Nolan Ryan

Wright Returned

Tonight was about one thing and one thing only – David Wright.

While we always anticipated he could be shut down at any time without warning, after he homered in his third straight game, no one truly expected May 27, 2016 to be his final game as a Met.

In a pleasant surprise,Mickey Callaway said pregame that Wright was going to pinch hit tonight. To ensure he got in, Callaway assured us Wright was going to be the first pinch hitter of the game.

For a brief moment, it appeared that would be the bottom of the fourth. A noticeably nervous Wright emerged from the dugout and the fans erupted.

While Wright began a routine both familiar from his 13 year career and yet new from this being an all too different experience all together, he dropped the bat.

He picked it up and continued that routine etched in our memories. Alas, with Kevin Plawecki grounding out to end the inning, the process would have to begin anew in the fifth.

As I saw this, I knew it was time. My oldest was up next to me in eager anticipation of the moment. We had been talking about it all night, and he was telling me how cool each of the highlights of him was.

I went and I got the baby out of his crib. I had each of my boys on my lap to watch a baseball game. It wasn’t the first time it’s ever happened, but it was the first big Mets moment since my youngest was born.

There was no option other than sharing this important moment with my sons. One day when they are older, they can each honestly say they saw David Wright play.

It’s not too dissimilar how my dad made sure I saw Tom Seaver pitch, or how he actually turned off the Mets game one day as my brother and I watched as Nolan Ryan won his 300th game.

So while my phone was abuzz with texts from my brother and dad, I sat there with my boys on my lap, and we watched Wright eagerly swing at Jose Urena‘s first pitch:

Even with all that Jacob deGrom has done, that groundout to third was the top moment of 2018 because for a brief moment David Wright was once again a Met.

Game Notes: In case you were wondering, the Mets lost 8-1.

Chipper’s Hall of Fame Plaque Will Say Larry

It all began with Orel Hershiser. On the eve of the NLCS, he shared the information with Eddie Coleman. He was there and Steve Somers was here on our radios discussing it. In the pre-Twitter era, this was how you conveyed messages to Mets fans.

Mets fans would get that message loud and clear, and they would then deliver that message beginning with player introductions before Game 3 of the NLCS, and they delivered it every time he stood at the plate:

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!

It was the only way Mets fans could try to torture Chipper Jones; the man who built a Hall of Fame resume by and large by his performance against the Mets.

Jones revealed in tweaking the Mets fans. He chided them one time saying, “Now all the Mets’ fans can go home and put their Yankees stuff on,” after he and the Braves had once again left the Mets for dead.

He named his first child Shea.

More than that, he hit .309/.406/.543 with 49 homers and 159 RBI against the Mets in his career.

In response, well, Mets fans had their beloved “LAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYY!” chant. Whether or not, it worked didn’t matter. What mattered was the name got under Chipper’s skin.

Undoubtedly, Chipper got the best of the Mets in his playing days. The Braves knocked the Mets out of Wild Card position in 1998, and they won the 1999 NLCS. The Braves won the NL East from 1995 – 2005.

And now, he’s a Hall of Famer. Coincidentally, that may be where Mets fans win the war.

If you’ve ever seen a Hall of Fame plaque, it lists your given named with the nickname underneath in quotes.

It’s not Tom Seaver. It’s George Thomas Seaver.

It’s not Nolan Ryan. It’s Lynn Nolan Ryan.

It’s not Yogi Berra. It’s Lawrence Peter Berra.

It won’t be Chipper Jones. It will be Larry Wayne Jones.

That’s right. For all time, he will be Larry. It’s a warm reminder for Mets fans who loved to chide him with the name.

Hopefully, Chipper Jones gets a chuckle about that fact. Honestly, I hope it doesn’t detract from the moment from a great baseball player who was truly a worthy advisory.

Enjoy your moment Larry.

Different Pitchers Need Different Routines

Pitchers are built differently.  We need not look any further than R.A. Dickey who was born without a UCL.  With that in mind, why do teams and pitching coaches implement similar routines for everyone?  What works for Nolan Ryan could lead to him being able to pitch a record 27 major league seasons whereas Sandy Koufax couldn’t lift his arm after 12 years in the majors.

For a Mets rotation that has battled both season ending injuries and under-performing, the rotation has received advice from sources outside of the coaching staff to help them improve as pitchers.

Last year, Noah Syndergaard was going through a period of a dead arm where his issues with bone spurs might have been overblown.  In a four start stretch, he was 2-2 with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.  The last start was particularly awful with him lasting just 4.2 inning.  The stretch would cause the Mets to hold him out of the AllStar Game.

Looking for answers, Syndergaard looked no further than Bartolo Colon for guidance.  The answer was to change how he was throwing bullpens.  As Syndergaard said, “I think I am going to take a page out of Bartolo’s playbook, he doesn’t throw bullpens, he takes it really light on his arm where every fifth day he feels as fresh as can be.”  (Kevin Kernan, New York Post).

With the new bullpen routine, Syndergaard returned to form.  He finished the season going 8-5 with a 2.65 ERA and a 1.244 WHIP.  He would pitch for the Mets in the Wild Card Game, and he would be great pitching seven brilliant shut out innings.

Like Syndergaard last year, Jacob deGrom was looking for answers.  He had consecutive outings where he couldn’t even pitch into the fifth inning.  He allowed 15 runs on 18 hits.  His respectable 3.23 ERA turned to a worrisome 4.75 ERA.  That’s when he began texting with John Smoltz.

The Mets ace came up with the idea to text Smoltz because he had overheard Smoltz talking about throwing two bullpens between starts.  The end result was a change in his routine with deGrom saying, “I talked to John Smoltz about it and he said he threw two bullpens for 10 years.  It helps me feel comfortable on the mound, keep a feel for my command.”

The routine paid immediate dividends with deGrom throwing the second complete game of his career.  He followed that up with two eight inning gems making him the first Mets pitcher since Johan Santana in 2010 to pitch eight plus innings in three consecutive games.  In the three starts, he has allowed just two earned runs on 12 hits.  He’s lowered his ERA over a full run.  He’s back to being Jacob deGrom.

Looking at it, both Syndergaard and deGrom are different pitchers with different issues.  Syndergaard found less bullpen sessions helped him whereas deGrom needed more.  It makes sense that different routines would work for different pitchers . . . for different people.  This should be a guiding principle for pitching coaches and Mets pitchers going forward.  It’s not the team’s plan that is best.  It’s the plan that fits you individually that is the way to go.

 

Where Are They Now: The 2006 Top 10 Prospects

At the 2006 trade deadline, many believed the Mets were in need of a big starting pitcher to help the best team in baseball win the World Series.  At that time, the big name was Barry Zito, but the Mets were reportedly balking at the asking price which included their top prospect in addition to their best set-up man in Aaron Heilman.  Certainly, Heilman became untouchable with Duaner Sanchez‘s injury.  However, there is still some debate whether any of the Mets prospects should have been so untouchable so as to prevent them from being moved in a trade many believed the Mets needed to make to win the World Series.

Keeping in mind the Mets didn’t want to move a top prospect, let’s take a look at who was considered the Mets Top 10 prospects back in 2006 and see how their respective careers fared:

Lastings Milledge

The Mets 2003 first round draft pick was seen by many as a future star in the major leagues.  He was supposed to be a five tool center fielder.  Unfortunately, it did not pan out that way.

Milledge first got his chance in 2006 at first due to a Xavier Nady injury and then because of Nady being traded to sure up their bullpen due to the Sanchez injury.  Milledge would show he was not quite ready for the limelight.  That shouldn’t be surprising considering he had only played 84 games in AAA, and he was 21 years old.  In 56 games, he would only hit .241/.310/.380 with four homers and 22 RBI.  He would be unfairly chastised for high fiving the fans after a game tying home run in extra innings.

Unfortunately for him, the home run that led to much hand wringing might’ve been the top moment in his career.  Milledge would never figure it out for the Mets, and his star potential would diminish.  In 2007, the Mets would move him for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

Overall, Milledge would only play six years in the majors hitting .269/.328/.395 in parts of six major league seasons.  He would play his last game for the Chicago White Sox as a 26 year old in April 2011.  From there, he would play four years in Japan.  In Japan, he wouldn’t re-establish himself as a major leaguer like Cecil Fielder did, nor would he become an acclaimed Japanese League player like Tuffy Rhodes.  Rather, he hit a disappointing .272/.348/.447 averaging 10 home runs and 32 RBI.

Milledge suffered injuries limiting him to just 34 games in 2014 and 2015.  No one would sign him to play professional baseball anywhere in 2016.  In the end his professional baseball career is over at the age of 31.

Yusmeiro Petit

Petit was the one major prospect the Mets would move to help the 2006 team.  The Mets included him in a deal with Grant Psomas and Mike Jacobs for Carlos Delgado.  Delgado would go on to become a slugger at first base the Mets had never truly had in their history.  For his part, Petit has put together a nice major leauge career.

Petit would not figure things out until he became a San Francisco Giant in 2012.  Under the tutledge of Dave Righetti and Bruce Bochy, he would become a very good long man in the bullpen.  In his four years with the Giants, he as 10-7 with one save, a 3.66 ERA, and a 1.128 WHIP.

His best work was in the 2014 postseason.  That year the Giants rotation was Madison Bumgarner and a group of starters the team could not truly trust to go five innings in a game.  Accordingly, Petit was used almost as a piggyback starting pitcher.  In that 2014 postseason, Petit would make four appearances going 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA (no runs allowed in the NLDS or NLCS) and a 0.868 WHIP.

In the past offseason, Petit was a free agent, and he signed a one year $3 million deal with the Washington Nationals with a $3 million team option for 2016.  He struggled this year in his 35 relief appearances and one start going 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.323 WHIP.

In his nine year career, Petit is 23-32 with a 4.58 ERA and a 1.276 WHIP.  Whether or not his option is picked up by the Nationals, we should see Petit pitch in his tenth major league season in 2017.

Gaby Hernandez

The Mets traded their 2004 third round pick with Dante Brinkley for Paul Lo Duca.  Lo Duca was the emotional leader for the 2006 Mets that almost went to the World Series, and Hernandez never pitched in the major leagues.

Hernandez would bounce around from the Marlins to the Mariners to the Red Sox to the Royals to the White Sox and finally to the Diamondbacks.  While Hernandez had shown some early promise with the Mets, he never realized it.  He topped out at AAA where he would pitch for four seasons going 30-36 with a 5.80 ERA and a 1.562 WHIP.

Hernandez has not given up on his major league dream.  Since 2012, Hernandez has been pitching in the Atlantic Leagues.  Over the past three seasons, he has pitched Winter Ball.  He made 25 starts and two relief appearances for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he was 7-10 with a 4.88 ERA and a 1.216 WHIP.  At the moment, the 30 year old Hernandez has not been signed to play for a Winter Leagues team.

Mike Jacobs

The Mets 1999 38th round draft pick was part of the aforementioned trade that helped the Mets acquire Delgado.  The Mets were largely able to use Jacobs as part of the trade because of the tremendous start to his career.

In 2005, Jacobs hit .310/.375/.710 with 11 homers and 23 RBI in 30 games.  While Jacobs continued to be a power hitter after leaving the Mets, he would never again reach those levels.  Eventually, his impatience at the plate caught up to him, and he would only only last seven years in the major leagues.  His penultimate season was with the Mets in 2010 when he was unseated by Ike Davis as the Mets first baseman.

After being released by the Mets, Jacobs has spent the past six seasons in AAA with a 13 game cup of coffee for the Diamondbacks in 2012.  In Jacob’s seven year career, he hit .253/.313/.473 with 100 homers and 312 RBI.  As a Met, he hit .290/.360/.645 with 12 homers and 25 RBI.  If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Jacobs would have the highest slugging percentage in Mets history.

At this point, it is unknown if the 35 year old Jacobs will continue playing professional baseball in 2017.

Philip Humber

The one theme that is developing here is that while these players didn’t have a big impact in the majors or the Mets, Omar Minaya utilized these players to help the ballclub. Humber is a perfect example of that.

The Mets 2004 first round pick (third overall) had an inauspicious start to his professional career needing Tommy John surgery in 2005.

With that Humber would only make one start in his Mets career, and it wasn’t particularly good.  With the Mets collapsing in the 2007, and the team having a rash of starting pitcher injuries, the team turned to the highest drafted player in their system.  Humber kept the woeful Washington Nationals at bay for the first three innings before allowing Church to hit a two run homer in the fourth and then sowing the seeds for a huge rally in the fifth inning that would see the Mets once 6-0 lead completely evaporate in a frustrating 9-6 loss.  This would be the last time Humber took the mound for the Mets.  In his Mets career, he would make one start and four relief appearances with no decisions, a 6.00 ERA, and a 1.333 WHIP.

Still, he showed enough to be a major part in the trade that would bring Johan Santana to the Mets.  Santana and Humber would both enter immortality.  Santana would throw the first no-hitter in Mets history.  Humber would become perhaps the unlikeliest of all pitchers to throw a perfect game.  It was the 21st perfect game in baseball history.  He joined David Cone as the only ex-Mets to throw a perfect game.  He joined a much longer list of seven former Mets, highlighted by Nolan Ryan, who threw a no-hitter AFTER leaving the Mets.  Humber would also become the pitcher with the highest career ERA to throw a perfect game.

In all, Humber played for five major league teams over his eight major league seasons.  In those eight major league seasons, he has gone 16-23 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP.  He threw his last major league pitch in 2013 in a season he went 0-8 in 13 starts.  In 2014, he pitched for the Oakland Athletics’ AAA affiliate.  In 2015, he pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leagues going 3-3 with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.855 WHIP in 11 starts and one relief appearance.

Humber had signed on with the San Diego Padres and was invited to Spring Training in 2016.  He was released prior to the start of the season, and he did not throw one pitch for any professional team in 2016.  He is currently 33 years old, and at this point, he has not announced his retirement.

Carlos Gomez

Gomez has been far and away the best player on the list of the 2006 Mets top prospects.  He would be moved with Humber as a centerpiece in the Santana trade.

In Gomez’s early career, it was clear he was a Gold Glove caliber center fielder.  He made highlight reel play after highlight reel play for the Twins.  However, it was clear from how he was struggling at the plate, the projected five tool player wasn’t quite ready to be the hitter everyone anticipated he would be at the major league level.  Eventually, the Twins traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers, and in Milwaukee, Gomez would figure it out.

In Gomez’s five plus years with the Brewers, he won a Gold Glove and was a two time All Star.  He was also a coveted player at the 2015 trade deadline, and he almost became a New York Met again in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores.  As we all remember, Flores cried on the field, and the Mets front office was disappointed in Gomez’s medicals causing them to rescind the trade due to a purported hip issue.

Gomez would then be traded to the Astros, and the Mets would appear to be vindicated for their decision.  Gomez played 126 games for the Astros before being released and picked up by the Texas Rangers.  In Texas, Gomez began playing like the player the Mets coveted at the 2015 trade deadline.  The 33 game burst came at the right time as the 30 year old Gomez will be a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason.

Overall, Gomez has played for 10 years, and he is a .257/.312/.415 hitter with 116 home runs, 453 RBI, and 239 stolen bases.  He is still a good center fielder, and he may still have a couple of good seasons in front of him.

Fernando Martinez

From the moment the Mets signed him as a 16 year old amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic, F-Mart was seen as a top prospect.  Many imagined he would become a five tool player like a Carlos Beltran.  Instead, his career went the way of Alex Ochoa.

F-Mart was the first big prize Minaya brought in when he become the General Manager of the Mets.  Understandably, he was considered untouchable in trade discussions.  As it turns out, the Mets wished they moved him when they had the opportunity.

F-Mart would only play in 47 games over three years with the Mets hitting just .183/.250/.290 with two homers and 12 RBI.  Eventually, with him not progressing as the Mets once hoped he would, and a different regime in place, F-Mart would eventually be put on waivers and claimed by the Houston Astros.  With the Astros, he would only play in 52 games over two years, and he would just hit .225/.285/.424 with seven homers and 17 RBI.

In 2013, the Astros traded him to the Yankees for minor league depth.  After the 2013 season, F-Mart would become a free agent, and he would find no suitors.

In 2014, he only played in the Dominican Winter Leagues, and in 2015, he played in only seven games in the Mexican Leagues.  Given how he has bounced around and seeing how many major league teams have either passed on him or have forgotten his existence, it is hard to believe that he is just 28 years old.

Hernandez is undeterred, and he is still playing baseball.  Right now, he is playing alongside current Mets shortstop prospect Luis Guillorme for Spain in the World Baseball Classic qualifying rounds.  Spain would go 0-2 in the European Qualifier and will not be a finalist for the World Baseball Classic.

Anderson Hernandez

The Mets acquired Hernandez from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for backup catcher Vance Wilson in 2005. Hernandez intrigued the Mets because he was an exceptionally skilled defensive shortstop.  The question with him was whether he was ever going to hit.

Despite these questions, and with Kaz Matsui starting the year on the disabled list, Hernandez would actually be the Mets Opening Day second baseman.  On Opening Day, he would show everyone why he was so highly regarded defensively with an impressive over the shoulder catch.  However, Hernandez would also show he would never be able to hit at the big league level.  That fact may have forever changed Mets history.

Despite hitting .152/.164/.242 in 25 games with the Mets, he would make the NLCS roster.  In Game 7 of the NLCS, with the Mets trailing 3-1, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez led off the inning with back-to-back singles.  Instead of going to Hernandez to pinch-hit for Heilman to get the bunt down, Willie Randolph went to an injured Cliff Floyd to try to win the game.  Floyd would strike out, and Hernandez would enter the game only as a pinch runner for Lo Duca, who had worked out a walk to load the bases.  From first base, Hernandez got a good view of how the series would end.  Had Hernandez been able to hit just a little bit, it is possible he would have been sent up to bunt, and maybe things would have gone differently.

Overall, Hernandez never did show the ability to hit at the major league level.  The Mets gave up waiting.  In 2008, with the Mets desperate for relievers to plug in holes to a decimated bullpen, Hernandez was traded to the Nationals for Luis Ayala.

Hernandez would play for four teams in six seasons hitting .241/.300/.314 with four homers and 60 RBI.  While he did show he was skilled defensively, he could never hit enough to stick in the majors, and as a result, his major league career was over in 2010 when he was 27 years old.

From 2011 – 2013, Hernandez would play in AAA.  For the past three seasons, he has played in the Japanese Leagues.  In every season since 2006, the 33 year old has played in the Dominican Winter Leagues for Tigres del Licey.  It is unknown at this point if he is going to play for the Tigres this year or if he will return to the Japanese Leagues next year.

Brian Bannister

Bannister was the Mets 2003 seventh round draft pick out of USC.  He would become the first ever Brooklyn Cyclones pitcher to pitch a game for the New York Mets.  Bannister had earned that right by beating out Heilman for the fifth spot in the 2006 Mets Opening Day rotation.  There were a myriad of reasons including but not limited to Heilman’s importance in the bullpen.

Bannister’s career would get off to quite the start with him going 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA and a 1.393 WHIP.  While he struggled with his command and couldn’t go very deep into games as a result, the Mets were willing to stick with him through those five starts.  Unfortunately, Bannister would suffer a hamstring injury at the end of April that would linger for most of the year.  By the time he was healthy, John Maine was already a fixture in the rotation.  With the Mets acquiring Perez at the trade deadline, there was no longer a spot for him on the major league roster.

With there no longer being any room for him, the Mets moved him in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for Ambiorix Burgos.  It was a trade that was detrimental for both players.  Bannister would pitch four years for the Royals going 35-49 with a 5.13 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP.  Burgos’ Mets career was marked by ineffectiveness, injury, and domestic violence.

After going 37-50 with a 5.08 ERA and a 1.421 WHIP in his five year major league career, Bannister had signed a two year deal to pitch for the Yomiuri Giants.  Bannister would never pitch for the Giants.  After an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Bannister retired from baseball.  Since the 2015 season, the 35 year old Bannister has been a professional scout for the Boston Red Sox.

Alay Soler

In 2003, Soler defected to the Dominican Republic from Cuba.  The following year he would sign a three year $2.8 million contract with the New York Mets.

Soler would only pitch for the major league club in 2006.  He would make eight starts highlighted by a complete game two hit shut out of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Unfortunately, the rest of his starts weren’t as great, and he would finish the year going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.578 WHIP.  His contract would expire at the end of the season, and the Mets would not re-sign him.

Soler would pitch in 14 games, mostly out of the bullpen, for the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate in 2007.  In the following two seasons, Soler would return to the tri-state area pitching for the Long Island Ducks and Newark Bears of the Independent Leagues.  He would not pitch well at either stop, and no one would offer him a contract to play professional baseball in 2010.  In 2011, he pitched in two games in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues.  Since that time, the 37 year old Soler has not pitched in professional baseball.

At this time, it is unknown as to what Soler has been doing in his post-baseball career.

What is known is that while the top prospects from the 2006 season largely did not pan out, then Mets GM Omar Minaya was able to utilize a number of the players to improve the 2006 and 2007 Mets teams that fell just short.  This has left many fans wondering what would have happened if Milledge was moved at his peak value or what would have happened if Hernandez learned how to hit.  Things may have gone very differently in both of those seasons.

Still, while you could call each of these prospects, save Gomez, a bust.  It is notable that nine of the 10 players played in the major leagues for multiple seasons.  Three of the players played in the postseason, and one won a World Series.  There have been All Star appearances and a perfect game from this group.  While you expected more, each player left their own mark on the Mets and the game of baseball.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.

IBWAA Hall of Fame Vote – Players From Last Year’s Ballot

With the induction of Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey, Jr. coupled with Alan Trammell having fallen off the ballot, some of the glut that has been there in year’s past is no longer there.  Still, there are a number of people on the ballot who are deserving of Hall of Fame induction.

Before addressing who I did and who I did not vote for, it should be noted that I am not one who believes steroids users should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  However, I do believe there needs to be some evidence of usage if you are going to deny someone of a vote.  For far too long Piazza was denied induction despite the complete lack of credible evidence against him.  This fate has also befallen Jeff Bagwell.  And no, my opinion on this did not change with the induction of Bud Selig.  One mistake should not beget another.

For example, Jesse Haines is considered one of the worst selections in major league history.  However, he is not used as a door to induct any starter with a 200 wins and an ERA above 3.50.  If that was the case, David Cone and Dwight Gooden would be kicking themselves over retiring before getting those last six wins.

That is why I typically compare players to the average Hall of Famer at that position.  Saying someone is similar to the worst player inducted only serves to reduce the quality of the players inducted.  To compare everyone to the best of the best excludes players who had truly remarkable careers.  With that said, I compare players to the average with some caveats.  First, you should get extra credit for postseason play.  Second, you should get extra credit for doing something better than anyone has at that position.  Third, winning hardware and awards do matter.  Note, I only treat those as bonuses and not detractors.

With that long preamble, here are the players I voted for in last year’s IBWAA balloting.  After re-examining the respective cases, I am once again voting for the following players:

Larry Walker

Career Stats: 17 seasons, .313/.400/.565, 471 2B, 62 3B, 383 HR, 1,311 RBI, 230 SB

Advanced: 72.6 WAR, 44.6 WAR7, 58.6 JAWS

Awards: 7X Gold Glove, 3X Silver Slugger, 5X All-Star, 1997 NL MVP

While Mark McGwire was generally seen as the test for whether steroids players would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Walker has been the test case for players that have put up terrific offensive numbers at Coors Field.  So far, Walker has been penalized for playing in Coors Field, and many people have disregarded someone who has been one of the best right fielders to every play the game.

In his heyday, Walker was not only an outstanding hitter, he was an outstanding fielder as evidenced by his Gold Gloves.  He was  one of the most complete players of his generation.  Despite that, he is being discounted due to Coors Field where players put up proverbial video game numbers.

Yes, Walker did benefit from playing in Coors Field.  In his career, Walker was a .381/.462/.710 hitter.  However, it should be noted that on the road for his career, Walker was a 278/.370/.495 hitter.  Furthermore, in his six years with the Expos at the beginning of his career, he hit .281/.357/.483.  Reggie Jackson, who was a first ballot inductee, was a career .262/.356/.490 hitter.  Walker’s road and Expos numbers compare very favorably to Jackson.

With the Jackson comparison, the MVP Award, the Gold Gloves, and the advanced stats, Walker should be inducted into Cooperstown.

Jeff Kent

Stats: 17 seasons, .290/.356/.500, 560 2B, 47 3B, 377 HR, 1,518 RBI, 94 SB

Advanced: 55.2 WAR, 35.6 WAR7, 45.4 JAWS

Awards: 4X Silver Slugger, 5X All Star, 2000 NL MVP

There are many good reasons not to vote for Kent.  He was a corner infielder masquerading as a second baseman.  The advanced stats certainly don’t match up to the standard for induction into the Hall of Fame.  All of this is very true, but I voted for him anyway.

The reason is Kent is the best slugging second baseman in major league history, and he’s the best hitter at the position next to Rogers HornsbyAmong second baseman, he’s hit the most home runs, fourth most doubles, third highest RBI, and the second highest slugging percentage. When you add the 2000 MVP to the picture, there is enough there to say Kent deserves induction into Cooperstown.

Curt Schilling

Stats: 20 seasons, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 83 CG, 22 SHO, 22 SV, 1.137 WHIP, 3,116 K

Advanced: 79.9 WAR, 49.0 WAR7, 64.5 JAWS

Awards: 6X All-Star, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 WS MVP

Many could look upon Schilling’s career, and they could lament over a relatively low win total and high ERA.  However, that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Schilling.

Looking at Schilling’s advanced numbers, he certainly has done enough to earn induction into the Hall of Fame.  His WAR and JAWS are above the average for Hall of Fame pitchers.  His 127 ERA+ is the same as Tom Seaver‘s.  In terms of more traditional stats, Schilling is in the Top 15 on the career strike out list.  He is also has the second best K/BB ratio among players eligible for the Hall of Fame.  These numbers alone should warrant induction.

On top of that, Schilling is the definition of a Big Game Pitcher.  In his postseason career, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP.  In the World Series, Schilling was 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA and a 0.896 WHIP.  He has won an NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP.  He was a key member of three World Series winning clubs.  Between his postseason heroics and his regular season dominance, Schilling is a Hall of Famer.

Overall, if we are being honest, the reason Schilling won’t be inducted this year or the upcoming years will be a result of his post-career actions.

Mike Mussina

Stats: 18 seasons, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 57 CG, 23 SHO, 1.192 WHIP, 2,813 K

Advanced: 83.0 WAR, 44.5 WAR7, 63.8 JAWS

Awards: 6X Gold Glove, 5X All-Star

At age 39, Mussina finally got to the elusive benchmark of 20 wins in a season.  Judging from that year, it appeared he had an extra couple of years left in him to go make a run at 300 like many in his shoes would have.  Certainly, with his conditioning and the like, he had at least three years left in him to get it, and if he had, he likely would have been elected into the Hall of Fame without much of a fight.

However, Mussina did not get to that magical number leaving us to examine what was an interesting and a very good career.

To appropriately view Mussina, it needs to be within the context of his era.  Mussina not only played during the Steroids Era, but he also pitched in a bandbox like Camden Yards for the majority of his career.  It is a huge reason why that despite his relatively high 3.68 ERA for Hall of Fame standards, Mussina has a career 123 ERA+.  His 123 ERA+ is the same as Juan Marichal who pitched in a different era, had a career 2.89 ERA, and was a inducted his fourth time on the ballot.

Mussian’s ERA+ is also much higher to first ballot Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and his 112 ERA+.  What is interesting about that is despite being completely different pitchers with very different careers, Mussina and Ryan have similar cases from an advanced stat point of view.  Despite having pitched in nine more seasons than Mussina, Ryan actually trails Mussina in career WAR.  Ryan also trails Mussina in WAR7 and JAWS.

This is not to diminish Ryan’s career.  He was a first ballot Hall of Famer for a reason.  He was a 300 game winner with more strikeouts and no-hitters than anyone in baseball history.  Despite these tremendous stats, it is arguable that Mussina was a the superior pitcher to Ryan.  When you can create a valid argument why someone was a better pitcher than a no-doubt Hall of Famer like Ryan, you belong in the Hall of Fame; and ultimately, that is why Mussina belongs in Cooperstown.

The Three Faces of the Franchise

Every major league team that has been around long enough has three faces to their franchise.  The first is The Immortal player.  He is the player you first think of when you mention a franchise.  The next is the Living Legend.  This player is the one that is revered by young and old.  He is the player that throws out the first pitch at first home game of the World Series.  He’s in the Hall of Fame, and his number is retired.  The last is the best or most popular player on the team.  He is the player that has been traditionally dubbed the Face of the Team.  Here are a few examples:

New York Yankees
Immortal Babe Ruth
Living Legend Derek Jeter
Face of the Team Alex Rodriguez
Boston Red Sox
Immortal Ted Williams
Living Legend Pedro Martinez
Face of the Team David Ortiz
St. Louis Cardinals
Immortal Stan Musial
Living Legend Bob Gibson
Face of the Team Adam Wainwright
Los Angeles Dodgers
Immortal Jackie Robinson
Living Legend Sandy Koufax
Face of the Team Clayton Kershaw

Yesterday, with Mike Piazza‘s formal induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame and with Tom Seaver unable to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony he loves to attend, the Mets now how their own triumvirate.

Not only is Mike Piazza a Hall of Famer who is about to have his number retired by the Mets, he has also become the Mets resident Living Legend.  It’s why he was the former player who threw out the first pitch prior to Game Three of the World Series.  Every big moment for the Mets from here on out is going to prominently feature Mike Piazza much in the same way we have seen through the years with players like Ernie Banks, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and once upon a time Tom Seaver.

It’s unfortunate to see Seaver unable to travel to attend the ceremony and host his table of 300 game winners, including friend and former teammate Nolan Ryan, from his day like he loved so dearly.  It’s sad that he can’t travel cross-country to throw out the first pitch for any of the World Series games or to sit in the owner’s suite and cheer on The Franchise’s Franchise.  It’s almost a surety that he will be unable to attend Piazza’s Number Retirement Ceremony this weekend.  In some ways, that makes him like Gil Hodges and Casey Stengel – gone but not forgotten.

No one can ever forget Seaver.  He’s the best player to ever put on a Mets uniform.  He’s The Franchise.  He’s quite possibly the greatest right handed pitcher to ever play the game.  He is the pitcher who has received more Hall of Fame votes than anyone in baseball history.  He is an Immortal.  No one, not even Piazza, can ever knock him off that perch.

He is joined by the Living Legend Mike Piazza and the current Face of the Mets Franchise, be it David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes, or Noah Syndergaard to become one of the three all important faces of the Mets franchise.  In that way, the Mets have become an older major league franchise with a history worth celebrating.

Waking Up My Son for Baseball History

For the third time in my son’s life, I woke him up to watch a baseball game. 

The first time was September 25, 2014 when Derek Jeter had his last at bat at Yankee Stadium. I sat there with an almost nine month old, and we watched this:

It was an amazing baseball moment. I will always remember where I was when that happened. 

The next time I woke my son up for a game was October 21, 2015, when the Mets did this:

The Mets were winning their third pennant in my lifetime. It was the second one I remember. I wasn’t going to let him miss that moment.  I still remember talking to my Dad and brother that night with a cranky one year. 

Last night was the third time when Max Scherzer was on the cusp of history:

We watched him strike out Justin Upton to tie the all-time record with 20 strikeouts in a game. I was disappointed when James McCann grounded out to end the game. I got to watch baseball history with my son, but I didn’t get to see a new record. Side note: yes, I was rooting for Scherzer to do it. It’s history, and I’m a baseball fan. 

I wake my son up so he can experience these incredible moments. Will my son remember these moments?  Of course not. With that said, I do it for him as much as I do it for myself. I want to share these moments with my son as my Dad shared these moments with my brother and I. 

I remember my Dad forcing my brother and I watch Nolan Ryan try to win his 300th game (twice). I remember those countless times when he let us stay up past our bedtime in case this was the time the Mets finally got that elusive no-hitter. One of my fondest memories growing up was the Dad implemented rule that it’s not bedtime unless the Mets give up a hit. 

These are the moments I look forward to sharing with my son. These are the types of fond memories I want him to have. It’s why I’m starting him off early. 

Cespedes/Fulmer Trade Analysis Enters the Next Stage 

There are two times when any particular trade is judged. The first is when the trade is initially made. People look at the value derived from both teams and make a determination. The second is when the players involved play for their respective teams. These impressions are much longer lasting, and at times, these trades become quite infamous. 

On December 10, 1971, a pitching rich Mets organization traded their fifth or sixth starter Nolan Ryan along with three other players for Jim Fregosi. It could be argued it was a shrewd move as Ryan was 29-38 with the Mets, and the Mets were acquiring six time All Star Fregosi to fill a position of need. It was done to help improve a team thought to be a possible World Series contender. 

Ryan played more years than any other player. He won 324 games. He set all time records for strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (7). Fregosi played two years for the Mets hitting .233/.319/.328 in two season. The Mets are now universally panned for this trade. 

On August 12, 1987, the Detroit Tigers traded prospect John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander. The Tigers were 1.5 behind the Blue Jays in the AL East race. Alexander would go 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for a Tiger team that would win the division by two games. He would go 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA in an ALCS the Tigers lost in five games. Alexander made the All Star team for the Tigers in 1988, and he would follow that with a league leading 18 loss season in 1989. 

Smoltz pitched 20 years for the Braves. In his career, he was 213-155 with 154 saves and a 3.33 ERA. He took his game to another level in the postseason. In 41 postseason games (27 starts), he was 15-4 with four saves and a 2.67 ERA. He was the 1992 NLCS MVP, and he was a member of the 1995 Braves World Series Championship team. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2015. The Tigers are now universally panned for this trade. 

On August 30, 1990, the Boston Red Sox traded prospect Jeff Bagwell for Larry Anderson. The Red Sox had a 6.5 game lead and were trying to sure up the bullpen for the postseason. In the regular season, Anderson pitched in 15 games. He had a 1.23 ERA and one save. In the ALCS, he was 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in three appearances. The Red Sox were swept by the Athletics, and Anderson would go to the Phillies in the offseason. 

Bagwell made his debut a year after the trade, and he would win the Rookie of the Year Award. He would win an MVP, be named to four All Star teams, three Silver Sluggers, and a Gold Glove. Last year, he received 71.6% of the Hall of Fame votes. He appears to be on track to be elected next year. The Red Sox are now universally panned for this trade. 

On July 7, 2008, the Cleveland Indians traded CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers for four prospects headlined by Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley (PTBNL). The Brewers were four games out and in third place in the NL Central. They were a half a game out of the Wild Card. Sabathia would make 17 starts, many on short rest, for the Brewers going 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. The Brewers won the Wild Card on the last game of the season. Sabathia started that last game allowing only one run in a complete game win. 

In his lone NLDS start, a fatigued Sabathia would only last 3.2 innings while allowing five runs in a Game Two loss. The Brewers would lose the series, and Sabathia would sign with the Yankees in the offseason. 

LaPorta lasted only four years for the Indians hitting .238/.301/.393. He hasn’t played a major league game since 2012. Brantley is in his eighth season for the Indians. He has hit .293/.349/.422 in his career. In 2014, he was an All Star, won the Silver Slugger, and he finished third in the MVP voting. The Brewers now receive universal praise for the trade. 

On July 31, 2015, a pitching rich Mets organization traded Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa for Yoenis Cespedes. At the time of the trade, the Mets trailed the Nationals by three games in the NL East. Cespedes would hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 homeruns and 44 RBI. The Mets would win the NL East by seven games. Cespedes hit .222/.232/.352 with two homers and eight RBI. He signed a three year deal with the Mets with an opt out after one year. To date, a vast amount of Mets fans approve of the trade. 

Cessa was traded by the Tigers to the Yankees. He made his major league debut this year pitching two innings and allowing one earned in his only appearance. He was sent down to Triple-A. It is too early to tell what will become of his career. 

Fulmer was the Tigers main target in the Cespedes trade. Fulmer was a first round pick by the Mets in the 2011 draft. In a deep system stocked with pitching talent, he was a well regarded prospect. Once he became a Tiger, he quickly became their top prospect. 

Tonight is his first career start. It will be not only the first chapter in his career, but it will also be the first chapter on how we judge what the Tigers received in exchange for Cespedes. 

Almost immediately, the Mets wish they could’ve undone the Fregosi trade. Anderson and Alexander undoubtedly helped their teams, but in retrospect, the Red Sox and Tigers wish they could’ve undone those trades. On the other hand, the Brewers are pleased with their trade. 

We’re about to start finding out where the Cespedes trade falls in Nolan Ryan to CC Sabathia spectrum. 

Only Cheers for Jacob deGrom

He could break Anthony Young‘s consecutive games lost streak. He could lose more games than Roger Craig and Jack Fisher. He could allow more earned runs than Craig. He can walk more batters than Nolan Ryan. He can become a bad pitcher overnight and seem like he doesn’t care like Oliver Perez. None of this matters. 

Jacob deGrom is off limits in 2016. 

It’s tough enough to be a new father. It’s tougher to be on the road all of the time. It’s impossible when your child is sick. Even though he may never need it, deGrom gets each and every benefit of the doubt. He’s Teflon this year. No groaning. No booing. Nothing but cheers and appreciation. 

Jacob deGrom has already earned this right for being a terrific Met. Fans should never doubt he’s giving it their all even if his personal life may be preventing him from doing so. Mets fans are only permitted to cheer for deGrom this year. 

This cheers can start now with his son hopefully being discharged today. 

Thor Trying to Avoid Tommy John Surgery

Going into the 2016 season, there is one fear each and every Mets fan has. We dare not speak its name, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still present. That fear is that a pitcher will get seriously injured. 

Looking at this year’s list of pitchers who could befall the dreaded “Verducci Effect,” Noah Syndergaard headlines that list. If Syndergaard was to suffer a season ending injury requiring Tommy John surgery? it would greatly hinder the Mets chances of winning not only the World Series, but also making it to the postseason. It’s something that not just Mets fans fear, but as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports, Syndergaard fears it also:

I’ve thought about it quite a bit. But I trust myself to put my body in the right situations to be able to perform at a healthy level. 

The fear is justified. Syndergaard threw 65.2 innings more last year. He throws over 95 MPH more than anyone in the game. He’s working to add the fabled Warthen Slider to his already dominant repertoire. Name a risk factor for UCL years requiring Tommy John surgery. Syndergaard meets most if not all of them. 

One risk factor not readily discussed is the team he plays for. Look at the projected Mets rotation when healthy: Matt HarveyJacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Put aside Syndergaard for a moment. What do the other four have in common?  They are all hard throwing pitchers under the age of 30 who have already had Tommy John surgery. 

Go outside this group. Since Warthen took over as the Mets pitching coach, the following homegrown Mets have sustained arm injuries: Jon Niese (shoulder), Dillon Gee (shoulder), Jeremy Hefner (two Tommy John surgeries), Rafael Montero (shoulder), Bobby Parnell (Tommy John), Josh Edgin (Tommy John), Jack Leathersich (Tommy John). There are more, but you get the point. 

Now, is this an organizational problem since Warthen took over, or is it just bad luck?  Could this all have been avoided?  Back in the 60’s and 70’s the Mets developed pitchers like Tom SeaverJerry KoosmanNolan Ryan, and Jon Matlack. These pitchers threw more innings than the pitchers today, and yet, Matlack was the only one of this group that suffered an arm injury. 

In the 80’s, the Mets had Dwight GoodenRon DarlingSid Fernandez, Rick AguileraRandy Myers and David Cone. Of this group, only Doc and Cone had arm issues. It should be noted that Doc had many other issues as well, and Cone’s problem was an aneurysm later in his career. 

In the 90’s, Generation K was a bust, and the Mets haven’t developed the caliber of starting pitchers like they have in the past until now. However, this generation seems to befall injuries far more often than their predecessors. Is it organizational?  Is it bad luck?  Is it preparation?  For his part, Harvey wonders what if:

I think now, there are things I could have done better in high school or in college to maybe prevent it. But I don’t know. I’m not saying [Syndergaard] works that much harder than everybody else, because we all work hard. I think as time progresses, guys pay more attention to stretching the shoulder, strengthening the shoulder. If I could go back — I don’t know if this would’ve prevented me from having [surgery], but if I could go back and really do 20 extra minutes of stretching and arm care, you never know what could happen. 

That’s the thing. We really don’t know why one guy suffers elbow and shoulder injuries while others don’t. Is it preparation?  Is it good genes?  Is it just good luck?  Much time, energy, and money has been spent on this issue, and yet pitchers still get injured. Pitchers get injured despite teams doing everything in their power to try to prevent it. 

It will help Syndergaard being in a clubhouse with players who have had Tommy John surgery. They each will have advice for him on why they suffered the injury and what they could’ve done differently. More importantly, Syndergaard appears to be a hard worker who takes the health of his arm very seriously.  There is no doubt he is doing everything he can do to avoid the dreaded Tommy John surgery. 

Based on what we’ve seen, if anyone can avoid it, it’s him. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsmerizedonline.com