Keith Hernandez

Catching Competition Begins Anew

As the Mets opened the 2018 season, there was supposed to be a catching competition, or at least a time sharing between Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud.  This situation was created because both catchers had failed to do anything to truly claim the job as their own, but they had shown flashes which gave your confidence either or both could figure it out this year.

Then, in one week, both players would suffer injuries.  With respect to d’Arnaud, it was a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery.  For Plawecki, it was a broken hand resulting from getting hit by a Tayron Guerrero fastball.

From there, the Mets had to turn to the tandem of Tomas Nido and Jose Lobaton.  Neither one of these players would Wally Pipp Plawecki as they and the Mets struggled.  With their play behind the plate, and with Plawecki not healing as quick as the team hoped, it was time to do something drastic.

That drastic move came from Matt Harvey being designated for assignment.  Now, Harvey was not designated for assignment as a means to get a catcher.  However, when he was designated, and the Mets having a small window to get a deal done, the team did all they could do to land a catcher.

The end result was Reds backup catcher and former All Star Devin Mesoraco.

After the injuries and hitting .195/.291/.318 in 316 plate attempts between 2015 and the trade, Mesoraco and the remainder of his $13.1 million salary was more than expendable for the Reds.  In many ways, getting a broken down player who could no replicate his prior success due to extensive injuries was the perfect return for Harvey.

In some ways,. Mesoraco has revitalized the Mets.  He has worked well with the pitching staff, and he has hit again.  In 15 games with the Mets, Mesoraco is hiting .261/.358/.630 with two doubles, five homers, and 10 RBI.  During telecasts, we hear Keith Hernandez dropping Mike Piazza comparisons on him.  Yes, it’s related to his back swing, but the way he has slugged in a Mets uniform, the comparisons are apt.

With Mesoraco’s emergence, things are murky again for Plawecki.  While he has not hit for power so far his year, he was handling the staff quite well before his injury, and he was getting on base with a .455 OBP.

Certainly, both catchers have made a case for why they should be the primary or starting catcher with Mesoraco likely ahead.  Yesterday, in both games of the doubleheader, both catchers made their claim for the spot.

In the first game, Mesoraco was 2-3 with two runs, a homer, and two RBI.  His homer should have proven to be a go-ahead game winning homer in the top of the ninth.

In the second game, Plawecki was 3-4 with two runs, an RBI, and a walk.  He also reached on an error meaning he reached safely in all five of his plate appearances.

There are many other factors at play including how comfortable the pitching staff is with each catcher and certainly Noah Syndergaard‘s seeming need to have a personal catcher.  Through all the stats, there is one interesting consideration.  In games Mesoraco starts, the Mets are 6-6 as opposed to being 7-1 in games Plawecki starts.

Right now, with the Mets trying to figure out the infield, bench, and back end of the starting rotation, the catching situation presents a welcome “problem” for Mickey Callaway and his staff.  Fortunately, the Mets have two good options back there – two options who have raised their game with the prospect of competition.

Let the best catcher win.

As Expected: Mets Split Doubleheader Losing deGrom’s Gem and Winning Conlon’s Mess

If we learned anything from the doubleheader yesterday, it was baseball makes no sense whatsoever.  How could it?  Somehow, someway, the New York Mets are 5-6 in Jacob deGrom starts and 2-0 in P.J. Conlon. starts.  Just to put how bizarre that is in perspective Conlon has pitched fewer innings in his brief MLB career than deGrom did yesterday.

And it was another virtuoso performance from deGrom yesterday.  The only mark against him was a Tyler Flowers seventh inning shot.  That had made the game 2-1 with the Mets scoring on a Devin Mesoraco bases loaded walk.  While Luis Guillorme would end that rally, he made up for it by hitting a double over the head over Preston Tucker, who had not played the field in about a month and looked like it.  On the double, Mesoraco would score from first.

After the Flowers homer, the Braves apparently smelled blood in the water because they went on the attack.  Tucker walked, and Johan Camargo singled on a ball any other second baseman not named Asdrubal Cabrera fields.  With runners at the corners, the Braves seemed poised to tie the game.  It never happened.

First, deGrom struck out Dansby Swanson.  He then got Kurt Suzuki to pop out to swallow left with Amed Rosario getting to it and running it back to the infield to prevent any shenanigans.  Finally, deGrom got Ender Inciarte to ground out to end the inning.

After that, deGrom gave the Mets the seven innings they needed on a day where they were going to have a bullpen game in the second half of the doubleheader.  It was a 115 pitch virtuoso performance.  In total, he allowed the one run on five hits and three walks while striking out eight.  He furthered this case to win the Cy Young.

It didn’t matter because instead of going to Jeurys Familia, Mickey Callaway went with Seth Lugo.

Admittedly, going to Familia for six outs may not have seemed like the obvious move, but when you’re looking to use your whole bullpen for the second game, why not use Lugo’s for 2-3 innings instead of either setting up or trying to get the six out save himself. For whatever reason, Callaway tabbed Lugo to go out there and get his first career save against the first place team in the division.

It didn’t happen. In the eighth, Ozzie Albies started the inning off with a bunt single, and he was on third after a Freddie Freeman single.  To his credit, Lugo did limit the Braves to just a Nick Markakis sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.

The Mets would take the lead in the ninth when Mesoraco, who was 2-3 with two runs, a homer, and two RBI on the day the catching competition really started, hit a go-ahead homer.

Even with Familia warming, Callaway went to Lugo to pick up the win.  Seemingly just as Gary Cohen’s words left his mouth about the last time he homered, Charlie Culberson hit a walk-off two run homer to give the Braves a 4-3 win.

It was a brutal fourth loss in a row featuring a third bullpen meltdown and questionable Callaway decision making.  It was a bad omen for the night portion of the doubleheader.  Fortunately, it didn’t pan out that way.  Maybe, because in the five plus hour rain delay between games, the Mets finally figured something out.

Like most games recently, the game started off quite well with Adrian Gonzalez opening the scoring with an RBI single.  The rally would continue with Kevin Plawecki, fresh off the disabled list, reaching on an awful throw to second by Brandon McCarthy.  Instead, of an inning ending double play, it was 2-0 Mets.  That lead would grow to 3-1 Mets with a Brandon Nimmo homer to lead off the third.

That lead was not for long as the Braves went to work against Conlon in the third.  After a Freeman two RBI single, Markakis would double setting up runners at second and third with no outs and the game already tied 3-3.  Conlon was done for the day, and Callaway would tab Hansel Robles to come on to stifle the rally.

While it may not have been pretty, in an inning which included Camargo getting hit by a pitch, Robles got through the inning allowing just a Suzuki sacrifice fly to give the Braves a 4-3.  In total, Robles would actually give the Mets three scoreless innings, which not only kept them in the game, but it would allow the Mets to take the lead.

The big hit of the game would come from Rosario.  After Plawecki, Jose Reyes, and Guillorme hit consecutive one out singles to load the bases, Rosario hit a go-ahead two RBI single giving the Mets a 5-4 lead.

To the surprise of no one, the lead didn’t last.  Robert Gsellman came into the sixth, and he was greeted with a Ryan Flaherty single and an Inciarte double to set up runners at second and third with no outs.  Rather than tempt fate by bringing in Jerry Blevins again (who was not warming), after Albies struck out, the Mets intentionally walked Freeman to load the bases before Gsellman allowed an infield single to Markakis to tie the score.

Naturally, Reyes could not make the play.

After a mound visit, Gsellman got a groundball from Suzuki.  Gonzalez made the heads up play of getting the out a home to preserve the tie.  Culberson would not have a second act of heroics today as he flied out to center to end the inning.

In what should be a lot of credit to this Mets team, they responded in the seventh.  The rally started with a Michael Conforto leadoff single. He’d be erased on a Jay Bruce fielder’s choice, but the Mets would load the bases with ensuing singles from Gonzalez and Plawecki.  Reyes, once again, failed by striking out.

Guillorme would give the Mets the lead with a clutch two out two RBI single, and Rosario followed with an RBI single of his own giving the Mets a 3-0 lead.

There would be no bullpen meltdown as Jacob Rhame pitched a perfect seventh before Callaway finally allowed Familia go out there and get his six out save.  With that, in a very odd way, the Mets earned a split of the doubleheader, and they ended a frustrating losing streak.  It will be very interesting to see how this team responds later today if they actually play the game.

Game 1 Notes: In the fifth, Braves starter Max Fried picked-off both Conforto and Jose Bautista off first base.  Bruce played first base.  Technically, Bautsita’s goes down as a caught stealing as he broke for second.  There was a long rain delay when there was no rain on the field.

Game 2 Notes: During the broadcast, Keith Hernandez noted his belief Reyes is struggling at third because he is not comfortable there.  It should be noted Reyes has played more than 90 games at the position and was signed to be a utility player, a utility player who refuses to play the outfield.

Wheeler Loses Due To Poor Defense, Worse Offense

Watching the game tonight, it is really difficult to assess how well Zack Wheeler performed.  On the one hand, he was executing his pitches as well as he ever has, and yet he earned the loss against a bad Marlins team.

Actually, there is a debate how much he “earned” that loss.  Really, there was just one hiccup for him, and that was in the second inning when the Marlins scored all three of their runs.

The first run was on Wheeler, who allowed three straight hard hit balls by Brian Anderson (double), Derek Dietrich, and Miguel Rojas.  After that, it’s hard to pin anything else on him.  Caleb Smith popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt, which Jose Reyes fielded on hop, looked at every single base, and then threw the ball in the dirt thereby loading the bases.

It was an awful play by Reyes, but it was a ball Asdrubal Cabrera should have been able to field.   J.T. Realmuto hit a two out two RBI single Cabrera deflected into center.

That three run lead was brutal because as Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling kept opining, Smith was dealing for the Marlins.  That is a plausible explanation considering Smith entered the game striking out 12 batters per nine.    However, it needs to be noted the Mets bats are really awful against left-handed batters.  Tonight, was no exception as Smith allowed one run on three hits over 6.2 innings.

The one run he allowed was in the bottom of the second, and it started with a Jose Bautista double.  Speaking of Bautista, he was signed just before the game, and he was put in the starting lineup ahead of Jay Bruce, and he played left field.  After the predictable Reyes out, Bautista moved to third, and he scored on a Tomas Nido sacrifice fly.

The Mets really wouldn’t get another rally started until the eighth.  Adrian Gonzalez led off the inning with a double, and later than inning Brandon Nimmo earned a one out walk.  The rally would falter there as Cabrera would hit into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.

While disappointing, that rally was too little too late anyway.  In the top of the inning, Derek Dietrich hit a two run homer off AJ Ramos to expand the Marlins lead to 5-1.  That would be the final score on a deeply disappointing day.

Game Notes: Reyes made two errors in the game, and he now has three hits and two errors on the month.  Devin Mesoraco did not start after getting hit on the elbow with an errant swing last night.  He did pinch hit in the seventh and flew out.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Should Beltran’s Number Have Been Re-Issued?

The New York Mets organization has been quite reticent to retire their best player’s jersey numbers.  From a player perspective, hat is an honor which has been bestowed upon just Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, two players who just so happen to be Hall of Famers who have worn a Mets cap on their Hall of Fame plaque.

With respect to Piazza, once he departed via free agency, the team did not reissue his No. 31.  Instead, like what we now see with Gary Carter‘s No. 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s No. 17, the number was taken out of circulation.  Unlike Carter and Hernandez, the Mets retired Piazza’s number.

What is interesting is Carlos Beltran is seen by most as a sure fire Hall of Famer, and it is eminently possible he enters the Hall wearing a Mets cap.  Given precedent, you would think the number would be reserved for future retirement.  Instead, it has been reissued to Val Pascucci, Fred Lewis, Travis d’Arnaud, Bob Geren, Matt Reynolds, and finally Luis Guillorme.

In this latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable, we ask the question about whether the Mets should have treated Beltran’s number like the Mets greats before him, or whether there is no issue with 15 being given to other players:

Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)

No uniform number discussion is important to me until 8 goes on the wall.

Joe Maracic (Loud Egg)

I could go either way about retiring Beltran’s number but have to agree with Metstradamus’ excellent point. Let’s wait for 8.

Michael Baron (MLB)

I’m wishy washy on this subject regarding Beltran. He is the best center fielder they ever had, and easily among the top 10 players they’ve ever had. But he doesn’t identify with the base that way – people connect Beltran with that Adam Wainwright curveball in 2006. So if the Mets were to unofficially retire Beltran’s number by no longer issuing it, that could generate a negative discussion which, to be honest is avoidable and unnecessary. The team knows that and is obviously very sensitive to negative press and discussions, so it might actually be best to remain at a status quo on this. But ask me tomorrow and I might feel a bit different.

Ed Leyro (Studious Metsimus)

As great as Beltran was as a Met, the only way it’ll be taken out of circulation is if he goes into the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on his plaque. Keith Hernandez was a team captain and, like Beltran, was a top hitter and fielder. But his No. 17 was given to the likes of Graeme Lloyd and Jose Lima. If Hernandez, who was more beloved as a Met than Beltran ever was, can’t get his number out of circulation, then Beltran won’t either.

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

Let’s keep getting some use out of 15. Maybe Luis Guillorme will make us want to retire it twice.

Tim Ryder (MMO & FOB)

As much as I loved watching Beltran with the Mets and the countless times I’ve defended him for looking at strike one, two, and three in Game 7 (three of the nastiest pitches I’ve ever seen to this day), I personally do not retire his 15 or even take it out of circulation. When he gets into Cooperstown, which he will, if they stick a Mets hat on his head, I think at that point they have to retire it. Until then, if it were up to me, I say no.. He was successful everywhere else he went. That’s hallowed ground for this organization. Until David Wright‘s #5 gets a spot up there, no one else from that era should.

Dilip Srindhar (MMO & MMN)

Yes. Carlos Beltran is very deserving of this honor. Beltran from 2005-2011 hit .282/.369/.508 with a 130 OPS+. To put this into perspective, Mike Piazza hit .289/.367/.534 with a 133 OPS+ from 1999-2005. Also add on that Beltran was an elite defensive CF during most of his Mets career. Beltran seems quite likely to enter the Hall-of-Fame as a Met. Beltran is an all-time Met and deserves the respect that the others before him have received. The Mets retire very few numbers and there is no reason Carlos Beltran shouldn’t be next along with David Wright. There has been some tension with the Mets and their fans against Carlos Beltran the few years. But fans have started to realize how great and impactful of a player he was and hopefully the Mets do too.

Mets Daddy

The biggest issue with the Mets not taking out of circulation is like many things with the Wilpon family, it has the stench of being personal.  It’s why we saw the team have a patch for Rusty Staub but not former owner Nelson Doubleday, a man who owned the team during the franchise’s greatest run.

The decision reeks of pettiness related to Beltran striking out in the 2006 NLCS and for his going against team advice to have career saving knee surgery.

Honestly, I’m not sure the team ever considered taking his number out of circulation, and if the topic was raised, it was quickly dismissed.

When Beltran does get inducted ino the Hall of Fame, I seriously doubt we see the Mets replicate the Yankees efforts to heal old wounds like we saw when Dave Winfield was inducted, and in the event Beltran does opt to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, part of me doubts the Mets take the next step in deciding to retire his number.

One thing I don’t doubt is the terrific writing from the people who participate in this Roundtable.  I encourage you to take the time to read what they’ve written about Beltran, Carter, and a host of all other Mets topics.

 

 

Keith Hernandez Has A Message For Mets Fans

With the Mets playing on the West Coast, and on a Friday night to boot, it is understandable if you missed the game last night.  If you did, you missed the special message Keith Hernandez had for Mets fans:

Actually, Keith was just showing us how he cut his finger shaving.  For those interested, Keith uses a single blade when he shaves.

Right now, that moment goes down in the annuls of famous Mets moments in San Diego including the David Wright barehanded catch, the Carlos Beltran/Mike Cameron headfirst collision, and the Bartolo Colon home run.

Overall, it’s silly moments like this, or when a Keith, who thought he was off camera, gave his assessment of Tanner Roark‘s performance, that makes this booth the best in baseball.  They’re honest, and you never know when they’re going to do something so innocently bizarre that you will never forget the moment.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: KEITH HAS A TWITTER ACCOUNT!

One of the things that has made the GKR era of Mets broadcasts truly enjoyable is what Keith Hernandez has brought to the table.  His sheer honesty, and his ability to make the occasional gauche comment makes even blowout Mets losses worth watching.  Really, Mets fans cannot get enough of Keith Hernandez.

And in many ways, we want to see and hear what he is like when the cameras aren’t on.  We did get a small glimpse of that the day SNY came back on the air earlier than the booth expected, and we all reveled in Keith’s comment that National’s starter Tanner Roark had been “getting his tits lit.” That and other Keith Hernandez moments made him the Mets personality most fans wanted to get a twitter account.

Well, it has finally happened to the great joy of Mets fans everywhere. In this week’s version of the Mets Blogger Roundtable, we react to Keith’s Twitter account:

Michael Baron (MLB)

Obviously, for us its very entertaining and its a great way for us to engage with someone we all admire. But for him, its an excellent opportunity for him to enhance his own personal and professional brand, which is both colorful and eccentric and allows us to see a different angle of Keith many don’€™t know and don’€™t get to see.

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies)

I have yet to feel “excitement.” Keith even tagged me in a response to someone else, yet all I feel is impending doom (more so than usual). My podcast partner perfectly described this situation as all too similar to the once beloved Milkshake Duck’s. Keith has already mistakenly tweeted out his phone number, before somewhat adorably thanking the first person to point this out and asking how to delete the picture. He has also yet to change the lowercase ‘k’ to an uppercase ‘k’ for his first name in his twitter bio. Even with 280 characters, nuanced thoughts can be expressed very poorly and problematically by the savviest of internet folk, so Keith tweeting something considered to be of poor taste is pretty much inevitable. But for now, yes, he’s showing *clears throat* good twitter fundamentals.

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Having Keith officially join Twitter is akin to walking down the steps and seeing the presents on Christmas morning. You can see from his brief experience, his account oozes with his personality, and I for one, have set mobile alerts for when he Tweets. Why is he simply the most entertaining guy on Twitter? Simple. He’s Keith Hernandez.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

I don’t get too excited about celebrity Twitter accounts, but he seems to be actively using it himself, so that’s pretty cool.

Joe Marcic (Loud Egg)

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

It feels as if a Rubicon has been crossed. All those fleeting thoughts of “what would Keith Hernandez be like on Twitter?” have come to “oh, so that’s how it is.” He’s Keith Hernandez.

A part of me was hoping he’d stay Tweetless, as if to maintain the mystique. I felt that way about R.A. Dickey, too, but R.A. was engaging and complex in any medium. Same for Keith.

I wonder if early in a previous century there was this much speculation over how so-and-so would come across over the phone. One more device by which to communicate is what it boils down to.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

By far the best part of having Keith on twitter will be getting more of Keith, plain and simple. Keith already doesn’€™t work every game, and it’s noticeable when he’€™s not there.  Gary and Ron are just a bit too grounded and serious when there’€™s no Mex between them. Even when Keith isn’€™t working games now, we’ll be able to get inside his head, and, of course, it’s rightfully easy to read his tweets in your head in a perfect Keith tone. Just because he’€™s not actually saying the words out loud doesn’€™t mean you can’€™t hear Keith’€™s implicit superiority to the guys on the field today, or the strangely emphasized words (Brou-HA-haa). Having Keith on twitter is our chance to hear from Keith far more often. And I don’t think there’€™s any need to be more specific: Keith on twitter means more Keith, and that’€™s something that all Mets fans should cherish.

Mets Daddy

What fascinates me with Keith’s Twitter account, and maybe it shouldn’t, is how right from jump street, he has already mastered how a celebrity should use a Twitter account.  He provides the voyeurism aspect like his tweeting out pictures of him having dinner with his daughter and her friend.

He gives us a sense that he’s just like us in how he tweets out silly picture of himself (his profile picture is him wearing a mustachioed poop emoji), he uses the occasional toon response in a tweet, or how he adores his now famous cat Hadji.

He also replies to Mets fans just enough to keep them hanging on his every word, and he is not afraid to call someone out for being an idiot.

And like with his Zack Wheeler comments, we get to see Keith not just as contemplative and not reactionary (as comes with the job) when something happens during a Mets game.  More to the point, it shows just how closely Keith does pay attention to the team even when he is not actually working the game.

Lastly, Keith has mastered the job of advertising the Keith Hernandez Shop and his upcoming book, which may have been impetus for firing up the Twitter account all along.

On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this.  During the telecasts, Keith has shown himself to be far more than comic relief.  He’s an intelligent and pensive man, who in many ways, is a modern Renaissance man.  Keith was a great baseball player, has had great cameos (everyone overlooks his Mr. Baseball cameo), and he has been great in both the booth and the studio.  Personally, I’m looking to see what a man with varied interests like Keith Hernandez has tweets during the offseason.

While Keith has only recently been on twitter this group of Mets bloggers have long had twitter accounts which we all use to promote our own writings and thoughts about the Mets.  While you are checking in on Keith’s tweets and the things he is selling, I encourage you to check in on the excellent things this group of writers is writing about this amazingly 10-1 Mets team.

Meet The Mets Fan: Uni Watch’s Paul Lukas

The Mets Fan

I’m “the Uni Watch guy.” I write about uniform and logo design for ESPN and on my own website, Uni Watch.

How You Became A Mets Fan

I was born into a Mets family. One of the earliest life lessons I can remember getting from my big brother was that we rooted for the Mets and hated the Yankees. And thus has it ever been! I attended my first game — a 7-6 win over the Astros — in 1971 and still have the ticket stub to prove it.

Favorite Mets Player

When I first started rooting for the Mets, I somehow decided that I loved Tommie Agee. Not really sure why. Was also very fond of Jon Matlack during that period. Later became a huge Keith Hernandezfan. And always loved Ed Kranepool and thought they should have retired his number just because he played every season dating back to 1962. These days, I really like Jacob deGrom.

Favorite Moment in Mets History

The Buckner game, of course.

Message to Mets Fans

We all know we deserve better than the Wilpons, but the situation is what it is. Hang in there — we were in the World Series just a few years ago, so the pendulum can swing our way again.

Leiter, New Jersey Hall of Famer, Among Forgotten Group of Mets Not in Mets Hall of Fame

Recently in the news, it was reported former Mets great Al Leiter will be a part of a 20 person class that will be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.  Of all the people inducted, Leiter will be the only baseball player.

It is interesting Leiter is being inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame, but he is not being inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  Last year, I made the case for his induction into the Mets Hall of Fame. Rather than regurgitate the full case here, I’ll quickly note he’s in the Top 10 in wins, strikeouts, and ERA+ in what has been a pitching rich Mets history.

As it stands, from that era of Mets baseball, only Mike Piazza and John Franco have been inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame.  As we know, Piazza is a Hall of Famer who has had his number retired by the team.  Franco, the Mets leader in saves, had his best years before Leiter even joined the team.

Behind Piazza and Franco, there are some Mets from those late 90s, early 2000s teams that certainly merit induction.

Edgardo Alfonzo is the best middle infielder in Mets history, and he was a key player on a Mets team that went to consecutive postseasons for the first time in team history.

In three years with the Mets, Robin Ventura won a Gold Glove, hit .260/.360/.468, and he had an all-time great postseason moment with the Grand Slam Single.

You could argue John Olerud had a similar, albeit not as great impact, on the Mets as Keith Hernandez.  He came over in what became a ridiculously lopsided trade, and once he become a Met, the team had taken off.

With Olerud in the fold, the Mets went from a 71 to an 88 win team.  If not for Mel Rojas, that 1998 team probably makes the postseason.  In 1999, Olerud was a key part of a Mets team that won the Wild Card and went to the NLCS.

And speaking of that 1998 team, there is Todd Hundley.  Still to this day, Hundley remains the Mets single season home run leader.

Certainly, you can make arguments against some of these players, but ultimately, the fact the great contributions of Mets players who helped bring the team to consecutive postseasons has been far overlooked by this franchise.  It needs to be remedied, and it can start with Leiter adding Mets Hall of Famer to his New Jersey Hall of Famer resume.

 

2017 Mets Carol

On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, new manager Mickey Callaway enters Fred Wilpon’s office.

Mickey: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.

Fred: What do you mean build?

Mickey: Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address.  We need a second baseman, some additional depth, and some bullpen –

Fred: Relievers? I just gave you Anthony Swarzak just last week!

Mickey: And I’m thankful for that.  But while I was in Cleveland, I learned you need more in your bullpen.  You need a couple of guys with interchangeable roles to help you get to where you want to go.  We need at least one more guy.

Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.

Mickey: Well, I’d love to build a winner for the players and the fans.

Fred: Seriously?

Mickey: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.

Fred: Bah!

Not long after Callaway leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?

M. Donald Grant: It is.

Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?

M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.

Fred: What?

M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?

Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!

M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!

Fred: The horror.

M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.

Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.

M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.

And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.

Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?

Standing before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.

Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.

Fred: Am I dead?

Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.

With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.

Fred: What a dump!

Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.

Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.

Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.

Fred: But they don’t understand.

Gary: Let’s see what happened next.

With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.

Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?

Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.

Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .

Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.

Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .

As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team lost over 90 games, missed the postseason for the first time in three years, and is now talking about cutting payroll.  We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.

Fred: Ralph?

Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!

Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.

Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.

Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2018 roster will look like.

Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.

Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –

Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re no expanding payroll.  The fans didn’t come last year, and I don’t have the money. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.

Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money, especially since you have the BAM money, bought an Overlook League team, and are part of the new Islanders Belmont Arena. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.

Fred: Let’s be honest. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Yoenis CespedesNoah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom.  We have free t-shirts, garden gnomes, and bobbleheads.  We’re going to turn a profit all while giving the players what they want – money.

Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.

A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Callaway about the upcoming season.

Mickey: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.

David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.

Mickey: Look, I love you, and I know the team does too. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.

David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.

Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.

David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.

Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.

Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.

Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.

Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.

David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.

Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.

Fred: What, what happened to him?

Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.

Fred: He never won? But we had Matt Harvey and Syndergaard. We had deGrom and Steven Matz.  Even Zack Wheeler returned.  We had five aces! Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.

David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.

Woman: What happened?

David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .

As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.

Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.

Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.

Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.

Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.

Worker 1: Good riddance!

Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?

With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.

Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.

Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.

Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?

Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.

Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.

Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.

As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.

Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .

As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.

Reporter: How do you feel today?

Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.

Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?

Jeff: We just want them to continue supporting the New York Exelsior.  I still believe that sooner or later this investment will pay off.

Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!

Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?

Jeff:  Well, the Dodgers just won another World Series with a payroll triple ours, so –

Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!

With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.

The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.

Fred: It’s December 25, 2017! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!

Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Callaway, Alderson, and Wright.

Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Mickey the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.

Mickey: Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!

David: God bless us everyone!

Mets Need To Get In On The Giancarlo Stanton Bidding

Right now, the rumors are the Marlins are going to be willing to trade the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton for the extremely underwhelming package of Joe Panik, Tyler Beede, and Joe Shaw.  There is one caveat to a deal – the Giants have to pay $250 million of the $295 million remaining on Stanton’s contract.

What we don’t know at this moment is the particulars, including but not limited to the impact of Stanton’s pending opt out on the allocation of the remaining $295 million on his contract.

Considering this is the package the Marlins are currently contemplating, and in reality, are ready to go ahead and accept, it really makes you question where the Mets are in the bidding process.

No, we shouldn’t pretend there aren’t significant obstacles to a Mets-Marlins deal.  First and foremost, we have no idea about Derek Jeter‘s proclivity to striking a deal with a team that is not only a division rival, but also an inter-city rival from his playing days.

An additional obstacle is Stanton’s no trade clause.  For various rumors, he seems to be inclined to want to either play for the Marlins or the Dodgers next year.  Even as the Giants and Marlins seem to be nearing a deal, it seems the Giants have to meet with Stanton to try to sell him on the idea of becoming a Giant.  Considering the team’s recent success and willingness to spend to compete, this could be an indication of how resolute Stanton may be in his preferences.

We also know the Mets have their own limitations on the budget and prospect front. Still, even with those limitations, the Mets should still have enough to sell the Marlins and Stanton on the idea of becoming a New York Met.

Really, the one thing that jumps off the page at you is how well Stanton has performed at Citi Field.  In 52 games at Citi Field, he is hitting .258/.348/.613 with six doubles, 21 homers, and 43 RBI.

Outside of the two parks Stanton has called home, he has hit more homers at Citi Field than anywhere else.  That is all the more impressive because for a large part of his career, he has had to face tough Mets pitchers like R.A. Dickey, Jacob deGromJeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard.

Stanton would also arguably complete the Mets roster.  By acquiring Stanton, the Mets could shift Michael Conforto to first base.  This is good for a few reasons.

First, the Mets don’t have to be as concerned with Conforto laying full out for a ball and landing on his surgically repaired shoulder in the outfield.  Second, Keith Hernandez has long been enamored with Conforto’s potential at first base.  Third, an outfield left to right of Yoenis CespedesJuan Lagares-Stanton is outstanding defensively.

With the modern emphasis on fly balls, having strong outfield defense is an imperative.  That outfield will be as good as there is in Major League baseball.  With the bats of Cespedes, Conforto, and Stanton in the lineup, you can certainly carry Lagares’ bat in the lineup.

You can also handle Stanton financially.  While he has $295 million remaining on his contract, he has three years $77 million remaining before his opt out.  With him making $25 million next season, the Mets still have enough to add at least one impact reliever and fill around the edges with the rest of the roster.  With Stanton in the fold, that should certainly be enough.

As for prospects, you never know what another organization likes from your team.  However, if the Mets are looking to swing a deal, it wouldn’t hurt to start with a former first round pick in Dominic Smith, who could be all the more enticing for a team possibly looking to move Justin Bour.  The Mets also have a number of other prospects and players at or near the level of the Giants haul.  The combination of those players and the willingness to absorb the salary could be enough to get a deal done.

Maybe, just maybe, that would be enough to sell Stanton on coming to the Mets.  Certainly, he has been at Citi Field on nights it was absolutely electric, and he may want to be a part of that.  Maybe he doesn’t.  We wont’ know until the Mets try, which it does not seem like they are at the moment.