Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:
Super Bowl XXXVI
After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.
What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player. Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.
As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.
As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.
Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.
Super Bowl XXXIX
With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:
The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.
Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1
Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.
Super Bowl XLIX
The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.
Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.
Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.
As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.
Super Bowl LIII
This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.
The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.
Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.
Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.
One of the themes of this offseason has been Sandy Alderson going out and bringing back some players to help this current team try to win a World Series. We have seen these efforts work in the past with the Mets bringing back Bobby Bonilla in 1999 and Endy Chavez and Pedro Feliciano in 2006. We have also seen these efforts fail miserably like when the Mets brought back Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz in 2002.
Where this season falls on the spectrum is still to be determined. Those results will largely depend on those players the Mets have brought back to the team. Can you name them? Good luck!
Back on September 25, 2004, everyone was reminded how the bottom division clubs love to play spoiler, and how the teams that seemingly have nothing to play for are the most dangerous of all.
Entering the final week of the regular season, the reigning National League Central Division Champs, the Dusty Baker led Chicago Cubs, had a two game lead in the Wild Card standings and a fairly easy schedule in front of them to close it out. First, it was the 90 loss Mets followed by the 90 loss Reds, and then finally a Braves team that would have clinched and have nothing to play for in the final week of the season.
That 2004 Mets team simply wasn’t good. It was a mixture of players like Mike Piazza, who was past his prime, and players like David Wright, who were not quite ready to become the stars they would eventually become. They were lead by a manager in Art Howe, who had become a lame duck manager that was going to be fired at the end of the season. However, that didn’t mean that 2004 Mets team didn’t have anything to play for in the final days of the regular season.
Naturally, you would have expected the Cubs to roll over this Mets team because the Cubs had everything to play for, and this Mets team was playing out the string. That certainly seemed true as the Cubs carried a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth against the Mets. At that point, the Mets who had something to play for began to go to work. Eric Valent and Jason Phillips, both of whom were trying to show they could be everyday major league players drew walks against Ryan Dempster necessitating Dusty Baker to bring on his closer LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins was rudely greeted by Chicago native, Victor Diaz, who was a Cubs fan growing up.
The Mets had acquired Diaz in 2003 in the Jeromy Burnitz trade. The Mets organization was understandably excited about player that was nicknamed “Baby Manny” after Manny Ramirez. On this day, Diaz would show everyone how he got that nickname as he launced a game tying three run opposite field homer off Hawkins. In the bottom of the 11th, the Mets would again shock the Cubs when Craig Brazell, an interesting power hitting first base prospect, hit a walk off home run against Kent Merker.
That Mets win would begin a Cubs downward spiral that saw them finish the year 2-7 and two games behind the Giants for the Wild Card. The Cubs were beat by a group of Mets players that still had something to play for in what was a lost Mets season. This is a good reminder for a Mets team heading into Philadelphia to face what could be a dangerous Phillies team.
The Phillies are already talking tough with catcher Cameron Rupp saying, “his is the last time all these guys in this clubhouse will be together. Just go out and finish hard. A lot can happen in four days. We can ruin somebody else’s season.” (Philly.com).
The Phillies have the right mindset showing they can be a dangerous team this weekend. They’re going to start young pitchers with something to prove in Alec Asher and Jerod Eickoff. They have Ryan Howard who continuously hits long home runs against the Mets. They even have Tyler Goeddel, who would probably love to stick it to his older brother Erik Goeddel. Lastly, the Phillies have a manger in Peter Mackanin, who is trying to make a case that he should continue to be the Phillies manager.
Believe it or not, the Phillies have lot to play for this weekend. The Mets cannot take them lightly. Starting with Bartolo Colon, the Mets have to go out there and just crush what Rupp has indicated could be a feisty Phillies team. The Mets are better, and they just need to take care of business. If they don’t, they may fall victim to their own Diaz and Brazell homers, and they still could find themselves on the outside looking in come this postseason.
Right now, if you were going to list what the Mets problems were, two things that would be discussed ad nauseaum would be the offense and hitting with runners in scoring position. While it has not been discussed as frequently, Yoenis Cespedes‘ and Juan Lagares‘ injuries also make center field an issue for the Mets.
The Mets acquisition of Jay Bruce presumably solves the first two Mets problems while only further confounding the center field issue.
First, the offense. There is no doubt that Jay Bruce is your classic left-handed slugger that should be hitting in an RBI position in your lineup. This year Bruce is hitting .265/.316/.559 with 22 doubles, six triples, 25 homers, and a major league leading 80 RBI. He also isn’t a Great American Ballpark creation as Bruce has hit better on the road. In road games, Bruce has slashed .277/.318/.582. More importantly to Mets fans, Bruce is hitting .360/.406/.719 with runners in scoring position. Ideally, the Mets would bat him fifth in the lineup as Bruce has been hitting .290/.340/.603 from that spot in the order.
Still, there is some cause for concern with Bruce. As we see with his stats, he is not nor has he ever been a great on base guy. He is also a guy who is a platoon type of bat as he is hitting .250/.287/.491 off of lefties this year. With that in mind, the Mets might have just added a player that is more of the same.
He is also coming off two straight seasons that saw him hit a combined .222/.288/.406 while averaging 22 homers and 76 RBI. If his July, where he hit .218/.289/.529, is any indication, he might be becoming that type of player again. Furthermore, Bruce has not hit well at all in Citi Field. In 21 games, Bruce has hit .186/.275/.443 with five homers and 13 RBI. Hopefully, some of that is a short sample size and some of that is Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.
Regardless, Bruce is an offensive upgrade for an injured and under-performing Mets team. However, he is not a defensive upgrade for a team that needs a center field solution.
If reports are true, Bruce is being brought here to play right field rather than to play first base in place of James Loney. That would shift Granderson from right to center. As we saw in the one game Granderson played in center this year, there is a reason why he has not played center regularly since 2012. The other issue is that while Granderson has had a down year defensively in right field, he has been much better than Bruce, who has posted a -11.5 UZR and a -13 DRS this past year. Over the previous two seasons, Bruce has averaged a -5.2 UZR and a -1 DRS meaning he is worse this year than he has been over his career.
With Bruce’s struggles, Granderson’s inability to play center, and Yoenis Cespedes playing on one leg, this outfield should be reminiscent, if not worse, than the Cliff Floyd–Roger Cedeno–Jeromy Burnitz outfield that was seen as an unmitigated disaster defensively.
The other issue is where does this leave Michael Conforto? After everything that has happened this year, are the Mets really going to make him a bench player? Is he going to platoon with another left-handed batter? Does he move to first base? Aren’t you now forced to send him down to AAA until September call-ups? This really leaves your best young hitter and future of your team in a lurch. With all that in mind, it is a very curious move, especially when there was no corresponding move to address any of the Mets other needs.
Overall, Bruce solves some of the Mets problems while exacerbating some others. The best way to deal with all of these issues is for both he and his new teammates to just go out there and hit.
Did you ever hear of the saying, the more things change the more they stay the same? The saying drives me absolutely nuts. Inherently, something that is static cannot also be idle at the same time. However, for the first time I am starting to understand this saying.
I believe this season is starting to resemble 2005. Sure there was some optimism before that season with the signings of Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. This was also going to be the first full season David Wright and Jose Reyes were going to play together. That team also had some holes: Doug Mientkiewicz had a great glove but not the bat to play 1B, Kaz Matsui was being shifted to play 2B after he showed he couldn’t play SS the prior year, and let’s not forget the closer was Braden Looper in a largely ineffective bullpen. However, I don’t know of anyone that expected the Mets to realistically make the playoffs that year.
At that point, the Mets fans were suffering. In 2001, the Mets rallied around the city, but they fell short of making the playoffs in an otherwise disappointing season. In 2002, we watched Steve Phillips attempt to recreate the team as an offensive juggernaut with the likes of Mo Vaughn, Roberto Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz, and Roger Cedeno. This lead to three years of just bad baseball. Now, the Mets fans were clamoring for a move to be made. We wanted to see Piazza go out on his last year with the Mets with a winner. At the Trading Deadline, the Mets found themselves only 4 games out of the Wild Card.
However, Omar Minaya stayed the course. The Mets made no trades. He kept his bullets for the offseason. If you recall, that was a magical offseason with the additions of Paul LoDuca, Carlos Delgado, Jose Valentin, Xavier Nady, Endy Chavez, Julio Franco, Pedro Feliciano, Duaner Sanchez, John Maine, Jorge Julio (was was then traded in season for El Duque), Darren Oliver, and Billy Wagner. Omar showing restraint permitted the Mets to build that great 2006 team the fans loved.
Now, Mets fans have been suffering longer than they were in 2005, and they are begging for just one bat (which I don’t think will do the trick). While Mets fans were disappointed in 2005, I don’t remember them being a distraught as they are now. I think the difference is trust. We trusted that ownership and Omar would spend the money to get the players that were needed. In fact, they just come off of a spending spree that netted Pedro and Beltran. Now, fans don’t trust that ownership will spend the money. I believe this is the trust gap that is the biggest sense of frustration with this team.
It’s a shame too because I remember 2005 being a fun season. So far, I think 2015 has been gut-wrenching with all the tight, low-scoring games. My only hope is that if the Mets don’t make a move now, they have a plan for what can be realistically accomplished this summer. There will be LF available who can really help the team in the short term, but the market is scarce on middle infielders. My fingers are crossed. I want to be able to go to a playoff game with my father and son.