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.
There are many reasons the New York Mets blew this game to the Miami Marlins and lost a game they couldn’t afford to lose. Sandy Alcantara was brilliant, and the offense came up short again.
The Mets blew it in the 10th inning. There was probably a botched call from the umpires and replay. That meant instead of Jesus Sanchez‘s error leading to runners at the corners, it was just prolonging the at-bat.
— MLB Replays (@MLBReplays) September 9, 2021
First, it was Luis Guillorme for Kevin Pillar. Guillorme walked. Then, in a somewhat incredulous decision, he pinch hit Patrick Mazeika for James McCann. Mazeika meekly grounded out to end the inning.
With the Mets other high end relievers having been used, Rojas was essentially forced to bring in Edwin Diaz. What was over concern should now be alarm.
After blowing consecutive saves to the Washington Nationals, Diaz was entrusted with getting this tied game to the 11th inning. He’d fail miserably.
The first batter, Magneuris Sierra, laid down a good bunt. Diaz got there and nearly threw it away. Really, it took a great play from Báez to not only get the out, but to also stop Diaz from throwing it away to end the game.
Diaz did rebound to strike out an overmatched Sanchez. Then, Bryan De La Cruz came to the plate. Make no mistake, there’s just no way Diaz should’ve been pitching to De La Cruz.
After the game, Rojas cited a number of reasons why. Those included the R/R matchup as well as Diaz’s control issues. No matter what, the real issue was Diaz.
Here’s Rojas on the decision to pitch to De La Cruz: pic.twitter.com/Db6QSgCTHD
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) September 9, 2021
Despite ordering the intentional walk being the right call, Diaz would pitch to De La Cruz. Instead of being careful, Diaz would throw a 1-1 fastball over the heart of the plate which De La Cruz launched to dead center to end the game leading to Diaz with the Hansel Robles signature finger point:
Incase you weren't familiar with Bryan De La Cruz already: pic.twitter.com/g3KiWlgiiV
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) September 9, 2021
Again, blame the offense all you want for the 2-1 loss. Blame Rojas for some weird pinch hitting decisions and for pitching to De La Cruz. Those are all valid critiques.
However, at the end of the day, the Mets have a closer who can’t seem to pitch in September in a pennant race. He had a 7.36 ERA in September 2019. He’s allowed five runs in 3.0 innings taking a loss and going 1/3 in save chances.
Closers like Diaz, or at least what many pretend Diaz to be, are supposed to hide some of the deficiencies by ensuring the close games go in your favor. That just doesn’t happen with Diaz in the huge spots.
For the third straight outing, that was the case. You just wonder how many more outings like this he has before the Mets are completely out of contention.
Before the suspended game from April 11 resumed, there was the theatre of the absurd where Javier Báez and Francisco Lindor were forced to apologize for the thumbs down controversy. Their qualifying the apology certainly didn’t help matters.
What really didn’t help was the Mets falling behind 5-1 to the Miami Marlins. It also didn’t help Jesus Aguilar was taunting them during the game.
Worse yet, this was the same old story with the Mets blowing chance after chance after chance. That includes the eighth when Báez was announced as a pinch hitter. He was booed lustily by the sparse crowd. It’ll probably be the last time he’s ever booed.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 31, 2021
Báez hit an infield single scoring Smith pulling the Mets to within 5-4. Michael Conforto followed with an opposite field single easily scoring Alonso to tie the game. When Jorge Alfaro, a catcher somehow thrown to left, bobbled the ball, Báez made a mad dash for home.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 31, 2021
It was a run arguably only Báez could score. It involved a player with speed who always hustles, and a player with a high baseball IQ willing to take calculated risks. The end result was a win and a great call from Gary Cohen.
Michael Conforto blasted one a long way in Tuesday's nightcap, so here's another Gary call and pen slam for your timeline 🎙️
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 1, 2021
This was a win which flipped the script. Not only did it take a bad loss and make it a great win, but it changed the narrative and reaction towards Báez.
It was also a win with legs. The Mets would get off and running in the fourth with a Conforto two run homer.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2021
Later in the inning, Jeff McNeil would double home Báez. It was 3-0, and the Mets would hold on.
Edwin Diaz came in the seventh and retired the side in order for his eighth consecutive save. With that, it was a doubleheader sweep.
This day had all the feel of the Wilmer Flores walk-off. With the Mets 5.5 games out of a postseason spot with a month left in the season, who knows?
Doubleheader Notes: Jeurys Familia picked up the win in the first game. Loup won the second game. Between games, Luis Guillorme was activated off the IL, and Brandon Drury was optioned. Yennsy Diaz was the 27th man.
There’s no other way to put it. The New York Mets flat out stole this game.
At that point, the Mets looked dead in the water as Wade Miley dominated them over the first five innings, but the Mets got something started in the sixth.
Jonathan Villar drew a lead-off walk, and Pete Alonso singled. That brought the newest Met, Javier Baez, up as the tying run. Well, that was at least until Villar was picked off at second. That loomed large as Baez hit his first homer as a member of the Mets:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 1, 2021
That got the Mets to within 4-3, but notably, it did not tie the game. They’d need to bullpen to shut down the Reds offense to give them that chance.
For a moment, it didn’t look like the Mets were going to get that chance. Joey Votto got a hold of a Seth Lugo pitch, and for a moment, it seemed like he tied the Major League record by homering in eight straight games.
Loup returned the favor for Villar by catching Votto too far off the bag. Votto broke for second, but Pete Alonso didn’t panic, and he started a run down of Farley for the final out of the inning.
Aaron Loup starts the pickoff play and the Mets are through the 8th! 🍺 pic.twitter.com/EXKICsixrF
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 1, 2021
This meant the Mets had a chance entering the ninth. Jeff McNeil would draw a lead-off walk off Heath Hembree, and Luis Guillorme entered as a pinch runner. Hembree then uncorked a wild pitch moving Guillorme to second.
After Hembree struck out Baez and James McCann, the Reds went to Sean Doolittle to get out Dominic Smith even though Smith hits lefties well. Doolittle did get ahead of Smith, but Smith delivered the game tying single.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 1, 2021
This meant Rob Manfred Gimmick Baseball Time. The Reds started the inning with Jonathan India on second. He moved to third on a wild pitch. Jesse Winker didn’t beat them like he normally does because he walked.
Diaz responded in a way he did in the first half and not the second half. He rebounded by striking out the next two, including Votto, before getting Tyler Naquin to line out hard to center.
In the 10th, Luis Cessa found himself pitching against the Mets on the six year anniversary of when he was traded by the Mets as part of the Yoenis Cespedes deal. On his fourth pitch, Brandon Drury continued his hot hitting July with a walk-off single.
In the end, the Mets won a game they really had no business winning. Make no mistake, this is the hallmark of a good team amidst a special season.
As the New York Mets stared down the trade deadline, they needed to address their pitching, and they needed to get a third baseman. Instead of doing that, they instead opted to trade for Javier Baez.
For Baez, the Mets parted with Pete Crow-Armstrong, and the Chicago Cubs threw in Trevor Williams. Considering Baez was going to receive a qualifying offer, the deal was more than fair. In fact, you could argue the Mets got the better end of the deal.
However, while the Mets won the trade, you do have to wonder just how much better Baez makes them. It’s debatable.
For now, Baez stands as a replacement for the injured Francisco Lindor. Baez is not on Lindor’s level defensively, and he has really struggled this year.
So far, Baez has a career worst -1 OAA. DRS tells a different story with a 4 DRS. That’s the second best mark of his career in a full 162 game season. That’s not the defensive wizard he’s purported to be, and it’s probably not a significant upgrade than what Luis Guillorme could provide.
Offensively, Baez is at a 105 wRC+. If he stays at or near this level, that’ll be just the third time over his eight year career he is at least a league average hitter.
The problem with Baez is he’s got a poor mix of not taking walks and swinging and nodding frequently. In fact, he leads the league in strikeouts. Overall, his 36.3 K% is borderline unplayable.
Keep in mind, Baez only exacerbates Mets offensive issues. They’re in the bottom half of the NL in strikeout and walk rates. Baez will serve as a hindrance to both. If anything, Baez moves the Mets further towards an all or nothing offense.
All that said, Baez does make the Mets better. If nothing else, he eventually moves Jeff McNeil to third and J.D. Davis to the bench. That helps the pitching significantly, especially starters like Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker.
There’s also his friendship with Lindor and experience playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. With that, he has a familiarity with Edwin Diaz. Diaz has missed Lindor, and it’s shown. Hopefully, Baez can temporarily fill that void.
Baez also has championship pedigree being a part of the 2016 Chicago Cubs. In his career, he’s had some big series including his being the 2016 NLCS MVP.
On that note, Baez does create a more defined path towards winning the World Series. This is going to have to be a team which wins with its pitching and defense. They have enough offense to get it done.
All told, Baez is an improvement. The problem is he may not be sufficient. He hurts the offense, and he’s no longer the defensive genius we thought him to be.
Now, as evidenced by his 2.8 WAR, he’s a good player. In fact, that mark puts him as the Mets top position player. So yes, the Mets are better. However, it’s really debatable if they’re significantly better or really improved their chances to hold onto the division or win the World Series.
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.
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.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 31, 2021
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.
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.
For reasons which defy logic, the New York Mets offense just stops scoring runs all together. That was exactly the case today.
In the first game, the Atlanta Braves scored a run in the second and third off Marcus Stroman. That gave them a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Mets offense just shot themselves in the foot. In the third, Stroman got it started with a bunt single, and there were two on with one out. Peter Alonso and Michael Conforto struck out to end the inning.
Alonso failed to come through again in the fifth. With two on and one out, he hit a ball down the line which Austin Riley made a 5-5-3 inning ending double play.
The worst one of them all was in the bottom of the seventh. After Tomas Nido singled with one out, James McCann pinch hit for Luis Guillorme (who has been clutch all year) and hit into the game ending double play.
The Mets really wanted that one because not only did Stroman pitch well, but the Mets were also bullpenning the second game of the doubleheader.
Alonso lost a Riley pop up in the lights. Then Dansby Swanson hit what should’ve been a double play, but J.D. Davis couldn’t catch the ball on the dive for a ball literally any other third baseman easily fields for an around the horn double play.
Familia rebounded to strike out the next three batters to end the inning. Anthony Banda followed with two scoreless innings. Of course, while this was happening, the Mets offense wasn’t delivering.
In the first, Davis grounded out with RISP. In the fourth, Jonathan Villar struck out swinging, and McCann followed with an inning ending double play.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 27, 2021
Speaking of Freeman, earlier in the game, he had some fun with Nimmo after Nimmo drew a walk:
Freddie Freeman looks up to the sky with Brandon Nimmo 🤣 pic.twitter.com/7S2zMvrXTv
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 27, 2021
After Freeman long flyout, Riley hit into an inning ending double play. That set it up for Edwin Diaz, who struck out the side for his 22nd save of the season.
The Mets avoided near disaster in this game in advance of a potential bullpen game tomorrow. Things could’ve gotten ugly quick for a team who scored once in 14 innings. Instead, they got the split, and they fend off the Braves for at least one day.
Game Notes; The Mets have not been swept in a doubleheader this season.
The Toronto Blue Jays of Buffalo came to Citi Field, and like usual, the New York Mets took the series:
1. Luis Guillorme is an absolute magician on the field. That tag between the legs was next level genius.
2. Guillorme also has .417 OBP and 121 OPS+. How he doesn’t play everyday, even when everyone is healthy, is just bizarre.
3. One of the reason the Mets are good is Tomas Nido. On Sunday, he was flashing his cannon picking off one runner and throwing out another. He could start for half the teams in the league.
4. Luis Rojas gets maligned for some reason, but his opting to pinch hit an ailing Jeff McNeil for Nido resulted in a game winning double. Most managers don’t pinch hit for their catcher, especially in the sixth inning.
5. It was absolutely right to pull Tylor Megill. He’s a rookie who threw zero innings in a game last year. You need to keep him going to the finish line and we’ll beyond.
6. Megill has been great, and at this rate, while there are bound to be tough games and setbacks, we should expect him to continue to improve.
7. Keeping Rich Hill in for the sixth was probably the wrong move. At this point in his career, he’s a five and fly. That said, you understand pushing him with the doubleheader and the lack of starters. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
9. J.D. Davis again showed he can’t play third. If you continue playing that glove while relying on a 30.8 K% and .526 BABIP, you’re going to get burned.
10. At the trade deadline, the Mets should call the Cleveland Indians and ask what they want for Jose Ramirez, and then, they should say, “Yes!”
12. Taijuan Walker has struggled out of the break. He’ll be fine.
13. Maybe Michael Conforto won’t be any good this year. Aside from one outburst in Cincinnati, he’s been bad all year.
14. Brandon Nimmo has been terrific this year, and the Mets should be talking extension with him.
15. Mets really need bullpen help at the trade deadline. While you can count on their top guys, they don’t have depth. With the doubleheaders and just four starters, they’re going to get taxed more.
16. Dominic Smith has continued his resurgence, and quietly, he’s at a 0 DRS in left (even if OAA paints a much different picture).
17. Steven Matz once again proved he can pitch in New York. It was nice seeing him treated well by Mets fans. It’s a shame he still isn’t with the team. They needed him this year.
18. Aaron Loup continues to be phenomenal. When he pitches this way in the postseason, they’ll write ballads about him.
19. Seth Lugo has been good and effective, but he hasn’t been Seth Lugo yet.
20. The Mets seem to have the division wrapped up heading into the deadline with the NL East teams really in position to sell. They need to get healthy, and they can’t let anyone try to make things interesting.
With Jacob deGrom down, and with Carlos Carrasco looking further away than initially hoped, the New York Mets have a real need for a starting pitcher. In fact, at the moment, their rotations is Megill, Walker, Stro, and Who Knows?
So, obviously, the Mets are going to need a starting pitcher, and they are going to need one sooner rather than later. Who they can get, and what the cost will be, is anyone’s best guess.
While we know this is a priority, this is not the only area the Mets need to address at the trade deadline. As a result, they should not and cannot get myopic in their endeavors to improve the team. This is a front office well capable of multitasking, and they are well aware of those needs.
Right now, those needs include pitching in general. While the rotation is getting all the focus, the bullpen needs help as well. Since June 1, the Mets bullpen has been one of the worst in baseball. In fact, they own a 5.21 FIP which is the second worst in baseball. Their 4.69 ERA may only be 13th worst, but that is the worst among any teams currently in a postseason position.
While the bullpen has been a strength early, it has been a liability of late. Part of that is fatigue and players hitting the IL. The other part of it has been Edwin Diaz regressing and starting to resemble the unreliable closer who lost his job in 2019. With that being the case, the Mets need to seriously take a look at adding at least an arm or maybe two.
The other big area of need is third base. Right now, Mets third basemen collectively own a -8 DRS, which is the third worst in the National League. Coincidentally, it is the only position where the Mets own a negative DRS defensively.
Part of the reason is the Mets aren’t playing Jeff McNeil there. Instead, they have asked Luis Guillorme, Jose Peraza, and Jonathan Villar to play out of position. That has yielded poor results. The other problem is J.D. Davis has long proven completely incapable of proving the position. The boiling point on Davis should have been when he literally just stood in foul territory in Pittsburgh when Walker unsuccessfully tried to knock a ball foul.
As we see, the Mets have three real areas of need with the rotation, bullpen, and third base. You can also make the case with Peraza suffering a broken finger, the Mets could afford to add a little more depth to the roster. Overall, if the Mets want to win the World Series, and they have the core to do it, they need to look at more than the rotation.
The New York Mets showed they had real fight in the series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they would show even more in Cincinnati:
1. With all the injuries to the pitching staff, Marcus Stroman had the biggest start of the year. Those eight innings were a godsend.
2. The reason the Mets are in first isn’t just because of performances like we saw from Stroman. It’s because of performances like we saw with Stephen Nogosek and Geoff Hartlieb. Even though they lost that game, it saved the pen.
3. Of course, Robert Stock, who is well past Plan Z, makes a spot start, and he leaves the game with an injury after an inning.
4. For over a month now, Dominic Smith has returned to form. He’s hitting for power, and he’s getting big hits.
5. James McCann has had his adjustment period, and he’s been better than the catcher they thought they were signing. Since May 29, he’s hitting .300/.361/.485.
7. Actually, that wasn’t Rojas, it was Dave Jauss filling in for the suspended Rojas. Jauss certainly seemed to enjoy his time at the helm, and fans seemed to love his infectious personality.
9. Luis Guillorme might’ve had one tough inning defensively, but he’s been great all season. It’s long past time messing around and just let him play everyday.
10. Michael Conforto had a huge Two home run game in the comeback extra inning win. At the time, it seemed like he was taking off, but then he stopped hitting again.
11. That’s not too dissimilar from J.D. Davis who is one for his last 10 with five strikeouts.
12. This is just a reminder that unless the Mets move Jeff McNeil to third, they really need a third baseman at the trade deadline.
13. McNeil’s bat has awoken with him hitting .316/.395/.421 over the past few weeks.
14. The loss of Jose Peraza is going to hurt more than you expected at the beginning of the year. He’s been playing great defense, and he has a bevy of clutch hits.
15. People love to love situational hitting and small ball, but then they go berserk when the Mets are mashing homers.
16. Jesse Winker is a no-good evil Mets killer. Actually, he’s not evil. He has fun with the fans and the game. Still, the Mets should never even contemplate pitching to him in a big spot again.
17. In a big spot late in the game, you don’t know it Kevin Pillar is going to get a base hit, but he’s certainly going to tattoo the ball.
18. Gary Cohen deriding skyline chili was like Bud Harrelson punching Pete Rose combined with Al Leiter‘s one hitter. Put another way, Gare landed a punch, and there was no way Cincinnati could come back from it.
20. The Mets certainly love playing in these band boxes in Cincinnati and Philadelphia because they continue to win games in these cities.