It doesn’t get said often enough. Michael Conforto is the Mets best player, and he is one of the best players in all of baseball. That is true this year, and it has been true for quite a while now. We saw evidence of that again last night when he delivered a go-ahead grand slam:
A swing of power. A swing of beauty. 😍 pic.twitter.com/Sn2frLilN7
— New York Mets (@Mets) May 29, 2019
What is all the more interesting about that grand slam, the first of his career, is that it came off a left-handed pitcher. Back in 2015 and 2016, we were told by Terry Collins and the rest of the organization this was something Conforto could not do. First, it was Michael Cuddyer. Then, it was Juan Lagares. It would reach the point of absurdity where we saw Matt Reynolds playing left field just to shield Conforto against left-handed pitching.
That has proven to be a complete farce. Since the 2o17 season, Conforto has a 112 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Sure, that pales in comparison to the 134 wRC+ he has against right-handed pitching, but he is well above league average against left-handed pitching. Really, the sheer notion he couldn’t hit left-handed pitching came from Collins and that one bad game.
The one bad game was an 0-for-5 he took against Madison Bumgarner. His season fell off after that. The narrative was facing a tough left-handed pitcher broke him. The truth was he had a wrist injury. It’s like how he struggled early last year while returning from a devastating shoulder injury. Point is, Conforto’s struggles have been injury related, not talent related.
So far this year, Conforto has a 151 wRC+. That’s 11th best in the NL, and it is the 17th best in all of baseball. This isn’t an outlier or a hot start. Back in 2017, when he was named an All Star, he had a 147 wRC+.
But he’s more than a hitter. He’s a good outfielder as well. Back in 2015, it took us a bit by surprise due to some outdated scouting reports. Due to his talent and athleticism, he proved to be a good left fielder. In fact, he was so good the Mets would try him in center. Now, after realizing all players work better with a set position, he’s a right fielder, a real good one too.
By DRS, he’s the second best defensive right fielder in all of baseball this year. By UZR, he is third best.
In total, Conforto is as complete a baseball player as there is in the game. It’s why he’s a top outfielder, and he’s a top player. Choose your metric – WAR, wRC+, DRS, etc. When you analyze them Conforto’s name is continuously near the top. He’s once again firmly established himself as the best player on the Mets, and he’s arguably the best player in the division, a division which includes Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuna, and more.
Last night, we were once again reminded of Conforto’s greatness when he hit that grand slam. It is something Mets fans should continue to acknowledge and appreciate all season long. Make no mistake. This is an All-Star caliber player, and he’s on the precipice of being an MVP level player. If the Mets go anywhere this year, it will be because of him.
It doesn’t matter who is the General Manager or the manager. The Mets always want to tell everyone else they are wrong, and they are smarter than you. There is plenty of history on this front during the Wilpon Era.
Steve Phillips told us Alex Rodriguez was a 24 and 1 player. So, instead of pursuing A-Rod, he signed Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Kevin Appier, and Steve Trachsel to try to improve the team. When that didn’t work, he made a series of questionable moves over the ensuing two years which somehow led to Roger Cedeno being a center fielder. Ultimately, Bobby Valentine was fired, and he was not too far behind.
There were plenty of decisions past that point. The most recent example was Terry Collins‘ insistence that Michael Conforto was a platoon bat because he was a young left-handed hitter the team had no time to develop because they were trying to win. Somehow this led to Matt Reynolds making a start in left field despite never having played the position in his life.
Now, we are in the era of Brodie Van Wagenen and Mickey Callaway, and things remain the same way.
With Dominic Smith jumping out of the gate hitting well, Pete Alonso showing no signs of being overwhelmed as a rookie, and the team’s questionable outfield depth, everyone said it was time for Smith to get reps in the outfield again. Everyone included Mets hitting coach Chili Davis. The Mets scoffed at the idea and instead insisted it was better for Smith to be a younger version of Julio Franco or Lenny Harris.
The Mets gave up Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn in a deal which helped bring them Edwin Diaz. There were big games early in the season where the team needed their closer to go more than four outs. That was all the more the case with Jeurys Familia‘s struggles. But no, we were told Diaz is just a three out pitcher who was to be saved for save chances only.
To begin the season, Jacob deGrom had no consistency with the catchers behind the plate. That became more of an issue with Wilson Ramos not hitting or framing. Given how deGrom has reached Greg Maddux like status with this team, the strong suggestion was to make Tomas Nido his personal catcher as deGrom was the one pitcher who could easily overcome his lack of offense, especially with Nido’s pitch framing. Instead, the Mets said deGrom was not pitching well enough to warrant a personal catcher.
J.D. Davis was atrocious at third base. In fact, by DRS, he was the worst third baseman in the Majors. With him clearly not suited to the position, everyone said to the Mets they should at least try Davis in left field. It wasn’t until the Mets literally had no other choice that it would happen.
And that’s where we are now. The Mets are under .500 and in third place. Callaway’s job has seemingly become tenuous. Conforto and Brandon Nimmo are on the IL while Jeff McNeil is dealing with an abdominal issue. Justin Wilson is on the IL, and Familia just had another poor performance. Suddenly, the Mets, who knew better than everyone, suddenly don’t anymore.
Now, Smith will get reps in left field, and Davis can start playing out there more. Diaz can pitch more than three outs when the situation merits. Nido will now be deGrom’s personal catcher. Of course, the Mets waited a long time to finally admit they actually don’t know better than everyone. The question now is whether they waited too long.
Fortuantely, the Mets finally listened to everyone. Now, the goal is to finally get through to them that everyone else is indeed smarter than they are and that the Yankees financial model is sustainable. In fact, it could be sustainable for the Mets as well if they were willing to try.
With Travis d’Arnaud struggling in his limited chances since returning from Tommy John surgery, he was designated for assignment. Instead of seeking to outright him to Syracuse, the Mets opted to release d’Arnaud. Now, d’Arnaud is reunited with Bob Geren in Los Angeles. It’s easy to forget now, but with Geren being the Mets catching coach, he got the very best out of d’Arnaud.
Back in 2012, the Mets would trade reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package which included d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard. At that point, d’Arnaud was the best known prospect, and he was certainly a coveted one having previously been traded the Phillies to the Blue Jays so the team could obtain Roy Halladay.
The book on d’Arnaud was he was going to be a good hitting catcher. Being a good hitter or even a catcher was something which was next to impossible to ascertain when d’Arnaud was first called up to the majors in 2013. He didn’t hit at all, and he struggled mightily behind the plate. After that year, d’Arnaud would put his work in and become a much better player.
While the bat never quite materialized the way we anticipated, he did became very good behind the plate. We saw d’Arnaud become one of the best pitch framers in the game. It was one of the reasons why he was in the top 10 in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014, and it was one of the reasons why the Mets would take off in 2015.
Like he would most of his career, d’Arnaud would have injury issues in 2015, but he would be an impactful player when he was on the field. His elite pitch framing helped a staff featuring Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Syndergaard not only win the division, but also go all the way to the World Series. It gets overlooked, but d’Arnaud didn’t contribute with his strong play behind the plate, he also contributed as a hitter.
In the 2015 postseaon, d’Arnaud would hit three homers. That included one in Game 1 of the NLCS which would actually hit the Home Run Apple, which led the Mets to put a temporary band-aid on it prior to Game 2.
Of course, the homers overlook his key moments in the NLDS. In a pivotal Game 3, it was d’Arnaud who hit the RBI single which tied the game in the second, and it was d’Arnaud who hit the three run homer in the third which helped the Mets begin to pull away. We also forget with the heroics of deGrom, Jeurys Familia, and Daniel Murphy in Game 5, it was d’Arnaud who had the sacrifice fly which had tied the game setting the stage for the Mets to eventually take the lead and head to the NLCS.
After the 2015 season, d’Arnaud would deal with injuries including the torn UCL which practically cost him the entire 2018 season. Still, when he played, he was a terrific pitch framer, who was an asset to his pitching staff. He would still have the occasional highlight like his 16th inning homer against the Marlins.
One thing which really stuck out with d’Arnaud was how he was a team first player. In his tenure with the Mets, he wore three different numbers partially because he changed from number 7 to accomodate Jose Reyes when he returned to the organization. There was also the August 16, 2017 game which will live in infamy.
With both Wilmer Flores and Reyes unable to play due to injuries, and with Gavin Cecchini and Matt Reynolds unable to arrive from Las Vegas in time for the game, it meant someone was going to have to play out of position. That player would be d’Arnaud, who donned David Wright‘s mitt while switching back and forth between second and third with Asdrubal Cabrera. The lineup card was a mess with it reading d’Arnaud played “3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B.”
In the game, d’Arnaud would hit a game tying sacrifice fly in the sixth. Despite all of Terry Collins‘ machinations, the ball would finally find d’Arnaud when Todd Frazier popped it up to him in the ninth. With d’Arnaud securing it, he now stands as the Mets all-time leader in fielding percentage among Mets second baseman.
When it comes to d’Arnaud, aside from that magical 2015 season, he was never quite the player everyone hoped he would be. He battled injuries during his Mets tenure, and he was never the hitter everyone expected even if he was above average at the position. Mostly, he was very good behind the plate having been one of the best pitch framers in the game.
His Mets tenure ended with a whimper. While fans villified him for what he wasn’t instead of celebrating him for what he was, d’Arnaud opted for the high road thanking the fans and the organization for everything and expressing his gratitude to all.
While things ended poorly here, he is now playing for his hometown team. It is a team who has his former catching coach, who get everything out of d’Arnaud’s talent. He’s at the place where former Met Justin Turner‘s career took off. He’s playing for a very good team, a smart organization, and he will be put in a good position to succeed.
In his tenure, d’Arnaud was a good Met, and the 2015 run doesn’t happen without him. Despite everything, he never complained, and he was willing to do everything asked of him. Every Mets fan should wish him the best of luck. I know I will.
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.
Back in 2011, Jose Reyes would lay down a bunt single to preserve his batting title. The first in Mets history. After reaching safely, Reyes would be lifted from the game much to the consternation of Mets fans. Much of the consternation eminated from the fact it looked like this was going to be the last time fans were going to get to see Reyes in a Mets jersey, and those fans wanted to see Reyes play just one last time and say good-bye.
Sunday, Reyes was in the lineup once again leadoff in what many believed to be his final game as a Met. Reyes would take one at-bat, ground out, and he would walk off the field for a final time. While the circumstances may seem to mirror what transpired seven years prior, the two situations could not have been more different.
During Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was the most electrifying player in the Majors. He could turn anything into extra bases, and extra base hits were nanoseconds away from becoming triples. When he was on the basepaths, he was a constant stolen base threat, and his dancing at third base helped entice a few balks leading to a run. Reyes was so dynamic we came up with the term “Reyes Run” for him getting on, getting over, and getting in.
Reyes was more than a dynamic offensive force. He was a shortstop with a bullet arm and a fan favorite. His apparent joy on the field was infectious to the fan base, and it did seem to get the team going. (Sometimes, like 2007, it would also motivate the opponents). Mets fans would shower him with the “Jose!” chant (a chant which began Saturday, March 29, 2003). We loved him, and he seemingly loved us too.
In 2011, you could argue it was he and not David Wright whom the Mets should keep. After all, Reyes was the younger player, and Citi Field was built more to Reyes’ than Wright’s strengths. Whatever the case, the Mets opted not to re-sign him, devastating a fan base, and having the organization a nd fans looking for a new fan favorite. Arguably, no one could fill that void like the way Reyes once did.
That was the Reyes who left New York after the 2011 season. That Reyes was barely recognizable after leaving.
After one year in Miami, he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of that organization’s efforts to return to the postseason. In 2015, in Reyes’ third year as a Blue Jay, it seemed the organization’s plans were coming to fruition. They were competing for a postseason spot with hopes for the division. It was time for a bold move, their GM Alex Anthopoulos made that bold move. In a six player trade, Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays for LaTroy Hawkins and Troy Tulowitzki.
In a year, Reyes and the Mets were supposed to return to the postseason, Reyes instead found himself playing for the Colorado Rockies. He didn’t want to be there, and the team didn’t want him. This also meant instead of playing in the postseason, Reyes would be making vacation plans to go to Hawaii.
On October 31, 2015, Michael Conforto hit two homers. Instead of going to Jeurys Familia for the six out save, Terry Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who walked two of the three batters he faced. When Familia finally did come in, Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. The Mets 3-2 lead would quickly become a 5-3 deficit.
While this was happening, Jose Reyes would throw his wife into a glass door in Hawaii. His wife would need to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries, and Reyes would be arrested. Reyes faced not just prison time but also deportation. Instead, because his wife did not cooperate with prosecutors, the changes would be dropped.
While Reyes was able to avoid legal troubles, he could not escape MLB punishment. With a new Domestic Violence policy, Reyes would be suspended 51 games, which stands as the longest Domestic Violence suspension to date. With the Rockies already wanting to transition to Trevor Story, they were more than happy to release Reyes.
Fortunately for Reyes, the Mets needed a third baseman. Wright was injured again, and he was going to miss the rest of the season. Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds, Wilmer Flores, and Kelly Johnson just weren’t to cut it. Partially due to desperation and partially due to nostalgia, the Mets threw Reyes the rope none of the other 28 teams were likely willing to give him.
A fan base was divided. While the “Jose!” chants returned, they did not have the same enthusiasm. Some of the people most willing to lead the cheer would sit on their hands or boo. Reyes beat his wife, and the Mets signing him was sending the wrong message.
Still, Reyes stayed, and he played reasonably well. He would have some highlights including the September 22nd game where both he and Asdrubal Cabrera homered which helped turn a 6-4 loss into a dramatic 9-8 11 inning victory which helped propel the Mets into the top Wild Card. Much like in his last postseason game with the Mets, Reyes went hitless as his team was eliminated at home.
In the subsequent two years, he was about the worst players in baseball. Despite all of Collins’ efforts to get him going, Reyes floundered, and there would be reports he was not happy playing third base. At the end of the 2017 season, he helped reinvent himself as a mentor to Amed Rosario. Between that and his hitting in September, the Mets brought him back.
He was dreadful this year hitting .189/.260/.320. He’d post a -0.8 WAR. Worse yet, he would complain about his playing time. He believed as a utility player he should have received more playing time, and really, without that playing time, the Mets were not giving him a chance to succeed. While there were some who were able to compartmentalize the off the field issues, when he was bad on the field, more and more Mets fans were disenchanted with him.
However, despite the ever growing calls to release him and make way for more talented prospects like Jeff McNeil, the Mets stubbornly held onto him. They treated him like one of the Mets greats, which he was in the first part of his career. Against all odds, Reyes would last the full season with the Mets. It allowed him to play alongside Wright in the Captain’s final game.
It also meant Reyes would get to leadoff in what is likely his final career game. Between innings, the Mets showed a video tribute. Reyes would emerge from the dugout to tip his cap to a standing ovation.
The crowd was much smaller than the sold out crowd who was there to see Wright’s final game. The standing ovation Reyes received did not remotely compare to the one Wright received. If you went back a decade, that would seem implausible as both were beloved players with Reyes being the one who probably generated more enthusiasm from the fans.
Personally, I loved Reyes. The first player jersey I ever purchased was Mike Piazza, the second Wright, and the third Reyes. Overall, I had more Reyes shirseys than any other player including a last season at Shea and first season at Citi one. That Reyes was the most exciting player who ever played for the Mets. When he went to Colorado, I still believed he had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.
After he left, I was left livid with the organization. In no way should Wright and Reyes have ever been split up. Like great Mets duos of the past, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it seemed like their destiny was to win a World Series together. Between that, Flores’ struggles at short and Ruben Tejada not being a particularly good baseball player, I desperately wanted the Mets to make a trade with the Rockies to bring back Reyes for that 2015 run.
To this day, part of me wonders what would have happened if Reyes did return to the Mets in 2015. Do they win that World Series, or do they still fall short? Would Reyes and his contract stood in the way of Yoenis Cespedes returning? Mostly, I wonder about that night.
While statistics prove differently, to this day, I hope it was an isolated incident, which could have been avoided by Reyes being in New York instead of Hawaii. In the converse, maybe this was a pattern of behavior which grew increasingly violent, and perhaps, things could have been hidden for longer if he was never in Hawaii. There is no way of knowing anything. What we do know is that instead of being in New York, Reyes was in Hawaii where he forever changed his legacy by committing a vile act.
Because of all of this, I was initially irritated Reyes was sharing Wright’s spotlight, but I made peace with it because it was what Wright wanted.
At the sake of sounding hypocritical, I must admit seeing Reyes doubling and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt was exciting. Wright coming up to the plate in an RBI situation was exciting. Wright being able to drive Reyes home just one last time made the moment all the more special.
In all honesty, I was surprised nostalgia got the better of me in the moment.
Perhaps it is because I truly miss the Reyes of 2003 – 2011. I just miss how fun it was to watch him play.
That fun completely disappeared when he returned. He was no longer a young up and coming superstar. He was a violent wife beater. Some people may be able to compartmentalize it, but I wasn’t. Certainly not for a player I once held in the highest of regards.
Now that is career is over, I honestly do wish Reyes well. I want him and his family to be able to move on from the domestic violence to have a happy and safe home life. If that happens, then no matter how much I was against it, Reyes returning to the Mets was worth it. I will be happy if Reyes returning to a place he was loved and cared for led him to not only seek help but to end what might have been a pattern of abuse. Hopefully, he is a better husband and father for the experience.
In the end, congratulations to Reyes on a great career. You are the greatest shortstop in Mets history. The memories of you and Wright playing together were some of the best I’ve had as a fan. Rooting for you was never the same, and it will never be the same again. Still, each and every Mets fan, including myself, wish you and your family well.
God bless the Reyes family.
The New York Mets organization has been quite reticent to retire their best player’s jersey numbers. From a player perspective, hat is an honor which has been bestowed upon just Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza, two players who just so happen to be Hall of Famers who have worn a Mets cap on their Hall of Fame plaque.
With respect to Piazza, once he departed via free agency, the team did not reissue his No. 31. Instead, like what we now see with Gary Carter‘s No. 8 and Keith Hernandez‘s No. 17, the number was taken out of circulation. Unlike Carter and Hernandez, the Mets retired Piazza’s number.
What is interesting is Carlos Beltran is seen by most as a sure fire Hall of Famer, and it is eminently possible he enters the Hall wearing a Mets cap. Given precedent, you would think the number would be reserved for future retirement. Instead, it has been reissued to Val Pascucci, Fred Lewis, Travis d’Arnaud, Bob Geren, Matt Reynolds, and finally Luis Guillorme.
In this latest edition of the Mets Blogger Roundtable, we ask the question about whether the Mets should have treated Beltran’s number like the Mets greats before him, or whether there is no issue with 15 being given to other players:
No uniform number discussion is important to me until 8 goes on the wall.
I could go either way about retiring Beltran’s number but have to agree with Metstradamus’ excellent point. Let’s wait for 8.
Michael Baron (MLB)
I’m wishy washy on this subject regarding Beltran. He is the best center fielder they ever had, and easily among the top 10 players they’ve ever had. But he doesn’t identify with the base that way – people connect Beltran with that Adam Wainwright curveball in 2006. So if the Mets were to unofficially retire Beltran’s number by no longer issuing it, that could generate a negative discussion which, to be honest is avoidable and unnecessary. The team knows that and is obviously very sensitive to negative press and discussions, so it might actually be best to remain at a status quo on this. But ask me tomorrow and I might feel a bit different.
As much as I loved watching Beltran with the Mets and the countless times I’ve defended him for looking at strike one, two, and three in Game 7 (three of the nastiest pitches I’ve ever seen to this day), I personally do not retire his 15 or even take it out of circulation. When he gets into Cooperstown, which he will, if they stick a Mets hat on his head, I think at that point they have to retire it. Until then, if it were up to me, I say no.. He was successful everywhere else he went. That’s hallowed ground for this organization. Until David Wright‘s #5 gets a spot up there, no one else from that era should.
Dilip Srindhar (MMO & MMN)
Yes. Carlos Beltran is very deserving of this honor. Beltran from 2005-2011 hit .282/.369/.508 with a 130 OPS+. To put this into perspective, Mike Piazza hit .289/.367/.534 with a 133 OPS+ from 1999-2005. Also add on that Beltran was an elite defensive CF during most of his Mets career. Beltran seems quite likely to enter the Hall-of-Fame as a Met. Beltran is an all-time Met and deserves the respect that the others before him have received. The Mets retire very few numbers and there is no reason Carlos Beltran shouldn’t be next along with David Wright. There has been some tension with the Mets and their fans against Carlos Beltran the few years. But fans have started to realize how great and impactful of a player he was and hopefully the Mets do too.
The biggest issue with the Mets not taking out of circulation is like many things with the Wilpon family, it has the stench of being personal. It’s why we saw the team have a patch for Rusty Staub but not former owner Nelson Doubleday, a man who owned the team during the franchise’s greatest run.
The decision reeks of pettiness related to Beltran striking out in the 2006 NLCS and for his going against team advice to have career saving knee surgery.
Honestly, I’m not sure the team ever considered taking his number out of circulation, and if the topic was raised, it was quickly dismissed.
When Beltran does get inducted ino the Hall of Fame, I seriously doubt we see the Mets replicate the Yankees efforts to heal old wounds like we saw when Dave Winfield was inducted, and in the event Beltran does opt to wear a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, part of me doubts the Mets take the next step in deciding to retire his number.
One thing I don’t doubt is the terrific writing from the people who participate in this Roundtable. I encourage you to take the time to read what they’ve written about Beltran, Carter, and a host of all other Mets topics.
Look, it was bound to happen. The revamped and praised bullpen was finally going to have a meltdown. Mickey Callaway was going to have a game leaving fans scratching their heads a bit leading up to him getting criticized. The fact it came against the Nationals was tough. The fact it was a blown 6-1 lead was tougher. The combination of the two left a really sour taste in your mouth despite the Mets 12-3 start.
In that eighth inning, the Mets would use five pitchers who allowed six runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit batter. Two of those walks were bases loaded walks. With the exception of Jacob deGrom, each and every pitcher who appeared that inning has some explaining to do.
Naturally, when you have a complete bullpen meltdown like that, much like we saw cause the 2008 Mets collapse, there are going to be some questions about how Callaway handled the inning. Let’s take a look.
Questionable Decision No. 1 – Lifting deGrom
At the time Callaway lifted deGrom, the Mets had a 6-1 lead in the top of the eighth. A Michael Taylor strikeout was book-ended by a pair of singles by Moises Sierra and Trea Turner. At that point, deGrom had thrown 103 pitches, and he was about to go to the Nationals lineup a fourth time.
Before moving on, some key stats should be considered. In his career, batters hit .277/.300/.447 when facing deGrom for a fourth time. However, that stat should be mitigated by the batter Howie Kendrick.
For his career, Kendrick is hitting .087 with no walks or extra base hits against deGrom. Last night, Kendrick was 0-3 with three strikeouts against deGrom.
By removing deGrom, Callaway opened himself up to second guessing. That second guessing grew louder when Seth Lugo, who had been excellent this year, walked Kendrick on four straight pitches.
Question Decision No. 2 – Using Lugo for One Batter
As noted above, with Harper on deck and Blevins warming, whoever you brought into the game to face Kendrick was only going to be in for one batter, so why Lugo?
There is a time to experiment with your bullpen guys to give them a different taste of different moments, but a game against the Nationals just isn’t that moment. Not when there was something brewing that caused you to go out there and bring in a reliever to nip a potential rally in the bud.
Since you are bringing Blevins into the game to face Harper anyway, you could have used him to pitch to Kendrick. After all, Kendrick is just 1-8 off Blevins. Even if Kendrick hits an unlikely homer, you are still up 6-4 at that point, and you have Blevins to face Harper.
Instead, Lugo was put in an unfamiliar situation, and he struggled. That doesn’t excuse Lugo’s performance in the least. He should have gone out there and recorded the out, or at least forced Kendrick to put the ball in play. Really, this at-bat was a seminal moment as this is where the rally really began to build momentum and begin to spiral out of control.
Questionable Decision No. 3 – Using Ramos
Iseemed odd Callaway would go to AJ Ramos over getting Jeurys Familia into the game at that spot. Heading into this season, Callaway spoke about getting his best relievers into the biggest spots of the game regardless of whether there was a save situation or not. That’s not what happened.
Instead of using Familia to nip the rally in the bud and let Ramos start a clean ninth, Callaway took a page out of Terry Collins book and saved his closer. He also used Ramos, who has allowed 24.5% of inherited runners to score in his career. Now, to be fair, Callaway may have wanted to shy away from Familia who has had a fairly high workload this season. Still, you have to wonder why Ramos there.
Out of anyone in the Mets bullpen, Ramos has the highest walk rate with a scary 4.9 BB/9 for his career. That included his walking six batters in the 6.1 innings he had pitched entering last night’s game. Bringing Ramos into this game into a powder keg of a situation could potentially light a fuse and blow the game.
It started out well with Ramos over powering Ryan Zimmerman to get the second out, and the Nationals sent up Matt Reynolds to the plate. Right here was why the Mets should have never lost this game. It’s also why using a walk prone Ramos is dangerous.
Reynolds, who is a career .224/.294/.393 hitter with an 8.1% walk rate, walked on four straight pitches to make it 6-4.
Questionable Decision No. 4 – Double Switching Flores into the Game
When Callaway brought Familia into the game, he obviously had the intention of using him for the four out save. With the pitcher’s spot due up second in the bottom of the inning, Callaway understandably double switched him into the game.
What is interesting is Juan Lagares had made the last out of the bottom of the seventh. By the book, you swap him out. Being smarter than that, Callaway didn’t do that instead opting to keep his best fielder in the game in a crucial spot. Instead, he went back and pulled Adrian Gonzalez.
Now, Gonzalez isn’t the four Gold Glove Gonzalez anymore. In 92.1 innings this season, he has a -1 DRS and 0.1 UZR. It’s a small sample size, but it is in line with what he’s been the past few seasons. His dimished skill and range were prevalent when Harper had hit an RBI single earlier that inning between him and Asdrubal Cabrera. That was more on Cabrera’s range, but it did speak to the limited range on the right side of the Mets infield.
Now, Flores arguably has more range than Gonzalez with a 0.2 UZR at first this year and a 2.3 UZR over the past three seasons. However, he’s not yet good enough to consider using him for defense late in games at any position. In fact, he also has a -1 DRS at first this year but in just 45.2 innings. Flores’ poor defense and relative inexperience MIGHT have been at play when Wilmer Difo hit a single by him. Whether Gonzalez gets to that or not, we’ll never know.
Another important point here is with Flores being double switched into the game, you do not get to deploy him against a left-handed pitcher. Instead, you have to use him against a right-handed one. Flores has improved against right-handed pitching, but not to the point where he’s your first option over Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce.
As an aside, what would have been so wrong if Familia batted? If he immediately gets out of the inning, you have a two run lead. Let him go up there and take his strikeout, and you have your optimal defense for the eighth and ninth innings. Instead, you weakened your infield defense with a power sinker pitcher, and you didn’t try to get a platoon advantage with Flores coming off the bench.
Questionable Decision No. 5 – No Gsellman At All
Arguably, Robert Gsellman has either been the Mets best or second best reliever this season. In a pressure filled spot, you would think you would’ve found a spot for him, especially at a time when you were looking to get a ground ball double play to get out of the inning. Instead, Callaway decided to go with Ramos and an obviously fatigued Familia.
When you have a complete meltdown like the Mets had, there is little a manager can do but pray. Really, Callaway is getting second guessed because the Mets lost a game where they had a five run lead with one out in the eighth inning. You should never lose those games.
Lugo can’t walk Kendrick on four pitches. Blevins has to get Harper out in that situation. Ramos can’t walk and hit batters. Familia needs to dig just a little deeper and not hit a batter or walk in the go-ahead run.
Also, someone needed to make a play. Two balls where hit between the first and second baseman. Cabrera couldn’t make a play on either. Certainly, you could argue an infielder with even average range gets to the Harper single. Cabrera would then exacerbate his inability to make a play in the field by getting bizarrely aggressive on the base paths getting thrown out at third with one out in the ninth inning. That was inexcusable.
Really, this game was your typical Callaway game. When it comes to his bullpen, he’s going to be a little more aggressive than most in what is typically his attempt to put his players in the best position to succeed. In his first 15 games, it seems he’d rather put players in a position to succeed than leave them out there and let them make a play.
Until last night, that made Callaway look like a genius. Last night? Well, it made him look like a meddling over-manager. Ultimately, that’s the way it goes with not just managing, but managing in New York.
Whatever the case, after that brutal loss, we are really going to find out something about both Callaway and this Mets team. Do they get off the mat and show the Nationals they’re the better team? Do they come out shell-shocked and lose this game?
Right now, we don’t know, but we are soon going to find out just how special both this team and this manager is and can be.
Benny “The Jet” busted the guts out of a baseball…
Roy Hobbs had light-tower power…
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 16, 2018
Harper was sawed off, and he still hit a no doubt home run. Because of who the Mets are this season, they would immediately respond.
In the bottom of the first, Michael Conforto hit an opposite field double off of Jeremy Hellickson that Matt Adams just could not corral. After that, Todd Frazier, who is suddenly the hottest bat in the Mets lineup followed with a two out RBI single tying the game at one.
In the third, it was Frazier again. After an Asdrubal Cabrera single and Conforto walk, Frazier ripped a go-ahead RBI double giving the Mets a 2-1 lead. It could have been more but the Nationals nailed Conforto at home.
Juan Lagares would create the first rally after drawing a walk off of Matt Grace. During Jose Lobaton‘s at-bat, he would steal both second and third base. That led to Mickey Callaway surprising everyone by calling a squeeze:
Benny “The Jet” busted the guts out of a baseball…
Roy Hobbs had light-tower power…
Bryce Harper hit a 406-ft BROKEN BAT home run. pic.twitter.com/v1ReLAklGM
Washington Nationals (@Nationals) April 16, 2018
With the ball scooting away, this allowed Lobaton, who had reached earlier by walk, to get to third. This put him in perfect position to score on an Amed Rosario fielder’s choice giving the Mets a 4-1 lead.
The Mets would quickly make that a 6-1 lead in the seventh. Brandon Nimmo began the inning with a triple off the outstretched glove of Michael Taylor, and he’d score when Cabrera hit a two run homer off A.J. Cole.
At 6-1, the Mets looked to be in great shape. deGrom was pitching like the ace he is being the first Mets starter to pitch into the eighth inning. His final line would be 7.1 innings, six hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and 12 strikeouts.
At the time the Mets added four tack on runs, it didn’t look like deGrom needed them. While he might not have a suddenly imploding Mets bullpen would actually need more than a five run cushion.
After allowing a pair of singles, deGrom was done with one out in the eighth. Seth Lugo relieved him and walked Howie Kendrick to load the bases. This led Callaway to call on Jerry Blevins, who allowed Harper to hit a two RBI single to bring the Nationals to within 6-3.
All three runs were charged to deGrom, but the last two were allowed to score by the Mets bullpen.
With Lugo and Blevins not getting the job done, Callaway summoned AJ Ramos with two on and one out in what was now a ballgame.
Ramos would strike out Ryan Zimmerman before allowing a single to Pedro Severino to load the bases. That put the game in the hands of former Mets infielder Matt Reynolds, who pinch hit for Cole. After a four pitch walk. the Nationals were within 6-4 and still with the bases loaded with two outs. At this point, Callaway had little choice but to go to Jeurys Familia.
Familia would choose a bad time to blow his first save of the year as he allowed Wilmer Difo to tie the score with a two RBI single. It got worse with him hitting Moises Sierra, a player who has not played in the majors since 2014, before issuing a bases loaded walk, the Mets second of the inning, to Taylor to give the Nationals a 7-6 lead.
In the ugliest inning of the year, the Mets bullpen would allow six runs (two inherited) off three hits, three walks, and a hit by pitch. That really is embarrassingly bad and reminiscent of last year’s terrible Mets team.
Kendrick would homer off Hansel Robles in the ninth to ensure the entire Mets bullpen would pitch poorly on the evening.
Just to make sure this loss would sting all the more, Cabreara would hit a one out double off Ryan Madson, he would try to get to third on a pitch that got away from the catcher. The play would be reviewed, Cabrera would appear safe, but the out call was upheld. In the end, it doesn’t matter, Cabrera made a real bone headed decision.
The Mets came into this series with a chance to maybe bury the 2018 Nationals in April. Instead, they may have breathed new life into a team which desperately needed a shot in the arm with this 8-6 loss. This is really the Mets first taste of adversity this year. Let’s see how they respond.
Game Notes: Yoenis Cespedes did not start the game for the first time this year. He pinch hit in the eighth and flew out. Jay Bruce didn’t start again today with his plantar fascittis flaring up again.
In the Mets first game against the Nationals, the Mets let the Nationals and all of baseball know that at their best, this Mets team is as good as any in all of baseball. Now, that’s easy when you have Jacob deGrom on the mound, Michael Conforto returning to the lineup, and Yoenis Cespedes hitting homers. The next question and perhaps the real question is what happens when these factors weren’t present.
Brian Goodwin would draw a two out walk, and he’d quickly steal second base on the duo of Matz and Travis d’Arnaud. On a 3-2 with a chance to get out of the inning, Pedro Severino singled up the middle, and the speedy Goodwin dared challenge Lagares’ arm:
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 7, 2018
That’s the Gold Glove Lagares who re-emerged last year. Whether or not his new swing and approach are for rule almost seems inconsequential when he plays center this way.
Another note here is in this game, you got to see all that d’Arnaud is as a catcher. When his pitchers aren’t even bothering to hold on base runners, much like Matz didn’t in this game, he’s not going to have a real shot to throw out anyone trying to steal a base. The Nationals know that better than anyone, and they stole five bases in five attempts off of him.
However, he offsets that deficiency in other ways. As we see in the Lagares play, he’s exceptional in fielding a throw, blocking the plate, and getting the tag down. Really, he’s the best catcher in baseball on the front. He’s also a very good pitch framer. That came into play on a day when Mets pitchers would record 10 strikeouts while walking just three.
That pitch framing led not to not just a third inning strikeout of Anthony Rendon, it also led to his ejection on what was a horrible overreaction by Home Plate Umpire Marty Foster:
Anthony Rendon got ejected for this? pic.twitter.com/2moGgjPOWK
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) April 7, 2018
That ejection was the Mets gain because Rendon is a great player who kills the Mets.
Even with Matz pitching well, the Mets still could not get ahead of Gio Gonzalez. That’s not unusual because he came into this game 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA against the Mets in his career. That left the Mets with little margin for error. That margin of error went away on two plays centered around Todd Frazier.
The first play was in the fourth inning. Jay Bruce hit a two out double to right. The much maligned Glenn Sherlock could have sent Frazier to have him challenge Bryce Harper‘s arm. It would make sense with two outs and Matz due up next. Instead, Sherlock stopped Frazier, and Matz struck out.
This decision was magnified in the fifth when Frazier threw a ball away on a Michael Taylor grounder. After a Goodwin sacrifice bunt, Severino plated him with an RBI single giving the Nationals a 1-0 lead.
What made the game interesting and the start of this season interesting was how the Mets immediately responded. In the sixth, Frazier atoned for his error by hitting an opposite field one out double that nearly went out. He’d then score on a d’Arnaud RBI single (the other aspect of his being a complete catcher) tying the game at 1-1. The Mets would have a chance to get the lead, but Jose Reyes could not deliver in a pinch hitting situation.
On came Hansel Robles.
To start the 2018 season, he has been a bit of a revelation. He went from send down to Triple-A to start the year to getting a big sixth inning opportunity against Harper. Mets fans expected him to melt down and point to the sky. Well, in his defense, it was a a really good pitch:
Great freeze frame on SNY of this Bryce Harper home run. Took a fastball that may have been off the outside edge and slammed it 107.7 mph + 405 ft the other way. pic.twitter.com/X577w2SJ3T
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 7, 2018
All this proved was Harper is a great player. What Robles proved from there was he could settle in, limit the damage, and give the Mets a chance. The Mets took that chance with some exceptional base running in the seventh.
Amed Rosario led off the inning with a single up the middle, and he’d fly around the bases on the ensuing Asdrubal Cabrera RBI double getting just ahead of the Severino tag. Not to be outdone, Cabrera would go from second to third on a Cespedes grounder to short. Knowing Ryan Zimmerman can’t throw, the Cabrera, who can’t really run, read the situation perfectly and took the extra base.
After the pinch hitting Conforto was intentionally walked, Cabrera scored on a Frazier RBI groundout. The Mets finally had the lead at 3-2, and it was time to see if this so far improved Mes bullpen could hold the lead.
Rhame proved up to the task by getting former Met Matt Reynolds to groundout. What was surprising was where Rhame succeeded, Jerry Blevins didn’t as he issued a one out walk to Harper. This set the stage for Jeurys Familia.
In what was his biggest moment since he faced Conor Gillaspie in the 2016 Wild Card Game, Familia was in a position to get a big save. With him needing to get five outs, he was going to be tested. That should say tested in theory. The Nationals were no match for him, and as a result, the Mets came away with a 3-2 victory.
It’s April and the season is barely a week old. However, this is a different Mets team. They’re getting the most out of every ounce of their ability. They’re playing smart baseball. They’re fighting. They’re special. They’re showing that to the Nationals, and they may soon show it to the rest of baseball.
Game Notes: Mets pitching has recorded 10 or more strikeouts in six of the seven games they have played. The one time they did not record 10 strikeouts was in their sole loss of the season.
Since the Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for Zack Wheeler much has changed for both the Mets and Beltran. With respect to the Mets, they kicked off a rebuilding effort that year which culminated in a 2015 pennant. As for Beltran, he would play with the Cardinals, Yankees, Rangers, and Astros winning a World Series and solidifying his spot as a future Hall of Famer.
The latter part is important because with the Hall of Fame rules, Beltran really has three options as to which cap he will don on his Hall of Fame plaque – Royals, Mets, or blank.
The decision should prove to be a difficult one for Beltran for a few reasons. First and foremost, Beltran grew up in the Royals organization. He was drafted as a 20 year old out of Puerto Rico, found himself making his Major League debut with the team the following season, and he would win the 1999 Rookie of the Year Award. In total, he spent eight years with the Royals organization, which is more time than he spent with any other team.
That includes an Astros team where he became a superstar with an epic 2004 postseason. He would return to the team 13 years later, and he would get that elusive World Series ring with the team before retiring.
That also includes the Yankees who were a team Beltran longed to play for all of his life. It was with the Yankees Beltran made his last All Star team. It’s the same Yankees team Beltran has inquired about returning to now that his playing days are over.
It also includes a Cardinals team who took somewhat of a flyer on Beltran after he had knee issues in the later stages of his tenure with the Mets. With the Cardinals, Beltran really cemented his case as a Hall of Fame player by pushing his WAR to a Hall of Fame caliber 67.7 and by having the third great postseason run of his career in 2012. Also, in 2013, Beltran would finally get to play in the World Series.
When you bring up Beltran and the Mets, that’s the first thing that is brought up by someone. We don’t hear about his four All Star teams, three Gold Gloves, 149 homers, or really anything else. The focus is on his Game 7 strikeout against Adam Wainwright. Even the Mets owner, Fred Wilpon, discussed it in a wide ranging interview with The New Yorker.
Fact is, this is just part of the tension between Mets ownership and Beltran.
The breaking point came on the eve of the 2010 season when Beltran opted to follow the advice of his own doctor instead of the advice of team physicians. As a result of the surgery, Beltran would miss over 100 games, anger the Mets organization, and would ultimately save his career.
It turned out to be a Hall of Fame career. What is interesting about that is Beltran has had the most success with the Mets, and he played more games with the Mets than with any other team. As noted, he’s not entirely beloved by the team with whom he is most closely identified.
This creates an opportunity where the Mets can heal some wounds and put on a full court press to try to resolve whatever issues remain between the teams. Certainly, Omar Minaya’s return to the organization will help on that front.
Another thing that will help is by not issuing Beltran’s #15 again. What is surprising is that since Beltran’s departure, four Mets have worn his number including Val Pascucci, who was assigned the number shortly after Beltran was traded to the Giants.
Now, with Matt Reynolds gone, no one wears the number 15. If the Mets were smart, no one else would ever wear it again, and hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will all see that number high above Citi Field next to Mike Piazza‘s 31 and Tom Seaver‘s 41 after he joins them in wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.