Juan Lagares

Mets Needed Relief

If it wasn’t so hot hot tonight, I swear it was October. Tonight’s game just had that feel to it. 

Speaking of October, we got a glimpse why the Pirates may be better suited to go deeper in the playoffs – their bullpen. Top to bottom, it’s terrific. The Mets bullpen is top heavy with Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia. I’m not saying I felt like the game was in the balance when Bobby Parnell was announced. I am saying I have no confidence in him. 

He did give up hard hits, and he left the game with no outs, runners on first and second, and the Mets down 2-1 in the tenth. Carlos Torres did his best to get out of it, but at the end of the top of the 10th, the Mets trailed 3-1. 

That insurance run was a doozy. Juan Lagares had a terrific AB against  Pirates closer, Mark Melancon, before hitting a double to right center. He would advance on a wild pitch and score on Curtis Granderson‘s sac fly. Cespedes would meekly strikeout. in fact, he failed to run with strike three in the dirt. That’s inexcusable. Juan Uribe would groundout to end the game. Final score was 3-2. 

It’s too bad the crowd wasn’t paying attention to the game.  You CANNOT do the wave in a tight, well played baseball game between two terrific teams. I’m not for outlawing the wave. There is a time and place for everything. There was no room for the wave tonight. 

If they were actually paying attention to the game, they would’ve noticed Bartolo Colon‘s great performance. [I can admit it when he pitches well]. He only allowed a first inning homerun to Neil Walker. Sure, he was occasionally helped by his defense, but he got the groundballs to induce those double plays to get him out of trouble. Amazingly, J.A. Happ was just as good.

If not for that Yoenis Cespedes‘ sixth inning homerun, I’m positive the Mets would’ve lost 1-0 in an excellently played ballgame by both teams. Needless to say, it turned out all for naught. 

In terms of the lineup, the Mets have shown Michael Conforto should’ve been sent down. They’re making him a platoon player, which could be detrimental to his career. He’s didnt start in 3/4 games against the Rockies, and he won’t start in 2/3 games against the Pirates. Monday is an off day. That means in one week he got one start and two PH appearances. Would it really have been that bad if those six plate appearances were divvied up between Eric Campbell, Kelly Johnson, and Juan Lagares?

Thor LEFT Out There

Way back when the Mets used to be good, an old friend and I would always lament these days games. It wasn’t just because we had to intermittently listen to the game on the radio, but it was also because odd things tend to happen to the Mets in weekday day games. 

I was reminded of that a few weeks ago with that bizarre game against the Padres. With the way Noah Syndergaard started the game, I was afraid of another one of those games. In the first he let up two solo homeruns. The Mets got him the lead in the bottom of the first, and he gave it away in the third. 

It looked like this was going to be a high scoring game, and Thor would be lucky to get through five. The Mets upheld their end of the bargain by scoring 12 runs. The Rockies wouldn’t score past the third for a 12-3 final. Amazingly, Thir finished with five strikeouts, 2 walks, four hits, and three earned runs in seven innings. Good for Terry Collins for sticking with him. 

This may not have been the game in which he had his most impressive stuff or control, but it might’ve been his most impressive game to date. It’s one thing to win when it’s all working. It’s another to have a rough start with less than your best stuff and still find a way. This is the type of game where you say he could join Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey in being considered an ace. 

Offensively, the lefties were hitting on National Lefthanders’ DayCurtis Granderson went 1-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and a three run homer. Daniel Murphy went 1-5 with a run scored and an RBI double. Kelly Johnson went 3-4 with a double, a home run, a run scored, and three RBIs. Michael Conforto went 2-3 with a walk and three runs scored. The only left not in on the action?  Lucas Duda, who missed his third straight game with his back injury

It was also great to see Juan Lagares hit a pinch hit three run homer. He’s been going well pretty lately. It’ll be great to see him continue because the Mets could use his glove in the field everyday. 

On another note, you have to admit you feel great about this team right now. I’m sure there are fans still scared from 2007 and 2008, but this team isn’t that team. Plus, the Nationals aren’t the Phillies. The Mets swept the Rockies and made them look like a last place team. The Rockies beat the Nationals two out of three. 

I’m not guarantee in a division title, but I think it’s fine to feel confident and enjoy these games. Don’t let bad memories stop you from enjoying these new ones. 

What if Cuddyer’s Healthy?

With all of the hand-wringing over Michael Conforto, we’ve ignored other puzzling decisions by the Mets, namely:

https://mobile.twitter.com/msimonespn/status/631287918150049794

That’s right. Even though Curtis Granderson has had a real nice year, he’s not hitting lefties. This shouldn’t surprise anyone because he’s effectively been a platoon candidate throughout his career:

vs. RHP .269/.356/.504

vs. LHP .224/.294/.398

Now, since Terry Collins has an infatuation with leading off Juan Lagares, I would say this is a natural platoon. However, I shudder to think of Collins putting him in RF again with Yoenis Cespedes in center. Plus, Lagares is in that platoon with Conforto. 

Last night, Michael Cuddyer played his first game since coming off the DL, and he played well. He was 2-4 with two runs scored. On the first run, he scored from second on Carlos Gonzalez’s strong arm. In the eighth, he stole a base. In sum, he looked healthy. If he’s really healthy, he creates a good problem to have. 

He’s a professional hitter (an “ultimate pro“) with a career triple slash line of .277/.344/.462. Arguably, if healthy, he’s the best hitting OF currently on the team (I think it’s Cespedes).  In his career, he’s been deadly against lefties to the tune of .288/.376/.495. I think it’s a no-brained for him to platoon with Granderson, at a minimum. 

For his career, Cuddyer hits righties to the tune of .273/.330/.447. He’s much better against lefties. Here’s the Mets other OF options against righties (Granderson is above)

Yoenis Cespedes .277/.317/.478

Michael Conforto .206/.317/.382 (SSS)

Juan Lagares .253/.285/.336

What this tells us, is if Cuddyer is healthy, he needs to play everyday. I think it would be wise to ease him back, but I would not limit him to a strict platoon. This means, on offense alone, the OF against righties should be: Cuddyer LF, Cespedes CF, Granderson RF. Again, this indicates Conforto should be demoted. 

If Cuddyer’s not healthy, then the Mets need to figure something out with Granderson in RF. He did come through the past few nights against a lefty, but that was more about the reliever than him. 

I hope Cuddyer’s really healthy because he’ll be a huge boost to the offense as he was last night. If not, he should be Granderson’s caddy against lefties. 

Right now, with all of these interchangeable parts, Collins has to earn his money by putting the best team on the field. He can’t gamble because there is so much to lose right now. If Cuddyer’s healthy, a lot of the risk is removed and it makes Collins’ job a lot easier. It also makes the Mets a better team. 

Why Conforto Needs to be Sent Down Now

We all know Michael Cuddyer is about to be activated from the DL. As anticipated, he will return to a reduced role, which to his credit, Cuddyer is accepting. Mostly, it seems like Cuddyer will PH and play against tough lefties in place of Lucas Duda or Curtis Granderson

What we don’t know is who is getting sent down to make room for Cuddyer: Eric Campbell or Michael Conforto. Sandy Alderson has made overtures that Conforto may stay up with the team. That’s a mistake. 

The first reason is you’re looking to win now. Here is Conforto’s overall triple slash line: .222/.326/.389. I know it’s a small sample size, but with him being drafted last year, there’s not much more to go on. If he’s sent down, I anticipate, the Mets will replace him with Kelly Johnson against righties and Juan Lagares against lefties. 

Against righties, Johnson has a career triple slash line of .243/.330/.420. Against lefties, Juan Lagares has a career triple slash line of .279/.325/.419. Admittedly, these numbers aren’t great (or even that good). However, these numbers are better than what Conforto is putting up right now. Also, if Cuddyer is playing against tough lefties in place of Granderson or Duda, you know the Mets will also bench Conforto. 

The second reason is you’re going to have to send him down eventually. David Wright is beginning rehab games tonight. Whenever he’s ready to be activated (I’ll have update on this later), another player will have to be sent down.  At that time, we know it’ll be the winner of the Conforto/Campbell showdown from today. Wouldn’t it behoove the Mets to send down Conforto to work on things now while there are still AAA games left to be played?  Campbell is who he is.  Conforto will get better. 

We know Conforto will be called up in September when rosters expand. Would it be better to have him playing part time for two weeks or would it be better to get closer attention in the minors?  Kevin Long has to spend time with everyone now. Let Jack Voigt give Conforto work closely with Conforto. This way when Conforto returns he will be even better for the stretch drive and playoffs. 

The last reason is he’s still a prospect. I agree there is some value to sitting on a major league bench. However, I think there is value in playing everyday. He’s been on the bench for 11 games. If he gets sent down now and called up in September, he will sit on a major league bench for an additional 31 games. Does he really need the additional 20 games on the bench?  These are 20 games that can be spent playing and improving.  Let him improve. 

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with Conforto. So much so that I want the Mets to maximize his potential. His potential isn’t getting maximized on a major league bench. Let’s put the best team out there and let Conforto improve. 

Ray of Hope

Now that was special. Even with Jacob deGrom and Tyler Clippard unable to keep the game tied, the Mets found a way. 

First, Juan Uribe ties the game with a homer after this game started to look like the Grady Sizemore Show (homerun and stole a homerun from Wilmer Flores). After deGrom gave up a James Loney homer, Daniel Murphy hits a game tying homerun. Tyler Clippard gave up the lead on an Evan Longoria homerun that just skipped off the top of the right center field wall. 

In the ninth, after Lucas Duda reached in an error and moved over on a wild pitch, Michael Conforto had the biggest hit of his young career (in a terrific AB) with a hustle RBI double to tie the game. He was moved over to third in a Travis d’Arnaud infield single and scored the go-ahead run when Flores served the ball into right [standing ovation]. 

Jeurys Familia closed out the game to secure the 4-3 win. In an odd sequence it took the Mets a few times to record the first out. Uribe was aggressive in fielding balls in front of third, but the umpire correctly called the ball foul each time. 

With Clippard getting the win, when in actuality all he did was put the Mets on the brink of losing, I thought of how my thinking has evolved on wins. As I’ve stated before, I’m generally more open and accepting of Sabermetrics. I do think the pitcher wins are an overrated stat. For example, the horrendous Bartolo Colon is tied for the team lead in wins with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom.  Luckily, no one on the Mets side had a loss to put in their ledger tonight. 

Some other fun notes:

  1. The sound of the crowd made it sound like a home game;
  2. It was great seeing Dwighg Gooden at the game; and 
  3. Terry Collins shows he’s delirious with some of these lineups 

With the DH, he had his lefty platoon lineup out there which meant Conforto and Kelly Johnson (2B). He had Uribe and his defense at third. However, I don’t understand Flores at SS instead of Ruben Tejada. Collins brought in Juan Lagares for defense in the ninth. He should’ve done the same with Tejada. At least the mistake didn’t cost the Mets the game. 

In other great news, the Rockies beat the Nationals to extend the Mets lead to 2.5 games (two in the loss). Tonight was a great night for baseball and an even better night to be a Mets fan. 

Knee Jerk Decisions

After the end of his stay on the 15 day DL, Michael Cuddyer says he will return to the Mets this Friday. This leaves Terry Collins and the front office with crucial decisions to make. 

The first is who gets sent down to make room for Cuddyer?  The two most obvious candidates are Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto because they both have options. The argument for Campbell being sent down is he’s not playing much. The argument for Conforto is Cuddyer may not be ready to play everyday. If Cuddyer is not ready to play, Conforto, similar to Kevin Plawecki, will stay in the majors. 

The second issue is what will Cuddyer’s role be?  To his credit, Cuddyer had said his main focus is to win, even if that means he’s on the bench. If Collins follows his lead, Cuddyer will play as often as his knee will permit and for as long as he’s effective. Since the acquisitions, Collins had implemented a platoon system

This means Cuddyer could be used to give Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson a day off against tough lefties. I would argue it should only be against tough lefties as they’ve been the two best hitters all year (trade acquisitions excluded). Collins could use Cuddyer in a LF platoon with Conforto, which unfortunately, is something Collins looks like he’s doing with Cuddyer and Juan Lagares now. 

The last question: is this the right time?  If Cuddyer is healthy, he should be on this team, and he should play. If he’s not, taking him off the DL is premature. Now, he could ease his way back by DHing against the Rays. The Mets will not a DH again for another week and a half. 

However, he could also ease his way back by playing rehab games and seeing how the knee responds. That is the more prudent move. I know it may be tough for Cuddyer to accept, but the team doesn’t need him right now. Now, if he’s healthy, he’s an upgrade to the roster and should be added immediately. I appreciate him wanting to come back and help, but the Mets need to protect him from himself. They also need to protect this roster from dead weight. 

I hope Cuddyer comes back soon and contributes. I hope the Mets send down Conforto. I hope the Mets continue to win. 

Cespedes Will Leave for Greener Pasture$

I don’t understand who came up with the rumor that Yoenis Cespedes could resign with the Mets. It’s not going to happen. I don’t care that he said:

Keep in mind, the Tigers are optimistic the can resign him:

https://mobile.twitter.com/BNightengale/status/627222615459958785

The thing is Cespedes has said he wants to stay with the Mets and Tigers long term. You know where he really wants to go?  The same place every player wants to go . . . the team that offers him the most money. Think about it. Why would a Cuban defector want to go to Oakland?  It’s because they offered the most money. How much does Cespedes want?  Think big:

https://mobile.twitter.com/marccarig/status/628735472664227840

Even if this is what it’ll take to resign him, the Mets need to agree to that deal within five days after the World Series. My impression is if the Mets do offer it, Roc Nation will shop it around and get a better deal for Cespedes. 

Keep in mind the Mets didn’t magically become flush with cash. They’re actually going to have to pay David Wright next year. I can’t imagine the Mets going from asking the Athletics (twice) and Braves to kick in money on a trade and then spending like drunken sailors next year. 

Also, the Mets have a pending logjam in the outfield next year. Curtis Granderson will be making $16 million. Michael Cuddyer will be making $12.5 million. Juan Lagares will be making $2.5 million. Michael Conforto has already found his way to the majors and may be in the mix next year. Plus, Brandon Nimmo is not far away. 

They’ll have to move someone to make room for Cespedes, and they won’t have enough time to do it. They’ll also have to determine what to do with Daniel Murphy, who is a free agent. I think the Mets might’ve initially been inclined to let him walk. However, with the second base uncertainty and David Wright’s back, they may look to bring him back. 

So, Mets’ fans need to enjoy Cespedes now because he won’t be back. Hopefully, he will get a bump in salary after a good postseason, maybe even a World Series title.  That is our best case scenario. 

Harvey is Real

It looks like the Mets made the biggest addition at the trade deadline this year. Yoenis Cespedes?  No. Travis d’Arnaud?  Nonsense. The Mets got Matt Harvey back. I don’t think Mets fans believed he was real anymore. 

Harvey is a 1950 film starring Jimmy Stewart. Jimmy Stewart’s character is a grown man whose best friend is a 6’3″ invisible rabbit. Everyone thinks he’s crazy that he had seen this rabbit. A comparison for people more my age is Snuffleupagus. Anyway, I was starting to feel like Jimmy Stewart. 
For his part, Harvey thinks he finally put it all together in his last start. It showed tonight. He was perfect through 5.1 innings. He got out of a subsequent jam without letting up a run. In the seventh, there was some soft hits starting another rally. However, he got out of that jam when Juan Lagares reminded everyone he’s a terrific CF in chasing a ball down in the right center field gap. Overall, Lagares seemed to have an extra hop in his step tonight. It really showed in the field. 
The eighth inning was not kind to Harvey. There was a phantom HBP call, which was upheld by replay. Two singles later, and the score was tied at one. A good defensive SS (which the Mets ha no interest in at the trade deadline) would’ve at least knocked it down. 

Initially, Tyler Clippard came in and made Sandy Alderson look great by striking out Jayson Werth looking on a 3-2 count after a lengthy at bat (it wasn’t a strike). He then walked two batters in the ninth forcing Terry Collins to bring in Jeurys Familia, who got out of the inning. 

After the Gomez drama, we finally had a Wilmer Flores sighting. With Collins’ platoon system, he started on 2B, made a nice defensive play, and knocked in the first run that looked like it was going to hold up. He had received three standing ovations from the fans. Sorry make that FOUR with his walk-off homerun in the twelfth. You have to love and respect this kid. 

By the way, the platoon system was on acid today. With the lefty Gio Gonzalez starting, the Mets went with Wimer Flores at second, Juan Uribe at third, Juan Lagares in center, and Eric Campbell in left?!?!?  Furthermore, Daniek Murphy was at first because, why not?  

This was the biggest win of the year in the biggest series of the year. Because the Mets smartly set their rotation coming out of the All Star Break, they throw Jacob deGrom tomorrow and Noah Syndergaard on Sunday. Oh yeah, some guy named Yoenis Cespedes makes his debut for the Mets tomorrow. I heard he can hit the ball out in Citi Field

Time to get excited Mets fans. We have meaningful games in August. 

Put Me in Coach . . .

“Look at me, I can be Centerfield.”  That is about as fun as the baseball songs get. Another one of my favorites is “Talkin’ Baseball” with it’s famous refrain of “Willie, Mickey, the Duke.” As you can see, Centerfield is an important position with much history in New York City.  You always hear about those good old days of Willie, Mickey, and the Duke playing CF in New York City at the same time. That doesn’t seem fair or possible. The Yankees have had an absurd tradition with their centerfielders with Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The Mets tradition hasn’t been as good, but then again whose has? However, we’ve had some fun names and good players come through and man centerfield in Flushing.

In 1969, the Mets had Tommie Agee, who for at least the 1969 World Series, was the best defensive CF to ever play the game: 

Unfortunately, the Mets did try Willie Mays out in CF in the last two years of his career. From what I’ve been told, it did not end well. Then there was fan favorite Lee Mazzilli, who played for some truly awful Mets teams. However, he was the star, if not the MVP, of of the 1979 All Star Game (back when the ASG meant something). Lee Mazzilli then gave way to Ron Darling. They would both win a World Series together with the Mets in 1986.

Speaking of 1986, the Mets had two other fan favorites who played CF: Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra. Both contributed to the 1986 World Series victory immensely between Dykstra’s leadoff homerun against Oil Can Boyd, and well, we know about Wilson:

After that, we saw a bit of a dry spell with highlights like Lance Johnson, the late Darryl Hamilton, Jay Payton, and Mike Cameron. Then, we were blessed with Carlos Beltran. Say what you will about the Wainwright strikeout, in my opinion, he’s even money on making it into the Hall of Fame, and there’s a significant chance he goes in as a New York Met. Although with the way he was treated here by the fans, and mostly by the Wilpons, he’s probably going in as a Royal.

Now after Juan Lagares’ 2014 Gold Glove season and reasonable contract extension, we’re back to who should play CF. This is important because Lagares has a triple slash line of .254/.280/.333. Even if he was what he was defensively last year, this is unacceptable. Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with his injured elbow. Regardless, CF is now a problem.

It should be noted his splits against LHP are .279/.338/.412. That is much better especially when you consider his defense. Add to the fact that Kirk Nieuwenhuis has hit .333/.400/.444 over the past two weeks (mostly against RHP), there is a real platoon here. Niewenhuis is a very capable CF, but he’s not in Lagares’ league defensively . . . then again who is?

With the Yoenis Cespedes acquisition, there have been some overtures that Curtis Granderson move to CF, a position he hasn’t played since 2012. This is dangerous because the Mets starting pitchers get more outs in the air than on the ground this year. Here are their respective ground ball percentages:

Matt Harvey 44.4%

Jacob deGrom 43.2%

Noah Syndergaard 45.9%

Jon Niese 54.6%

Bartolo Colon 39.9%

According, with the exception of maybe Niese, the Mets need their best defensive outfield out there are all times. This means Lagares must play as much as possible. Granderson and his good OF defense should stay in a corner OF spot where it will remain good defense. While Lagares isn’t hitting and Nieuwenhuis is, the platoon should remain in place.

While we all agree the Mets need to ride their pitching to the postseason, we should also agree that they need to put their best defense out there to help the pitching. Remember helping a pitcher is more than just scoring runs . . . it’s also about preventing runs with good defense. The only effect the Cespedes acquisition should have on the outfield configuration is to demote Michael Conforto to AAA and put Cespedes in LF, where he has played all year. I think that outfield alignment is the best there is that is ready to go out there and play.

This Story Won’t Gomez Away

Look the main purpose of this blog is my reflections on the Mets as I’m raising my son to hopefully become a Mets fan. Here’s some advice I’m giving my son in the future: 

  1. Stick to your guns;
  2. Don’t rush to judgment, and
  3. Hips Don’t Lie

We’re now beginning to find out Carlos Gomez’s hip issue was a “just a red herring.”  It appears the issues for the Mets might’ve been financial . . . as it always is. 

Apparently, the Mets wanted to include Juan Lagares in the deal, who is a better player than Wilmer Flores, due to financial concerns. For their part, the Brewers didn’t want Lagares because of his questionable health. So the Mets then relented and agreed to trade Flores until they didn’t. 

The Mets then called the Brewers to include money in the deal. Presumably because the was a fair value deal, the Brewers balked. They have Gomez under contract next year so they don’t need to make a rushed panic decision. Apparently after the overtures for more money were turned down, the Mets discovered Gomez’s hip issue. 

Who do we believe?  I do think there is some merit to the point that no one went on record. However, Tom Haudricourt is the Brewers beat writer, and accordingly, I presume he knows which sources he can trust and not trust. I don’t know his reputation or his work, so I’m not going to begin besmirching him now. 

There may be some merit this came down the next day after Boras is on the rampage over the hip issue. Keep in mind it was Haudricourt, himself, has reported on Gomez’s hip issues. However, if the hip was such an issue, why is Gomez playing everyday?  

Now, let’s move onto the Mets. Can they be trusted?  This should be met with a loud and resounding NO!  Time and time again, this organization has lied about its financial wherewithal only to not spend a dime. They have been so arrogant as to say they need more attendance to increase payroll. They’ve gone so far to question Mets’ fandom that they sent out a loyalty oath

Furthermore, the Mets needed the Oakland A’s of all teams pick up money in the Tyler Clippard deal. In exchange, the Mets gave up way too much value in a potential future ace in Casey Meisner. It’s absurd. The rumors of Lagares’ potential inclusion in this deal over Flores only fans the flames. 

The Mets say there’s money to add a significant contract. I said yesterday adding Gomez doesn’t add a significant contract. First off, Gomez’s contract is a relative bargain. Second, if they acquired Gomez, it would’ve been an excuse as to why they can’t reinvest Colon’s $11 million coming off the books (oh and they’ll pocket $2 million). Third, they’ve said money from Wright’s injury and Mejia’s suspensions that they have not fully reinvested yet. 

At this point, I really do not know who to believe. While we have a million reasons not to believe the Mets, the fact remains Gomez had a hip issue that merited an MRI. Maybe the Mets saw a hip issue and thought if the Brewers don’t give us some financial support, we have to walk. I wonder if the Brewers are trying to preserve Gomez’s trade value. I wonder if there is an honest dispute over Gomez’s hip. I wonder what the Mets and Brewers do next. 

The one thing I know is true is the Mets are dangerously close to losing their good will with the fan base.