John Olerud

Meet The Mets Fan: Josh Eppard

The Mets Fan

I’m Josh Eppard. Musician. Wayward lost youth who figured it out at the very last second. I play drums in Coheed and Cambria, a nerd rock band and I have six rap records out. Seriously. Haha.

How You Became a Mets Fan

I’ve asked myself this question many times. How DID I become a Mets fan??? Well, the answer is . . . I don’t flipping know. To me, it feels like one of those things that just is. Like time. When did time become time? It is man made after all. For me, that’s the Mets. It just feels like it’s always been. My first Met memories though are of being 4/5 years old and me and my brother rubbing this little sculpture in our living room to give Darryl Strawberry “Homerun Power!”

Favorite Mets Player

To pick just one would be crazy. But, ugh Jesus… I have the weirdest players I connect with. Jose Vizcaino was def one, Lance Johnson was my fav player, while with the Mets, certainly John Olerud…. if I had to pick ONE Met that resides above all other Mets . . . FonziePiazza…. it’s tough to pick ONE. All of the above! And Al Leiter. Leiter and Bobby Jones and Rick Reed… haha I could go on forever.

Favorite Moment in Mets HistoryBefore 2015 is have to say Pratt’s HR in the post season. Maybe the 99 play in game vs the reds. That ’99 team was my fav Mets team. Ever. But 2015 was magical. It was a shame we couldn’t guide it home all the way. But that year, we should all be thankful for that magic year.

Message to Mets Fans

Don’t Jump. All things ebb and flow and things will get better. Or worse. Idk. We are in this together though.

Meet The Mets Fan: Derek Carty

The Mets Fan

My name is Derek Carty. I’m the former fantasy manager for sabermetric sites Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times (now part of FanGraphs), but I’m best known these days for my work in Daily Fantasy. I write for ESPN, was on Baseball Tonight during the 2015 season, and put out content through RotoGrinders, including my DFS projection system THE BAT, which has been shown to outperform even Vegas lines.

How You Became a Mets Fan

I’ve been a Mets fan since I was a kid. The crazy-good infield of John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez, and Robin Ventura was what I grew up with. I’ve become more jaded over the years…

Favorite Mets Player

Mike Piazza, and it’s not close. Everyone agrees he’s the best hitting catcher of all time, but he was an incredibly underrated defender that got shafted because of the era he played in. He had a bad arm, and that’s all anyone ever focused on back then. But a catcher’s arm is much less important than his framing, and Baseball Prospectus’s retro framing stats show that he was +60 runs above average for his career. He gave some back with the arm, but for his career he was actually a well above-average defender, despite a reputation as a bad one. This is the greatest catcher of all time. Not the greatest hitting catcher. The greatest catcher. Not getting into the Hall on the first ballot was an absolute joke.

Favorite Moment in Met History

2000 NLCS Game 5. I remember listening to “Who Let the Mets Out” on repeat lol.

Message to Mets Fans

“Try not to cry”? That’s been my motto. The way they handled the trade deadline (specifically Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce) was terrible, the Bruce deal this off-season was bad, the way they’ve handled their pitchers has been bad. Seriously, what were they thinking with Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz last year? I really want to be optimistic, but it’s tough. There is *some* reason for it. I like the Todd Frazier deal. I like that they are trying to fix the training staff. I think the A-Gon deal is an okay low-risk move. But as long as the Wilpons are in charge, I have a hard time seeing this organization ever really turning a corner. I have them projected for 84 wins this year, which is solid and could put them in contention for the Second Wild Card, but that’s assuming relatively good health. A team in a market like NYC needs to be better, even if they have to tear it all down first.

Leiter, New Jersey Hall of Famer, Among Forgotten Group of Mets Not in Mets Hall of Fame

Recently in the news, it was reported former Mets great Al Leiter will be a part of a 20 person class that will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.  Of all the people inducted, Leiter will be the only baseball player.

It is interesting Leiter is being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, but he is not being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Last year, I made the case for his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. Rather than regurgitate the full case here, I’ll quickly note he’s in the Top 10 in wins, strikeouts, and ERA+ in what has been a pitching rich Mets history.

As it stands, from that era of Mets baseball, only Mike Piazza and John Franco have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  As we know, Piazza is a Hall of Famer who has had his number retired by the team.  Franco, the Mets leader in saves, had his best years before Leiter even joined the team.

Behind Piazza and Franco, there are some Mets from those late 90s, early 2000s teams that certainly merit induction.

Edgardo Alfonzo is the best middle infielder in Mets history, and he was a key player on a Mets team that went to consecutive postseasons for the first time in team history.

In three years with the Mets, Robin Ventura won a Gold Glove, hit .260/.360/.468, and he had an all-time great postseason moment with the Grand Slam Single.

You could argue John Olerud had a similar, albeit not as great impact, on the Mets as Keith Hernandez.  He came over in what became a ridiculously lopsided trade, and once he become a Met, the team had taken off.

With Olerud in the fold, the Mets went from a 71 to an 88 win team.  If not for Mel Rojas, that 1998 team probably makes the postseason.  In 1999, Olerud was a key part of a Mets team that won the Wild Card and went to the NLCS.

And speaking of that 1998 team, there is Todd Hundley.  Still to this day, Hundley remains the Mets single season home run leader.

Certainly, you can make arguments against some of these players, but ultimately, the fact the great contributions of Mets players who helped bring the team to consecutive postseasons has been far overlooked by this franchise.  It needs to be remedied, and it can start with Leiter adding Mets Hall of Famer to his New Jersey Hall of Famer resume.

 

Put Bobby Valentine in the Mets Hall of Fame

It has been almost 15 years since Bobby Valentine has managed the Mets, and because of how history works, the enduring image we have of Bobby V is the time he came back into the dugout with sunglasses and a fake mustache made with eye back after he had been thrown out of a game.  Bobby V was much more than that.

After a disappointing player career that included two forgettable seasons with the Mets, Valentine became a coach.  In 1983, he was named the third base coach for the George Bamberger led Mets.  Despite Bamberger not lasting the season, and General Manager Frank Cashen cleaning house, the Mets decided to keep Valentine when Davey Johnson was hired.  From 1983 – 1985, Valentine was generally regarded as a very good third base coach, who helped in the development of a young Mets team from cellar dwellers to contenders.  He would be hired as the Texas Rangers manager, and he would miss all of the 1986 season. 

After his stint in Texas, a brief stop in Norfolk, and one in Japan, the Mets brought Bobby V back to the organization for the 1996 season.  Initially, he was named as the manager of the Tides.   However, after Dallas Green had finally run through all of the young arms on the team, Valentine was named the interim manager for the final 31 games of the season.  In the offseason, the interim tag would be removed, and he would start the 1997 season as the Mets manager.

The 1997 Mets were THE surprise team in all of baseball.  Despite a starting rotation that was comprised of Rick Reed, Dave Mlicki, Bobby Jones, Mark Clark, Brian Bohanon, and Armando Reynoso, the Mets would go from a 71 win team to an 88 win team.  Now, there were good seasons for the turnaround.  There was the acquisition of John Olerud.  There was also another strong season from Lance Johnson, and Todd Hundley proved his record setting 41 home run 1996 season was no fluke.  However, there were other factors at play, and they were directly related to the manger.

First, Edgardo Alfonzo was made the everyday third baseman instead of the utility player he was under Green.  Also, while Reed had started the season coming out of the bullpen, Bobby V moved him into the rotation.  Additionally, whereas Green’s calling card was to abuse his starters’ arms, Valentine protected his starters’ arms (his starters averaged six innings per start and less), and he used the bullpen to his advantage.  On a more subjective note, this was a team that played harder and was more sound fundamentally.  It was a team that probably played over their heads for much of the season.

One important note from this season, Mlicki threw a complete game shut-out against the Yankees in the first ever Subway Series game.  While the Mets were overmatched in terms of talent in that three game series, Bobby V had that group ready to play, and they very nearly took the three game set from the Yankees.

With the Mets having overachieved, the front office led by General Manager Steve Phillips gave his manager some reinforcements.  The team would acquire Al Leiter and Dennis Cook from the Marlins.  The Mets would also add Japanese pitcher Masato Yoshii from Japan.  However, this team was struggling due to Hundley’s elbow injury and Bernard Gilkey and Carlos Baerga having yet another disappointing season.  Bobby V and the Mets kept the team above .500 and competitive long enough to allow the front office to make the bold move to add Mike Piazza.

From there, the Mets took off, and they would actually be in the thick of the Wild Card race.  They were in it despite the Hundley LF experiment not working.  They were in it despite getting nothing offensively from left field and their middle infield.  They were in it despite the fact the Mets effectively had a three man bullpen.  The latter (I’m looking at you Mel Rojas) coupled with the Braves dominance of the Mets led to a late season collapse and the team barely missing out on the Wild Card.

The Mets re-loaded in 1999 with Rickey Henderson, Robin Ventura, Roger Cedeno, Armando Benitez, and Orel Hershiser (no, Bobby Bonilla is not getting lumped in here).  Things do not initially go as planned.  After blowing a late lead, the Yankees beat the Mets, and the Mets found themselves a game under .500.  Phillips responded by firing almost all of Bobby V’s coaching staff.

The Mets and Bobby V responded by becoming the hottest team in baseball.  From that point forward, the Mets were 70-37.  At points during the season, they even held onto first place for a few days.  The Mets were helped by Bobby V being judicious with Henderson’s playing time to help keep him fresh.  Like in year’s past, Bobby V moved on from a veteran not performing to give Cedeno a chance to play everyday, and he was rewarded.  Again, like in previous seasons, Bobby V had to handle a less than stellar starting rotation.

In what was a fun and tumultuous season, the Mets won 97 games.  The team nearly avoided disaster again by forcing a one game playoff against the Reds for the Wild Card.  Not only did the Mets take that game, but they upset the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.  The NLDS performance is all the more impressive when you consider Piazza was forced to miss the last two games due to injury.  In the NLCS, they just met a Braves team that had their number for the past three seasons.  Still, even with the Braves jumping all over the Mets and getting a 3-0 series lead, we saw the Mets fight back.

In Game 4, it was an eighth inning two run go-ahead Olerud RBI single off John Rocker.  In Game 5, it was a 15 inning game that was waiting for the other team to blink first.  While, the Mets blinked in the top of the 15th with a Keith Lockhart RBI triple, the Mets responded in the bottom of the 15th with Ventura’s Grand Slam single to send the series back to Atlanta.  The Mets would be ever so close in Game 6.  They fought back from a 5-0 and 7-3 deficit.  Unforutnately, neither John Franco nor Benitez could hold a lead to force a Game 7.  Then Kenny Rogers couldn’t navigate his way around a lead-off double and bases loaded one out situation in the 11th.

In 2000, Bobby V finally got the rotation he needed with the trade acquiring Mike Hampton and the emergence of Glendon Rusch.  However, even with the much improved rotation, it still was not an easy year for the Mets.  It rarely ever was during Bobby V’s tenure.

First, the Mets had to deal with the Henderson and Darryl Hamilton situations.  Henderson became a malcontent that wanted a new contract.  Hamilton lost his starting job due to a toe injury and had become a part time player.  The result was the complete transformation of the outfield with Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton becoming everyday players.  In the infield, the Mets lost Olerud to free agency and had to convert free agent third baseman Todd Zeile into a first baseman.  Additionally, the Mets lost Gold Glove shortstop Rey Ordonez to injury leading the team to have to rely on Melvin Mora as their shortstop for much of the season.  In what was perhaps Bobby V’s finest managing job with the Mets, the team made the postseason for the second straight year.  It was the first time in Mets history they had gone to consecutive playoff games.

In the postseason, the team showed the same toughness and grit as they had in prior years.  In the first game of the NLDS, they overcame an injury to Derek Bell and saw Timo Perez become a folk hero.  The Mets outlasted the Giants in Game 2 despite a Benitez blown save.  In Game 3, Agbayani hit a walk-off homer in the 13th, and Game 4 saw the Jones one-hitter.  With the Mets not having to face the Braves in the NLCS, they steamrolled through the Cardinals en route to their first World Series since 1986.  While the team never gave in, the balls did not bounce in their favor.  That was no more apparent than when Zeile’s fly ball hit the top of the left field wall and bounced back into play.

From there, Phillips lost his magic touch.  The team started to get old in 2001, and by 2002, everything fell apart.  After what was his first season under .500 with the Mets, Bobby V was fired after the 2002 season.  With one exception, it was the end of a forgettable and disappointing two seasons for the Mets.

One thing that cannot be lost with the 2001 season was how the Mets dealt with the aftermath of 9/11.  Every player did their part.  So did their manager.  After 9/11 happened, Bobby V was a visible face of the Mets franchise visiting firehouses and helping relief aid at Shea Stadium.  When it was time to return to playing games, he was able to get his players in a mindset to play baseball games.  That is no small feat when your captain was a local guy who lost a friend on 9/11.  Also, while it was the players who spearheaded wearing the First Responders’ caps, it was their manager who stood by their side and encouraged them to wear them despite requests to take them off from the Commissioner’s Office.

Through the roller coaster ride that was the 1,003 games of the Bobby V Era, the Mets were 536-437.  During that span, Bobby V managed the second most games in Mets history while earning the second most wins in Mets history.  His .534 winning percentage is the third best in Mets history just behind Johnson and Willie Randolph.  In all but his final season as Mets manager, the Mets either met or exceed their expected (Pythagorean) record.

Bobby V stands as just one of two managers to go to consecutive postseasons.  His 13 postseason wins are the most by any manager in Mets history.  He’s the only Mets manager to win a postseason series in consecutive postseasons.  He’s managed in more postseason series than any other Mets manager.

Overall, Bobby V is an important part of Mets history.  Out of all the managers in Mets history, it is fair to say the Bobby V consistently did more with the talent given to him by his front office.  For some, he is the best manager in Mets history.  Most will certainly agree he is at least the third best manager in Mets history.  For all of this, and how he represented the Mets organization during 9/11 and the aftermath, Bobby V should be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.

 

Changing My Mind on Fred McGriff

Overall, I have decided to vote for Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Larry Walker on my IBWAA ballot.  If they were up for IBWAA vote, I would have also voted for Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell while not voting for Edgar Martinez.  In looking at Kent, Mussina, and Walker, I went back over their careers, and I re-assessed whether or not I should vote for them.  Ultimately, I did.  I did the same with players I did not vote for, and as a result, I added one to my ballot:

Fred McGriff, 1B

Stats: 19 seasons, .284/.377/.509, 2,490 H, 441 2B, 24 3B, 493 HR, 1,550 RBI, 38 SB

Advanced: 52.4 WAR, 35.8 WAR7, 44.1 JAWS

Awards: 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star

During Hall of Fame voting, many times you will hear about a player being a compiler.  There are two ways you can define compiler: (1) someone who put up a number of counting stats over a very good but not great long career; or (2) Fred McGriff.

Arguably, McGriff was never a truly great player.  In fact, from a WAR perspective, he only had three seasons that you would rate him at superstar or MVP level.    If you take out the partial seasons he played in his first and last year, McGriff averaged a 3.1 WAR.  Basically, this means for most of McGriff’s career, he was a very good, but not quite All Star caliber player.  In that sense, his five All Star appearances seem right on the money.

Like Guerrero.  McGriff’s advanced statistics were held down by his perceived poor base running and defense.  Certainly, McGriff was no Keith Hernandez out there.  In fact, despite his appearance on the Tom Emanski videos, McGriff was not a particularly good first baseman.  Certainly, his .992 fielding percentage was nothing special as far as first baseman go.  It goes a long way in explaining why McGriff had a -18.1 dWAR in his career.  With that said, I am not sure how reliable that -18.1 figure is.

One of McGriff’s contemporaries at first base was the man who replaced him at first base in Toronto – John Olerud.  In Olerud’s playing days, he was considered a very good first baseman who won four Gold Gloves, and in reality, probably should have won more.  That notion has been reinforced by some advanced metrics.  For his career, Olerud’s dWAR was -2.

When reputation and advanced metrics agree a players is a good defensive player at his position, and dWAR completely disagrees, it gives you pause as to whether the calculation is entirely correct.  Assuming McGriff was only half as bad as dWAR suggested, his career WAR would increase to 61.5, which would leave him only 4.4 WAR short of what the average Hall of Famer was.  In fact, you could conclude McGriff was a poor first baseman that merited a negative dWAR and still have him reach the average WAR for a first baseman.

Despite all this hand wringing, the fact remains McGriff probably falls short of being a Hall of Famer due to his defense, and yes, defense matters.  With that said, there are two other factors which give McGriff the benefit of the doubt.

First, McGriff was a money player that was typically at his best when there was a lot at stake.  Using the baseline of his .284/.377/.509 career slash line, here are McGriff’s stats in big situations:

  • RISP: .277/.403/.479
  • RISP, two outs: .241/.399/.421
  • High Leverage: .290/.385/.500

Typically speaking, McGriff was at a minimum slightly better in pressure situations.

Another example of how good McGriff was in pressure situations was the 1993 season.  At the time the Braves acquired McGriff, the Braves trailed the San Francisco Giants by nine games in the National League West Standings.  Over the final 68 games of the season, McGriff would hit an astounding .310/.392/.612 with 19 homers and 55 RBI.  Essentially, McGriff was Yoenis Cespedes before Cespedes was Cespedes.  The Braves needed each and every single one of those homers as they finished one game ahead of the Giants in the standings.

Granted, that was just one season.  However, McGriff’s clutch hitting was also evident in the postseason.  In 50 postseason games, McGriff was a .303/.385/.532 hitter with 10 homers and 37 RBI.  His clutch postseason hitting helped the Braves win their only World Series with the vaunted Greg MadduxTom GlavineJohn Smoltz rotation.  In the 1995 postseason, McGriff hit .333/.415/.649 with four homers and nine RBI.

Overall, his postseason play combined with the question marks surrounding the defensive statistics that push his WAR outside Hall of Fame averages is enough for him to get my vote even if it is my the narrowest or margins.

There is one other small factor at play.  Anyone who saw McGriff towards the end of his career knew he was sticking around to try to get to 500 homers.  At the time, 500 homers was a golden benchmark which led to almost automatic Hall of Fame induction.  Well, McGriff didn’t get there as he fell seven home runs short.  He fell seven home runs short because he began his career in a de facto platoon with Cecil Fielder.  He fell seven home runs short because of the 1994 strike.   He fell seven home runs short because there were pitchers juicing while he wasn’t.  He fell seven home runs short because he was washed up at age 40.  Ultimately, he fell seven home runs short because he just wasn’t good enough to get those seven home runs.

Do you know where he would rank on the all-time home run list with those seven extra home runs?  11th.  Do you know where he currently stands on the list?  11th.  Ultimately, seven home runs over the course of a 19 year career is about one-third of a home run per season.  One-third of a home run per season doesn’t amount to much.  If that is the case, seven home runs should not be the line of demarcation between him being a Hall of Famer and him not garnering much support.

With or without the seven home runs, you can justify voting for McGriff who had a good career for almost all of his 19 seasons.  He has certainly done enough to justify being inducted into Cooperstown.

 

Bobby Valentine’s Second Greatest Achievement

Recent reports indicate that President Elect Donald Trump is considering Bobby Valentine as the United States Ambassador to Japan.  If Valentine is indeed selected as the Ambassador to Japan, it would be his second biggest accomplishment.  Naturally, his biggest accomplishment was leading the 2000 Mets not only to the postseason, but to the National League Pennant.

As luck would have it, the New York Mets would begin the season in Japan.  Valentine’s Opening Day outfield was Rickey HendersonDarryl HamiltonDerek Bell.  Of that group, only Bell would play in a postseason game for the Mets, and he would be injured in Game One of the NLDS.  Henderson would prove to be a malcontent that wanted a new contract, and ultimately, he would be released in May.  Hamilton would lose his job in April after suffering a toe injury.  This led to the Mets outfield being Benny AgbayaniJay Payton-Bell for most of the season.

The one thing Agbayani could do was hit.  In 2000, he hit .289/.391/.477 with 15 homers and 60 RBI in 119 games.  However, he was a terrible fielder who did this in the field during a game that season:

 

For his part, Payton was one of the heralded players out of Georgia Tech that included Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra.  While Payton was once considered on par with them, if not better.  As a prospect, Payton’s star would diminish a bit, but he would still become a major league player.  In his 2000 rookie season, Payton relatively struggled at the plate hitting .291/.331/.447 with 17 homers and 62 RBI in 149 games.

There was more than that.  Valentine also had to help make Todd Zeile an effective first baseman after he spent most of his career as a third baseman.  Zeile was of course signed to replace John Olerud, who departed in free agency.  While Zeile had a nice season hitting .268/.356/.467 with 22 homers and 79 RBI, his production fell far short of Olerud’s .298/.427/.463, 19 homer run, 96 RBI season.  When you consider the drop off defensively from the Gold Glover Olerud to the quickly adapting Zeile, the team was noticeably worse at first base.

The team was also worse at shortstop.  While Rey Ordonez never hit for much, he was a Gold Glover at shortstop.  The Mets would miss that defense after he broke his left arm trying to get a tag down in May.  This led to the Mets trying to get by with Melvin Mora at shortstop, who struggled at the plate and in the field.  This led to the ill advised trade for Mike Bordick who would hit .260/.321/.365 in his 56 games as a Met.

In reality, this was all part of a Mets team that was considerably weaker than the 1999 version.  Pat Mahomes was nowhere near as good as he was in 1999.  In place of well established veterans like Orel Hershiser and Kenny Rogers in the rotation, the Mets had Glendon Rusch and the return of Bobby Jones.  However, it should be noted the rotation was one area the Mets were better.

Whereas the 1999 Mets were an offensive juggernaut with a strong bullpen, the 2000 Mets were built on starting pitching.  Al Leiter had an improved season making him 1A behind the ace the Mets acquired in the offseason, Mike Hampton.  With Rusch and Jones outperforming their expectations, and quite possibly what their rotation counterparts did in 1999, the rotation was one area the Mets were improved.

The rotation along with two terrific players in Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo, Valentine was able to lead the Mets to the World Series.  Valentine was able to do that despite a diminished offense, vastly diminished defense, an overall less talented roster, and some drama (which usually follows Valentine wherever he goes).  It was a team that outperformed their Pythagorean win-loss record by six games.  It was a team that outperformed expectations.

Making it to the 2000 World Series should be considered Valentine’s biggest accomplishment.  That Mets team really had no business making it to the postseason let alone the World Series.  It is why that should stand as Valentine’s biggest accomplishment even if he were to be named as President Trump’s choice to be the Ambassador to Japan.

Mets Don’t Go Back to the Future

With the addition of John Olerud and the emergence of Rick Reed, the 1997 Mets made a tremendous leap forward going 88-74 to be a factor in the Wild Card race.  However, they would eventually lose out to a Florida Marlins team that was literally built to win the World Series that one season.

After that season, the Marlins disbanded because, as we were first learning out, that’s what the Marlins do when they win.  The Mets were one of the main beneficiaries of the the offseason sell-off with them obtaining Al Leiter and Dennis Cook.  Then the real boon came when the Marlins had swung a deal with the Dodgers to obtain Mike Piazza to unload a bunch of big contracts.  With the Mets struggling, due in large part to Todd Hundley‘s elbow injury, the Mets moved quickly and added Piazza.  With a week left in the season, the Mets won to go to 88-68.  All the Mets needed to do in the final week of the season was to win one more game to at least force a playoff with the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs for the Wild Card.  They didn’t.  Once again, finishing the year 88-74 was not good enough for the Wild Card.

Entering the final game of the 2016 season, with the Mets having already clinched the Wild Card, the Mets needed just one more win to finish the year at 88-74.

There was a version of me 20 years younger that wanted to see the Mets get that win to erase some of the bad feelings that an 88-74 record created.  It was going to be a difficult task because the Mets objective wasn’t to win this game.  The sole objective was to just get through it with everybody healthy so as not to compromise the team for the winner-take-all Wild Card Game this Wednesday at Citi Field.

For starters, it was Gabriel Ynoa who took the mound instead of Noah Syndergaard. Terry Collins would also give an at-bat a piece to Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis CespedesJay Bruce would get two.  T.J. Rivera, Jose Reyes, Rene Rivera, and Travis d’Arnaud would not play.  This was a full-on keep people fresh and don’t get anyone injured operation.

Ynoa would acquit himself well even if he couldn’t go five.  He would only throw 52 pitches in 4.2 innings allowing five hits, one run, one earned, and one walk with two strikeouts.  Collins would lift him for Jerry Blevins, who is probably the one Mets reliever who could’ve used some work, to get out of the fifth.  At that point, the Phillies were only up 1-0 on a third inning Maikel Franco RBI single.

The Mets would eventually go ahead in this game making the 88-74 season a reality.  In the sixth, Matt Reynolds doubled, and he would score on an Alejandro De Aza RBI singles.  In the seventh, Kelly Johnson hit a leadoff single, and he would score on a Kevin Plawecki two out RBI double.

The lead would not last long as the Phillies went to work against Erik Goeddel in the bottom of the seventh.  After an Andres Blanco single, an Aaron Altherr walk, and a Lucas Duda throwing error, the Phillies loaded the bases with no outs.  Cesar Hernandez brought home the first two runs on an RBI single, and then Jimmy Paredes knocked in the third run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.  That Paerdes sacrifice fly was an extra base hit if anyone other than Juan Lagares was manning center field.  Lagares once again reminded everyone that he is the best fielding center fielder in baseball, and that if he can at least manage one at-bat per game, he needs to be on the postseason roster.

The Phillies then added a run in the eighth off Jim Henderson to make the game 5-2.  That would be the final score of a game where both teams reached their primary objective.  The Phillies were able to provide a fitting send-off for Ryan Howard removing him from the game in the eighth so he could leave to a standing ovation.  The Mets just got through the game without suffering any injuries, and also got much needed reps for Duda and Lagares.

The Mets weren’t able to get that final win to erase the angst of the past when 88 wins just wasn’t good enough for the postseason.  Ironically, 87 was good enough this year.  With those 87 wins, the Mets put the capper on a mostly frustrating season.  However, in the end, they were able to go to make consecutive postseason appearances for only the second time in their history.  When viewed through that prism, this was a successful and enjoyable season.

Who To Trade?

Last year, the Mets parted with number of pitching prospects in a drive to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2006.  Over the course of this past year, we have seen some of them actually pitching in the major leagues:

  • In 16 starts for the Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer is 9-2 with a 2.50 ERA and a 1.089 WHIP.  He is the leading candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year Award, and he should receive some Cy Young Award votes at the end of the season.
  • The Tigers traded Luis Cessa in the offseason to the New York Yankees.  Cessa has pitched briefly out of the bullpen for the Yankees this year.  In his six appearances, he has pitched 13.2 innings going 1-0 with a 3.95 ERA and a 1.244 WHIP.
  • The Atlanta Braves do not seem quite sure what to make of John Gant and his quirky delivery, but they seem to be convinced he’s a major league caliber pitcher.  Out of the bullpen, Gant has made seven appearances with no record, a 6.17 ERA, and a 1.714 WHIP.  As a starter, Gant has performed considerably better going 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.179 WHIP.

As we know, the Mets got Yoenis Cespedes for Fulmer and Cessa.  Gant was part of a trade that netted the Mets Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  The Mets also made trades of varying success to obtain Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, and Eric O’Flaherty.  Overall, the Mets gave up valuable pieces to obtain major league players that helped them win the National League Pennant.

As of right now, the Mets are in a similar situation to where they were last season.  They need to assess what they need (starter, reliever, and right handed bat off the bench) and what they are willing to trade to obtain those pieces.  Sooner or later, the right player is going to come along, and the Mets are going to have to decide whether to trade next year’s Fulmer for this year’s Cespedes.  The issue becomes who do you and who do you not trade.  Here is a look at the Mets top prospects teams are sure to be inquiring about.

Amed Rosario

Each and every team is going to inquire on Rosario, and the answer time and time again is going to be no.  It’s for good reason as well.  When the Mets signed him out of the Dominican Republic, his defense was seen as a given, but there were concerns about his bat.  Rosario has put many of those concerns to bed by hitting .321/.372/.464 with 19 doubles, 12 triples, three homers and 56 RBI between St. Lucie and Binghamton.  He was a Florida State Leauge All Star, on the Team World Roster for the Future’s Game, and he was named MLB.com‘s 18th best prospect.  Unless you are talking a Mike Trout trade, Rosario is off the table.

Dominic Smith

This is where things start to get a little interesting as Smith has really taken off since Rosario joined him in AA hitting .336/.398/.626 with five doubles, one triples, eight homers and 27 RBI.  Smith is starting to show the power that could take him from a very good prospect to an elite prospect with the ranks of Rosario.  Already, Smith is a plus defender at first base, and he has the ability to drive the ball gap-to-gap.  If you trade him, you could be trading away the next John Olerud or worse if his power game continues to develop.  If you keep him, you risk him becoming the next James Loney.  Yes, Loney has been a quality major league first baseman, but Loney should never be what stands between you and getting an All Star or difference maker at the trade deadline that could put the team over the top.

Dilson Herrera

It seems that since Herrera came to the Mets in the Marlon Byrd trade, he was touted as the Mets second baseman of the future.  He was someone who could handle the position well defensively while being a real force at the plate.  He showed that he has unique power for the position.  Due to injuries in 2014, the Mets brought him up from AA to play in the majors.  Last year, he was seen as an offensive spark when a number of players went down due to injury.  This year he hasn’t been a consideration at all.  He has struggled in AAA hitting .277/.331/.471 in the Pacific Coast League which is a hitter’s league.  Part of that might be teams figuring him out.  Part of that may be him dealing with a shoulder injury sapping him of some of his offensive ability and having him fall into bad habits at the plate.  He is less patient at the plate, and he is lunging for balls he wouldn’t last year.  If you move him, you are moving the guy that could be a multiple time All Star.  If you don’t, you just might be hanging onto a guy that may never figure it out.

Gavin Cecchini

Cecchini is in a tough position in the Mets organization.  He isn’t seen as good a prospect at short as Rosario, and he has had some trouble handling the position at Cashman Field, who has an infield that is not kind to infielders.  He’s a good hitter hitting .315/.392/.441 with 18 doubles, two triples, five homers, and 40 RBI, and he reminds you of a right-handed Daniel Murphy at the plate.  However, he is not considered as good of an offensive prospect as an Herrera.  Furthermore, his bat does not have the power profile that would play at third or the outfield.  By many accounts, Cecchini will play in the majors one day.  What you don’t know is what he will be.  Will he be the next Murphy at the plate with similar defensive versatility?  With that in mind, will he develop power as he gets older and fills out like Murphy did?  Will he turn into the next Matt Reynolds – a major league utility player?  Again, you don’t want to lose the next Murphy for a rental, but you also don’t want to miss out on someone because you wnated to keep another Reynolds or Joe McEwing type of player.

Kevin Plawecki

Most Mets fans would jump at the opportunity to trade him.  He hasn’t hit at all in the majors despite given extended looks on two different occassions.  However, Plawecki has been a good defensive catcher and pitch framer.  He was also once considered a prospect who could push Travis d’Arnaud for playing time.  Keep in mind that since his demotion, Plawecki is hitting .291/.347/.512 with four doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI in 27 games.  These numbers aren’t exciting, especially in the Pacific Coast League, but it shows he is starting to become more patient at the plate and more selective swinging at pitches.  Also keep in mind that catcher is a position that players tend to develop later in their careers than other positions.  Plawecki could still very well be the Mets catcher of the future, or he could be a solid backup.  He may not be the type of player who should hold up a deal, but he definitively is a player you want to protect if at all possible.

Ultimately, it seems like one of the aforementioned players are going to have to be traded if the Mets want to acquire an impact player like Jonathan Lucroy.  However, they need to be very careful about which one.

In an ideal world, Rosario and Smith are non-starters.  These are two players who are excelling in AA at a young age, and they appear primed to contribute to the Mets sooner than expected.  You do not ever want to give up a Rosario or a Smith.  These players should prove to be fixtures in the Mets lineup for ten plus years.  Still, you’re going to have to give up someone if you are going to want to add that last piece who could put the Mets over the top in 2016.

That piece appears to be between Herrera and Cecchini.  The Mets may very well have a preference between these two players, and coming into this season, it seemed like Herrera.  However, that does not mean they still feel the same way, nor does it mean that other teams think similarly.  Regardless of how the Mets feel, a team may force their hand to trade one or the other to hopefully trade for this year’s version of Yoenis Cespedes.  In the end, it seems like the Mets will be giving up a Herrera or a Cecchini like they did with Fulmer last year if they want to make a move.

The hope is that the player has the impact Cespedes did last year and that the Mets take the next step and win the 2016 World Series.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on Mets Minors

 

It’s Not World Series or Bust

I remember back in 2000, the stories were that Bobby Valentine needed to make the World Series in order to keep his job. The amazing thing is he actually did it. 

Just think about everything that had to happen that year for the Mets to make the World Series. First, the Mets had an overhaul of its outfield during the season.  On Opening Day, the Mets outfield was, from left to right, Rickey HendersonDarryl HamiltonDerek Bell. At the end of the year, it was Benny AgbayaniJay Payton-Derek Bell. Agbayani was only on the Opening Day roster because MLB allowed the team to have expanded rosters for their opening series in Japan. 

On top of that, Todd Zeile was signed to replace John Olerud. Zeile had to become a first baseman after playing third for 10 years. Edgardo Alfonzo had to adapt from moving from the second spot in the lineup to the third spot. The Mets lost Rey Ordonez to injury and first replaced him with Melvin Mora for 96 games before trading him for the light hitting Mike Bordick. More or less, all of these moves worked. Then came the postseason. 
A lot happened in the NLDS. After losing Game One, the Mets faced a quasi must win in Game Two. They were leading before Armando Benitez blew a save. I know. I’m shocked too. The Mets regained the lead, and they won the game when John Franco got a borderline third strike call against Barry Bonds. In Game Three, the Mets won on a Agbayani 13th inning walk off homerun. This was followed by Bobby Jones closing out the series on a one-hitter. 

The Mets were then fortunate that the Braves lost to the Cardinals in the other NLDS series. The Mets tore through the Cardinals with new leadoff hitter Timo Perez. We saw all that luck run out in the World Series. We watched Zeile’s potential homerun land on top of the fence and bounce back. On the same play, Perez was thrown out at home. In the same game, Benitez blew the save. Unfortunately, there were no more heroics. 

We saw this repeated in 2015. The epically bad Mets offense had to have its pitching hold things together until help came. Part of that required the Nationals to underperform while the Mets were fighting tooth and nail just to stay in the race. 

In the NLDS, the Mets were on the verge of elimination. They weren’t eliminated because somehow, some way Jacob deGrom pitched six innings with absolutely nothing. The Mets then needed Daniel Murphy to have a game for the ages. He stole a base while no one was looking, and he hit a big homerun. It was part of an amazing run through the postseason for Murphy. Like in 2000, it came to a crashing halt in the World Series. 

No matter how good your team is, it takes a lot of luck to win the World Series. Look at the 86 Mets. 

In the NLCS, they barely outlasted the Astros. In Game Three, they needed a Lenny Dykstra two run homerun in the bottom of the ninth to win 6-5. In Game Five, Gary Carter hit a walk off single in the 12th to send the Mets back to Houston up 3-2. It was important because they didn’t want to face Mike Scott and his newfound abilities. With that pressure, they rallied from three down in the ninth, blew a 14th inning lead, and nearly blew a three run lead in the 16th inning. 

Following this, the Mets quickly fell down 0-2 in the World Series before heading to Boston. After taking 2/3 in Boston, the Mets had to rally in the eighth just to tie Game Six. There are books that can be written not only about the 10th inning, but also Mookie Wilson‘s at bat. 

First, they had to have a none on two out rally with each batter getting two strikes against them.  For Calvin Schiraldi to even be in the position to meltdown, he had to be traded by the Mets to the Red Sox heading into the 1986 season. In return, the Mets got Bobby Ojeda, who won Game Three and started Game Six. John McNamara removed Schiraldi way too late and brought in Bob Stanley. His “wild pitch” in Mookie’s at bat allowed the tying run to score. You know the rest:

By the way, keep in mind Bill Buckner wasn’t pulled for a defensive replacement. Also, the Mets had to rally late from 3-0 deficit just to tie Game Seven. 

We need to keep all of this is mind when setting expectations for the 2016 season. Terry Collins is right when he says World Series title or bust is unfair. We know way too much can happen between now and the World Series. Right now, the only goal should be winning the NL East. If the Mets do that, they have met their reasonable expectations. After that, the Mets are going to need a little luck to win the World Series. 

Fortunately, the Mets are carrying a four leaf clover in the form of Matt HarveyJacob deGromNoah Syndergaard, and Jeurys Familia

The Highs and Lows of 1986

How you view a particular year or period of time completely depends on your perspective. When you bring up 1986 in the New York Metropolitan area, the first thing that comes to mind is the ’86 Mets. As a diehard Mets fan, 1986 should’ve been the greatest year ever.  

I became a Mets fan because my Dad saw to it. He did what all Dad’s do to make our sons love the sports teams we love. Basically, he used everything at his disposal. What gave him the most leverage was my love of strawberry ice cream. He used that information to tell me the Mets had this player named Darryl Strawberry who was going to play for the Mets. When Strawberry first got called up in 1983, he brought me to see him play. I was immediately hooked. Right now, I’m using the same tactics with my son to much success even if I have to find him a new favorite player

Now, I was young when 1986 happened. When I think back to it, I really have one memory from that entire season:

The reason why I remember that moment was my family was hosting an engagement party for my aunt, who lived with us. Instead of this being the families getting to know each other type of party, it turned into everyone watching Game Six of the World Series. I still remember the way everyone celebrated when that “little roller up the first base line” went through Buckner’s legs. I just remember the sheer joy and elation. That moment as much as anything else may be the reason I’m such a huge Mets fan. 

It was a moment I remembered when I was watching the 1999 NLCS with my Dad. We just watched John Olerud hit a game-winning single off the hated John Rocker for what we hoped would be the Mets climb to be the first ever team to to come back from an 0-3 deficit. I thought to take the opportunity to talk to my Dad about that 1986 season. I could’ve said a million different things. I could’ve asked about his memories of the season. I could’ve asked how the Mets coming back from an 0-3 deficit would compare to that Game Six rally. I didn’t. Instead, I said to my Dad, “Watching this just reminds you that 1986 was a great year!”

Without skipping a beat, my Dad replied, “Yeah, except for your grandfather dying.”  

I was five at the time.  While I only had one memory from the entire 1986 season, I can tell you everything about walking into Nana and Grandpa’s house the day my beloved Grandfather died of throat cancer on a beautiful April day. It was a day in which everyone else was thinking about baseball and a soon to start Mets championship season. It was the beginning of a great year for Mets fans. However, for my family, 1986 was decidedly not a good year. We lost a loved one to cancer. 

Now, 30 years later the Mets are primed and ready to win another World Series. Over the course of the 2016 season, there will be deaths to mourn, weddings to celebrate, and births that will forever change our lives for the better. 

Throughout all of it, baseball is there. Baseball is there to help us to get through the tough times. It’s there to share with our children when they are born, and they become Mets fans of their own. It’s part of what makes baseball great. It’s always there for you. So yes, 1986 was a terrible year for my family. However, the ’86 Mets were a reminder that even it times of sorrow, there is still room for joy, for celebration. 

Lets Go Mets!

This article will be run as part of the Baseball Continuum Blogathon. The Blogathon is raising money for the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY.