Juan Lagares

Brodie Van Wagenen Had A Center Fielder

Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen said something very interesting to the press during these GM Meetings. Notably, as transcribed by Mike Puma of the New York Post, he said, “Center field is not as easy as waking up in the morning and finding a solution.

This is a sentiment which rings very true, and we have seen teams act accordingly. The Minnesota Twins were very patient with Byron Buxton, who was finally a league average hitter in his fifth Major League season. Previously to Buxton, they had been patient with Aaron Hicks until he was traded for John Ryan Murphy, who at the time was a promising catcher.

When Hicks broke out, the Yankees made sure to extend Hicks to a lucrative contract extension. This speaks to how hard it is to get a center fielder. When a center fielder comes available, teams do spend to get them. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain to a five year $80 million deal.

For the Mets last year, there were no easy solutions. Juan Lagares would have the worst year of his career from both sides of the plate. Brandon Nimmo was hurt for much of the year. Keon Broxton wasn’t the player the Mets hoped he would be leading to his designated for assignment followed by failed hopes in the form of Aaron Altherr, Carlos Gomez, and Rajai Davis.

This led to the Mets once again moving Michael Conforto to center. While he has been a good sport, he has proven himself to be a good stopgap and nothing more. This is not too dissimilar from what we saw with Yoenis Cespedes in 2015.

The lesson is when you have a center fielder, you need to hold onto that player for as long as you can. That is what the best run teams in baseball do.

The Mets did have that center fielder in the minors in the form of Jarred Kelenic. In short order, he proved to be a much better player than even the Mets could’ve hoped he would be when they made him the sixth overall pick in the draft.

He has been so good that at the moment, MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 13th best prospect in baseball. He also rose all the way to Double-A at the end of the 2019 season. His likely beginning the 2020 season in Double-A means his making his Major League debut next year is not out of the question. Barring injury, we should see that happen at least by 2022.

Instead of having patience building this Mets team and allowing them to reap the benefits of having a Kelenic in center for a decade or hopefully more, Van Wagenen trying to shortcut the process. He included Kelenic in a deal for a older second baseman in Robinson Cano and a closer in Edwin Diaz.

Aside from the complications Cano and his contract provide, like re-signing Zack Wheeler, the trade itself cost the Mets a center fielder in Kelenic. With Kelenic, Van Wagenen was going to be in a position where he can wake up one day and have a long term solution in center.

Instead, he cycled through option after option in 2019 to no avail. He enters the offseason with few trade assets and little to no budget to sign a center fielder or to take on salary in a trade. The real shame is he eventually learned his lesson after he was all to rash to swing an ill-advised deal trading away a potentially very good center fielder.

Luxury Tax Should Not Be An Impediment For Mets

The Mets did good by hiring Carlos Beltran as the 22nd manager in team history. In Beltran, they have someone who is a very good communicator who has the ability to unite a clubhouse while also teaching players things to help them significantly improve. Given his skill set, he can be a superstar manager like he was a superstar player.

However, Beltran in and of himself is not going to be enough to take this Mets team over the top.

With Zack Wheeler being a free agent, the team is going to need a fifth starter. At the moment, internal options like Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt are not ready to step up to fill that void. The team has mentioned Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo as options, but that only serves to further damage what is already a weak bullpen.

In 2019, Lugo and Justin Wilson were the only dependable relievers in that bullpen. When you look at it, even assuming a bounce-back from Edwin Diaz, this team still needs at least two big arms in the bullpen this offseason. They will need more if Gsellman or Lugo move to the rotation making that decision to rob Peter to pay Paul.

The Mets also need a center fielder, third baseman, backup catcher, and just plain old depth. With Juan Lagares having his option declined, they need a defensive replacement. The team cannot rely upon Jed Lowrie to contribute anything. Tomas Nido was a good defensive catcher, but with his complete inability to hit, you wonder how much you can rely upon him to be on the roster for a full season.

All told, this is a Mets roster which needs a lot of work. Given the dearth of prospects at the Double-A and Triple-A level last year, the team is going to have to acquire those players this offseason instead of looking from within. With all the prospects the Mets traded away over the last year, it is going to be difficult to trade their way back to contention.

That leaves the Mets with spending, and with the Mets being owned by the Wilpons, that is a dicey proposition.

Now, there are some who will say the Mets did spend last year. According to Spotrac, the Mets 2019 payroll was $160.5 million which ranked 10th in the majors.

Lost in that was how David Wright‘s $15 million is included in that amount. Wright had a portion of that salary covered by insurance, and the Mets renegotiated future payments with Wright. The figure also included Yoenis Cespedes‘ $29 million salary which was covered by insurance. Between Wright’s full salary and 70% of Cespedes’ salary being covered, the Mets payroll was reduced by $35.5 million.

That reduces the Mets REAL 2019 payroll to $125 million, which would’ve ranked 18th in the majors. That number is all the worse when you consider Adeiny Hechavarria and Carlos Gomez were cut before roster bonuses were due, and Jason Vargas was traded so the team could clear payroll space after obtaining Marcus Stroman.

As of today, the Mets payroll is $168.8 million. Now, that figure includes Wright’s $12 million, Cespedes’ $29.5 million, and the $5.1 projected arbitration figure due Joe Panik. On that front, as noted earlier, Wright’s contract was been renegotiated, and it is very likely Panik is non-tendered. With respect to Cespedes, there will be no insurance protection this year.

When you dig a little more, that $168.8 includes Jacob deGrom‘s $27.5 million salary. On that front, the $27.5 million figure is for competitive balance tax purposes only. In reality, deGrom is only making $13 million meaning $12.5 million of his salary is deferred.

This means the Mets ACTUAL payroll obligations are $139.2million. That is before the Mets go forward looking to add players this offseason. Still, people will point to the competitive balance tax as a reason why the Mets can’t spend. Let’s take a look at it for a second.

Putting reason aside, assuming the Mets sign Wheeler to a deal with a $30 million average annual value raising the payroll obligations to $188.8. That puts the Mets $19.2 million short of the $208 competitive balance tax figure.

Taking a more realistic approach, assume the Mets don’t go and sign Anthony Rendon. For a minute, just assume the Mets sign a Mike Moustakas ($10 million AAV), Drew Pomeranz ($8 million AAV), and a backup catcher like Jonathan Lucroy ($2 million AAV). Assume the rest of the roster is filled out for a cost of around $5 million, which is probably the very low end.

Assuming Panik is non-tendered, that puts competitive balance payroll at $213.8 million. That would incur the “tax penalty.” The amount of the penalty? It would only be $1.2 million. That’s it.

When looking at the $1.2 million remember the Mets already have $12 million off the books with Wright and $12.5 million deferred with deGrom. As a result, the $1.2 million is more than covered. When you look at it, the Mets can really blow past that $208 million this year.

In fact, the Mets should considering they have Cespedes’$29 million coming off the books completely, and the same can be said for Wright’s $12 million. Essentially, the Mets have $41 million coming off the books.

Whether the Mets will be proactive remains to be seen. If history is any measure, they won’t. Just remember, when they don’t, we should not let them invoke the competitive balance tax as a reason because it is not in any way a real impediment.

The only impediment to the Mets spending are the Mets themselves, and that is not in any way acceptable.

Mets Center Field Solution Could Be Andres Gimenez

The last few years there has been discussions about how Andres Gimenez needs to move off of shortstop due to the presence of Amed Rosario. The natural choice was second base, but with the Mets obtaining Robinson Cano, that position is blocked for the next four years.

Early this year, it seemed there was going to be a potential opening at shortstop with Rosario struggling there for the second straight year. It got to the point where he began taking balls in center. However, with Rosario turning things around in the second half both offensively and defensively, he seems cemented as the team’s shortstop for the future. As a result, the plans for him in center have likely been abandoned.

While the plans of moving Rosario to center have been abandoned, the plans of moving a shortstop to center should not be.

Right now, the Mets have two very real problems. First, they have zero Major League ready prospects which will begin the year in Double-A or higher. Second, with Rosario establishing himself as a real Major League shortstop and with Luis Guillorme showing he’s a real option as Major League infield depth, there’s no room for Gimenez in the middle infield over the long term.

With no room for him in the infield, and with the team needing outfielders, the solution seems obvious. That’s only obvious if Gimenez could actually play the outfield. Based upon his skill-set, he should be able to make that transition.

Baseball America calls Gimenez “a quick-twitch athlete with well-rounded skills, a high baseball IQ and leadership qualities” who has a “quick first step.” MLB Pipeline notes Gimenez has a “strong arm, excellent hands, range and plus instincts for the position.” While this was written for him being a shortstop prospect, these are the type of skills you want out of a center field prospect.

As an aside, we saw Juan Lagares make the same transition from shortstop to center when he was a prospect. In 2011, Baseball America said he was best suited in left field due to his fringy speed and below-average arm. The following year, the analysis was updated to indicate he had ” the average range, sure hands and plus arm strength required to play all three outfield posts.” As we know he would become a Gold Glover at the position.

This is not to say Baseball America was wrong at the time on Lagares. Rather, it shows the more a player works at a position the better they get. We saw that with Lagares developing into a Gold Glover. We saw that with Rosario figuring things out at short in the second half this year.

If Gimenez has a real future in the Mets organization, he is going to have to find a new position, and he is going to have to put in the time to improve at it like Lagares and Rosario did with theirs. That position was supposed to be short or second, but he’s hopelessly blocked there.

However, center field is wide open for him. Moving Gimenez to center allows the Mets to help solve their center field depth issues while also solving the problem of finding a spot for their sole Major League ready position player prospect. When you break it down, the question isn’t whether the Mets should try this, but why haven’t they done this already.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was previously published on MMN.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Sweep On Into 2020

The New York Mets season is officially over with the team finishing with an 86-76 record. It is just the third time they have had a winning record since the team began playing in Citi Field. To that end, the season has been a success even if it was disappointing from what was promised:

1. Congratulations to Pete Alonso for breaking Aaron Judge‘s rookie record and a whole host of rookie and Mets records during the 2019 season. He proved he was ready, and he showed himself to be more than that by donating money to charity, spear-heading the cleats and donating them to the 9/11 Museum this week, and just being a great teammate.

2. On the first base topic, you can’t help but feel great for Dominic Smith. He not only proved himself to not be a bust, but he would also show he’s a terrific team first player who is actually a tireless worker. He earned that at-bat late in the game, and he ended the season on about as high as note as you can end the regular season.

3. Of course, the Mets were in that position because the bullpen blew another lead. Unfortunately, it cost Paul Sewald his second career win. It won’t be his last time in the Majors, but it might be the last time he is with the Mets. If so, that would be a sad way to end his career after his being just a feel-good story who has overcome so much to be in the majors.

4. It was really unfortunate Juan Lagares did not get into the game on Sunday. It might’ve been his last time ever wearing a Mets uniform, and it would have been nice to see the best Mets defensive outfielder ever get one final ovation and thank you from the fans.

5. Hopefully, this won’t be a good-bye for Noah Syndergaard, who once again reminded everyone he is actually a very good pitcher, and that when you set him up to succeed with a good catcher like Tomas Nido he is going to succeed.

6. Syndergaard’s final start (of the season) and Smith’s walk-off was a feel good way to end the season, and we hope those positive vibes carry forward into 2020 and beyond.

7. Part of that is the Mets being much better run. There are reasons to both keep and fire Mickey Callaway. He has a two year body of work, and yet, somehow the Mets aren’t even going to meet to discuss his future. This is further evidence the Mets would have to rapidly speed up their processes to be considered reactive.

8. One of the biggest areas to address this offseason is going to be the bullpen. Given the budget, the team is going to have to hope players like Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz return to form. As we saw with Diaz’s final appearance, that is certainly a possibility.

9. It was great seeing Luis Guillorme have a strong finish to the season. This was just another example of how he has further cemented himself a real depth piece going forward who needs to be on the Opening Day roster.

10. If that was it for Todd Frazier, good luck to him. He gave the Mets what he had, and he earned his contract. Whoever gets him next year is going to get a real asset.

11. Considering his wanting to stay in the New York area, and the Mets not faring well against left-handed pitching, the Mets may well consider keeping him to play in the Jed Lowrie role which Lowrie, himself, couldn’t fulfill.

12. One note with Lowrie is he finished the season with fewer hits for the Mets than Marcus Stroman, a pitcher who spent the year with the Blue Jays. With respect to Stroman, his finish to the season gave us reason to be excited for his 2020 season.

13. Local players Brad Brach and Joe Panik really contributed to the Mets and their push for the Wild Card. They are winners who brought something to the team. It will be interesting to see if the team could keep them around next year.

14. On the topic of local Mets, Steven Matz had yet another strong start to finish his season. He has certainly been a different pitcher in the second half which is partially attributable to his moving to the middle of the rubber. The Mets should really consider signing him to a team friendly extension this offseason.

15. The Mets having a very local flavor is one of the reasons why this proved to be a fun season. A bigger reason why was this was a very resilient team who fought like few other Mets teams. Top to bottom, this roster earned our admiration and respect.

16. It doesn’t matter than it may or may not have counted for anything, sweeping the Braves is always a great thing. Hopefully, this sweep set them up for postseason disappointment. Of course, there’s no point in rooting for anyone in the NLDS because they are facing off against the Cardinals.

17. On the topic of the postseason, congratulations to Travis d’Arnaud on turning his season around and being a key reason why the Tampa Bay Rays made the postseason. Considering all he gave the team, Mets fans should be rooting for him.

18. The use of Seth Lugo for two innings on Saturday was just stupid, but we should note Callaway was very judicious in using him all season. This year, he was ticketed for 100 innings, and he was only used for 80, which is all the more surprising considering the team lost Robert Gsellman during the season.

19. Lugo may want to start, and he’s earned that right, but if the Mets were smart, they’d keep Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard making this a moot point. Like has been said a few times in this post, he should be signed to an extension.

20. For the last time this season – LFGM.

Dominic Smith Walks 2019 Off Into Sunset

With what happened this year, it was just perfect seeing the bullpen blow-up. It blew up all year, and unfortunately it would today. Sadly, when Adeiny Hechavarria homered off of Paul Sewald, the Mets would blow their 28th save of the season moving them into a tie with the Cubs for the fifth most blown saves in baseball.

It would also cost Sewald of his second straight win after not earning a win over his first 118 Major League appearances. That ended one feel good story. Actually, it was two feel good stories ended as local guy, Joe Panik, had hit an eighth inning homer to put the Mets ahead 4-3.

As the game headed into extras, you wondered who was going to be this year’s version of Oliver Perez. It turns out the answer was Walker Lockett.

Lockett allowed back-to-back homers to Hechavarria and Adam Duvall to put the Mets down 6-4. It seemed like that was the sour note upon which this season was going to end.

Of course, that overlooked how this team constantly got up from gut punches. It also overlooked how forgotten and overlooked players took full advantage of their chances. We saw that again in the 11th when Luis Guillorme hit a leadoff single against Jerry Blevins.

Then came a string where all three Mets catchers would bat. That should serve as a subtle reminder this is the last time there will be 40 man rosters in September. Of the trio, Wilson Ramos would get a single off Anthony Swarzak putting the tying run on with two outs.

That brought up Dominic Smith. Smith had not had an at-bat since July 26 when he landed on the IL with a broken foot. He was just activated last week but had not played until today. On the second pitch he saw from Grant Dayton, Smith would end the Mets 2019 season:

This was a great moment for Dom. Not only did he get back from a broken foot, but it put an exclamation point on a season where he rejuvenated his career. He earned this moment due to all the hard work he put in during the offseason and just to get back from his broken foot.

As Dom celebrated dancing his way to the plate, he and the Mets would walk off into the sunset. There’s a lot of different ways this Mets season could’ve gone better, but in the end, these players were easy to root for, and we should all look forward to seeing them all play next year.

Game Notes: Noah Syndergaard started the final game of the year for the fourth straight year. He took a no decision after allowing three earned and striking out nine over seven. Chris Mazza picked up his first career win.

Thank You 2019 Mets Players

Now that the Mets postseason hopes are officially over, there will come a time to write post mortems to assess all that went wrong and how the Mets could improve in the future.

Before doing that, we should first acknowledge these Mets players fought tooth and nail giving all they could give to help make an improbable run. What we would discover is this is a tough and very likeable group who deserves our gratitude.

Pete Alonso – for having perhaps the greatest rookie season in MLB history while being just a good person.

Aaron Altherr – his RBI double and scoring later in the game proved to be the winning run in a game against the Pirates as the team looked to turn their season around.

Luis Avilan – limited LHB to a .104/.189/.188 batting line making him an exceptional LOOGY, perhaps the last true LOOGY with the incoming MLB rule changes.

Tyler Bashlor – had a seven game scoreless streak in May and another four game one from June to July where he picked up his first hold.

Brad Brach – came to the Mets like he always wanted, and he helped stabilize a bullpen which desperately needed his help.

Keon Broxton – had a go-ahead RBI against the Nationals in April helping the Mets get off to another great start.

Robinson Cano – returned from what should’ve been a season ending injury to do all he could to help get this team into the postseason.

Michael Conforto – reminded us how great he is when he is healthy. Yes, great.

Travis d’Arnaud – came back too soon, never complained, and he left the Mets with pride and dignity after a good Mets career.

J.D. Davis – had a season better than anyone could’ve imagined with a number of big hits. More than that, he became a fan favorite as he was a player who clearly loved being a part of this team.

Rajai Davis – the lifelong Mets fan came home, and he would deliver two absolutely huge pinch hits to keep the Mets afloat at times they needed them.

Jacob deGrom – we are experiencing greatness everytime he takes the mound, and at some point we will need to begin having Hall of Fame conversations about him.

Edwin Diaz – there was a real dignity with him when he faced the media everytime he struggled. He made no excuses, and he put the work in to try to get back to where he was in Seattle. From what we’ve seen, he will get back there next year.

Jeurys Familia – you have to say something about someone who loved being a Mets player, and he came back to be a part of another winning team. Hopefully, that will be next year.

Chris Flexen – reinvented himself as a reliever who showed potential with the ability to strike out batters.

Wilmer Font – showed the Mets real value as a reliever before he was inexplicably designated for assignment.

Todd Frazier – provided this team with real leadership and defense, and he had a number of hot stretches which helped the Mets get back into it.

Drew Gagnon – for a month stretch from late April to late May he was an extremely reliable reliever.

Carlos Gomez – came back to the Mets and started the fun “Ye! Ye! Ye!” rallying cry.

Robert Gsellman – before he began to breakdown due to overuse, he was putting together a really good season out of the bullpen.

Luis Guillorme – when he finally got his chance, he proved himself showing this team he needs to be a part of the future. His pinch hit homer was one of the biggest hits of the season.

Sam Haggerty – like Eric Young in 2015, he was a weapon as a pinch runner.

Donnie Hart – albeit in just one appearance, he’s one of the few pitchers in Mets history who has never allowed a run.

Adeiny Hechavarria – showed surprising power and helped keep the Mets going in May.

Juan Lagares – at the end, he reminded us of how great a fielder he can be, and he had one last hurrah with his first two home rungame.

Walker Lockett – his start in San Francisco was the lone win in what was otherwise a lost series.

Jed Lowrie – despite suffering significant injuries, he pushed onward to make himself a viable pinch hitting option.

Seth Lugo – he has been absolutely great, and he has kept an otherwise struggling bullpen afloat.

Steven Matz – for the second straight year, Matz made 30 starts, and he made huge strides forward with a big second half and being dominant at home.

Chris Mazza – a 29 year old rookie is a feel good story, and he had quite the debut against a very good Braves lineup.

Jeff McNeil – proved last year was no fluke, and his versatility allowed the team to get the most out of the roster.

Tomas Nido – was a terrific defensive catcher and framer who helped get the most out of the starters and help them get their minds straight.

Brandon Nimmo – came back from a bulging disc in his neck to pick up where he left off last year. His enthusiasm and love of baseball is always a breath of fresh air.

Stephen Nogosek – put together a great year in the minors to get to the majors.

Ryan O’Rourke – in his low moment, he gave us real human insight into what it was like being cut from a team.

Corey Oswalt – strong year in Triple-A giving the Mets real rotation depth going forward.

Joe Panik – came back home to New York to help keep the team afloat at the time the Mets were in desperate need for a second baseman, and he performed quite well.

Tim Peterson – earned his way onto the Opening Day roster,and he’d pitch fairly well in his limited opportunities.

Brooks Pounders – six of his seven outings were really good.

Wilson Ramos – turned what was going to be an awful year around with a great August, and his ability to frame the high pitch proved to be a real help to deGrom.

Jacob Rhame – before landing on the IL to end the year, he was showing glimpses of being the type of arm who could be a useful part of the bullpen going forward.

Rene Rivera – brought back warm memories from the 2016 season with him combining with Syndergaard to dominate the Nationals.

Amed Rosario – he made a fools out of people who didn’t believe in his work ethic and talent by showing he is going to be an impact player on both sides of the ball in the future.

Hector Santiago – picked up a big win in extra innings against the Tigers.

Paul Sewald – despite being an afterthought, he once again proved he was a Major League caliber reliever, and he would finally get that first win which proved to be so elusive for him.

Dominic Smith – despite his being maligned and dropped down the depth chart, he would get healthy, and he would show everyone just how good a player he is, and he showed himself to be a great teammate more interested in how he could help the team than his role.

Marcus Stroman – the man was born to pitch on the biggest stage, and he would show it to us. A full year of him is going to be a thrill.

Noah Syndergaard – with Nido and Rivera, he showed he’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher, and he has time and again said he wants to be a real part of this team going forward.

Ruben Tejada – there’s a poetic justice in his playing in 2019 and Chase Utley not.

Jason Vargas – he really helped the Mets Wild Card hopes by bombing with the Phillies.

Zack Wheeler – he desperately wanted to be a part of a Mets postseason push, and he not only got that chance, but he would be great down the stretch.

Justin Wilson – he put the elbow problems aside, and he had just a terrific year out of the bullpen.

Daniel Zamora – 13 of his 16 appearances were scoreless, and with his splits, he showed the Mets he could be a modern LOOGY with the changing bullpen rules.

Overall, while you may hate what Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager, and you can hate the Wilpons for not being invested in this team, you simply have to love each and every one of these players for all they gave this team. We should appreciate them for fighting to the finish and giving us hope for next year.

Mickey Callaway Screwed Up, Brodie Van Wagenen Screwed Up More

The New York Mets completely blew it last night. Behind that loss was a a number of players failing. Todd Frazier couldn’t get a hit in two key RBI situations. Steven Matz allowed a grand slam. Brad Brach failed to cover first in time. There’s obviously more.

Behind the players failing was a number of questionable to flat out indefensible decisions from Mickey Callaway.

Callaway should not have let Matz face Jorge Alfaro. With the team having zero margin for error, you cannot use Walker Lockett under any circumstance. There’s no saving the top arms in the bullpen to fight for another day because if you lose, there isn’t going to be another day.

There were other decisions like not starting Brandon Nimmo or allowing Michael Conforto to bat against Brian Moran. You could also question using Rajai Davis as a pinch hitter in the sixth over Nimmo. To be fair, these decisions were mitigated by Juan Lagares going 1-for-3 with a run and a walk, and Amed Rosario hitting a grand slam.

The pinch hitting decisions were mitigated by the actual options available. Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera are not good hitters. Jed Lowrie hasn’t had a hit in his limited pinch hitting appearances, and he has just one right-handed at-bat all year. That’s it for the right-handed bench options against the left-handed pitching the Marlins had out there in the form of Caleb Smith and Moran.

It certainly makes you question why the Mets never made a roster move to add Dilson Herrera to the roster. After all, they lost Eric Hanhold so they can have Chris Mazza and Donnie Hart on the roster, neither of whom have pitched one meaningful inning in September.

Taking that into consideration, you have to look at the bullpen again. Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson are the only reliable arms down there. You can trust Brach against right-handed batters but not left, and vice versa for Luis Avilan. After that, it’s a straight roll of the dice. Sadly, it’s a heavily weighted pair of dice putting the odds stacked against the Mets.

Reliever ERA
Jeurys Familia 6.00
Drew Gagnon 8.74
Walker Lockett 7.66
Tyler Bashlor 7.65
Paul Sewald 4.67
Chris Mazza 6.43
Brad Brach 3.95
Daniel Zamora 5.63
Donnie Hart 0.00

Look at those ERAs again. Lockett wasn’t even the worst ERA available in the bullpen last night. He wasn’t the only one with an ERA over 5.00. In fact, taking away the top two relievers, there were only three relievers with an ERA under that mark, and one of those, Hart, has only pitched 1.0 innings.

Put aside for a moment the Mets entered the season with Tim Peterson in the bullpen putting the team 1-2 relievers short to start the season. At the trade deadline, the Mets went out and got Marcus Stroman, and they didn’t back it up with another move. Sure, they got Brach, but he fell into their laps. It wasn’t a proactive move on the Mets part.

The bench has always been an issue too. We have seen the Mets cycle through Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Carlos Gomez, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Ruben Tejada while rage cutting Travis d’Arnaud. Again, the Mets did little to address this at the trade deadline with Joe Panik falling into their laps like Brach did.

This team was ill constructed from the get-go, and for some reason when the Mets doubled down at the trade deadline, they did nothing to fix their two biggest problems – the bench and the bullpen.

Now, it’s possible a very good manager like Terry Francona or Bruce Bochy could’ve navigated their way around these problems, but we know Callaway couldn’t. The Mets knowing that and handing him a roster which feeds into his deficiencies as a manager makes what Brodie Van Wagenen did all the worse.

So, yes, Callaway screwed up yesterday, and he has screwed up in other spots. But make no mistake, this was largely the result of the roster he was given. For that, Brodie Van Wagenen should shoulder the blame he was absolutely unwilling to accept earlier in the year.

deGrom With Run Support Is Unbeatable

The anticipated pitchers’ duel that was Jacob deGrom and Luis Castillo didn’t disappoint with there being a combined six hits against the two pitchers.

For deGrom, he further cemented his Cy Young case. Over 7.0 innings, he limited the Reds to just four singles. He walked none while striking out nine. The best way to sum it up was he was deGrom on that mound.

As good as deGrom was, Castillo was nearly his equal. He was getting the Mets to pound the ball into the ground. As a result, over his first 5.1 innings, he allowed just one hit. On a night where he needed to be perfect to beat deGrom, he was nearly perfect.

Nearly.

As noted by Keith Hernandez during the broadcast, Castillo made just two mistakes on the night. The first came with one out in the sixth:

That Jeff McNeil homer gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. It was his 16th homer in the second half as he’s focused more on power than contact much like he did in Binghamton last year.

At the time, most thought that was all the run support deGrom would get. After all, the Mets offense has been dormant for well over a year when deGrom pitches. On top of that, Castillo was great.

As great as he was, he’d make his second mistake in the seventh. Like McNeil, Amed Rosario would make him pay.

That two run homer gave the Mets a 3-0 lead. That’s two more runs than deGrom needed.

What was interesting was after the seventh, it appeared Mickey Callaway was set to pull deGrom even though he only threw 96 pitches. While we don’t know if deGrom said something or Brodie texted something, with what’s on the line, it was a surprise move.

Fortunately, the Reds went to their bullpen in the eighth, and Pete Alonso would take advantage hitting his 50th homer of the season.

50!

The list of players who have hit 50 in their rookie year stands at Alonso and Aaron Judge. With two more games in this ballpark and the Mets playing the Marlins next, you almost have to believe Alonso’s going to break Judge’s rookie record of 52.

On another note, the 50 homers passes Mark McGwire for the rookie first base record. It was also Alonso’s 81st extra bass hit surpassing the single season record held by Carlos Beltran (2006) and Howard Johnson.

With respect to the game and the Mets Wild Card hopes, the homer gave the Mets a 5-0 lead. That made it a whole lot easier to go to the bullpen allowing deGrom to save his bullets for his final two (or maybe three) starts.

In the eighth, Brad Brach allowed a two out single before getting lifted for Luis Avilan with Joey Votto due up. After Avilan walked Votto, things were on the verge of getting dicey with Eugenio Suarez due up. Given his home run propensity and Diaz having hit 48 homers this year, Edwin Diaz was a very curious choice even if a homer only makes it 5-3.

Diaz responded to the challenge by striking out Suarez.

With the Mets into their bullpen, even with a 5-0 lead, insurance runs couldn’t hurt. They got that when Brandon Nimmo scores from first on a McNeil double increasing the Mets lead to 6-0.

McNeil went to third on the throw. After an intentional walk to Alonso and a defensive indifference, Juan Lagares singled home McNeil to make it 7-0. Michael Conforto, who had been taking better at-bats in the game walking twice, snapped an 0-for-21 stretch with an RBI single to make it 8-0.

After Jeurys Familia allowed a monster shot to Aristides Aquino, the Mets won 8-1. That’s three wins in a row with a favorable schedule. The only issue is if this run can continue, and if so, will it be enough.

Game Notes: Cubs lost to the Cardinals in the afternoon, and the Mets now trail them by 1.0 games, but they’re still three games in the loss column behind the Brewers.

Mets Rally To Save Season

This was shaping up to be one of those games that not only gets everyone fired. It was also a game which would lead to fans looking to tar and feather everyone. It was going to be that maddening a loss.

Noah Syndergaard struggled in his first start ever at Coors Field, and he made matters worse not holding on base runners. For reasons beyond explanation, Mickey Callaway allowed Rene Rivera to bat with bases loaded and two outs in the sixth with the Mets down 3-2.

The Mets offense had been shut down by Jeff Hoffman, a pitcher with a career 6.21 ERA and a 7.03 ERA this year. This was part of the them of how the bad Rockies pitching inexplicably shut down the Mets offense in a hitter’s paradise.

As the Mets entered the ninth down 4-3, you wondered if Callaway would get the same treatment Willie Randolph once did. Well, it’s not happening because the Mets had a rally to save their season and perhaps more than that.

After getting the Rockies out of an eighth inning jam, Bud Black opted to stick with Jairo Diaz to close out the game.

Wilson Ramos, who wasn’t used as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning, led off the inning with a pinch hit walk before getting lifted for Juan Lagares. J.D. Davis, another player who wasn’t used in the sixth, had a pinch hit single putting runners at the corners with no outs. That was the situation for Brandon Nimmo, who delivered the biggest hit of the year:

Jeff McNeil then had a great at-bat. He battled from down 0-2 to draw a walk in a nine pitch at-bat. That would be it for Diaz as the Rockies brought Joe Harvey to get them out of this jam.

Problem is Harvey wanted no part of Pete Alonso, who had hit his 49th homer of the year earlier in the game. Harvey walked Alonso on four pitches, none of which we particularly close giving the Mets a 5-4 lead.

The Rockies caught a bit of a break with Robinson Cano hitting into a 6-4-3 double play, but it should be noted a run scored on the play increasing the Mets lead to 6-4.

At that point, it appeared the inning should be over. After all, Seth Lugo was due up, and with the state of the Mets bullpen, there was a less than zero chance he was coming out of the game. Well, as it turned out, there was no need to pinch hit for him:

The Mets were once on the verge of complete collapse with multiple heads about to roll. Instead, they’d win this game 7-4 in the most improbable fashion. Even better, with the Brewers losing, they gained a game on them in the Wild Card standings.

Game Notes: Alonso’s homer tied Mark McGwire for the most homers by a rookie first baseman, and it set the new Mets team season record. Lugo became the first Mets reliever to have a win and an RBI hit in a game since Nelson Figueroa.

20/20 Hindsight: Dodgers Were Simply Better

The New York Mets faced off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a series the Mets and their fans had hoped would be an NLDS preview. Judging what we saw in this series, if this was a preview, Major League Baseball would’ve been thrilled, but it seems like this won’t be the series they’ll get:

1. Not only did the Dodgers beat the Mets, they beat the best the Mets could throw at them. This is the biggest sign the Mets were just not good enough to claim the Wild Card or have a real shot at the World Series.

2. Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and Jeff McNeil combined to go 0-for-25 with two walks and five strikeouts. If they’re going to do that against any opponent, the Mets have little to no chance of winning no matter how good their starting pitching is.

3. For the most part, the starting pitching was really good too. Jacob deGrom further cemented his being the Cy Young front runner going toe-to-toe with Hyun-Jin Ryu. After that game, deGrom was the only starter in the National League in the top five in innings, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, FIP, ERA+, bWAR, and fWAR. If that’s not a Cy Young Award winner, we don’t know what is.

4. Back in 2015, when Zack Wheeler was on the precipice of being traded with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez, Wheeler called Alderson to ask to not be traded, so he could pitch for this Mets team in a pennant race and hopefully win a World Series. He got his chance, and he took full advantage of the opportunity pitching great against the Dodgers limiting them to one run over seven.

5. In that game, Wheeler got a number of big outs. After allowing a leadoff double to Joc Pederson in the sixth, he struck out the next three. After allowing a single to Gavin Lux putting runners at first and second with one out in the seventh, he struck out the next two.

6. Wheeler showed more emotion he ever has in a Mets uniform, and the way he is closing out the season, it is a reminder the Mets are going to have to do better than the qualifying offer for him. They are going to need to lock him up if they want to legitimately have an opportunity to win in 2020.

7. The criticism of Mickey Callaway for lifting Wheeler was inane. He saw Wheeler was tired, and Wheeler admitted as such. He was turning over the game to Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo, who have been great all year. This is the exact opportunity you want, and they didn’t deliver.

8. There’s no need to criticize Wilson or Lugo. They’ve been great all year. Just lament what could have been and tip your cap to them for being what they’ve been to this team.

9. You can’t help but think that a year or two ago Juan Lagares robs that Enrique Hernandez double in the ninth, and if that was the case, Lugo gets out of that ninth unscathed.

10. The only Mets starter who did not pitch well was Noah Syndergaard. Of course, the Mets thought it more important to send a message to him by having Wilson Ramos catch him than to set him and the team up for success by having Tomas Nido or Rene Rivera catch him.

11. For all the talk of the desperate need for Ramos’ bat in the lineup, he was 1-for-10 with a walk and three strikeouts in the series, and he is hitting .211/.268/.368 over the past two weeks. That should’ve been a further indication he should have sat when Syndergaard started, but you know, messages trump winning.

12. That next message came during Sunday Night Baseball. All season long, Jessica Mendoza has refrained from offering insight into what the Mets are thinking about anything or any one player. However, during the broadcast, she took the time to smear Syndergaard and pretend like the whole issue was blown out of proportion.

13. Saying Syndergaard needed the training wheels taken off was both a stupid thing to say and an unwarranted insult. Syndergaard is the last Mets pitcher with a World Series win. He has proven to be the only pitcher in Major League Baseball who has matched zeros with Madison Bumgarner in the postseason. But sure, he needs his training wheels taken off like Greg Maddux did in his career, or A.J. Burnett did as he helped pitch the Yankees to the 2009 World Series.

14. It’s interesting how Mendoza offered insight on Syndergaard, but there was no discussion on the Mets thinking on Wheeler, who was an impending free agent, when she was discussing the starters available in free agency. That makes the shot all the more unwarranted.

15. If not for Rajai Davis, the Mets likely get swept as the Mets starters did not do anything at the plate against the excellent Dodgers starting pitching. Seeing him deliver, it makes you question why the Mets wasted so much time on Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, Gomez, and whatever flew through the 40 man roster this year.

16. Actually, there was one Mets starter who delivered – Brandon Nimmo. His RBI triple was a huge hit. The same goes for J.D. Davis‘ homer off Clayton Kershaw. Other than that, the Mets starters did little to nothing.

17. When you break it all down, this was a series where the Mets showed they could stand toe-to-toe with the Dodgers, but they also showed they are not good enough to beat the Dodgers right now. Sure, it’s possible in the NLDS the Mets could still pull it out like they did in 2015, but it’s an uphill climb to get to that point.

18. The Mets are really behind the eight ball being four back with 13 games left in their season. The good news there is the Mets next 10 games come against the Reds, Rockies, and Marlins. That means a 10-0 stretch is not out of the question, and if they do that, it can make the final weekend all the more interesting.

19. Ultimately, no one in that Mets clubhouse deserves any blame. They gave the Mets everything they could give, and they’ve played their hearts out. Really, if you want to blame anyone, look at the front office who completely failed to build the type of roster that was needed to win this year.

20. Lets just enjoy the final stretch of the season and do post mortems later. This team still has a pulse, and they’ve earned our faith and belief in them. No one should speak of them being done until they are actually done.