Lucas Duda

Mets Players Who Deserved Will Smith Slap

The shocking part of The Oscars was when Will Smith responded to a Chris Rock joke about his wife by slapping him in the face and then yelling at him. Being a diehard Mets fan, Rock is obviously accustomed to unexpected slaps in the face.

In fact, through the years, there are just a number of players Mets fans just wanted to give the Will Smith treatment to for what they did on or off the field. To wit, here is the Mets all-time deserved a slap team:

SP Tom Glavine – Glavine was never truly appreciated by Mets fans after he had beaten them all those years with the Atlanta Braves. Despite his success, any goodwill he had unraveled as he did in the final game of the 2007 season. After the game, Glavine explained to devastated fans, he was disappointed but not devastated.

RP Guillermo Mota – How do you shake off Paul Lo Duca and then get beat by Scott Spiezio ? That moment forever changed the trajectory of that series. Also, why was he such a punk constantly throwing at Mike Piazza?

C Kevin Plawecki – When T.J. Rivera wore the crown after a Mets win (why was that ever a thing?), we saw the type of objects he kept in his locker. Making matters worse, he was a better relief pitcher than he was a hitter with the Mets (I kid, I kid).

1B Lucas Duda – Duda was an underrated Met, and he was a driving force for the 2015 Mets comeback to win the division, but that throw to home plate was one of the worst throws in Mets history.

2B Luis Castillo – How in the world do you just drop an easy pop-up which could end the game, and why did he have to do it against the Yankees? Consider he under performed his contract so much even the Wilpons were willing to eat money just to get rid of him.

3B Jim Fregosi – It’s astounding. The 1962 Mets were the worst team in Major League history, and yet, the first real instance we see the Mets mocked for is when the team traded Nolan Ryan in the deal for Fregosi. After the trade, Ryan became a Hall of Famer, and the Mets would eventually see Fregosi off to the Rangers. To make matters worse, we’re constantly reminded of this every single trade deadline when we hear about all-time worst trades.

SS Mike Bordick – In typical Mets fashion, Bordick went from career year to near career worst numbers when he went from the Baltimore Orioles to the Mets. Making this even worse is the fact the trade cost the Mets Melvin Mora who was both beloved and a future All-Star and Silver Slugger.

OF Vince Coleman – There should be no more reviled Mets player than Coleman. He was the enemy with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was flat out terrible with the Mets, and he would throw a firecracker at fans. He would even injure Dwight Gooden‘s shoulder practicing his golf swing, He’s literally the worst to put on a Mets uniform.

OF Roger CedenoMets fans were beyond excited Cedeno was returning in what we hoped was a retooling of the pennant winning roster. Instead, what we got was “The Worst Team Money Could Buy” Part Deux with Cedeno being flat out terrible.

OF Bobby Bonilla – He wore earplugs because he couldn’t handle the heckling. He was playing cards in the clubhouse when the Mets lost the 1999 NLCS. He became a perpetual punchline for a team who never spent money.

Keep in mind, this is not a complete list. We can go on and on and on. No matter where you wind up on any of these players and your suggestions for others, please keep in mind, no one deserves the treatment more than Jeff Wilpon. No one did more to hurt the Mets than him during his stretch of absolute embarrassing incompetence.

Buck Showalter Showing Shades Of Bobby Valentine

During Spring Training, Buck Showalter has made it a point to bring Keith Hernandez down to the field. In fact, as reported by Bob Klapisch of nj.com, Showalter removed the old rule which banned Hernandez from the batting cages. Showalter made it a point to get rid of the dumb rule (which was explained away because Hernandez was a part of SNY).

Specifically, Showalter noted, “I wanted people to notice Keith next to me and it wasn’t by coincidence. To me, Keith Hernandez is Mets royalty. He can go wherever he wants around here. This is his team.”

Showalter is exactly right here. After all, Hernandez was the first captain in team history. That 1986 team constantly talks about how much Hernandez meant to that team in terms of his leadership and defense. To keep that away from the team is pure and utter Wilpon nonsense. Well, the Wilpons are gone and so is much of their stupidity.

This was something Bobby Valentine had done so well during his Mets tenure. We didn’t just see the Mets greats pass through Spring Training for a photo op and media attention. That is something we will see this Spring with Mike Piazza, Al Leiter, David Wright, and others passing through and working with the players for a day or so.

Valentine had taken it a step further than that. Valentine put Mookie Wilson on his coaching staff. We also saw it with him having Al Jackson, an original Met just inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, on his coaching staff. There many be many reasons why Valentine did that, and it could very well be because Davey Johnson once did the same thing with him and Bud Harrelson on the Mets coaching staff.

Being a Met is different than being a part of any other team. It’s being the big market target while sitting in the shadow of the Yankees. It’s having a fan base who clings to Tug McGraw‘s “Ya Gotta Believe!” who also expects Tom Glavine to implode completing the collapse. We know Gary Carter is going to start an improbable rally while fully expecting Lucas Duda to throw it nowhere near Travis d’Arnaud.

The Mets are the most unique team in all of sports, and they have the fanbase to match. Each and every player who has come through here fully understands it. After all, Carlos Beltran went from reviled while playing here to a standing ovation at the All Star Game wearing the enemy St. Louis Cardinals uniform and fans who cheered him as a conquering hero when he was brought back as the manager.

Valentine knew all of this, and he had a coaching staff reflect that. Showalter seems to get that as well, and he wants the former Mets to be a part of this team both in Spring Training and beyond. He understands the team history, and in the end, Showalter just implicitly gets it.

When the Mets have a manager who gets what being a New York Met is all about, magic happens. We saw it in 1986 and 1999. Mookie brought home Ray Knight. Robin Ventura hit a grand slam single. Seeing how Showalter is managing this team, Mets fans should be ready to see what is coming next.

Fun Former Mets Who Need To Return

With the return of the Old Timer’s Day, we are going to see some of the most beloved Mets in history return and play a game in front of adoring fans. We will once again get to see beloved players like Cliff Floyd, Daniel Murphy, and Robin Ventura return for the day. It is going to be a great and emotional experience.

Those are players forever in Mets lore. We will always love them for what they did on the field. Not all of them had the biggest personalities. There are, however, some Mets who had the innate ability to become fan favorites without so much as dominating.

One player all over the baseball news is Tsuyoshi Shinjo. The formet Met was hired as the manager of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Sorry, as Shinjo says, he isn’t the manager, but he is rather the “Big Boss.” This is just Shinjo being Shinjo. No one has better understand the great theatre baseball can be in the moments outside of the action. After all, he used to name his homers and orchestrated his own epic retirement ceremony

Baseball needs that type of theatre, and the Mets are the perfect frachise to embrace it. Shinjo can create a spectacle which could garner attention and interest. Really, teams pay a lot of money to hire people who try to figure out the things Shinjo just does on his own, and it comes naturally to him. Whether as a part of the coaching staff, televsion, or just as a team ambassador, Shinjo would make Mets games that much more entertaining.

In recent history, Mets games have probably not been as much fun as they were in 2015. A large part of that was the Mets winning the pennant. Another component of that was the force of nature that was Juan Uribe.

Uribe was the perfect addition to that Mets team. First and foremost, he was the real stopgap third baseman the team needed. He would quickly ingratiate himself to Mets fans with a walk-off hit in his second game with the team. He would then become a larger than life character for needling David Wright, objecting to football being played on TV, and for declaring he doesn’t wear a cup in the field because there isn’t one big enough for him.

Uribe was great in the clubhouse keeping the team on an even keel and upbeat during their first real pennant race. He was also a leader who helped the team reach their full potential that season. In some ways, his presence was missed the following season as he helped a Cleveland team get to the next level. Certainly, you want to believe there is room for him to do the same again for the Mets in some capacity.

Finally, there is Curtis Granderson. Aside possibly being the best human being to ever don a Mets uniform, Granderson was as fun a player as there was. He was not just terrific on the field, but he was also the genius behind the We Follow Lucas Duda Instagram account. Granderson didn’t just understand how to make baseball fun on the field, he knew how to do it off the field as well. The fact he is a great person on top of it makes it all the more important to get him to return in some capacity.

Overall, the Mets franchise has had a number of colorful characters. From Roger McDowell to the hot foots to Pete Alonso with the fake hitting coaches, you need a certain personality to handle and thrive in New York. While the Mets do need to honor their greats, they also need to find a way to better incorporate those players who made the Mets the fun team they are and hopefully always will be.

Mets Need Healthy Drew Smith

The one gem from that ill-fated trade deadline was Drew Smith. When he’s been on the field, he’s proven why the Mets took him in exchange for Lucas Duda.

In 2021, he made the leap. In 31 appearances, he was 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and an 8.9 K/9. From an advanced stat perspective, he had a 0.8 WAR and 168 ERA+.

Looking to Baseball Savant, Smith had elite fastball spin and near elite curveball spin. Harnessing that spin with Jeremy Hefner helped Smith make significant progress in 2021.

However, Smith didn’t make “the leap.” The reason was he once again landed on the IL. This time it was with right shoulder inflammation. It was his second time on the IL that season with this IL stint being season ending.

That is one of the marks of Smith’s career – injuries. He had undergone Tommy John in 2019. That cost him a year of pitching and development. He was healthy for parts of 2021, and we again saw the potential.

The thing is the Mets are getting past the point of his potential. They need real progress. Mostly, they need him on the mound.

He’s an arbitration eligible player. He does have two options remaining, but the Mets don’t want yo have to use them anymore. They want Drew Smith.

In many ways, they need him to take that leap. After the 2022 season, Edwin Diaz will be a free agent, and Smith is about the entire list of internal closer candidates. Smith has the ability to take over, but the biggest ability is availability.

Smith isn’t there on the latter, but it seems like everything else is there or can be there. Hopefully, in 2022, Smith will be healthy for a full season and put it all together. The Mets desperately need him to do so.

Mets Core Wasn’t The Problem

With the New York Mets failing to make the postseason, and worse yet, with their collapse, the narrative has become this core hasn’t been good enough to win a World Series. Sandy Alderson seemed to echo that sentiment a bit when he said there were going to be changes to the core this offseason. Of course, with free agency and the like, that was probably going to happen anyway.

Before Steve Cohen purchased the team, the Mets core could probably be defined as Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith, and Noah Syndergaard. At least, that was the homegrown core. In that core, you had two ace level pitchers, two All-Star level first baseman (yes, Smith was that in 2020), two All-Star level outfielders, and a jack-of-all trades All-Star.

When you add Francisco Lindor, who joins deGrom as a future Hall of Famer, you’d be hard pressed to find much better cores in all of baseball. This level of talent should be the envy of the other 29 teams in the league. That begs the question what went wrong in 2021.

On the one hand, this was a team which was 3.5 games in first place at the trade deadline. Their high water mark was 5.5 games up on June 16. As we know, this team had the bottom completely fall out as they finished eight games under .500 and 11.5 games back of a mediocre Atlanta Braves team for the division.

The narratives emerged. Luis Rojas was in over his head. The ReplaceMets got them the division lead, but the regulars couldn’t seal the deal. This team had no heart, no will to win, no killer instinct, etc. Basically, chose your narrative and apply it to this team.

In many ways, that’s what people said about the 2007-2008 Mets. As we all learned, firing Willie Randolph wasn’t a solution. Switching out leaders like Cliff Floyd was a mistake. Really, making change for its own sake proved to be a complete and utter disaster. Certainly, so was the Wilpons involvement in a Ponzi Scheme. That said, the level of dissatisfaction with “the core” rather than a real analysis of what was the problem led to the demise of that team.

The real issue with that Mets team was injuries and pitching. During the back-to-back collapses, the pitching completely fell apart at the end. Certainly, Jeff Wilpon playing doctor played a massive role in that happening. In some ways, we’re seeing the same thing happen but with a completely new regime.

Let’s take a look at the 2021 Mets. The first thing which should jump off the page is the team went into the season without a real third baseman or a left fielder. We all knew by Opening Day J.D. Davis could not handle the position, but there he was. Behind him was Luis Guillorme, who was as good a glove in the middle infield as they come, but he was a poor third baseman. After that was Jonathan Villar, but he has never been a good fielder.

As for left field, it’s the Mets mistake as old as time. You cannot just throw anyone in left field and expect it to work. Todd Hundley wasn’t a left fielder. Lucas Duda wasn’t a left fielder. Sticking a good bat in the outfield just never works, and oft times, we see diminishing returns for that player at the plate. While Smith did an admirable job, he again proved he couldn’t play left field.

Of course, the Mets could have gone with McNeil at either position as he’s played both positions well. Instead, the Mets were obstinate he was a second baseman because that was the belief Sandy Alderson stubbornly held during his first stint with the Mets.

This speaks to a real problem with the Mets and how it colored how the core was viewed. Players were asked to do things they shouldn’t have been asked to do. For example, remember Conforto in center field? It’s been an organizational approach to just plug bats everywhere. The end result was the team suffering as players failed to reach their ceilings as they struggled out of position, and we also saw the defense lag.

Now, the defense wasn’t really the problem in 2021. With the analytics and Rojas at the helm, the defense was much improved. However, to a certain extent, the damage had already been done. Steven Matz, who struggled in large part due to the absence of defense and analytics, was cast off for relievers who pitched poorly. We had already seen pitchers like Chris Flexen and Paul Sewald cast off. There’s more.

Really, the issue isn’t the core, but what the Mets did with it and how they built around it. For years, we knew Alonso and Smith were both first baseman, but they Mets absolutely refused to make the tough decision and pick just one of them and try to move the other to address a need. It’s a decision which has held this team back for three years now. As for the justification of the anticipation of the universal DH, that’s no reason to throw away three seasons, especially with Alonso and Smith is going to a free agency after the 2024 season.

Looking deeper, this was a team really harmed by injuries. Really, you can make the argument if deGrom was healthy, they don’t collapse. If Carlos Carrasco isn’t hurt in Spring Training, they don’t collapse. If Syndergaard returns when anticipated, they don’t collapse. However, that happened. That’s more of a sign of a snake bit team than it is a problem with the core.

Really, despite the flaws in roster building, this team was good enough. We actually saw it with this team being in first place despite the injuries and the odds. If you’re being honest in your assessment, you should be saying the Mets need to get a real third baseman and left fielder, and this team will be primed to win a World Series. After all, this team with a relatively shallow pitching staff and being plagued by injuries was on the precipice.

That brings us to the next issue. The front office didn’t try to go for it. There was the opportunity, and they chose not to get the pitching this team needed. There’s no good explanation why they didn’t.

As a result, the people who failed at supplementing a very good core is now going to call it an eroding one. They’re going to allow people to falsely accuse this core of not being good enough to win. It’s complete and utter nonsense, and it completely obfuscates what the real problem is – how this organization has approached building rosters.

Overall, if the Mets bring back this same exact roster replacing Davis at third with a real third baseman and putting McNeil in left field, they will be the best team in baseball. There should be absolutely no doubts about that.

Francisco Lindor TKOs Yankees

In a series where the New York Mets and Yankees were fighting not just for bragging rights but to stay afloat in their postseason races, this was an important rubber game. Short of Roger Clemens committing assault against Mike Piazza, this turned into the most emotionally charged Subway Series game.

In the season and series finale, it was Francisco Lindor who would knock out the Yankees. First, he hit a three run homer in the second inning to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.

Entering the sixth, that 4-2 lead was a narrower 5-4 lead. Lindor would hit a solo shot to increase the Mets lead to 6-4. As he rounded the bases, he made a whistling motion to let the Yankees know he was angry with their whistling during not just Taijuan Walker‘s previous start to let the batters know what was coming, but we would also hear it during the game.

That Mets lead would evaporate when Giancarlo Stanton hit a two run homer off of Brad Hand in the seventh to tie the game at 6-6. Notably, when Stanton would pass short, he would make it a point to trash talk Stanton leading to the benches clearing. Also noteworthy is while the benches were clearing, Stanton went to the dugout to take off his batting helmet and gloves before coming back out of the dugout to stand in the back.

While Stanton would shrink from the trash talk, Lindor would stand tall. The Mets superstar shortstop came up in the bottom of the eighth, and he would join Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda as the only Mets hitters to have a three home run game at home. Lindor would be the only switch hitter.

As if this wasn’t sweet enough, Stanton would come up in the top of the ninth with runners on second and third and two outs. He was facing Edwin Diaz who has struggled mightily in September, and he appeared on the verge of another blown save. Instead, Stanton popped out to none other than Lindor to end the game. As he and the Yankees left the field, both Lindor and Javier Baez waved them off of the field.

People are calling this Lindor’s signature game with the Mets. That’s probably too soon to call. There are going to be 10 more years of Lindor after this season. With that is going to come All-Star appearances and hopefully multiple World Series titles. Chances are we haven’t yet seen Lindor’s signature game. Instead, we have probably seen Lindor’s first real great game in a Mets uniform.

That is more than good enough for now, and those three homers were more than enough to TKO the Yankees. As for the Mets, it’s kept them alive for at least another day. Maybe, just maybe, with Lindor playing at this incredible level, there may just be a miracle run.

 

Mets Teetering With Reds Loss

This should’ve been a great day for the New York Mets. The black uniforms were back for limited engagement, Carlos Carrasco was making his season debut, and they added Javier Baez at the trade deadline.

Instead of this being the Yoenis Cespedes celebration with Lucas Duda carrying the Mets to first place, you have to wonder if the Mets are in real trouble.

For his part, aside from surrendering a homer to Jonathan India on his first pitch, Carrasco was terrific. Over four innings, he allowed just that one run on three hits and one walk while striking out four.

It should be noted, part of the reason he gave up one run was a phenomenal play by Luis Guillorme to rob Eugenio Suarez of a would be RBI single.

At that time, the Mets should’ve had a lead. Before Sonny Gray could blink Jeff McNeil doubled home Brandon Nimmo to tie the score. Then, the Mets loaded the bases with no outs.

The promising rally completely fell apart. Michael Conforto struck out in what would be an 0-for-4 night with a golden sombrero and a dip below the Mendoza Line.

Jonathan Villar then hit into an inning ending double play. That was about it for the Mets offense for the night. They wouldn’t get a runner into scoring position until the eighth, and they squandered that opportunity as well.

That wasn’t the case with the Reds. Miguel Castro‘s struggles continued. He allowed a double to India, and Jesse Winker was a Mets killer again driving him home.

Drew Smith‘s long ball troubles continued as he allowed a homer to Joey Votto the following inning. This was the seventh consecutive game Votto homered.

It was still theoretically a game in the ninth as it was only 3-1. That was until the Reds roughed up Anthony Banda in his second inning of work for three runs making it a 6-1 Reds lead.

In the ninth, in what may prove to be his last Mets at-bat, Brandon Drury hit a pinch hit RBI double. It proved to be nothing more than window dressing in the Mets 6-2 loss.

As if that loss wasn’t bad enough, Nimmo was going to be taken out of the game with a hamstring issue resulting from a dividing catch. Jacob deGrom was shut down again with more forearm inflammation. It should also be noted with the Mets falling to add a reliever the bullpen struggled.

All told, even with the Baez addition, this was just about as bad a day as you can get. The Mets looked bad and might be in real trouble soon.

Game Notes: In addition to getting Baez for Pete Crow-Armstrong, the Mets also obtained Trevor Williams. Williams was assigned to Triple-A Syracuse.

Happy 40th Birthday Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson, one of the best human beings to ever don a Major League uniform turns 40 today. Through his charitable work and play on the field, he left an everlasting impact on the game.

If not for Granderson, the 2015 New York Mets aren’t alive to make that miracle push in August and September. He was every bit the MVP of that team, and if things shook out differently, he would’ve been the World Series MVP.

He was a true leader who left an impact on the young team. He was also very fun starting the We Follow Lucas Duda Instagram account. Everything about him was great, and it truly was a pleasure seeing him play for the New York Mets.

He’s certainly one of the best players in Mets history, and he should have a spot in their Hall of Fame. In fact, there should be a spot for him in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

It’s a little known fact he’s the only man to win the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award four times. That’s two more than anyone else. Of course, he has also won the Roberto Clemente Award.

That’s why, today, we celebrate the life of a great baseball player and even better human being. Happy 40th Grandy.

Simply Amazin – Don’t Freak Out

I had the privilege of appearing on the Simply Amazin’ podcast with the great Tim Ryder. During the podcast, names discussed include but are not limited to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Rick Porcello, Francisco Lindor, J.D. Davis, Carlos Beltran, Bobby Valentine, David Wright, Bobby Thompson, Ralph Branca, Alex Cora, Luis Guillorme, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Jonathan Villar, James McCann, J.T. Realmuto, James Paxton, Trevor Rosenthal, Aaron Loup, Mike Piazza, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Jose Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, James Loney, Moises Alou, John Olerud, Davey Johnson, Pete Alonso, Wilson Ramos, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, Corey Oswalt, Luis Rojas, Jeremy Hefner, Jim Eisenreich, Alex Fernandez, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Darryl Strawberry, Albert Almora, and more

Please take a listen.

Explaining Just How Terrible J.D. Davis Is At Third Base

MLB reporter Anthony DiComo and SNY reporter Steve Gelbs voiced at how perplexed they were about the push to have anyone but J.D. Davis at third base. Because of that, we need to illustrate exactly why Davis “must be replaced immediately at any cost.”

Wilmer Flores while a Mets folk hero was a terrible defensive player with the Mets, and he was grossly miscast as a shortstop. In 1313.2 career innings at short, he has a -10 DRS. Flores was also terrible at third with a -16 DRS in 1116.2 career innings at the position.

There has been a debate amongst Mets fans about just how good or bad of a player Lucas Duda was. However, Mets fans were unanimous Duda was a terrible outfielder. In 893.2 innings in left, Duda had a -15 DRS.

Mike Piazza was one of the greatest players to ever don a Mets uniform. In fact, he was only the second player to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. As great as he was with the Mets, he was that horrible at first with a -10 DRS in 517.2 innings there.

Travis d’Arnaud, the catcher Mets fans seemed to be all over in terms of his defense due to his inability to throw out base runners, had a -13 DRS in 3162.9 innings behind the plate for the Mets.

This is a sampling of some of the worst and most criticized defensive players in Mets history. This is also a sampling of Mets players who were well out of position, and they struggled as a result. All of them were better than Davis is at third.

In 770.0 innings at third, Davis is a -19 DRS.

Keep in mind, that’s purportedly his natural position. Despite it being his natural position, he is worse at third than Flores was at third or short. Davis is worse at third than Piazza was at first or d’Arnaud was behind the plate. He is worse at third than Duda was in left field. That is exactly why there is this sudden push to say the Mets cannot enter the 2021 season with Davis at third.

The Mets have done a lot of good this offseason, but their job is not done. You can’t make all of these moves and knowingly put a player at third who makes Flores look like a good defender out there. It just can’t happen.