In Mets history, there have been a number of people who have worn the number 2, and to some extent it is an almost cursed number in team history. Perhaps that is a function of Marvelous Marv Throneberry being one of the first people to ever wear the uniform.
Over time, we would see many wear the number and fall far short of expectations. It was the number of Jim Fregosi. It was also the number of Dilson Herrera and Gavin Cecchini. It was also the number of Justin Turner who had better days after leaving the Mets.
Seeing all the number is and what is represents, perhaps Mackey Sasser is the best Mets player to ever to wear the number.
Knowing Gary Carter‘s days being a top catcher were going to be limited, the Mets were proactive, and they addressed the future of the position by obtaining Sasser from the Pittsburgh Pirates on the eve of the 1988 season. That would make Sasser the back-up catcher for the Mets last division title of the century.
That 1988 season was the worst of Carter’s career, and the Mets needed their back-up catcher to contribute more than in year’s past. That season he was an above-average offensive catcher. In fact, he was better than that with his having the sixth best wRC+ among National League catchers with at least 90 PA.
That was the case for his two year tenure as Carter’s back-up. It was Sasser’s play which allowed the Mets to feel comfortable making the very difficult decision in releasing Carter at the end of the year to hand the reigns to Sasser. In 1990, Sasser would reward the Mets faith in him.
In 1990, Sasser would play a career high 100 games that season, and he would catch a career high 87 games. During that season, he would do what had been previously impossible by becoming the first Mets catcher to throw out Vince Coleman attempting to steal a base.
Up until that time, Coleman was a perfect 57/57 in stolen base attempts against his future team. Aside from the throwing highlight, Sasser proved his offense could withstand a heavier defensive workload with his being now the fifth best offensive catcher in baseball. Unfortunately, this season would be it for Sasser behind the plate.
The beginning of the end came on July 8, 1990. In that game against the Atlanta Braves, Sasser was already 2-for-3 at the plate raising his season stats to .336/.381/.455. In the game, Jim Presley ran over Sasser at the plate. Sasser would get the out (he was quite adept at the tag), but he would depart the game with a badly sprained ankle.
From there, Mackey Sasser Disease, the cousin of Steve Blass Disease was born. Sasser would soon begin having issues throwing the ball back to the catcher. This effectively ended his career even with the Mets keeping him around a few more years as a backup and utility player.
That would not be the end of Sasser’s impact upon baseball or the Mets. As it turns out, Sasser wanted answers to why he had the yips. He would seek them out, and as he said to Anthony McCarron then of the New York Daily News, he got that help from Dr. David Grand.
With that help, he was able to successfully be able to throw the ball again, and he would not have issues doing things like throwing batting practice. That would partially help him have a coaching career. In that coaching career, he would again help the New York Mets.
During his coaching career, Sasser would find himself coaching a young infielder named T.J. Rivera at Troy University. When Rivera was undrafted, Sasser called to the Mets and recommended the team sign him. This would eventually lead to Rivera becoming the team’s everyday second baseman in September 2016 and helping that Mets team claim the top Wild Card spot.
More than that, Sasser has made himself available to help those players who have had potentially career altering yips the way he once did. That included calling up Mike Pelfrey when the young right-hander was experiencing issues with balks.
Overall, Sasser not only helped the Mets as a player, but he did what he could do to help the organization after his playing career was over. As we saw, he did hit part to help save Pelfrey’s career, and he helped launch Rivera’s. Even with Turner having his moments and Juan Uribe becoming an instant Mets folk hero, it is difficult to argue any Mets player who wore the number 2 having a bigger impact on the franchise than he.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Sasser was the second best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 2.
This past weekend, the Mets made a very shrewd move re-signing Brad Brach to help rebuild the Mets bullpen. The Mets got lucky Brach was released last year, and Brach made the best of the situation by pitching more like he did with the Baltimore Orioles. When you consider he only signed for $850,000 with an extremely reasonable $1.35 million option for 2021, this could be one of the best moves made by Brodie Van Wagenen.
Of course, Van Wagenen would follow it up with a flat out bad decision by designating Chris Flexen for assignment to make room for Brach on the roster.
With respect to Flexen, there have been many arguments which completely miss the point. First and foremost, there’s the argument others will be eventually designated for assignment, so the order doesn’t matter all that much. Of course, that is not true because more talented players like Flexen may have had some value to teams prior to his accepting a deal with the KBO. Also, it’s just plain bizarre supporting a team keeping worse players at the expense of better players.
The other argument was Flexen wasn’t good anyway, so why does it matter? This reasoning is one of the most problematic thought processes of them all.
It is without question Flexen struggled. While pitching with the Mets in parts of three seasons, he was 3-11 with a 8.07 ERA, 2.132 WHIP, 7.1 BB/9, and a 6.5 K/9. When you focus on the control issues, that is in no way a recipe for success at the Major League level or any level for that matter. However, there needs to be some context to those stats.
In 2017, Flexen was rushed to the Majors from Binghamton despite having thrown just 48.2 innings above the Single-A level. In the ensuing years, Flexen would deal with knee issues, and he would also be shipped back-and-forth between the minors and majors. There would be long periods of non-use, and there would be his being overused. Really, when you break it down, the Mets did not in any way set him up for any sort of success, and the numbers proved that out.
Going to Baseball Savant, we see Flexen has above-average fastball velocity and elite curve spin on his breaking pitches. In terms of just pure stuff, this makes him a poor man’s version of Seth Lugo. Put another way, Flexen absolutely has the arsenal to succeed as a reliever at the Major League level, but unlike Lugo, he has not found a way to quite harness his stuff and translate it to results.
Of course, this is the exact reason why the Mets hired Jeremy Hefner as their pitching coach. During his time with the Twins, Hefner become conversant in analytics, and he showed a real ability to translate them to players. We saw Twins pitchers attack the zone differently and improve their pitch sequencing in addition to buttoning up some of their mechanical issues. When you hire a pitching coach like Hefner, or really any pitching coach, you are looking for someone who is able to finally reach talented pitchers like Flexen and get them to pitch to the best of their ability.
With the Mets designating Flexen for assignment over far less talented pitchers like Chris Mazza, the team is not going to see a return on their investment on both Flexen and Hefner. To that end, this is more of the same from the Mets organization.
At different points in years past with the Mets, we have seen the team part with talented players who needed coaching like Flexen with the common refrain being they never did anything at the Major League level, so who cares? This was the refrain when the Mets parted ways with players like Heath Bell, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, and many others.
In some instances, this did come back to haunt the Mets, and admittedly, in others, it did not. However, that is all besides the point. The real point here is the Mets had a very talented player, and they hired a pitching coach to help improve and develop pitchers like Flexen. Rather than proceed with that plan, the team decided they wanted to keep far less talented pitchers and not even bother getting the most out of someone with stuff which could have worked extremely well in the bullpen. When looking at it from that prism, designating Flexen for assignment made little to no sense.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were staring down a 2-1 series deficit with Max Scherzer set to take the mound in Game 4. With Patrick Corbin on the mound, the Dodgers were in serious trouble. That’s when they put together a huge two out rally capped off by a Justin Turner homer effectively putting the game out of reach:
— #BeatTheNats (@OCDodgerFans) October 7, 2019
This was just the latest big hit from Turner. In his postseason career, he is hitting .316/.414/.518. That includes him being named the 2017 NLCS co-MVP. What is interesting is that wasn’t his best postseason series. In fact, his best postseason series was the 2015 NLDS against the Mets where he hit .526/.550/.842.
When we see the success of players like Turner, Collin McHugh, Hansel Robles, and others, it presents an opportunity to look at the Mets decision making process. We should be looking at why the Mets kept players who did not produce at all over them. We should be asking why these players found success at these levels away from the Mets that they did not here.
Instead, we see the oddest position emerge. Instead of an analysis, we see something akin to good for these players, and that these players could not have had that success here. For some reason, that is offered as a defense of the Mets and not a condemnation.
We can dig deeper into each player and see why they did or did not succeed. With McHugh, he’s with the Astros organization who have found a way of working with pitchers in terms of sequencing and grips to get the most of of pitchers. Robles was really just a matter of a team being more judicious in their use of him.
As for Turner, this was the beginning of a process which began with his working with Marlon Byrd during the 2013 season. Rather than see where that could lead, the Mets non-tendered him over what was $1 million. Turner would go off to the Dodgers where he’s been a very good player.
Even if Turner would not have had the opportunity to play and prove himself in 2014, he would have in 2015 when David Wright succumbed to spinal stenosis. However, that is besides the point. The point is Turner would have at least been a good utility player who still had upside even if he couldn’t play everyday.
That also overlooks the core problem here. The Mets have had an ability to find talented players, and they have found a way to develop that talent. What they haven’t done is find a way to be patient with that talent, and eventually they make penny wise pound foolish decisions. As the case with Travis d’Arnaud, we’ve seen rage cutting decisions.
In the end, saying a player could not have succeeded with the Mets is far from a defense of the team. Rather, it is perhaps the harshest criticism you could levy upon the team.
The Mets had a two game set against the Twins as they continued their nine game road trip where they hoped to possibly bring themselves back into the Wild Card race:
1. Amed Rosario is playing the best baseball of his MLB career. Not only has he been red hot in July, but he has also played to a 2 DRS at short since the All Star Break. It’s a small sample size for sure, but it’s all a very encouraging sign.
2. Another good sign from the middle infield is Robinson Cano hitting again. His July numbers are reminiscent of the Cano of old, and like we saw on Tuesday, even when he’s not hitting, he can still drive in a run with an out.
3. Michael Conforto seems to have shaken off the effects of his concussion earlier in the year. In addition to his hitting like Conforto again, he made a terrific play in center field to rob Nelson Cruz of an extra base hit.
4. People calling Conforto overrated or a bust absolutely know nothing about baseball. It should be noted before his concussion, Conforto was hitting ..271/.406/.521 and in the 39 games after leading into the break he hit .217/.309/.420. We should be highlighting with Jason Bay and Ryan Church the Mets have a putrid history of dealing with players with concussions and not how a player struggles after suffering one.
5. Steven Matz‘s final line looked much better than how he pitched. He was hit hard by the Twins, and he was really lucky to allow just two earned over four. Still, it’s a positive step from where he was a month ago, so the hope is he can build off of it. Note, the use of the word hope and not expect.
6. Like Matz, Edwin Diaz has been hit really hard of late, and he is escaping trouble. While he converted that save on Tuesday, that was far too much of a high wire act, and it’s questionable how long the Mets can hang with these 20+ pitch innings and his walking the tightrope.
7. Even with Diaz allowing lasers, the bullpen has been MUCH better of late. After a 7.53 bullpen ERA in June, the team has a 3.78 July bullpen ERA which is tied for 10th best in the majors. This is partially the result of the Mets leaning on Seth Lugo perhaps more than they should and the return of Justin Wilson from the IL.
8. It looks like Ricky Bones helped fixed Jeurys Familia. He had two big and important appearances. We also saw him throwing that 99 MPH sinker again. Maybe this was all just mechanical with him, and that may or may not have been attributable to the shoulder issues. In any event, Familia finally looks like he is back on track.
9. We only get small snapshots of teams in Interleague Play, especially in two game sets, but it’s surprising to see this Twins team being atop the AL Central. Is this the result of the AL depth being that bad, or was this just a bad series? In any event, you take a two game sweep against a good team.
10. That six run inning against the Twins was huge. It took what could have been a tightrope walk with a bullpen leaned on heavily a bit of late, and it allowed the Mets to go to Chris Mazza to eat up two innings. That is a huge development which cannot be undersold.
11. While Dominic Smith hit the go-ahead pinch hit three run homer, it was Pete Alonso‘s 474 foot blast anyone could talk about. Certainly, that’s all Steve Gelbs wanted to talk about with Smith in the postgame. That and his striking out against a position player. To that end, why does everyone find Gelbs so charming? I don’t get it.
12. Gary Discarcina not sending Rosario to go try to get that inside-the-park homer was no fun at all.
13. It is really surprising the Mets would catch Wilson Ramos in a day game after a night game given his injury history and the fact the Mets were about to get on a flight to go to San Francisco after the game. You have to wonder how much the wear and tear here will linger.
14. Mets need to watch their usage of Lugo. As the pressure has ratcheted up a bit, they keep going to the whip there. When they did that with Robert Gsellman earlier in the year, they lost him. Really, at some point, the Mets need to learn this lesson before they lose a key piece.
15. Right now, you should feel good about the Mets. Whether we should feel good a week from now will depend on how they play.
16. With a 0.2 WAR, Wilmer Font was the best performing player Brodie Van Wagenen obtained via trade, and he was designated for assignment and traded to the Blue Jays for cash considerations. This is both hilarious and a fine example of how completely inept Van Wagenen has been as the Mets General Manager.
17. Mets fans seem to want to defend the team on designating Travis d’Arnaud for assignment much like how they defend the team’s decisions on Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Hansel Robles, Collin McHugh, and others. Really, at what point do fans stop defending the team and just start asking why the Jeff Wilpon led team continues to make poor assessments and decisions like these?
18. Zack Wheeler getting hurt pretty much means the Mets need to hold onto him and offer him a qualifying offer because it’s doubtful the Mets are going to get a return commensurate with the comp pick they would receive if Wheeler rejected the offer and signed elsewhere.
19. People need to stop making luxury tax threshold excuses for the Mets for their building a team in 2020. Remember, that includes $15 million of David Wright‘s contract which is covered by insurance and has been settled by the Mets. Another $29.5 million is from Yoenis Cespedes‘ who has part of his contract covered by insurance. Finally, $12 million of Jacob deGrom‘s $25 million is deferred. The Mets can and should go over the luxury tax threshold next year if they really want to compete.
20. Now that this series is over, the Mets play 20 straight games against teams with a losing record. After that, they have three against the Phillies, who currently hold the second Wild Card spot. If you have hopes the Mets can make a run, there it is.
Last night, Travis d’Arnaud had the best game of his career. As noted by Mathew Brownstein of MMO, d’Arnaud became the fourth catcher since 1970 to homer three times and reach base safely five times in a game. His three home run game would culminate with a three run game winning homer off of Aroldis Chapman to give the Rays a 5-4 win over the New York Yankees:
THE TRAVIS d'ARNAUD GAME. pic.twitter.com/k24AVWKJ8f
— MLB (@MLB) July 16, 2019
Like anytime we see a former Met excel in a new place, we see people say any number of things. One of the prevailing things we see is this would never have happened with the Mets. It’s what we heard with Justin Turner even though he fixed his launch angle and had a big finish to the 2013 season before the Mets non-tendered him. We hear it with Hansel Robles despite his having flashes of brilliance with the Mets only to see him wilt under being over and inconsistently worked.
The basis for applying that narrative to d’Arnaud was how terrible he was with the Mets this year. Yes, he was absolutely terrible. In his 10 games with the Mets, he was 2-for-23 (.087), and in his last game with the team, he had just about as bad a game as you will ever see from a catcher. It was mortifying to watch, and the Mets responded to it by designating him for assignment.
Of course, the reasons for his struggles needs closer examination. First and foremost, d’Arnaud was a year removed from Tommy John surgery. As we have seen with position players, there is no real book for when a player can actually return from it. Those we have seen return in less than a year have struggled.
T.J. Rivera couldn’t get it back together after surgery in September 2017. He would be released, and he is now attempting his comeback with the Long Island Ducks. Didi Gregorius has struggled since returning from his own surgery hitting just .252/.274/.388 with the Yankees.
With respect to d’Arnaud, he had two rehab games after getting a late start to Spring Training. That’s right. After a major surgery on his elbow, the Mets gave him just two rehab games. They then rushed him up to the majors despite the Mets starting the season 5-2 and only needing their back-up catcher twice in that span.
After d’Arnaud was rushed back, he would start just five times in over a three week span. In that time frame, the Mets would play 18 games. There is absolutely no reason why d’Arnaud was rushed back to be a back-up when Tomas Nido could have handled those duties well. There is even less of a reason when you consider d’Arnaud NEEDED those games to rehab from his surgery and get back up to game speed after playing all of four games since the start of the 2018 season.
What d’Arnaud needed from the Mets, or really any team, was a legitimate opportunity to get sufficient playing time to get back up to speed. After a P.J. Conlon like stop in Los Angeles, d’Arnaud has gotten that in Tampa Bay. In 39 games for the Rays, he is hitting .282/.342/.542 with seven doubles, nine homers, and 26 RBI. For all those hysterically focused on his throwing arm, he has thrown out 33 percent of base stealers, which is above league average.
Before people start with the he could have never done this with the Mets talk, focus back on his career. In 2015, he played 67 games hitting .268/.340/.485 with 14 doubles, a triple, 12 homers, and 41 RBI. From 2015 to 2017, he was the 10th best catcher in all of baseball with a 6.3 fWAR, and he ranked 11th with a 98 wRC+. His 68.3 dWAR (as rated by Fangraphs) ranked ninth over that timeframe.
So, with the Mets, d’Arnaud was a top 10 catcher in the game. That gets lost because he was never quite what he was advertised to be. He also didn’t build off of that 2015 season like we all hoped. He was also injury prone. Overall, he was as frustrating a player as you could have experienced. However, that does not mean he was bad and never was going to succeed with the Mets. In fact, we did see him succeed with the Mets.
Like many before him, d’Arnaud’s success isn’t because he needed a change of scenery. No, this is because his rehab was mishandled, the Mets overreacted to one bad game, and because the team did not sufficiently self scout their players. If given an opportunity, and with Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard no longer wanting to throw to Wilson Ramos there was one coming, d’Arnaud absolutely would have performed well for the Mets. If you want any proof of that just consider the fact he had already performed well in his Mets career.
The New York Mets came into this season with bravado declaring they were the best team in baseball, and they challenged baseball to “Come get us.” Well, the Mets are 10 games under .500 with the second worst record in the National League:
1. As previously noted, Sandy Alderson left behind a solid young core, a farm system loaded with talent, and payroll flexibility. It’s been less than one year into his tenure, and Brodie Van Wagenen has completely botched all of it.
2. The Mets also continued to completely botch handling injuries. The team never gave Brandon Nimmo the requisite time to heal, and now he’s seeing David Wright‘s doctor. Michael Conforto‘s recent struggles have been at the same time he has been dealing with a back issue. Of course, he’s not on the IL.
3. Pete Alonso has been better than anyone could have ever expected. His winning the Home Run Derby is probably the best moment from this season.
4. Jeff McNeil is proving his rookie year was no fluke, and he’s much more than just a second baseman. He’s been able to be a good defender across the infield, and he is showing an Ichiro Suzuki like ability to hit it where they ain’t. That makes him a rare and exceptionally skilled player.
5. One of the best surprises to the season has been Dominic Smith getting treatment for his sleep apnea and becoming the player he was expected to be. His 152 OPS+ is the second best on the team. More than that, his friendship with Alonso has been endearing.
6. The bad defense is killing this team. Notably, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler are in the top 20 in FIP, and Noah Syndergaard is 35th. They are pitching like top of the rotation starters with only deGrom having results near that.
7. Another issue on that front is Wilson Ramos, who with each passing day is frustrating Mets pitchers. We are already at the point were deGrom and Syndergaard want to pitch to Tomas Nido instead. This would make you think the team should push to trade Ramos and push reset on their decision not to go the extra mile on Yasmani Grandal.
8. The bullpen has been beyond terrible, and it is the result of poor pitching, bad framing, awful defense, and just having bad players. To put it in perspective, among Mets relievers with more than two appearances, Paul Sewald has the second best ERA among relievers on the team.
9. You know things are really bad defensively when Juan Lagares has a -6 DRS. In addition to his struggles, Amed Rosario has been the worst defender in the majors. With J.D. Davis having a -9 DRS, the Mets are the National League team with multiple players in the bottom 15 in DRS.
10. Once healthy, Todd Frazier has been everything the Mets could have hoped. He’s a plus defender at third base, and he is hitting well while serving as a good veteran presence in the clubhouse. You have to move him at the deadline, but that doesn’t mean he wont’ be missed from this team.
11. The Mets could and probably should replace Mickey Callaway with Joe Girardi if for no other reason than Girardi being an exceptional manager. That said, Callaway has done well here to keep things stable and his players playing hard despite an inept front office and a bullpen melting down nearly daily.
12. It’s bizarre to think about but so much has gone right for the Mets. Conforto picked up where he left off last year. Alonso, McNeil, and Smith have been great. Nido has been an exceptional defensive catcher. Frazier has been resurgent. The top of the rotation has good peripherals. All in all, this tells you just what a bad job Van Wagenen has done.
13. There are no good answers on what to do with Steven Matz. He struggled in the rotation, and he is not well suited to the bullpen. The hope is he figures it out because the Mets have no other choice with Wheeler as good as gone, and Jason Vargas‘ inability to consistently go five meaning they have to decline his option.
14. Other than Mets games, SNY has become completely unwatchable. Of course, many Mets games delve into the point of being unwatchable, so . . . .
15. In many ways, Alonso is too good to be true. He’s a hard worker, great teammate, an All-Star, and he’s playing at an MVP level in the first half of the season. If nothing else, Sandy Alderson left behind a very likeable group of players who are easy to root for even if the ownership and front office are horrible.
16. The Mets being willing to sell tickets for the rest of the year at 80% off shows you that a boycott will never work. Ticket revenues are just not a big line item for teams, and that’s why even if you stay away the Mets are going to earn a lot of money.
17. It’s difficult to imagine a time when Mets fans have been angrier than this. The Wilpons do need to be careful here because angry quickly becomes apathy, which means people staying away from the ballpark. If nothing else, that makes the Mets irrelevant, and it’s embarrassing to them.
18. When you look around baseball, there are players like Hansel Robles, Travis d’Arnaud, Justin Turner, and Daniel Murphy; players who this franchise needlessly gave up on. This screams to an internal scouting problem which has been around for far too long.
19. Andy Martino is just the worst. He champions Chase Utley. He doesn’t want Alonso, a player he wanted to begin the year in the minors, to get $1 million for winning the Home Run Derby, and because of optics, he wants it all to go to charity. The charities Alonso selected weren’t enough for him. He constantly trolls the fanbase while carrying water for the Wilpons. There is nothing redeemable about him as a reporter/analyst. In an ideal world, Martino would not longer be with SNY, and he will be left to once again stalk Richard Simmons.
20. Being Mets fans, there is always hope for a second half run like we saw in 1973. If it happened once, it can happen again. With the Mets second half schedule, it’s possible. Just don’t count on it.
The Mets seemed to have righted the ship as they headed out to Los Angeles on a tough road trip. In a four game series against the Dodgers, we learned just how good the Mets are against the top teams in the National League:
1. The one thing we saw in this series was just how better the Dodgers are. Sure, it is the talent on the field, but it is also ownership’s dedication to winning. We see that when the Dodgers hire Andrew Friedman away from the Rays and the Mets hire a former agent who has never run an organization. For example, we see the Mets trade three good prospects for J.D. Davis, who continues to regress. The Dodgers use their superior scouting and player development to identify players like Justin Turner and Max Muncy.
2. The Mets did have an opportunity to earn at least a split on two different occasions. The fact they didn’t speaks volumes to how the Dodgers are just a better and more resilient team.
3. It is easy to jump all over Edwin Diaz for blowing a save in a game the Mets absolutely had to have. Then again, he’s been overworked pitching in eight of the past 11 days not including the times he was dry humped. This blow-up was bound to happen. What’s eerie was his 0.1 IP, 4 ER performance was a year to the date since his last one.
4. You can certainly get on Mickey Callaway for his usage of Diaz. He has to be better in handling him to try to prevent these types of blow ups. Then again, what other options does he have? With Seth Lugo on the Injured List, he’s down to maybe one other reliable set-up man in Robert Gsellman. Fact is, the bullpen remains an arm or two short, and the front office seems uninterested in getting him the help he needs.
5. We can point to the draft coming on Monday as the point where the Mets could sign Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel without forfeiting a pick, but that would be idiotic. We all know that’s not the type of compensation preventing the Mets from signing either pitcher, especially with Van Wagenen being all too happy to purge all of those prospects.
6. Baseball is funny. Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard struggled against the Dodgers, but it was Jason Vargas who really pitched well against the Dodgers allowing just one earned over seven innings. Give credit to him not just for the big game but also for saving a depleted and exhausted bullpen.
7. With respect to Vargas, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Today is the last day of May, and he finally has a quality start. This was the first time all season he has consecutive games pitching at least five innings. In his previous four starts, he’s averaged 4.2 innings per start. If he can pitch at least five in his next start maybe then we can talk about his FINALLY being a viable fifth starter.
8. Steven Matz has been quite good this year, and he showed it in this series picking up the Mets only win in the series. In some ways, he has emerged as the Mets most reliable starter.
9. It’s a dangerous game to play, but if you eliminate his horrendous start against the Phillies and his short start in his first game off the Injured List, Matz is 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA and a 1.191 WHIP.
10. Give Noah Syndergaard credit for gutting through six innings when he didn’t have anywhere near his best stuff. While he’s getting killed for it, that looks more like Syndergaard looking like a great pitcher. The great ones can get quality starts when they are throwing junk. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves on that front. He needs more consistency to get to that point.
11. Mets fans frustations at the starters seem to be misplaced. If you look at their FIP, Zack Wheeler has been the team’s best pitcher with a 3.25. While not what you expected, deGrom (3.56) and Syndergaard (3.62) have pitched better than their results are indicating. Unfortunately, this also indicates Matz is due for a regression. Honestly, you take that if those other three get going.
12. We can’t get too worked up about Hyun-Jin Ryu shutting down the Mets. He is currently pitching like deGrom did last year. It’s also noteworthy the Mets offense was humming prior to that scoring 6.7 runs per game in the series and 5.5 runs per game over their prior 11.
13. Todd Frazier has completely turned his season around. Over his last 16 games, he is hitting .327/.403/.491, and he continues to play a very good third base. That was a great tag he got down on Corey Seager after what was a terrific throw from Carlos Gomez (which came after a terrible play – details, details).
14. Amed Rosario also had a very good series. Even with yesterday’s 0-f0r-4, he was 6-for-16 in the series with two doubles, a triple, a homer, and two RBI.
15. It’s been an interesting year for Rosario. Just when you think he’s figured things out, he suddenly struggles. Even with all of that, he is showing marked improvement over the first two years of his career. If he were to find some consistency, he’s going to make the leap into stardom. Hopefully, that happens in the second half.
16. Adeiny Hechavarria has the same amount of homers and just three fewer RBI than Robinson Cano who has had 151 more plate appearances. This is both a statement about how Hechavarria has played well over his head and how bad Cano has been.
17. Diaz currently has mediocre stats (at least for the moment), and Cano has already looked like the $100 million albatross we knew he would eventually be. Jarred Kelenic has already been promoted to High-A, and Justin Dunn has a 2.25 ERA over his last three starts and has struck out 11.2 per nine this year. Mind you, this is just two months into the season. Wonder how this trade will look five years from now.
18. Between Dominic Smith and J.D. Davis, the Mets have two players who have no business playing left field. With Davis, they really have a guy who doesn’t have a position. Taking that into account, the Mets just need to play the better bat, and without any doubt, that is Smith.
19. Juan Lagares needed to be better than this. At a time when the Mets desperately needed him, he has completely faltered. Hes in the middle of an 0-for-13 stretch, and he is just one for his last 26. Worse yet, he’s at a -1 DRS. Yes, his 17.3 UZR/150 shows he is still the same fielder, but the Mets needed him to be more productive than this. Really, they needed him to be actually productive.
20. Give credit to Pete Alonso. Over a 41 game stretch entering this series, he was hitting .214/.305/.497. Put another way, it appeared the league had figured him out after a hot start. In the series against the Dodgers, he was 7-for-16 with two doubles, a triple, two homers, and five RBI. This is an indication he might be adjusting to what pitchers are doing to him. If so, that’s a sign he’s on his way to becoming a great player.
One of the truly fascinating and heart warming parts of the Mets season has been the friendship which has developed between Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith. What makes it so special is they are two young players vying for playing time at the same position. Seeing them so far this year, you wondered what could happen if they were in the lineup together.
With all the injuries to the Mets outfielders and Walker Buehler starting for the Dodgers, Smith would get the start in left and bat second. The decision would pay immediate dividends as Alonso followed a Smith one out single with a homer:
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 30, 2019
The duo would combine to do it again in the fifth inning with the two celebrating in the dugout.
— Roger Cormier (@yayroger) May 30, 2019
It seemed as if the Dodgers had him on the ropes in the second and third as he was getting BABIPed a bit and giving up more solid contact than he usually does.
In the second, Corey Seager, Matt Beaty, and Alex Verdugo hit consecutive doubles to then tie the game at 2-2. On the Verdugo double, Smith did have trouble playing it in the gap, but it ultimately did not hurt the Mets.
The fifth, well, that was a bit of hometown scoring. With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Seager hit a ball to the center field wall. It was a ball Carlos Gomez absolutely should have had. Instead, he fumbled it.
However, he would make up for it by unleashing a great throw to third. As good as that throw was, Frazier’s tag was even better.
— MLB (@MLB) May 30, 2019
Frazier followed up that fine play with a double off Pedro Baez to start the sixth. After a Gomez bunt, Frazier scored on an Hechavarria RBI single. This was part of a very good game for Frazier. In addition to the defense, he was 2-for-4 with two runs and a double.
Through the struggles, Syndergaard threw a season high 116 pitches in a quality start. It may not have looked good, but he allowed just the three earned off seven hits. Mostly, he gave the Mets needed length to help preserve an already tired Mets bullpen the day before a Jason Vargas start.
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 30, 2019
After the homers, the Mets offense continued to go to work with an Alonso single and Michael Conforto double setting up second and third with no outs. At the time, it was 8-3 Mets, and it looked like the Mets were going to blow it completely open.
They didn’t, and worse yet, the game would tighten a bit. In the seventh, Joc Pederson doubled off Robert Gsellman, and he’s score on a two out RBI single from Turner. In the eighth, Seager homered off Jeurys Familia to make it 8-5. Fortunately, Familia got out of the inning allowing no further runs and keeping the save chance alive for Edwin Diaz.
Because this is the Mets, it can’t be easy. Pederson and Muncy homered off Diaz to lead off the ninth to pull the Dodgers to within 8-7. Turner then doubled bringing Cody Bellinger up as the winning run. He’d just double to tie the game.
Things got much worse. Seager was intentionally walked. As if things weren’t bad enough, Beaty hit a soft roller up the middle which Rosario fielded, but he could not find the bag.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Juan Lagares came in to give the Mets a five man infield. It didn’t matter as Verdugo hit a sacrifice fly.
This was about as bad a loss as the Mets have had all year. They got a tough start from Syndergaard. They also got production from almost their entire lineup. They had their closer who they gave up the world to acquire on the mound with a chance to get back over .500. Instead, they blew it and looked like a terrible team in the ninth in the process.
Game Notes: As noted by MMO‘s Mathew Brownstein, Frazier has three straight multiple hit games.
With Travis d’Arnaud struggling in his limited chances since returning from Tommy John surgery, he was designated for assignment. Instead of seeking to outright him to Syracuse, the Mets opted to release d’Arnaud. Now, d’Arnaud is reunited with Bob Geren in Los Angeles. It’s easy to forget now, but with Geren being the Mets catching coach, he got the very best out of d’Arnaud.
Back in 2012, the Mets would trade reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package which included d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. At that point, d’Arnaud was the best known prospect, and he was certainly a coveted one having previously been traded the Phillies to the Blue Jays so the team could obtain Roy Halladay.
The book on d’Arnaud was he was going to be a good hitting catcher. Being a good hitter or even a catcher was something which was next to impossible to ascertain when d’Arnaud was first called up to the majors in 2013. He didn’t hit at all, and he struggled mightily behind the plate. After that year, d’Arnaud would put his work in and become a much better player.
While the bat never quite materialized the way we anticipated, he did became very good behind the plate. We saw d’Arnaud become one of the best pitch framers in the game. It was one of the reasons why he was in the top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014, and it was one of the reasons why the Mets would take off in 2015.
Like he would most of his career, d’Arnaud would have injury issues in 2015, but he would be an impactful player when he was on the field. His elite pitch framing helped a staff featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Syndergaard not only win the division, but also go all the way to the World Series. It gets overlooked, but d’Arnaud didn’t contribute with his strong play behind the plate, he also contributed as a hitter.
In the 2015 postseaon, d’Arnaud would hit three homers. That included one in Game 1 of the NLCS which would actually hit the Home Run Apple, which led the Mets to put a temporary band-aid on it prior to Game 2.
Of course, the homers overlook his key moments in the NLDS. In a pivotal Game 3, it was d’Arnaud who hit the RBI single which tied the game in the second, and it was d’Arnaud who hit the three run homer in the third which helped the Mets begin to pull away. We also forget with the heroics of deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Daniel Murphy in Game 5, it was d’Arnaud who had the sacrifice fly which had tied the game setting the stage for the Mets to eventually take the lead and head to the NLCS.
After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud would deal with injuries including the torn UCL which practically cost him the entire 2018 season. Still, when he played, he was a terrific pitch framer, who was an asset to his pitching staff. He would still have the occasional highlight like his 16th inning homer against the Marlins.
One thing which really stuck out with d’Arnaud was how he was a team first player. In his tenure with the Mets, he wore three different numbers partially because he changed from number 7 to accomodate Jose Reyes when he returned to the organization. There was also the August 16, 2017 game which will live in infamy.
With both Wilmer Flores and Reyes unable to play due to injuries, and with Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds unable to arrive from Las Vegas in time for the game, it meant someone was going to have to play out of position. That player would be d’Arnaud, who donned David Wright‘s mitt while switching back and forth between second and third with Asdrubal Cabrera. The lineup card was a mess with it reading d’Arnaud played “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B.”
In the game, d’Arnaud would hit a game tying sacrifice fly in the sixth. Despite all of Terry Collins‘ machinations, the ball would finally find d’Arnaud when Todd Frazier popped it up to him in the ninth. With d’Arnaud securing it, he now stands as the Mets all-time leader in fielding percentage among Mets second baseman.
When it comes to d’Arnaud, aside from that magical 2015 season, he was never quite the player everyone hoped he would be. He battled injuries during his Mets tenure, and he was never the hitter everyone expected even if he was above average at the position. Mostly, he was very good behind the plate having been one of the best pitch framers in the game.
His Mets tenure ended with a whimper. While fans villified him for what he wasn’t instead of celebrating him for what he was, d’Arnaud opted for the high road thanking the fans and the organization for everything and expressing his gratitude to all.
While things ended poorly here, he is now playing for his hometown team. It is a team who has his former catching coach, who get everything out of d’Arnaud’s talent. He’s at the place where former Met Justin Turner‘s career took off. He’s playing for a very good team, a smart organization, and he will be put in a good position to succeed.
In his tenure, d’Arnaud was a good Met, and the 2015 run doesn’t happen without him. Despite everything, he never complained, and he was willing to do everything asked of him. Every Mets fan should wish him the best of luck. I know I will.
With Jacob deGrom receiving his contract extension, it appears he is going to be a Mets pitcher during his prime, and it sets the stage for him to join David Wright and Ed Kranepool as Mets for life. With that being the bulk of the list, there is a host of Mets players who got away. The most famous of which was Tom Seaver who headlined the Midnight Massacre. Putting Seaver aside, the Mets bloggers discussed those players who got away:
Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)
Honestly in recent memory John Olerud comes to mind. He had one of the best pure swings I can remember. Other than that I guess you have to bring up Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner, but who saw those coming?
Daniel Murphy is the most recent Met to have gotten away. And, I’ve heard there are people in the front office who would like a mulligan on that one as well. Having him in 2016 and 2017 would’ve been huge, and not having him kill the Mets in DC would have been huge too.
Allison McCague (Amazin’ Avenue)
To me the most egregious example of a Met getting away is Justin Turner, simply by virtue of how little it would have cost to keep him. Of course, it was impossible to know that he would put up the numbers he did after leaving the Mets, but unlike the Murphy situation where it was a choice not to sign the player as a free agent, they non-tendered a perfectly serviceable utility man just because they didn’t want to pay him and trashed his character on the way out for good measure. I think a dark horse candidate in this conversation, however, would be Collin McHugh, who changed his approach after joining the Astros by throwing his fastball less often and his off-speed pitches more often to much greater success than he ever had as a Met. And now he remains a key piece in the Astros bullpen as they head into another season where they will likely make a push for the postseason.
I’ll give you Justin Turner for sure. What irks me is he’s a good guy and even in the form he was in when he was here, was a valuable piece for the solution. That he evolved thanks to the tutelage of Marlon Byrd while he was here makes it even worse, since this version of Justin Turner would‘ve unquestionably transformed the Mets.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)
Olerud; he was a far superior player to Todd Zeile. Just look at his seasons 2000-02; think he would have helped? In my opinion, if Mets have Olerud, they win 2000 World Series. My God, remember the Zeile farewell tour? Infamnia!
Tim Ryder (MMO)
I’m gonna hesitantly go with Melvin Mora. The guy he got traded away for, Mike Bordick, was a fine pickup and helped that 2000 team get over the hump, no doubt. But Mora went on to have a solid little career and Bordick was back in Baltimore via free agency the following season.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
The Mets let 18-year-old Paul Blair go to the Orioles in the minor league draft of 1962. Blair played 18 seasons in the majors, winning eight Gold Gloves as the premier AL center fielder of his generation.
Then again, had the Mets kept Blair, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Tommie Agee prior to 1968, and Agee robbed Blair in the 1969 Series, so all’s well that ended well, perhaps.
Pete McCarthy (OABT)
I thought Nolan Ryan was the only answer to this question, but there are some fun ones in here. Yay Mets!
Far be it from me to disagree with you Pete but Ryan wanted out as much as the Mets were frustrated with him. It wasn’t so much that they traded Ryan and he became a Hall of Famer after it’s what they traded him for.
Scott Kazmir would like a word.
There is always going to be a part of me who wonders what would have happened if the Mets kept Darryl Strawberry. He would have one good year in Los Angeles before everything fell apart for both him and the Mets. For those who forget, the Mets opted to replace him with Vince Coleman, who was detestable as a Met, and it lead to a series of poor decisions which built as bad and unlikable a Mets team as we have ever seen. For Strawberry, his personal problems were far worse than anything the Mets encountered.
Looking at everything, there are a number of mistakes like trading Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga, but that at least indirectly led to the team signing Robin Ventura. Murphy leaving transferred the balance of power back to the Nationals.
But overall, the one which comes to mind right now is Matt Harvey. For Harvey, it was more than trading him for Devin Mesoraco. It was everything. The 2013 version looked like future Hall of Fame. The 2015 version looked like a staff ace. The ramifications of that 2015 season were far reaching, and we never saw Harvey return, literally and figuratively.
Before you go away from this piece, please sure you click on the links and visit the sites of those who have taken their time to contribute to this roundtable.
Also, a very special congratulations to Pete McCarthy and his wife on the birth of their baby girl!