During Spring Training, there was what seemed to be a contrived race for the fifth starter spot in the rotation between Steven Matz and Michael Wacha. That was even with the case of Matz being the better of the two, and really being a better pitcher than Rick Porcello over the past few seasons.
As we were headed towards the end of Spring Training, we really had no indication of who was in the lead for the spot, and we even heard the Mets were toying with the idea of mixing and matching Matz and Wacha as the fifth starter using them based upon the match-ups.
Of course now, it is a moot point as no one quite knows when or if we are going to play baseball again. When that happens, there is going to be an abbreviated return to Spring Training before we get back to games. Typically speaking, that would be fine as players, especially pitchers, were ramping up to begin the season.
However, teams have shut down their Spring Training facilities to their players and sent them home. Players live in different areas of the country, and places where they would typically go to work out have been shut down as well to help prevent the further spread of COVID19. In the end, this means we have no idea how in shape players will be.
That’s not an issue of laziness or them not being serious about their craft. Rather, it is a practical reality based upon the reality of the situation. It is difficult to ask people to be prepared for the season when they can’t work out at a facility or work with an instructor. To a certain extent, you know they are all doing something, but it may not be sufficient.
For pitchers, that is going to be especially dangerous. As has been noted, there is a fear the ramp up, cool down, and abbreviated re-ramp up can lead to pitcher injuries. This is going to demand teams be judicious in how they use pitchers and allow them to use the earlier part of the season as an extended Spring Training.
Fortunately, the Mets are actually well-built to do that with their having six starting pitchers.
With their having six starting pitchers, they can institute a plan similar to that they implemented at times during the 2015 season. There was push-back from some of the starters, namely Matt Harvey, but ultimately using pitchers like Jon Niese in the rotation and later Logan Verrett, it did help keeps arms fresh. That was a key to the Mets winning the 2015 pennant.
That’s exactly what the Mets need to do here. They need to use a six man rotation to help keep these pitchers fresh and to help them get through the season. They can do it strategically by taking into account the off days. At times, they can mix in Robert Gsellman here and there given his presence as the long man in the bullpen, and possibly, they can use a Stephen Gonsalves or Corey Oswalt for the occasional spot start or even as an “opener” for starts made by the other pitchers in the rotation.
In the end, this is still a Mets team built on pitching, and they need to keep their pitchers fresh and healthy to succeed in 2020. That is going to require them to utilize a six man rotation at times, so in the end, it means that Porcello, Matz, and Wacha will all win a spot in the rotation.
From there, the Mets can judge based upon who is pitching best in the regular season, and they can adapt to injuries in the even they unfortunately come.
Steven Matz was absolutely cruising having thrown fewer than 100 pitches in the game. He had not allowed a hit for over four innings, and Josh Donaldson was due up in the bottom half of the inning. This was going to be the third time Matz was going to face Donaldson in the game. We all know where things went from there.
Mickey Callaway kept Matz in the game. He allowed a single to Freddie Freeman before allowing a go-ahead two run homer to Donaldson putting the Mets behind 4-2. Things quickly unraveled with Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies hitting consecutive doubles to expand the Braves lead to 5-2 before Callaway could get Chris Flexen into the game to get Matz out of the jam.
No, that wasn’t last night’s game. That was the June 19 game against the Braves at SunTrust Park.
This has been Matz throughout his Major League career. He has the tendency to show brilliant flashes only to suddenly lose it. Recalling back to Game 4 of the 2015 World Series, he completely shut down the Royals for four innings before the Royals got to him for a run in the fifth. He began the sixth allowing hard hits to Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain leading to Terry Collins having to go get Jon Niese to bail him out.
These are just two of the countless examples where Matz seemed to be dominating only to unexpectedly lose it. This has left his managers scrambling to get people up in the bullpen to bail him out. On a number of those occasions, it is too late.
When you are sitting in the dugout, this is exactly what needs to go through your mind. You need to remember of all those instances where Matz blew it. You have to remember opposing batters hit .284/.330/.490 when facing him a third time in the game this year.
While you may want to say it’s the bottom of the lineup, but it still was not a good situation for Matz. Adam Duvall is hitting .400/.412/.800 against LHP this year. Johan Camargo is 3-for-7 with a homer against Matz. And of course, there was the Donaldson June 19 homer against the Braves in a similar situation to what we saw last night.
If you are a manager in the dugout, you have seen Matz for almost two full years now. In the bottom of the sixth, Ronald Acuna Jr., Albies, and Freeman each had hard hit balls. Likely, one or two of those balls drop if Juan Lagares wasn’t vintage Lagares last night.
You have seen him have random and sudden implosions. You have the numbers at hand. You saw him run the bases and deal with a delay when Dallas Keuchel was removed from the game. There was another delay when Pete Alonso‘s follow through hit Tyler Flowers in the mask.
Take everything into consideration. Are you still trusting Matz, or are you going to Seth Lugo, a pitcher you honestly believe is the best reliever in all of baseball? Even if you personally disagree with the move, taking everything into account, can you really sit there and say it was a dumb decision.
If you’re being objective, no, you cannot honestly conclude it was dumb to remove Matz for Lugo. It’s fair to disagree or raise reasonable objections. But to suggest this was a stupid decision is to completely ignore everything is just lying and being purely reactionary to one of the rare times Lugo didn’t have it.
After a tough end of their road trip, which included losing two out of three to the Phillies, the Mets have returned home, and they look like a completely different team. It could be the pitchers being more comfortable in warmer weather. It could be Todd Frazier and Luis Guillorme vastly improving the defense the past few days. Maybe, it is just being home after spending all that time on the road.
At the same time, we are watching a Phillies team go through some turmoil. Bryce Harper was ejected Monday, and he came back yesterday to go 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Jake Arrieta went full blown Jon Niese and pointed fingers at everyone while berating his team. Jean Segura, Scott Kingery, David Robertson and Odubel Herrera are all on the Injured List.
The Phillies are a literally wounded team, and the Mets took advantage of that fact by winning the first two games of this series in decisive fashion. The Mets can really make an early season statement by sweeping the Phillies. With that potentially toxic clubhouse mix and an overmatched manager like Gabe Kapler, who knows what impact a sweep in this fashion could have on this Phillies team.
As the Mets near in for the kill, they are going to start . . . Jason Vargas tonight.
So far this year, Vargas is 1-0 with a 9.58 ERA, 2.323 WHIP, and a 0.86 BB/K. That’s right, he’s actually walked more batters than he has struck out. Batters are hitting .362/.444/.660 off of him. He’s only pitched 9.1 innings total in his three starts.
Now, it is fair to point out this is a small sample size, and we shouldn’t draw conclusions from small sample sizes. By that token, Vargas has been bad for a while. Since the 2017 All Star break, Vargas has a 6.25 ERA, 1.543 WHIP, and a 2.08 K/BB. Batters are teeing off on him hitting .288/.357/.516. Essentially, Vargas on the mound makes each batter look like Michael Conforto.
Looking at the Phillies team right now, they are angry with the Mets. Juan Lagares was running in the sixth inning of what was then an 8-0 game. In the ninth, Jacob Rhame delivered two pitches in and high to Rhys Hoskins. The Phillies are angry with the Mets, and they are justifiably so.
The absolute worst thing the Mets could do right now is to give the Phillies some life. You cannot throw out a batting practice pitcher like Vargas to allow them to put their issues behind them as they hit hard ball after hard ball after hard ball off of him. You cannot have them picking up their heads a bit and feeling like they delivered an ounce of revenge to the Mets.
Really, this is inexcusable for the Mets. There is no way Vargas should be pitching in this game, especially when the Mets could have signed Gio Gonzalez and plugged him right into their rotation. That’s not to say Gonzalez is anything great, but the five innings he is likely to give you is much more credible than the maybe four innings Vargas is going to give you.
The only hope here is if Vargas is predictably shelled by the Phillies, the Mets can have their offense keep them in the game and eventually win it, and then after the game, Brodie Van Wagenen realizes he cannot keep his former client around any longer, even if he is due $10 million this year, and that he needs to stop fielding a roster which punts every fifth game.
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:
— Dillon Gee (@DillonGee35) October 31, 2015
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!
Dom Smith. Amed Rosario. The Mets. Truly unbelievable stuff.
**CUE THE MUSIC** pic.twitter.com/yclRui1w4k
— Kris Venezia (@KVenezia1) August 21, 2018
Now, looking at that play ad nauseum, that’s Smith’s ball.
Yes, a more experienced left fielder is more aware on the play, and he would make a stronger call for the call.
For his part, Rosario should know who is in left, and he should have made a stronger call for the ball instead of acting like a timid second grader unsure of whether he really knew the answer to the teacher’s question.
That’s important when you consider Smith actually called for the ball first:
“It’s part of the game. I heard he called it real quick even before I was under the ball.”
When'd you heard him: “When I was ready to call it. It was too late.”
Who's ball: “He has the ball in front of him so I’m running backward. He has more choice/better view."
— Matt Ehalt (@MattEhalt) August 21, 2018
While it’s easy to pin the blame on this, it’s important to note this wouldn’t have been an issue if the veterans who the Mets insist on playing actually delivered.
On the night, Jackson was 1-6, and he left five men on base.
Jose Reyes had the same situation in the 11th, and he softly lined out to Crawford.
On the night, Reyes was 0-5, and he loved left four runners on base.
Good thing he started over Jeff McNeil who singled in his only at-bat.
Really, the Mets offense did absolutely nothing after the Wilmer Flores RBI double. In fact, Flores was the only Met who was hitting with him going 3-6.
Jose Bautista, the other outfielder who has been playing over Smith, was 0-5 with three left on base.
Ultimately, the Mets played four 30+ year old impending free agents over younger players, and the four went 1-for-21 while stranding 13 runners on base.
In addition to Bautista and Jackson starting in the outfield, the Mets started Jack Reinheimer in left field, a player with only eight innings of outfield experience in the majors and 49.0 innings in the minors.
This became an issue in the seventh inning.
Heading into the seventh, Zack Wheeler had been absolutely brilliant pitching six scoreless innings. Those six scoreless innings included his Houdini act in the fifth inning.
After an Evan Longoria double, the Giants had runners on second and third with no outs. Wheeler responded by striking out Steven Duggar, Alen Hanson, and Derek Holland to get out of the jam. Wheeler was so close to repeating the trick in the seventh.
Wheeler issued a leadoff walk to Crawford, which would be the only walk Wheeler would allow on the day. Trouble was brewing immediately as Brandon Belt singled to set up runners at first and second with no outs. It would be runners at the corners with one out after Crawford moved to third when Longoria lined out to Bautista.
After Duggar struck out again, Wheeler got Hanson to pop up to left. With Rosario shifted over, and the inexperienced Reineheimer playing deeper than an experienced left fielder, the ball fell past the outstretched hands of Rosario. Reinheimer was nowhere to be seen.
After the game, Wheeler channeled his inner Jon Niese and griped about players playing out of position, which led to the ball falling. Wheeler was speaking about the shift, but considering how the Mets both the game and this season, he might as well have been talking about how the Mets play all of their players out of position.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Mets had a chance to get back the lead. McNeil and Michael Conforto, two left-handed batters sat against the immortal Derek Holland, came up in successive pinch hitting attempts against the Giants bullpen, specifically Tony Watson. They hit consecutive one out singles to set up runners at the corners with one out.
Rosario hit a 3-2 pitch for an inning ending double play.
To their credit, the booth did discuss how Crawford charged in a couple of steps to get the Rosario grounder, which led him to beat Rosario by less than a full step in turning the double play.
Overall, the Mets lost this game because of their refusal to play young players over the veterans. Maybe if Smith was playing in the majors instead of Jackson, when this play happens, he and Rosario have the communication issues hammered. Perhaps, if the Mets didn’t decided a done Adrian Gonzalez was a better option than him, Smith would have been a first base, and this never would have been an issue.
In the end, we will never know because the Mets would rather play 30+ year old players who no other team wanted at the trade deadline to try to win some meaningless games which could only hurt their draft position.
Game Notes: Wheeler’s seventh inning walk to Crawford was the first walk yielded by Mets pitching in 25 innings.
Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets. Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry. However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes. When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.
With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right? Let’s take a look:
Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation. In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.
The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer. Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well. Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.
Things changed at the tail end of 2017. Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become. d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September. As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.
VERDICT: 2018 – if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close
2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez
In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI. He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.
Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.
VERDICT: 2015 – Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw
We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.
For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.
VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one
This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.
Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.
VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy
Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015. After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores. Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half. Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.
Rosario is the future of the Mets. Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate. However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better. He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time. For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.
VERDICT: 2018 – Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high
Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets. Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting. Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup. He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist. Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.
With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets. To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player. This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.
VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.
From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers. They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits. In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well. Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.
The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player. Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder. Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015. Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.
VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important
When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then. Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.
VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then
2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald
Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen. This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year. Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness. One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.
When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins. Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.
VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside
For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015. When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived. Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.
Right now, Callaway looks like a genius. He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth. He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late. His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire. However, the season isn’t even a week old. Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.
Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series
If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation. The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager. Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw. However, in reality, it’s not. That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.
That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager. If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level. If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.
Despite Daniel Murphy winning the 2015 NLCS MVP, the Mets seemed all too happy to let him depart via free agency. Instead of Murphy, the Mets first sought after Ben Zobrist, who spurned them for the Cubs, before trading Jon Niese for Neil Walker.
Walker was supposed to stabilize the position, and there was hopes he would be a Met for the long haul with the team offering him the qualifying offer. Instead, Walker had two injury riddled years before he was traded to the Brewers for minor league right-hand relief prospect Eric Hanhold.
Now, the Mets are once again in the position of finding out who their next second baseman will be. That task becomes all the more difficult when Ian Kinsler rejected a trade to the Mets, upper management rejected a trade for Jason Kipnis, and the Mets are reportedly not entertaining trading Brandon Nimmo for Josh Harrison.
The end result likely is the second base quagmire will continue. That quagmire has seen the Mets play 12 different players at second base over the past two seasons. Can you name them all? Good luck!
If you are a Mets fan, you’re angry. Really, there is a myriad of purely justifiable reasons why.
The Mets let Daniel Murphy walk. They haven’t sufficiently spent to put a team that finished just short in 2015 over the top. The handling of medical issues is a mess leading to the team constantly playing with a short roster. They sold part of their future to build a bench and bullpen, something they refuse to do in the offseason. This is why you have to acquire Kelly Johnson in the midseason not once but twice.
The team has not extended one pitcher, but during Sandy Alderson’s tenure, he has found a way to extend Juan Lagares, Jon Niese, and David Wright. Speaking of Wright, they have continuously played Russian Roulette with his ability to play leaving the Mets having the worst possible third base situation for two years running.
Even better, the Mets don’t have sufficient funds to add the type of players it needs to get the team back to the 2015 level – you know a middling and injured team who sold the farm to make one run and let it fizzle out. Even better, the team doesn’t have the farm system to supplement the roster to keep the competitive.
Sad part is this is just the tip of the iceberg. We all have reasons to be angry with the Mets. It makes you want to do something.
In year’s past, we had the billboard. While derided in some circles, it did have some effect. Arguably, if not for the billboards and the display of fan anger, the Mets may not make the moves they made, including but not limited to trading for Yoenis Cespedes and re-signing him multiple times.
With that in mind, there is another movement afoot. This one is being led by the Good Fundies guys:
The response to #MetsBoycott has been overwhelming and humbling. People have DMed me stories about how the Mets are important to them — fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, lifetimes of fandom — and I promise that I will do my best to try and help connect everybody.
— The Mets Payroll Is Lower Than Atlanta & Cleveland (@MetsBrian) December 17, 2017
(EDITOR’S NOTE: with baby number two expected any minute, this was written in advance of a podcast where details were released)
Boycotts are dicey things because they tend to either get trivialized, don’t have the physical support to match the vocal support, and/or don’t go to the extent they need to go.
On a personal front, I have greatly reduced the amount of money I have spent on Mets tickets. I used to have multiple plans. The reason for that is I had different factions of Mets fans, and I enjoyed going to games with those people. It was an amazing way to experience a season.
Between Madoff, changes to ticket plans, and just the utter horseshit we get from the Mets organization, I’m down to none. Guess what the Mets response has been to that? They call me to ask me to buy a ticket plan numerous times each offseason. That’s it. If you’re like me, it’s probably the same.
Still, I can’t stay away. I love baseball, and my son does as well. I want to bring him to games, which he enjoys. This season, I tried bringing him to road games instead, but it wasn’t good enough for him. He wanted to go to Citi Field to see Mr. Met, play the Home Run Derby, and watch the game. He’s a little boy. I’m not going to punish him because the Wilpons suck.
There’s the other matter about my Dad and brother. I have been going to games with my Dad since 1983 and my brother a couple of years after that. No matter what, we have found at least one game to go to each season. If the Mets didn’t operate the way they do, we’d probably still have a Sunday Plan – you know the plan they greedily eliminated/altered when they moved from Shea Stadium to Citi Field.
Point is, I can’t stay away, but I do want something to happen.
Getting something organized is problematic. You have to encourage people to do something, but what? Purchase tickets and not enter the stadium? Organize in front of Citi Field and be ushered away before you can gain any traction? A social media campaign that may hit the newspapers once?
The end result of these might be a giant “Meh!’ from the Met organization.
Still, you have to do something like a billboard. Something the Mets both get embarrassed by and yet can’t ignore.
No matter what it is, all I know is I’m onboard if only because I want things to get better. To that end, here are my unsolicited suggestions:
- Have fans see the Mets on the road in group outings carrying signs such as #MetsBoycott or clever signs delineating fan outrage
- If not road trips, organized fan outings at different locations such as Foley’s, which is a well known sports and baseball bar in the area
- Another billboard or other visible sign outside Citi Field
- Advertising spot on WFAN
- A good old fashioned letter writing campaign. While you can ignore emails by setting up spam folders, the Mets aren’t going to stop the mail just because they are getting waves of fan letters. For an example of this effectiveness, look at John Mara responding to fan letters and his firing of Reese and McAdoo in-season.
If you do one, some combination of these things, or something all together different, it should gain some traction. Whether it’s enough to get what all Mets fans what they want, it remains to be seen.
In the end, the goal needs to just be not being marginalized, which is something the Mets are great at under Sandy Alderson’s regime (“Panic Citi”). It’s a difficult line to tread, and I’m not particularly sure it can be successful.
However, given the state of affairs, it’s certainly worth a try.
In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history. While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”
If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.
During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).
This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players. This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).
As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse. Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers. Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson. The list goes on and on..
That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built. Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months. Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.
The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.
Evaluating Own Talent
Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players. Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.
The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner. However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.
The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere. Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox. They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick. Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.
The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go. It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright. None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended. There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.
The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors. Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams. The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.
At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered. This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.
Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.
The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.
The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer. Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes. We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.
Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.
This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.
Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful. Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR. In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.
For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals. Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract. Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.
It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.
Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues. This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons. It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.
Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front. They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals. Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell.
Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey. Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps. It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.
Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.
Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent. If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.
Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting. He will not be returning as Mets manager. While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring. The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.
In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started. The Mets were bad and injured. It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag. What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.
Part of being human is being emotional. We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences. And yes, we’ve seen him cry. Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality. In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory. In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.
He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title. He left Santana in for that no-hitter. He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult. Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.
Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players. It would be the source of much consternation among fans. This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto. What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.
In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed. You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop. Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.
But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers. It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players. Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner. It wasn’t just those players. Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.
With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets. Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets. Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.
Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see. A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young. A Mets player won a batting title. There was actually a Mets no-hitter. Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.
Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that. Collins got the best out of his players. It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.
And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans. More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect. He returned their affection. That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) October 22, 2015
It was more than the celebrating. Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants. At his core, Collins is a good and decent man. It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.
Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake. Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers. This was just one aspect of his poor managing. There were many times where he left you scratching your head. It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.
However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins. To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season. We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.
He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history. When he was hired no one expected him to last that long. Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure. In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.
I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him. My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man. Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled. Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.