Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.
There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.
To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .
Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.
That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.
Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:
- Amos Otis for Joe Foy
- Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel
- Jeff Kent for Carlos Baerga
- Jason Isrinhausen for Billy Taylor
- Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano
There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.
With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.
Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.
Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.
So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.
In their history, the Mets have had a number of truly awful free agent signings. Their foibles on the free agent market have inspired books, and they have led to the Mets having prolonged down periods which have led to the team being under .500 for extended periods and eventually rebuilding. Their mistakes are not limited to just any position. Really, they have made mistakes across the diamond:
C Rod Barajas (1 year, $500,000) – In the Mets history, they have had just four free agents catchers as their Opening Day starter with Barajas being one of them. With respect to Barajas, he was the cheap option in a truly uninspiring free agent group of catcher, and he would not last the season getting released towards the end of August.
1B Eddie Murray (2 years, $7.5 million) – Murray was the first piece the Mets locked down in what was to be known as the Worst Team Money Could Buy. In his previous stops, he was a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the best switch hitters to ever play the game. With the Mets, Murray had two disappointing seasons where he hit .274/.330/.446.
2B Luis Castillo (4 years, $25 million) – In 2007, the Mets needed a second baseman, and the team was able to get Castillo for nearly nothing. While that team collapsed, Castillo was hardly to blame hitting .316/.404/.418 over the final month of the season. To that end, it made sense to bring him back but not for the extreme overpay which was immediately panned by everyone. Castillo would disappoint from that point forward, and eh woudl become a symbol of what was wrong with the team with the seminal moment being his dropping Alex Rodriguez‘s pop up leading to the Mets losing a game to the Yankees.
3B Todd Frazier (2 years, $17 million) – After a year in which Frazier had his first ever trips to the deisabled list and he had a careeer worst .390 SLG and .693 OPS, he was an obvious candidate. Frankly, the choice was much easier when you consider how well Robin Ventura played during his Mets tenure and the Mets predominantly using homegrown players or trades to fill the position.
SS Kazuo Matsui (3 years, $20.1 million) – Despite the presence of Jose Reyes, the Mets opted to sign Matsui to be their shortstop. It looked like a great move when Matsui homered in his first ever at=bat, but it was all downhill from there as Matsui disappointed at the plate and in the field. Matsui dealt with injuries, was moved to second base, had a negative WAR in his last two years with the Mets, and he was eventually traded for Eli Marrero, who lasted just two months with the Mets.
LF George Foster (5 years, $10 million) – The Mets first free agent splash was Foster, and in many ways, Foster set the tone for some for the big moves the Mets would make in the future. Foster would go from being an All Star who hit .295/.373/.519 to someone who hit .252/.307/.422 in a Mets uniform. Overall, Foster had a rocky tenure with the team, and he would be released in 1986 after making comments to the press.
CF Vince Coleman (4 years, $11.95 million) – It wasn’t enough the Mets let Darryl Strawberry go to the Dodgers they replaced them with Coleman, a player who tortured the Mets. If Mets fans didn’t despise him enough when he wore a Cardinals uniform, they certainly did during his Mets tenure which featured not just poor play but also throwing firecrackers at a group of fans.
RF Roger Cedeno (4 years, $18 million) Cedeno wasn’t just an important part of the 1999 team, but he would also serve as a key piece of the trade which brought the Mets Mike Hampton. When he was a free agent, the Mets pounced to bring him back. Just three years later, he was a shadow of the player he was leading to his being traded to Wilson Delgado.
SP Oliver Perez (3 year $36 million) – After being obtaine by the Padresx, Perez was great in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, won 15 games in 2007, and gave the Mets every chance to win in the final game every played in Shea Stadium. Despite all of that, there were red flags everywhere, and Perez predictably failed after getting his big free agent deal. He struggled, and he would refuse a stint in the minors leading to the team freezing him out. His Mets career would end in infamy as he was brought into the 14th inning of the final game of the season after not having pitched in nearly a month. He’d be released after the season with a one year and $12 million left on his deal.
RP Francisco Rodriguez (3 years, $37 million) -Needing a close, the Mets went out and signed the closer who just set the single season saves record to a massive contract. In his first year in the deal, he had the second most blown saves in the NL and a then career worst ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9. In the second year of his deal, he was placed on the restricted list after being arrested for assaulting his girlfriend’s father in the family room at Citi Field. The Mets finally traded him in the last year of his deal to accomplish both rebuilding and to prevent an onerous option from being activated.
In Brodie Van Wagenen’s first offseason as Mets manager, it is incumbent upon him to navigate through the minefield of potential free agent busts which are lurking. The success of the 2019 Mets and his success during his tenure as the Mets General Manager depends on it.
For some reasons, Mets fans become fixated on players from other teams, and there is a constant call for the team to acquire those players at all cost. In recent years, one of those players has been Jonathan Lucroy.
Last night, Lucroy made Luis Castillo‘s gaffe not even worth mentioning. In the bottom of the 11th with one out and runners at first and second, Alex Bregman hit a ball right in front of home plate. Lucroy pouned on it, missed the tag, dropped the ball, and then threw it into Bregman’s back. As the ball rolled into right field, Kyle Tucker scored the winning run.
No, it’s not fair to judge Lucroy from one play, but it does merit looking a little deeper into his stats. On the season, Lucroy is hitting .245/.298/.318. Since 2017, he’s hitting .257/.328/.352 with a 79 wRC+.
Simply put, Lucroy isn’t the player Mets fans think he is, not anymore. The same rings true for Kevin Plawecki.
In 2015 and 2016, Plawecki just was not a good baseball player. Rushed to the majors due to Travis d’Arnaud injuries, Plawecki hit .211/.287/.285 in the two year stretch which equated to a 59 wRC+.
If you want to expand it further to the first two months of the 2017 season where he was again thrown into the majors due to a d’Arnaud injury, Plawecki started his career hitting .206/.282/.272 with a 55 wRC+.
At 26 years old, Mets fans had seen more than enough, and they were not only too happy to label him a bust, but they have also been quite upfront about being done with him.
Well, after being sent down in May 2017, Plawecki FINALLY received consistent playing time, and he got to put the work in at Triple-A he needed to do for the past two-and-a-half years. The guy who couldn’t hit was suddenly hitting .338/.386/.529 since his demotion. With Rene Rivera being released, it was as good a time as ever to see if Plawecki was for real.
Well, since August 19, 2017, his first game since being recalled again, Plawecki has been hitting .256/.378/.417. Really, this is much improved from his play to start his career. Digging deeper into the numbers, he’s been much more impressive than you could actually believe.
Now, you may believe each one of the aforementioned catchers are better than Plawecki, and when you assert that belief, there are going to be very few if anyone who dares contradict you. However, making this argument completely misses the point.
The point is Plawecki is continually showing himself to no longer the catcher from 2015 to the first few months of 2017 who had no business being in the Major Leagues. Regardless of where you want to rank him among MLB catchers, one thing is increasingly clear – Plawecki has the bat to play the position.
Also, given his historical pitch framing numbers, he has the ability to be an everyday catcher at the Major League level. Saying differently ignores the progress he has made over the past year and asserts personal biases built up after the terrible start to his career.
With the Braves sending to the mound RHP Mike Soroka for his Major League debut, you knew this was going to be a rough game for the Mets. The players change. The managers change. Even the uniforms have changed. And yet, somehow, whenever a pitcher makes his Major League debut against the Mets, you know he is going to shut the Mets down.
For a brief second, it seemed like Soroka would be the exception. The Mets had two on and two out, but Todd Frazier would ground out to end the threat. From there, it was pretty smooth coasting for Soroka. Even with he was in trouble, he would be aided by an Adrian Gonzalez double play grounder in the third and a Mets team who was 0-4 with RISP.
Really, the only blip from Soroka on the night was one pitch he threw to Yoenis Cespedes:
Yo seems fine to us.
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 2, 2018
Even in this frustrating loss, the good news was Cespedes was still sizzling hot even after his thumb injury which forced him to leave Sunday’s game. On the night, he was 3-4 with a run, homer, and an RBI. In the field, he made a couple of nice plays, and he had one of those trademark Cespedes throws:
The throw. 💪
The tag. 💰
The celebration. 😃 pic.twitter.com/bu5K4OkkKQ
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 2, 2018
The problem with the Mets tonight was they needed more than just Cespedes. Ideally, that would have come in the form of Noah Syndergaard.
It wasn’t to be as the Braves were very aggressive against Syndergaard with many attacking the first pitch. To start the game, the Braves got consecutive hits from Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis. After that Syndergaard settled in a bit, and he gutted through six innings. That’s what a true ace does. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he finds a way.
Unfortunately, even with him figuring a way to get a quality start, the Mets just didn’t have it. After Soroka, Dan Winkler, who was pressed into action after a Shane Carle injury got through the seventh. In the eighth, Michael Conforto, Cespedes, and Jay Bruce failed to plate Asdrubal Cabrera, who had led off the inning with a single off A.J. Minter.
In the ninth, the Braves turned to Arodys Vizcaino for the save, and Frazier got it all started with a single that bounced just in front of the diving Markakis. Then, the Braves did their best Luis Castillo impersonation with seemingly their entire 25 man roster incapable of fielding a pop up to right before second base.
Amed Rosario twice tried to butcher boy it, and he swung and missed both times. He then just fanned on the third pitch of the at-bat. Still, the runners would advance on a Vizcaino wild pitch thereby allowing Frazier to score on a Wilmer Flores RBI groundout. With the Mets down 3-2, the game was then in Jose Reyes‘ hands.
In a surprise to no one, Reyes failed to deliver.
On March 4th, Amed Rosario was hit on the kneecap with a pitch. He’s undergone an MRI, and it came back negative. While that is great news, it is important to note Rosario has not played since that March 4th game. More to the point, he is no longer being listed on the group of players available to participate in Spring Training games. When he will be able to return to the Mets is anyone’s guess right now.
The Mets are easing Rosario back, but given how this is the Mets, Rosario’s status for Opening Day is still in doubt. As such, it is time the Mets begin looking at alternative options.
To some, the answer should obviously be Jose Reyes. Reyes was signed to be the team’s top utility player, and as an extension of those duties, Reyes is the most obvious candidate to step-in and play any infield position for long stretches of time should any of the regulars get injured.
While the obvious choice, Reyes may not necessarily be the correct choice.
Defensively, Reyes’ -27 DRS made him the worst infielder in Major League Baseball last year. At his natural position of shortstop, Reyes had a -15 DRS in 630.1 innings played there last season. Believe it or not, the last time Reyes had a positive DRS season at shortstop was in 2007.
Given his experience at the position, the Mets would be more than jusified putting Reyes at shortstop for the occasional game. However, asking him to play there for extended periods of time would be to significantly compromise the Mets defense. Worse yet, you are doing that at the most important defensive position.
With the Mets signing Todd Frazier to play third, the left side of the infield defense has become one of the strengths for this Mets team. It would certainly behoove the team to keep it that way even in Rosario’s absence. That is why the Mets should really consider Luis Guillorme to take over for Rosario should he not be able to play on Opening Day.
In the absence of Rosario, Guillorme is the best defensive shortstop in the Mets organization. In fact, there are some who would argue Guillorme is the better of the two. Playing Guillorme at short in Rosario’s absence would maintain a great left side of the infield defense.
The obvious caveat here is Guillorme’s bat. He’s never hit for power, and there are many who question if it will ever play at the Major League level. Truth be told, the Mets are going to have to find that out sooner or later, so why not now?
Looking at his minor league numbers, this is a player who has shown an ability to get on base, which could give the Mets some hope he could profile as Luis Castillo – the Marlins version, not the Mets version. With Guillorme working on driving the ball, and showing some positive results for those efforts this Spring, his ability to stick in the lineup becomes less of a doubt.
And if we are being honest, his bat should not be a deterrent; at least not now. Since 2015, Reyes has been a 91 OPS+ hitter, and in each of those seasons Reyes has gotten off to some dreadful starts. Since 2015, Reyes has hit .205/.263/.301 in the Month of April.
With that being the baseline April production, the Mets should really consider starting Guillorme on Opening Day should Rosario not be available. The offensive floor is low, and his defense right now has no ceiling.
Unless you walked by a newstand on your way to work or you saw their Tweet, chances are you missed the front page of the New York Daily News:
STAGE FRIGHT: Shohei Otani too scared to play for the @Yankees…
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) December 4, 2017
Judging from their steep decline in circulation, you probably did.
Make no mistake about it, the front page was an unnecessary shot at Shohei Ohtanti, and it was for the “crime” of spurning the Yankees.
As is typical with the New York Daily News, facts have not relevance here. The front page claims he “fears big city,” which is completely absurd when you consider his final list includes Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Arlington, with is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. But sure, he’s really afraid of the big city or big market teams.
Speaking of fear, are we really sure a 23 year who is eschewing tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars just to compete at the highest level is afraid? Do we really want to say someone who wants to do the unprecedented in both pitching and being a position player is scared of anything? Seems like Ohtani loves a challenge.
That’s actually backed up by the seven contenders he has selected. In a few of these locations, he’s going to have the follow in the footsteps of some terrific Japanese players:
As we have seen with the Mariners and the Dodgers, the list goes well beyond those two legends. Throw in the Giants, who had Masanori Murakami (first ever Japanese MLB player) and Tsuyoshi Shinjo (first Japanese player to play in a World Series), and you have someone who is not intimidated by anything.
Still, none of these facts prevented the New York Daily News from publishing something just plain wrong.
Really, it should come as no surprise. The New York Daily News has been known by push beyond the lines of common decency for its front pages, including but not limited to, showing a blow-by-blow of how a woman was murdered.
It’s also a newspaper that once had the gall to publish an Andy Martino gem saying one of the reasons Mets fans hated Luis Castillo was because he was Hispanic. Put another way, he was calling Mets fans racist for not liking a player who turned in this gem:
Overall, the New York Daily News published yet something salacious, incendiary, and just plain wrong for reasons they only know. Only this time, they did it because someone had the temerity to select the baseball destination that was best for him. If we followed their standards, we could go as far to call them racist.
However, I won’t. I have actually standards.
With the solar eclipse happening, now is as good as any to create a Mets All-Time Solar Eclipse Team. These are players who are included due to their names and not because of their exploits. For example, the will be no Mike Piazza for his moon shots, or Luis Castillo for his losing a ball in the moon.
SP – Tim Redding
He is the great nephew of Joyce Randoph of Honeymooners fame where Ralph threatened to send Alice right to the moon,.
C – Chris Cannizzaro
Cannizzaro is the name of a lunar crater
1B – Lucas Duda
Lucas means light giving
2B –Neil Walker
Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon
3B – Ray Knight
Pretty self explanatory, first sun rays, and then night.
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera
Asdrubal means helped by Baal. Baal is a moon god
OF – Kevin Mitchell
Mitchell was one of the 12 men to walk on the moon
OF – Don Hahn
Hahn means rooster, which is an animal that crows at sunrise.
OF – Victor Diaz
His first and last name combined translate to day conqueror, which is effectively what the eclipse does.
For starters, lets concede that Jose Reyes has been playing so poorly he should unseat no one for a starting position unless he was going to play for the Long Island Ducks. In turn, it also needs to be conceded Asdrubal Cabrera is no longer a major league caliber shortstop. In his interview on the topic, Cabrera admitted as much saying, “I think next year, I have to go – I have to move to another position . . . I’m fine with that.”
Cabrera needs to be fine with that as he’s not a shortstop now. His -10 DRS is the worst among shortstops with at least 100 innings played at the position. His -5.5 UZR is the second worst in the majors among players with 100 innings played at short. But it’s more than the advanced metrics. Visually, you can see he no longer has the range. His sure hands aren’t so sure anymore. His 11 errors are the third most in the majors and are four more than he had all of last year. The final indignity for him came when he had his Luis Castillo impersonation.
It was time to move Cabrera to second base. With the team having an eye towards the 2018 season, it was time to see if the team should pick up his 2018 option in the offseason to play him alongside Amed Rosario. With the team looking to sell, it was also a chance to improve his trade value.
Now, this isn’t the first time the Mets have asked Cabrera to change positions. Earlier in the year, they asked him to move to third base. He wasn’t amendable going so far as to demand the team pick up his 2018 option if they planned such a move. Rather than promote discord throughout the clubhouse, Terry Collins dropped it. The team had to know moving him to second base was going to create issues.
And it did. Cabrera demanded a trade from the team. Sure, part of it could be the Mets didn’t give him the courtesy of speaking with him first, or the team not giving him the opportunity to play some games at second base during his rehab stint in the minor leagues. Still, even with the Mets mishandling the situation, given how Cabrera responded to moving to third base, this incident was going to happen anyway.
It is better for that incident to have occurred with Reyes supplanting him than Rosario. It is hard enough for a rookie to get acclimated to playing in the major leagues. It is even more difficult with a disenchanted veteran angry you took his job. This is the same veteran you would want to mentor a young Rosario to help ease his transition. Seeing Cabrera’s actions, this was not going to happen if Rosario was the one who replaced him.
That is why having Reyes take over at shortstop made sense. Reyes is a veteran better capable of handling the situation, especially when he previously faced the same situation when the Mets signed Kaz Matsui. Let Reyes deal with the fallout now so all issues are resolved by the time Rosario is called up to the majors.
Overall, while we can quibble with how the Mets handled moving Cabrera to second base, we can all agree they made the right decision. They got to find out more about Cabrera both in terms of his ability as a second baseman and how he handles a change in his roles. More importantly, they made Rosario’s transition to the major leagues that much easier.
In the Matrix, Morpheus said to Neo, “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Apparently, Tyler Pill is the blue pill because there were a number of strange things that happened at Citi Field that only the most ardent Mets fans could believe:
Jose Reyes started over a red hot Wilmer Flores. More than that, Zack Davies appeared to strike him out looking. Instead, the home plate umpire called it a call leading to a Reyes bases loaded walk.
Travis d’Arnaud threw out last year’s stolen base leader Jonathan Villar:
Thing of beauty! pic.twitter.com/biPntHLwZq
— GENY Mets Report (@genymets) May 31, 2017
More than that, Pill only allowed one run over 5.1 innings.
Despite Pill having a minor league 1.60 ERA this year, his peripherals indicated his ERA should be over 4.00. Long story short, Pill has been extremely lucky this year. While that luck escaped him in his major league debut, he brought it with him today.
Through of all this, the Mets had a 4-1 lead scoring twice in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera hit a pair of doubles to tie the game at one. The Mets would then load the bases, and Reyes drew the aforementioned bases loaded walk.
This left Pill on the long side on a night despite allowing six hits, three walks, and a hit batter over 5.1 innings. Despite all of this, he wouldn’t get the win.
He didn’t get the win because in the seventh inning the unthinkable happened. Yes, it was easy to believe Salas would walk two to help load the bases with one out. It’s easier to believe that happened when you consider he was running the bases in the top half of the inning.
Blevins came on, and it appeared he did what he had to do. He struck out Shaw looking. While he did issue a bases loaded walk to Domingo Santana to make it 4-2, he did get Jett Bandy to pop up to short.
That’s when the unthinkable happened. The sure-handed Cabrera Luis Castilloed it:
Eric Thames and Hernan Perez score after Asdrubal Cabrera drops a fly ball in the infield allowing the Brewers to tie the game, 4-4!!! pic.twitter.com/8CQsuaDHlq
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) May 31, 2017
Thankfully, Santana was not hustling like Mark Teixeira did meaning the Brewers merely tied the score on the play instead of potentially going up 5-4.
The bullpen did its job. Josh Edgin and Addison Reed each pitched a scoreless inning, and Josh Smoker pitched three scoreless. Smoker got into a jam, but he got a huge strikeout to get out of the 10th. We then saw one of his signature celebrations:
— MetsKevin11 (@MetsKevin11) May 31, 2017
What’s interesting is Terry Collins had the opportunity to double switch both Reed and Smoker into the game to possibly get an extra inning out of them. He passed both times.
Finally, the Mets got something started in the 12th. T.J. Rivera led off with a pinch hit single off Wily Peralta, and Conforo walked. After Reyes couldn’t get a bunt down, he hit a fielder’s choice with Thames getting Conforto at second. The Mets finally won it with a Bruce single against the drawn-in shifted infield.
A long bizarre game finally came to an end with the Mets winning a game they have typically lost all year. The final score indicates Mets fans really took the blue pill.
Game Notes: Walker’s two doubles on the night gave him 1,000 hits for his career. Mets are 3-10 when they walked six or more. They walked eight.
Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed. With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing. He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons. Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.
All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger. It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson? The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.
Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era. After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse. Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark. In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173. This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.
The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues. First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field. Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts. Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making. Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning. It was time for new blood across the organization.
This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011. The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players. In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.
During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders. As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive. Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster. Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.
Things almost came to a head in 2014. The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling. The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked. There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others. It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.
It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived. The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers. It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing. There were also some positive signs for the team.
Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs. Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star. Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material. Wheeler had a strong finish to the season. Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting. Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove. Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year. Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015. R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future. These were players who were cultivated under Collins. It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012. Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.
There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being. Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people. He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences. He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children. He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set. That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit. Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.
And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long. His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy. Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.
There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players. Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players. It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup. Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy. Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate. This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.
More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge. There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes. Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title. One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.
That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets. Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win. Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series. But it’s more than that. We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes. He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench. Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.
Despite all of that, Collins is still here. He has survived a lot to get to this point. There was the Madoff scandal. There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised. He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks. He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.
The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history. To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history. That is mostly the result of circumstance. Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has. Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse. If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.
It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record. It’s Collins’ now. He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.