Kelly Johnson

Complicated Good-Bye To Jose Reyes

Back in 2011, Jose Reyes would lay down a bunt single to preserve his batting title.  The first in Mets history.  After reaching safely, Reyes would be lifted from the game much to the consternation of Mets fans.  Much of the consternation eminated from the fact it looked like this was going to be the last time fans were going to get to see Reyes in a Mets jersey, and those fans wanted to see Reyes play just one last time and say good-bye.

Sunday, Reyes was in the lineup once again leadoff in what many believed to be his final game as a Met.  Reyes would take one at-bat, ground out, and he would walk off the field for a final time.  While the circumstances may seem to mirror what transpired seven years prior, the two situations could not have been more different.

During Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was the most electrifying player in the Majors.  He could turn anything into extra bases, and extra base hits were nanoseconds away from becoming triples.  When he was on the basepaths, he was a constant stolen base threat, and his dancing at third base helped entice a few balks leading to a run.  Reyes was so dynamic we came up with the term “Reyes Run” for him getting on, getting over, and getting in.

Reyes was more than a dynamic offensive force.  He was a shortstop with a bullet arm and a fan favorite.  His apparent joy on the field was infectious to the fan base, and it did seem to get the team going.  (Sometimes, like 2007, it would also motivate the opponents).  Mets fans would shower him with the “Jose!” chant (a chant which began Saturday, March 29, 2003).  We loved him, and he seemingly loved us too.

In 2011, you could argue it was he and not David Wright whom the Mets should keep.  After all, Reyes was the younger player, and Citi Field was built more to Reyes’ than Wright’s strengths.  Whatever the case, the Mets opted not to re-sign him, devastating a fan base, and having the organization a nd fans  looking for a new fan favorite.  Arguably, no one could fill that void like the way Reyes once did.

That was the Reyes who left New York after the 2011 season.  That Reyes was barely recognizable after leaving.

After one year in Miami, he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of that organization’s efforts to return to the postseason.  In 2015, in Reyes’ third year as a Blue Jay, it seemed the organization’s plans were coming to fruition.  They were competing for a postseason spot with hopes for the division.  It was time for a bold move, their GM Alex Anthopoulos made that bold move.  In a six player trade, Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays for LaTroy Hawkins and Troy Tulowitzki.

In a year, Reyes and the Mets were supposed to return to the postseason, Reyes instead found himself playing for the Colorado Rockies.  He didn’t want to be there, and the team didn’t want him.  This also meant instead of playing in the postseason, Reyes would be making vacation plans to go to Hawaii.

On October 31, 2015, Michael Conforto hit two homers.  Instead of going to Jeurys Familia for the six out save, Terry Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who walked two of the three batters he faced.  When Familia finally did come in, Daniel Murphy booted a grounder.  The Mets 3-2 lead would quickly become a 5-3 deficit.

While this was happening, Jose Reyes would throw his wife into a glass door in Hawaii.  His wife would need to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries, and Reyes would be arrested. Reyes faced not just prison time but also deportation.  Instead, because his wife did not cooperate with prosecutors, the changes would be dropped.

While Reyes was able to avoid legal troubles, he could not escape MLB punishment.  With a new Domestic Violence policy, Reyes would be suspended 51 games, which stands as the longest Domestic Violence suspension to date.  With the Rockies already wanting to transition to Trevor Story, they were more than happy to release Reyes.

Fortunately for Reyes, the Mets needed a third baseman.  Wright was injured again, and he was going to miss the rest of the season.  Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds, Wilmer Flores, and Kelly Johnson just weren’t to cut it.  Partially due to desperation and partially due to nostalgia, the Mets threw Reyes the rope none of the other 28 teams were likely willing to give him.

A fan base was divided.  While the “Jose!” chants returned, they did not have the same enthusiasm.  Some of the people most willing to lead the cheer would sit on their hands or boo.  Reyes beat his wife, and the Mets signing him was sending the wrong message.

Still, Reyes stayed, and he played reasonably well.  He would have some highlights including the September 22nd game where both he and Asdrubal Cabrera homered which helped turn a 6-4 loss into a dramatic 9-8 11 inning victory which helped propel the Mets into the top Wild Card.  Much like in his last postseason game with the Mets, Reyes went hitless as his team was eliminated at home.

In the subsequent two years, he was about the worst players in baseball.  Despite all of Collins’ efforts to get him going, Reyes floundered, and there would be reports he was not happy playing third base.  At the end of the 2017 season, he helped reinvent himself as a mentor to Amed Rosario.  Between that and his hitting in September, the Mets brought him back.

He was dreadful this year hitting .189/.260/.320.  He’d post a -0.8 WAR.  Worse yet, he would complain about his playing time.  He believed as a utility player he should have received more playing time, and really, without that playing time, the Mets were not giving him a chance to succeed.  While there were some who were able to compartmentalize the off the field issues, when he was bad on the field, more and more Mets fans were disenchanted with him.

However, despite the ever growing calls to release him and make way for more talented prospects like Jeff McNeil, the Mets stubbornly held onto him.  They treated him like one of the Mets greats, which he was in the first part of his career.  Against all odds, Reyes would last the full season with the Mets.  It allowed him to play alongside Wright in the Captain’s final game.

It also meant Reyes would get to leadoff in what is likely his final career game.  Between innings, the Mets showed a video tribute.  Reyes would emerge from the dugout to tip his cap to a standing ovation.

The crowd was much smaller than the sold out crowd who was there to see Wright’s final game.  The standing ovation Reyes received did not remotely compare to the one Wright received.  If you went back a decade, that would seem implausible as both were beloved players with Reyes being the one who probably generated more enthusiasm from the fans.

Personally, I loved Reyes.  The first player jersey I ever purchased was Mike Piazza, the second Wright, and the third Reyes.  Overall, I had more Reyes shirseys than any other player including a last season at Shea and first season at Citi one.  That Reyes was the most exciting player who ever played for the Mets.  When he went to Colorado, I still believed he had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.

After he left, I was left livid with the organization.  In no way should Wright and Reyes have ever been split up.  Like great Mets duos of the past, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it seemed like their destiny was to win a World Series together.  Between that, Flores’ struggles at short and Ruben Tejada not being a particularly good baseball player, I desperately wanted the Mets to make a trade with the Rockies to bring back Reyes for that 2015 run.

To this day, part of me wonders what would have happened if Reyes did return to the Mets in 2015.  Do they win that World Series, or do they still fall short?  Would Reyes and his contract stood in the way of Yoenis Cespedes returning?  Mostly, I wonder about that night.

While statistics prove differently, to this day, I hope it was an isolated incident, which could have been avoided by Reyes being in New York instead of Hawaii.  In the converse, maybe this was a pattern of behavior which grew increasingly violent, and perhaps, things could have been hidden for longer if he was never in Hawaii.  There is no way of knowing anything.  What we do know is that instead of being in New York, Reyes was in Hawaii where he forever changed his legacy by committing a vile act.

Because of all of this, I was initially irritated Reyes was sharing Wright’s spotlight, but I made peace with it because it was what Wright wanted.

At the sake of sounding hypocritical, I must admit seeing Reyes doubling and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt was exciting. Wright coming up to the plate in an RBI situation was exciting. Wright being able to drive Reyes home just one last time made the moment all the more special.

In all honesty, I was surprised nostalgia got the better of me in the moment.

Perhaps it is because I truly miss the Reyes of 2003 – 2011.  I just miss how fun it was to watch him play.

That fun completely disappeared when he returned.  He was no longer a young up and coming superstar.  He was a violent wife beater.  Some people may be able to compartmentalize it, but I wasn’t.  Certainly not for a player I once held in the highest of regards.

Now that is career is over, I honestly do wish Reyes well.  I want him and his family to be able to move on from the domestic violence to have a happy and safe home life.  If that happens, then no matter how much I was against it, Reyes returning to the Mets was worth it.  I will be happy if Reyes returning to a place he was loved and cared for led him to not only seek help but to end what might have been a pattern of abuse.  Hopefully, he is a better husband and father for the experience.

In the end, congratulations to Reyes on a great career.  You are the greatest shortstop in Mets history.  The memories of you and Wright playing together were some of the best I’ve had as a fan.  Rooting for you was never the same, and it will never be the same again.  Still, each and every Mets fan, including myself, wish you and your family well.

God bless the Reyes family.

2018 Mets Season Ends On A Sad Note

Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended.  Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him.  Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.

There is the sadness with David Wright leaving.  He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced.  He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field.  Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.

Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players.  Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform?  Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform?  Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud?  How about Juan Lagares?  With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense.  Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together?  Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?

Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again?  He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed.  Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year.  At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play.  That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.

Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away.  Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year.  Addison Reed, Lucas Dudaand Curtis Granderson were traded away last season.  Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories.  Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas.  Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.

What we have left is good, really good.  We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted.  After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half.  Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.

We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner.  Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace.  Steven Matz actually made 30 starts.  Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close.  This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.

Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30).  When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse.  In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top.  If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.

Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.

There’s a hesitation there.  After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top.  Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.

Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring.  Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different.  The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade.  But after that?  Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short.  After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.

In the end, this is a really likeable team.  Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys.  They are what makes being a Mets fan great.  We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring.  That can’t happen.

In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one.  Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here.  Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series.  I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets.  Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry.  However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes.  When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.

With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right?  Let’s take a look:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation.  In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.

The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer.  Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well.  Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.

Things changed at the tail end of 2017.  Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become.  d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September.  As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.

VERDICT: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI.  He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.

Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.

VERDICT: 2015 Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.

For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.

VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.

Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.

VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015.  After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores.  Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half.  Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.

Rosario is the future of the Mets.  Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate.  However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better.  He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time.  For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.

VERDICT: 2018 Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets.  Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting.  Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup.  He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist.  Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.

With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets.  To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player.  This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.

VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers.  They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits.  In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well.  Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.

The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player.  Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder.  Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015.  Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then.  Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen.  This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year.  Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness.  One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.

When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins.  Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.

VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015.  When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived.  Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.

Right now, Callaway looks like a genius.  He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth.  He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late.  His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire.  However, the season isn’t even a week old.  Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.

Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series

VERDICT

If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation.  The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager.  Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw.  However, in reality, it’s not.  That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.

That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager.  If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level.  If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.

#MetsBoycott And Some Unsolicited Suggestions

If you are a Mets fan, you’re angry.  Really, there is a myriad of purely justifiable reasons why.

The Mets let Daniel Murphy walk.  They haven’t sufficiently spent to put a team that finished just short in 2015 over the top.  The handling of medical issues is a mess leading to the team constantly playing with a short roster.  They sold part of their future to build a bench and bullpen, something they refuse to do in the offseason.  This is why you have to acquire Kelly Johnson in the midseason not once but twice.

The team has not extended one pitcher, but during Sandy Alderson’s tenure, he has found a way to extend Juan Lagares, Jon Niese, and David WrightSpeaking of Wright, they have continuously played Russian Roulette with his ability to play leaving the Mets having the worst possible third base situation for two years running.

Even better, the Mets don’t have sufficient funds to add the type of players it needs to get the team back to the 2015 level – you know a middling and injured team who sold the farm to make one run and let it fizzle out.  Even better, the team doesn’t have the farm system to supplement the roster to keep the competitive.

Sad part is this is just the tip of the iceberg.  We all have reasons to be angry with the Mets.  It makes you want to do something.

In year’s past, we had the billboard.  While derided in some circles, it did have some effect.  Arguably, if not for the billboards and the display of fan anger, the Mets may not make the moves they made, including but not limited to trading for Yoenis Cespedes and re-signing him multiple times.

With that in mind, there is another movement afoot.  This one is being led by the Good Fundies guys:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: with baby number two expected any minute, this was written in advance of a podcast where details were released)

Boycotts are dicey things because they tend to either get trivialized, don’t have the physical support to match the vocal support, and/or don’t go to the extent they need to go.

On a personal front, I have greatly reduced the amount of money I have spent on Mets tickets.  I used to have multiple plans.  The reason for that is I had different factions of Mets fans, and I enjoyed going to games with those people.  It was an amazing way to experience a season.

Between Madoff, changes to ticket plans, and just the utter horseshit we get from the Mets organization, I’m down to none.  Guess what the Mets response has been to that?  They call me to ask me to buy a ticket plan numerous times each offseason.  That’s it.  If you’re like me, it’s probably the same.

Still, I can’t stay away.  I love baseball, and my son does as well.  I want to bring him to games, which he enjoys.  This season, I tried bringing him to road games instead, but it wasn’t good enough for him.  He wanted to go to Citi Field to see Mr. Met, play the Home Run Derby, and watch the game.  He’s a little boy.  I’m not going to punish him because the Wilpons suck.

There’s the other matter about my Dad and brother.  I have been going to games with my Dad since 1983 and my brother a couple of years after that.  No matter what, we have found at least one game to go to each season.  If the Mets didn’t operate the way they do, we’d probably still have a Sunday Plan – you know the plan they greedily eliminated/altered when they moved from Shea Stadium to Citi Field.

Point is, I can’t stay away, but I do want something to happen.

Getting something organized is problematic.  You have to encourage people to do something, but what?  Purchase tickets and not enter the stadium?   Organize in front of Citi Field and be ushered away before you can gain any traction?  A social media campaign that may hit the newspapers once?

The end result of these might be a giant “Meh!’ from the Met organization.

Still, you have to do something like a billboard.  Something the Mets both get embarrassed by and yet can’t ignore.

No matter what it is, all I know is I’m onboard if only because I want things to get better.  To that end, here are my unsolicited suggestions:

  • Have fans see the Mets on the road in group outings carrying signs such as #MetsBoycott or clever signs delineating fan outrage
  • If not road trips, organized fan outings at different locations such as Foley’s, which is a well known sports and baseball bar in the area
  • Another billboard or other visible sign outside Citi Field
  • Advertising spot on WFAN
  • A good old fashioned letter writing campaign.  While you can ignore emails by setting up spam folders, the Mets aren’t going to stop the mail just because they are getting waves of fan letters.  For an example of this effectiveness, look at John Mara responding to fan letters and his firing of Reese and McAdoo in-season.

If you do one, some combination of these things, or something all together different, it should gain some traction.  Whether it’s enough to get what all Mets fans what they want, it remains to be seen.

In the end, the goal needs to just be not being marginalized, which is something the Mets are great at under Sandy Alderson’s regime (“Panic Citi”).  It’s a difficult line to tread, and I’m not particularly sure it can be successful.

However, given the state of affairs, it’s certainly worth a try.

Sandy Alderson Should Want Focus On Payroll Instead Of His Record

In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history.  While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”

If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.

Injuries

During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).

This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players.  This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).

As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse.  Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers.  Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson.  The list goes on and on..

That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built.  Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months.  Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.

The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.

Evaluating Own Talent

Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players.  Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.

The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner.  However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.

The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere.  Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox.  They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick.  Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.

The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go.  It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright.  None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended.  There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.

The Draft

The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors.  Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams.  The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.

At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered.  This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.

Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.

The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.

The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer.  Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes.  We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.

Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.

This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.

Free Agency

Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful.  Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR.  In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.

For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals.  Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract.  Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.

It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.

Depth

Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues.  This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons.  It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.

Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front.  They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals.  Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell

Synposis

Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey.  Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps.  It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.

Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.

Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent.  If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.

Trade Addison Reed To The Team With The Best Offer

In a report by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Washington Nationals are interested in obtaining Addison Reed from the New York Mets at the trade deadline.  However, Cafardo also notes the Mets may not be inclined to trade Reed to the Nationals.

If true, this makes little sense.

Reed is a pending free agent.  If the Mets do not trade him at the trade dealine, the best they can recoup for him is a second round draft pick, and that is only if the Mets were inclined to extend him a qualifying offer.  When you consider the qualifying offer for last year was set at $16.7 million, it seems like the amount will be too high for the Mets taste.  As a result, the Mets will likely lose Reed as a free agent with nothing in return if they do not move him at the trade deadline.

If the Mets are indeed trading him because the team is selling, there should be one and only one guiding principle in making a trade – Make the best trade possible.  It should not matter if that team is the Yankees or the Nationals.

In fact, the Mets have already benefited from making a trade with the Nationals.  On the eve of the 2015 season, the Mets traded outfielder Matt den Dekker for LOOGY Jerry Blevins.  For his part, Blevins was lights out for the Mets that season before breaking his arm.  With a good relationship already established, the Mets and Blevins have agreed to two different one year deals since.  In Blevins time with the Mets, he is 9-2 with two saves, a 2.76 ERA, 1.187 WHIP, and a 11.4 K/9.

Where would the Mets have been if they refused to make an intra-division trade back then?

Speaking of the 2015 season, the Mets moved prospects John Gant and Robert Whalen for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson.  Uribe and KJ were both important members of the 2015 team.  Again in 2016, the Mets acquired KJ from the Braves.  Again, KJ was an extremely important part of a Mets team that made the postseason.

In 2015, the Mets made two trades with division rivals, and those two trades helped them win the pennant.  Now that they are selling, they should once again be willing to trade with teams in the division.  The only guiding principle in making a move is to judge whether the trade is the best return the Mets can get for a particular player.

Will seeing the Nationals win the World Series with Daniel Murphy, Reed, or anyone else the Nationals may acquire from the Mets?  Absolutely.  However, wouldn’t getting a top prospect like Victor Robles patrolling center field for a World Series winning Mets teams more than ease that pain?  Again, absolutely.

Now, can the Mets get Robles for Reed?  Probably not.  Then again, seeing the prospects got in exchange for Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last year, it’s possible.  That being said, if the Nationals won’t give up a prospect of the caliber of Robles, someone may very well do so.  Again, the overriding point here is the Mets need to make the best trade possible . . . even if that trade is with the Nationals.

Time To Call Up Gavin Cecchini

This may seem irrational. It’s most likely premature, but in reality, the Mets can’t keep languishing away with Jose Reyes at third base.  Last night should be the last straw. 

In the game, Reyes dropped a routine flyball that set the stage for the game tying rally. He got on base, and then he was caught between first and second on a pitch in the dirt. He got lucky that Cesar Hernandez hit him in the back. 

It’s at the point where Reyes can’t make routine baseball plays. He’s fighting it. He’s hitting .100/.182/.140. Those numbers are unfathomably low. It’s really difficult to justify playing him right now. 

He’s fortunate that Wilmer Flores is a platoon bat that can’t hit right-handed pitching. He’s also lucky that Flores is also a poor fielder. T.J. Rivera is also a poor fielder at third base. Rivera is also stuck in Triple-A until next week, and he doesn’t draw enough walks to play everyday. 

This leaves the Mets looking for out of the box options. Even if the Mets were to bring back Kelly Johnson, he still needs time to get ready for the season. 

The common refrain is for Amed Rosario. It’s still too soon for him. The Mets likely don’t want to call him up before the Super Two deadline. Moreover, he only has 51 plate appearances above Double-A.  He still needs more time. 

That leaves the Mets looking at Gavin Cecchini

The Mets 2012 first round draft pick has thrived in Triple-A. Entering last night’s game, he played 130 levels in Triple-A hitting .320/.389/.451 with 31 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, 62 RBI, and seven stolen bases. 

During Cecchini’s cup of coffee with the Mets last September, he showed he wasn’t intimidated playing in the majors. In four games, he was 2-6 with two doubles and two RBI. 

The issue with Cecchini is where does he play?  With his throwing issues and the rise of Rosario, he had been moved to second. The plan was also to have him work at and expose him to short and third this year. 

The early returns of Cecchini at second are good. He’s played well at the position, and he has started the season playing 12 errorless games. The issue is the Mets have a second baseman in Neil Walker

On that front, the Mets could move Walker to third base. Entering the season, Walker indicated he would be willing to play wherever the Mets needed him to play. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com). Given Reyes’ play, Walker may be needed at third. 

The other option could be playing Cecchini at third. However, with so little time there, and the concerns over his past throwing errors, Cecchini is probably not the best bet for third. Then again, it’s hard to argue that the Mets have there right now is any better. 

Yes, this is a drastic move, but seeing Reyes play and with David Wright likely not close to returning, the Mets have little choice but to pursue the drastic measure. The choices now are really either continue playing Reyes, play a guy who can’t hit right-handed pitching, or roll the dice on a former first round pick. 

At a minimum, it’s hard to argue Cecchini would be any worse. In fact, if Cecchini were to go 1-5 every night while playing mediocre defense, he would be an immeasurable improvement over Reyes.  For that reason alone, it’s time to give Cecchini a chance. 

Reyes Cannot Hit Lead-Off Anymore

After the game last night, Terry Collins joked, “I’ve got the FBI looking for the real Jose Reyes right now.”  

Instead of having the FBI look for Reyes, Collins should have the FBI look for a better option at third base and to bat lead-off. 

Now, no one can reasonably believe that Reyes is as bad as his current 1-27 streak. Even with Reyes fighting it since Spring Training, you’d expect him to at least beat out a throw with his speed. Reyes is better than this.

And yet, Reyes still isn’t good enough to be asked to play everyday and lead-off. Since Reyes’ career year in 2011 when he became the first ever Mets player to win a batting title, Reyes has been on a decline. That decline has been accelerated the past three years. 

Consider during his first go-round with the Mets, Reyes was a .292/.341/.441 hitter who averaged 25 doubles, 11 triples, nine homers, 47 RBI, and 41 stolen bases a season.  In that time, he accumulated 27.9 WAR. However, Reyes was more than just stats He was a dynamic shortstop whose exuberance pumped up the team and the crowd. 

Since leaving the Mets, Reyes has been a .281/.331/.410 hitter who has averaged 21 doubles, four triples, eight homers, 37 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. The bulk of those stats come from Reyes first year in both Miami and Toronto. The numbers get worse from there.

In the last three seasons, Reyes is a .279/.321/.400 hitter who averages 24 doubles, three triples, eight homers, 43 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. 

Now, with Reyes coming back to the Mets last year, the narrative was Reyes would be rejuvenated by playing for the Mets again. As we see with Reyes’ 1-27 streak this season, that has been proven false. 

Reyes is a 33 year old player in decline. He’s more in decline as a left-handed batter as he has been a .225/.276/.347 hitter. 

When you can’t hit right-handed pitching anymore, you can’t play everyday. When you have a .321 OBP over the past three seasons, you can’t hit leadoff. 

The issue here is that this is a problem with no easy solution. Wilmer Flores has the same issues against right-handed pitching. Many Mets fans solution would be to platoon him with Kelly Johnson, but Johnson is still a free agent. 

T.J. Rivera was a big part of the Mets push to the Wild Card last year, but it’s doubtful he can play everyday as his aggressiveness at the plate has suppressed his OBP in his minor league career. 
It’s probably still too early to consider Gavin Cecchini or Amed Rosario to get the call-up. No one can reasonably say when David Wright will return. 

And with that, the Mets are likely out of third base options. Arguably, Reyes is still the best option at third base. That argument gets harder and harder to defend with each out he makes. 

One thing that is indefensible is batting him lead-off. His .321 OBP over the past three years demands he hit lower in the lineup. His struggles this season beg for it to happen sooner rather than later. 

In his place, the Mets can literally pick anyone else as they cannot possibly be this poor. Ideally, that someone would also play third base. Unfortunately, that player does not exist, at least right now. 

Perhaps that player will be discovered as part of the FBI investigation. 

Five Prospects Who May Contribute In 2017

Last year, we saw Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera become significant contributors to a Mets team who claimed one of the two National League Wild Cards.  Their contribution was as pleasant as it was surprising.  In fact, no one truly could have predicated the slate of injuries that befell the Mets last year.  This year?  Well, that’s a different story all together.

With David Wright already questionable for Opening Day, and the Mets prospects performing better in Spring Training than many originally anticipated, many fans question not if, but when will we see these prospects contributing for the Mets.  With that in mind, here are five prospects, who have yet to appear in a major league game, we may very well see at Citi Field in 2017.

#1 David Roseboom

Once Akeel Morris was traded to the Braves for Kelly Johnson, Roseboom became the closer for the Binghamton Mets last season.  Roseboom blossomed in the role and made it an eight inning game for the B-Mets.  He saved 14 out of 15 games while posting a 1.87 ERA in 52 games on the year. From July 2 to the last regular season game on September 5, Roseboom held opponents to a .130/.193/.383 slash line, and a 0.92 ERA.  This work has caught the Mets attention, and he was a non-roster invitee giving the Mets coaching staff an opportunity to get an up close look at him.

At a minimum, he could very well be the second left-handed reliever the Mets covet in the bullpen.  With the struggles we have seen from Josh Edgin this Spring, that could be sooner rather than later.

#2 Paul Sewald

What is interesting about Sewald is his terrific results have not gotten him the attention he deserves.  Seemingly every pitcher struggles in Las Vegas, and yet in the second half, Sewald converted 10 save opportunities while posting a 1.85 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP.  While naysayers will point to his high 80s to low 90s fastball, Sewald has clearly shown the ability to get batters out even in the most difficult of pitching environments.  As teams go through multiple relievers year-t0-year, it may only be a matter of time before Sewald finally gets his well earned chance to pitch in the majors.

#3 Dominic Smith

This Spring, we have already seen Wright become questionable for Opening Day, and Lucas Duda need shots in his hip and have back spasms.  For a Mets infield that already had injury questions to start the season, things are already progressing quite poorly.  The Mets have talked about experimenting with Jay Bruce at first.  Wilmer Flores has already shown he can be part of an effective platoon there as well.  Neither player is the long term answer.  That’s Smith.

Smith is a terrific fielding first baseman who reported to his first major league camp in the best shape of his professional career.  So far, the only concern about him is if he will hit for power.  He quieted some of those concerns in the final 58 games of the season.  During that 58 game stretch, Smith hit .355/.426/.537 with 16 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 42 RBI.  Extrapolating that over the course of a 162 game season, that would translate to 45 doubles and 20 home runs.  That type of production can definitely play at first base especially when Smith has the promise to do even more.

#4 Amed Rosario

Across baseball and the Mets organization, Rosario has been dubbed a superstar in the making.  The only question is when his star will begin shining at Citi Field.  Arguably, he is further away from Citi Field than Smith as Smith played a full season in Binghamton last year.  Moreover, you probably want to give both players until the All Star Break before you even begin to consider calling them up to the majors.  And yet, as Michael Conforto proved in 2015, if you are a truly special talent, you can come to the majors and contribute for a World Series caliber team in the thick of a pennant race.

In Rosario, the Mets have a game changer in the field and at the plate.  Should any infielder go down, room can be made for Rosario.  Certainly, Asdrubal Cabrera has shown in his career he can play second and third.  Also, do not discount the Mets trying to play Rosario at third this season so he can become more versatile, and quite possibly open a spot for him on the major league roster this year.

#5 Chris Flexen

Arguably, this spot could go to P.J. Conlon, but Flexen is on the 40 man roster.  Also, Flexen pitched a full season for St. Lucie last year, whereas Conlon only pitched half a season there.  Another issue is Flexen’s stuff plays better in the bullpen as Flexen has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve ball.  If the Mets were to be willing to move Flexen to the bullpen, he can rocket through the Mets system.

In addition to Conlon, another name to consider is Corey Taylor.  He’s got terrific stuff, and the minor league closer is already drawing Jeurys Familia comparisons.  Overall, the Mets farm system has plenty of players who should be able to contribute at the major league level at some point next year.  It should give you some hope the Mets should be good in 2017 even if there is a rash of injuries.  It should give you more hope that the Mets should be good in years to come.

Editor’s Note: I consulted Michael Mayer while making my list, and he pointed out to me he wrote a similar column for Mets Merized Online.  His list is slightly different as he includes Champ Stuart.  As Michael is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Mets farm system, please give his article a read as well. 

Go ALL-IN And Re-Sign Kelly Johnson

Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise David Wright is not going to be ready for Opening Day.  No one realistically knows when Wright is going to be ready to play this year.  With that in mind, the Mets now have an open roster spot on the Opening Day roster.  On the 40 man roster, the Mets have T.J. Rivera and Matt ReynoldsTy Kelly would also be an option should the Mets be willing to make a 40 man roster move, which could include putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list.

The argument for Kelly would be the fact that his switch hitting ability would present the Mets with a left-handed hitting option for a team that promises to have a completely right-handed bench.  His versatility in the field may also prove to be important.  With that said, if you are willing to make an important roster move for Kelly, why not go ALL-IN and bring back Kelly Johnson.

Over the past two seasons, Johnson has hit .260/.319/.441 with 14 homers and 37 RBI in 131 games.  Over those 131 games, Johnson has played every position for the Mets except pitcher, catcher, and center field.  He could prove to be a very important player for the Mets.

Fact is, Johnson has been vitally important to the Mets over the past two seasons.  In 2015, he was able to serve as an everyday player until the team got healthy.  In 2016, he worked diligently to become a better hitter with him hitting .268/.328/.459.  When Neil Walker went down, he and Wilmer Flores joined to make an extremely effective platoon at second base.  As we’ve seen, he’s also capable of playing third, which just became an important issue again with Wright being unable to play on Opening Day.

Frankly, it is surprising that it would come to this for the Mets to make a move to add Johnson.  This is the same player the Mets have traded prospect after prospect for in successive years.  The ultimate reason these trades were necessary was because the Mets had built flawed, if not weak, benches heading into the 2015 and 2016 seasons.  While the Mets bench in 2017 promises to be deeper than year’s past, it is still flawed for the aforementioned reasons.  The addition of Kelly Johnson would go a long way in resolving the issues the bench currently has.

Right now, the Mets have a need for another bench player.  There is a veteran who has not only played well coming off the bench, but he has also played well in New York.  Both are more difficult than many believe, and that is why a player like Johnson is important.  Realistically speaking, with Sandy Alderson already telling the media, the Mets are “all-in” this year, he should put his money where he mouth is and re-sign Johnson.

That’s what teams who are all-in do when a need arises.