Jerry Grote

It Was Time For Bartolo Colon To Go

For the past three years, Bartolo Colon has pitched relatively well for the New York Mets, and he has become a fan favorite.  This past season we saw what might have been his best attribute of all – his durability.  With the Mets having a young staff, veterans like Colon, especially durable ones, are worth their weight in gold.  That might be why Colon has been paid well during his Mets tenure.

With that said, there is some danger in keeping Colon around for another year or two.  Colon has become a soft tosser whose fastball averages 90 MPH.  It’s really important to note this because he throws his fastball an astounding 89% of the time.  As he ages and his fastball velocity drops even further, the greater likelihood he is going to get hit and hit hard.  It is not too dissimilar with what happened with another fanbase’s beloved soft tosser.

In 2006, the Phillies acquired Jamie Moyer to help their rotation, and to help them chase the New York Mets.  With the 44 year old Moyer in the rotation, the Phillies would catch the Mets in 2007.  That year, Moyer was 14-12 with a 5.01 ERA and a 1.445 WHIP.  The following year, Moyer would not only help the Phillies win the National League East again, he would also help the Phillies win their first World Series in 28 years.  It was also his best season in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

In 33 starts, the 45 year old Moyer was 16-7 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.329 WHIP.  He had a 117 ERA+, and he also averaged 83 MPH with his fastball.  Moyer would be a free agent after the 2008 season and a Phillies team basking in the glow of a World Series title, and a Phillies team putting too much stock in an outlier season from a 45 year old pitcher, gave Moyer a two year deal.  As it should have been expected, Moyer struggled in 2009 and 2010.  After that, Moyer’s Phillies career was over, and realistically speaking, Moyer’s major league career was basically over too.

This is the position the Mets are now with Colon.  After recording an 84 and 91 ERA+ in his first two seasons as a Met, Colon rebounded to have a 120 ERA+ in 2016.  Colon did it despite him losing some MPH off his fastball.  As with Moyer, the Mets are in a position to ask themselves whether the 2016 season was sustainable or an outlier.  Given Colon’s age and how hard he throws, the chances lie more with Colon’s 2016 season being an outlier than it is what can be expected of him in 2017 or beyond.

By all accounts, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz should be ready for Opening Day.  We know Noah Syndergaard will be ready to go.  Even if Zack Wheeler still needs more time, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo proved to the Mets that they not only can pitch in the major leagues, but also that they can pitch in a pennant race.

And with that, there may no longer be room for Colon on the Mets.  With that Colon decided to take a deal with the Atlanta Braves and join former Met R.A. Dickey in the rotation (it is not known if Josh Thole or Jerry Grote will be signed to catch them). Ultimately, that is a good thing.  It is a sign the Mets young aces are healthy, and it is a sign that the less experienced pitching is ready to contribute.

Many Mets fans will be disappointed in Colon’s leaving the Mets.  It is understandable as he was a fan favorite and good mentor for the young pitchers on the staff.  However, Colon was a 44 year old pitcher, and sooner or later, he is bound to have a precipitous fall-off not too dissimilar from what he saw with Moyer.  This was the right time to part ways, and in the games he doesn’t face the Mets, we should all wish him luck.  We should also hope this rotation is truly healthy and ready to withstand the rigors of the 2016 season without Colon going out and eating up all of those innings.

Ya Gotta Believe Again

On August 22, 1973, the Mets won their second game in a row to raise the Mets record to 57-67 leaving them 6.0 games out in the National League East behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.

From that point forward, the Mets would be the hottest team in baseball going 25-12 carrying them to an unlikely division championship. The Mets rode the hot streak to beat the Big Red Machine 3-2 in a best of five NLCS, and they came within a win of disrupting the Oakland A’s dynasty.

The popular story was the Mets were spurred by Tug McGraw screaming “Ya Gotta Believe!” after a M.Donald Grant “pep talk” in July. However, the truth is that team just got healthy at the right time, and when the team was at 100%, they were among the best teams in baseball.

During that year, the team was hampered by injuries. Jerry GroteJohn MilnerBud Harrelson, and Cleon Jones all missed significant time. Rusty Staub player through injuries all year.  On top of that phenom Jon Matlack was having a down year a year removed from winning the Rookie of the Year Award.  He was joined by Jerry Koosman in having a surprising down year.  Willie Mays looked to be every bit of his 42 years of age.  Young fill-ins like Don Hahn just were not producing.  The Mets were forced to do anything they could do to improve the team like releasing dead weight like Jim Fregosi.  About all that went right that season for the Mets was Tom Seaver; that and the fact that no one ran away with the division allowing the Mets to enter the postseason with an 82-79 record.

Isn’t that what this Mets season has been.  With Matt Harvey, David Wright, Lucas Duda, Adrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes, we have seen this Mets team be hampered time and again by injuries.  We have seen countless Mets play through injuries like Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz with their bone spurs.  We’ve seen replacements like Eric Campbell, Ty Kelly, and Matt Reynolds not play up to snuff.  Players like Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto had surprising down years.  About the only thing that has gone right for the Mets this year is the fact that Jacob deGrom has continued to pitch like an ace, and the fact that no one has ran away with the second Wild Card spot.

Maybe, just maybe, this is 1973 all over again.  That 1973 team was much further back in both the standings and more teams to leapfrog in the standings.  All they needed to do was to get healthy and to get hot.  Right now, with Cespedes back and hitting home runs for the Mets again, this team is healthy, and they are on the verge of getting hot.  If that happens, the Mets can very well take that second Wild Card spot and get into the postseason.

As we saw in 1973 as well as last year, with great Mets pitching, the Mets can beat anyone in the postseason.  They can shock the world.  Anything is possible so long as they get hot and get into the postseason.

This Draft Pick Will Be Better Than Steve Chilcott

In 1966, the Mets made what was perhaps their worst decision in franchise history.  With the first overall pick in the draft, the Mets selected Steve Chilcott.  It was the worst decision in franchise history not only because Chilcott never played in the majors.  It was the worst decision in franchise history for the reasons why the Mets didn’t make the obvious pick.

No, the Mets passed on a player named Reginald Martinez Jackson, or as you better know him, Reggie Jackson.  This wasn’t a case of a player being overlooked for another player.  No, Reggie was widely seen as the best player in that draft as was evidenced by the then Kansas City Athletics selecting him with the second overall pick in the draft.  The Mets didn’t pass on Reggie because they felt stronger about Chilcott than other organizations (although they might have).  They didn’t pass on Reggie because they believed he wasn’t suited for New York (turns out he was).  They didn’t even pass on him because they felt there was an organizational need for a catcher (they didn’t with Jerry Grote aboard).  No, the Mets passed on Reggie for the dumbest reason of all – racism.  It turns out the Mets didn’t like the fact that he was dating a Hispanic woman.

When Reggie Jackson got his opportunity to exact revenge upon the Mets, he did.  Reggie was the MVP of the 1973 World Series.  While the Mets were floundering in the late 70’s, barely getting over a million fans to Shea Stadium, actually lower in other years, Reggie was leading the Yankees to the 1977 and 1978 World Series.  In 1993, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Yankee.

Meanwhile, Chilcott flamed out at 23, in part, because he suffered a shoulder injury.  Chilcott became an unfortunate footnote in MLB history as the first ever first overall pick not to make the majors.  It’s worth nothing that the Mets did eventually get the first overall pick right when they picked Darryl Strawberry in 1980. It’s also worth nothing that no first overall pick made the Hall of Fame until this summer when the 1987 first overall pick, Ken Griffey, Jr. will officially be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Overall, the MLB draft is full of hits and misses.  It’s natural for players to be compared with the players who were drafted above and below them.  Drafting in major league baseball is an inexact process.  We were reminded of that this past weekend with Jose Fernandez shutting down the Mets, while the player drafted immediately before him, Brandon Nimmo, is still developing in AAA.  However, we can live with decisions like Nimmo over Fernandez as there were sound reasons to draft Nimmo over Fernandez.  If Nimmo continues his current development, he will become an effective major league player.  That’s a lot more than anyone can say about Chilcott.

It’s important to keep the Reggie Jackson/Steve Chilcott situtation in mind each and every draft.  There are busts, and there are players who exceed expectations.  The only thing you can ask of your team is to have the right process in place when making draft picks.  The Mets didn’t have the right approach in 1966.  Presumably now, even in the absence of Paul De Podesta, the Mets have the right process in place.  As such, we know the Mets are going to make a decision based upon the proper criteria.  Accordingly, we know that the Mets are about to make a much better draft pick than the one they made in 1966.