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.
With the Mets selling at the deadline, we saw them call up young players to begin building for the future. That meant players like Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, and Neil Walker were gone. In their stead are young players like Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Jamie Callahan, Jacob Rhame, Gavin Cecchini, Kevin McGowan, and Tomas Nido.
With that, you knew the team was going to be young, but his young?
— Kevin McGowan Jr (@kevinmcgowanjr) September 15, 2017
Wow. I expected a younger group, but not ones that were dressed up in rompers like my then nine month old son.
It seems that with the Mets recent youth movement, my son is closer to majors than I initially believed:
Tonight, Lugo wasn’t fooling Rizzo who was 2-2 off Lugo with a homer.
For that matter, Lugo wasn’t fooling anyone. In three plus innings, he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and one walk.
Lugo’s outing wasn’t even the worst thing that happened that night. The worst thing that happened was Amed Rosario leaving the game with a hip pointer.
It’s the second time this month he’s dealt with an injury. To put it as succinctly as possible, he’s now a Met just like Travis d’Arnaud, who to the surprise of no one left this game early with a twisted knee.
As if it wasn’t depressing enough, the Mets continued some horrendous pitching out of the bullpen.
In this series the Mets have made 17 pitching changes. It wasn’t until Chris Flexen‘s appearance today that a Mets reliever didn’t allow a run or an inherited run to score.
It’s hilarious to think at one point in this game, the Mets were playing well and winning. After the top of the second, they lead 3-0. Even after the Cubs tied it at 3-3, the Mets responded immediately to go up 5-3. From there, the Cubs scored 11 unanswered runs in a 14-6 win. That sealed the Mets fate giving up 39 runs in this series, which is the most runs allowed in franchise history in a three game series.
If you’re looking for a bright side, it’s Dominic Smith. He continued his good month of September going 2-3 with a run, homer, RBI, and a hit by pitch.
Special mention should also go to Brandon Nimmo who was finally allowed to play. After sitting in the first two games, apparently because Terry Collins finally figured out he’s a left-handed hitter, Nimmo was 2-4 with a double and an RBI.
Tomas Nido got his first major league base hit in the top of the month. It was an RBI single scoring Juan Lagares. He then made the last out of the game trying to score from second on a Phillip Evans dribbler down the third base line.
The catcher, who fell down, made an easy flip to the catcher, who easily applied the tag. It was a perfect way to end this series.
Other than Smith, Nimmo, and Nido, the only highlight is this series is over. Soon, this season will be over. Once that happens, the Mets will then be obligated to build a team that will no longer play like this. Well, at least that’s the hope.
Game Notes: Jay Bruce had a walk off hit in the bottom of the 10th to propel the Indians to their 22nd straight win. This only proves Bruce right. He’s gone from a bad to a good situation.
On top of that, the team has seen player after player find themselves on the disabled list. Most depressing of all was Conforto yesterday.
It makes you question who is still around from the Opening Day roster. Can you name the 10 players who were on the Opening Day roster that are still active on this team? Good luck!
Right around this time, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun bringing darkness across the country . . . or as Mets fans like to call it, the perfect euphemism for the 2017 season.
We’ve seen Noah Syndergaard go down for the season, and we are not sure when Jeurys Familia can come back. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were mishandled coming back from their injuries. Steven Matz had another injury plagued year. We never did get to see David Wright play this season, and we do not know if we will ever get to see him play again.
With the poor season the Mets are having, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Rene Rivera, and Neil Walker have been moved and are now playing for teams with an actual shot at the postseason. The moves didn’t bring back much, and there were rumors the Mets were more interested in salary relief than anything causing fans to go back to a dark place they resided at the inception of the Madoff scandal.
The thing is, the eclipse today will last just a brief time. Sandy Alderson has an entire offseason to get to work. If ownership lets him spend the money, and with a little help on the health front, the Mets dark period will last just for the 2017 season. If it is business as usual, this isn’t an eclipse – we’re back to the Dark Ages.
Last night, the Yankees brought on Aroldis Chapman to close out a Yankees three run lead. After Wilmer Flores struck out to begin the inning, Dominic Smith strode up to the plate in what would be the rookie’s biggest test in his brief major league career. Seeing how he hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, and Rafael Devers hit a huge home run against Chapman in Chapman’s last save attempt, this was promising to be a very interesting match-up.
This is not the first time we have seen this play with Collins. During Michael Conforto‘s first two years with the Mets, Collins did not let his young left-handed hitter face left-handed pitching. Instead, he would bat Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, Justin Ruggiano, Ty Kelly, or really any warm body on the bench to prevent Conforto from facing a left-handed pitcher.
The end result of Collins’ refusal to play Conforto against left-handed pitching was Conforto actually struggling against left-handed pitching. Over his first two big league seasons, Conforto hit .129/.191/.145 with just one extra-base hit, a double, in the 68 at-bats he did get against left-handed pitching.
However, there was no reason to sit Conforto against left-handed pitching. His hitting coach, Kevin Long, found the notion that Conforto can’t hit left-handed pitching absurd. Conforto hit left-handed pitching in both his collegiate and brief minor league career. Still, despite Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching everywhere else, Collins decided to sit him against left-handed pitching.
When pressed on it, Collins said, “We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games. This is not a time to develop players.” (Barbara Barker, Newsday).
Assuming Collins is correct that you shirk the responsibility of developing young players because you have designs on winning a World Series, why is he now repeating the same tactics with Smith?
Currently, the Mets are 10 games under .500. The team has to win 62% of their remaining games just to get to .500. The team has already traded away Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, and Neil Walker. If an opportunity presents itself, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and Rene Rivera will find new homes before the end of the month. Put more succinctly, this team is not in a position where they are trying to win games – this is a time to develop players.
Pinch hitting for Smith the very first opportunity he gets to face a left-handed pitcher in the majors does nothing to accomplish that goal.
Overall, unless Collins is facing some delusions of grandeur, there is no reason to believe the Mets are winning anything in 2017. Smith is ticketed to be the Mets starting first baseman in 2018. To that end, the rest of the regular season should be dedicated to helping him best prepare for the 2018 season. Sitting him against left-handed pitching only hinders his development.
Maybe, just maybe Collins was never truly concerned with player development. Maybe in his mind young left-handed batters are just incapable of hitting left-handed pitching. It is likely the reason why he previously sat Conforto against left-handed pitching, and it is the reason why he’s doing it with Smith now.
It’s poor managing, and it has had a tangible effect on player development. Collins might have had his excuse with Conforto, but he doesn’t have that excuse with Smith now. If Collins shields Smith from a left-handed pitcher just one more time, the Mets are going to have to find someone else to manage. Simply put, you cannot permit Collins to hinder Smith’s development to win some meaningless games.
One of the reasons Mets fans were angry about the return of Ryder Ryan for Jay Bruce was the fact many believed the Mets could have offered Bruce a qualifying offer, and they then could have recouped a second round pick when Bruce signed a big deal elsewhere. While we all should be able to agree Ryan was not second round value, the point that Bruce would automatically reject a qualifying offer is flawed.
This past offseason teams have shown they no longer value players like Bruce the way they once did. If the Mets inability to move Bruce this offseason wasn’t any indication, and if the return the Mets got for Bruce wasn’t any indication, then look at what happened to Mark Trumbo last year.
Trumbo took a one year flier with the Orioles, and he had a monster year leading the majors with 47 homers. In total, Trumbo hit .256/.316/.533 with 27 doubles, a triple, 47 homers, and 108 RBI. That was good for a 122 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+.
On the strength of this season, the 30 year old Trumbo would reject the qualifying offer only to be met with a tepid free agent market. Without Trumbo being able to garner the interest he believed would be present, he went back to the Orioles on a three year $37.5 million deal.
The conclusion that can be best drawn for this is the market just doesn’t value sluggers the way it once did. With the qualifying offer being worth around $18 million next year, there was a very real chance Bruce was going to accept that qualifying offer meaning the Mets got no draft pick compensation.
It would also mean the Mets outfield would have been a disaster defensively. We know Bruce is not a center fielder, and we also know Yoenis Cespedes no longer belongs out there. The argument would be Michael Conforto could. He has shown he can handle it in spurts, but long term that is a bad proposition. In 327.2 innings there, Conforto has a -2 DRS and a 0.2 UZR.
Seeing how the Mets played this year, the biggest thing they need to do is to upgrade defensively. That goes double for key defensive positions like shortstop and center field. Fortunately, the Mets have Amed Rosario at short. Who knows if the answer is Juan Lagares or a name outside the organization for center. The one thing we do know it’s not Bruce.
There’s another consideration as well. The Mets need to make wholesale changes this offseason, which is going to require a lot of money. For a team that took a lesser return for Bruce partially due to the savings it brought them, we should worry about Bruce’s $18 million hindering the Mets ability to fully address all of the teams needs just like it happened last year when Neil Walker accepted his qualifying offer.
Overall, the Mets needed to trade Bruce to get some return for him. The return was lackluster for many, but in reality, it reflects more upon how teams value sluggers like Bruce. At a minimum, the Mets got something for him, and they have freed up playing time for Dominic Smith and Brandon Nimmo. All they have to do now is actually play those players.