The Sporting News has begun releasing their year end awards, and New York Mets manager Buck Showalter was named the National League Manager of the Year. Whomever made up the electorate has a lot of explaining to do about that.
Before delving further, there needs to be an important clarification about this Mets team. The roster that was assembled was a very good roster built to win the division and the World Series. This was not remotely the team which fell apart under Luis Rojas.
Look at the team again. There were four All-Stars with Pete Alonso, Starling Marte, Jeff McNeil, and Edwin Diaz. The team had five Silver Slugger finalists in Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Marte, McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo. Over half of their lineup was viewed upon as amongst the best at their position, and for absolutely none of those players was that remotely a shock..
This was also a team with the strongest and deepest rotation in baseball. They were second in baseball in payroll. This was an exceptional team across the board. Treating them like the Major League roster with Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn and Willie Mays Hayes was always been a farce.
However, narratives are narratives. It is with that prism people want to proclaim Showalter the best manager in the National League. Like most narratives, they fall to even the slightest bit of scrutiny.
Again, this was a very good team. It is why the Mets had a 10.5 game lead in June. Keep in mind, that meant Showalter was the skipper for a team which blew a 10.5 game lead. That is the largest blown lead over a full 162 game season since the inception of division play. What makes it all the worse is the Mets had the easiest closing schedule in baseball and only needed to take one game from the Atlanta Braves the final weekend of the season.
Put another way, Showalter led the Mets to an unprecedented collapse. It is bizarre they would give this award to a manager who was in charge when the Mets collapsed. More to the point, it is farcical Showalter would win the award over Brian Snitker, the manager who led the team from the 10.5 deficit to overtake Showalter’s Mets.
There is also the fact Dave Roberts led the Los Angeles Dodgers to the best record in all of baseball. He did that doing his usual platoon side mixing and matching. He also did it getting nothing from Walker Buehler and abbreviated seasons from Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, and Andrew Heaney. However, he doesn’t nearly get any credit. It’s probably because he is still tainted by the Dodgers past postseason failures.
Of course, for some reason, Showalter never had to deal with that reality when people looked at voting him Manager of the Year. Looking at him late in the season and the postseason, he was still every bit the manager who didn’t use Zack Britton. A large part of that may well be he has been great with the media and was great in the media.
This is a large part of the reason why he was not put under the microscope for his and his team’s failures. It is why he won Manager of the Year over the guy who beat him (Snitker) and the manager who probably did the best job (Roberts). In the end, people wanted to pretend it was Showalter who transformed the Mets and not the fact Steve Cohen opened his wallet to build a very good Mets team.
With Showalter getting a pass and people overlooking just how good this roster was, Showalter wins even though his team lost. All you can do is shake your head and laugh.
It is long past time we stop sugar coating what is happening with the New York Mets. Moreoever, we absolutely need to stop giving the Atlanta Braves more credit than they are actually due.
Yes, the Braves were nipping on the Mets heels as the result of playing ridiculously well since June 1. That is even the case with them having a losing record against teams with a winning record, and the Mets leading the season series against the Braves. The Braves got themselves in it because they were resilient and won a a lot of games.
However, they are in a first place tie now (in the loss column) because the Mets are collapsing. Yes, it is a collapse, and we need to call it as such.
The Mets have the easiest September schedule in all of baseball. So far, the Mets are 6-7. That record looks worse when you consider they opened the month with a win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. This means the Mets are 5-7 against teams with a losing record this month.
They were swept for the first time all season. It was the Chicago Cubs, who are on pace to lose 93 games. By the way, they didn’t even need Marcus Stroman to do it.
The Mets are the only team in the Divisional Era (1969) to get swept at home while 35+ games OVER .500 against a team 20+ games UNDER .500.
Last team to suffer such a sweep: Detroit Tigers in the final 3 games of the 1968 regular season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 15, 2022
They had a three game stretch where the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates beat them by six plus runs. That was the first time in Major League history where a team with a 30 game differential in the standings lost three consecutive games by six runs. The first ever time. That’s how unacceptable those losses were.
They lost a series to the Nationals. They were swept by the Cubs. They couldn’t sweep the Pirates, who are dreadful. At least, the Mets took two-out-of-three from them. Of course, everything looked good after that series only for them to be swept by the Cubs. Yes, it is getting redundant saying that, but it is just that maddening.
We can and should note Starling Marte and Max Scherzer landed on the IL, but then again, so what? Did the Mets really need both of them to win these games. That is what was supposed to be so good about this schedule. The Mets could rest some players and allow players to heal. Also, with all the trade deadline moves, weren’t the Mets supposed to be in a position to be able to easily withstand injuries like these?
When it was Willie Randolph trotting out pitchers like Jorge Sosa, Philip Humber, and David Williams, we all correctly termed it a collapse and were embarrassed by it. There were some who called for Randolph to be fired. The fact we’re not seeing similar anger is shocking.
Yes, the Mets are definitively going to the postseason. However, with the new format, not winning the division actually creates an addition hurdle. It actively works against their chances of winning a World Series. For some reason, everyone seems cool with Buck Showalter leading this collapse.
Keep in mind, he’s had some bizarre decisions. Joely Rodriguez in a close game against right-handed batters. Darin Ruf as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded. Not giving Francisco Lindor or Pete Alonso a day off even after Lindor says he and the team is tired, and Alonso is actively showing his frustration on the field.
Showalter was supposed to be different than everyone who came before him. Instead, he’s doing the same exact thing we saw out of Randolph, Jerry Manuel, and Luis Rojas. Showalter was the one in charge when the Mets lost a 10.5 game lead, something that has only been done eight times in Major League history.
That’s not seven in 17 bad, but that’s really bad.
Right now, there are zero excuses for the Mets not winning the division. Failing to win the NL East would be completely and wholly unacceptable. This team is too good to be doing what they are doing right now. Supposedly, Showalter is such a good manager that this never could have even been contemplated.
However, the moment is here. Do the Mets collect themselves and right the ship? Or, are they going to collapse against terrible teams and cede the division to the Braves? With this pathetic schedule, the Mets are in the driver’s seat. It’s time they push the pedal to the floor and take off instead of going to go off path only to crash and burn.
Think of a situation where you would choose to bat Tomás Nido over Jeff McNeil. Can’t think of it, right?
What if I told you the game was on the line? Down one. Tying run on second. Winning run on third.
Even more unfatomable to go with Nido over McNeill. Well, it gets better.
Nido had to leave the previous game after a Max Scherzer pitch hit him in the wrist. The concern was such that the Mets traded for Michael Perez from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who is having a terrible tear framing and hitting.
It gets better.
Nido was a surprise starter. During the game, Nido’s injured hand was stomped on by Jake Cronenworth in the eighth inning.
So, Nido had a hand injury stemming from a Scherzer fastball. Then, a day later, it gets stomped on in the eighth inning. Somehow, Nido gets to bat with a game on the line.
Short of McNeil getting the Monty Python black knight treatment, it’s ludicrous to think anyone in their right mind would bat Nido over McNeil?
Honestly, who cares if it’s Taylor Rogers or Randy Johnson? McNeil has a 109 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this year and 111 for his career.
Nido has a 55 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, which is far better than the 38 he has against right-handed pitching. For his career, he has a 69 wRC+ against left-handed pitching.
Nido is only in the lineup because if his work behind the plate. He’s never thete to hit. That’s the case whether it’s the first or the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
But, that’s just what Buck Showalter did. He let Nido go up there and pop out to end the game while McNeil set on the bench.
If you thought he had a good explanation fir it, well, you’d be sadly mistaken:
Remember, this is the same Showalter who left Zack Britton in the bullpen and who used Jack McDowell. He had Bobby Chouinard pitch to Edgardo Alfonzo.
There were articles upon articles last year demanding Luis Rojas be fired, and he never did anything this dumb. We won’t see the same with Showalter.
What’s odd was the clamoring for him. He’s won nowhere, and he keeps doing things like this. There’s a reasons he’s won nowhere.
This time, it was Nido over McNeil. Given his track record, we should all shudder over what it will be next.
For all the talk about Buck Showalter being a good manager, there were concerns about his bullpen management and ability to adapt to the modern game. We are not a full week into the season, and we are not seeing signs of Showalter having adapted.
In terms of being more analytically inclined, we see Starling Marte batting second. Ideally speaking, your best hitter should bat second, and Marte is not the Mets best hitter. Instead, he is treated almost like a second lead-off hitter behind Brandon Nimmo because he is fast.
Speaking of Nimmo, we have seen Showalter ask him to sacrifice bunt. Nimmo has been their best hitter for years, and he’s being asked to sacrifice bunt. It’s one thing with Tomas Nido, even if that strategy is still questionable, but with Nimmo, it is just plain bizarre. With the implementation of the universal DH, you would think we not see the sacrifice bunt as a strategy, but with Showalter it is still a strategy.
More than the lineup and the sacrifice bunting, there is the way Showalter is handling the bullpen.
Before delving further, there is the caveat if Pete Alonso didn’t play poor defense, and if Seth Lugo didn’t struggle, we wouldn’t be talking about it. However, beyond that is the fact is Showalter made poor decisions putting pitchers in poor positions. That is what helped lead to the Mets blowing two late leads.
On Sunday, the Mets had a 2-1 lead in the eighth. He chose Trevor Williams for what was the Mets first high leverage relief situation of the season. Trevor May was available, and he warmed up at one point. Instead, Williams would be charged with a blown save. Yes, the caveat there is Alonso was terrible, and there were soft hits.
Another note is how Showalter used the Edwin Diaz less bullpen leading to that game.
In the previous game, the Mets won 5-0, and Showalter used Drew Smith and Adam Ottavino, two of his better options in the late innings. The game before that the Mets won 7-3, and Showalter used Smith and Lugo. To be fair, he would also use Sean Reid-Foley in that game.
Now, this was the first series of the season, and as we saw in that series, Showalter was just trying to get everyone involved. For example, every position player played just one game. Still, why was Showalter using Lugo, May, and Ottavino in spots where he could have been getting pithcers like Williams into games?
On that point, Showalter did say, “We’re too early in the season to be throwing guys three out of four days. We said the whole offseason with the lockout and everything that we’re going to be careful.”
Now, there is something to losing the battle to win the war. He’s right that its way too early to abuse relievers, and he does need to keep everyone fresh. On these points, Showalter has managed successfully many years, and there is some level of expertise to which we can demur.
That doesn’t explain the loss to the Phillies. Before getting to the game, we need to revisit what May would say after the game:
Trevor May discusses the extent of his fatigued arm: pic.twitter.com/H0DdRwGw37
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 12, 2022
He’s been battling bicep and tricep soreness, and he’s been getting treatments. He isn’t accustomed to pitching multiple innings. In fact, he hasn’t done that since 2020. Notably, he performed poorly both times.
Going back to the eighth inning, Showalter had a reliever he knew was dealing with shoulder issues and doesn’t go multiple innings. More than that, it was cold. In a day, Showalter went from you can’t push relievers to pushing a reliever he knew was dealing with arm issues. It doesn’t make sense.
Another factor at play was Lugo was apparently available. As we know, Lugo performs better when he’s starting an inning. The Mets could’ve avoided the whole mess of the inning if they went with Lugo to start the inning. Sure, Lugo probably still struggles, but the Mets could have then pivoted to a Smith or Ottavino if needed.
Instead, it was May then Joely Rodriguez, which made zero sense.
Remember, Rodriguez is horrific against right-handed batters. It was one of the reasons the swap between him and Miguel Castro made no sense. Rodriguez was warming, but May’s injury could have allowed Showalter to pivot and pitch whomever he wanted.
There was a runner on first with no outs. The right-handed hitting Matt Vierling was due up, and the Phillies had other right-handed hitting options on the bench. After the pinch hitter, which was the switch hitting Johan Camargo, the Phillies had Kyle Schwarber followed by J.T. Realmuto before Bryce Harper.
To get Schwarber and Harper, Showalter opted to have Rodriguez face Camargo and Realmuto with no outs. Camargo singled sending Alec Bohm to third. That allowed a run to score on the Schwarber RBI groundout. Realmuto then launched a homer to pull the Phillies within 4-3.
Right there, any margin of error Lugo had was completely gone. To boot, he was facing tough hitters in Nick Castellanos and Rhys Hoskins.
Lugo can and should get out of that situation. Then again, he should not have been brought into that spot. It should not have been. May should not have started that inning, and Rodriguez should not have followed. It was all a mess created by Showalter.
If this was Luis Rojas, writers and fans would have been livid, and they would have demanded he be fired. In fact, when the games were scripted for Rojas, these are the types of things that happened. Now, that Showalter is doing it on his own volition, he’s getting a pass.
In actuality, he shouldn’t. The ignoring analytics. The bunting. The bullpen management. These were all issues present when he was hired, and Showalter hasn’t shown any signs of progress or any willingness. These are problems before we even address leaning on veterans like Robinson Cano. There is still 157 games for Showalter to adjust and learn. The Mets need him to do it.
Todd Zeile covered the New York Mets as an analyst throughout the 2021 season. That left him eight months to say something about Marcus Stroman.
However, now that Stroman is gone Zeile calls him one of the most divisive players in the Mets clubhouse last year. He intimated things in the clubhouse are better just because Stroman is a Chicago Cub.
Mind you, he didn’t say this when Luis Rojas was taking the fall for the purported clubhouse issues. Notably, he didn’t rebut Rojas when the former manager lauded Stroman for being a great teammate.
He didn’t say anything when there were reports of the Mets having a special chemistry. He was silent on Stroman when the narrative emerged the Mets didn’t do more at the trade deadline because they didn’t want to infringe on the clubhouse chemistry.
Zeile also was silent on Stroman when the clubhouse chemistry issue emerged with Javier Báez‘s thumbs down to the fans. There was a perfect opportunity to address team chemistry and issues. Zeile said nothing.
Time and again, Zeile was silent on Stroman’s impact in the Mets clubhouse. However, now with Buck Showalter being hired and Stroman a Cub, he is telling everyone Stroman is divisive.
Zeile sat on this information until the offseason. He sat on it during the many times the Mets clubhouse chemistry was at issue (good or bad). Now, that he never has to face Stroman, he’s more than ready to denigrate him.
This is completely unprofessional, and it highlights Zeile has little to no credibility. He had pertinent information to share in his role as analyst, and he didn’t disclose it.
Zeile didn’t have the courage to say anything while Stroman was a Met. He didn’t have the courage to say anything while the possibility of Stroman returning existed. This is as callow as it gets.
With these comments, Zeile lost credibility. It leaves you wondering what other information is he failing to disclose just to make his life easier. What is he not telling us so he can avoid an awkward conversation with a player?
Mets fans deserve better than this. The Mets players do as well.
October 4, 2016. Rogers Centre. American League Wild Card Game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays tie the score 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth. In the seventh inning, Buck Showalter used Donnie Hart to relieve Mychal Givens in the seventh. He went to Brad Brach in the eighth and ninth. When Brach was in trouble in the ninth, Showalter went to Darren O’Day. After using Brian Duensing to record an out in the 11th, Showalter went to Ubadlo Jimenez, who would lose the game.
The Orioles would be eliminated from the postseason, and it all happened while Zack Britton waited around for a save opportunity. That year, Britton was unequivocally the best reliever in baseball with a 0.54 ERA. He was awesome, but with elimination on the line, Showalter went with a number of different pitchers including Jimenez, a starter.
Buck: "Playing on the road had something to do with it too."
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) October 5, 2016
This was not an isolated instance in Showalter’s career. Go back to Game 5 of the ALDS. After pushing David Cone too far, the game was tied in the bottom of the eighth. Instead of going to John Wetteland, he opted for Jack McDowell, a starter. McDowell would lose the game in the 11th.
A lot changed in baseball from 1995 until 2016, and yet, Showalter hadn’t changed. Yes, there were instances he used a closer in a non-save situation on the road (Matt Mantei, Game 4 NLDS), but ultimately, this is who Showalter has been for better or for worse. He is not one to worry about leverage, stats, etc. He is going to manage by his guy more than anything else. As he puts it, he wants to use them to verify himself, not the other way around.
That’s not to say he hasn’t or won’t evolve. After all, his Orioles teams did implement shifting, and in an attempt to put his team in the best position to win, they tracked the results all season. However, when all is said and done, he’s going to do what he thinks is best. Again, this works at times and fails other times.
Here’s the big problem. He would be working for Sandy Alderson and Billy Eppler. Alderson notoriously wanted to minimize the manger role, and he wants constant input. It was something which beleaguered former Mets manager Luis Rojas, who had to strictly follow the scripts given to him.
Eppler was the Los Angeles Angels General Manager when Mike Scioscia “stepped down.” He then went with a more analytical and modern manager in Brad Ausmus, who was replaced after one season when the owner wanted Joe Maddon.
Another note here with Alderson and Eppler is the type of team they are building. They are clearly going heavy on older veterans in an attempt to win now. Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, and Max Scherzer are all in their 30s and have played for several years. That has usually been a bad mix for Showalter.
As noted when he was fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks, their veteran laden roster needed less of a disciplinarian and more of a player’s manager. That’s been his career. He is exceptional with younger teams teaching them the right way to play. He gets the most out of them. After a while, his personality and style of managing tends to wear on players, and he’s out.
None of this is to say he’s not a good manager. Showalter is a very good manager. If this were the 2019 Mets, he was a perfect fit for that younger team learning how to win. This is not that team. This is a very veteran team who needs a manager better suited to getting top performances from top players. They need more of a collaborator with the front office who will demand it.
Who the Mets new manager should be remains a very good debate. If they do wind up hiring Showalter, they will certainly win games. However, at the end of the day, this is a poor fit with Showalter and the Mets being better suited to finding a different match.
With his impending trial for his DUI arrest and the uncertain state of the New York Mets front office, the team fired acting general manager Zack Scott. Really, they had no other choice.
In terms of baseball, a DUI is not a Cardinal sin (pun intended). Hall of Famer Tony La Russa never truly faced MLB consequences for his actions. He kept every job he had, including his current one with the Chicago White Sox.
He was also La Russa. As he’ll tell you, he’s a “Hall of Famer baseball person.” When you have his track record, teams don’t have the courage to make him face consequences for his actions. Either that, or they don’t care.
Scott is not La Russa. He was the Mets GM by default. The original GM was fired, and he stepped into the role. As the interim, Scott needed to prove to the Mets he was up to the task.
Yes, there were undoubtedly some good moves. However, he did build a team, or helped take part in building a team, who completely fell apart. Ultimately, Scott didn’t prove he was the solution for the job.
He’s also not truly available for the job now. Putting aside the administrative leave, he has to prepare for trial. During that time, key organizational decisions need to be made.
Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard are free agents who may have complicated qualifying offer decisions. Key contributors like Aaron Loup and Marcus Stroman are free agents. The Mets can’t sit on the sidelines waiting for Scott to make pivotal decisions which will shape 2022 and the decade to follow.
Between his decisions as a GM and as a driver, he clearly gave the Mets some pause in having him continue in the role. Taking everything into account, the Mets decided it was best to start anew and hire a president of baseball operations.
Whoever that new POBO will be, they need to create the Mets organization in their own image. It’s one of the reasons Luis Rojas‘ option was not picked up, and it’s a reason why the Mets need to clear the GM spot.
Ultimately, this is about the POBO. The Mets need to find the right person, and they need that person to build the organization. The Mets can’t have Scott standing in the way of that, especially when he’s unavailable to do his job at a very critical time.
In the end, Scott gave the Mets very little reason to remove the interim tag. Instead, he really just gave them reasons to remove him from the organization.
You’d be hard pressed to argue Aaron Loup wasn’t the best reliever in baseball in 2021. Over 65 appearances, he was 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA, 0.935 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 9.1 K/9. Looking at advanced stats, he had a 422 ERA+, 2.45 FIP, and a 2.8 WAR.
His ERA was the best among all relievers, and that was backed up by his FIP being the eighth best. Perhaps more importantly, Loup backed up an impressive 2020 campaign which saw him finally learn how to handle right-handed batters effectively.
In 2020, Loup had what was then a career best year. Part of that was limiting right-handed batters to a .192/.246/.423 batting line. There was reason for skepticism with right-handed batters hitting .264/.332/.424 off of him in his career up to that point. Well, in 2021, Loup proved the improvement was real limiting right-handed batters to a .211/.290/.257 batting line.
This is a huge development. This means Loup is no longer just a LOOGY. No, Loup is an effective late inning reliever. That puts his value off the charts in an era where pitchers face a three batter minimum. Unless you get the opportunity to bring in a left-handed reliever with two outs, you need a reliever who can at least hold their own against right-handed batters. That’s easier said that done, and it’s all the more complicated when you’re trying to get innings from a pitching staff over a 162 game season.
The Mets were quite lucky getting Loup for just $3 million in 2021. Obviously, even with Loup turning 34 at the end of the year, he is going to get a raise and a multi-year deal. Obviously, he has more than earned it. It should also be obvious the Mets who are still short in the bullpen need him, and it may also behoove Loup to stick with Jeremy Hefner, who helped him continue his progress as a two way reliever. On that front, Loup has said he wants to return to the Mets.
In many ways, that just puts the ball in the Mets court. The season has been over for over a week, and Loup’s comments were well over a month ago. Still, there has been no reports of any news on a Loup deal. The longer this goes on, the more there is the risk Loup actually hits free agency at the end of the month and has a team blow him out of the water with a deal the Mets would not be willing to match.
Yes, there are a lot of pressing matters with the Mets. They are searching for a new president of baseball operations. They need to make determinations on making qualifying offers for Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. They are apparently trying to keep Luis Rojas in the organization. There is that and so much more.
However, as we have seen with Rojas and much of the coaching staff being dismissed, there are some things which absolutely need to be done now. Considering the state of the bullpen, his performance, and his desire to return, re-signing Loup is one of those things. Keeping him in the fold makes the job of the new president of baseball operations, whoever that will be, much easier when that hiring is official. It is long past time this deal gets done to allow the Mets to focus on other issues.
Mets need to re-sign Aaron Loup now.
It was a very poorly kept secret back in 2017 if he had his druthers Sandy Alderson wanted to hire Kevin Long to succeed Terry Collins as the New York Mets manager. Long didn’t take anything for granted coming extremely prepared for the interview with binders of information. More than that, he had already had a profound impact on the Mets organization rejuvenating Curtis Granderson while transforming Yoenis Cespedes and Daniel Murphy.
However, it wasn’t to be. Instead, Jeff Wilpon got it in his mind he wanted to have Mickey Callaway as the manager. Despite Callaway interviewing poorly, it was enough for Wilpon to hire Callaway after one interview because the Philadelphia Phillies showed interest. As Mets fans can recall, this went over about as well as when the Mets included Jarred Kelenic in the Robinson Cano trade because the Phillies showed interest in Edwin Diaz.
Since then, the managerial position has been a disaster for the Mets. Callaway proved to be an awful human being harassing female reporters. After him, the Mets hired and then were effectively forced to fire Carlos Beltran. In a mad scramble, they hired Luis Rojas while completely failing to give him any chance to succeed in the position. Rather that let him continue to grow, the team has decided they need to go in a different direction.
Now, there are many moving pieces before the Mets get to hire a new manager. The biggest is the need to hire a new president of baseball operations. Presumably, that is the person who will and should have the biggest input on who the Mets next manager will be. Whatever the case, the Mets have the right to correct the mistake they made in 2017 and hire Long.
For his part, Long served the world with a reminder why he was managerial material. During the National League Wild Card Game, he was sitting next to superstar Juan Soto, a player Long has helped get the most out of his ability. Soto was wearing a Trea Turner jersey (another player Long has helped immensely) while Long wore a Max Scherzer jersey.
Max Scherzer went over to high five Juan Soto and Kevin Long after the walk-off home run ? pic.twitter.com/HvV0s4FLzE
— Blake Finney (@FinneyBlake) October 7, 2021
In that moment, you saw everything you could have possibly wanted to see from a future manager of your team. He was standing there with his star player, a player in Soto he helped take from a 19 year old wunderkind to a bona fide Major League superstar. More than that, he showed the incredibly great relationship he fostered with his superstar player, the very type of relationship a manager absolutely needs to have any level of success.
We also saw the sense of loyalty he has for his players. He went out there to support both Turner and Scherzer. It was a moment which meant so much to them Scherzer made sure to go over to the stands to celebrate his team’s walk-off win with them. Keep in mind here, Scherzer is a free agent who should be on everyone’s radar.
When we look at the modern game and the current status of the managerial role, it is increasingly about relationships with the players and the ability to communicate. It’s no longer about Gil Hodges playing a hunch or Davey Johnson trusting his eyes over the data. Increasingly, it’s about taking the game plan prepared by the front office and not just executing it, but getting the players to buy in on the plan.
Putting aside what happened in the NL Wild Card Game, this is exactly what Long does. He helped transform Cespedes from a wild swinger to a player better able to identify his pitch and become a monster at the plate. There was also Murphy who went from gap to gap hitter to a legitimate threat at the plate. Murphy showed the 2015 postseason wasn’t a fluke by any means when he became an All-Star and MVP candidate with the Washington Nationals. It should be noted Long followed Murphy to Washington, D.C.
In total, Long is what you want in a manager. He can process data and translate it to players in a way where they can understand and execute it. We also see he is a coach who can foster great relationships with this players. He is also loyal to his players, and they love him. Short of being able to steal away the Bob Melvins of the world, you’re not going to find a better managerial candidate than Long.
Alderson knew it in 2017, and he can do what he wanted to do back then and make Long the Mets manager. If that is the case, we can expect the maddening Mets offense to finally click and for this team to reach the World Series potential we know they have.
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.