Last night was one of those nights. You were forever going to tell people where you were. For me, I was sitting on my couch with a cranky baby and four year old. Why were they so cranky?
Well, because I’m me, an avid sports fan and idiot, I woke them up to watch the final few minutes of the Virginia-UMBC game. History was being made, and I wanted them to see something that never happened before – a 16 beating a 1. The final score was as startling as the upset itself with UMBC winning 74-54.
As an aside, Ralph Sampson and his UVA teammates can rest assured they are no longer the Cavalier team who is mentioned as the biggest upset of all time in college basketball. No, that 1982 loss by number one ranked Viriginia to Division III Chaminade will fall by the wayside – even if that was the much bigger upset.
But I digress.
Last night was one of those great moments in sports history, and you didn’t want to miss it. I know I didn’t want my boys to miss it.
It’s not too dissimilar when I woke up my oldest to watch the end of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. What’s funny about that game was instead of tuning in for the ninth, he was tuned into all the hysteria which included a miracle game tying three run homer by Rajai Davis off Aroldis Chapman, a rain delay, and Ben Zobrist‘s game and World Series RBI double.
For the first time in 108 years, the Cubs won the World Series. My son was watching it much like he was last night when a 16 seed beat a 1 seed for the first time in 136 tries (34 years).
It once again shows that the impossible can happen in sports. As a proud parent, it’s just proof positive that everything has been amazing since my son was born.
Speaking of amazing, the one thing he hasn’t seen is the Mets win the World Series.
Who knows? With Mickey Callaway at the helm, maybe things will be different. Maybe Michael Conforto being ahead of schedule is a good thing instead of the typical Mets unnecessarily pushing an injured player to play (see Beltran, Carlos).
Maybe, just maybe that’ll be the case instead of this being the typical Mets. After all, the Cubs have won the World Series and a 16 has beat a 1.
This could be the Mets years. Probably not.
With Mickey Callaway at the helm and with Dave Eiland as the new pitching coach, the Mets are once again banking on their pitching staff carrying them to the World Series. As we saw in 2015, when this staff is operating at its best, it is certainly capable of doing so.
Really, that speaks to any era in Mets history. Certainly, the 1969 and 1986 World Series Championships were at least partially driven by great starting pitching. It should therefore come as no surprise that many of the pitchers who pitched on these teams are among the Mets All-Time ERA leaders.
Can you name the Top 10 Mets in ERA? Good luck!
Early on, Mickey Callaway announced his intentions to use his best relievers in the highest leverage spots and not just in the ninth inning. As a result, in addition to Jeurys Familia, we may very well see AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins, or even Hansel Robles out there looking to close out a game. This creates the possibility of the Mets having multiple relievers with over 10 saves.
This is something that has happened 12 times in Mets history. Sometimes, it was due to injury. Others, it was the intended plan. Whatever the case, can you name the closers who have at least 10 saves in the same season another Mets reliever had at least 10 saves? Good luck!
Believe it or not, there are just five pitchers who remain from the Mets 2015 Opening Day roster. Those five pitchers are Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, and of course, Rafael Montero. That’s right, Montero was on the 2015 Opening Day roster, and in case you forgot, he was once again on the Opening Day roster last year.
And you know what? Montero is going to be on the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster as well.
The Mets have given us a clear indication this will happen. Right after the season, the team outrighted pitchers Erik Goeddel and Tyler Pill from the 40 man roster. They claimed Burch Smith in the Rule 5 Draft, and he was immediately sent to the Kansas City Royals for cash. To make room for Major League signings this offseason, the Mets designated Kevin McGowan, Chasen Bradford, and Josh Smoker for assignment.
Put another way, the Mets have had plenty of opportunities to extricate themselves of Montero, and they continuously refuse to do so whether it is out of stubbornness, hope, or really, just plain lunacy. Fact is, while no Mets fans believe in him and his 5.38 ERA, the Mets still believe in him and want him here.
If the Mets truly do want to see their continued investment in Montero pay off for them, then the team is going to have to put him on the 40 man roster because he is out of options. That means Montero gets one more last chance. I’d list what chance number that is, but like most Mets fans, I’ve lost count.
This means, the Mets are going to have to hope Montero’s .376 BABIP last year was largely the result of a truly poor defensive team. They will have to hope his being the second best starter on the team, Jason Vargas included, in not yielding barrels translates to success. (Statcast). They’re also going to have to hope, as noted by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, he continues to yield the fewest hard hit balls on this pitching staff.
If this does happen, and Montero FINALLY attacks the zone like he has shown in Double-A and below, the Mets may have something. Their patience may finally be rewarded and, frankly, applauded. However, it is much more likely we will see more of the same, which should create heat on Sandy Alderson because he parted with quality pitcher after quality pitcher in order to hold onto Montero.
Regardless of your opinion on Montero and the likelihood of his being successful, he’s going to be on the Opening Day roster. There are bullpen spots open, and Montero is out of options. At this point, we can only hope the stubborn refusal to DFA him will pay off.
Since cracking the Opening Day roster in 2014, Travis d’Arnaud has averaged 90 games per season behind the plate with last year being his high at 112 games. This is because d’Arnaud has not withstood to the day-to-day rigors of catching. Each and every year, he deals with a different injury to another part of his body, and as a result, the Mets have been left scrambling to figure out their Major League catching depth.
With the re-emergence of Kevin Plawecki as the Mets catcher of the future and the minor league signing of Jose Lobaton, the Mets are in a much better position from a catching standpoint than they have been in years past. While the Mets have better depth, the end game should be to keep d’Arnaud healthy for a full season.
And for that matter, with Plawecki finally showing the type of bat the Mets believed he had, the team needs to find a spot for him in the lineup.
To that end, a platoon between the catchers makes sense. Fortunately, both catchers seem inclined to go forward with the plan, and they both thrived under the situation last September with d’Arnaud hitting .297/.343/.656 in 20 games and Plawecki hitting .278/.400/.426 in 19 games.
So based upon their production in an admittedly small sample size, we know it could potentially work. What we don’t know is how it should work next season, especially when you consider both are right-handed hitters.
Perhaps, the Mets should approach this from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on what pitcher is on the mound for the opposing team, the Mets should focus on what pitcher is on the mound for their own team. That is, much like what we saw in 2016 with Noah Syndergaard and Rene Rivera, assign a catcher to a Mets starter based upon whom the pitcher works best.
When you look at the numbers, what is quite startling is just how much better the Mets starters numbers are with Plawecki behind the plate. There is a very important caveat to that. Plawecki did the bulk of the catching of these pitchers back in 2015 when they were all healthy and dealing. It was d’Arnaud who had to deal with each one of them having real injury issues which corresponded with diminished stuff and stats.
Basically, this will come down to comfort, and for starters, we know that likely means Plawecki will be catching Syndergaard because as we saw in 2016, he and d’Arnaud have had difficulty getting on the same page. As an aside, it was somewhat telling Syndergaard was caught by Plawecki and Tomas Nido in his two “starts” at the end of the season.
Coincidence or not, there may be something to Plawecki not catching Jacob deGrom at all last season. Given their track record together, which includes deGrom winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year Award and his amazing 2015 postseason, or their both having lower case ds in their last name, there is a rapport between deGrom and d’Arnaud which should continue.
Likely, you want to get each of the catchers 2-3 days in a row when they do play in order to afford them to maximizing rest and getting in rhythm. To that end, d’Arnaud should catch deGrom with the fourth and fifth starter, whoever they may be. This would set up this type of rotation:
- Jacob deGrom (d’Arnaud)
- Noah Syndergaard (Plawecki)
- Jason Vargas (Plawecki)
- Matt Harvey (d’Arnaud)
- Steven Matz (d’Arnaud)
Really, after deGrom and Syndergaard, you can order the pitchers anyway you want, and you can certainly resort them depending on which catcher and pitcher feel most comfortable as a tandem. In the end, what really matters is Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Glenn Sherlock communicate with the starters and catching tandem to find the best fit for each pitcher. If done properly, we may see the catchers last a full season, and more importantly, we could see the pitching staff as a whole revert to their 2015 level.
When Mickey Callawaybecame the new manager of the Mets, every player got a bit of a clean slate. Sure, the front office as well as holdovers like Ricky Bones and Glenn Sherlock could probably Callaway with pertinent information, but at the end of the day, Callaway was going to meet each player, see their work and preparation, and then he could make his own determination about a player.
This was really important for a young player like Dominic Smith.
There is no doubt Smith is talented, but he has shown some maturity issues. Despite the team stressing his physique to him, he put on 20 pounds or so during the season. That was after he had reported to Spring Training last year in terrific shape.
When he did get the call-up last year, as reported by Abbey Mastracco of nj.com, he had been late to the park on more than one occasion. This led to veteran players “reprimanding” him for his behavior.
This was all part of a difficult first experience in the Majors which saw Smith hit .198/.262/.395 in 49 games. In total, he had a -1.2 WAR.
If there was anyone who needed a fresh start, it was Smith. Initially, he made the most of it by losing more than 30 pounds before the start of Spring Training. He reported to Spring Training early. He was doing all the right things.
He was having the type of Spring where he earned a chance to show the Mets he deserved at least a long look this Spring. He was starting to give the Mets to at least consider having him be the Opening Day first basemen. Whether as a reward for his dedication or not, he was going to get a chance right away with his being named as the first baseman in the Mets first Spring Training game.
Smith would be late to the ballpark before the first game.
THE FIRST GAME!
Fair or not, this was a player who had to prove to the Mets he was dedicated and mature enough to be a Major Leaguer, and the first chance he gets, he fails to show up on time.
He left Callaway no choice but to bench him. That left Smith watching on as five time All Star and a former teammate of CallawayAdrian Gonzalezget a couple of at-bats as the DH. He also looked on as Peter Alonso take his place in the lineup.
Smith watched the player taking his spot on the Opening Day roster, and he watched the prospect who has begun breathing down his neck as the Mets first baseman of the future.
Smith knew he had an uphill climb to surpass Gonzalez. He had to know Alonso has been making a name for himself. It shouldn’t be lost on Smith that while the organization has concerns about his power, Alonso has it in spades.
Despite knowing all of this, Smith failed to show up on time to the first game of Spring Training. With that, he’s shown he’s not yet mature enough to be entrusted with the first base job. Not yet.
And that right there is why he’s already lost the first base competition.
After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week. This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”
Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.
Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.
The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.
Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.
The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.
When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.
The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves. Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice. With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder. From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.
This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway. Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:
RHP Tyler Bashlor
Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball. He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors. His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.
If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks. In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie. Those are unsustainable numbers.
Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day. Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks. If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.
LHP P.J. Conlon
For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever. Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.
Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line. Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.
However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter. In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon. More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.
RHP Corey Oswalt
Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters. Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both. As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.
Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores. If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.
At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder. The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors. To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle. If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman. Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.
With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year. While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.
Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t. In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base. What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.
What remains at issue is his defensive abilities. It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough. With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.
Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher. Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.
Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future. In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity. If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.
Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN
As pitchers and catchers officially reported to Spring Training, new Mets manager Mickey Callaway is seeking to bring the Mets back to the World Series. In some ways, 2015 is another lifetime ago. Still, it really was only three years ago.
In total, there would be 49 players who appeared in a game for the Mets. Of that 49, there are only 13 who will be on the Mets Opening Day roster this season. Can you name them? Good luck!
Travis d’Arnaud Kevin Plawecki Wilmer Flores David Wright Juan Lagares Yoenis Cespedes Michael Conforto Jacob deGrom Matt Harvey Noah Syndergaard Steven Matz Hansel Robles Jenrry Mejia Rafael Montero Jerry Blevins
It is quite fitting that today is unseasonably warm because we have the first sign of Spring with the Mets pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training. No matter what your opinion on the Mets offseason, this time of year always brings a bit of hope for the fanbase because seeing the Mets players in uniform, you can begin to dream the players can put it all together and win the World Series.
For the Mets, like it has since 2015, the entire hope surrounds the starting pitching.
Now, there are people who are claiming there isn’t enough. They still want the Mets to go out and sign Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or any number of a group of free agent starters who didn’t compile 200 innings, were coming off injuries themselves, or really just couldn’t even sniff this Mets rotation when healthy. In fact, you could argue with their recent injury histories and peripherals, Lynn and Cobb are just more of the same. Actually, what the Mets have is just better.
That’s part of the reason why the narrative the Mets did nothing to address their franchise worst pitching needs to end right now.
The first move the Mets had made this offseason to address the pitching was to go out and hire Mickey Callaway. If you are going to be a pitching staff built on pitching, Callaway was the inspired choice. Joining him on his pitching staff is Dave Eiland, who is renown for his ability to work with pitchers. One of his keys to success is how he helps pitchers with their mechanics, which in turn, helps reduce injury.
Speaking of injuries, gone is favorite punching bag Ray Ramirez. In his place is Jim Cavallini, who will oversee everything related to player care and conditioning. This includes nutrition, sleep science, injury prevention, and rehabilitation. Apparently, after all these years of injuries, the Mets are finally interested in getting players to eat better, sleep better, and take better care of themselves.
And yes, we know even with that Zack Wheeler needed osteoarthritis injections this offseason. Matt Harvey has not been able to stay healthy since that magical 2013 season. Steven Matz has continued to suffer one injury after another. Technically speaking, Seth Lugo is pitching with a torn UCL much like the Yankees have seen with Masahiro Tanaka.
Yes, these injuries and injury histories exist, but as noted, the Mets finally have the people in place to not only help prevent those injuries from happening again, but also to get Harvey, Wheeler, and Matz back to form. If they are, watch out because this is a pitching staff that can once again lead the Mets to the World Series.
If not? Well, there’s real pitching depth in the Mets organization. As noted above, there’s Lugo. The team also have Robert Gsellman and Chris Flexen. Yes, they both struggled last season, but they have an opportunity to learn from those struggles. They also have the support system with Eiland, Callaway, and Mickey Abbott in Las Vegas.
Behind them are some intriguing prospects in Triple-A. Corey Oswalt was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. P.J. Conlon continues to defy the odds with his under 90 MPH stuff to pitch to a minor league career 2.35 ERA. Marcos Molina is healthy after Tommy John, and he looks to build off a strong season. Mickey Jannis is a late blooming knucke ball pitcher much in the same vein as R.A. Dickey. And if you want to get deeper, Ricky Knapp rejuvenated himself after struggling in Vegas by pitching completely lights out as he helped pitch the Rumble Ponies to the Eastern League playoffs.
And if you are masochistic, this could finally be the year for Rafael Montero.
Point is, unlike last year, the Mets have actual starting pitching depth to start the season. If one goes down, there’s two or three behind them to pick up the slack. The team has a manager and pitching coach better suited to getting these pitchers to reaching their full potential.
Sure, it would be nice to see the Mets add a pitcher or two on a minor league deal to serve as a swing man, but even if the Mets don’t make that move, they have the depth they need in the organization. Today is the day that group gets in peak physical shape and realizes their full potential.
And if you have a hard time believing me, sit down, take a deep breath, and remember the first two games of the season will have Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard starting for the Mets. If you can’t get excited about that, nothing will.