In what may be the last time Michael Conforto plays at Citi Field as a member of the New York Mets, he would have a night to remember. He was 3-for-5 with a run, double, and two RBI. That double came in his final at-bat of the night:
Michael Conforto puts a cap on his day with a ground-rule double! 3 hits on the night! pic.twitter.com/nCyZEOc6k7
— SNY (@SNYtv) October 1, 2021
This night was the type of night we always expected from Conforto. He had clutch hits and terrific defensive plays in right field. The fans serenaded him and begged him to stay. It was just an emotional night with him at center stage:
Michael Conforto gets his ovation 👏 pic.twitter.com/XubI2SAWlr
— SNY (@SNYtv) October 1, 2021
If we look at just last night, it was a fitting end to Conforto’s time in New York, at least the Citi Field portion. However, expanding it out, it just doesn’t feel like Conforto would be leaving the right way. There is just too much unfinished business for him here.
When Conforto was first called up, we saw a superstar. In his rookie year, he certainly delivered on that. Yes, we will always go back to the two home runs in Game Four of the 205 World Series, but it was much more than that. As an aside, the fact we don’t call that Conforto Corner is our collective failure.
He’d homer in Game 2 of the NLDS. He had a sacrifice fly in Game 1 of the World Series. In a moment forever burned in my memory, Conforto came up to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning in Game Five. The Mets were down 7-2, there were two outs, and he was down in the count 1-2 to Wade Davis. Conforto didn’t give up. In fact, he would single.
In many ways, that is what should truly define Conforto’s tenure with the New York Mets – He didn’t give up.
After that rookie season, he would come out and establish himself as the best player on the Mets at the start of the 2016 season. That was until he got hurt. Between the injury and changing positions, Conforto fought it all year long. Instead of acknowledging the impact of the injury, an unfair narrative emerged. They put the label on him he couldn’t hit left-handed pitching and that Madison Bumgarner broke him.
It seems dumb in retrospect, but Conforto wasn’t quite guaranteed a starting job in 2017. Conforto would force his way into the lineup, and he would emerge as a new style of lead-off hitter. He would become an All-Star. At the time, it seemed like the first of many. Unfortunately, partially because of a devastating shoulder injury, to date, it would be Conforto’s only appearance.
It was a downright miracle Conforto was ready for Opening Day in 2018. Actually, it was a miracle and downright malpractice by the Mets organization. Instead of giving him the time he really needed, they pushed him forward. He struggled early on leaving many to wonder if he would ever fulfill his promise; if the injury robbed him of his career.
Conforto would have a strong second half in 2018, and he would carry that forward into 2019. He’d do that while moving to right field to help the team, and he would do it while being a leader. Early on, the Mets knew Conforto was a true leader. It wasn’t that the Wilpons saw and pushed it like they did with David Wright. Rather, it was what the clubhouse themselves saw.
Players like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson would take Conforto under their wing and help guide him. This would pay dividends later as Conforto would emerge as the true leader in the clubhouse. He was always front and center answering questions, and he made sure to quash any problems which could emerge in the Mets clubhouse as a result of the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal.
In the disaster that was the 2020 season, Conforto was one of the best players in all of baseball. While the Mets did falter, Conforto was truly great. By OPS+, it was his best year at the plate. He was that .300 hitter we all knew he could be one day. If there was an All-Star team, he would’ve been one. This is where his career should have springboarded.
With Conforto’s Job like luck, he’d get COVID entering Spring Training. Then, he’d suffer a hamstring injury. This really robbed him of the chance to get get up to game shape and speed. Like in 2016 and 2018, he would struggle. But this is Michael Conforto, he just wouldn’t give up.
Starting in August, we saw the real Conforto again. Over his final 57 games of the season (with three still to go), he hit .266/.367/.441 with 10 doubles, seven homers, and 28 RBI. That’s in a year where he had every reason to never recover or put up any good numbers. As discussed above, he would have one final great moment at Citi Field in a Mets uniform.
Now, Conforto is heading into free agency. Between the Mets front office in flux, his agent being Scott Boras, and the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, no one knows what this means for Conforto and his time on the New York Mets. In many ways, it would be unfair to him and the fans to see it end like this.
Conforto has more in him, and he has a destiny to fulfill here. Conforto deserves a World Series, and he deserves it with the Mets. If he stays, it can and will happen. After all, as we’ve seen throughout his Mets career, he just doesn’t give up, and he will keep coming back and doing great things. The Mets need to just keep him around longer to let him do that in right field in Citi Field where he hit the two homers in Game Four.
The New York Mets obtained Javier Baez to be a difference maker as the team tries to hold on and win the division. In the 5-3 win against the Miami Marlins he was just that.
Gonna watch this Javy slide on repeat the rest of the night ✨ pic.twitter.com/fZeq8eFB6w
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 4, 2021
The Mets would eventually blow that 3-0 lead, but they’d get the lead back in the eighth when Baez hit the go-ahead homer in what would become a Mets 5-3 win:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 5, 2021
In that game, Baez was much more Cespedes than Bruce. If that continues, the Mets will win this division. After that, if everyone gets heathy, who knows?
After a terrible start to the season, longtime Major Leaguer Jay Bruce has announced his retirement from baseball. In his 14 years, Bruce was a three time All-Star and a two time Silver Slugger. More than that, he was one of the most respected players in the game.
We saw that during Bruce’s time with the New York Mets. When Bruce first came to the Mets in a 2016 trade, he struggled mightily. Despite the struggles and adapting to New York as the team was desperately trying to fight their way to a Wild Card spot, Bruce would turn it on late in the season.
Over the final eight games of the season, Bruce was unstoppable hitting .480/.536/1.000. That stretch helped the Mets lock up the top Wild Card spot, and it lead to one of the funnier celebrations we have ever seen.
— First Time Long Time (@MetsFTLT) October 1, 2016
Bruce would return to the Mets in 2017, and he was great. His 121 OPS+ with the Mets that season would have been the third best offensive season of his career. The .841 OPS would have been his second best mark. Put another way, the Mets would get to see the best of Bruce, and it was truly a pleasure to watch.
It wasn’t just the offense or play on the field, it was the leadership. Bruce took young players under his wing and helped them. One player he really helped was Michael Conforto. He not only helped Conforto find his voice, but he helped him learn how to lead. The Mets are still reaping dividends from that to this day.
Unfortunately, the Mets didn’t win that 2016 Wild Card Game, and they fell apart in 2017. That would see many beloved players traded, and that eventually included Bruce. He’d go to Cleveland where he would have a good ALDS against the New York Yankees, but the Indians would lose that series.
Unfortunately, Bruce would never win that elusive World Series. He didn’t get it with the Mets in his first or second stint. He also didn’t get it with the Cincinnati Reds where he was part of a quite impressive young core of players. To this day, Bruce said the favorite moment of his career was his walk-off homer to clinch the Reds division title in 2010:
It’s unfortunate Bruce never did get an opportunity to play for a winner again after that 2016 season. He was a good player and better person you would have liked to see win at least one. He was a player who had a positive impact on many clubhouses and people. Each and every franchise was better for having him with their organization.
Right now, the playing chapter of Bruce’s career is over. It was a very good career, one with two top 10 MVP finishes. Based on how everyone has something positive to say about him and the impact he has had on many people, we should hopefully continue his career in baseball in some other capacity. The sport can use people like him staying in the game.
But for now, this is about Bruce the player. Congratulations to him on the end of his career and nothing but the best to him in the future.
Absurd, right? Well beyond absurd. No one in their right mind would ever do that. Right?
Sadly, it’s true. That’s what Gary Disarcina did. Sorry, Mets INFIELD COACH Gary Disarcina.
Disarcina spoke about how Guillorme has limited range and how he should learn first base to become a more versatile utility player. Yes, it was couched as a positive, but saying your second best defensive infielder has limited range is an unnecessary criticism.
Gold Glove play by Guillorme pic.twitter.com/tdazv3cwaa
— MetsFanMania (@MetsFanMania) March 14, 2021
Luis Guillorme can pitch and make great plays in the field. Versatility >>> pic.twitter.com/uzEQkSyYb2
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 11, 2020
Guillorme wasn’t the only player Disarcina critiqued. He also spoke about Davis’ defense. Now, given how he was critical of Guillorme, you could only imagine what he had to say about Davis.
As reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post, Disarcina said, “he’s been ‘pleased’ with Davis’ work [at third] this spring.” He also spoke about analytics helping Davis and that Davis has “definitely improved.”
The article also spoke about wanting to make Davis work at third because they want to keep his bat in the lineup and Guillorme on the bench.
That’s right. The Mets are actively ignoring Guillorme continuing to prove himself as an everyday player to make something work that hasn’t. Remember, Davis has been among the worst defenders in Mets history.
Now, they have Disarcina saying Guillorme has poor range and needs to learn first to become more versatile while saying he’s pleased with Davis’ progress. Maybe we should consider the source.
Disarcina was the bench coach who couldn’t properly run QC leading to Jay Bruce batting out of order. He’s also been completely unable to help Mets infielders defensively.
Remember, Disarcina has been coaching Davis for two years now, and Davis has only regressed. Jeff McNeil was a good third baseman, and he struggled under Disarcina’s tutelage last year.
There’s also Amed Rosario. Rosario was an exceptionally gifted prospect who many thought could win a Gold Glove one day. Instead, while working with Disarcina, Rosario was actually the worst defensive shortstop in baseball and fourth worst defender overall.
This same coach is now going to say Guillorme has limited range while working on his versatility to be a better bench player? He’s going to say he’s finally getting through to Davis?
It’s an embarrassing series of statements devoid of any credibility. It really only highlights how poor of a coach Disarcina has been and just which direction the Mets want to go.
At this point, they’d rather try to go with someone who is among the worst fielders in Mets history over the better player who has earned the job. For some reason, the Mets and Disarcina thought they should prop up one player while taking subtle shots at the better player.
It’s ridiculous and hopefully dishonest.
When manager Luis Rojas was asked to name team leaders, Conforto was the first name he mentioned saying Conforto “stands out.”
When Dominic Smith grappled with decisions like kneeling or even playing this summer, Conforto told him he wish he knew Smith was going to kneel so he could be by him. He was then right by Smith’s side when he spoke out about racial injustice.
When it became clear Jake Marisnick and J.D. Davis were not only part of the Houston Astros sign stealing controversy, but also cheated against pitchers on this Mets team, Conforto said three important things: (1) Astros crossed the line; (2) it was going to be addressed; and (3) there was not going to be any animosity.
In the history of the Mets, there has been no more obvious choice for Captain since Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter. This is a homegrown Met who is perfect to lead this team as they embark on a new era.
He’s also still a very good player who has had great moments. After he moved past his shoulder injury, he’s had a 135 OPS+. We know he’s capable of more too.
He’s an All-Star caliber player who can hit anywhere in the lineup, and he’s been a good defender. He’s also a team player willing to move to any position to help the team.
Conforto is the Captain in every possible way. Once the Mets give him the contract extension he’s earned, it’s time to formally announce him as the fifth Captain in team history.
There are times when teams make trades they appear bad in hindsight. The classic example of this was the Nolan Ryan trade. Ryan was an enigmatic right-hander the Mets just couldn’t quite figure out, and they were going to get a former All-Star in Jim Fregosi to handle third. At the time, it made sense, but as time passed it looked worse and worse.
Then there is the Robinson Cano trade.
This was a trade deemed flat out dumb at its inception. It wasn’t just that Cano had what many perceived to be an untradeable contract. That was partially because he was already in his mid 30s. Mostly, it was because he was coming off of a PED suspension which should have cast serious doubt over not only his career stats, but also his ability to produce as he aged. Of course, Brodie Van Wagenen was the one person who actually bought the bogus explanation.
Brodie says he's comfortable with Cano and the violation. Said it was a suspension for a diaretic not steroids.
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) December 4, 2018
Despite all the red flags and warnings, Van Wagenen went forward to rescue his former client from Seattle to return him to New York like Cano wanted. In the process, he made what ranks among the worst, if not the worst, trades in all of Mets history. Certainly, it is easily the worst Mets trade this century.
Each and every year which passes, this trade gets worse and worse. To put it in perspective, all we need to do is examine where the pieces of this trade are and will be in 2021:
Gerson Bautista – after dealing with injury issues has signed a minor league deal to return to the Seattle Mariners.
Jay Bruce – Free agent whose $14 million is off the books available for now the Philadelphia Phillies to invest this offseason.
Justin Dunn – projected to be part of the Mariners Opening Day rotation after posting a 104 ERA+ over the past two seasons. Notably, the Mets are looking to build not only a 2021 pitching rotation, but also pitching depth.
Jarred Kelenic – widely seen as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and he may very well make his MLB debut at some point during the 2021 season.
Anthony Swarzak – did not pitch last year after making $8.5 million in 2019.
Edwin Diaz – after a terrible 2019, he rebounded to have a strong 2020 season albeit one with four blown saves in 10 attempts. The question for him in 2021 is whether his good year, bad year pattern continues.
Really, Diaz is it for the Mets return because Cano is not going to play in 2021. There is now a question about whether he actually plays another game again. Certainly, you could argue the Mets would look to buy him out at some point or just flat out release him. Who knows?
The only thing we do know is Cano is out of baseball in 2021. Perhaps, that is a large reason why Van Wagenen and the person who hired him, Jeff Wilpon, will also be out of baseball. In fact, this trio may very well be and probably should be out for good. That will give them all a front row seat to seeing Kelenic and Dunn lead the Mariners organization back to postseason contention.
According to reports, Steve Cohen is bringing Sandy Anderson back to the Mets as an advisor, and he is planning on finding a replacement for Brodie Van Wagenen. Both are excellent and needed decisions.
When it comes to Van Wagenen, it’s difficult to quantify exactly how much damage he has done to the well built and talented Mets organization gift wrapped to him from Alderson. Essentially, all that Alderson built needs to be rebuilt.
Van Wagenen was given a starting staff comprised of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. Behind them were well regarded prospects in Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, and Simeon Woods Richardson.
The Mets rotation over the final week of the 2020 season will be deGrom, Rick Porcello, maybe Matz, and who knows what else?
The position player core was remarkably cheap and talented. There was Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Dominic Smith, and Amed Rosario. Behind them was Andres Gimenez and Jarred Kelenic.
Sure, there were some bad contracts, but they were short term in nature, and they were not going to serve as an impediment to either building on or retaining this core.
For example, the Jay Bruce and Yoenis Cespedes contacts were set to expire after this season. That coincided perfectly with having to have the money to re-sign deGrom and to have extension talks with Conforto, Matz, and Syndergaard.
Instead, the Mets no longer have Kelenic giving them a buffet against losing one of Conforto or Nimmo. They also have Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract on the books which already served as an impediment to re-signing Wheeler.
That’s nothing to say of the quality prospect purge in the same of finding a late inning defensive replacement in center for a team who already had Juan Lagares and adding J.D. Davis to a team already overstocked in 1B/DH players.
Couple this with the Mets getting rid of Wilmer Flores for nothing only for him to be more productive than anyone Van Wagenen brought into the organization and signing Jed Lowrie for $20 million to get eight pinch hitting attempts, and the Van Wagenen stint as GM has been an unmitigated disaster.
If you want to point to Van Wagenen’s drafts as a positive, you should. However, in doing that, remember, that was a scouting group built by Alderson and Omar Minaya. The Mets will be keeping both advisors.
When you take everything into account, Alderson built the Mets to be a competitive team in 2019 and 2020. With any luck, he had a deep farm system to make the types of trades he made in 2015 to help get the team over the top.
The real window for this Mets team was supposed to open in 2021. Given the talent on the Major League roster and in the farm system, it promised to be a 1980s like run.
Instead, Alderson is back to figure out how yo fix this mess. Fortunately for him, he won’t have Van Wagenen or Jeff Wilpon standing in his way. Instead, he will have an owner with deep pockets who intends to let smart baseball people like Alderson do their jobs.
For all his bravado, Brodie Van Wagenen has not only stripped the farm system down, but he did it while impinging the Major League roster’s ability to compete for a World Series. To put it in perspective, let’s just look at what the Mets roster would look like right now if Van Wagenen only kept the Mets players in the organization had he not taken the job, or, if he did nothing.
Some caveats here. This assumes free agents were re-signed. Without the Robinson Cano deal, that would’ve been possible. Also, it assumes the same players who are injured for the season would remain injured. Finally, this will eliminate those players not on active 28 man rosters. With that in mind, here’s what the 2020 Mets would’ve looked like.
2B Jeff McNeil
3B Todd Frazier
SS Amed Rosario
CF Juan Lagares
DH Pete Alonso
INF Wilmer Flores
1B/OF Jay Bruce
INF Luis Guillorme
RHP Jacob deGrom
RHP Zack Wheeler
LHP Steven Matz
LHP Anthony Kay
LHP David Peterson
RHP Seth Lugo
RHP Rafael Montero
RHP Justin Dunn
RHP Robert Gsellman
RHP Drew Smith
LHP Blake Taylor
RHP Bobby Wahl
LHP Daniel Zamora
RHP Paul Sewald
RHP Franklyn Kilome
Looking at the team overall, the starting pitching is vastly superior as is the team defense. The bullpen may not be as deep, but they certainly have the arms.
Overall, this non-Van Wagenen impacted roster would’ve certainly been better than the 9-14 team his Mets roster is. This just goes to show you how bad of a GM Van Wagenen is.
He’s made the Mets worse in 2020, and he’s made the Mets future less promising. You could not have done a worse job than Van Wagenen has done.
Back in the day, we have talked about how Keith Hernandez was the player the Mets acquired who provided leadership to a young Mets team to help them fulfill their full potential and become World Series champions. To a certain extent, Curtis Granderson did the same thing for the 2015 Mets team.
Granderson made himself a friend to Mets fans everywhere by saying, “I’ve heard true New Yorkers are Mets fans.” He would do far more than that in his career to forever endear himself to Mets fans.
It wasn’t that way immediately as Granderson would struggle much in the same way many Mets players did in their first year with the Mets. There could be a number of reasons why that happened, including but not limited to the original cavernous configuration of Citi Field.
They fixed the ballpark in the offseason, and Granderson was more comfortable as a member of the Mets. That would show in his play on the field and in how much of a leadership role he would take. That leadership was needed in a season where David Wright left a void with his career altering injury.
Speaking of injuries, at times, Granderson seemed like the lone professional bat in the Mets lineup. The team had squandered an early season lead. It was basically Granderson and the starting pitching staff keeping the Mets afloat until the regulars got healthy, and Sandy Alderson brought in reinforcements.
In that 2015 season, Granderson led the Mets position players in WAR, and he was second in wRC+. He was also a finalist for the Gold Glove in right field. Looking at it, he was really doing everything the team needed from him. Not only did his contributions during the time the Mets were struggling to keep their head above water, so were his contributions in the stretch run.
While Yoenis Cespedes did receive much of the credit, Granderson had the second highest WAR and wRC+ on the team during that stretch where the Mets went from a pivotal series against the Nationals to winning the division by seven games.
Granderson was great in the NLDS against the Dodgers when they needed everything this team had to beat them. That included him having a five RBI game in Game 3. In Game 5, he led off the game with an infield single, and he scored from first on a Daniel Murphy double giving the Mets an early 1-0 lead in a game they’d eventually win 3-2.
Granderson had his best performance in the World Series, and in an alternate universe, he likely would’ve been the World Series MVP. That began with Game 1 where, if not for Alex Gordon hitting a two out homer against Jeurys Familia in the bottom of the ninth, he would’ve had a key home run which tied the game propelling the Mets to victory.
In that series, he would hit three homers, each of which would tie the game or give the Mets the lead. That includes his electrifying homer in Game 3, the only game the Mets won in that series:
Granderson helped lead the Mets that game like he did all season. He homered again in Game 5, and for a moment, it appeared like that was going to force a Game 6, but we know how it all ended.
In 2016, Granderson did not have the same impact, but he was once again an important player. By WAR, he was the team’s third best player. However, it was more than that. When the team needed him to move down the lineup to bat clean-up, he did. With Cespedes and Michael Conforto dealing with injuries, and the team adding Jay Bruce at the trade deadline, Granderson shifted to center field because that’s what the team needed him to do, and he did whatever the team needed. For a moment, he made a dazzling play in the Wild Card Game which, now, is very Endy Chavez-esque:
As we know, Granderson is much more than just a ballplayer. He won the Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable work during his time in New York. Actually, it was for all he had done in his career. He’s also won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award four times, which is two more than anyone else in Major League history. Overall, he was such a good ballplayer and even better person that they should build a wing in the Hall of Fame for people like him.
When you look at players in Mets history who have worn the number 3, none have had a bigger impact on and off the field. If not for Babe Ruth, you might’ve been able to say that for all of baseball history.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Granderson was the third best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 3.
Since David Wright has retired, there has been some question over who should be the next captain of the New York Mets, or even if there should ever be another captain. In the event the Mets do ever seek to name a new captain, they have a roster full of homegrown players who could step up and be exactly that leader the next Mets captain needs to be.
The popular choice is Pete Alonso. That choice is inspired, and Alonso has shown himself worthy. In addition to a record setting rookie season, he showed himself to be a great teammate by and through his friendship with Dominic Smith, and he showed true leadership with the 9/11 cleats.
Another very worthy candidate is Michael Conforto.
In his five year career, Conforto has seen it all. He was the phenom how helped the Mets win the 2015 pennant. He was there for the Mets tearing down that roster to build it back up. He has handled his own injury problems, and he has been bounced around the outfield to suit the Mets needs.
He’s been a future superstar, a platoon player, a bust, an All Star, a what could’ve been, and finally, a good baseball player again who is a part of a team who could win the World Series.
More than anyone, Conforto knows what it is like being a Met when times are a good and when times are bad. In some ways, he had a career arc not too different than what we saw with David Wright, albeit on a truncated and less dramatic scale. On that note, Conforto was there when Wright battled back from spinal stenosis, and he was there to learn from him.
Conforto was also there learning from other leaders like Jay Bruce, Michael Cuddyer, and Curtis Granderson. In fact, when Bruce and Granderson were traded away in 2017, it was Conforto who initially had to step up and fill the leadership void, something which became difficult as he dealt with a potentially career ending surgery.
It has become quite clear Conforto learned from people like Bruce, Cuddyer, Granderson, and Wright.
Right now, the biggest issue in baseball has been the sign stealing. That scandal has impacted the Mets as they have already lost a manager in Carlos Beltran before he even managed a game. One of their best pitchers, Marcus Stroman, has been quite vocal in his issues with the Astros sign stealing. While we haven’t seen public statements, there are reports Jacob deGrom and Edwin Diaz are similarly angry.
With J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick having been part of that 2017 Astros team, that could be very problematic for this Mets clubhouse. That is an even bigger issue with Marisnick doubling off Stroman in a specific game Stroman commented saying the Astros were “Ruining the integrity of the game.”
This is the type of situation which begs for someone to step up and tackle this issue before it is a problem either in the clubhouse or publicly. Right away, Conforto has stepped up and tried to take control of the message:
Michael Conforto said there won’t be any animosity from Mets teammates toward 2017 Astros Jake Marisnick and J.D. Davis.
“But I’m sure there will be conversations about it.”
Conforto was clear that the Astros crossed a line, but he won’t hold it against Marisnick/Davis.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 11, 2020
This is exactly what you need from a captain of your team. You need someone to have the savvy to disspell any notion of internal strife and have the status in the clubhouse to make sure that this will in fact be the case. In that statement, we see while he may not be the captain, Conforto remains a leader in that Mets clubhouse.
Conforto has indicated he loves being a Met, and he would be open to a contract extension. If the Mets step up and make him a Met for life, it would be fitting to also named him the next captain in team history as he is showing he is a leader, knows how to handle everything which has come the Mets way, and ultimately, he is the type of player and person who would make a good captain.