After the 2013 season, Curtis Granderson was really a free agent for the first time in his career. While Granderson was always durable, he was coming off an injury plagued season that was the result of getting hit by two pitches. In the prior to season for the Yankees, Granderson was coming off consecutive 40 home run seasons. In fact over that two year stretch, Granderson led the majors with 84 homers. With that in mind, Granderson was one of the most coveted free agents on the free agent market.
To that end, it is surprising that a player like Granderson who had mostly played for good teams in his career would opt to go a Mets team coming who never had a winning record since moving to Citi Field. Moreover, it was surprising that a power hitter like Granderson was so willing to move to the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field.
And yet, Granderson signed a four year deal to become the Mets right fielder. Why?
Well as Granderson told MLB Network during their 30 Clubs 30 Days feature on the Mets, “I was optimistic it was going to happen. Sandy Alderson and the Mets organization told me about the young guys – the Matz’s, the Syndergaard’s, I had see Harvey, the deGrom’s – and all of a sudden here they are. Not only are they here but they’re here to stay. They all piggyback off of each other and do an amazing job.”
Either Sandy did a great job selling, or Granderson just has an eye for talent because heading into the 2014 season things were not that optimistic.
Matt Harvey‘s incredible 2013 season was cut short with him needing Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard was not yet dominating in the minor leagues despite having terrific stuff. Steven Matz was just coming back from pitching after what had been an arduous Tommy John rehabilitation.
Now, Zack Wheeler was coming off a promising season, and Rafael Montero promised to be the next big thing. While Granderson mentioned Jacob deGrom, if we are being honest, no one knew what he was yet. Certainly, not the Mets as they had deGrom lower on the depth chart than Montero.
Despite all of that, Granderson was right, it has all worked out. Even better, the Mets have pitchers like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo who have developed into good pitchers while Granderson has been a Met. Behind them are pitchers like Thomas Szapucki and Justin Dunn.
Back in 2013, this was the image of the Mets Alderson presented to Granderson. To his credit, Granderson bought in and signed with the Mets. To Alderson’s credit, he not only delivered, but he keeps delivering.
As Granderson enters the last year of his four year contract, it is important to remember he was the first free agent that believed the Mets could one day be World Series contenders. Not only did he sign with the Mets based upon that belief, but he has also been an important contributor to this Mets team both on the field and in the clubhouse. In many ways, the Granderson signing was a pivotal moment. It was the time that the Mets starting the process of going from a rebuilding team to a World Series contender. It was also the time when someone started believing in this team.
In international competition, I am an American, and as such, I will always root for the USA to prevail. In the Olympics, I root for the USA regardless of what Rangers are playing for the other country. I love Henrik Lundqvist to death, but I would root for an American team full of Islanders, Devils, and Flyers if it was ever a USA-Sweden gold medal match.
The same goes for the WBC.
Surprisingly, the closest ties USA has to the Mets is Daniel Murphy and Tyler Clippard, both of whom were on the 2015 pennant winner. Mostly, the USA roster is full of players you would rather not root for as a Mets fan.
There’s Eric Hosmer whose name cannot be mentioned in my house anymore. I loved watching Michael Conforto take Danny Duffy deep in the World Series, but to be honest, Duffy got the last laugh. Tanner Roark is a National, who also did all he could do to help blow the 5-0 lead against the Dominican Republic. While I generally like both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, when seeing them play, you cannot help but be reminded of the heartbreaking loss in the Wild Card Game last year. Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been a thorn in the Mets side on a Marlins team that seemingly exists just to be a Mets spoiler.
Overall, while I have found USA to be a likeable team, there are enough players there that harbor bad memories.
The Puerto Rican roster, on the other hand, is full of players I absolutely love.
Carlos Beltran may be the next Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. T.J. Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job last year after a number of injuries left the Mets searching for a capable player at the position as the team was fighting for a Wild Card. Rene Rivera helped Noah Syndergaard improve as a pitcher last year.
Worse yet, Seth Lugo is going to start against the USA in what should prove to be an incredibly important game. Lugo was an vitally important pitcher who helped get the Mets back to the postseason last year. He may prove to once again be an extremely important pitcher for the Mets next year whether he is in the rotation, the bullpen, or both. As a Mets fan, you do not want to see Lugo get bashed around by the USA in the WBC. Rather, you want to see him continue to improve and be in the best possible position to help the Mets next year.
Not to be wishy-washy, but you hope that Lugo pitches well and the Americans still win.
And yes, despite all the Mets ties to Puerto Rico, including Angel Pagan, who was once a pretty good Met, I am still rooting for the USA tomorrow night. Mostly, I am rooting for the USA because I am an American.
On the dawn of the World Baseball Classic, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard made some waves when he stated, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.” (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).
Judging from attendance at Spring Training, Syndergaard’s belief is not something that is universally shared in the Mets clubhouse. Jose Reyes is one of the few major league players that have appeared in all four WBCs. He is joined on the Dominican Republic team by Mets relievers Hansel Robles and Jeurys Familia.
Fernando Salas threw his first pitch this Spring for Mexico. Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini have been stars for Italy. Seth Lugo and T.J. Rivera, two players arguably fighting over the last spots on the Opening Day roster, are playing with Mets back-up catcher Rene Rivera for an undefeated Puerto Rico team. Ty Kelly is both fighting for a potential roster spot and for a spot in the semifinal for Israel.
Point is, while Syndergaard doesn’t believe in the importance of the WBC, many of his teammates do. That includes team captain David Wright, who said, “Everybody has their right to their own opinion, and obviously Noah doesn’t think too highly of it. But I do. So I’m not sure if it’s just a different mentality, and I’m not sure if there’s a right or a wrong. But getting a chance to represent your country, and put that jersey on, and hear the chants of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A’ — that’s one of the highlights of my career. (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).
It should be noted Wright wasn’t calling out Syndergaard like the time he and Bobby Parnell threw Syndergaard’s lunch in the garbage. He wasn’t singling out Syndergaard either noting other great players like Clayton Kershaw have opted not to play in the WBC without having to face the same scrutiny Syndergaard has. Rather, Wright was merely trying to speak to what the WBC has meant to him.
It certainly was one of the highlights of Wright’s career. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Wright sent USA to the semifinals with a walk-off hit against Puerto Rico. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Wright would loom even larger. He hit the decisive grand slam against Italy that helped propel the United States back to the semifinals. In the 2013 tournament, Wright hit .438/.526/.750 with two doubles, a grand slam, and 10 RBI. Wright was named as the third baseman to the All WBC Team. If not for his intercoastal injury before the semifinals, who knows if USA wins the WBC that year?
Among USA players in WBC history, Wright is second all-time in games played, third in hits, second in doubles, and first in RBI. He is a ,333/.400/.458 hitter in WBC history. He had two huge go-ahead late inning hits that propelled the USA into the semifinals. It is why Wright was dubbed Captain American. Overall, you cannot discuss the greatness of Wright’s career without mentioning the WBC.
It is an event that has mattered to Wright as much as any moment in his career. As Wright said, “Up to this point if you say, ‘Hey, what’s the most fun you’ve had on a baseball field?’ I’d say the World Series. But I would say in the conversation of cool things that I’ve gotten to do on a baseball field, the World Baseball Classic is toward the top of that list for sure.”
Overall, during Spring Training and the WBC, Wright has been noticeably absent. As his health issues continue to linger and keep him off the field, the 2013 WBC and 2015 World Series seem farther and farther away. However, those moments should not serve as the epilogue to a great career for a great Met. Rather, they should serve as highlights.
Deep down, each and every Mets fan must hope Wright has another chapter left in him. It may not happen in the WBC. It may happen in the World Series. And it may just happen this year.
This is not meant to be critical of players or their patriotism. It isn’t. Players, especially pitchers, have a certain shelf life, and no one should tell them to risk everything for a one month international competition. Perhaps Noah Syndergaard put it best when he said, “I’m a Met. Ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame or the World Series playing in the WBC.” (Abby Mastrocco, nj.com).
If you go down the line, you will probably hear similar responses from the other players that did not play. The problem is most of them are American.
The reigning Cy Young Award winners are Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Neither are pitching, but to be fair Scherzer was slated to pitch before he suffered an injury. The runner-ups were Jon Lester in the NL and Justin Verlander in the AL. They aren’t pitching either. Third place? Kyle Hendricks and Corey Kluber respectively. The two pitchers who started Game 7 of the 2016 World Series aren’t on the USA roster. Dig deeper. The best pitcher in baseball right now is Clayton Kershaw. He’s not on the roster. The best clutch pitcher in all of baseball right now, if not all time, is Madison Bumgarner. He’s not on the roster.
This speaks to the absolute depth of the starting pitching among Team USA. Arguably, the crop of starting pitchers on the USA roster right now is their 7th best option. Maybe even worse. And yet, they pitched brilliantly. Chris Archer, Marcus Stroman, and Danny Duffy went out there and pitched as good as or better than any of the aforementioned pitchers would have pitched in that spot.
But then comes the bullpen. As loaded as the USA is in the rotation, they should be just as loaded in the bullpen. Zach Britton is coming off a historically great season, but much like the AL Wild Card Game, you are not going to see him pitching against a foreign opponent. Addison Reed, a pitcher coming off a season with a 1.97 ERA isn’t on the roster. It could be argued Wade Davis is the best closer in all of baseball, and yet, he isn’t on the roster. The closest USA comes to having a terrific closer on the roster is Mark Melancon, who is on the provisional roster.
I kept thinking about all the aforementioned pitchers while Tanner Roark, a pitcher who wouldn’t make a squad of the best American born pitcher in the National League East, was getting tattooed by the Dominican Republic. Oddly enough, it was the one pitcher for USA you trusted the most, Andrew Miller, the one who definitively belonged on the roster, was the one that ultimately blew the save.
Sure, you could have hoped USA scored more runs after jumping out to a 5-0 lead. You could argue that the best young players in the game Mike Trout and Bryce Harper went to Spring Training instead of competing in this event. You also wonder how much of an impact USA not bringing their best players had an impact on American born Manny Machado playing for the Dominican Republic. You wondered a little more as he hit a Tanner Roark ball nearly out of the gigantic Marlins Park.
Personally, I was wondering what the heck Jim Leyland was doing with his lineup. Two of the better hitters on the team, Andrew McCutchen and Daniel Murphy, were stapled to the bench while Eric Hosmer was batting fifth. Mind you, Hosmer could very well be the worst hitter in that lineup. He’s certainly the bottom two or three on the roster. These are the things that happen when you name Leyland manager instead of giving the chance to Willie Randolph, a man who has had success at the major league level and in international play.
Seriously, aside from Buster Posey and perhaps Nolan Arenado and Ian Kinsler, you could argue the best USA players and coaching staff stayed home. This is why USA has not won a WBC to date, let alone appear in a final. And yet, in some strange way, it speaks about how much better USA is than the world in baseball.
In Olympic basketball, USA brings its best players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and yet, the team has to sweat it out to win Olympic Gold. In hockey, Canada is absolutely stocked top to bottom. Arguably, the team it leaves home would win Olympic Gold, and yet each Olympics teams constantly push Canada. In the WBC, USA isn’t sending near its best, and they are having to play tougher games than expected.
Teams like Colombia try to keep their hopes alive with a gutsy performance from Nabil Crismatt. Puerto Rico’s ace is Seth Lugo, a pitcher who can’t even find his way onto an All-American Mets starting rotation. Israel has transformed Josh Zeid, a pitcher the Mets would not re-sign to a minor league deal, into their version of Andrew Miller.
USA may not have their best, but they have players like Adam Jones who well up with pride putting on the uniform and representing their county. This is a roster full of players that are easy to root for and are good enough to win the WBC. As an American and as a baseball fan, I’m happy these players chose to play, and they deserve to win it all because even though they might not be the best American players, they are the best team in the WBC.
* adapted from “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss
When I leave home to go to Citi Field,
Dad always says to me,
“John, keep your eyelids up
And see what you can see.”
But when I tell him where I’ve sat
And what happened each at-bat,
He looks at me and sternly says,
“You did not see all of that.
Stop telling such an outlandish story.
Juan Lagares cannot cover that much territory.”
Now, what can I say
About what I saw today?
All the long way to the game
And all the way back,
I’ve looked and I’ve looked
From the outfield to the bat rack,
But all that I’ve noticed,
Except the green infield,
Was d’arnaud and Matz
At Citi Field
Yes, the Gazelle is fine,
He gives batters a migraine,
There’s another marvelous pitcher
Who’s stuff is much more insane.
The story could be so much more
If the pitcher I saw were Thor.
An orange and blue capped pitcher’s fastballs are profound,
Rumbling like thunder from the mound!
No, it won’t do at all . . .
There’s another with the ball.
Zack Wheeler is better;
He’s come back round,
And he’s ready to for a start
On the Citi Field mound
Hold on a minute!
There’s something wrong!
The bullpen is the place for this dealer
It’s off to the bullpen for Zack Wheeler,
It’d be much better, it might,
If the start went to the Dark Knight.
But it isn’t too late to make one little change.
This story is about Yoenis Cespedes! No longer on the driving range!
He’s got plenty of power and size,
You can see the opposing pitcher with fear in his eyes.
A then, the sound system emits a loud tone,
Cespedes the Lion King! Perched high on a throne!
Say! That makes a batter that no one can heel,
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field.
But now I don’t know . . .
It still doesn’t seem right.
A Cespedes swinging a bat that’s so light
Would hit balls around in the air like a kite.
But he’d look simply extreme
With a great New York Mets team!
A team that’s that good should have someone to see it,
Wins coming so fast, the Nationals finding it hard to keep near it.
Nationals always the trailer! They’ll be out of their mind
Not even Daniel Murphy can get them out from behind.
But now is if fair? Is it fair what I’ve done?
Before they take the field, they’ve already won.
That’s really too heavy a load for one beast;
I’ll give him some helpers. He needs two, at least.
Michael Conforto to do the trick,
To guide them after the intentional walk schtick –
It takes a lineup to do the trick.
They’ll never lose now. They’ll race at top speed
With Curtis Granderson, himself, in the lead.
The Manager is there
And he thinks it is grand,
And he raises his hat
As they rise from their seats in the stands.
The Manager is there
Sandy Alderson too,
All waving big banners
The stands are becoming a zoo.
And that is a team whose championship is sealed
When I say that I saw it at Citi Field!
With a roar of its motor an airplane appears
The pitcher steps off the mound and everyone jeers.
And that makes a story that’s really not bad!
But it still could be better. Suppose that I add . . . . . . . . .
. . . A David Wright
Who can stay upright . . .
A big Duda
Swinging sticks . . .
A Jacob deGrom
And his garden gnome . . .
No time for more,
Cespedes’ coming home.
He swung ’round third base
And dashed towards the plate,
The Mets ran up the steps
And I felt simply GREAT!
FOR I HAD A STORY THAT NO ONE COULD YIELD!
AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT AT CITI FIELD!
But Dad said quite calmly,
“Take the parking pass off the windshield
And tell me the sights
That you saw at Citi Field”
There was so much to tell, I JUST COULDN’T BEGIN!
Dad looked at me sharply stroking the beard at his chin.
He frowned at me sternly from there from the front seat,
“Was there nothing to look at . . . no great feat?
Did nothing excite you or make you jump out of your seat?”
“Nothing,” I said, now becoming more even-keeled,
“But a Matz pitching to d’Aranud at Citi Field.”
Last year’s story “One Strike, Two Strikes, Three Strikes, You’re Out!” can be found here
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!
Recent reports state the Mets and Neil Walker are in the midst of extending Walker’s current one year $17.2 million deal into a three year deal that may be worth north of $40 million. Now, if Walker is truly healthy and capable of repeating the numbers he put up in 2016, this deal could very well be a massive discount for the Mets. But, we don’t know if he can. It’s one of a few reasons why this may not be the time to extend Walker.
Declining Production Against RHP
Much has been made about the turn-around Walker had as a right-handed hitter. Overall, he was a completely different hitter from that side of the plate. The improvement from the right-hand side of the plate masked Walker’s three-year decline as a left-handed hitter:
- 2014: .269/.339/.491
- 2015: .276/.337/.456
- 2016: .266/.333/.433
Now, it is possible this was the result of the back issues. It also could be the result of what could be the natural continual decline of a now 31 year old player. Fact is, it is too soon to know, and if that is the case, how can you re-invest in that player?
If Walker was not extended, he is going to be a free agent along with the teams first baseman Lucas Duda. The Mets also have an $8.5 team option on Asdrubal Cabrera. Potentially, the only infielder that could be back next season is David Wright, who no one can count on to play a full season. On the surface, this is very problematic.
Any concerns that are raised by the pending free agents should be alleviated by the depth of the Mets farm system. For example, the Las Vegas 51s infield will be loaded:
Rivera is the least regarded prospect of the group, and we just saw him hit .358/.378/.552 with two doubles a triple, three homers, and 13 RBI when he took over second base in September. Coincidentally, Rivera was put in that spot due to the injuries to both Walker and Wilmer Flores.
Rivera could be competing for a spot at second base with Cecchini, Flores, or possibly Cabrera. If the Mets pick up Cabrera’s option, he could slide to second while Rosario takes over at shortstop. Overall, even without Walker, the Mets have plenty of middle infield options remaining, and that is before you take into account the possibility Jose Reyes re-signs with the team.
Regardless of the infield permutations in 2018, it seems reasonable to assume the infield will incorporate both Smith and Rosario. With those two being major league ready next year, the Mets re-signing Walker becomes much less of a priority.
Signing The Starting Pitchers
The young players being able to step in and contribute is important because these players will be extremely cheap. Whereas Walker would probably demand an average annual value of approximately $13+ million per season, Cecchini, Rivera, and Rosario would cost around $500,000. That’s a significant difference. And the Mets can use that money.
Matt Harvey is due to be a free agent after the 2018 season. Zack Wheeler will be a free agent the following year. Jacob deGrom will be in his final arbitration year the year Wheeler hits free agency. Noah Syndergaard will be arbitration eligible next year, and Steven Matz will be arbitration eligible the following year.
These pitchers are about to become extremely expensive. Considering they are the foundation of the Mets success, the Mets need the payroll room to re-sign them and pay them what they will earn in arbitration. Giving $13 million or more to Walker potentially impedes with the Mets ability to pay their pitching. This isn’t a matter of the Mets still being considered to be on austerity; it is a matter of the Mets only being able to spend so much money.
Walker being paid $13 million certainly stands in the way of that happening. If Walker is not capable of playing everyday, or has diminishing skills like most players in their mid 30s, that will create an even bigger issue.
Walker Is An Unknown
If Walker is healthy, he is an All Star caliber player at second base. Regardless of the prospects in place, Walker certainly gives the Mets a safer choice. In fact, Walker could provide the Mets with a better bat than the aforementioned prospects. For a team that is considered a World Series contender, Walker could be an important piece of the puzzle.
However, no one knows what he will be after his discectomy. He could remain healthy, but he could show some effects of the surgery leading to decreased mobility and power at the plate. He could suffer another herniation leading to him needing more surgery. Presumably, he could show no ill effects, and he could return to form. At this point, no one knows, nor can anyone be confident in what Walker will be when he steps foot in the field.
This may be a case where it is better to see Walker play now and have to pay more later. It would be better to pay a production player closer to market value than to try to get a discount and be stuck with an albatross of a contract the next few seasons. Given the depth of the Mets farm system, you really have to question whether this is a worthwhile or necessary gamble.
With many analyzing who should be the fifth starter, there seems to be two camps emerging. The first camp believes Zack Wheeler should be the fifth starter. The main basis for this argument, and it is a compelling one, is his 12 start stretch from July 6th – September 7th, 2004 where he was 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. Understandably, many believe Wheeler can return to this form. If so, he is a natural choice for the fifth starter.
The second camp believes Robert Gsellman should be the fifth starter. Gsellman has vaulted up many top prospect lists due to the stuff he showed at the end of last season. Like Wheeler, Gsellman was throwing 95 MPH. Like many young Mets starters, he showed a developing slider. Unlike Wheeler, Gsellman had the opportunity to pitch in September games that mattered. With the Mets needing all the wins they could get, he was 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.276 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. There is every reason to believe the 22 year old can build on this success, and as a result, he should be the fifth starter.
The Mets are justified in going in either direction, and yet, perhaps, the Mets should go in a different direction. For a multitude of reasons, the Mets should start the year with Seth Lugo in the Opening Day rotation.
The biggest argument you can make for Lugo in the rotation is his curveball. There has been much written about it this offseason because it could very possibly be the best curveball in the game, at least if you use spin rate metrics. His curveball naturally belongs on a staff that features some of the best pitches in baseball from Noah Syndergaard‘s fastball to Matt Harvey‘s slider to Jacob deGrom‘s change-up. And yet, Lugo is more than a curveball. He has a fastball he can throw as high as 97 MPH if the situation merits. Like Gsellman, he is improving his slider.
He used this repertoire to pitch extremely well despite extremely difficult circumstances. With the Mets fighting for the Wild Card, and him not having pitched more than three innings since May, he was thrust into the starting rotation. Despite those hurdles, Lugo was 5-1 with a 2.68 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, and a 5.6 K/9 as a starter. With Lugo being put in a better position next season, with him using his curveball more, and him further developing his slider, he promises to be an even better in 2017.
The obvious question is whether he would be a better option than Wheeler or Gsellman. Arguably, even if Lugo isn’t better, perhaps he should be in the Opening Day rotation anyway.
Based upon the Mets handling of Harvey, the team is likely going to want to limit him somewhere between 160 – 180 innings last year. Given his not having pitched in two years, there is a real debate if Wheeler can do even that. Even assuming he can pitch that long, assuming he averages six innings per start, that’s only 27-30 starts. This would leave the Mets needing to find approximately five more starts.
Then there is Gsellman. If you subscribe to the Verducci effect, 30 more innings would mean Gsellman’s cap is 189.2 innings. If he averages six innings per start, he would come close to lasting a full season. With that said, the Mets would still probably need to find a few more spot starts. That is even more the case if the Mets plan on using Gsellman in the postseason rotation.
Lugo can take the brunt of these starts to begin the season. This would permit the Mets to ease Gsellman or Wheeler into the rotation a month or two into the season. This would allow the Mets to allow either Gsellman or Wheeler to enter the rotation without having to be concerned about their innings.
As for Lugo, he could then move to the bullpen thereby giving the Mets another potentially dominant late inning reliever. And, if needed, we already know the Mets can rely on him for a spot starter if needed.
Ultimately, the best case scenario for the Mets would be to start the year with Lugo in the rotation. And who knows? Based off of what we saw with him last year, he may prove to be the best option for the rotation for the entire season.
With today being Valentine’s Day, it is only right we get into the spirit of things by being as clever as Bobby Valentine was the time he used eye black to make a fake mustache. Without further ado, here are some “clever” Mets themed Valentine’s Day lines you may see on one of those cards you used to pass out to your classmates in grammar school:
Jerry Blevins – Jerry? Hello! Be my Valentine
Josh Edgin – I’m Edgin my way closer to you.
Jeurys Familia – I want to become Familia with your sexy self.
Matt Harvey – If you thought 50 Shades of Grey was seductive, wait until you see the Dark Knight I have in store for you.
Seth Lugo – Lugo you want to get with this.
Rafael Montero – You might as well be my Valentine because we both know there’s not getting rid of me not matter how awful I am.
Addison Reed – You and Me Addison up to a great Valentine’s Day
Hansel Robles – You’re so hot right now
Fernando Salas – If I had to the same again, I would, my Valentine, Fernando
Josh Smoker – You’re so hot, I can see the Smoker from miles away
Noah Syndergaard – Can you handle this god’s thunder?
Yoenis Cespedes – There’s a lot of Potencia between you and I Valentine
Travis d’Arnaud – d’Arnaud it pains me to be apart from you
Lucas Duda – Duda right thing and be my Valentine
Wilmer Flores – I’ll cry if you put me in the Friends zone
Amed Rosario – Don’t Be Surprised Be Ready
Neil Walker – I would Walker 5,000 miles to be your Valentine
David Wright – It’s only Wright we would be Valentines
Jay Bruce – Let me be the Valentine you regret for years to come.
Michael Conforto – It’s a Conforto to know whether in NY or Vegas we’re Valentines
Curtis Granderson – It’s Grandy being your Valentine
Juan Lagares – You’re the only Juan for me
Brandon Nimmo – Nimmo I’m smiling because of you.
Ron Darling – Be my Darling this Valentine’s Day
Keith Hernandez – I mustache you to be my Valentine’s Day OR How about a Valentine’s Day mustache ride?
Happy Valentine’s Day
Well, it has finally happened. With Pitchers and Catchers reporting, the Mets dream rotation all has major league experience, and they are all healthy at the same time. For a fan base that never got to see Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, and Bill Pulsipher all pitch together in the same rotation, this is no small event.
In fact, this is a momentous occasion where some demons can be slain, and yet, there is some debate over whether we will see each and every single one of these pitchers pitch in the same rotation:
Matt Harvey is coming off surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). This surgery does not have the same history as Tommy John, so while there is always reason to believe in Harvey due to his drive and determination, there is some doubt as to how TOS will affect him in the future.
Jacob deGrom is coming off surgery to re-position his ulnar nerve. As far as pitcher elbow surgeries, this is as easy as it gets. And yet, whenever a pitcher gets elbow surgery, especially when that pitcher has once had Tommy John surgery, it gives you pause.
Steven Matz has pitched in the majors for parts of two seasons, and he was injury prone in both of those seasons. Last season, it was a surgery to remove what was categorized as a massive bone spur. Now that it is gone, he should be free and clear to resume being the pitcher we think he can be. Still, he is one more injury away from us questioning if he, like Travis d’Arnaud, will ever be healthy.
Zack Wheeler has not taken the mound in over two seasons due to his Tommy John and his difficulties and setbacks during the rehabilitation process. Fortunately, he seems ready to go, but he is at this point, we have no idea.
Noah Syndergaard has largely come through two seasons unscathed, and he has emerged as the staff ace. And yet, with his being a pitcher, moreover his being a Mets pitcher, you hold your breath. While you get excited about him adding muscle and his talk about wanting to throw harder, it should also give you some nervousness.
And yet despite all of these concerns and red flags, this is a great day. The dream that was set in motion with the Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey trades is close to coming to fruition. And with these five pitchers going to the mound, it is going to be extremely difficult for the opposition to out-pitch this quintet. It is going to be even harder to beat the Mets when they take the mound.
At some point during the season, we will see all five of these pitchers in the rotation, and if we don’t that might be good news. The reason? Well, it could be because either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo won a job in the rotation, and they pitched well enough the Mets are loathe to move them out of the rotation.
If the Mets truly have seven pitchers capable of being in THIS starting rotation, the Mets should be primed for a great 2017 season.
The Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez in what should be the first of many Hall of Fame classes we see without a Mets player being inducted. The Mets had to wait 23 years between the elections of Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. Depending on which hat Carlos Beltran selects when he is likely inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Mets may be waiting even longer than that. How long the Mets wait may depend on the Hall of Fame worthiness of one of the players currently on the Mets roster. Here are some players with a chance to be Hall of Famers one day:
#1 David Wright
Career Stats: .296/.376/.491, 949 R, 1,777 H, 390 2B, 26 3B, 242 HR, 970 RBI, 196 SB
Awards: 7X All-Star, 2X Gold Glove, 2X Silver Slugger
Advanced Stats: 49.9 WAR, 133 OPS+, 133 wRC+
Hall of Fame Metrics: 40.0 WAR7, 45.0 JAWS
The Case For: With his spinal stenosis, Wright has been that rare breed of player that not only spends his whole career with one team, but also winds up owning almost all of a team’s offensive records. At this point in time, he is the career leader in runs, hits, doubles, and RBI. He is only 10 behind Darryl Strawberry for the team home run lead. It is rare that with a franchise in as existence as long as the Mets that the team’s best ever offensive player is not inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Superlatives aside, there is a statistical foundation for Wright’s induction. His 133 OPS+ would be the sixth best by a Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of Wade Boggs and Ron Santo. His 133 wRC+ would be the third best among third base Hall of Famers with him trailing just Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Home Run Baker. His OBP would be the fifth best among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of the likes of George Brett. His slugging would be third among Hall of Fame third baseman putting him ahead of players like Brooks Robinson.
No matter how you look at it, Wright has been a top five to top ten third baseman all-time. As seen with his Gold Gloves, he is one of the more complete players we have ever seen at the position.
The Case Against: Due in large part of the spinal stenosis, Wright’s peak was not as high as it would be for a traditional Hall of Famer. In fact his WAR, WAR7, and JAWS trail the 67.5/42.7/55.1 an average Hall of Fame third baseman has accumulated in their career. In fact, Wright trails Robin Ventura in WAR and JAWS, and Ventura didn’t garner the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot. Overall, while you can say that Wright at his peak was one of the best third baseman ever, his peak did not last long, and he become too injury prone to put together a great career.
Verdict: Fortunately for Wright, he still has time to put up some more numbers to help bolster his Hall of Fame chances. However, with his spinal stenosis and now cervical fusion, it is hard to imagine him putting up positive WAR seasons that will move the meter enough to classify him as a Hall of Famer.
Career Stats: .272/.325/.494, 406 R, 743 H, 149 2B, 22 3B, 137 HR, 453 RBI, 40 SB
Awards: 2X All-Star, 1X Gold Glove, 1X Silver Slugger
Advanced Stats: 18.7 WAR, 124 OPS+, 123 wRC+
Hall of Fame Metrics: 18.7 WAR7, 18.7 JAWS
The Case For: Unlike Wright, who is winding down is career, Cespedes, 31, seems to have quality years ahead of him. The belief in the possibility of becoming a Hall of Famer started on August 1, 2015, which is the first time he set foot in the batter’s box as a member of the New York Mets. Cespedes had the type of finish to the 2015 season people will talk about for years to come. In the final 57 games of the season, Cespedes hit 17 homers and 44 RBI. The Mets went from being three games over .500 and two games out of the division to finishing the season on a 37-22 run and winning the division by seven games. In his Mets career, the Mets are 110-79 with him in the lineup, and a game under .500 when he is not. Simply put, Cespedes is a difference maker.
He’s also a completely different player. From 2012 – 2014, Cespedes was a .263/.316/.464 hitter who averaged 24 homers and 87 RBI. Since coming to the Mets, Cespedes is a .282/.348/.554 hitter who has a 162 game average of 42 homers and 119 RBI. Before becoming a Met, he averaged 3.1 WAR per season. In 2015, his first truly great season, he posted a 6.3 WAR. Last season, in part due to his injuries and his playing out of position, he regressed back to a 2.9 WAR. With him returning to left field, where he is a Gold Glover, he should return to being a player who can post six WAR seasons. If so, Cespedes has a shot of clearing the 65.1 WAR, 41.5 WAR7, and 53.3 JAWS an average Hall of Fame left fielder has accumulated.
The Case Against: Cespedes is already 31 years old, and to ask him to put forth five more MVP level type seasons is unrealistic. The unfortunate truth is Cespedes may have gotten too late a start to his career due to his being born in Cuba, played at a horrendous ballpark in O.co Stadium for a player of his skill set too long, and he became a much improved hitter too late in his career.
Verdict: Unfortunately, Cespedes didn’t do enough early in his career, and it is not likely he’s going to be a truly great player into his mid to late 30s. Overall, is going to go down as a beloved Met, but much like Keith Hernandez, he is going to fall short.
Career Stats: 23-16, 2.89 ERA, 55 G, 54 GS, 333.2 IP, 384 K, 1.103 WHIP, 10.4 K/9
Awards: 1X All Star
Advanced Stats: 137 ERA+, 2.72 FIP, 7.4 WAR
The Case For: In some sense, Syndergaard represents the trio that includes him, Matt Harvey, and Jacob deGrom. The reason why Syndergaard was selected was he is the youngest, has a fastball that gets over 100 MPH, and he is the only one without any injuries in his young career. Naturally, like with any young pitcher, health is going to be the key.
Last season, we saw Syndergaard scratch the surface of what he can be as a starter. He not only posts high strikeout numbers, but he generally induces weak contact. In fact, his 0.5 HR/9 was the best mark in the major leagues last year. Not so coincidentally, so was his 2.29 FIP. To cap off the season, Syndergaard pitched in a do-or-die Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner, who is the best big game pitcher we have in baseball. Syndergaard not only matched him scoreless inning for scoreless inning, he also out-pitched Bumgarner for those seven innings.
Syndergaard has slowly been moving from one of the most talented pitchers in the game to one of the best pitchers in the game. At 23, we can expect him to have many great seasons, and quite possibly multiple Cy Young awards. Really, at this point in his career, anything is possible.
The Case Against: That’s the problem with anything being possible. At one point in time Dwight Gooden was a no-doubt Hall of Famer. In fact, Gooden’s 1985 season was one of the greatest regular seasons a starting pitcher has ever had. However, as we know Gooden never made the Hall of Fame. Yes, much of that had to do with Gooden’s drug problems, but it should also be noted Gooden dealt with arm injuries as well. He probably threw too many innings at an early age, and he would eventually needed shoulder surgery. This as much as anything had to do with Gooden’s career falling apart.
Besides Gooden, you can name any number of pitchers who went from great to broken. That’s the nature of pitching.
Verdict: Syndergaard not only has the talent, but he also has the drive to be truly great. As long as luck holds out, and he listens to his body, like he did last year, Syndergaard should remain healthy putting him in good position to make a run at the Hall of Fame.