With the Mets rumored to be obtaining Jason Kipnis, fans should be thrilled. Kipnis is seemingly everything the team needs, and he could go a long way in making the Mets a better team.
He is a two time All Star, who seemingly has no ego. After returning from the Disabled List, the Indians asked him to move to center field because that is what was needed to help the team win. He did it, and he did it despite his having been a key player on a team that came within a run of winning the World Series in 2016.
In his two prior healthy seasons, Kipnis was a .289/.357/.460 hitter who averaged 42 doubles, six triples, 16 homers, and 67 RBI. He also averaged a 4.3 WAR with him posting three seasons of a WAR above 4.0 in three out of his past five seasons.
Combine this with a reasonable salary (owed $28.3 million over next two years with a $16.5 million option for 2020), and you have a good player on a decent contract that can really help the Mets.
However, this is exactly the type of player that can also help a Cleveland Indians team with World Series aspirations – an Indians team who is about to take major hits in free agency.
Already, the Indians have lost Bryan Shaw and Carlos Santana in free agency. Jay Bruce and may not be far behind. By trading Kinsler, the Indians may be getting rid of a player who could help them at either first base, the outfield, or anywhere else the Indians need.
Yes, Jose Ramirez had an MVP caliber season, and he seemingly usurped Kipnis at second base. Still, Ramirez moving from third to second also created some uncertainty at the third base position.
No doubt, the Indians have some talented young players who could play there like Yandy Diaz, Francisco Mejia, or Giovanny Urshela. However, it is quite telling that come postseason time the Indians handed the third base duties to journeyman Michael Martinez. Reason being is that the aforementioned trio wasn’t quite ready. And really, who is to say they will be next season?
If you next take into account, Michael Brantley being constantly injured, you really begin to wonder why is it the Indians are willing to just give up on Kipnis?
It’s not like he’s at his peak value. He’s coming off an injury plagued season where he had a 0.4 WAR, 81 OPS+, 82 wRC+, and a -2 DRS at second base. Trading him now feels more like the Indians are dumping a salary than the Mets are blowing the Indians away with an offer to get a good player.
This should beg the question about what the Indians know that no one else does? Is it Kipnis’ shoulder? Is it fear of regression? Is it just to free up money to spend elsewhere? No one can be quite sure as of right now.
With all the said, Kipnis still presents a huge upgrade for a Mets organization that had the second worst DRS at second base in all of baseball. It’s a massive upgrade for a team that views Jose Reyes and his -0.6 WAR last year as the free agent backup plan. This all means the Mets should be pursuing Kipnis.
However, that doesn’t mean the Mets shouldn’t be concerned as to which Kipnis they are getting in return.
On Thanksgiving, it’s time to go around the Mets 2017 roster and name something each player should be thankful for:
Nori Aoki – He looked so much better in September than he did in all of 2017 by being competent while playing on a dysfunctional team.
Jerry Blevins – Throughout all the stress of the season and his extreme workload, the man didn’t even put on one pound.
Chasen Bradford – With his call-up to the majors, he’s now on the short list for best beards in Mets history.
Jay Bruce – He learned from his experience last year, and he played well for a team that acquired him in a trade.
Asdrubal Cabrera – As we found out this season, all he wanted the Mets to do was to pick up his option so he could provide for him family. With the Mets having done that, he can now rest easy.
Jamie Callahan – One day when bards tell the tale of the six right-handed relievers the Mets acquired at the 2017 deadline, they will regale us all with stories of how Callahan was the first of them to finish out a game the Mets won.
Gavin Cecchini – He made the switch from short to second where it will be easier for him to make it to the majors. That goes double if the Mets who are tightening payroll off a poor season don’t bring in a free agent to play the position.
Yoenis Cespedes – With Cespedes missing half the season, that left a lot of time for him to hit the course.
Michael Conforto – Collins is gone meaning no one is standing in his way from being a superstar anymore.
Travis d’Arnaud – He became the greatest defensive second baseman in Mets history by posting a 1.000 fielding percentage at the position.
Jacob deGrom – With him pitching so well this year, he knows he will finally be able to cash in in arbitration thereby allowing him to afford a haircut.
Phillip Evans – After winning a batting title in 2016, having a good Spring Training, and a good second half for Vegas, the Mets finally decided to let him post similarly good numbers for them in September.
Jeurys Familia – Blood clots in his shoulder costing him most of the season made most people forget why he missed the beginning of the season.
Wilmer Flores – He fouled a ball off his face, and he lived to tell about it.
Sean Gilmartin – With his going from the Mets to the Cardinals, he was able to prove he wasn’t bad. It was just the Mets as an organization did not employ anyone capable of knowing he was actually injured.
Erik Goeddel – No matter how much he struggled this season, he will never be the most hated person in pro sports with the last name pronounced GO-dell\n
Curtis Granderson – He had a front row seat to seeing Chase Utley fail in the postseason.
Robert Gsellman – He has so much self confidence he doesn’t care what anyone things of him.
Matt Harvey – Between the Tommy John, TOS, and the Mets rushing him into the rotation with atrophied muscles in his throwing arm knowing he wouldn’t really be ready until a month into the season, he should be thankful for getting out of the season with his right arm still attached.
Ty Kelly – He got out of here after one game thereby preventing Nurse Ratched from getting to him and ending his season.
Juan Lagares – With all the injuries and the Mets looking to cut payroll, he is once again the center fielder of the future.
Steven Matz – With him suffering the same injury deGrom suffered last year, we all know he can come back from this to be the same exact injury prone pitcher he was before the surgery.
Kevin McGowan – He will always have a special place in Mets fans hearts as it was his call-up that forced Ramirez off the roster.
Tommy Milone – He was able to find a team that was okay with him having an ERA over 8.00.
Rafael Montero – For the first time in his life, he wasn’t a complete abomination as a pitcher.
Tomas Nido – Even with his struggles at the plate in Binghamton, he can rest easy knowing the Mets don’t expect an OBP over .300 from their catchers.
Brandon Nimmo – No one, not matter what, has been able to wipe that smile off of his face.
Tyler Pill – In a year of embarrassing pitching performances by Mets pitchers, Pill actually acquitted himself quite well before suffering his season ending injury.
Kevin Plawecki – He’s so well liked by his teammates that someone left him a present in his locker, which apparently has inspired him to hit the ball harder and longer thereby resurrecting his career.
Neil Ramirez – Somehow, someway, he was not the absolute worst pitcher on a team’s pitching staff.
AJ Ramos – To him, getting traded to the Mets meant he was traded to a team that actually spends money in the offseason.
Addison Reed – He was so good this year he was worth not just one but three right-handed relievers.
Jose Reyes – The Mets didn’t cut him or his playing time no matter how horrible he played during the 2017 season.
Matt Reynolds – He got that long look in September Sandy Alderson promised him. Unfortunately, that only amounted to him getting 10 games to show what he could do at the MLB level.
Jacob Rhame – He’s with an organization that has had success getting flame throwing right-handed pitchers who have slimmed down since getting drafted reach their full potential.
Rene Rivera – After failing to whisper loud enough to help the Mets pitchers pitch better, he was able to go to the Cubs to help their pitchers lead them to an NLCS berth.
Hansel Robles – In his mind every ball hit in the air is an inning ending pop up.
Amed Rosario – He didn’t have to have his development hampered by being expected to be the savior when he was called-up to the majors as the Mets were well out of contention on August 1st.
Fernando Salas – Despite his rough stint with the Mets, he was able to land with the Angels to end the season thereby proving it was the Mets handling of pitchers and not him that was terrible.
Paul Sewald – As a reward for all of his hard work in Vegas, he got the privilege of being the arm Collins loved to abuse during the season.
Dominic Smith – He finally got his call-up in August in Philadelphia of all places allowing him to celebrate the accomplishment and the win with a cheesesteak from Pat’s. (NOTE: not a cheapshot at his weight, this actually happened)
Josh Smoker – After the Mets finally gave up on using a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues as the long man in the pen, he showed the team in September that he could be as a lefty out of the pen to get lefties out.
Noah Syndergaard – Mr. Met flipped off someone this year other than him.
Neil Walker – The Mets moved him to the Brewers where he was able to re-establish his free agency value by being productive and by staying healthy, which was coincidentally was when he was away from the Mets medical team.
Adam Wilk – Because Harvey was at home one day in his pajamas, he set off on a path where he would become eligible to earn a share of the postseason money awarded to the Twins for claiming the second Wild Card.
Zack Wheeler – Instead of missing two years due to injury, he missed two months.
David Wright – Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Mets still have not given up on him.
Terry Collins – At the end of the day, he was able to make a friend of Fred Wilpon who had his back no matter what. We should all be so lucky.
Dan Warthen – He found a new group of pitchers in Texas who have elbows waiting to learn how to throw that Warthen Slider.
Sandy Alderson – Collins was so poor at managing, he was able to convince ownership it was all Collins’ fault and not his for poorly constructing a roster.
Mets Fans – Well, even if it wasn’t at this post, we all still have a sense of humor, and we can still laugh at what we put up with from this team on a daily basis.
Looking over the free agent roster and the Mets internal options, second base may be the most difficult position to fill. Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and T.J. Rivera each have the bat, but they don’t have the glove. Additionally, Rivera is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Gavin Cecchini and Phillip Evans have the glove, but they don’t have the bat.
Accordingly, the Mets may best suited to make a trade for a second baseman. There are some interesting, yet flawed, candidates available:
2017 Stats: .308/.341/.375, 20 2B, 9 3B, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 60 SB, 16 CS
Advanced: 3.4 bWAR, 3.3 fWAR, 94 OPS, 92 wRC+, 3 DRS
Salary: 3 years, $37.9, 2021 option ($1 million buyout)
For Mets fans, Gordon seems to be the cure to many ills. He is a top of the order hitter who steals bases and has a good defensive reputation. The problem with Gordon is much of his reputation is based upon a career year in 2015, and he has yet to replicate that season. Overall, he’s been a great base stealer, average defender, and someone who does not walk nearly enough to hit atop the order. Between that and the salary, the Mets should look elsewhere.
2017 Stats: .272/.339/.432, 26 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 12 SB, 4 CS
Advanced: 3.3 bWAR, 2.6 fWAR, 101 OPS+, 104 wRC+, 6 DRS
Salary: 1 year, $10.25 million (Team options next two seasons)
Harrison seems to be the type of player the Mets covet this offseason due to his versatility. He’s been a good defender at second, and he can handle himself at third and both corner outfield positions. He also has a reasonable contract with reasonable team options in succeeding years. There are two caveats with Harrison. First, Harrison does not draw many walks. More importantly for a Mets team unable to keep players on the field, Harrison has his own injury issues.
2017 Stats: .236/.313/.412, 25 2B, 3 3B, 22 HR, 52 RBI, 14 SB, 5 CS
Advanced: 2.1 bWAR, 1.5 fWAR, 90 OPS+, 91 wRC+, 6 DRS
Salary: 1 year, $11 million
With the season Kinsler just had, it’s fair to question whether he’s done at 35 years old. Even with the dropoff, he was still a good defender at second, and he maintained a respectable 9.0% walk rate. Like most of his career, he had a good start to the season, hit lefties well, and he tapered off as the season progressed. It’s possible being put in a new situation with a new manager will be able to rejuvenate him. Even if it doesn’t, you’re still getting a good defender with a solid clubhouse presence at a somewhat reasonable cost.
2017 Stats: .232/.291/.414, 25 2B, 12 HR, 35 RBI, 6 SB, 2 CS
Advanced: 0.4 bWAR, 0.7 fWAR, 81 OPS+, 82 wRC+, -2 DRS
Salary: 2 years, $28.3 million ($16.5 million 2020 option)
After being a reasonably healthy player, Kipnis had an injury plagued year that kept him off the field and helped lead to a career worst year. Ever the team player, Kipnis came back from the disabled list, and with him having been supplanted at second base by Jose Ramirez, he went to center field. With Ramirez playing a terrific second and the emergence of Yandy Diaz, it’s rumored the Indians may be willing to move Kipnis.
It’s also likely it’s going to be a high price tag. Kipnis has a reasonably salary, and the Indians could use him at either first of the outfield depending on what happens with Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce. Considering he’s a 4.0+ WAR player when healthy, he might just be worth whatever price the Indians demand.
2017 Stats: .232/.318/.375, 20 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 2 SB, 2 CS
Advanced: 0.5 bWAR, 0.3 fWAR 79 OPS+, 82 wRC+, 5 DRS
Salary: 2 years, $29 million
After the 2015 season, the Mets thought Zobrist might be the player to take them over the top, and they vigorously pursued him in free agency. The Mets were proven to be correct when Zobrist was the 2016 World Series MVP. For those that believed Zobrist’s deal was going to be harsh at the tail end, they seemed to be proven correct with Zobrist having a poor year where he looked every bit of his 36 years of age.
Still, Zobrist is just one year off of being a good major league player, a good defender at second, and every bit as versatile as he’s always been. While he’s not officially on the trade block, the Cubs are nearing a bit of a roster crunch with Albert Almora staking a claim in CF and Ian Happ proving he should be an everyday player. Unless the Cubs want to pay Zobrist big bucks to be a utility player, they may look to move him, and the team has been known to like Seth Lugo. This isn’t saying that’s what gets it done for both sides. Still, it’s interesting the Cubs have a player the Mets want, and the Mets have a player the Cubs want. This could lead to trade discussions, and Sandy getting a player he has long coveted.
Overall, the Mets would be improved by getting anyone of these players, but that does not necessarily mean that is the best allocation of resources. Given the contract length and what should be a relatively low sales price, it would seem Kinsler should be the Mets top target. If the Mets had more talent available in their farm system, perhaps then you may be more willing to pursue a Kipnis or Harrison.
In the end, this Mets season was just one large Scrubs season. It wasn’t quite a comedy. It wasn’t quite a drama. Not nearly enough people should have appreciated it. And, oh yeah, the players resembled the characters:
J.D. – Michael Conforto
There are many ways we can choose to compare the two with how they are treated by authority figures and seem to be dreamers. Overall, it’s the Janitor who shows how the two are unmistakably intertwined:
Turk – Noah Syndergaard
Like Turk, Syndergaard can be both silly (his hatred of Mr. Met), had their bromances that ended when their bff departed (Bartolo Colon), and are serious about their craft (60′ 6″ away). Both had serious health issues (Turk – diabetes; Thor – torn lat), that they largely ignored until they could no longer.
Dr. Cox – Sandy Alderson
Both are brash, saracastic, and quick witted. They want everyone to conform, leave them alone, and they want the higher ups to give them the revenue they need to do their jobs because secretly they care. Both have to deal with the hand they are given and do better than possibly anyone else would in their position.
Elliott – Jacob deGrom
The precocious blonde with long locks has gone from being overlooked to front and center. Now, after a drastic haircut, we see them all grown up and in charge
Carla – Curtis Granderson
For much of the show, Carla was really the only adult in the room. She was the one who was a parent and a friend to everyone. There was no Met who has ever embodied that better than Granderson.
Kelso – Fred Wilpon
He’s the penny pinching curmudgeon who deep down believes he cares about the place more than anyone. As time goes on, and they become more separated from the day-t0-day affairs, they become more likeable as newer villains begin to run interference. In reality, they haven’t changed one bit. Just ask Enid.
Janitor – Asdrubal Cabrera
He was once a guy with dreams and wanted to be someone. Instead, he’s stuck around this place finding himself not wanting to be fired despite not being good at his job and terrifying everyone. Oh, and now he needs this job to provide for his family.
The Todd – Yoenis Cespedes
Both seem like all flash and no substance with high fives, bat flips, cars, banana hammocks, chains, and compression sleeves. However, once you get past all of that and look at their abilities, they are among the best at what they do.
Ted – Travis d’Arnaud
There was probably a time where dear old Ted had the world as his oyster much like d’Arnaud did when he first joined the Mets organization. At this point both are beaten down and quite possibly both are forever broken. In d’Arnaud’s case that’s probably more physical than spiritual.
Jordan – Terry Collins
As we found out in Marc Carig’s piece about Collins’ firing, the manager had contempt for most everyone around him except for a small few he treated kindly. Of course to him that meant hurting them (ruining their arms). That’s Jordan in a nutshell – hates almost everyone and is still nasty to those she likes.
Murphy – Ray Ramirez
They want to help, but they just keep killing everyone in their path. Like with Dr. Murphy, the Mets have finally found a place where he could do less harm.
Keith Dudemeister – Lucas Duda
Aside from the fact that their surnames practically beg for the comparison, both seem like people we could have all been friends with under completely different circumstances.
Laverne – Jose Reyes
Just when you thought they were dead and gone, they’ve come back. For Laverne, she came back under a different name. For Reyes, it was a different position.
Enid – David Wright
Both were quite loved in their day, but now they are broken down and our eyes look elsewhere for something younger and sexier to take their place.
Sean – Kevin Plawecki
They seem like perfectly nice guys who try hard. In the end no matter what they do, no matter how good it is, it elicts the same response. “Nobody cares!”
Bearfacé – Chasen Bradford
Of all the Mets, Bradford was the only Mets player who put together a beard that could come close to Beardface.
Extra points to Bradford for Baseball Reference not quite knowing if it’s Chase or Chasen similar to how Dr. Beardface constantly corrects everyone screaming it’s BEARD-FAS-AY!
Hooch –Hansel Robles
When Robles points to the sky as if to suggest a home run is just a pop fly, you know Robles is crazy. Like Hooch, the craziness was comical at first, but now it is just downright scary.
Lloyd – Jeff Wilpon
He’s got the job because of who his father is, and someone he has a place on the Brain Trust.
Dr. Wen – Dan Warthen
They were tutors for a young talented group, but in the end, their time came as they refused to adapt. For Warthen, it was teaching a slider when everyone was focusing on the curve. For Dr. Wen, it was:
Ben – Neil Walker
He came here sick, and the Mets just couldn’t fix him no matter what they did. Before we knew it, he was gone, and we were all looking for someone to blame.
Dan – Jay Bruce
When he first appeared, he was useless, and yet, somehow people seemed to love him. He was an older brother that tried to take people under his wing, but he, himself, was the one who needed help. Eventually, he got himself together just before we all said good bye to him.
Leonard – Seth Lugo
It’s the giant hook and the impressive hair (afro, blonde).
Julie – Wilmer Flores
Both are young, lovable, and so accident prone. In the entire Scrubs series, the only way capable of breaking their own nose the way Wilmer did was Julie.
Jill – Matt Harvey
We all just assumed the worst in their intentions. However, in the end, we discovered it wasn’t anything they did particularly wrong. Rather, it was a problem related to something else entirely that if someone detected it earlier, everything might have changed. Instead, a waste of a 2017 ensued.
Gift Shop Girl – Carlos Beltran
We had our chance with him, but we blew it. We forgot about him for a long time, but now that we remember him, he’s now got a ring on his finger.
Paige – Brandon Nimmo
Both are extremely religious, and you cannot wipe the smile off of either one’s face . . . no matter how much you try.
Mickhead – Barwis
We all know Barwis murdered the Mets season. We just don’t have the proof.
In Marc Carig’s Newsday post-mortem on the 2017 season, he detailed how the trades of Jay Bruce and Neil Walker helped deteriorate the clubhouse. With the Mets so heavily invested in Amed Rosario to be not just a big part of the 2018 season, but the next decade, the Mets need to make sure they bring in character guys this offseason to not only improve the clubhouse culture, but also provide the leadership that Rosario, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, and other Mets young players could benefit.
The hope is that David Wright could help serve that role in some respect, but with his health issues, no one can be sure he can provide anything next year. Fortunately, for the Mets, there are plenty of other guys available this offseason. Better yet, they could serve roles beyond providing leadership:
OF Curtis Granderson – Granderon was seen as a leader on the Mets clubhouse, and he helped a young crop of Mets players reach their full potential helping them win the 2015 pennant. Putting Aprils aside, Granderson is as reliable and clutch a player as the Mets have ever had.
RHP Bartolo Colon – Even with Colon having a poor year last year, there were signs his leadership among the pitching staff was missed. One area that was pointed at was walks. From 2015 to 2016, Mets pitchers gave up the fewest walks in the majors. Last year, the Mets gave up the fourth most. In terms of leadership, Colon could help, but the Mets need to be cautious to not promise him anything more than a chance to compete for a spot on the team as the soon to be 45 year old is nearing the end of his career.
3B Todd Frazier – In addition to his being a clubhouse presence, Frazier is a plus defender at third base posting the third best DRS among MLB third baseman with over 1,000 innings at the position. He’s also in the top half of batters per wRC+ and OPS+. Additionally, with his first base experience, he could serve as a platoon partner for Smith, or even take over if Smith should prove not ready to play a full season at the MLB level.
UTIL Howie Kendrick – Kendrick put a tough 2016 season behind him, and he had one of his better offensive seasons, albeit an injury prone one. With the Mets having a number of holes, Kendrick could slot into any number of them. That includes RF with the uncertainty as to when Michael Conforto could begin the season. In addition to that, Kendrick has been long considered a positive presence in the clubhouse.
DH Carlos Beltran – It’s not likely Beltran is going to play next year with him being over 40, coming off his worst season, and with him already having won his World Series ring. Still, if he’s available, and the Mets have struck out other fronts, the team should consider a reunion with a player who had a profound impact on a young Astros team. He could do the same with the Mets playing the 1984 Rusty Staub or 2006 Julio Franco role.
Overall, the Mets have viable veteran options to help the team. If not one of these players, the Mets need to find another player who could serve that role.
Mets Hitting Coach Kevin Long
Current Position: Mets Hitting Coach (2015 – present)
Age: 12/30/66 (50)
Managerial Experience: 1998 Wilmington Blue Rocks (A) 6-1; Spokane Indians (A) 44-32 (League Champs)
After a dismal 2014 season, the Mets fired Dave Hudgens and brought Long aboard to serve as the team’s new hitting coach. Certainly, Long’s previous working experience with Curtis Granderson, and the Mets wanting to get the biggest free agent acquisition in the Sandy Alderson Era going didn’t hurt. In his time with the Mets, Long has certainly distinguished himself to the point where he’s actually been referred to as a “rock star.” (MLB.com).
To name a few, we have seen Granderson, Daniel Murphy, Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Neil Walker become better hitters under Long’s tutelage. Generally speaking, when Long’s message gets through, we see players both increase their OBP and their slugging. As noted in a New York Times article, 0ne of the reasons why Long is able to help players improve as hitters is they compile all the relevant data, they filter it down, and they convey that information to the players in the hopes they absorb it and to put it to good use.
In terms of not just the modern manager, but any manager, you are looking for an individual who not only has the ability to understand the data provided to him, but also the best way to convey that data to the players in a way that is effective. As noted with player like Murphy and Cespedes, it has worked. Conversely, we have also seen Long fail to help Travis d’Arnaud and Juan Lagares reach their offensive ceilings. That’s certainly something that has held the Mets back and forced the team to acquire some players over the past few seasons.
Another issue with Long is his lack of managerial experience. He has not managed anywhere since 1999, and he has not managed above short season Single-A ball. Accordingly, we really have no idea how he would handle being in charge of every aspect of a clubhouse, a pitching staff, personalities, and playing time.
To that end, it should be noted Long has a good relationship with former Yankees and Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland, who is noted for helping fix pitcher’s mechanics. After all the times the past few seasons we have heard Mets pitchers point to mechanical issues, the team could certainly use a pitching coach like Eiland to replace Dan Warthen.
Still, with Long, we have seen a coach that already has the respect of the players in the Mets clubhouse, and he has a report with the front office. We see someone who is a good communicator and someone who has the ability to understand and translate data. Ultimately, we may not know what type of manager he would become, but we do know he has the tools to succeed as a manager.
What The Players Say:
Granderson: “If that were to happen, obviously he’d be up for the challenge. He’s always energetic, he communicates, which I think is the biggest thing a manager needs to have . . . So many things can be resolved if people just communicate.” (Newsday).
Alex Rodriguez: “And that’s why I think Kevin Long could be a good manager. It’s more like a CEO of a public company. You’re basically getting information from your board and ownership and you’re transferring it to your shareholder which are the players.” (WFAN)
Understandably, Mets fans probably want someone with more experience, and some want a completely new face. However, with the current front office going nowhere, you are going to need someone who you know has a good working relationship with the front office. It also helps that Long has a respect in the clubhouse, and the ability to communicate with this players.
Due to his strengths, Long would be a fine choice for manager with one caveat. With his lack of experience, Long is going to need a strong staff with an accomplished pitching coach and a veteran bench coach to help guide him. Short of that, and the Mets are really just setting up Long for failure.
If you’ve watched Mets games long enough, you will at one point or another hear Keith Hernandez bemoan the lack of “Good Fundies.” Seemingly, this is something he decries more and more. And it’s not just because the Mets played some terrible baseball this year. Rather, throughout baseball, we have seen a number of players fail to make the fundamentally correct play.
Most of the time, the lack of “Good Fundies” can really be attributed to a general lack of hustle and will. That was no more evident than on the last out of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Yankees and the Indians (Warning: It’s a Sterling call, so you may want to mute it):
Considering how his skills behind the plate have been lambasted most of the year, it should be of no surprise Gary Sanchez dropped the third strike from Aroldis Chapman. What should be a surprise is how Austin Jackson initially just stood there, and then he walked back to the dugout.
HE’S THE LAST OUT OF THE DIVISION SERIES!
Look at the play again. Sanchez drops the ball on what was a questionable third strike call. While he’s picking it up, Jackson voices his displeasure at the call. While this is happening, Sanchez picks up the baseball, and he makes sure to put it in his back pocket. Meanwhile, Jackson is still in the batter’s box.
According to MLB Rule 6.09(b): “The batter becomes a runner when – (b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out.”
Now there are limits to the rule as provided in the comments to said rule: “A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.”
This could have left the matter up to interpretation by the umpire. Arguably, by turning to argue first, Jackson may be been ruled out regardless of whether he attempted to go to first base or not. However, we’ll never know if an umpire would have had the absolute gaul to invoke such a technicality because Jackson never bothered to go to first base.
Think about it. Sanchez looked at Jackson briefly as if he was going to tag him. He chose not to and instead went to the mound to celebrate.
Looking at the play again, who knows how far Jackson could have gotten if he decided to go to first base. The Yankees weren’t paying attention because they were celebrating. The same goes for Jose Ramirez who we did not see touch home plate at any time during the Yankees celebration.
Instead of Jackson doing everything he could do to try to extend that game by busting it down to first base regardless of what the odds were, he instead chose to accept defeat and go back to his dugout. Instead of seeing Jay Bruce at the plate with a berth to the ALCS on the line, we got to see the Yankees celebrate on the mound.
One last note is it’s strange we haven’t seen much discussion on this topic. Sure, we’ll see Carlos Beltran striking out looking against Adam Wainwright, but we won’t see this discussed. For how much Beltran was killed for that play, his knees were buckled by a great curveball. Jackson just didn’t even bother.
As a fan, I’d rather see a player get beat like Beltran did than see a player give up like Jackson did any game of the week. Honestly, I cannot possibly fathom how this isn’t a bigger issue.
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.
When determining which team to root for this postseason, the general rule of thumb is to root against the Mets rivals. With the Mets making a number of trades this season, you could also root for teams according to their Mets connections:
East – Boston Red Sox
Assistant Pitching Coach – Brian Bannister (2006)
Bannister made the Mets out if Spring Training in 2006. His tenure was short lived as he injured his hamstring, and Omar Minaya rebuilt the rotation in-season pushing a healthy Bannister out. He’d be moved that offseason in an ill-fated trade for Ambiorix Burgos.
RHP Blaine Boyer (2011)
Boyer pitched just five games for the Mets before leaving via free agency. He would not pitch in the majors again until 2014.
RHP Addison Reed (2015 – 2017)
Acquired on the eve of September, Reed quickly became an important seventh inning reliever on the Mets pennant winning team. He was even better the next season helping pitch the Mets back to the postseason. With Jeurys Familia‘s suspension and injury, Reed became an effective closer before being traded for a trio of Red Sox relief prospects at the trade deadline.
OF Chris Young (2014)
After a few down years, the Mets took a one year gamble on Young. He struggled all year, and he was released with the Mets eight games under .500 and 10.5 games back in the division. Since that time, Young has been a much more effective player.
Central – Cleveland Indians
First Base Coach Sandy Alomar, Jr. (2007 – 2009)
Alomar ended his playing career playing eight games with the Mets in 2007. He would then begin his coaching career with the Mets serving two years as a special catching instructor.
RF Jay Bruce (2016-2017)
Bruce went from bust who struggled mightily after being acquired at the trade deadline last year to fan favorite this year. Fortunately for the Indians, Bruce wouldn’t repeat his struggles helping propel the Indians to 102 wins.
RHP Joe Smith (2007 – 2008)
Smith went straight from being a third round draft pick in 2006 to being a very good reliever for the Mets in two seasons. Ironically, he moved as part the three team J.J. Putz trade intended to improve the Mets bullpen.
West – Houston Astros
DH Carlos Beltran (2005 – 2011)
Seeing him in the postseason again will certainly evoke memories of Adam Wainwright, but he was so much more than that in a Mets uniform. Beltran was the best center fielder in Mets history and perhaps their best outfielder ever.
C Juan Ceteno (2013 – 2014)
Ceteno is a strong defensive catcher who played just 14 games over two years before he was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Bench Coach Alex Cora (2009 – 2010)
Cora joined the Mets in the hopes of being an important utility player on a playoff caliber team. Unfortunately, injuries and a ballpark ill-suited for the talents of the players on the roster brought that run to an end.
Hitting Coach Dave Hudgens (2011 – 2014)
Hudgens was the Mets hitting coach who was entrusted with helping the Mets adapt to a new ballpark. While he was much embattled in the position, Mets offensive highlights during his tenure included Ike Davis hitting 30 homers and the last great season from David Wright.
Pitching Coach Brent Strom (1972)
Strom was the Mets 1970 first round draft pick. He appeared in just one season with the team going 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
Third Base Coach Gary Pettis (2003 – 2004)
Pettis served as the first base and outfield coach during the Art Howe Era.
Wild Card – New York Yankees
RHP Luis Cessa
Cessa was the other pitching prospect the Mets sent to the Tigers in the Yoenis Cespedes trade.
Wild Card – Minnesota Twins
Pitching Coach Neil Allen (1979 – 1983)
While Allen had a noteworthy Mets career of his own, he will forever be known as one of the two players traded by the Mets in exchange for Keith Hernandez.
RHP Bartolo Colon (2014 – 2016)
“Big Sexy” became a fan favorite and a mentor to the young pitchers in the clubhouse. There are a number of highlights you can choose from his Mets career, but the one that keeps coming to mind was the unbelievable home run he hit in San Diego last year.
RHP Dillon Gee (2010 – 2015)
Gee is an example of a pitcher who has gotten everything out of his ability. He has been resilient overcoming a number of injuries in his career with his career highlight possibly being his named the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter.
East – Washington Nationals
OF Alejandro De Aza (2016)
De Aza had an interesting year with the Mets. He was terrible to begin the year, and he then had a great July helping propel the Mets second half run to the Wild Card.
Pitching Coach Mike Maddux (1993 – 1994)
Maddux pitched two years for the Mets pitching to a 4.16 ERA as a reliever before departing via free agency.
2B Daniel Murphy (2008 – 2015)
Somehow Murphy has become one of the most divisive players among the Mets fanbase. Many still fondly remember his for his time witht he Mets, especially his incredible NLDS and NLCS propelling the Mets to the pennant. Others see a player who annihilates the Mets since leaving the team.
LHP Oliver Perez (2006 – 2010)
Believe it or not, there was a time where Perez was beloved for his Game 7 performance and his start the final game of the 2008 season. He then fell off a cliff upon receiving a huge contract. Things got so bad, he refused a minor league assignment, and his last appearance as a Met would be the team throwing him into the 14th inning on the last game of the season just to get the game over with.
Central – Cubs
Quality Control Coach Henry Blanco (2010)
“Hank White” was brought on as a defensive back-up, and he excelled in the role throwing out 50% of base stealers.
C Rene Rivera (2016 – 2017)
Rivera was a defensive specialist who helped Noah Syndergaard overcome his issues holding on base runners. It was more than Syndergaard, Rivera served as a mentor for young starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman who helped pitch the Mets to the Wild Card.
West – Dodgers
Bench Coach Bob Geren (2012 – 2015)
Geren served as the bench coach for the Mets serving as a mentor for the Mets catchers. Since his departure, we have seen Mets catchers regress in their pitch framing, and we have certainly seen Travis d’Arnaud regress in nearly every aspect of his game.
OF Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2017)
Granderson is one of the finest men to ever put on a Mets uniform. He also came up biggest when the Mets needed him most. Granderson kept the Mets afloat in 2015, and if not for some blown leads, he was in line to be the MVP of that series. His big outburst to end the 2016 season helped lead the Mets back to the postseason.
3B Justin Turner (2010 – 2013)
Turner was an effective utility player in his years with the Mets who was really non-tendered because he was arbitration eligible. Turner would find himself a home in Los Angeles where he has become a terrific player.
Third Base Coach Chris Woodward (2005 – 2006)
Woodward was a valuable utility player for the Mets for two seasons having the second best season of his entire career in 2005.
Wild Card – Diamondbacks
RHP Matt Koch (2012 – 2015)
Koch was one of the two minor league pitchers traded by the Mets for Addison Reed. While Koch is on the 40 man roster, it is not expected he will be on the postseason roster.
Wild Card – Rockies
Based on the sheer volume of Mets affiliations, it would appear Mets fans would be pulling for the Astros in the American League and either the Nationals or Dodgers in the National League. Considering the presence of Chase Utley on the Dodgers and the recent rivalry with the Nationals, most Mets fans will understandably choose rooting interests for different reasons all together.
After last night’s Mets game, I flipped to MLB Network to watch some West Coast baseball. As it was the most important baseball game being played at the moment, the end of the Angels-White Sox game was being aired. MLB Network did a tremendous job of a split screen between the game and the Twins clubhouse. As Nick Delmonico hit a walk off home run, the Twins clubhouse erupted:
— Minnesota Twins (@Twins) September 28, 2017
It was not too long ago we saw the Mets clubhouse that exuberant. It’s always exciting to see, and there are more than one or two humorous moments. Who can forget Jay Bruce wandering around the Mets clubhouse last year after the team clinched a Wild Card spot:
But it’s not just the funny moments like this. It’s the moments of pure joy you see from the players. Typically, you see them with the older players who either thought they were never going to get to this point, or they were never going to get there again. For the Twins that was Joe Mauer.
The player who grew up a Twins fan became a great Twin. More than that, Mauer was on a Hall of Fame path. The 2009 AL MVP had made six All Star teams, won five Silver Sluggers, and three Gold Gloves.
Even with the Twins having budgetary issues, they were able to find money to sign the fan favorite to a contract extension. Not too long after that, the injuries started piling up. Specifically with Mauer, it was concussions. The concussions forced him out behind the plate. More than that, it led to questions over whether he could be the same player. Moreover, many said Mauer’s contract and status with the team was holding them back.
With the Twins turnaround, the first person on that team you felt happy for was Mauer. He certainly looked thrilled during the interview. For a moment, I was happy for him.
I then began to become a bit melancholy. Seeing Mauer’s joy reminded me of David Wright during the 2015 postseason run. At the time, whether we wanted to admit it or not, it looked like the it was going to be his last chance to win with the Mets. With the way things have progressed, that increasingly becomes the case.
It is a shame because for a while Wright and Mauer had parallel careers. Wright was playing for the team he rooted for as a child. He was the MVP caliber player that chose to stay with the franchise who drafted him rather than testing the free agent waters and cashing in. That contract is similarly seen as an albatross. And yet, he’s still a beloved player.
We’ll never know if Wright will get another opportunity much in the way Mauer got his. Hopefully, Mauer will not only have a long run this offseason, but he will get another chance in the future years. Hopefully, his loyalty to the Twins is rewarded with a World Series. We should all hope that for Mauer.
We also hope that for Wright, but unfortunately, it seems less likely he will get the chance Mauer seems to have in front of him.