Neil Walker

Mets All Eclipse Team

With the solar eclipse happening, now is as good as any to create a Mets All-Time Solar Eclipse Team.  These are players who are included due to their names and not because of their exploits.  For example, the will be no Mike Piazza for his moon shots, or Luis Castillo for his losing a ball in the moon.

SP – Tim Redding

He is the great nephew of Joyce Randoph of Honeymooners fame where Ralph threatened to send Alice right to the moon,.

C – Chris Cannizzaro 

Cannizzaro is the name of a lunar crater

1B – Lucas Duda

Lucas means light giving

2B –Neil Walker

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon

3B – Ray Knight

Pretty self explanatory, first sun rays, and then night.

SS – Asdrubal Cabrera

Asdrubal means helped by Baal.  Baal is a moon god

OF – Kevin Mitchell

Mitchell was one of the 12 men to walk on the moon

OF – Don Hahn

Hahn means rooster, which is an animal that crows at sunrise.

OF – Victor Diaz

His first and last name combined translate to day conqueror, which is effectively what the eclipse does.

Mets Fans Have Been Watching An Eclipse All Season

Right around this time, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun bringing darkness across the country . . . or as Mets fans like to call it, the perfect euphemism for the 2017 season.

We’ve seen Noah Syndergaard go down for the season, and we are not sure when Jeurys Familia can come back.  Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were mishandled coming back from their injuries.  Steven Matz had another injury plagued year.  We never did get to see David Wright play this season, and we do not know if we will ever get to see him play again.

With the poor season the Mets are having, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Rene Rivera, and Neil Walker have been moved and are now playing for teams with an actual shot at the postseason.  The moves didn’t bring back much, and there were rumors the Mets were more interested in salary relief than anything causing fans to go back to a dark place they resided at the inception of the Madoff scandal.

The thing is, the eclipse today will last just a brief time.  Sandy Alderson has an entire offseason to get to work.  If ownership lets him spend the money, and with a little help on the health front, the Mets dark period will last just for the 2017 season.  If it is business as usual, this isn’t an eclipse – we’re back to the Dark Ages.

Terry Collins Needs To Stop Giving Dominic Smith The Michael Conforto Treatment

Last night, the Yankees brought on Aroldis Chapman to close out a Yankees three run lead.  After Wilmer Flores struck out to begin the inning, Dominic Smith strode up to the plate in what would be the rookie’s biggest test in his brief major league career.  Seeing how he hit an opposite field homer earlier in the game, and Rafael Devers hit a huge home run against Chapman in Chapman’s last save attempt, this was promising to be a very interesting match-up.

Sorry, no, the match-up never happened.  Instead, Terry Collins pinch hit for Smith with Jose Reyes.

This is not the first time we have seen this play with Collins.  During Michael Conforto‘s first two years with the Mets, Collins did not let his young left-handed hitter face left-handed pitching.  Instead, he would bat Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, Justin Ruggiano, Ty Kelly, or really any warm body on the bench to prevent Conforto from facing a left-handed pitcher.

The end result of Collins’ refusal to play Conforto against left-handed pitching was Conforto actually struggling against left-handed pitching.  Over his first two big league seasons, Conforto hit .129/.191/.145 with just one extra-base hit, a double, in the 68 at-bats he did get against left-handed pitching.

However, there was no reason to sit Conforto against left-handed pitching.  His hitting coach, Kevin Long, found the notion that Conforto can’t hit left-handed pitching absurd.  Conforto hit left-handed pitching in both his collegiate and brief minor league career.  Still, despite Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching everywhere else, Collins decided to sit him against left-handed pitching.

When pressed on it, Collins said, “We’re in a situation where we’re trying to win games.  This is not a time to develop players.”  (Barbara Barker, Newsday).

Assuming Collins is correct that you shirk the responsibility of developing young players because you have designs on winning a World Series, why is he now repeating the same tactics with Smith?

Currently, the Mets are 10 games under .500.  The team has to win 62% of their remaining games just to get to .500.  The team has already traded away Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Addison Reed, and Neil Walker.  If an opportunity presents itself, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, and Rene Rivera will find new homes before the end of the month.  Put more succinctly, this team is not in a position where they are trying to win games – this is a time to develop players.

Pinch hitting for Smith the very first opportunity he gets to face a left-handed pitcher in the majors does nothing to accomplish that goal.

Overall, unless Collins is facing some delusions of grandeur, there is no reason to believe the Mets are winning anything in 2017.  Smith is ticketed to be the Mets starting first baseman in 2018.  To that end, the rest of the regular season should be dedicated to helping him best prepare for the 2018 season.  Sitting him against left-handed pitching only hinders his development.

Maybe, just maybe Collins was never truly concerned with player development.  Maybe in his mind young left-handed batters are just incapable of hitting left-handed pitching.  It is likely the reason why he previously sat Conforto against left-handed pitching, and it is the reason why he’s doing it with Smith now.

It’s poor managing, and it has had a tangible effect on player development.  Collins might have had his excuse with Conforto, but he doesn’t have that excuse with Smith now.  If Collins shields Smith from a left-handed pitcher just one more time, the Mets are going to have to find someone else to manage.  Simply put, you cannot permit Collins to hinder Smith’s development to win some meaningless games.

Good Luck Neil Walker

The Neil Walker legacy with the Mets is a complicated one.  For many, he’s only to be judged as his not being Daniel Murphy.  For others, they rejoice over the fact Walker coming to the Mets meant Jon Niese was no longer a Met (he would return).  Putting aside who he was not, Walker had an interesting legacy as a Met.

The one thing that was obvious was when Walker was actually able to play, he played extraordinarily well.

Walker impressed everyone right away with a tremendous April last year.  During his torrid month, he hit .307/.337/.625 with a double, nine homers, and 19 RBI.  While the nine homers really stood out, what was the most impressive was his hitting from the right side of the plate.  Although he was a switch hitter throughout his career, Walker never did much of anything as a right-handed hitter.  That changed with him putting in the work with Kevin Long.  Seemingly overnight, he became a power threat from both sides of the plate.

More than that, he was a very good defensive second baseman.  While he may not have had the range he once did, he was a smart and smooth player out there.  More than anything, he didn’t make mistakes or unforced errors.  In sum, Walker was a pro’s pro at the plate and in the field.

After April, Walker’s play fell off a cliff.  We’d soon find out the reason was Walker needed season ending back surgery.  Many a game, Walker took to the field with numbness in his feet.  Baseball is an extraordinarily difficult game to play.  It’s even more difficult when you can’t even feel your toes.

In a somewhat surprising move, the Mets made Walker a qualifying offer.  In a much less surprising move, Walker accepted it.  The Mets tried to work out a long term deal with the player to try to stretch out some of the $17.2 million Walker was due, but for good reason, Walker didn’t want to reduce that salary even if he was sincere in his wanting to remain a New York Met.

Again, when Walker was healthy, he was productive with the Mets.  In 73 games this season with the Mets, Walker hit .264/.339/.442 with 13 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and 36 RBI.  Over the course of a 162 game season, those numbers prorated would have been 28 doubles, four triples, 23 homers, and 81 RBI.  That’s tremendous production from the second base position, especially with the solid defense Walker gives you.

However, that was the issue with Walker’s tenure with the Mets.  He was just couldn’t stay on the field.  Last year, it was back surgery.  This, year it was a torn hamstring.

Still, when we did get to see Walker play, we saw a good ballplayer.  More than that, we saw a player who was great in the clubhouse.  After Amed Rosario got caught up in a tough play that led to a Mets loss, Walker met up with Rosario before the players left the field to talk to him about it.

When he reported to Spring Training this year, Walker brought with him a first, second, and third baseman’s mitt to prepare for the season.  Walker didn’t just want to just be a second baseman, he wanted to be someone who did whatever he needed to do to help the Mets win.  We learned how rare a trait that could be in a player.  Ultimately, Walker would see time at first and third.  Eventually, this did lead to his being traded to the Brewers.

As a Mets fan, I want to see him go out there and do all he can do to take down the hated Cubs and Cardinals.  As someone who has grown to really appreciate Walker, I want to see him succeed.  In fact, with the Mets having holes to address this offseason at second and third, I’d like to see him return to the team.  Until that point, here’s hoping he has a long postseason run.

Hopefully, this isn’t the end of Walker’s Mets career.  If it is, I’ll appreciate him doing all his body would let him do, and I appreciate him trying to do everything he could do to not only improve as a player, but also to help the Mets win.

Mets Let Phillies Beat Thenselves

If you weren’t aware the Phillies were a much worse team than the Mets, you became aware of that fact today. Who else loses to the Mets during a Sunday day game?  

The reason why the Phillies are so bad was put right there on display in the bottom of the fifth. 

The Phillies had the bases loaded and no outs against Mets starter Chris Flexen. This was the moment to take advantage of a young pitcher, and not only tie the game, but also take the lead. 

Nick Williams hit a fly ball to center fielder Michael Conforto. Rather than challenge Conforto’s arm, Freddy Galvis stayed put at third. Only problem was Odubel Herrera didn’t. He took off for third, and he was out. 

Even with a Flexen subsequent wild pitch, this was a back breaker. Instead of a lead or tie game, Flexen got out of the inning allowing just one run. It would allow him to depart in line for the win. 

Flexen battled most of the day throwing 98 pitches in five innings. He twice faced bases loaded situations, and both times he limited the damage allowing just one run. His final line was five innings, six hits, two runs, two earned, four walks, and five strikeouts. 

He got the win because the Mets bats were alive. 

Curtis Granderson, back in his familiar lead-off spot, set the table for a Mets offense that scored six runs on the day. For his part, Granderson finished a triple short of the cycle, and he would leave Citizens Bank Park with the crown. 
Granderson leadoff the game with a double off Phillies starter Zach Eflin, and he came home to score on Conforto’s 26th home run of the season. 

In the fifth, it was Granderson taking on Conforto’s role. His 17th home run of the season would score Jose Reyes, who hit a one out double. 

Granderson brought Reyes home again in the seventh. Aftet Reyes hit a one out single, he stole second putting himself in scoring position. Granderson delivered with an RBI single. Granderson then scored on a Wilmer Flores RBI single making it 6-2. 

The Flores RBI single was an important one. It wasn’t important in terms of the final score. The game wasn’t in doubt. No, the RBI was important because with the Neil Walker trade, the Mets have announced he’s getting more playing time. Put another way, he’s getting another chance to prove he can be an everyday player. 

Today, he helped himself going 2-5 with an RBI. 

Also helping themselves was the bullpen, who combined to pitch four scoreless innings to close out the game. Specifically, Chasen Bradford and Paul Sewald bolstered their cases why they should be a part of the Mets next year. 

To that end, so did Granderson.  He’s shaken off a horrendous April to be a good hitter since that point. He’s a great clubhouse presence who can play all three outfield positions. The Mets need him in the clubhouse again, and based on the injury history, they may soon need him in the field. 

For now, the Mets won. More than that, we got to see the young kids continuing to grow. 

Game Notes: Kevin McGowan was called up to take Walker’s spot on the roster. 

Tough Loss But The Young Guys Did Play 

Don’t read too much into tonight’s game. The game started off on a strange foot when Neil Walker was pulled off the field (and his being removed from the lineup) during batting practice with his reportedly being dealt to the Brewers. 

There was also the matter of Aaron Nola, who has been pitching like a Cy Young contender of late. Including tonight’s start, Nola now has a 10 start streak with him pitching at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs. 

Tonight, that one run came off a Yoenis Cespedes fourth inning homer that briefly gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. There’s the argument it should have been a 2-0 lead. 

In the third, Amed Rosario hit a one out double. He found himself on third when Brandon Nimmo struck out on a wild pitch. The wild pitch allowed Nimmo to reach first instead of the inning ending. 

Rosario and Nimmo then attempted a double steal. Cameron Rupp threw through.  Seeing this Rosario took off. With Nimmo seemingly having the base, Freddy Galvis didn’t hesitate coming off the bag to meet the throw and go home nailing Rosario. 

That play would loom large during a two run fifth inning. 

Up until that point, Steven Matz was cruising. He had four no-hit innings, which ended with the Phillies hitting back-to-back singles to start the fifth. Matz was so close to getting out of this jam. 

First, Rupp popped out, and then Nola laid down a sac bunt. Matz couldn’t get the big out yielding a game tying single to Cesar Hernandez. Galvis then hit a seeing eye single that was just past Jose Reyes giving the Phillies a 2-1 lead. Ultimately, that was the game-winning hit. 

Nola continued to shut down the Mets. His final line was seven innings, two hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and eight strikeouts.  This made Ricardo Pinto  a welcome sight in the eighth. 

Curtis Granderson and Reyes each walked setting up two on and two out for Cespedes. Pinto would strike out Cespedes on three straight pitches to end the rally. 
From there, the Phillies would add an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth off Erik Goeddel giving them a 3-1 lead. 

Ultimately, the Mets lost a difficult game. They lost a teammate, and they faced a tough pitcher. With that said, they did the right thing and played some young guys. More than that Matz progressed from where he has been. 

Given how the Mets are constituted, they’re going to lose a lot of games. That’s understandable. The only thing you can reasonably ask is when they lose, it’s a good game, and the young players are getting their feet wet. That happened today, so all-in-all, that’s not too bad a day. 

Game Notes: Michael Conforto started the game in center, and Nimmo played right. Reyes wasn’t initially supposed to be in the lineup, but took over for Walker in the lineup and played second. Asdrubal Cabrera played second. 

Bruce Wasn’t Worth The Qualifying Offer

One of the reasons Mets fans were angry about the return of Ryder Ryan for Jay Bruce was the fact many believed the Mets could have offered Bruce a qualifying offer, and they then could have recouped a second round pick when Bruce signed a big deal elsewhere.  While we all should be able to agree Ryan was not second round value, the point that Bruce would automatically reject a qualifying offer is flawed.

This past offseason teams have shown they no longer value players like Bruce the way they once did.  If the Mets inability to move Bruce this offseason wasn’t any indication, and if the return the Mets got for Bruce wasn’t any indication, then look at what happened to Mark Trumbo last year.

Trumbo took a one year flier with the Orioles, and he had a monster year leading the majors with 47 homers.  In total, Trumbo hit .256/.316/.533 with 27 doubles, a triple, 47 homers, and 108 RBI.  That was good for a 122 OPS+ and a 123 wRC+.

On the strength of this season, the 30 year old Trumbo would reject the qualifying offer only to be met with a tepid free agent market.  Without Trumbo being able to garner the interest he believed would be present, he went back to the Orioles on a three year $37.5 million deal.

It wasn’t just Trumbo either.  Other sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Chris Carter were met with surprisingly soft markets this offseason.

The conclusion that can be best drawn for this is the market just doesn’t value sluggers the way it once did.  With the qualifying offer being worth around $18 million next year, there was a very real chance Bruce was going to accept that qualifying offer meaning the Mets got no draft pick compensation.

It would also mean the Mets outfield would have been a disaster defensively.  We know Bruce is not a center fielder, and we also know Yoenis Cespedes no longer belongs out there.  The argument would be Michael Conforto could.  He has shown he can handle it in spurts, but long term that is a bad proposition.  In 327.2 innings there, Conforto has a -2 DRS and a 0.2 UZR.

Seeing how the Mets played this year, the biggest thing they need to do is to upgrade defensively.  That goes double for key defensive positions like shortstop and center field.  Fortunately, the Mets have Amed Rosario at short.  Who knows if the answer is Juan Lagares or a name outside the organization for center.  The one thing we do know it’s not Bruce.

There’s another consideration as well.  The Mets need to make wholesale changes this offseason, which is going to require a lot of money.  For a team that took a lesser return for Bruce partially due to the savings it brought them, we should worry about Bruce’s $18 million hindering the Mets ability to fully address all of the teams needs just like it happened last year when Neil Walker accepted his qualifying offer.

Overall, the Mets needed to trade Bruce to get some return for him.  The return was lackluster for many, but in reality, it reflects more upon how teams value sluggers like Bruce.  At a minimum, the Mets got something for him, and they have freed up playing time for Dominic Smith and Brandon NimmoAll they have to do now is actually play those players.

Best Win Of The Year

I’d like to say when I saw Dominic Smith was getting called up to the majors, I rushed to purchase tickets to the game. 


Fact is, I long had these plans. That doesn’t change the fact I was absolutely thrilled to see a lineup with Smith, Amed Rosario, and Michael Conforto in the same lineup. If tonight’s game is any measure, the three of them in the lineup is going to produce some exciting and winning baseball for years to come. 

After falling behind 3-0 with a tough first inning, the Mets quickly got Seth Lugo off the hook. 

First it was a Conforto homer in the second off Phillies starter Nick Pivetta. Then it was a Yoenis Cespedes three run shot in the third to give the Mets the lead.  With Cespedes’ being my son’s favorite player, this was the absolute highlight of the night for him. 

Yes, moreso than getting Paul Sewald‘s autograph. Sorry, Paul. 

From there it was a back and forth game. And no, I don’t just mean the back-and-forth between the potty trips and the stops to the concessions. No, this was an exciting game. 

The Phillies tied it in the third on a Tommy Joseph RBI double. 

In the fifth, Rosario got a rally started with a lead-off single, and he’d score on a Neil Walker base hit. Walker, himself, scored on a Cespedes RBI single. 

With Conforto walking, the Phillies pulled Pivetta and brought in Jesen TherrienWilmer Flores got into a favorable 2-0 count, and he got a good pitch to hit. Unfortunately, Flores hit it right at Rhys Hoskins to end the inning. This would not be the last time Flores would kill a rally. 

The Phillies would get a run back on a Freddy Galvis sixth inning RBI double off Josh Smoker (run charged to Lugo) to make it a 6-5 game. 

In the eighth, the Mets had runners on first and second with one out and Rene Rivera at the plate and Rosario on deck. On a 1-2, not a 3-2, but a 1-2 pitch, Flores took off for third. It was an easy strike em out – throw em out double play. 

At that moment, you had to feel all warm and cozy about Terry Collins decision in the previous inning to double switch Smith out of the game. You felt even worse about it when Cesar Hernandez homered off Jerry Blevins in the bottom of the eighth to tie the score at six. 

This was all a prelude to Rosario earning his first crown as a Met. In the top of the ninth, he homered the lead-off the top of the ninth:

It was his first HR and his first game-winning RBI. 

There is no doubt this was and will be the best Mets game of the year. You got homers from Conforto and Cespedes. Smith had his first big league hit. Rosario capped it all off with his first career homer. 

Tonight was as good as it has been for the Mets all year. Hopefully, with the young pieces all due to return next year, there are lot more in store. 

Game Notes: AJ Ramos earned his second save as a Met. Hansel Robles earned the win meaning his record is now 7-3. 

deGrom Beats Phillies Like He Always Does

Entering tonight, Jacob deGrom had never lost to the Phillies. With the Phillies being one of the few teams in baseball actually worse than the Mets, it wasn’t about to happen tonight. 

deGrom dominated the Phillies over his 6.2 shutout innings allowing just four hits while walking none and striking out nine. The only way the Phillies could take him out of the game would be a Nick Williams line drive off deGrom with two outs in the seventh. 

Terry Collins did the right thing pulling deGrom from the game. With the Mets going nowhere, there’s no need to risk anything. There’s less of a reason with the Mets being up 7-0. 
One thing we have learned over the years is the Mets have always loved hitting at Citizens Bank Park. In fact, the Mets have homered there more than any other opponent. Tonight, the festivities began with a Wilmer Flores first inning three run homer off starter Vince Velasquez

Velasquez wouldn’t last more than an inning. The Phillies would then bring in Al Leiter‘s nephew Mark Leiter

He’d fare much better than Velasquez with the lone run against him coming off a Neil Walker solo shot in the third. 

It was interesting to see Walker at third again tonight, especially with the Yankees reportedly having interest in him. I’m sure there will be a team to step in to offer a low rated Single-A reliever to prevent that deal from happening. 

The Mets didn’t score again until Michael Conforto hit a three run shot in the seventh off Phillies reliever Jesen Therrien

Conforto got the home run from the clean-up spot. Now that the Mets have traded Jay Bruce, Collins has re-inserted Curtis Granderson in the lead-off spot for the foreseeable future. Collins also promises to keep Conforto in the middle of the lineup as preparation for next year. 

Speaking of Granderson, he hit a two run homer in the ninth to give the Mets a 9-0 lead. 

That 9-0 lead became 10-0 with a Jose Reyes RBI groundout. 

Overall, the Mets annihilated the Phillies. Flores was a triple short of the cycle. Every position player but Travis d’Arnaud reached base. He and Amed Rosario were the only two Mets without a hit. 

The Mets needed more games like this during the 2017 season. In fact, this is just the Mets fourth shut out on the season. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way. Still, we should enjoy them whenever they come. 

Game Notes: Dominic Smith will join the Mets tomorrow. 

Day Game So Mets Lost

Today’s Mets game was scheduled at 12:10 because it was Camp Day at Citi Field.  Apparently, the Mets aren’t much interested in generating new baseball fans because the team played one of their typical dreary day games.  With today’s loss, the Mets are now an MLB worst 10-23 in day games.

This loss was one of the worst.  It wasn’t the worst because the Mets were blown out.  The 5-1 score dictate otherwise.  Rather, it was a dreary day when the Mets gave you very little reason to cheer.

Rangers starter Martin Perez allowed just three hits over eight innings to the Mets with Wilmer Flores fifth inning homer being the lone run scored.  Perez was so good on the mound that he was able to stick around long enough to earn a golden sombrero.

One pitcher who did not last very long was Rafael Montero.  His good stretch of pitching is now long forgotten, and he’s back to being the very bad pitcher that would drive Mets fans crazy.  Just to put it in perspective, the first run of the game scored on a Montero balk, and he followed that up by allowing a three run homer to Joey Gallo, who has just worn out the Mets in this short two game series.

The run in the second inning was maddening.  Elvis Andrus would steal consecutive bases off of the combination of Montero and Rene Rivera, and then he would score just ahead of Jose Reyes‘ throw home.  It was a bad job blocking the plate by Rivera.  The only thing worse than that was Collins failure to challenge the play at second on the first stolen base.  Replays would show Andrus was actually out.

Montero’s final line would be 3.0 innings, five hits, four runs, four earned, three walks, and five strikeouts.

From there, Terry Collins played his favorite stretch everyone out in the bullpen game.  Josh Smoker would pitch two innings, but he couldn’t get through that third.  He would load the bases with no outs.  Hansel Robles came on, walked a batter, got out of the jam, and he would pitch three innings.  This for a reliever that just said he couldn’t feel his fingers the other day.

Chasen Bradford pitched a scoreless ninth to at least give the Mets a chance to win the game in the ninth.  They didn’t.

Really, the one highlight other than Flores’ homer was Amed Rosario making a terrific diving play:

We are now at the point where Rosario and Michael Conforto are really the other two reasons to watch this team.  Hopefully, the Mets will call-up Dominic Smith to give us a third reason.

GAME NOTES: Neil Walker started the game at third base making him the 164th third baseman in Mets history.