Jon Niese

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

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:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

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: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

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

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

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

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

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

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

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

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

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.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

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

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

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

BULLPEN

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

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

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

VERDICT

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.

Trivia Friday – Mets Second Baseman Since 2015

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!


Kelly Johnson T.J. Rivera Wilmer Flores Matt Reynolds Ty Kelly Eric Campbell Jose Reyes Gavin Cecchini Phillip Evans Asdrubal Cabrera Travis d’Arnaud

#MetsBoycott And Some Unsolicited Suggestions

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 WrightSpeaking 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:

(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.

Sandy Alderson Should Want Focus On Payroll Instead Of His Record

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.

Injuries

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 Draft

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.

Free Agency

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.

Depth

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

Synposis

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.

Thanks For The Memories Terry Collins

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:

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.

Good Luck Neil Walker

The Neil Walker legacy with the Mets is a complicated one.  For many, he’s only to be judged as his not being Daniel Murphy.  For others, they rejoice over the fact Walker coming to the Mets meant Jon Niese was no longer a Met (he would return).  Putting aside who he was not, Walker had an interesting legacy as a Met.

The one thing that was obvious was when Walker was actually able to play, he played extraordinarily well.

Walker impressed everyone right away with a tremendous April last year.  During his torrid month, he hit .307/.337/.625 with a double, nine homers, and 19 RBI.  While the nine homers really stood out, what was the most impressive was his hitting from the right side of the plate.  Although he was a switch hitter throughout his career, Walker never did much of anything as a right-handed hitter.  That changed with him putting in the work with Kevin Long.  Seemingly overnight, he became a power threat from both sides of the plate.

More than that, he was a very good defensive second baseman.  While he may not have had the range he once did, he was a smart and smooth player out there.  More than anything, he didn’t make mistakes or unforced errors.  In sum, Walker was a pro’s pro at the plate and in the field.

After April, Walker’s play fell off a cliff.  We’d soon find out the reason was Walker needed season ending back surgery.  Many a game, Walker took to the field with numbness in his feet.  Baseball is an extraordinarily difficult game to play.  It’s even more difficult when you can’t even feel your toes.

In a somewhat surprising move, the Mets made Walker a qualifying offer.  In a much less surprising move, Walker accepted it.  The Mets tried to work out a long term deal with the player to try to stretch out some of the $17.2 million Walker was due, but for good reason, Walker didn’t want to reduce that salary even if he was sincere in his wanting to remain a New York Met.

Again, when Walker was healthy, he was productive with the Mets.  In 73 games this season with the Mets, Walker hit .264/.339/.442 with 13 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and 36 RBI.  Over the course of a 162 game season, those numbers prorated would have been 28 doubles, four triples, 23 homers, and 81 RBI.  That’s tremendous production from the second base position, especially with the solid defense Walker gives you.

However, that was the issue with Walker’s tenure with the Mets.  He was just couldn’t stay on the field.  Last year, it was back surgery.  This, year it was a torn hamstring.

Still, when we did get to see Walker play, we saw a good ballplayer.  More than that, we saw a player who was great in the clubhouse.  After Amed Rosario got caught up in a tough play that led to a Mets loss, Walker met up with Rosario before the players left the field to talk to him about it.

When he reported to Spring Training this year, Walker brought with him a first, second, and third baseman’s mitt to prepare for the season.  Walker didn’t just want to just be a second baseman, he wanted to be someone who did whatever he needed to do to help the Mets win.  We learned how rare a trait that could be in a player.  Ultimately, Walker would see time at first and third.  Eventually, this did lead to his being traded to the Brewers.

As a Mets fan, I want to see him go out there and do all he can do to take down the hated Cubs and Cardinals.  As someone who has grown to really appreciate Walker, I want to see him succeed.  In fact, with the Mets having holes to address this offseason at second and third, I’d like to see him return to the team.  Until that point, here’s hoping he has a long postseason run.

Hopefully, this isn’t the end of Walker’s Mets career.  If it is, I’ll appreciate him doing all his body would let him do, and I appreciate him trying to do everything he could do to not only improve as a player, but also to help the Mets win.

Not Worth Staying Up To Watch

No matter how bad the Mets are, I am in front of the TV, or I have the radio on to see how the game is going.  Heck, even on the day I was married, I tipped the limo driver extra to give me score updates.  Jon Niese was starting that day, and Carlos Beltran wasn’t playing due to his pre-season knee surgery, so I had to tip a little extra.  I use that as the context for my going to sleep last night.

The Mets are not just playing bad baseball right now, they’re playing depressing baseball right now.  It was the same thing yesterday.

To start the game, the Mets had Zack Greinke on the ropes.  After Curtis Granderson earned a bases loaded walk, the Mets rally ended.  Sure, it is unreasonable to expect Tommy Milone to deliver an RBI in that spot.  And yes, it is hard to get on Michael Conforto for striking out in that spot considering how good he has been to start the season.  The Mets offense has also been humming of late, so again, you can’t get on the offense too much.  Still, it was demoralizing because with Milone on the mound, you knew the Mets needed more than just that one run.

And they did.  Gregor Blanco hit a two RBI single to give the Diamondbacks a 2-1 lead.  After Paul Goldschmidt was intentionally walked, Chris Owings hit an RBI single to make it 3-1.  At that point, you figured things can’t possibly get any worse.  It did.  Owings would break for second, and Rene Rivera would have nailed him if Owings didn’t get caught in a run-down.  While this is happening, Lucas Duda notices Goldschmidt break for home, and of course, he makes a terrible throw home allowing Goldschmidt to score.

As a Mets fan, you were disgusted.  Right now, the team is finding different ways to make watching them more painful.  Duda reminding you of the Eric Hosmer play took the cake.

I didn’t go to bed immediately.  The anger had to subside.  I got to see the Granderson homer.  No, I wasn’t fooled into thinking they would win the game.  I feel asleep not to long after that.  I didn’t even try to fight it.  I subsequently missed the Rivera two run homer, and the Paul Sewald appearance.

Overall, it doesn’t matter.  It’s hard to watch this team right now, and it is harder to watch them when games start at 9:30 at night.  Thankfully, today’s game starts at 3:40.  As a result, you will only lose sleep over them going over what transpired during the game as opposed to watching those things transpire.

Game Notes: Asdrubal Cabrera finally hit the disabled list, and the Mets added Neil Ramirez and his 8.71 ERA to help the bullpen.

Sandy Alderson Miscalculated

Yet again, the Mets have had to turn to Rafael Montero to make a start because there weren’t better options for the Mets.  There weren’t better options because Sandy Alderson believed the Mets had enough starting pitching to never need to sign a veteran signing pitcher.  As we have seen, this was a miscalculation.

Lost in the excitement of the Mets having seven starting pitchers was the fact that pitchers break down.  This pitching staff exemplifies this axiom.  Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz were coming off season ending surgeries.  For his part, Matz is seemingly never healthy.  Zack Wheeler hadn’t pitched in over two years due to his having Tommy John surgery and the ensuing complications therefrom.  Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo were terrific in September of last year, but it was against some fairly weak competition.  Also, it is likely both were going to be on some form of an innings limit.  Finally, there was Noah Syndergaard, who seemed indestructible.

Now, we could have anticipated Matz doing down, but the other manner in which the Mets have turned to Montero and Adam Wilk has been a surprise.  No one expected Lugo to suffer a torn UCL.  Syndergaard tearing his lat never could have been reasonably anticipated, nor was the Mets needing to suspend Harvey.  Still, given the relative injury histories, it was certainly plausible the Mets would be down three plus pitchers at any point of the season.  It was also plausible because pitchers break.

Despite this, Alderson moved both Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa to the Orioles in separate deals.  Both moves were defensible because the Mets needed space on the 40 man roster to accommodate free agent signings.  Still, those arms needed to be replaced by cheap veterans who could be stashed in Triple-A, or the Mets could have signed a swingman who could have served in long relief and be available to make a spot start.

Now, we know players like Doug Fister and Colby Lewis likely weren’t signing unless they got minor league deals.  Still, there were pitchers like Jon Niese and Dillon Gee available.  Mets fans may not love them, but they are certainly better than Montero.  There was also Scott Feldman who has served in both relief and long man roles, and he signed with the Reds for just $2.3 million.  There are several other names like Jake Peavy who at least has the veteran guile to gut through five innings.  Instead, the Mets stuck with Sean Gilmartin, who they won’t even trust to make a start, and they signed Wilk who is not a viable major league pitcher.

And now, the once vaunted Mets starting pitching is a mess, and it is up to Alderson to fix it.  This is the same Alderson who has been very cavalier in moving pitching the past few seasons to help fix the weaknesses in teams he has built.  So far, his answer has been Milone who has a 6.43 ERA in six starts this season.  That’s hardly an answer.

Likely, Alderson’s real answer is to hope for some health with presumably both Matz and Lugo will be ready by the end of the month.  Maybe this time the health plan with work.

Letting Bartolo Colon Walk Still Isn’t The Problem

With Noah Syndergaard‘s torn lat, it is once again time to revisit the Mets decision to allow Bartolo Colon to depart in free agency. It is a moment that has been revisited on multiple occasions. It was first addressed when the Mets allowed him to go to the Braves without so much as an offer. It was addressed when Steven Matz and Seth Lugo suffered injuries. Its been addressed with every struggle Robert Gsellman has had on this young season. So why not just get it out of the way for good and for all.

The Mets were correct in their decision not to re-sign Bartolo Colon.

For those clamoring for the popular player, do you know what his stats are this season? They’re not good. Through five starts, Colon is 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.310 WHIP. He’s averaging 5.2 innings per start. The only intradivision team he has handled well was the Mets. Against the Marlins, he pitched four innings allowing six runs on seven hits. Against the Phillies, he allowed four runs on 11 hits. For a Mets team that needs a stabilizing force in the rotation the can eat up innings and get some quality starts, Colon has shown that so far he is not really the answer.

If you want to argue, he certainly is a better pitcher than that, you may have an argument. However, his 77 ERA+ and his 4.40 FIP suggest you don’t have much of an argument. You could say that it’s early, but is it ever early for a 44 year old pitcher?

But this overlooks what was the real issue at the time Colon hit free agency. The Mets could not guarantee him a rotation spot. Last year, Gsellman was 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, 169 ERA+, and a 2.63 FIP. Lugo was 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.094 WHIP, 152 ERA+, and a 4.33 FIP. On top of that, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Matz had successful surgeries and looked to be ready on Opening Day. Furthermore, Zack Wheeler was on track to be ready to be on the Opening Day roster. If everyone is healthy and in peak form, Colon was realistically the seventh or eighth best pitcher on the staff. Simply put, there was no spot for him.

Colon knew that too. That’s why he took the Braves one year $12.5 million deal. He took the deal because the Braves were guaranteeing him a rotation spot that would permit him to chase down Juan Marichal and Dennis Martinez to become the winningest Latin born pitcher in major league history. Colon chose the path with the best contract and the clearest path to the record over returning to the Mets or going to another contender.

This is no shot at him. Last year, Colon took less money and risked getting demoted to the bullpen in order to chase that elusive World Series. He just wasn’t as eager to do that this time. The Mets also weren’t eager to bring him back with their pitching depth.

Instead, the Mets used that $12.5 million this offseason. That money helped the Mets to build a bullpen. Jerry Blevins was signed for $5.5 million. Fernando Salas was signed for $3 million. Addison Reed received a $2.55 million raise, and Jeurys Familia received a $3.325 million raise. As much as the bullpen has struggled to start the season, imagine it right now without Blevins. So overall, it is not as if that $12.5 million wasn’t spent on pitching this offseason. It was. It was just spent on a bullpen that Colon was not willing to pitch in to start the season.

So no, the Mets shouldn’t be second guessed for letting Colon go to the Braves. Rather, the Mets should be questioned as to why the choice for fifth starter is between Rafael Montero or Sean Gilmartin. Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa were traded to the Orioles for cash considerations in separate deals this offseason. Scott Feldman signed with the Reds for $2.3 million. There are a number of pitchers available who could have provided a little extra depth including the player everyone loves to hate, Jon Niese. Say what you want about him, but he’s much better than Montero.

There’s also the matter that the Mets knew this could happen. Once the Mets opened the season with Lugo and Matz hurt, the team’s depth was gone. As reported by Kristie Ackert in the New York Daily News, Sandy Alderson backed off signing a pitcher like Doug Fister because he was willing to wait until late May or June for them to be healthy. Alderson willing took a gamble with the pitching depth, and he lost.

Overall, the Mets aren’t in trouble because they didn’t re-sign Colon. They are in trouble because the team purged the non-Montero options they had in the organization, and they were willing to wait almost two months to have quality major league pitching depth.

Enough Excuses, Lock Up These Starters

Looking at this Mets team since 2015, one thing has been perfectly clear: this team is built on pitching, and it will only go as far as the pitching carries them. In 2015, when their starters were healthy and able to last the season, the Mets were able to win the National League Pennant. In 2016, with three of the arms going down, the Mets were still good enough to enter the postseason as the top Wild Card.

The Mets have been fortunate because the pitching has been cheap. It was not until recently that Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jacob deGrom entered their arbitration years. Noah Syndergaard won’t be arbitration eligible until after this season. It is interesting because it is after this season that things begin to become murky. Harvey and Wheeler are scheduled to become free agents after the 2018 season with deGrom becoming a free agent the season after that.

With the Mets success rising and falling on their pitching, it begs the question why haven’t the Mets selected at least one or two pitchers and come to terms on a contract extension. The common refrain among Mets fans is the team should keep Syndergaard and deGrom and join them in a rotation that one day may also feature Robert Gsellman, Justin Dunn, and Thomas Szapucki. For now, even with the clock ticking, the Mets aren’t making a move.

While it may not make sense to most Mets fans, in a report by Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets have advised why they have not entered into contract extension discussions with any of their young pitching:

1. Injuries

As GM John Ricco explained, “[GM] Sandy [Alderson] has not said let’s be aggressive in that area, and that [injuries] is the biggest reason.”

Fact of the matter is each one of these pitchers have an issue. Harvey, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler have all had Tommy John surgery. Harvey, deGrom, and Matz all had season ending surgery last year. Even someone healthy like Syndergaard dealt with bone spurs last year. Point is, the Mets pitchers have not been exactly healthy, nor do they inspire confidence they will be healthy going forward. To that end, the Mets relative inactivity has been understandable.

2. Lack of Urgency

As noted in Sherman’s piece, the Mets do not have a pending free agent until the after the 2018 season, and Syndergaard isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Honestly, this reason is a bit disingenuous. With Harvey’s pending free agency many expect this is Harvey’s last season in a Mets uniform as the team does not want to risk him walking in free agency and the team getting nothing in return for him.

3. Pitchers Aren’t Interested In Extensions

According to Ricco, who would know this better than fans, extension discussions are typically begun by the player and his agent. Again, with fans not being in the business, it is hard to challenge him on this. With that said, it is hard to believe the Mets would be willing to let all their pitchers go to free agency without so much as initiating contract disucssions with them. Frankly, it is harder to believe when you consider back in 2012, the Mets pounced on an opportunity to give Jon Niese a five year contract extension.

4. Personalities

As noted in Sherman’s piece, when you give a contract extension to one player, it is going to have ripple effects. As Ricco said, “You would have to manage personalities because if you do [an extension] with one, how does it impact the others?”

Now, this is a bit of an overstatement on Ricco’s part. Entering into contract extensions with the pitchers should be part of an overall plan. For example, when Omar Minaya was the General Manager, he was faced with Jose Reyes pending arbitration in 2006, he agreed with a four year pact with his shortstop. Minaya then quickly moved and locked up David Wright to a six year deal. While Alderson is dealing with more than just two players, Minaya’s actions certainly show if the team has a plan an executes it, there should be no issues.

5. Budget

It is something Mets fans don’t want to hear, but it is a reality. After this season, the Mets will have Reyes, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, Addison Reed, and Fernando Salas as free agents. The team will have to decide on options for Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera. In addition, all of the Mets marquee starting pitchers will be in arbitration thereby escalating their salaries. Furthermore, Jeurys Familia will also be owed a lot of money in arbitration if he has another stellar year. Long story short, the Mets will have to spend some money this offseason.

In order to do that, the Mets need to have the money. As Ricco explains, “Once you’ve locked in [on an extension], you do limit flexibility in some ways.”

Now, it is easy to say the Mets can plug in Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith next year, but at this point, it is not known if they will be ready to be 2018 Opening Day starters. Putting forth such a plan would be folly, especially for a team that can still compete for a World Series.

Overall, the Mets concerns over not extending their pitchers have some merit, especially when you consider the injury issues. Still, the longer the Mets wait, the more expensive each of these starting pitchers will become. As they become more expensive, the chances of locking up more than one of them significantly decreases. Sooner or later, the Mets are going to have to take a chance on a couple of these pitchers if they have designs of competing for World Series over the next decade. With Harvey being a free agent after next season, the sooner the Mets begin executing a plan, the better.