Josh Thole

Post-Harvey Mets Rally Late And Still Come Up Short

Before the game, it was announced Matt Harvey refused an assignment to the minors, and in response the Mets designated him for assignment effectively ending his Mets career.  This may have been a long time coming, and arguably, you could see Harvey being scapegoated for a Mets team that has struggled since it’s incredible 12-2 start.

Well, Harvey might be gone, but the Mets problems still remain.

Zack Wheeler, who allowed five first inning runs is still inconsistent.  Michael Conforto is not hitting for any power, and really, he isn’t even getting on base anymore going 0-5with the golden sombrero.  Jay Bruce, for that matter, isn’t hitting for any power either.  Maybe there was an impact on Jose Lobaton, who was 1-4, and Amed Rosario, who was 2-4 with an RBI, but probably not.

No, we wouldn’t see Jose Reyes or Adrian Gonzalez bat, both of whom have been utterly terrible, and we did not see Jason Vargas, who by comparison made Harvey look like the 2013 version, and we’ll see what Steven Matz contributes tomorrow.

Overriding point is the Mets problems are still present even with Harvey gone because as bad as Harvey was pitching, he was probably fourth or fifth on lower on the tiers of what is actually wrong with this Mets team.

On the bright side, Bruce played first allowing Brandon Nimmo to hit leadoff going 1-4 with a walk.  Of course, he drew a walk.  He also scored on the Asdrubal Cabrera home run.  That provided a jolt that lasted until Charlie Blackmon hit a homer in the top of the second.

As bad as the five run first was or the Blackmon homer was, it was the Josh Thole-esque Tony Wolters hitting one to the top deck off Wheeler that was the worst.

By the time the Mets awoke, it was too late.  Todd Frazier‘s eighth inning two run homer made it 8-4. A ninth inning rally with Rosario knocking in Wilmer Flores, who hit a pinch hit double, made it 8-5   This led to Wade Davis coming into the game to close it out . . . just like he did in Game 5 of the World Series.

He allowed a Cabrera RBI triple and subsequently a Frazier RBI single to pull the Mets to withing 8-7.  It ended there as Conforto struck out to end the game.  Again, somehow Harvey being released didn’t fix him.

Starting tomorrow, it seems like the Mets are going to have to focus on the things that are actually wrong with the team.  Seeing how Reyes was re-signed in the offseason, no one should hold their breath.

Game Notes: With Harvey gone, Jerry Blevins and his 6.43 ERA is the worst ERA in the Mets bullpen.

 

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.

It Was Time For Bartolo Colon To Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where’s Brad Emaus?

The first real playoff team Terry Collins managed with the Mets was in his first season with the team.  It is hard to believe now, but that team was full of players that are now members, if not significant contributors, to teams that reached the postseason this year:

Reading the names on that list, the two that immediately jump off the page are Murphy and Turner.  They jump off the page for a myriad of reasons. The first reason is the two players are currently facing off against one another in the NLDS between the Dodgers and the Nationals.  The series is tied at 1-1 in large part because Turner and Murphy have continued to be terrific postseason player.

Last year, Turner hit .526/.550/.842 with six doubles and four RBI against the Mets in the NLDS last year.  Overall, in Turner’s postseason career, he is a .500/.538/.875 hitter with six doubles, one homer, and six RBI.

Murphy was the bat that helped carried the Mets to the World Series last year.  In consecutive games, he hit homers off of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks.  He would also homer off Fernando Rodney in what was a stretch of six straight games with a home run.  In addtion to the homers, Murphy’s going from first to third on a walk in Game Five of the NLDS helped changed the complexion of that game.  Additionally, up until the World Series, he had played exceptional defense (which admittedly is a rarity for him).  So far in the NLDS, Murphy is 4-6 with a walk and two RBI.  The first of the two RBI was the go-ahead RBI in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Between Turner and Murphy, the Mets had at one time two second baseman who have established themselves to be extraordinarily clutch and terrific postseason players.  They were also two players the Mets were eager to replace.

Turner was surprisingly non-tendered a contract after a 2013 season where he seemed to solidify himself as a utility or platoon player (at a minimum).  Instead, the Mets let him go with rumors circulating that he was a me-first player that didn’t hustle.  He was also characterized as a player that wasn’t progressing because he liked the night scene a little too much.  He would go to Los Angeles and blossom as a player.  The Mets internal replacement?  Eric Campbell.

When Murphy became a free agent, the Mets first aggressively pursued Ben Zobrist.  After failing to land him, the Mets quickly moved to trade for Neil Walker.  At no time did the Mets even make Murphy an offer.  Unlike Turner, Walker was an actual replacement with Walker having a great year for the Mets before needing season ending back surgery.  However, despite how good Walker’s year was, he still wasn’t anywhere near was good as Murphy was for the Nationals.

It should never have come as a surprise that both of these players were gone because the Mets, under Sandy Alderson’s reign as General Manager, never really wanted either player.  If you go back to that 2011 season, the Opening Day second baseman was Rule 5 Draft pick, Brad Emaus.  After a couple of weeks of him struggling, the Mets moved on and finally went to Murphy and Turner at second base.  Murphy would get the bulk of the playing time there until Ike Davis‘ ankle injury that allowed them to play side-by-side.  With Davis’ healing up and being ready for the 2012 season, the Mets proceeded with Murphy as the second baseman and Turner as the utility player.  As we know, that lasted just two year.

Ultimately, the Mets made the postseason this year without either player.  And yes, both players got their first chance with the Mets.  Quite possibly, neither player would be in the position they are in now without the Mets giving them a chance to prove they are major league players.  However, the Mets also made clear they didn’t want either player starting all the way back in 2011 when they anointed Emaus the everyday second baseman.  Eventually, the Mets would get their chance to move on, and they took advantage of that opportunity.

With that, Murphy and Turner are in the NLDS after the Mets lost the Wild Card Game with T.J. Rivera starting at second base.  One of those two will be in the NLCS with a chance to go to the World Series, a position the Mets thought they were going to be in as the season started.  With all that in mind, it begs the question: how much differently would the Mets season have gone if they had kept either Turner or Murphy?

 

Neil Walker Salvages the Season for One Day

Today had the feeling of a death knell to the season. Noah Syndergaard couldn’t put batters away, had an early escalating pitch count, and he blew a 3-1 lead. 

Furthermore, Asdrubal Cabrera had to leave with a knee injury in the first inning adding his name to the ever growing list of the year’s injured players. 

The Mets then fell behind 4-3 as Jerry Blevins had a rare tough outing. Of course, part of that was the genius of Terry Collins walking Josh Thole-esque .239 hitting Tony Wolters to face Carlos Gonzalez, who hit the go-ahead sac fly. Right then and there, it looked like the Mets were going to get swept by the Rockies and fall 3.5 games behind the Marlins in the Wild Card race. 

Then, there was finally a sense of life from a player who has seemed washed up for three months now:

  
 Neil Walker, who has been hitting .235/.316/.343 since May 1st, hit a three run home run off Boone Logan to turn a sure fire 4-3 loss into a 6-3 win. The home run was reminiscent of Wilmer Flores‘ walk off home run that breathed life back into the Mets season. 
It seems like Walker is breaking out of this slump at a time when the Mets desperately need it. During the four game set against the Rockies, Walker was 9-16 with a double, triple, homer, and four RBI. That includes today game with him going 3-4 with four RBI falling a double short of the cycle. 

From there, Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia do what they do and preserved the 6-4 victory. For at least one day, the Mets season seems intact, and we can all dream the Mets can add a difference maker at the trade deadline. 

Game Notes: Kelly Johnson came in for Cabrera. He played third, and Flores took over at short. Johnson and James Loney would score on the Walker home run. 

Thank You Omar

Look, this is Sandy Alderson’s team. He decided to keep the players he kept and trade the players he traded. He pulled off the trades and signed the free agents. However, he was able to do a lot of what he did because he was left with good players after Omar Minaya was terminated. 

Here are the players in the 40 man roster who have a link to Omar Minaya (asterisked players are players obtained with players combined by Minaya and Alderson):

Jerry Blevins – obtained for 2010 draft pick Matt den Dekker

Eric Campbell – 2008 draft pick. 

Darrell Ceciliani – 2009 draft pick. 

Travis d’Arnaud – part of the R.A. Dickey trade. Dickey was a free agent signing. Josh Thole was a 2005 draft pick. Mike Nickeas was initially obtained by trade in 2006.

Jacob deGrom – 2010 draft pick. 

Lucas Duda – 2007 draft pick. 

Jeurys Familia – 2007 amateur free agent signing. 

Wilmer Flores – 2007 amateur free agent signing. 

Erik Goeddel – 2010 draft pick. 

Matt Harvey – 2010 draft pick  

Dilson Herrera* – part of Marlon Byrd/John Buck trade. Buck was part of the Dickey trade (see d’Arnaud). 

Juan Lagares – 2006 amateur free agent signing. 

Steven Matz – 2009 draft pick. 

Jenrry Mejia – 2007 amateur free agent signing. 

Akeel Morris -2010 draft pick. 

Daniel Murphy – 2006 draft pick. 

Bobby Parnell – 2005 draft pick. 

Addison Reed* – obtained in exchange for Matt Koch and Miller Diaz (signed by Mets in 2009).

Hansel Robles – 2008 amateur free agent.

Noah Syndergaard – part of Dickey trade (see d’Arnaud). 

Ruben Tejada – 2006 amateur free agent. 

Again, these players are in the roster because Alderson kept them. The decision of who to keep and trade is important. That is what makes them Alderson’s players and team. Additionally, while It was Alderson that hired Terry Collins, it was Minaya who brought him into the Mets organization. 

However, it is important to truly acknowledge Minaya’s role, especially when he has been unfairlyand wrongly   marginalized. 

You see I was on the same Jet Blue flight as Omar Minaya. The photo with this post was Minaya and me in the terminal before the flight. He was accessible to Mets fans who wanted to shake his hand and take a picture. No one, and I mean no one, had the “courage” to mock him on the flight.

Additionally, this should dispel the notion that Minaya left the Mets with a depleted farm system. On the contrary, he built a strong farm system that helped make up this team.  Minaya had his faults, and he probably deserved to be fired when he was. That doesn’t mean we should ignore his work. 

It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t extend our gratitude to him for what he left behind. 

Mets Magic Number is 6

Even though the Mets lost, the Mets Magic Number is now 6 because the Nationals lost to the Orioles. With the Mets having two Rule 5 picks pitching in a game, and both of the Mets young catchers getting into the game, I thought the best choice for magic number 6 would be Kelly Shoppach:

  
In 2012, the 74-88 Mets traded for the impending free agent Shoppach for a player to be named later. The idea was to get a good look at him to see if the team wanted to re-sign him and/or to get him to work with Josh Thole. Neither one would be back. 

Shoppach only hit .203/.276/.342 in 28 games. His play did not inspire the Mets to re-sign him. Thole would be moved in the famed R.A. Dickey trade that netted the Mets 2015 cornerstones, Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud

The player to be named in the Shoppach deal was Pedro Beato, a former Rule 5 draft pick like Sean Gilmartin is this year. We did learn this year the player to be named later was almost Jacob deGrom, which would’ve been disastrous. Note, Sandy Alderson was reported to be alright with trading deGrom at the time until one of his advisors warned him not to make the deal. 

But I digress. The seeds of the 2015 Mets were laid in the 2012 offseason. Much of the way the roster is currently constituted has to do with the Shoppach trade and his faired as a Met. If he succeeded, it’s possible he stays, and who knows what happens with d’Arnaud from there?  Maybe nothing changes?  Maybe Shoppach isn’t as effective a mentor as John Buck. My doctor won’t let me address the deGrom possibilities. 
So as the Shoppach trade arguably set the wheels in motion, let’s offer a hat tip to Magic Man Number 6 Kelly Shoppach. 

Can We Trust Sandy?

Last month, The Sporting News ranked Sandy Alderson right in the middle of all GMs in Major League Baseball (15/30). That sounds about right, although I could quibble with the order. To me, when you give Sandy a rating of 15/30, you’re really giving that rating to the entire front office, which includes Paul DePodesta, JP Riccardi, and John Ricco.

Since Sandy Alderson has been the GM for the Mets, he has really been tasked with getting rid of salaries and selling at the trade deadline. To that end, he and his front office have done an admirable job. In my opinion (and most people’s really), his three best trades were to sell and not to buy:

  1. RA Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas for Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wullmer Becerra;
  2. Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler; and
  3. Marlon Byrd, John Buck & cash for Dilson Herrera and Vic Black.

Looking over the rest of the trades, there really is not much to get worked up about, except the two trades Sandy Alderson made to help the team on the field (and not the team down the road):

  1. Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon S. Ramirez; and
  2. Collin McHugh for Eric Young, Jr.

There has been so much written about the first trade. Rather than regurgitate all that has been written, I’m going to make a couple of quick points. First, this was part of a quick hitting series of moves to try to rebuild the bullpen and TRY to take attention away from Jose Reyes leaving. Second, it seems like every year this team is trying to build a bullpen because the prior season’s acquisitions  were terrible or everyone got hurt again. Lastly, this trade violated the old adage of “the team that gets the best player wins the trade.”  We knew then Pagan was the best player in that deal.

I want to focus on the EY deal because with the Mets rotation, it has largely been ignored. In full disclosure, I didn’t see it with McHugh. I thought he was an AAAA starter or a 12th man in the pen. I didn’t see him finishing fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting last year or having another solid year for the Astros, especially when he pitches half his games is Minute Maid Park.

Just because I didn’t see it, it doesn’t excuse the current front office for this mistake. EY was acquired because Paul DePodesta loves him. In EY’s two seasons with the Mets, he was a 0.9 WAR player, who won a stolen base crown. The Mets were under .500 and had no shot at the postseason.

In the same time, McHugh has combined for accumulated WAR of 5.2, i.e. he has been the best player in the deal. I shutter to think what the careers Cory Mazzoni or Brad Wieck will be.

Now after all of this, how can I be expected to trust Sandy’s regime to properly rate their own prospects?  Sure when he has someone of value, he does a good job maximizing the return. However, when he is making a deal to improve his club, he has been shown to undervalue his assets.

This brings me to an extremely important point: Sandy effectively traded a first round pick for Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer hasn’t been himself at the plate or the field (even preinjury), which further exacerbated this “trade.”  All in all, I’m not sure we can trust this front office to go out and get a player. With that said, I’m sure I’m just wasting my breath because there is no way the Mets would take on money to improve this team.