Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended. Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him. Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.
There is the sadness with David Wright leaving. He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced. He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field. Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.
Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players. Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform? Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform? Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud? How about Juan Lagares? With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense. Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together? Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?
Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again? He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed. Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year. At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play. That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.
Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away. Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year. Addison Reed, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson were traded away last season. Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories. Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas. Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.
What we have left is good, really good. We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted. After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.
We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner. Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace. Steven Matz actually made 30 starts. Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close. This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.
Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30). When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse. In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top. If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.
Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.
There’s a hesitation there. After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top. Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.
Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring. Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different. The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade. But after that? Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short. After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.
In the end, this is a really likeable team. Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys. They are what makes being a Mets fan great. We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring. That can’t happen.
In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one. Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here. Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series. I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.
Just when you thought you’ve seen it all from Jacob deGrom this year, he had one final special moment in store for us all.
Finally, in his sixth start against them, deGrom would beat the Braves. Despite him allowing just four earned in 33.0 innings against the Braves this year (1.09 ERA), he was 0-2 against the Braves this year with the Mets 0-5 in his starts. Really, to beat the Braves, deGrom needed to shut them out.
With him possibly getting the opportunity to clinch the Cy Young, deGrom would do just that pitching eight scoreless and completely dominant innings.
It was not until the sixth the Braves would have a batter reach safely, and that was an all too fleeting moment for the Braves.
Acuna would strike out swinging on a wild pitch, and he’d take off for first. However, he was ruled to have rounded first, and as such, when he was tagged by Dominic Smith, the inning was over.
While deGrom was phenomenal, even by his standards, he didn’t do it alone. In fact, Jeff McNeil was a wizard making not just one
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 27, 2018
but two brilliant defensive plays
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 27, 2018
Unlike deGrom’s previous five starts against the Braves, and really most of his starts this seasons, he would get enough run support. Tonight, that support would come from the bats of Michael Conforto and Smith.
In the sixth, Conforto hit a one out double off Braves reliever Luke Jackson. Smith would deliver a two out single giving the Mets a 1-0 lead, which was all the run support deGrom needed.
For good measure, Conforto and Smith would homer in the eighth. Each homer was impressive in their own right.
Smith was an opposite field shot, and Conforto’s was an absolute bomb which landed near the Shea Bridge. It would be his career best 28th homer.
That 3-0 lead was more than enough.
deGrom would finish the night strong striking out three of the last four batters he faced. With his striking out Ozzie Albies to end the eighth, he recorded his 1,000th career strikeout:
News flash: This guy's good. pic.twitter.com/NeeMHtbdOe
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 27, 2018
His final line for the night was 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K.
When Seth Lugo closed out the ninth for his third career save, deGrom finally got his 10th win. If he does go on to win the Cy Young, it will be the fewest wins from a Cy Young award winning starter.
All told, deGrom finished the year 10-9 with a 1.70 ERA, 0.989 WHIP, and an 11.2 K/9.
He became just the third pitcher in MLB history with a sub 2.00 ERA, more than 250 strikeouts, and fewer than 50 walks.
Game Notes: There was some consternation over deGrom not coming out to get cheered and depart the game. Under MLB rules, if he stepped on the field, he would have been required to face at least one batter.
Today was a special day regardless of the outcome because the Mets finally activated David Wright from the 60 day disabled list. That said, whatever chance we thought we would get to see him play were quickly dashed as the Mets said they were not going to pinch hit him. The reason given was the Braves are fighting for homefield advantage in the NLDS, and the Mets did not want to interfere with the integrity of that race.
While justified, you almost have to question how the Mets could take that stance and also use their bullpen in this game.
Through the first six innings, the Braves had just three hits to the Mets four. The difference between the two teams was the Mets made their hits count.
Crew Chief reviews call that Michael Conforto did not hit a home run in the 3rd; call confirmed, no home run.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) September 26, 2018
In the sixth, the Mets tacked on a run in a rally against Braves reliever Dan Winkler.
At 3-0, it appeared Noah Syndergaard was going to earn his first career win against the Braves. In his six scoreless innings, he would allow the aforementioned three hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
After 89 pitches and his being pinch hit for, Syndergaard was done after six. Robert Gsellman would relieve him and the bullpen meltdown would begin.
Johan Camargo led off the inning with a double, and he scored on a Kurt Suzuki RBI single. Suzuki moved to second on a Charlie Culberson walk, and he’d score because Austin Jackson flat out dropped a Rio Ruiz flyball.
Drew Smith, who has really struggled of late, came into the game and threw gasoline on the fire. Actually, with him being a pitcher, he just came in and threw bad pitches.
One of those pitches was thrown to the backstop allowing not just Suzuki to score, but also for Culbertson and Ruiz to move up. The next was hit by Ronald Acuna, Jr. for an RBI single which put the Braves up 4-3.
That 4-3 deficit grew as Jerry Blevins would have a rough eighth.
After getting the first out, Todd Frazier, who didn’t have a great game, booted a Camargo grounder. Camargo would then score on a Suzuki double. The capper would be a two run Ozzie Albies two run homer.
At that point, it was 7-3 Braves, and the game was over. While Wright was not used as to not upset the competitive balance of the postseason, the Mets bullpen was used and they did just that.
Game Notes: Wright homered in his last three games played in 2016, so whenever he plays, he will have a chance to match his career high in homering in four straight games.
Austin Voth, a 26 year old rookie pitcher with an 11.81 ERA, yielded only a Michael Conforto fourth inning infield single before departing after five. A pretty bad Nationals bullpen would not surrender a hit over the final four innings giving Voth his first MLB win.
Corey Oswalt got the start for the Mets, and the shame for him was he was pretty good. If not for his allowing a two run bomb to Treat Turner in the third, it’s possible Oswalt walks off with a no decision.
Not that it was going to happen with the Mets bats being completely listless, but any hopes of a comeback were essentially eliminated with the Nationals hitting Jerry Blevins hard in the sixth.
The big blow that inning was a Matt Wieters three run homer.
All told, the Mets lost this game 6-0. On the bright side, no matter the outcome both of these teams are missing the postseason.
Mets folk hero and utility player Wilmer Flores has been diagnosed with arthritis in both of his knees, and there are some indications the Mets are will non-tender him this offseason making him a free agent a year earlier than scheduled. In many ways, this seems like an odd decision.
For starters, the Mets have not shied away from giving money to injured and injury prone players. The Mets gave Yoenis Cespedes $110 million knowing he had calcified heels which would one day require surgical correction. In a similar circumstance to Flores, the Mets opted to keep Matt Harvey by giving him $5.625 million despite Harvey’s Tommy John, TOS, and stress reaction issues over the past four years.
Perhaps more analogous to the aforementioned situatiosn, the Mets gave Jay Bruce $39 million even though the team had no need for a left-hand hitting corner outfielder and Bruce having a history of knee issues. In fact, back in 2014, Bruce would have surgery to repair partially torn meniscus. As noted by UW Medicine, a torn meniscus could lead to arthritis. While we do not know if Bruce has arthritis or not, that is an assumed risk the Mets took despite having Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo on the 40 man roster.
When it comes to Bruce, what the Mets really cared about here was production and Bruce’s ability to stay on the field. It was a risk that backfired. What is interesting with Flores is he was able to stay on the field, and he was able to produce.
From June 15th until September 1st, Flores was an everyday player for the Mets. In that stretch, he hit .281/.325/.446 with 17 doubles, eight homers, and 35 RBI. Over this stretch, he had a 110 wRC+. Among players with 250 plate appearances over this stretch, that wRC+ was fourth best among MLB first basemen. It would have also ranked as fourth best among second baseman and sixth among third baseman.
Overall, Flores’ bat will play at any infield position. More than that, time and again, we have seen Flores is capable of taking over a position for an extended stretch of time while giving the Mets good production. That’s an important thing when the Mets actively signs players like Bruce who they will know will miss time.
When further analyzing the roster, you realize the Mets need Flores’ right-handed bat.
Looking at the projected 2019 roster, the Mets are going to heavily rely on left-handed bats. In addition to Bruce, Conforto, and Nimmo, the Mets also have Jeff McNeil. Outside of Todd Frazier, the Mets do not have any real right-handed power bats on the roster. It’s possible Amed Rosario could be that one day, but he’s not there yet.
Point being, when the Mets face a tough left-handed pitcher, they will need a player like Flores who they can put into the lineup. He could spell McNeil at second, or he could move over to first for Bruce. With respect to Bruce, it would help keep him fresher and hopefully more productive.
You could argue this spot could be filled by T.J. Rivera, but no one knows if he will be able to play next year. More than that, the Mets would be a stronger team with a stronger bench if they have both Flores and Rivera.
This is not to suggest Flores isn’t without his flaws. He is not a good defender at any position even if he is passable on the right side of the infield. While his knees have not forced him to the disabled list, he has been injury prone, even if they are freak injuries like him fouling a ball off his face.
Still, Flores is a player who is a perfect fit for this roster. More than that, he is a player who is a fan favorite, and he has shown himself to be clutch as well with him being the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI. Taking all of this into account, the Mets would be foolish to parts ways with Flores over a one-year commitment, especially when we know the Mets will not reinvest that money and sign a player anywhere near as good as Flores.
Like two nights ago, the Mets had the opportunity to take out one of the leading Cy Young candidates to help Jacob deGrom‘s Cy Young case. Like with the game against Aaron Nola, the Mets dealt a small blow but could not deliver the knockout punch.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 21, 2018
The one weakness in Max Scherzer‘s game this year was the long ball, and the Mets took full advantage. Conversely, the major strength in Scherzer’s game was the strikeout, and he mowed down the Mets.
After the Bruce homer, the Mets had just one hit and one walk, which did allow Scherzer to go seven. In total, Scherzer increased his lead over deGrom in innings and strikeouts, but his ERA rose .04.
For a while, it seemed as if the Mets were going to hit Scherzer with a loss because somehow someway Jason Vargas was out-pitching Scherzer.
After Scherzer was pulled, the Mets immediately went to work against left-handed reliever Matt Grace.
Jeff McNeil hit a leadoff triple, and he’d come home on a Bruce single past the drawn-in infield to give the Mets a 4-2 lead. It wasn’t enough for this Mets bullpen.
Anthony Swarzak allowed the first two to reach in the bottom of the eighth, and Daniel Zamora would come on to face Bryce Harper. In the lengthy at-bat. Zamora would get the best of Harper who just missed out as he flew out to deep right field.
With that, Scherzer was off the hook. With us living in a world where deGrom may win the Cy Young with a losing record, the loss was probably inconsequential.
The game would go extras, and the Mets seemed poised to end it early with them loading the bases in the 10th with just one out.
However, even with Greg Holland losing the strike zone having thrown seven straight balls, Jack Reinheimer swung at a 1-0 pitch and hit a soft tapper to Holland, who started the inning ending 1-2-3 double play.
In that 10th inning, McNeil was surprisingly sent up to bunt. In that at-bat, home plate umpire made a few very questionable strike calls, including ruling McNeil bunted at a pitch. This led Mickey Callaway to flip and earn his second career ejection.
In the 11th, Brandon Nimmo hit a leadoff double, and he would be stranded there.
What was surprising was how Jacob Rhame returned serve. After allowing a leadoff double to Ryan Zimmerman, who tagged up and moved to third on a Matt Wieters line out, Rhame would strike out Mark Reynolds and Victor Robles to end the inning.
Finally, in the 12th, the Mets retook the lead.
The bases were loaded after Conforto was intentionally walked, and Bruce walked after him. Jose Lobaton pinch hit for Rhame, and he delivered with a go-ahead sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 5-4 lead.
Paul Sewald was given the 12th, and he delivered his second career save with a 1-2-3 inning. Just because it was a 1-2-3 inning, it doesn’t mean it was uneventful.
After Heyward was called out on a pitch outside the strike zone, he argued the call, and he was tossed by Home Plate Umpire D.J. Reyburn. Heyward didn’t even bother going to the clubhouse. Instead, he watched the final out from the bench.
Come next week, Harper will join the Mets in watching games from the bench as the Nationals will soon be eliminated from the postseason.
Game Notes: Wilmer Flores was shut down for the rest of the year after being diagnosed with arthritis in his knees.
Perhaps most important is the resurgence of Michael Conforto. Tonight was the latest chapter of the comeback.
The fun part with Conforto now is it doesn’t matter who’s pitching. Left. Right. Conforto is going to get his hits.
A new career high.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 18, 2018
Overall, Conforto was 3-for-5 with a run, double, homer, and a career high six RBI. In total, Conforto would drive in six of the Mets nine runs.
In addition to Conforto, Jeff McNeil would have a three game, which is something that is becoming old hat for him. To just put in perspective just how special this is, he’s tied a Wright Mets record:
Jeff McNeil now has 7 3-hit games through the first 52 games of his career. That ties David Wright, who also had 7 3-hit games in his first 52, for the most by a #Mets player through that many games.
— John Edwards (@John_Edwards_) September 18, 2018
All that offense was enough to get Zack Wheeler over a fifth inning blip.
That inning marred what was an otherwise terrific Wheeler start. In fact, all three of the Phillies hits off Wheeler would come in that inning.
Even with him battling through the fifth, Wheeler’s final line was 7.0 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K. He’d get the win in this 9-4 Mets victory.
Wheeler’s MLB best 1.32 second half ERA is still a dominant 1.68 ERA. By all indications, his ERA may stay there as Mickey Callaway suggested this could be Wheeler’s final start.
Considering all the time he’s missed the past few years, that would make sense. Fortunately, for the first time in a long time, he’s heathy. Maybe this is why he’s finally pitching like an ace.
Heading into the Month of September, Jacob deGrom was probably the favorite to win the Cy Young, but it was still anyone’s game with Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer having great seasons of their own. So far this month, deGrom has separated himself ever further from the pack.
In Nola’s three September starts, he is 1-2 with a 5.60 ERA. Scherzer had a decent start to the month until his loss to the Braves on Friday. In that start, Scherzer allowed six earned in four innings. Now, he’s 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in the month.
Like Nola and Scherzer, deGrom has seen his ERA rise this month. Still, deGrom’s 2.70 ERA this month is half of Scherzer’s. That is also because deGrom had a “bad start” in Boston.
For deGrom, it was the bottom of the third in Boston which derailed what had looked to be a truly special start.
After striking out six of the first seven Red Sox batters he faced, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with one out. Mookie Betts brought home Devers with a sacrifice fly. This is normally where deGrom would get out of the inning, but he would leave one up to Brock Holt, who hit a two run homer to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.
Right then and there, deGrom’s streak of 26 starts not allowing more than three earned and his 21 consecutive quality starts streak was on the line. From there, there were points where you thought deGrom wasn’t going to reatch the sixth. In fact, Mickey Callaway had Jerry Blevins warming at one point. There may have also been points where you thought he would allow another run.
Instead, deGrom would go seven innings allowing the three earned on five hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts. The 12 strikeouts were really impressive. Entering the game, the Red Sox were the second hardest team to strike out (19.7%). In the game, deGrom would strike out 12 of the 27 batters (44.4%) he faced.
Importantly, the Mets would rally to tie the score and get deGrom off the hook. In the sixth, Amed Rosario would follow an Austin Jackson single to put runners on second and third with no outs. Jeff McNeil would not hit a liner deep enough to score a run, but Wilmer Flores would . . . barely:
#RedSox challenge call that Austin Jackson is safe at home in the 6th; call confirmed, runner is safe.
— MLB Replay (@MLBReplays) September 16, 2018
Unfortunately, Betts would get hurt on the play. It should shift Jackie Bradley, Jr. to right with Tzu-Wei Lin in center. Michael Conforto would then hit a double to deep center to tie the game. It’s debatable if Bradley would’ve gotten to it. Regardless, the Mets were down a run.
They would tie it in the seventh on a two out RBI single by Rosario. Brandon Nimmo was 90 feet away from scoring the go-ahead run and giving deGrom the lead, but McNeil couldn’t bring him home.
WIth that, deGrom notced another no decision, and he still remains a game under .500, and yet, he he having an all-time great season. In fact, with this start, deGrom tied Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter single season mark for consecutive quality starts. In the seasons Gibson and Carpenter set their marks, they won the Cy Young.
So should deGrom.
Game Notes: Seth Lugo took the loss after allowing a run in the eighth.
One of the two teams tonight was the best team in baseball. The other was the Boston Red Sox.
It’s an absurd statement for sure, and yet with the bats going and Noah Syndergaard dealing, the Mets looked like world beaters.
Over seven innings, Syndergaard allowed just three hits and three walks while striking out six. He really kept the Red Sox at bay at the plate but not the basepaths.
There were three stolen bases with the most egregious being an Ian Kinsler stolen base. On the play, Kindler basically walked to second (not an exaggeration). Syndergaard would get his revenge by picking off Kinsler in the sixth.
The stolen bases wouldn’t matter as the Red Sox couldn’t touch Syndergaard. Simultaneously, the Red Sox could not get the Mets out.
Left-handed pitcher William Cuevas would make his first career start, and he wouldn’t last long partially because he couldn’t get left-handed hitters out.
Brian Johnson would come on for the Red Sox and calm things down. Still Jeff McNeil would get to him hitting his third homer of the season. McNeil had yet another multi-hit game, and he had an incredible defensive play to end the seventh:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 15, 2018
The Mets offense wasn’t done either. In the eighth inning against Tyler Thornburg, Austin Jackson and Amed Rosario would homer giving the Mets an 8-0 lead. The Rosario homer was a classic majestic shot over the Green Monster. Like McNeil, Rosario had yet another multi-hit game himself.
That left Jerry Blevins and Tyler Bashlor to close up shop. With their two scoreless innings, the Mets shut out the best offensive team in the majors. In fact, the Red Sox have the most runs and RBI with the best team batting average, OBP, SLG, and OPS. They have the second highest wRC+.
For their part, the Mets had Thor. That’s why they won.
Game Notes: It was the sixth time all season the Red Sox were shut out. There was a rat running in the Mets dugout during the game. It was not a Wilpon or Jose Reyes.
In an emotional press conference, David Wright announced he was playing on Saturday, September 29th and never again. While we’ve already entered into a post-Wright Mets era, this was a crushing confirmation of the news.
With news like this, the last thing on most people’s minds was playing a game. Let alone two. And yet, there was a scheduled doubleheader.
In the first game, we were treated to a terrific performance from Steven Matz.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 13, 2018
Overall, Matz pitched 6.1 innings allowing three earned on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
It seemed the Marlins were going to win this game 3-2, but that was until Don Mattingly made a mistake. Instead of sticking with Adam Conley, who absolutely owns the Mets, Mattingly went to Kyle Barraclough because Amed Rosario was due up.
While Smith wouldn’t deliver, Michael Conforto would hitting a game tying homer off Barraclough. It was his fourth homer in five games.
Three pitches later, Todd Frazier would hit a walk-off homer.
With that, the game ended with a homer by Wright’s heir apparent for best homegrown position player followed by a homer by the guy signed to replace Wright. Really, it was quite the fitting ending.
But still, there was more baseball to be played.
Vargas would get the win for a few reasons. Chief among them was his catcher Tomas Nido, who made a great play in the field
— Elite Sports NY (@EliteSportsNY) September 14, 2018
before hitting his first career homer
Tomas Nido, the @Mets' No. 12 prospect, went deep to left for his first MLB homer. The 🚀 went 400 feet and had an exit velocity of 101.9 mph. Watch live: https://t.co/nY6ru3JzAQ pic.twitter.com/n8SdejjbMq
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 13, 2018
The Nido solo shot opened the scoring for the Mets in a three run inning capped off by a two out Conforto RBI double.
That 3-2 lead would hold up as Seth Lugo was as dominant as you can be in his two innings. In fact, Lugo would strike out five of the seven batters he faced.
The Mets built a seventh inning rally starting starting with a Jeff McNeil two out single. As the inning progressed, the Mets scored insurance runs on singles by Conforto and Smith.
That 5-2 lead proved to be save for Robert Gsellman to shut the door on a seemingly rare doubleheader sweep.
With the sweep, the Mets are now just 10 games under .500 for the first time since June 21st.