With the Mets winning 8-6 yesterday in what was an odd and messy game between two also rans, the Mets took the season series against the Nationals for the first time since 2015.
This only underscores just how vulnerable the Nationals were this year.
There was an opportunity for the Mets to take this division. The Mets record against the rest of the NL East further proves this out:
- Atlanta 4-12
- Philadelphia 11-8
- Miami 10-6
Even with their struggles against the Braves, the Mets are two games over .500 in the division. Seeing how well the Mets performed in their own division, you have to question what went wrong.
We all know the answer. It was that 5-21 June.
All of this offset a Jose Bautista return to form making him a surprise contributor. Still, that Bautista contributing highlights a key problem.
The Mets answer is always to go older, older and more injury prone. We see the Mets have a healthy foster, they can compete, but when are they ever healthy?
The McNeil case was the worst of them all.
First, he wasn’t much of a prospect. Then, he couldn’t play third base. Now, the Mets are pinpointing second as a position they could upgrade at this offseason. They wouldn’t feel this way if they observed McNeil this season.
This is emblematic of how this organization’s views on how to build a roster. Worse yet, despite evidence to the contrary, they repeat this behavior.
This is why 2018 fell apart. That is why we should treat the 2019 version with skepticism, at least until such time as the Mets change the way they conduct their business.
That’s why, even with the this window opening, the Mets could not take advantage. If they continue operating the same way, they’ll continue not competing.
Mets folk hero and utility player Wilmer Flores has been diagnosed with arthritis in both of his knees, and there are some indications the Mets are will non-tender him this offseason making him a free agent a year earlier than scheduled. In many ways, this seems like an odd decision.
For starters, the Mets have not shied away from giving money to injured and injury prone players. The Mets gave Yoenis Cespedes $110 million knowing he had calcified heels which would one day require surgical correction. In a similar circumstance to Flores, the Mets opted to keep Matt Harvey by giving him $5.625 million despite Harvey’s Tommy John, TOS, and stress reaction issues over the past four years.
Perhaps more analogous to the aforementioned situatiosn, the Mets gave Jay Bruce $39 million even though the team had no need for a left-hand hitting corner outfielder and Bruce having a history of knee issues. In fact, back in 2014, Bruce would have surgery to repair partially torn meniscus. As noted by UW Medicine, a torn meniscus could lead to arthritis. While we do not know if Bruce has arthritis or not, that is an assumed risk the Mets took despite having Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo on the 40 man roster.
When it comes to Bruce, what the Mets really cared about here was production and Bruce’s ability to stay on the field. It was a risk that backfired. What is interesting with Flores is he was able to stay on the field, and he was able to produce.
From June 15th until September 1st, Flores was an everyday player for the Mets. In that stretch, he hit .281/.325/.446 with 17 doubles, eight homers, and 35 RBI. Over this stretch, he had a 110 wRC+. Among players with 250 plate appearances over this stretch, that wRC+ was fourth best among MLB first basemen. It would have also ranked as fourth best among second baseman and sixth among third baseman.
Overall, Flores’ bat will play at any infield position. More than that, time and again, we have seen Flores is capable of taking over a position for an extended stretch of time while giving the Mets good production. That’s an important thing when the Mets actively signs players like Bruce who they will know will miss time.
When further analyzing the roster, you realize the Mets need Flores’ right-handed bat.
Looking at the projected 2019 roster, the Mets are going to heavily rely on left-handed bats. In addition to Bruce, Conforto, and Nimmo, the Mets also have Jeff McNeil. Outside of Todd Frazier, the Mets do not have any real right-handed power bats on the roster. It’s possible Amed Rosario could be that one day, but he’s not there yet.
Point being, when the Mets face a tough left-handed pitcher, they will need a player like Flores who they can put into the lineup. He could spell McNeil at second, or he could move over to first for Bruce. With respect to Bruce, it would help keep him fresher and hopefully more productive.
You could argue this spot could be filled by T.J. Rivera, but no one knows if he will be able to play next year. More than that, the Mets would be a stronger team with a stronger bench if they have both Flores and Rivera.
This is not to suggest Flores isn’t without his flaws. He is not a good defender at any position even if he is passable on the right side of the infield. While his knees have not forced him to the disabled list, he has been injury prone, even if they are freak injuries like him fouling a ball off his face.
Still, Flores is a player who is a perfect fit for this roster. More than that, he is a player who is a fan favorite, and he has shown himself to be clutch as well with him being the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI. Taking all of this into account, the Mets would be foolish to parts ways with Flores over a one-year commitment, especially when we know the Mets will not reinvest that money and sign a player anywhere near as good as Flores.
Like two nights ago, the Mets had the opportunity to take out one of the leading Cy Young candidates to help Jacob deGrom‘s Cy Young case. Like with the game against Aaron Nola, the Mets dealt a small blow but could not deliver the knockout punch.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 21, 2018
The one weakness in Max Scherzer‘s game this year was the long ball, and the Mets took full advantage. Conversely, the major strength in Scherzer’s game was the strikeout, and he mowed down the Mets.
After the Bruce homer, the Mets had just one hit and one walk, which did allow Scherzer to go seven. In total, Scherzer increased his lead over deGrom in innings and strikeouts, but his ERA rose .04.
For a while, it seemed as if the Mets were going to hit Scherzer with a loss because somehow someway Jason Vargas was out-pitching Scherzer.
After Scherzer was pulled, the Mets immediately went to work against left-handed reliever Matt Grace.
Jeff McNeil hit a leadoff triple, and he’d come home on a Bruce single past the drawn-in infield to give the Mets a 4-2 lead. It wasn’t enough for this Mets bullpen.
Anthony Swarzak allowed the first two to reach in the bottom of the eighth, and Daniel Zamora would come on to face Bryce Harper. In the lengthy at-bat. Zamora would get the best of Harper who just missed out as he flew out to deep right field.
With that, Scherzer was off the hook. With us living in a world where deGrom may win the Cy Young with a losing record, the loss was probably inconsequential.
The game would go extras, and the Mets seemed poised to end it early with them loading the bases in the 10th with just one out.
However, even with Greg Holland losing the strike zone having thrown seven straight balls, Jack Reinheimer swung at a 1-0 pitch and hit a soft tapper to Holland, who started the inning ending 1-2-3 double play.
In that 10th inning, McNeil was surprisingly sent up to bunt. In that at-bat, home plate umpire made a few very questionable strike calls, including ruling McNeil bunted at a pitch. This led Mickey Callaway to flip and earn his second career ejection.
In the 11th, Brandon Nimmo hit a leadoff double, and he would be stranded there.
What was surprising was how Jacob Rhame returned serve. After allowing a leadoff double to Ryan Zimmerman, who tagged up and moved to third on a Matt Wieters line out, Rhame would strike out Mark Reynolds and Victor Robles to end the inning.
Finally, in the 12th, the Mets retook the lead.
The bases were loaded after Conforto was intentionally walked, and Bruce walked after him. Jose Lobaton pinch hit for Rhame, and he delivered with a go-ahead sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 5-4 lead.
Paul Sewald was given the 12th, and he delivered his second career save with a 1-2-3 inning. Just because it was a 1-2-3 inning, it doesn’t mean it was uneventful.
After Heyward was called out on a pitch outside the strike zone, he argued the call, and he was tossed by Home Plate Umpire D.J. Reyburn. Heyward didn’t even bother going to the clubhouse. Instead, he watched the final out from the bench.
Come next week, Harper will join the Mets in watching games from the bench as the Nationals will soon be eliminated from the postseason.
Game Notes: Wilmer Flores was shut down for the rest of the year after being diagnosed with arthritis in his knees.
One of the two teams tonight was the best team in baseball. The other was the Boston Red Sox.
It’s an absurd statement for sure, and yet with the bats going and Noah Syndergaard dealing, the Mets looked like world beaters.
Over seven innings, Syndergaard allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out six. He really kept the Red Sox at bay at the plate but not the basepaths.
There were three stolen bases with the most egregious being an Ian Kinsler stolen base. On the play, Kindler basically walked to second (not an exaggeration). Syndergaard would get his revenge by picking off Kinsler in the sixth.
The stolen bases wouldn’t matter as the Red Sox couldn’t touch Syndergaard. Simultaneously, the Red Sox could not get the Mets out.
Left-handed pitcher William Cuevas would make his first career start, and he wouldn’t last long partially because he couldn’t get left-handed hitters out.
Brian Johnson would come on for the Red Sox and calm things down. Still Jeff McNeil would get to him hitting his third homer of the season. McNeil had yet another multi-hit game, and he had an incredible defensive play to end the seventh:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 15, 2018
The Mets offense wasn’t done either. In the eighth inning against Tyler Thornburg, Austin Jackson and Amed Rosario would homer giving the Mets an 8-0 lead. The Rosario homer was a classic majestic shot over the Green Monster. Like McNeil, Rosario had yet another multi-hit game himself.
That left Jerry Blevins and Tyler Bashlor to close up shop. With their two scoreless innings, the Mets shut out the best offensive team in the majors. In fact, the Red Sox have the most runs and RBI with the best team batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS. They have the second highest wRC+.
For their part, the Mets had Thor. That’s why they won.
Game Notes: It was the sixth time all season the Red Sox were shut out. There was a rat running in the Mets dugout during the game. It was not a Wilpon or Jose Reyes.
Tomas Nido, who was catching either because Kevin Plawecki was hit with another pitch or because Noah Syndergaard likes having a personal catcher, cleared the bases with an RBI double to give the Mets a 3-0 second inning lead.
3⃣ drives in 3⃣.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 8, 2018
Don't mess with the big dog. 💪 pic.twitter.com/Zt1SEFxUCy
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 9, 2018
Jeff McNeil was great going 3-for-5 with two runs, and a triple. Michael Conforto surpassed Asdrubal Cabrera for the team lead in RBI. Not too long ago, Conforto also surpassed Cabrera for the team lead in homers. Jay Bruce looked good again at the plate going 2-for-2 with two runs, an RBI, and two walks.
However, this is the Mets, so nothing can be this easy. Not even in a 10-5 win that they led 7-0 heading into the sixth and 9-2 after six.
Speaking of Reinheimer, you’d be hard pressed to explain why he’s here and Luis Guillorme isn’t.
That wasn’t the worst of it. No, that was Cesar Hernandez hitting a hard liner that went off Syndergaard’s ribs. It may have chased him from the game, but he was able to laugh about it later:
— Erin Fish (@Erinnicolefish) September 9, 2018
Syndergaard’s final line was 6.2 innings, 12 hits, four runs, four earned, five walks, and four strikeouts. The low strikeouts are alarming, but not as much as the walks or the career high in hits allowed.
Still, this was mostly a fun game with some terrific signs for the Mets going forward. Here’s hoping the Mets didn’t burn through all their offense for this series with Jacob deGrom going Sunday.
If you’ve been to or watched Mets alumni at Citi Field for events like the 30th Anniversary of the 1986 World Series or Mike Piazza‘s number retirement, you will see just how much former Mets respect and revere David Wright.
What makes those moments so special is you see Wright look on with admiration at players he grew up rooting for as a child, and they treat him as an equal. There is a mutual respect between Mets greats.
As we are seeing with the Mets yet again, this mutual respect is shared between Mets players but not ownership. No, the Wilpons just have a way of alienating themselves with players like they have with the fans.
One interesting note is how prominent Mets who have played for both the Mets and Yankees are more closely affiliated with the Yankees organization. David Cone and Al Leiter have worked for YES. We’ve seen them and players like Dwight Gooden participate in Old Timer’s Day.
Part of the reason we see these Mets with the Yankees is because of the World Series titles. We also see the Yankees making the efforts to bring these players back. More importantly, these players have typically received better treatment from the Yankees than they have the Mets.
For example, could you imagine the Yankees removing a popular player’s signature from the walls of their stadium? Would you see them turning Monument Park into an unkept portion of their team store?
More importantly, could you see the Yankees handling the Wright situation in the matter the Mets have? It’s extremely doubtful.
Over what amounts to less than $5 million, the Mets are not going to let Wright play again. For what it’s worth, the Mets have that money socked away from the trades of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia and maybe even the insurance from Yoenis Cespedes.
Sure, the Mets have offered other reasons, rather excuses. They’re going to rely on medical reports (even though he’s been cleared to play baseball games). They’ve said there’s a higher standard of medical clearance to play in MLB as opposed to minor league games.
Now, the Mets are moving the perceived goalposts by saying the team wants him to be a regular player as opposed to a “ceremonial” player or pinch hitter.
Of course, Wright being an everyday player is a bit difficult with the presence of Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Wilmer Flores. It’s also more difficult due to Wright’s own personal physical limitations.
Of course, the Mets don’t know what Wright wants or feels like he’s capable of doing because John Ricco admits to not talking to Wright about all of this.
Seeing how all of this has transpired and how the Mets have opted to operate their business, especially post Madoff, this is about the insurance money.
While Wright has always said the Wright thing and has never been truly critical of the organization, everyone has their breaking point, and this could be his.
Much like we’ve seen with former Mets greats, Wright may be so aggrieved, he just stays away (not that the Mets give players reasons to return with event like Old Timer’s Day). And seeing how Wright has been treated, we may see the same thing with fans and other former players because, at the end of the day, no one should be alright with how this is transpiring.
Sadly, unlike the greats of Mets past, there’s no other home for him. The Mets are it.
So while we’re seeing what could be Wright’s final chance, we may be seeing the end of Wright before he fades away forever. That could be the saddest thing of all, and it was all over a few million.
Tonight, the new NFL season officially begins with the Atlanta Falcons taking on the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. With that, for the first time since Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals claimed their first Stanley Cup, Major League Baseball no longer has the stage all to themselves.
That’s a big problem for the New York Mets.
On Sunday, the Mets are going to take on the Philadelphia Phillies at the same time the New York Giants will begin their season at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With respect to the Giants, they are a team featuring a new head coach, the second overall pick from the draft, and of course, future Hall of Famer Eli Manning.
On Monday, the Sam Darnold Era begins as the Jets travel to Detroit to play the Lions on Monday Night Football. At the same time, the Mets will be hosting the Miami Marlins on Bark at the Park Night.
Certainly, the early NFL season offers optimism for both Jets and Giants fans. It also features young and exciting players who fans hope will serve as the cornerstones of their respective franchises for the next decade.
By the same token, the Mets have decided it was not time to call-up Peter Alonso, and have instead opted to play Jay Bruce at first base. For that matter, the team is not playing Dominic Smith at either first base or left field. Apparently, the team believes fans want to see Austin Jackson play center field over Brandon Nimmo.
That’s the problem with the New York Mets right now. Short of a Jacob deGrom start and possibly a Zack Wheeler start, the Mets are not offering you a real reason to tune into their games. That was one thing during the summer when baseball was the only show in town. However, with the NFL season staring along with your favorite TV shows beginning to roll out their season premieres, the Mets are going to fade further and further away.
Really, short of David Wright making a miraculous comeback, a proposition which seems less and less likely by the day, the Mets are not offering their fans much of a reason to watch.
Clearly, this is something which has been lost on the Mets franchise. It’s not just that they are a bad team who is 13 games under .500. Now, they’re a team overshadowed by the world around them. For the moment, it is something that will affect just September viewership and attendance. However, until the Mets fix something with their team, it is something that is going to plauge their 2019 season and beyond.
When Justin Turner hit a first inning home run off of Jacob deGrom, it was evident deGrom did not have his best stuff. After all, deGrom had not allowed a home run in his last 42 innings pitched. As it turned out, it really was a struggle for deGrom with him needing 109 pitches to get through six innings. That’s notably because he threw 108 pitches in each of his last three starts, and he went 9.0, 6.0, and 8.0 innings respectively.
Through all of his troubles tonight and him fighting it, deGrom’s final line was 6.0 innings, two hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and six strikeouts.
It’s at the point where deGrom is so good his inability to find himself and be on his A game leads him to having an absolutely terrific and dominant start. He’s been having a lot of those lately. In fact, with this quality start, deGrom set a new Mets record with 20 straight quality starts. It gets better. With deGrom allowing three earned runs or less in his past 25 starts, he has set a new MLB record.
And to think there are some people who don’t want to give him the Cy Young. Of course, those people’s justification is wins. Well, tonight was another exercise of how absurd that is.
While deGrom has been great all season, Alex Wood has been great of late, and the Mets do not hit left-handed batters well. More to the point, for some reason when the Mets have been playing good teams of late, they find ways to shoot themselves in the foot. Tonight was no exception.
In the first Wilmer Flores hit into an inning ending double play. In the second, Todd Frazier, who had made a fine catch in the game diving into the stands, was thrown out stealing to end the inning. In the third, Austin Jackson struck out to end the inning with runners at second and third. After all of that, deGrom needed to take control of things himself in the fifth inning.
After a Jay Bruce leadoff walk and a Devin Mesoraco single (he was lifted from the game and Jose Reyes pinch ran for him due to injury), Jeff McNeil hit into a double play leaving it up to deGrom to get Bruce home from third. With him using McNeil’s bat, deGrom delivered the RBI single tying the game at 1-1. Really, deGrom was doing all he could do out there with him combining his excellent pitching with him going 2-for-2 at the plate.
There was a chance deGrom was going to get into the seventh inning in this game to just allow him to hang around long enough to hope beyond hope the Mets put him in a position to win. However with an Amed Rosario error in the sixth inning, that pretty much ended that hope meaning the 8-8 deGrom was saddled with another no decision, and this was going to become a battle of the bullpens.
The Mets would win that battle as the offense would eventually break through and because the Mets bullpen did not break.
In the seventh, the Mets were close. They had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jackson couldn’t deliver the key hit. Well, if the Mets thought they were close, the Dodgers were even closer.
In the eighth, Drew Smith issued a two out walk to Turner which almost blew up in his face. If not for the low right field wall in Dodgers Stadium, it is likely Manny Machado‘s double gives the Dodgers a 2-1 lead instead of being a ground rule double putting runners at second and third with two outs. After getting Enrique Hernandez to fly out to center, Smith officially dodged a bullet.
Kenta Maeda was not dodging the same bullet in the ninth. After a Bruce leadoff double, Kevin Plawecki sacrificed him over to third base. After McNeil was hit by a pitch, the Mets had runners at the corners with one out setting the stage for Brandon Nimmo, who came on to pinch hit for Smith:
GOODBYE! 4-1 in the 9th! pic.twitter.com/CIzSoQvTGi
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 4, 2018
With Nimmo’s pinch hit three run homer, the Mets had an unlikely 4-1 lead, which Robert Gsellman had the task to save. It was not going to be easy for him and the Mets. After a replay review, the Dodgers had runners at the corners with no outs. The game was 4-2 after Grandal brought a run home with a sacrifice fly. That would be the final score as Gsellman induced Matt Kemp to hit into the game ending 6-4-3 double play.
So overall, the Mets won a game partially because of the six dominant innings he gave them, but for some reason, there is going to be a voter out there who is not going to put him atop the Cy Young ballot because of his 8-8 record.
When he was struggling earlier in the year, Noah Syndergaard was saying he was struggling now, but he’ll dominate in September. With how he had struggled in his last few starts, this seemed like a punchline waiting to happen. As it turns out, Syndergaard was right.
Yesterday, he was simply brilliant in his first ever complete game. If not for a Jay Bruce throwing error, on a ball he should not have pursued and probably not thrown, the Giants would not have had a base runner since the fourth inning.
If not for the Alen Hanson third inning triple, the Giants probably never score a run.
All told, Syndergaard allowed one run on just two hits while walking just one and striking out 11.
He’d get his 10th win of the season as the Mets gave Syndergaard run support starting with Michael Conforto‘s 20th homer of the season:
Syndergaard got more run support in the eighth as he helped himself a bit.
After a Tomas Nido leadoff single, Syndergaard bunted it just right enough of the pitcher to get Nido, who got a great jump, to second.
Amed Rosario singled to set up runners at the corners, and he’d then take the double play out of the equation by stealing second. Jeff McNeil brought him and Nido home with a two RBI single giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.
With that three run lead and Syndergaard still at 99 on the gun, Mickey Callaway had every excuse he needed to keep Syndergaard in the game.
The end result was a 114 pitch masterpiece and finally a return to the Thor we had been awaiting all season long.
Game Notes: Syndergaard’s 10 wins leads the team. With the win, Syndergaard became the first Met to beat the Giants two times in a year since Steve Trachsel did it in 2003.
Three years after his Major League debut, it’s still difficult to make heads or tails with Steven Matz. There are days he looks absolutely terrible, and then there are days like today.
In seven innings, he completely dominated the Giants with a career high 11 strikeouts. It was the first double digit strikeout game of his career.
Unfortunately for him, what was arguably the best start of his career was just a no decision as the Mets bats are ice cold and Evan Longoria hit a fourth inning solo homer off Matz. It was just one of three hits off Matz all day.
On the other side, Derek Holland was shutting down the Mets. He was not as dominant as Matz, but he was in control all game.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2018
In the sixth, the Mets had a chance to take the lead, but Todd Frazier had some really poor base running.
Worse yet, on a Michael Conforto infield single, Hanson picked Frazier off third base:
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) September 1, 2018
Finally, in the top of the 11th, one of these two teams would get a hit with Wilmer Flores leading off the inning with a double off Hunter Strickland. He’d move over on a Jay Bruce groundout, and he scored on a go-ahead Frazier sacrifice fly.
Robert Gsellman, who has been struggling of late, pitched a perfect ninth with some help from Nimmo:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2018
That Nimmo catch sealed the Mets win in a game completely dominated by pitching. That domination was headlined by Matz, who we can only hope has turned the corner much in the same way we have seen Zack Wheeler do this year.
Game Notes: With the Giants starting Holland, the Mets sat Jeff McNeil in favor of Flores at second. Bruce played first.