhere for at least the next decade.
I’m not sure where the axiom ever arose, but somewhere, sometime people made the decision teams could not possibly rebuild in New York. I always found this statement odd because on the one hand, New York fans are credited as smart a fanbase as there is in sports, but by the same token, many believe we are too ignorant to accept a team rebuilding.
This notion has created MANY mistakes by our professional teams. Rather than admit defeat, we have seen the Mets constantly try to hold on tightly as their short lived runs slip away. With respect to the Mets, we have seen it time and again – Eddie Murray, Roberto Alomar, Jason Bay, etc. Bad contracts and trades resulting in even more disappointing seasons. Worse yet, it was all part of a mismanagement of assets which delayed rebuilds and made the cupboards even barer when the time came to finally strip it all down.
As bad as the Mets history is, the Knicks history is worse – so much worse. Just a series of Eddie Currys and Antoio McDyesses and Stephen Marburys. It’s ridiculous, and it’s why after Ewing left, this organization has been a mess.
However, when it comes to postseason droughts and an outright refusal to rebuild, I think back to the Rangers. In the pre-salary cap NHL, the Rangers just outright refused to commit to a rebuild. What ensued was trades for big names and getting the top free agent available – LaFontaine, Lindros, Fleury, Dunham, Holik, Jagr, Kovalev, and the return of Messier.
It makes you question, what if a New York team actually acknowledged they hit the end of the line with their roster, and they were going to make the hard choice and rebuild. Well, with the New York Rangers, we are about to find out:
If you are a Rangers fan, you knew the team didn’t have it this season. However, as an organization, you could talk yourself into this being just about the injuries with Kreider and Shattenkirk going down. Maybe it’s true, and maybe it isn’t.
It doesn’t matter because the overriding point is the Rangers knew they weren’t going to sniff the Cup this year, so why continue down this road? The team smartly accepted the end of this run, and presumably, they look at the trade deadline as an opportunity to jump start their rebuild. With any luck, you can get the assets to make this a retooling. Largely, that will depend on which assets the Rangers opt to trade.
Overall, as a fan, I’d rather my organization be as up front with me as the Rangers just were. This is a unique step for a New York organization, and it is one that should be lauded. Hopefully, this will prove to be a positive step forward for an organization which looks to win its first Cup since 1994.
I know it is something I wish the Mets were more honest about in years past and with this roster. Last year, hard choices were eschewed, and instead of cleaning house, the Mets got a collection of right-handed relievers, none of which are supposed make the Opening Day roster, and continued to play the likes of Jose Reyes over younger kids who could’ve used the development time.
Maybe after seeing how the Rangers chose to conduct their business, other New York sports teams will follow. Maybe then people will say New York is the best place to rebuild.
In what was a surprising and completely unexpected move, the New York Mets announced that Omar Minaya is returning as a Special Assistant to Sandy Alderson. In Omar’s new role, he will have a varying role including but not limited to scouting and player development. While this offseason has been a complete disappointment thus far, this decision is a great move for the Mets:
1. Omar Left The Mets In Better Shape Than Advertised
One of the issues for Omar when he departed for the Mets was the purported poor state of the Mets minor league system. There were many reasons for the caricature as he didn’t have many first round picks as the General Manager, and when he did have one, he struck by drafting players like Eddie Kunz.
However, that does not mean the talent wasn’t there. As we well know, Omar built the core that helped win the 2015 pennant. It was Omar’s regime that brought in Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Daniel Murphy.
Omar also had originally brought R.A. Dickey to the Mets on a minor league deal. That led to Dickey winning a Cy Young Award, and Sandy Alderson flipping him in a deal that netted the Mets Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. If Sandy and Omar can work in harmony, the Mets may very well turn things around sooner than we believed.
2. Omar Has Been Able To Get The Wilpons To Spend
When Omar first took the reigns as the Mets General Manager, he went out, and he spent. He immediately brought in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. He had to wait a year, but he was eventually able to get Carlos Delgado. He was also shrewd by getting Jose Reyes and David Wright to sign extensions that proved to be team friendly deals.
Yes, this is true this was all prior to the Madoff Scandal. However, consider that a month after Madoff was arrested and the Mets standing a real chance of facing financial ruin, Omar was somehow able to get the Mets to agree to sign Jason Bay to a four year $66 million deal. It’s true that this ultimately proved to be a bad deal, but the overriding point was Omar got the Mets to spend like none other. If you are able to combine Omar’s influence with Sandy’s prudence, you again get a terrific combination.
3. Mets Need A Fresh Look At Their Minor League System
The drafted and minor league free agent talent acquired by the Mets since Sandy Alderson became the General Manager has been largely disappointing. So far, their efforts on the International front has really only produced Amed Rosario. Rosario is a great prospect, but he’s it.
Also, while the Mets have drafted All Stars in Michael Conforto and Michael Fulmer, they have also do not view high draft picks like Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini as starters at the Major League level. Moreoever, the team has been harsh in their criticism of Dominic Smith. It also doesn’t help the team drafted Anthony Kay in the first round, and he has yet to throw a professional pitch due to injury.
In reality, the talent level isn’t where the Mets want it, and it is a large reason why the Mets farm system is largely maligned. When the farm system is where it is right now, it is time to bring in someone to give a fresh look and help build the system back up. There are few better at it than Omar Minaya.
Overall, the Mets brought in a well respected voice in baseball and a voice well respected by the Wilpons. He is being brought in to do what he does best – evaluate and scout talent. Previously, Alderson was able to take the talent Omar acquired, and the Mets won a pennant. With Omar and Sandy working together, the sky is the limit right now.
Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed. With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing. He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.
All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger. It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson? The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.
Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era. After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse. Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark. In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173. This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.
The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues. First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field. Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts. Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making. Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning. It was time for new blood across the organization.
This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011. The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players. In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.
During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders. As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive. Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.
Things almost came to a head in 2014. The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling. The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked. There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others. It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.
It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived. The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers. It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing. There were also some positive signs for the team.
Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs. Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star. Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material. Wheeler had a strong finish to the season. Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting. Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove. Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year. Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future. These were players who were cultivated under Collins. It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012. Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.
There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being. Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people. He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences. He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children. He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set. That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit. Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.
And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long. His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy. Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.
There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players. Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players. It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup. Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy. Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate. This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.
More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge. There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes. Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title. One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.
That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets. Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win. Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series. But it’s more than that. We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes. He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench. Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite all of that, Collins is still here. He has survived a lot to get to this point. There was the Madoff scandal. There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised. He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks. He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.
The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history. To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history. That is mostly the result of circumstance. Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has. Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse. If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.
It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record. It’s Collins’ now. He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.
On October 29, 2010, in the wake of the Madoff scandal, Sandy Alderson took over as the Mets General Manager. Alderson inherited a team with some big stars like Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright. With that he also inherited a team who finished the 2010 season with a hefty $126 million payroll, which ranked sixth in the major leagues. Due to some backloaded contracts reaching their expiration, the 2011 Opening Day payroll was actually inflated to $143 million.
Alderson went to work dismantling a team that was disappointing on the field in what was the beginning of a real rebuilding process. Luis Castillo was released before the season started. Oliver Perez was not too far behind him. Getting rid of the underperforming players the fans hated was the easy part. The hard part was what ensued.
The Mets first traded Francisco Rodriguez, who was getting dangerously close to having an expensive $17.5 million option vest. Then he traded Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler. Surprisingly, Alderson didn’t trade Jose Reyes, who was the National League leader in batting average. Instead, he would let Reyes become a free agent, and he would recoup a draft pick when Reyes signed a $106 million contract with the Marlins.
And just like that what was once a $143 million payroll became a $95 million payroll in a little more than a year. In subsequent years, the Mets would let Johan Santana‘s contract expire and not reinvest the money. They would release Jason Bay, and again re-invest the money. Then the Mets would shop R.A. Dickey after he won the Cy Young Award. They obtained Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud in exchange for him which was a sure sign the Mets were more invested in rebuilding than contending.
It was also a sign that the Mets were cash strapped due to the Madoff scandal. The payroll would reach its nadir in 2o14 when it was actually $85 million, which ranked 21st in the major leagues. A bewildered and frankly angry fan base was left wondering when, if ever, the Wilpons were going to permit the Mets to have a payroll commensurate with their standing as a big market major league franchise.
Now, over the past two seasons, the Mets payroll has gone from $85 million in 2014 to $101 million to start the 2015 season. In that offseason, the Mets actually went out and signed Michael Cuddyer to help them become a more complete team. When Cuddyer faltered and David Wright would suffer from spinal stenosis, the Mets made moves and added payroll. The team first traded for Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe (even if the Braves paid part of their salary). The Mets then acquired Yoenis Cespedes and what was a left of his $10.5 million contract. In 2015, the Mets spent a little more, but more importantly they spent what they needed to spend to compete.
In 2016, the Mets initially put out signs they were not moving off their roughly $100 million payroll when they signed Alejandro De Aza to platoon with Juan Lagares in center. It was perceived as a sign the Mets were not going to spend; it was a sign they were not willing to go the extra mile to get Cespedes. But then something happened. Cespedes didn’t find that massive deal on the free agent market. Instead, he re-signed with the Mets for $27.5 million in 2016. After 2016, Cespedes had the option to opt out of the remaining two years $47.5 million left on his contract.
With the Mets paying Cespedes a hefty salary to start the season, the Mets Opening Day payroll rose all the way to $135 million. Before Cespedes was re-signed, there was some doubt about whether it was really the insurance on Wright’s contract that allowed them to make those in-season moves, the re-signing of Cespedes calmed down a fan base that worried when or if the Mets would be willing to spend. Better yet, when the Mets had some issues scoring runs, they went out and traded for Jay Bruce.
Surprisingly now, we are back at the point of wondering if the Mets are willing to spend. The $135 million payroll was a positive step, but it is still less than the first payroll Alderson had with the Mets, and it was only ranked 15th in the majors. Cespedes is a free agent, and no one is quite sure if the Mets will re-sign him, look to acquire a big name free agent like Jose Bautista, or if they are going to stick with the Michael Conforto–Curtis Granderson-Bruce outfield. The Mets also have a number of other areas to address this offseason.
The first step was Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer. With that, according to ESPN‘s Adam Rubin, the Mets current payroll obligations are $124 million. That is just $10 million under what the 2015 Opening Day Payroll was. If the Mets were to re-sign Cespedes, or another big name free agent, the payroll is going to go well past the $135 million mark.
The problem is the Mets need to go even further than that. Not only do they need Cespedes, or a reasonable facsimile, they also need to re-sign Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, or again, a reasonable facsimile thereof. The Mets may also want to add another backup catcher given Travis d’Arnaud‘s injury concerns, Rene Rivera‘s lack of offense, and Kevin Plawecki having two disappointing seasons. The Mets may also want to sign a veteran starter considering the health issues of their rotation and Bartolo Colon having signed with the Braves this past week. There’s a lot the Mets need to address here, and it isn’t likely that $10 million is going to cover all of it.
So again, we are back at the point of wondering how far the Mets are willing to go to compete. Will they have a payroll in the upper half of all of baseball? Do they have the funds to spend like a big market club? At this point, no one knows the answers to these questions. While Mets fans may be apprehensive, it is too soon to to pass judgment. That time will come when we see how the Mets handle the Cespedes situation.