This past week I appeared on the Simply Amazin’ podcast to discuss a number of issues facing the Mets right now.
During the podcast I mentioned Anthony Kay, Ali Sanchez, Vince Coleman, Mackey Sasser, T.J. Rivera, Noah Syndergaard, David Peterson, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, Ryley Gilliam, Steve Villines, Andres Gimenez, Juan Centeno, and others.
Please click the link and listen.
There is no escaping the fact Jason Vargas is not a Major League caliber staring pitcher anymore. Since the 2017 All Star Break, he has a 6.14 ERA, and opposing batters are hitting .286/.356/.511. This year, he is 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA, 1.933 WHIP, and a 5.4 BB/9 while averaging 3.1 innings per start.
The only time Vargas was able to go five innings was against the Marlins in pitcher friendly Marlins Park. It should be noted as a team the Marlins have a 69 wRC+ making them one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. Even with a start against the Marlins, opposing batters are hitting .313/.405/.563 off of Vargas.
Vargas is hurting the Mets chances of winning the games he starts, and he is hurting the team’s chances of winning subsequent games because his starts are taxing the bullpen. Fortunately for the Mets, there was a rare April solution.
Gio Gonzalez, who has pitched well in his career at Citi Field, was available. At this point in his career, Gonzalez is not much more than a five inning pitcher. However, when he is used properly, we have seen he can still be a solid piece of a starting rotation. Gonzalez being available was nothing short of a godsend.
However, the Mets didn’t see it as such. For some reason, the Mets remain resolute keeping Vargas in the rotation. It should be noted here Vargas’ former agent is current Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen. It is certainly fair to ask why that matters. We see why it matters with the Mets handling of Travis d’Arnaud.
On Saturday, d’Arnaud had just about the worst game we have ever seen from a Mets catcher. That game put him in the Mackey Sasser/Choo-Choo Coleman category. It was that painful to watch. Even when he did something right like finally getting a hit, he blew it by getting thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.
In 10 games, d’Arnaud was hitting just .087/.160/.087. Through it all, d’Arnaud’s main calling card has been his pitch framing. Not this year. So far, he has a -0.2 FRAA. When d’Arnaud can’t frame, and he can’t hit, you could understand the Mets wanting to designate him for assignment even if he was needlessly rushed back from injury, and he wasn’t given nearly sufficient time to establish himself.
Overall, the Mets decision to promote Tomas Nido and designate d’Arnaud was a sound decision. The Mets have gone into the season preaching they were going to carry their 25 best players, and they were going to do what it takes to win now.
It’s just odd to see how this philosophy applies to a backup catcher and not a fifth starter. It’s odd how this applies to a player who plays just once a week as opposed to a pitcher who is supposed to pitch every fifth day. It’s odd when you consider Vargas’ starts have much more of a negative and lasting impact on the pitching staff than d’Arnaud has.
When you look at everything, you realize d’Arnaud was a scapegoat for a team which has fallen to .500. More than that, you see a General Manager imposing different standards as to what is acceptable for his former clients than for players who have had different representation.
In the end, you can more than justify designating d’Arnaud for assignment. However, there is no way you can possibly justify how Vargas is getting preferential treatment.
For the second time this year, the Mets faced an NL Central team who could be a Wild Card contender, and the Mets lost 2/3. Certainly, in this series, the Mets roster moves and decisions didn’t help matters:
1. It was raining, Corey Oswalt was fully rested and called up for the game. Jacob deGrom was coming off the Injured List. Naturally, the Mets opted to have deGrom wait around for nearly three hours in the rain.
2. While deGrom has had his struggles this year, it should be noted they all coincide with rain delays.
3. It’s getting harder to defend Oswalt even if he’s rarely given situations conducive to proving his ability.
4. Noah Syndergaard has peripherals in line with his best years. That, when you have three consecutive five inning starts where you allow five plus runs, it’s hard to notice.
5. Syndergaard’s comments about the baseballs being like ice confirm everyone’s suspicions about a juiced ball. With the ball, Thor has said he’s losing confidence in his secondary offerings.
6. Certainly, a different ball could explain the Mets starters struggles. If these is indeed a new ball, we should still have confidence this very good staff figures it out eventually.
8. Seeing d’Arnaud out there was more evidence the Mets needlessly rushed him back.
9. Based on his struggles, you can certainly understand the Mets designating him for assignment, especially with Tomas Nido playing well in Syracuse.
10. Make no mistake, this was a clear double standard. In the end, d’Arnaud, a backup catcher, was held to a higher standard than Jason Vargas, the fifth starter.
11. Vargas can’t go five innings, and yet the Mets won’t so much as have him lose his rotation spot, so they can sign Gio Gonzalez, who showed on Sunday, he was a clear upgrade. Guess there are different rules for Brodie Van Wagenen’s former clients.
13. After starting the year hitting .424, McNeil is hitting .235 over his last nine games. Hopefully, teams aren’t figuring him out.
14. Pete Alonso rebounded nicely from an 0-for-11 stretch going 3-for-5 in Saturday with a homer.
15. One benefit of bunching the lefties a bit with Alonso in the middle is a manager being almost forced to have a LOOGY pitch to Alonso. We saw Alonso crush a homer off Alex Claudio as a result.
16. Steven Matz was once again very good, and for a pitcher whose mental makeup is always maligned, it’s interesting to see how he follows bad starts with a string of very good ones (when healthy).
17. With Mike Moustakas homering off Matz, I’m well beyond being done with the 2015 Royals.
18. With Robinson Cano being hit on the hand again, and really all the Mets batters being hit on the hand, maybe it’s time Chili Davis figures out a way to get it to stop. Either that or Mets pitchers find non-bush league ways to retaliate.
19. With Amed Rosario struggling offensively and defensively, it’s very interesting to see Jed Lowrie get a rehab start at SS. Who knows? Maybe if Todd Frazier continues playing well defensively and delivering in RBI spots, Rosario’s roster spot could become tenuous.
20. There are reasons to criticize the Mets bullpen, but they do know how to hold a lead. The Mets hand won every game they had a lead in the sixth. One reason why is Edwin Diaz being phenomenal. He’s a perfect 8-for-8 in save chances with a 0.84 ERA and a 16.9 K/9.
With reports Brandon Nimmo getting sick from cooking his own chicken dinner, it does inspire many to say, “Same old Mets!” Certainly, the Mets have had their fair share of bizarre injuries and illnesses over their 57 year history. There are plenty of stories, and the Mets bloggers share some of the more infamous in Mets history:
I love Noah Syndergaard, but the hand, foot and mouth disease is easily the standout injury in recent memory for me.
Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)
Valley Fever…and it’s not close. Single-handedly ended Ike Davis‘ career.
Metstradamus (Metstradamus Blog)
I’ll bring up Ryan Church here. Not that a concussion is bizarre, but putting him on an airplane to Denver and then Snoop Manuel surreptitiously chastising him for not being tough enough to handle it will always be the benchmark for bizarre in Flushing.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)
Gotta go with what happened to reliever Ken Sanders between innings one Sunday afternoon in 1975: “I was taking my warm up pitches and lost the return throw from John Stearns and it hit me directly in my right eye. I never touched it. It actually knocked me out. There was no action on the field at the time of the accident.”
Tim Ryder (MMO)
Sasser hit .297/.328/.416 from 1988 thru 1990. Once his head got the best of him, everything came crashing down. The conventional injuries didn’t help either.
Bre S. (That Mets Chick)
Weirdest Mets illness: Ike Davis, valley fever in 2012. Valley Fever is an infection that is released from the dirt in desert regions of the Southwest and is inhaled. It can be stirred up by construction and winds.
Fast forward to 2014 and Davis still complained about having Valley fever! Its mind boggling how that infection stayed with him throughout the years. “You have no energy, no nothing. It was definitely a weird one. It’s supposed to go away on its own, but when I had an X-ray last year, it showed I still had it. I’m hoping that’s over and done with.” – Ike Davis
James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)
It’s gotta be “Valley Fever,” for me…it’s got all the hallmarks of a Mets injury. It’s a disease that sounds fake, like it’s almost a parody, and also sounds like a cruel act of God.
Strangely enough, Ike’s other injury is high on the list too — the time the training staff had him wear a walking boot nonstop, and it turned out the boot was basically suffocating his ankle, and it turned into him missing the 2011 season and pretty much ended his career. That…that’s the Mets right there.
Jerry Blevins slipping over a curb and re-breaking his arm. Sure, you can understand his arm breaking when he was hit with a comebacker, but a professional athlete breaking the arm again slipping on a curb takes the cake.
What’s interesting here is we had no mention of Tom Glavine losing his front teeth in a cab ride. What’s interesting to note with him is that while he thought that to be heart breaking, he was not devastated after killing the 2007 Mets season. Speaking of cab rides, we should never forget Duaner Sanchez.
There are many, many more here to list. We all know them, especially those who have participated in these roundtables. They know much more than the injuries, which is yet another reason to visit their sites and read their quality work.
According to reports yesterday, Mets infielder T.J. Rivera is struggling in his return from Tommy John surgery. While people assume it is easier for position players to return from the surgery, Rivera seems to be dispelling that notion. In fact, it would appear he is struggling to return from his surgery much in the same way Zack Wheeler did. It should be noted while Wheeler had his surgery in early 2015, he was not what we believed he could be until the second half of last season. So far, Rivera is dispelling any real concerns:
T.J. Rivera downplays the discomfort he's been feeling in his surgically repaired right elbow. He described it more as another bump in the road: pic.twitter.com/mVyEwU22LB
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) February 28, 2019
When looking at his career, this is just the newest obstacle for him to overcome.
Rivera was a 22 year old undrafted free agent who had bounced around in college before landing at Troy University. Fortunately, at one of Rivera’s stops prior to Troy University, he played for former Met Mackey Sasser, who would recommend Rivera to a scout. As an undrafted player, he had an uphill climb ahead of him needing to prove himself at every turn. Rivera has done just that hitting over .300 with an OBP over .350 at nearly every minor league stop.
Really, Rivera stuck around because he hit. Yet somehow, despite his hitting at every stop, he was overlooked in the Rule 5 Draft multiple times. He had been in the minors for five-and-a-half years when the Mets were dropping like flies. Rather than give him a chance, the Mets would give playing time to players like Eric Campbell and Matt Reynolds. They’d even bring back Jose Reyes despite his domestic violence arrest and suspension. When it came time to call someone up, they’d call up Ty Kelly over him.
It would not be until the middle of August until Rivera would get called up, but he still wouldn’t get a chance. He’d be up and down a few times in August. Finally, with Walker being done for the season with a back injury and Wilmer Flores injuring his wrist on a collision at home plate on a very questionable send by Tim Teufel, Rivera would finally get his chance.
In 20 September games, Rivera hit .358/.378/.552. In those 20 games, the Mets would go 13-7. It’s important to consider the Mets claimed a Wild Card spot by just one game. If the team had not turned to him when they did, it’s possible the Mets miss the 2016 postseason. It’s also worth mentioning Rivera was one of the few Mets who got a hit off Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game. If someone had driven him in after his leadoff double in the fifth, we would be having a completely different conversation about him, that season, and each of the ensuing seasons.
Despite his being the hero of the 2017 season, the Mets would not so much as guarantee him a roster spot. They wouldn’t do that even with him playing well as the first baseman for a Puerto Rican team which reached the championship game of the World Baseball Classic. Instead, Rivera would spend his 2017 season up and down and the out with the season and potentially career altering UCL tear.
Seeing the depth the Mets have accumulated and the team likely adding at least Adeiny Hechavarria to the roster, 40 man roster spots are becoming tenuous. With him being unable to play, the odds are once again not in Rivera’s favor. Based upon past history, we should not count him out. In fact, for a team with postseason aspirations, he may ultimately prove to be an important player who can put the Mets over the top.
While my father first introduced me to baseball with those 1980s team with Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter, I have relatively few memories of those teams due to my young age. No, as luck would have it, my real fandom began just after those players departed the Mets. That left me with an era of Bobby Bonilla being the best player on a team that went from World Series champions to refusing to rebuild.
As a result, I have an attachment to a group of moments and Mets players that were part of a largely forgettable era in Mets history. I can spin tales of watching Mackey Sasser diving against the wall in right field. I can tell you about Pete Schourek‘s dazzling one hitter against the Montreal Expos. To me, Rico Brogna was a perennial All Star, and Todd Hundley was going to be one if they Mets would just stop playing Kelly Stinnett and Charlie O’Brien and his hockey mask over him.
Another important figure at that time was Anthony Young.
Here is what is lost in AY’s history. He was a pretty good pitcher. In fact, back in 1991, AY was regarded by Baseball America as the Mets top prospect. When AY made it to the the majors, he showed he was a major league caliber pitcher. He was never expected to be an ace, and there was some question whether he belonged in the rotation or in the bullpen, but overall, he belonged.
Taking a cursory look at his stats, he was largely forgettable. As a Mets pitcher, AY had a 3.82 ERA and a 1.367 WHIP. His ERA+ was 98 suggesting he was only slightly below average. However, we know that wasn’t the full story. It never is. Missing here is the fact that AY lost a record 27 decisions in a row.
The losing streak started with AY struggling. In three early May starts, he allowed five, four, and five earned runs. He escaped his next start without a loss despite allowing four runs over 5.1 innings. Fans started to get frustrated with him and boo. AY would be shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen.
The losing streak became a “thing” in June when he made four starts and one relief appearance taking a loss in all of the games. Now, he was at eight straight losses. When John Franco went down with an elbow injury, AY became the closer. When he saved a game against the Cubs in an extra-inning game, we all learned that recording a save did not interrupt a consecutive loss streak.
While in the bullpen, he blew five saves, and he would accumulate six more losses putting the streak at 14. Things didn’t improve to start the 1993 season. First in the bullpen and then the rotation, he lost game after game after game. There were rumors of players griping. At times, fans were frustrated as AY had become emblematic of the Mets of this era. While the talent was there, the team just wasn’t winning. It was getting hard to watch, and you wondered why the Mets kept throwing the same people out there expecting different results.
Somewhere during this stretch, AY moved from scapegoat to folk hero. Fans began to cheer for him almost willing him to break this streak. To a certain extent, AY deserved those cheers because he was not one to publicly complain about either his run support or the defense. He was not complaining about being shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen. He went out there and did his job.
Finally,on July 28th, an Eddie Murray walk-off double snapped AY’s 27 game losing streak putting his 1993 record at 1-13. Both AY and Shea Stadium was jubilant. The win put an end to an infamous streak that made a relatively pedestrian pitcher newsworthy.
Well, AY is back in the news again, and once again, it is for something beyond his control. AY was recently diagnosed an inoperable brain tumor that doctors, and in reality everybody, hopes is benign. At 51 years of age, AY, a man most known for his losing, cannot afford to take another loss. He’s too young. He’s a husband, father, grandfather, and a coach. At this moment, now more than ever, he needs a save or a win. At this stage, he’ll probably take whatever he can get.
At this point, Mets fans can only offer thoughts and prayers, to cheer him on like we all did when he was losing game after game. Now more than ever, AY needs you. I know I will be cheering for him just like I did him all those years ago.
Today was supposed to be the day I was able to put baseball aside for a little bit. Game 7 was supposed to be last night. However, I was reminded of the Mets blowing the World Series because:
— Taco Bell (@tacobell) November 5, 2015
The reason for the free AM crunch wraps? It’s because the Royals were able to steal a base during the World Series. The steal that got us free breakfast was Lorenzo Cain stealing second in the sixth inning of Game 1 of the World Series. He would score to bring the game to 3-2.
Overall, the Royals were 6/6 stealing bases off of Travis d’Arnaud in the World Series. This includes a whopping 4/4 in the deciding Game 5. It caused me to sarcastically text my Dad and brother during the game that when we say we wanted d’Arnaud to be like Mike Piazza this isn’t what we meant. Look, I know there are many elements to what causes stolen bases, but a catcher loses the benefit of the doubt when he can’t reach second base.
In any event, it’s hard to say the Mets lost the World Series because of d’Arnaud. There were so many different elements that it’s hard to point a finger at d’Arnaud. I also don’t think it’s a reason to move him out from behind the plate because he does everything else well.
He’s a terrific pitch framer, who makes sure his pitchers get that borderline strike call. As the stats suggest, his work behind the plate gets his pitcher not just the corner but a little off of it. Also, he’s a good hitter. His triple slash line this year was .268/.340/.485. To put that in perspective, another great Mets catcher, the late great Hall of Famer, Gary Carter, hit .262/.335/.439 for his career.
Is d’Arnaud as good as Piazza or Carter? No, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good catcher for the Mets. All he needs is a little health and to work on his throwing mechanics a bit. (Note: I’m not comparing him to Mackey Sasser. Not going to happen).
In any event, I had my AM crunch wrap courtesy of a stolen base in the World Series. A World Series the Mets should’ve won. Hopefully, I’ll have one next year because of a Juan Lagares‘ stolen base.