Jerry Manuel

Conforto Needs The Mets To Learn From Concussion History

On August 16, 2009, David Wright stepped up to the plate against Matt Cain, and he would get hit on the helmet knocking him unconscious. As a result of the hit by pitch, Wright would sustain a concussion. Up until that point in the season, Wright was hitting .324/.414/.467. He would miss 15 games, and in the 29 games after he returned, he would wear a ridiculously large helmet and hit .239/.289/.367.

For years, there would be questions about whether Wright could ever be the same player after getting hit by that pitch. Some would surmise he was gun shy on inside pitches. There were other theories as well. However, what is not oft discussed is whether the Mets were sufficiently cautious in bringing him back from his concussion.

That’s not a discussion people had with respect to Ryan Church,. In real time, people thought the Mets handling of him and his concussion went well beyond negligence. In fact, they showed ignorance and stupidity.

On May 20, 2008, Church slid into second base in an attempt to break up a double play. On the slide, Yunel Escobar‘s knee hit him in the helmet with such force it rendered Church unconscious. It was his second concussion in little more than three months. After missing just one game, he would board a plane and fly with the team to Colorado. It would be a couple of weeks before he hit the disabled list.

Prior to the concussion, Church as a revelation for the Mets. Over his first 43 games, he was hitting .311/.379/.534. After the concussion, he hit .241/.313/.342. He wasn’t much better in 2009, and to add insult to injury Mets manager Jerry Manuel questioned his toughness and went so far to cite how Wright came back from his concussion.

Of course, Manuel was such a terrible manager he was never aware of how Wright struggled after his concussion.

Effectively speaking, this concussion and the Mets handling of it ended Church’s career. He was never quite the same player again, and after the 2010 season, he was out of baseball. The same was likely the case for another Mets outfielder.

On July 23, 2010, Jason Bay ran head first into a wall at Dodger Stadium, and he suffered a concussion on the play. He’d fly back with the team from Los Angeles to New York.

While we remember Bay’s tenure with the Mets as a complete disappointment, at that point in the season he was an above average hitter with a 1.5 WAR on track for a near 3.0 WAR season. Despite the concussion, Bay would actually play two more games before being shut down for the rest of the year. To be fair Bay was not the hitter the Mets expected him to be. Although, no one was in the days of the Great Wall of Flushing.

As bad as Bay was in 2010, he kept getting worse in the ensuing years. He’d retire at the age of 34 after his $66 million contract expired.

If we are being honest, we do not know what impact concussions had on any of these players. With each player, there were extenuating circumstances. We have also seen concussions are not a death sentence for anyone’s career.

For example, Wright had a great 2010 season, and he would have great years leading up to his career ending spinal stenosis. Mike Piazza was concussed by a Roger Clemens fastball on July 8, 2000. He would return five days later, and he would hit .294/.380/.518 (which was a big drop-off for him) in a season where he would led the Mets to the World Series. He would also show no ill effects going forward with a great 2001 season. Ultimately, it was the wear and tear from catching and age, not the head injury, which led to the end of Piazza’s career.

No player is alike, and we have seen seemingly recovered athletes struggle from their returns from concussions. When handled poorly, you have the potential to ruin careers. We saw that with Church, and we have seen it with athletes in other sports as well.

This is the dilemma facing the Mets right now. So far, they have done everything right with Michael Conforto. They have apparently learned from their lessons from their gross mishandling of concussions in the past. That said, there is the natural pull from the team to rush him back from this injury.

With Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Robinson Cano on the IL, the team desperately needs him in the lineup. That said, they need a healthy and ready to play Conforto. When that time will be is anyone’s best guess. The key here for the Mets and especially for Conforto and his career is they guess right.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Most Bizarre Mets Injuries

With reports Brandon Nimmo getting sick from cooking his own chicken dinner, it does inspire many to say, “Same old Mets!” Certainly, the Mets have had their fair share of bizarre injuries and illnesses over their 57 year history. There are plenty of stories, and the Mets bloggers share some of the more infamous in Mets history:

Michael Baron

I love Noah Syndergaard, but the hand, foot and mouth disease is easily the standout injury in recent memory for me.

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Valley Fever…and it’s not close. Single-handedly ended Ike Davis‘ career.

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

I’ll bring up Ryan Church here. Not that a concussion is bizarre, but putting him on an airplane to Denver and then Snoop Manuel surreptitiously chastising him for not being tough enough to handle it will always be the benchmark for bizarre in Flushing.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

Gotta go with what happened to reliever Ken Sanders between innings one Sunday afternoon in 1975: “I was taking my warm up pitches and lost the return throw from John Stearns and it hit me directly in my right eye. I never touched it. It actually knocked me out. There was no action on the field at the time of the accident.”

Tim Ryder (MMO)

Do Mackey Sasser‘s yips count? I’d have to go with Matt Harvey‘s bladder infection due to holding in his pee. Only the Mets.

Sasser hit .297/.328/.416 from 1988 thru 1990. Once his head got the best of him, everything came crashing down. The conventional injuries didn’t help either.

Bre S. (That Mets Chick)

Weirdest Mets illness: Ike Davis, valley fever in 2012. Valley Fever is an infection that is released from the dirt in desert regions of the Southwest and is inhaled. It can be stirred up by construction and winds.

Fast forward to 2014 and Davis still complained about having Valley fever! Its mind boggling how that infection stayed with him throughout the years. “You have no energy, no nothing. It was definitely a weird one. It’s supposed to go away on its own, but when I had an X-ray last year, it showed I still had it. I’m hoping that’s over and done with.” – Ike Davis

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

It’s gotta be “Valley Fever,” for me…it’s got all the hallmarks of a Mets injury. It’s a disease that sounds fake, like it’s almost a parody, and also sounds like a cruel act of God.

Strangely enough, Ike’s other injury is high on the list too — the time the training staff had him wear a walking boot nonstop, and it turned out the boot was basically suffocating his ankle, and it turned into him missing the 2011 season and pretty much ended his career. That…that’s the Mets right there.

Mets Daddy

Jerry Blevins slipping over a curb and re-breaking his arm. Sure, you can understand his arm breaking when he was hit with a comebacker, but a professional athlete breaking the arm again slipping on a curb takes the cake.

What’s interesting here is we had no mention of Tom Glavine losing his front teeth in a cab ride. What’s interesting to note with him is that while he thought that to be heart breaking, he was not devastated after killing the 2007 Mets season. Speaking of cab rides, we should never forget Duaner Sanchez.

There are many, many more here to list. We all know them, especially those who have participated in these roundtables. They know much more than the injuries, which is yet another reason to visit their sites and read their quality work.

Congratulations Dillon Gee

After an eight year career, former Mets pitcher Dillon Gee has announced his retirement from baseball. While Gee spent time with the Royals, Rangers, Twins, and even Japan, he is a New York Mets player through and through. The fact Gee emerged to even be that is quite remarkable.

Gee was a 21st round draft pick out of the University of Texas. He didn’t throw consistently in the 90s. None of his breaking pitches were great. Looking at that profile, you would not immediately peg him as a guy who was going to make it to the Major Leagues.

Overlooked through all of that was Gee knew how to pitch. He could locate his pitches, and he knew how to sequence them. With that knowledge and his underrated stuff, Gee just dominated in the minors. A year after he was drafted, he posted a 1.33 ERA in Double-A Binghamton. He would come to Spring Training in 2009, and he would catch the eye of then Mets manager Jerry Manuel.

You could have expected to pinpoint that as the moment where Gee took off. He didn’t because in Triple-A Gee was 1-3 with a 4.10 ERA and a 1.303 WHIP in just nine starts. He watched on like the rest of us as the Mets dipped down to Triple-A for Tim Redding, Nelson Figueroa, Pat Misch, Fernando Nieve, and Jon Niese. As that 2009 team faltered, Gee was left with us Mets fans wondering, “What if?”

The reason why Gee was no in the mix was a torn labrum leading to season ending shoulder surgery for a torn laburm. As we would eventually see with Johan Santana, that could be a career killer. Fortunately, even with him struggling in the minors in 2010, it wasn’t one for Gee.

Gee would finally get his chance at the end of the 2010 season, and over the course of seven brilliant innings against the Nationals, he proved he belonged. He did that all the more so as Gee had a 2.18 ERA in five MLB starts. That stint established he was a Major Leaguer, and he would become a fixture in the Mets rotation.

There were several highlights from Gee in his Mets years. In 2011, he would start the season 7-0 surpassing Jon Matlack‘s rookie record of six consecutive wins to start a season. He would set a career high with nine strikeouts in a game. And then, once again, there was an issue with his pitching shoulder. This time, Gee had a clot an arterial clot requiring season ending surgery. By the end of 2012, he had a promising start to his career, and he also had two significant and potentially career altering shoulder surgeries.

Once again, Gee would beat the odds, and he would once again establish he was a big league pitcher. While he teetered early on in 2013, he would re-establish himself in May with a terrific start against the Pirates allowing just one run in five innings. After that, he would have two more moments which would be arguably be the highlight of his career. The first was a 12 strikeout performance against the Yankees in the Subway Series:

It was a huge moment as the victory secured the Mets ever, and to date only, season sweep against the Yankees in the history of Interleague Play.

Later that season, Gee would flirt with a no-hitter for six innings against the Braves. It wasn’t the first or last time Gee would have that type of a performance, but it was special nonetheless.

This would lead to his being the Mets 2014 Opening Day starter. Just being an opening day starter put him in the same conversation as pitchers like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Dwight Gooden, David Cone, Al Leiter, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, and Johan Santana. It was a special honor for a pitcher who persevered throughout his career.

Unfortuantely, Gee would have injury issues in 2014, which helped lead to the rise of Jacob deGrom. That coupled with Matt Harvey returning and Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz on the horizon made his spot tenuous going forward. With the team being unsure what he was going forward coupled with another injury, Gee’s time was all but over. Finally, Gee would be released by the Mets in June meaning Gee would miss the ride.

Gee missed the ride despite his being a mentor to young pitchers like Harvey. He missed the ride despite him being one of the building blocks who not only had to take their licks pitching in front of inferior Mets teams, but also trying to take this team back to contention. Something, he never got to experience. Instead of being bitter, he was right there with all of us rooting for that Mets team to win the World Series:

Gee was a Met through and through. For six years, he gave the Mets everything he had. He did not let two shoulder surgeries stand in his way. He rose to become an Opening Day starter, and his fingerprints were all over that 2015 team. In the end, Gee should be proud of everything he accomplished. It was a very good career, and as a fan, it was a privilege to watch him pitch every fifth day.

Best of luck in retirement Dillon Gee!

Ike Davis Had A Worthwhile Career

Back in 2010, things were bleak with the Mets, really bleak.  The team closed out Shea Stadium with brutal losses on the final game of each season.  In 2006, Carlos Beltran struck out looking.  In 2007, Tom Glavine allowed seven runs in one-third of an inning.  In 2008, in what was the final game at Shea Stadium, Jerry Manuel brought in arguably his worst reliever in Scott Schoeneweis, who would allow a homer to Wes Helms to complete a second collapse.

In 2009, fans were less than thrilled with Citi Field.  It looked like more of an homage to the Dodgers than the Mets.  As much of a disappointment as Citi Field was, the team was even more of a disappointment.  The Mets went from a World Series contender to an under .500 team.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse the Madoff scandal hit.  It would forever change the impact how the Mets organization would be run.

Fans were looking for hope in any way, shape, or form, and they would find that hope in Ike Davis.

The 2010 Mets would disappoint, but there would be hope because of the play of the 2008 first round draft pick.  As a rookie, Davis hit .264/.341/.440, and he would finish in the Top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting.  While fans loved his bat, it would his play on the field, including his signature catch which would make him a quick fan favorite:

Using DRS as a metric, Davis was already the best fielding first baseman in the National League.  More than that, he seemed to be the only player not intimidated by Citi Field.  With his defense and game winning hits, it seemed like Davis was a star in the making.

As 2011 began, he seemed well on his way recording an RBI in nine of the Mets first 10 games.  In early May, he was hitting .302/.383/.543.  By any measure, he was a budding star, and then he would suffer an injury, which was compounded because the injury itself was originally mischaracterized.

With the injury, his potential breakout to stardom was delayed a year.  Instead, during Spring Training, Davis would contract Valley Fever.  The Valley Fever was most likely a factor in Davis’ drop from his early production.  He would hit a disappointing .227/.308/.462, but he would hit 32 homers.  Whatever hope the 32 homers would present were quickly dashed as Davis would never again be the same player.

As difficult as 2013 would be with Davis, the 2014 season would be worse.  Davis’ injuries and production opened the door for the Mets to look at Lucas Duda, and based upon a number of factors, including play on the field, the Mets would tab Duda as their first baseman.  This meant that Duda was a key bat in a lineup which would win the 2015 pennant while Davis would bounce around between the Pirates, Athletics, Rangers, Yankees, and Dodgers organizations.

Eventually, the slugger would abandon hitting, and he would attempt to become a pitcher.  It would not lead anywhere as Davis would become a minor league free agent after the 2017 season, and he found himself with no suitors.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t have one last big moment as a baseball player.

During the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Davis would play for an Israel team, who would make a surprising run.  He’d have a key pinch hit and he would hit well in the tournament.  In six games, Davis hit .471/.571/.706 with two doubles, a triple, and three RBI.  After that, he was no longer a position player, but a pitcher.  After a year in the Dodgers organization, he was neither.

He did not play at all in 2018, and now, he has decided he will no longer play baseball anywhere.

This may not have been the career Davis wanted or believed he would have when he was a first round draft pick, and yet, he was a player who left a definitive impact.  He was a key figure who gave Mets fans hope.  He is the only human being who can say he played first base when the Mets had a no-hitter.  He was a fan favorite, and he is a player many Mets fans still have a soft spot for all these years later.

And if things take off after the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he could have an impact on baseball in Israel.

All in all, that’s not a bad career.  In the end, Davis should hold his head high fully knowing he left an impact on the Mets, and he may have done even more than that. Really, congratulations to Ike Davis on a fine MLB career.

Five Prospects To Watch This Spring Training

The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves.  Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice.  With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder.  From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.

This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway.  Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:

RHP Tyler Bashlor

MMN Rank: 14

Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball.  He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors.  His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.

If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks.  In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie.  Those are unsustainable numbers.

Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day.  Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks.  If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.

LHP P.J. Conlon

MMN Rank: 24

For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever.  Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.

Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line.  Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.

However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter.  In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon.  More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.

RHP Corey Oswalt

MMN Rank: 12

Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters.  Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both.  As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.

2B Luis Guillorme

MMN Rank: 10

Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores.  If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.

At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder.  The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors.  To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle.  If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman.  Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.

C Patrick Mazeika

MMN Rank: 28

With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year.  While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.

Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t.  In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base.  What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.

What remains at issue is his defensive abilities.  It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough.  With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.

Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher.  Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.

Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future.  In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity.  If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN

Astros And Dodgers Fans, This One Is Going To Hurt For A While

If you ask a New York Giants fan about the postseason, they will reminisce about Super Bowl XLII and XLVI.  You will hear about the Helmet Catch and Eli hitting Manningham down the sideline for 38 yards.  You know what you don’t hear about?  Fassell having the Giants ill prepared for Super Bowl XXXV or Trey Junkin.

The reason is simple when you win, you remember it forever.  However, when you lose, and you lose and lose, that memory festers and worsens year to year.

For years and even until this day, you will occasionally hear Howie Rose bemoan Yogi Berra‘s decision to go with Tom Seaver on short rest over George Stone in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series.  One of the reasons that memory lingers is the Mets where irrelevant from 1974 until 1984.

After 1986, Mets fans were in their glory, and to this day many fans who got to live through 1986 talk about it as fondly today as they probably did when they got to work on October 28, 1986.

Behind them is a group of Mets fans who never really got to live through the 1986 World Series.  As a result, they just know Madoff Scandals and hauting postseason failures:

1988 NLCS

  • Davey Johnson botched that series including leaving in Dwight Gooden too long in Game Four.  Doc would allow a game tying home run in the top of the ninth to Mike Scioscia.
  • It was the last hurrah for Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez who struggled over the final few games of the series, and respectively faced poor and injury plagued 1989 seasons before finding new homes in 1989.

1999 NLCS

  • First and foremost, the one thing that should stick out was how those Braves teams just tortured the Mets, and the Mets could never get past them.
  • Both John Franco and Armando Benitez blew leads in Game 6 preventing the Mets from sending the series to a seventh game and letting the Mets be the team to do what the Red Sox did to the Yankees five years later.
  • Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded to end the series.

2000 World Series

2006 NLCS

2015 World Series

2016 Wild Card Game

  • Connor Gillaspie

The list for the aforementioned series really goes on and on, but those were just some of the highlights.  After tonight’s game, that is what Astros and Dodgers fans will be doing.  They’ll be asking if Dave Roberts was too aggressive with his pitching changes while A.J. Hinch was not aggressive enough.  Why didn’t Chris Taylor try to score, or why could Josh Reddick just put the ball in play.  Really, the list goes on and on.

For one fan base, they will focus on the things that went wrong.  Considering the Dodgers haven’t won in 29 years and the Astros have never won, the pain of this loss is going to hurt all the more.  For the fanbase that gets to win this one, they will have memories to cherish for a lifetime, and they will never again be bothered by the what ifs that could have plagued their team in this epic World Series.

Mets Smearing Collins Continues Horrible Pattern

Is anyone surprised the Mets decided to smear Terry Collins before parting ways with him this offseason?  Well, you shouldn’t be because  it follows a pattern from this organization since the Wilpons have taken control of the team.  While full ownership did not fully transfer until 2002, the Wilpons had gradually gained control throughout the years and were really front in center with an already hands-off Doubleday suffering health issues.

Coming off the heels of the 2000 World Series, Alex Rodriguez made it well known he wanted to play for the Mets, the team he’s always loved.  Instead of the team letting themselves get outbid, they declared him to be a 24 and one player.

Instead of thanking managers like Bobby Valentine and Art Howe for their service, they talked about how their teams quit on them, which is as damning a statement you can make against a manager.  Things went further for Howe calling him soft, weak, boring, and out of touch.

As poorly as Howe was treated on the way out, it pales in comparison to how Willie Randolph was treated.  This went beyond the accusations he was out of touch and couldn’t get through to his players.  No, they had to fly him out to California and fire him at 3:00 A.M. after a win!  They then replaced him with Jerry Manuel, who was the person bad mouthing Randolph behind his back with, you guessed it, Jeff Wilpon.

It wasn’t just managers that received this treatment.  Remember what happened with Yoenis Cespedes in the 2015 offseason?  When the team made it clear they had wanted to pass on re-signing him?  First, he was a round peg in a square hole that couldn’t handle center.  It wasn’t just that, we heard whispers about whether a team could trust Cespedes on a long-term deal.

Now, the Mets have turned their attention to Collins.  Reading Marc Carig’s Newsday article on the subject, the team couldn’t help but tear him down before parting ways with him this offseason.  Reading the column, you can see the Mets have gotten much better at this detailing all of his faults:

  1. Constant tactical blunders;
  2. Resisted input;
  3. Poor relationship with players;
  4. Shielded by Fred Wilpon from firing;
  5. Front office had no confidence in him;
  6. Abused relief pitchers;
  7. No interest in playing young guys;
  8. Played players like Jeurys Familia into injuries;
  9. Inmates ran the asylum; and
  10. Team was miserable.

Any Mets fans who has paid attention to the team could tell you any of the above was true.  We saw Collins staple Michael Conforto to the bench for under-performing veterans.  He pressured Steven Matz to pitch through the pain.  There was the drama surrounding Asdrubal Cabrera‘s position switch.  There have been a wake of injured relievers during his career.  All of the above has proven to be true.

Through all of it, the Mets kept Collins.  They dismissed these concerns and even put forth the illusion he was great handling the clubhouse.  However, now that Collins is on his way out, those positive narratives are gone; replaced by the truth or something close to it.

The sad part is this is completely unnecessary.  Collins dutifully serves this organization since 2010 and managed them since 2011.  He led the team to consecutive postseasons and delivered a pennant.  Despite all of this, we all knew this was the end, and really, there was no one asking for him to return to the Mets.  Most agreed it was time for the Mets to select a new manager, a new direction.

For some reason, the Mets couldn’t leave well enough alone.  They had to tear the guy down on his way out.  Sadly, this is not a new low for the organization because you can’t get any lower than how they treated Randolph.  Rather, the team has become better and more efficient at doing it.

With the way Collins has been treated it makes you question what type of manager would be willing to accept a job from the Mets considering how they are treated and smeared on their way out the door.

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.

Reflecting on The Mets Longest Tenured Manager

Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed.  With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing.  He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons.  Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.

All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger.  It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson?  The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.

Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era.  After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse.  Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark.  In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173.  This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.

The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues.  First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field.  Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts.  Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making.  Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning.  It was time for new blood across the organization.

This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011.  The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players.  In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.

During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders.  As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive.  Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster.  Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.

Things almost came to a head in 2014.  The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling.  The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked.  There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others.  It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.

It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived.  The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers.  It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing.  There were also some positive signs for the team.

Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs.  Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star.  Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material.  Wheeler had a strong finish to the season.  Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting.  Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove.  Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year.  Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015.  R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future.  These were players who were cultivated under Collins.  It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012.  Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.

There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being.  Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people.  He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences.  He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children.  He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set.  That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit.  Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.

And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long.  His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy.  Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.

There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players.  Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players.  It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup.  Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy.  Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate.  This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.

More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge.  There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes.  Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title.  One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.

That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets.  Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win.  Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series.  But it’s more than that.  We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes.  He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench.  Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite all of that, Collins is still here.  He has survived a lot to get to this point.  There was the Madoff scandal.  There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised.  He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks.  He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.

The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history.  To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history.  That is mostly the result of circumstance.  Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has.  Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse.  If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.

It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record.  It’s Collins’ now.  He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.

That’s How You Finish Out the Regular Season at Home

Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day.  It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game.  What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.

When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope.  Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke.  Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better.  Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged.  This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out.  The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen.  It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.

The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it.  When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season.  Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak.  It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball.  It was, but that’s a whole other story.

There was the devastating 2007 finale.  Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins.  They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs.  Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team.  The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game.  Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.

After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home.  At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game.  David Wright was having a torrid September.  Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players.  I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month.  With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .”  As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla.  Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.

That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale.  Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be.  The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter.  The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale.  Back then, this was considered a good thing.  The offense was clicking again.  However, that bullpen was just so awful.  The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen.  Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last.  Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.

Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church.  He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion.  Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well?  Nevermind.  In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium.  Many disagree, but I thought it helped.

Last year, was just a celebration.  The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006.  The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins.  The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying.  It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins.  That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.

This year was something different altogether.  In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column).  The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under.  Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game.  However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.

After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.

Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts.  More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single.  For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play.  Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:

 

It was that type of day for the Mets.  After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday.  On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double.  It was easily the best game he had as a Met.  His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout.  Then, as  Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!”  No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game.  It refers to the Mets offense.

Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0.  It was his 30th of the year making it the first time  the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows?  In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single.  Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks.  Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:

The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season.  The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:

In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game.  Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit.  Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0.  Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home.  As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.

There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be.  Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field.  However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007.  Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”