Jeff McNeil

Free Agents Mets Should Avoid This Offseason

With the way Yasmani Grandal is outright struggling during the NLCS, he is invariably going to damage his value on the free agent market this offseason.  Exactly how much remains to be seen, and you will likely see in some uneducated corners that the Mets should not pursue Grandal this offseason.  To a certain extent, it’s absurd to ignore a player’s entire career over a few games.

When looking at Grandal, this is a Mets team built on pitching, and as such, they should prioritize a catcher who thrives at pitch framing.  They should also avoid players who are terrible at it.  Really, overall, there are a number of players the Mets should absolutely avoid this offseason.

C – Wilson Ramos

In case you have missed the past decade of Mets baseball, the last thing this franchise needs is another injury prone player who is over 30 years old.  As bad as their injury issues were previously, they suddenly become worse when they wear a Mets uniform.  When you combine that with Ramos having terrible pitch framing numbers and his probably getting a fairly large contract, the Mets should be a hard pass on him.

1B – Marwin Gonzalez

Gonzalez’s reputation seems to be much better than the player he actually is.  This is not unusual for a player who is not too far removed from a great year or for a player who is playing for a great team.  Breaking down Gonzalez’s career, he is a .264/.318/.419 hitter with just one good offensive season under his belt.  He’s a versatile player whose best position is LF.  He’s going to be 30 and overpaid.  Mostly, he’s a complimentary piece which helps a great team like the Astros but will not be a significant contributor to a team like the Mets.

2B – DJ LeMahieu

With the emergence of Jeff McNeil, the Mets are not likely in the market for a second baseman, but then again, due to McNeil’s versatility, they could opt to sign a second baseman and move McNeil elsewhere.  If they do so, they need to avoid LeMahieu.  While very good defensively, this is a guy who just can’t hit outside of Coors Field, and for what it’s worth, he doesn’t hit all that well at Coors Field either as evidenced by his career 96 wRC+ there.

3B – Asdrubal Cabrera

When he was with the Mets, Cabrera was a clutch second half player.  Despite all the injuries, he tried to play everyday.  He was a popular player, and he was much better than anyone could have anticipated he would be when the Mets signed him.  That said, he’s no longer an everyday player, and it’s questionable just how much he’d be willing to accept a utility role.

SS – Jose Reyes

Over the last two seasons, he was just about the worst player in baseball, and he was a malcontent who was not above going to the press to try to lobby for more playing time.  His team in a Mets uniform or really any MLB uniform should be over.

LF – Rajai Davis

As we saw with Jackson with season (more on him in a minute), the Mets are likely looking for a cheap right-handed hitting veteran who can play CF.  After Davis hit that incredible game tying homer in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, he has not done much since.  He may come cheap, but the 37 year old will be cheap for a reason.  The Mets need to do much better than this to fill out a bench.

CF – A.J. Pollock

Back in 2015, Pollock was a superstar in the making.  He was a Gold Glover, and he was probably the third best center fielder in all of baseball.  Since that time, Pollock has been injury prone, and he has not played more than 113 games in a season.  He’s no longer a big bat in the lineup.  While his defense is still good, it has been in decline, and there is a fair question over how long he can stay there (whether due to injuries or regression).  He’s going to get a big contract, but it should not be by a Mets team with a horrendous history of dealing with over 30 year old injury prone players.

RF – Austin Jackson

The Mets signed Jackson late in the season presumably to see if he should be part of the mix next season.  In 57 games, Jackson was a bad hitter and an equally poor fielder.  Especially with Juan Lagares coming back from injury (again), the Mets should steer well clear of Jackson.

SP – Bartolo Colon

We get it.  Fans love him because he’s fat, old, has been suspended for steroids, and didn’t pay child support to his second family.  When you strip down the whole contrived lovable gimmick, he’s a bad MLB pitcher who should either be retiring, fighting for a bullpen spot, or rounding out a terrible team’s rotation just like he did with the Rangers this past year.

RHP Reliever – Cody Allen

Like with Bryan Shaw last year, there will likely be a call for the Mets to reunite some of the Indians bullpen with Mickey Callaway.  While the urge is understandable, the Mets should resist as the wear and tear of his workload seemingly took a took a toll on him this season.  After posting very good numbers in the first six years of his career, Allen had a career worst 4.70 ERA, 93 ERA+, and a 4.56 FIP.  While he may be salvaged to be a good reliever, with how the market has gone insane with relievers the past few years, it’s not likely Allen will be paid as the rehabilitation project he just might be.

LHP Reliever – Jerry Blevins

Look, Blevins has had a good career, and his best years were clearly with the Mets.  His numbers were skewed this year by a bad April and an equally bad September.  More troubling than that is Blevins really struggled getting left-handed batters out this season.  While it’s possible that issue will iron itself out, the real issue is his walks.  For three straight seasons, his walk totals have gone up while his K/BB ratio has gone down.  With the emergence of Daniel Zamora and with other relievers available this offseason, it’s time to turn the page.

Mets May Have Better World Series Core Than The Yankees But It Doesn’t Really Matter

Starting with the obvious, as constructed today, the Yankees are a far superior team than the New York Mets.  With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Luis Severino, this Yankees team is set up to win 90 plus games a year for the next decade.  Given the talent base and how the Yankees are willing to spend, the Yankees should be a fixture in the postseason, much like they were in the late 90s, and that is a prerequisite to winning a World Series.

However, as we saw with this Yankees team for the second straight season, they could not get through the postseason partially because they did not have the ace to help push them through to the World Series.

Last year, it was Justin Verlander, who helped stop the Yankees.  In many ways, Verlander has proved to be the Yankees kryptonite.  In three different postseasons, Verlander has faced the Yankees, and each time, Verlander’s teams advanced.  Last year, Verlander was the ALCS MVP going 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA.  What made the issue worse for the Yankees is they did not go out and get an eminently available Verlander.

This year, the Yankees were stopped by Chris Sale.  Not only did Sale beat the Yankees in Game 1, but he would stop the Yankees in Game 4 in his one inning of work.

With the Yankees window opening last year, they have failed to get an ace to go up against Verlander, Sale, or even Corey Kluber (who the Yankees beat in the 2017 ALDS).  Severino has not yet proven to be that guy.  Instead of utilizing Justus Sheffield and some other prospect to acquire that ace, they are hoping that he develops into that front line starter himself.

If neither of those things happen, it is hard to imagine how the Yankees can navigate their way through the American League portion of the postseason each and every year.  The Astros and Red Sox have every bit the position player talent the Yankees have, and they also have more starting pitching.  To that end, it’s difficult to see how exactly the Yankees win a World Series with this core.

Equally as difficult is seeing how the Mets even make the postseason.  While the Mets have talent, they are in a division with the upcoming Braves and Phillies teams.  Moreover, the Nationals are always ready, willing, and able to spend in free agency to address the deficiencies on their roster.  This creates a real uphill battle for a Mets franchise with ownership which continues to serve as an impediment to building a winner.

And yet, if the Mets ever do get to the postseason, they are a really dangerous team.  Back in 2015, we saw what Jacob deGrom can do in the postseason and that was before he emerged as the best pitcher in baseball.  Similarly, Noah Syndergaard has shown himself to be a big time postseason pitcher.  Aside from his strong 2015 rookie campaign, Syndergaard would go pitch-for-pitch with Madison Bumgarner, the best postseason pitcher of this generation, in the 2016 Wild Card Game.  What makes that postseason all the more impressive is the emergence of Zack Wheeler this season.

When you substitute Wheeler for 2015 Matt Harvey, you have the type of pitching rotation which can and should carry a team to the World Series.

When you surround this pitching staff with a young core which includes Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Amed Rosario, there is a core of players which can not just make the World Series but win it.  So yes, if we are talking about a core of players which can go through the postseason and win the World Series, the Mets have what it takes.

And yet, they don’t have the type of core which can carry them through the regular season.  This team is at least one bat short.  Maybe two.  And that is before you even consider the bullpen.

That’s the real shame of it all.  The Yankees have the talent but not the pitching, and that is partially the result of them getting gun shy when it came time to pull the trigger to obtain that ace which can carry a team through the postseason.  The Mets have the pitching, and they have that young core, but they have ownership which gets gun shy when it comes time to getting a player they need to win.

In the end, the Mets have a better core of players which can carry you to the World Series, but it doesn’t really matter because unless things change, the Mets will be sitting on the sidelines watching this Yankees core squander away without a legitimate ace.

Is Mickey Callaway The Right Manager?

When the Mets hire a new General Manager, one of his, or in the case of Kim Ng getting the job, her, first duties is to decide if they want to retain Mickey Callaway as the Mets manager.  Given how Callaway may come attached at the hip with Dave Eiland and seeing how this pitching rotation took off this year, you’d be inclined to keep Callaway on the job.

However, seeing Aaron Boone in Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS, we know a General Manager needs to look at much more than that.  Basically, the new General Manager needs to assess not just if Callaway is the guy who can bring the Mets to the postseason, but he needs to assess if Callaway would stand as an impediment to the Mets winning a World Series.

In the regular season, we have seen some really good and really terrible things from Callaway and his coaching staff.  The question is what is fixable and what are flaws which stand in the way.

The negatives have been oft discussed.  There was the lineup card incident.  Callaway had real difficulty handling the media.  We saw him exhaust the bullpen, especially Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, early in the season.  He was also not above continuing to go back to that well even with them being overused.  At times, the lineups were outright baffling, and unlike some of his other issues, this was something which seemed to get worse (more traditional?) as the season progressed.

On the positive, the Mets players did progress.  According to wRC+, Brandon Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League.  Michael Conforto returned to his All Star form.  Amed Rosario went from potential bust to improving young player.  Jeff McNeil emerged as an everyday second baseman.  Lugo became a dominant reliever.  As noted previously, the rotation improved.  Mostly, this team did not quit even after the season was over after a 5-21 June.

We have also seen Callaway use analytics to inform his decisions.  In April, he was started Juan Lagares because Jacob deGrom was a flyball pitcher, and the Cardinals starter, Michael Wacha, had reverse splits.  Essentially, he is well versed in analytics, and he’s able to use them to inform his decision making.

He’s also an aggressive manager.  On multiple occasions, he brought in a reliever to force the other managers hand.  Instead of being reactive to another manager’s pinch hitting choice, Callaway ensured he brought in his better pitcher to get a worse hitter up at the plate thereby ensuring himself of the better match-up.

Essentially, there’s enough here to suggest Callaway is the right guy for the job, but make no mistake, it is not a clear-cut decision.  While he was strong in motivating and developing players as well as being aggressive in his pitching decisions, his position player choices left something to be desired and arguably got worse as the season progressed.

In the end, if the Mets are going to keep him or replace him, they better be right.

Complicated Good-Bye To Jose Reyes

Back in 2011, Jose Reyes would lay down a bunt single to preserve his batting title.  The first in Mets history.  After reaching safely, Reyes would be lifted from the game much to the consternation of Mets fans.  Much of the consternation eminated from the fact it looked like this was going to be the last time fans were going to get to see Reyes in a Mets jersey, and those fans wanted to see Reyes play just one last time and say good-bye.

Sunday, Reyes was in the lineup once again leadoff in what many believed to be his final game as a Met.  Reyes would take one at-bat, ground out, and he would walk off the field for a final time.  While the circumstances may seem to mirror what transpired seven years prior, the two situations could not have been more different.

During Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was the most electrifying player in the Majors.  He could turn anything into extra bases, and extra base hits were nanoseconds away from becoming triples.  When he was on the basepaths, he was a constant stolen base threat, and his dancing at third base helped entice a few balks leading to a run.  Reyes was so dynamic we came up with the term “Reyes Run” for him getting on, getting over, and getting in.

Reyes was more than a dynamic offensive force.  He was a shortstop with a bullet arm and a fan favorite.  His apparent joy on the field was infectious to the fan base, and it did seem to get the team going.  (Sometimes, like 2007, it would also motivate the opponents).  Mets fans would shower him with the “Jose!” chant (a chant which began Saturday, March 29, 2003).  We loved him, and he seemingly loved us too.

In 2011, you could argue it was he and not David Wright whom the Mets should keep.  After all, Reyes was the younger player, and Citi Field was built more to Reyes’ than Wright’s strengths.  Whatever the case, the Mets opted not to re-sign him, devastating a fan base, and having the organization a nd fans  looking for a new fan favorite.  Arguably, no one could fill that void like the way Reyes once did.

That was the Reyes who left New York after the 2011 season.  That Reyes was barely recognizable after leaving.

After one year in Miami, he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of that organization’s efforts to return to the postseason.  In 2015, in Reyes’ third year as a Blue Jay, it seemed the organization’s plans were coming to fruition.  They were competing for a postseason spot with hopes for the division.  It was time for a bold move, their GM Alex Anthopoulos made that bold move.  In a six player trade, Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays for LaTroy Hawkins and Troy Tulowitzki.

In a year, Reyes and the Mets were supposed to return to the postseason, Reyes instead found himself playing for the Colorado Rockies.  He didn’t want to be there, and the team didn’t want him.  This also meant instead of playing in the postseason, Reyes would be making vacation plans to go to Hawaii.

On October 31, 2015, Michael Conforto hit two homers.  Instead of going to Jeurys Familia for the six out save, Terry Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who walked two of the three batters he faced.  When Familia finally did come in, Daniel Murphy booted a grounder.  The Mets 3-2 lead would quickly become a 5-3 deficit.

While this was happening, Jose Reyes would throw his wife into a glass door in Hawaii.  His wife would need to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries, and Reyes would be arrested. Reyes faced not just prison time but also deportation.  Instead, because his wife did not cooperate with prosecutors, the changes would be dropped.

While Reyes was able to avoid legal troubles, he could not escape MLB punishment.  With a new Domestic Violence policy, Reyes would be suspended 51 games, which stands as the longest Domestic Violence suspension to date.  With the Rockies already wanting to transition to Trevor Story, they were more than happy to release Reyes.

Fortunately for Reyes, the Mets needed a third baseman.  Wright was injured again, and he was going to miss the rest of the season.  Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds, Wilmer Flores, and Kelly Johnson just weren’t to cut it.  Partially due to desperation and partially due to nostalgia, the Mets threw Reyes the rope none of the other 28 teams were likely willing to give him.

A fan base was divided.  While the “Jose!” chants returned, they did not have the same enthusiasm.  Some of the people most willing to lead the cheer would sit on their hands or boo.  Reyes beat his wife, and the Mets signing him was sending the wrong message.

Still, Reyes stayed, and he played reasonably well.  He would have some highlights including the September 22nd game where both he and Asdrubal Cabrera homered which helped turn a 6-4 loss into a dramatic 9-8 11 inning victory which helped propel the Mets into the top Wild Card.  Much like in his last postseason game with the Mets, Reyes went hitless as his team was eliminated at home.

In the subsequent two years, he was about the worst players in baseball.  Despite all of Collins’ efforts to get him going, Reyes floundered, and there would be reports he was not happy playing third base.  At the end of the 2017 season, he helped reinvent himself as a mentor to Amed Rosario.  Between that and his hitting in September, the Mets brought him back.

He was dreadful this year hitting .189/.260/.320.  He’d post a -0.8 WAR.  Worse yet, he would complain about his playing time.  He believed as a utility player he should have received more playing time, and really, without that playing time, the Mets were not giving him a chance to succeed.  While there were some who were able to compartmentalize the off the field issues, when he was bad on the field, more and more Mets fans were disenchanted with him.

However, despite the ever growing calls to release him and make way for more talented prospects like Jeff McNeil, the Mets stubbornly held onto him.  They treated him like one of the Mets greats, which he was in the first part of his career.  Against all odds, Reyes would last the full season with the Mets.  It allowed him to play alongside Wright in the Captain’s final game.

It also meant Reyes would get to leadoff in what is likely his final career game.  Between innings, the Mets showed a video tribute.  Reyes would emerge from the dugout to tip his cap to a standing ovation.

The crowd was much smaller than the sold out crowd who was there to see Wright’s final game.  The standing ovation Reyes received did not remotely compare to the one Wright received.  If you went back a decade, that would seem implausible as both were beloved players with Reyes being the one who probably generated more enthusiasm from the fans.

Personally, I loved Reyes.  The first player jersey I ever purchased was Mike Piazza, the second Wright, and the third Reyes.  Overall, I had more Reyes shirseys than any other player including a last season at Shea and first season at Citi one.  That Reyes was the most exciting player who ever played for the Mets.  When he went to Colorado, I still believed he had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.

After he left, I was left livid with the organization.  In no way should Wright and Reyes have ever been split up.  Like great Mets duos of the past, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it seemed like their destiny was to win a World Series together.  Between that, Flores’ struggles at short and Ruben Tejada not being a particularly good baseball player, I desperately wanted the Mets to make a trade with the Rockies to bring back Reyes for that 2015 run.

To this day, part of me wonders what would have happened if Reyes did return to the Mets in 2015.  Do they win that World Series, or do they still fall short?  Would Reyes and his contract stood in the way of Yoenis Cespedes returning?  Mostly, I wonder about that night.

While statistics prove differently, to this day, I hope it was an isolated incident, which could have been avoided by Reyes being in New York instead of Hawaii.  In the converse, maybe this was a pattern of behavior which grew increasingly violent, and perhaps, things could have been hidden for longer if he was never in Hawaii.  There is no way of knowing anything.  What we do know is that instead of being in New York, Reyes was in Hawaii where he forever changed his legacy by committing a vile act.

Because of all of this, I was initially irritated Reyes was sharing Wright’s spotlight, but I made peace with it because it was what Wright wanted.

At the sake of sounding hypocritical, I must admit seeing Reyes doubling and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt was exciting. Wright coming up to the plate in an RBI situation was exciting. Wright being able to drive Reyes home just one last time made the moment all the more special.

In all honesty, I was surprised nostalgia got the better of me in the moment.

Perhaps it is because I truly miss the Reyes of 2003 – 2011.  I just miss how fun it was to watch him play.

That fun completely disappeared when he returned.  He was no longer a young up and coming superstar.  He was a violent wife beater.  Some people may be able to compartmentalize it, but I wasn’t.  Certainly not for a player I once held in the highest of regards.

Now that is career is over, I honestly do wish Reyes well.  I want him and his family to be able to move on from the domestic violence to have a happy and safe home life.  If that happens, then no matter how much I was against it, Reyes returning to the Mets was worth it.  I will be happy if Reyes returning to a place he was loved and cared for led him to not only seek help but to end what might have been a pattern of abuse.  Hopefully, he is a better husband and father for the experience.

In the end, congratulations to Reyes on a great career.  You are the greatest shortstop in Mets history.  The memories of you and Wright playing together were some of the best I’ve had as a fan.  Rooting for you was never the same, and it will never be the same again.  Still, each and every Mets fan, including myself, wish you and your family well.

God bless the Reyes family.

2018 Mets Season Ends On A Sad Note

Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended.  Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him.  Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.

There is the sadness with David Wright leaving.  He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced.  He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field.  Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.

Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players.  Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform?  Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform?  Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud?  How about Juan Lagares?  With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense.  Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together?  Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?

Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again?  He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed.  Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year.  At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play.  That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.

Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away.  Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year.  Addison Reed, Lucas Dudaand Curtis Granderson were traded away last season.  Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories.  Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas.  Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.

What we have left is good, really good.  We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted.  After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half.  Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.

We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner.  Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace.  Steven Matz actually made 30 starts.  Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close.  This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.

Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30).  When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse.  In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top.  If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.

Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.

There’s a hesitation there.  After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top.  Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.

Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring.  Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different.  The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade.  But after that?  Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short.  After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.

In the end, this is a really likeable team.  Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys.  They are what makes being a Mets fan great.  We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring.  That can’t happen.

In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one.  Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here.  Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series.  I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.

Thor Makes Season Complete

One of the major positives from the 2018 season was how Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have rejuvenated the pitching to the point where this once again looks like a rotation which can lead the Mets to a World Series.

Through all the exploits, there was just one thing the Mets had yet to accomplish – a complete game shut out. Well, it took 162 games, but Noah Syndergaard would accomplish the feat.

In a completely and utterly dominant performance, there would only be one Marlin who would even reach second base. That was Magneuris Sierra with a two out double in the eighth. That amounted to nothing as Syndergaard responded by striking out JT Riddle.

In the complete game shutout, Syndergaard’s final line was 9.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K.

It was the second complete game of Syndergaard’s career. Both complete games came this season. It was also the first shutout of his career.

Unlike yesterday’s 13 inning affair, the Mets got this game wrapped up in nine innings with Todd Frazier doubling home Jeff McNeil in the fourth.

Other than that, the Mets offense did just as little as the Marlins. Perhaps, this was just the last two teams in the division looking to go home for the year. Maybe, as Syndergaard would show, something was up with the bats:

No matter the case, after the 1-0 game, it was time to say goodbye.

It was time to say goodbye to Jose Reyes, who led off and exited the game after a first inning groundout. With that, his Mets and likely his Major League career comes to an end.

While yesterday was his final game, it was one last chance to see David Wright in a Mets uniform.

It’s time to bid adieu to a bizarre and strangely beautiful 2018 season. The season was at times full of hope and at times full of despair. We say good bye to Wright and Reyes and usher in the next generation of Mets baseball.

It’s going to be very interesting to see where we go from here.

Let’s Go Mets!

Game Notes: Like yesterday, Amed Rosario was the player who substituted into the game.

DeGrom Ends His Cy Young Season

Just when you thought you’ve seen it all from Jacob deGrom this year, he had one final special moment in store for us all.

Finally, in his sixth start against them, deGrom would beat the Braves. Despite him allowing just four earned in 33.0 innings against the Braves this year (1.09 ERA), he was 0-2 against the Braves this year with the Mets 0-5 in his starts. Really, to beat the Braves, deGrom needed to shut them out.

With him possibly getting the opportunity to clinch the Cy Young, deGrom would do just that pitching eight scoreless and completely dominant innings.

Ronald Acuna, Jr. led off the game with a single. Johan Camargo led off the second with a single. That was it. No other Braves batter would get a hit.

It was not until the sixth the Braves would have a batter reach safely, and that was an all too fleeting moment for the Braves.

Acuna would strike out swinging on a wild pitch, and he’d take off for first. However, he was ruled to have rounded first, and as such, when he was tagged by Dominic Smith, the inning was over.

While deGrom was phenomenal, even by his standards, he didn’t do it alone. In fact, Jeff McNeil was a wizard making not just one

but two brilliant defensive plays

Unlike deGrom’s previous five starts against the Braves, and really most of his starts this seasons, he would get enough run support. Tonight, that support would come from the bats of Michael Conforto and Smith.

In the sixth, Conforto hit a one out double off Braves reliever Luke Jackson. Smith would deliver a two out single giving the Mets a 1-0 lead, which was all the run support deGrom needed.

For good measure, Conforto and Smith would homer in the eighth. Each homer was impressive in their own right.

Smith was an opposite field shot, and Conforto’s was an absolute bomb which landed near the Shea Bridge. It would be his career best 28th homer.

That 3-0 lead was more than enough.

deGrom would finish the night strong striking out three of the last four batters he faced. With his striking out Ozzie Albies to end the eighth, he recorded his 1,000th career strikeout:

His final line for the night was 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K.

When Seth Lugo closed out the ninth for his third career save, deGrom finally got his 10th win. If he does go on to win the Cy Young, it will be the fewest wins from a Cy Young award winning starter.

All told, deGrom finished the year 10-9 with a 1.70 ERA, 0.989 WHIP, and an 11.2 K/9.

He became just the third pitcher in MLB history with a sub 2.00 ERA, more than 250 strikeouts, and fewer than 50 walks.

That’s deGromination.

Game Notes: There was some consternation over deGrom not coming out to get cheered and depart the game. Under MLB rules, if he stepped on the field, he would have been required to face at least one batter.

Mets Bullpen Meltsdown While Wright Sits

Today was a special day regardless of the outcome because the Mets finally activated David Wright from the 60 day disabled list. That said, whatever chance we thought we would get to see him play were quickly dashed as the Mets said they were not going to pinch hit him. The reason given was the Braves are fighting for homefield advantage in the NLDS, and the Mets did not want to interfere with the integrity of that race.

While justified, you almost have to question how the Mets could take that stance and also use their bullpen in this game.

Through the first six innings, the Braves had just three hits to the Mets four. The difference between the two teams was the Mets made their hits count.

In the third, Michael Conforto followed a Jeff McNeil single with a ball which nearly left the ballpark.

Conforto would score the second run of the inning on a Jay Bruce RBI single off Braves starter Touki Toussaint.

In the sixth, the Mets tacked on a run in a rally against Braves reliever Dan Winkler.

The rally began with a Brandon Nimmo walk, and he would eventually come home to score on a Tomas Nido sacrifice fly.

At 3-0, it appeared Noah Syndergaard was going to earn his first career win against the Braves. In his six scoreless innings, he would allow the aforementioned three hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

After 89 pitches and his being pinch hit for, Syndergaard was done after six. Robert Gsellman would relieve him and the bullpen meltdown would begin.

Johan Camargo led off the inning with a double, and he scored on a Kurt Suzuki RBI single. Suzuki moved to second on a Charlie Culberson walk, and he’d score because Austin Jackson flat out dropped a Rio Ruiz flyball.

Drew Smith, who has really struggled of late, came into the game and threw gasoline on the fire. Actually, with him being a pitcher, he just came in and threw bad pitches.

One of those pitches was thrown to the backstop allowing not just Suzuki to score, but also for Culbertson and Ruiz to move up. The next was hit by Ronald Acuna, Jr. for an RBI single which put the Braves up 4-3.

That 4-3 deficit grew as Jerry Blevins would have a rough eighth.

After getting the first out, Todd Frazier, who didn’t have a great game, booted a Camargo grounder. Camargo would then score on a Suzuki double. The capper would be a two run Ozzie Albies two run homer.

At that point, it was 7-3 Braves, and the game was over. While Wright was not used as to not upset the competitive balance of the postseason, the Mets bullpen was used and they did just that.

Game Notes: Wright homered in his last three games played in 2016, so whenever he plays, he will have a chance to match his career high in homering in four straight games.

Mets Blew A Chance

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.

During that month, the Mets tried to play Jay Bruce despite him being too injured to play. Same for Asdrubal Cabrera. Neither played well.

Devin Mesoraco and Jose Reyes played more than younger counterparts, and they underperformed.

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?

They’re not, and it continues to be an issue. The Mets keep getting older, and they make unnecessary gambles. For example, Reyes was playing over Luis Guillorme and Jeff McNeil.

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 Should Still Keep Wilmer Flores

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.