Jeff Torborg

Five Aces Are No More and Never Were

When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.

The 1977 Midnight Massacre which saw a vengeful and frankly inept front office trade Tom Seaverand Dave Kingman. This would beget Grant’s Tomb.

The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby BonillaUnder the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.

There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher.  With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.

The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation.  Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts.  To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.

Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986.  While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces.  Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.

They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.

Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.

This wasn’t “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain.”  It was Matz and Thor and We Got Three More!

Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache.  Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.

Each and every single one of them would go down with injury.  Most of them went down with two or more.  As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation.  Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.

Finally, this year was supposed to be the year.  Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year.  The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff.  It was all set up for them.

And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.

Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense.  However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.

Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series.  That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal.  Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.

At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?

Managerial Profile: Manny Acta

Manny Acta

Current Position: Mariners Third Base Coach
Age: 1/11/1969 (48)

MLB Managerial Experience: 2007 – 2009 Washington Nationals 158 – 252 (.385); 2010 – 2012 Cleveland Indians 214-266 (.480)

One of the most respected coaches on Willie Randolph‘s staff was noticeably missing during the 2007 and 2008 collapses that doomed not just the Mets, but also Randolph.  The person missing was third base coach Manny Acta.

Much like we saw with Alex Cora this season, Acta was a hot commodity back then because he was widely considered the next big manager.  Acta was respected for his intelligence, baseball acumen, and his ability to communicate with players.  That went double for young and Hispanic players.  In fact, the Washington Nationals said of Acta, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.”  (Sports Illustrated).  That’s a remarkable thing to say about a manager.  It’s all the more incredible when you consider that was said when they fired him.

Because Acta is well respected and because people believe he’s an intelligent man who continues to educate himself, he keeps getting jobs.  After failing with the Nationals, he was hired by the Indians.  After failing with the Indians, he was hired by Baseball Tonight.  After a well received Baseball Tonight stint, he was hired by the Mariners to serve as their third base coach, a position which he holds today.

Considering how well respected he is, it makes you question why he never worked out as a manager.  For starters, he’s never really had good teams.  When we thing of the current Nationals who are one of the best teams in baseball, you think of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman.  In his Nationals tenure, Acta only got to manage a young Zimmerman.

In Cleveland, he had a difficult situation with the old players getting old fast, and the young players not being quite ready.  Players like Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe were hanging on while Jason Kipnis and Corey Kluber weren’t what they are now.  As many will note, even the best of managers cannot win without talent.

But with Acta, it might have been more than just a lack of talent.  In a MASN article, Acta was described as being unable to relate to players.  As bad as that might be, an AP article was even more damning of Acta as a manager with Indians players feeling as if Acta did not have their back.  There were other reports suggesting Acta was rigid in his ways, and that he was unable to motivate his players.  Put another way, Acta’s greatest weakness as manager might be his ability to handle a clubhouse.

What the Players Say:

Joe Smith: “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play. It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.”  (MLB.com)

Josh Tomlin: “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.”

Recommendation:

It is interesting to see Mike Puma’s recent New York Post article on the subject of Acta’s candidacy.  Ultimately, it highlighted the best points of Acta that leads to teams continuously trying to bring him into their organization.  However, that same piece highlighted his weaknesses, notably his inability to “handle controversy.”

What we don’t know from with Acta is if he’s grown from the issues that held back his career in Washington and Cleveland.  If he hasn’t then hiring him should prove to be a disaster much in the same way hiring Art Howe or Jeff Torborg was.  The Puma article does little to quell those concerns.

However, if Acta has grown and has learned from his mistakes in the clubhouse like we have see from Terry Collins during his Mets managerial career, you will have a smart baseball person who is hard working.  In life, you can never go wrong with smart and hard working.

Ultimately, any decision on Acta should begin with long and honest conversations with David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera.  Both are veterans who Acta has coached/managed.  If both endorse Acta, it’s possible he’s the right man for the job.  That goes double when you consider most of the praise directed at Acta comes from front offices and not players.  If Acta doesn’t receive glowing endorsements from Wright or Cabrera, it should be an easy decision to look in a different direction.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on MMO

Remaining Reasons To Watch The Mets

Right now, the Mets are just a bad baseball team.  When you are a fan of a bad baseball team, it is sometimes difficult to find seasons to watch.  Thankfully, there still remain reasons to watch the Mets:

Jacob deGrom – This year, deGrom has returned to pitching like an ace.  No, he may not be the guy he was in 2015, but he’s still a great pitcher.  You know with him on the mound the Mets have a chance to win the game.  With his ability, anything is possible.

Michael Conforto – We have been watching Conforto have one of the best, if not the best, season a young Mets player has ever had.  He will soon be the youngest Mets player to ever hit 30 homers.  He’s showing how special he is taking on more leadership responsibilities in the clubhouse.

Chris Flexen – Very quickly, Flexen has gone from over-matched to holding his own.  He’s just 23 and had just seven Double-A starts under his belt.  Just holding his own at this point is remarkable.  Sooner or later, he may just prove he belongs at this level.

Juan Lagares – One thing that really stood out in the Subway Series was this man can still play Gold Glove defense.  In fact, he might be the best outfielder in baseball with his league leading 34.0 UZR/150.  Metrics aside, it’s a joy to watch him play center field defense, and you never know when he is going to make his next great play.

Amed Rosario & Dominic Smith They have essentially been presented as this generations David Wright and Jose Reyes or Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry.  If they’re at those levels, the Mets will quickly turn things around.  If they are truly this good, we won’t want to miss a minute of them playing.  To that end, we have already seen great defense from them, and they’ve already homered in the same game.

With that, there are five very good reasons to continue watching this team.  Other than that, we can watch because we’re Mets fans, and we love our team.  I know I watched the Jeff Torborg, Art Howe, or Jerry Manuel Mets teams, I can certainly watch this team.

RIP Anthony Young

As we delve more into the numbers and become more knowledgeable about the stats which truly indicate what makes a pitcher good or bad, we have begun to dismiss win-loss record.  It has gotten to the point where many want to disregard it all together.  Reflecting back on the life of Anthony Young, it is hard to say that wins and losses don’t matter anymore.

Starting on May 6, 1992, Young would begin his MLB record setting 27 game losing streak.  He lost games in all ways possible.  He was the hard luck loser losing games when he had a good start.  He lost games getting his doors knocked off.  He came out of the bullpen, and he lost a game on a big hit.  He would leave with runners on base and another pitcher would let them score.  In the stretch, Young was 0-14 as a starter, and 0-13 as a reliever.

Something odd happened during this time.  Initially, Young was booed and booed mercilessly.  On an under-performing 90 loss Mets team who once had designs on winning the World Series, Young had become symbolic of all that was wrong with the Mets – talented people who were just not performing.  Eventually, those boos came to cheers; cheers that were almost willing Young to a victory.

Young was admirable in the stretch.  You didn’t see the quote in the paper ripping the team.  There was no Jon Niese moment of blaming his catcher, his defense, or anyone else.  He took it like a man, and he kept going out there doing his job.

He also got to lose all of those games because he was a talented pitcher.  Too often, that gets lost in everything.  Young was talented.  It is why when John Franco went down to injury, Jeff Torborg instilled Young as the team’s closer.  It was at that time, we learned a save does not in fact interrupt a losing streak.  For those that forget, Young was able to record 15 saves during that 1992 season.  One thing he wasn’t able to do was vulture a win.

No, that elusive win would not come until July 28, 1993.  On that day, his team would finally pick him up.  After giving up the lead in the top of the ninth, the Mets would rally against the Florida Marlins.  The rally would begin with Jeff McNeil.  There is an odd symmetry there as McNeil was another player from those teams who died too young.  A few years ago, McNeil would die of leukemia at the age of 52.

After an Eddie Murray RBI double, Young would finally get his win, and the Shea faithful couldn’t have been happier for him:

Without that losing streak?  Young is just a footnote in major league history.  With that losing streak, Young mattered.  He will forever be remembered, and it turns out he was a person worth remembering.

He left behind a family and former teammates that were devastated by his passing away.  He leaves behind a fan base who can now actually reminisce about those terrible 1992-1993 Mets.

As we know, Young fought and fought bravely.  Recently, there had been reports his inoperable brain tumor had taken a turn for the better.  There were reports the tumor was shrinking.  At that point, there was hope Young could beat a cancer more daunting than a 27 game losing streak.  Unfortunately, Young wasn’t getting better.  It was just a short lived victory.

At the age of 51, Anthony Young has passed.  With him passing, people have lost a family member and a friend.  Fans lost a player they once cheered.  Everyone lost a person who handled one of the toughest situations a professional can face with grace and humility.  When someone like Young passes, we all lose.

Looking back at the life of Anthony Young, it is hard to tell anyone that losses no longer matter in baseball.  In fact, losses matter more now than they ever have.