Pedro Martinez

Another Big World Series Pitching Match-Up Disappoints

In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Jack Morris and John Smoltz had a pitching match-up for the ages.  For 7.1 innings, Smoltz would shut out the Twins.  Somehow, Morris was even better than that pitching 10 shutout innings in an epic 1-0 Twins Game 7 victory.  It was a fitting end to one of the best World Series ever played.

Whenever you see big time pitching match-ups in the World Series, this is what we expect to see.  In this century, as evidenced by last night’s game, these match-ups typically fall well short of expectations.

Yes, Clayton Kershaw is no longer the young dominating ace we remember.  Sure, Chris Sale has been dealing with injury issues for the second half of the season.  Still, you were hoping they’d each pitch at least five innings.  But it’s not just them or their injuries, it’s seemingly every World Series.

2016

In Game 1, Corey Kluber held up his end of the bargain shutting out the Cubs over six innings.  Jon Lester wasn’t bad allowing three earned over 5.2 innings, but it certainly wasn’t two aces trading haymakers.

2015

It may be a bit of a stretch to call him such, but in 2014, Johnny Cueto finished second in the Cy Young voting.  Moreoever, he had been great with the Reds before being traded to the Royals.  He was great in Game 2 limiting the Mets to just one run in his complete game victory.  Despite being dominant all postseason long, Jacob deGrom hit a bump in this game allowing four earned in five innings.

2013

Adam Wainwright has been one of the better postseason pitchers of his era, but in Game 1, he allowed three earned over five while Jon Lester shut out the Cardinals over 7.2 innings.  The Game 5 match-up was much better with both pitchers going seven plus innings.  This had all the makings of a classic, especially with Wainwright striking out 10, but with two runs scored against him in the seventh, it was a 3-1 game.

2010

Game 1 was the match-up of all match-ups.  In 2008 and 2009, Tim Lincecum had won the Cy Young Award.  Cliff Lee had won the 2008 Cy Young in the American League, and he had established himself as a big-time postseason pitcher.  Lee would get shelled for six earned in 4.2 innings.  Lincecum was not much better allowing four earned in 5.2 innings, but he was at least good enough to get the win.

Much like the 2013 World Series, the sequel was better.  For the first six innings of Game 5, Lincecum and Lee would trade zeros.  That was until Edgar Renteria hit a two run over which effectively clinched the Giants first World Series since moving to San Francisco.  Ultimately, Lee would allow three earned over seven while Lincecum would allow one over eight.

2009

Former Indians teammates and former Cy Young winners, Lee and CC Sabathia would face-off in Game 1.  This was the rare pitching match-up which didn’t disappoint.  Lee pitched a complete game allowing just one earned while striking out 10.  Sabathia was also terrific allowing just two earned over seven.  Of course, the final score did not have the same feel as the Yankees bullpen blew up in what would be a 6-1 Phillies victory.

There was another big match-up in Game 4.  Andy Pettitte made a reputation as a big game pitcher, but he wasn’t quite that allowing four over six innings.  Opposite him as 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP Cole Hamels, who allowed five runs over 4.1 innings.

Pettitte was about the same in Game 6 allowing three runs over 5.2 innings, but Pedro Martinez, in what would be his final game, allowed four earned over four innings before departing.

2001

Now, this had a Game 7 befitting the 1991 Game 7.  The first five-and-a-half innings were scoreless until the Diamondbacks finally broke through with a Danny Bautista RBI double off Roger Clemens.  The Yankees responded with a a run off Curt Schilling in the seventh, and they took the lead with an Alfonso Soriano homer off Schilling in the eighth.  To heighten the great pitching all the more, Randy Johnson would pitch 1.1 scoreless to allow the Diamondbacks miracle comeback against Mariano Rivera to win the series.

As great as that was, the rest of the series did not have the same great starting pitching matchups.  Schilling was great in Game 1 while Mike Mussina allowed five runs over three innings.  In Game 2, Johnson had a complete game shutout while Pettitte allowed four over seven innings.  In Game 6, Johnson allowed just two earned over seven while Pettitte was hit hard from the get-go allowing six runs over two innings.

Now, there have been great pitching match-ups here and there.  There are typically memorable games.  Also, unlike movies, we have seen the sequel in starting pitcher match-ups prove to be much better than the first match-up.  If that trend continues, we should be in for a treat when Sale and Kershaw face-off in Game 5 in Dodger Stadium.

2018 Mets Season Ends On A Sad Note

Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended.  Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him.  Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.

There is the sadness with David Wright leaving.  He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced.  He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field.  Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.

Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players.  Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform?  Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform?  Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud?  How about Juan Lagares?  With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense.  Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together?  Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?

Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again?  He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed.  Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year.  At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play.  That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.

Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away.  Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year.  Addison Reed, Lucas Dudaand Curtis Granderson were traded away last season.  Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories.  Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas.  Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.

What we have left is good, really good.  We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted.  After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half.  Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.

We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner.  Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace.  Steven Matz actually made 30 starts.  Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close.  This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.

Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30).  When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse.  In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top.  If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.

Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.

There’s a hesitation there.  After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top.  Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.

Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring.  Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different.  The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade.  But after that?  Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short.  After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.

In the end, this is a really likeable team.  Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys.  They are what makes being a Mets fan great.  We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring.  That can’t happen.

In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one.  Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here.  Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series.  I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.

deGrom Having An All-Time Great Mets Season

In addition to Jacob deGrom making a case for him to win the Cy Young, he has also been making an impact on the Mets record books.  At the moment, he is the Mets all time leader in K/9 and ERA+.  He has also moved to second place all-time in ERA, third place in FIP, and he’s cracked the top 10 in strikeouts.  In essence, deGrom has moved into Jerry Koosman territory, and really, he is knocking at the door of being considered along with Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as being in the upper echelon of Mets pitchers.

With respect to Gooden, we all know his best year was 1985.  That year was not just the best year any Mets pitcher has ever had, it is among the best seasons any pitcher has ever had.  That year, Gooden was the unanimous Cy Young going 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, 0.965 WHIP, 229 ERA+, 2.13 FIP, 268 strikeouts, 8.7 K/9, and a 12.2 WAR.  After a record setting rookie season, you could see him at least threatening to challenge Seaver for the best ever in Mets history.  Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Perhaps, that was the mark of just how great Seaver was.  Looking at his Mets career, it is hard to pick just one season which defined his greatness.  After all, he does have three Cy Youngs, which remains the most in Mets history. Looking over his Cy Young seasons, his 1971 and 1973 seasons really stand out.

In 1971, Seaver was 20-10 with a 1.76 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, 194 ERA+, 1.93 FIP, 289 strikeouts, 9.1 K/9, and a 10.2 WAR.  In 1973, Seaver was 19-10 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.976 WHIP, 175 ERA+, 2.57 FIP, 251 strikeouts, 7.8 K/9, and a 10.6 WAR.

As an aside, it is astounding to see Seaver have two seasons that great.  Really, he was unparalleled in his greatness.  To put it in perspective, when R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young in 2012, he had a 139 ERA+ and a 5.7 WAR.  Seaver had eight seasons with at least a 139 ERA+ and eight seasons with at least a 5.7 WAR.

Looking back to Dickey’s 2012 season, he had a season good enough to beat out Clayton Kershaw to make him the third Met to win the Cy Young award.  While it was good enough to beat Kershaw, the best pitcher of this generation, it is nowhere as good as the season deGrom is having right now.

So far through 30 starts, deGrom is 8-9 with a 1.78 ERA, 0.950 WHIP, 207 ERA+, 2.05 FIP, 251 strikeouts, 11.0 K/9, and an 8.6 WAR.

Now, that is a season on par with what we have seen with Seaver and Gooden.  That FIP is better than what Gooden had in his all-time great 1985 season.  His ERA plus is better than what Seaver had in his aforementioned Cy Young seasons.  In fact, deGrom’s current ERA+ is even better than any season Seaver has posted in any season.

In essence, once you are mentally able to move past the win-loss record, deGrom is having one of the best seasons a Mets pitcher has ever had.  Depending on your gauge, it can be fairly ranked anywhere in the top five of Mets single season pitching performances.

Remember, the list goes beyond just Seaver and Gooden.  There were also great seasons from Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Koosman, and Matt Harvey.  However you look at it, deGrom belongs near or atop the list of single season performances.  More than that, deGrom is becoming one of the best pitchers in Mets history . . . if he wasn’t one already.

Meet The Mets Fan: MMO’s Tim Ryder

The Mets Fan

My name is Tim Ryder. I’m a writer for MMO, a contributor at Call to the Pen, and have been published at Hardball Times/Fangraphs, as well as Good Fundies. I formerly wrote for Friars on Base, a San Diego Padres site.

Personally, I’m 34. I was born October 12 at Booth Memorial in Flushing, which probably sealed my fate. I’m married to a wonderful woman named Heather and I have two lovely daughters, Kayla, 13, and Lily, 8.

How You Became a Mets Fan

I became a Mets fan at birth for the most part. Being born in 1983, I don’t remember ’86 and only vaguely recall ’88. My first real Mets memory is that 1989 team with the championship core still intact. I do remember hysterically sobbing on my kitchen floor after finding out Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were released in November of that year. A precursor for my relationship with this team, I guess.

Favorite Mets Player

Excellent question. My favorite Met of all-time is probably David Wright. Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana are right up there, as are Mike Piazza, John Franco, geez, I could literally go on forever. Next question.

Favorite Moment in Mets History

Johan’s no-hitter. I sat with my dad at the kitchen table and watched that game from first pitch to last. My dad passed away in 2015, so it’s definitely emerged as “the one” for me. And no, I don’t care that Carlos Beltran‘s foul ball was actually fair. Plus, even with replay, it still would have been foul (can’t review a ball that bounces in front of the base ump).

Message to Mets Fans

Keep voicing your displeasure with the way this organization is run. Send tweets. Send letters (126 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY).

Keep putting pressure on the Wilpons to run this team properly. They’ve become tone-deaf to our passion, as well as our desperation. We’ve been loyal through the best and, mostly, the worst of times and we deserve the same respect in return.

Jose Urena Was Wrong, Keith Hernandez Wasn’t

Last night, Jose Urena channeled his inner Roger Clemens and instead of buzzing a player off the plate or hitting him in the butt, he threw his hardest first pitch of the season directly at Ronald Acuna.  Put simply, it was as dirty and dangerous as a play as there is in baseball.

Hidden beneath what Urena did, there lies a hard-nosed old-school baseball philosophy which harkens back to intimidating pitchers like Bob Gibson and Pedro Martinez.  Don’t let a batter get too comfortable in the batter’s box, especially a red hot hitter like Acuna.

With respect to Acuna, he is hitting .339/.433/.714 with three doubles, six homers, and 17 RBI against the Marlins this season.  He had three straight games with a leadoff homer.  In a different day and age, getting plunked or brushed off the plate might’ve been expected.  That philosophy was clumsily explained by Hernandez during yesterday’s telecast:

Again, Hernandez is explaining an old school philosophy where if you are hitting bombs and leaning over the plate, the pitcher’s duty is to bust a batter in and make them uncomfortable. And as he explained, when you do hit someone, you hit them in the “fanny” as Keith likes to call it.

The ultimate issue here is people creating a divide that doesn’t need to exist between an old-school philosophy and the modern game.  After all, Noah Syndergaard threw a pitch up and somewhat in to Alcides Escobar, who was having a great postseason, on the first pitch of Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.

Looking at Syndergaard, some of that old school philosophy is alive and well in younger players.  It is important to note when Syndergaard has utilized that old school philosophy of throwing inside or retaliating, he has done it the right way.  He has thrown it up but not near the head.  He threw a fastball behind Chase Utley, but not close enough for that fastball to actually make contact with Utley.

Of course, in the case of Syndergaard, he has always had terrific control, so when he does these things, you can trust him in sending that message even if there still exists a possibility he could miss.

That said, what Syndergaard has done is not what Urena did.  Urena stepped to the mound not just to make a batter uncomfortable.  He went to the mound with an intent to injure.  That’s what you are doing when you throw a 98 MPH fastball right at someone in a spot where he cannot possibly get out of the way.

There is no defending Urena’s actions, but there is defending the mindset where you make batters uncomfortable at the plate.  That’s part of a mindset.  There’s just a right way and a wrong way to do it.  As Keith noted, the right way is to brush the batter back or hit him in the fanny.  That’s not remotely close to what Urena did, and that’s why he’s entirely in the wrong.

 

Robles DFA Latest Incompetent Mets Front Office Decision

Back in 2015, Hansel Robles was a revelation for a Mets bullpen needing an additional arm.

He made some further strides in 2016. After that, he was much worse. What made it so frustrating was his stretches of just absolute dominance.

As we all know, he’d follow that with a complete and utter inability to get an out. Inevitably, he’d be there pointing to the sky again and again and again.

It was the finger point that was the most frustrating. In his mind, that 500 foot blast was a pop up to second.

Part of the frustration really was how despite his talent, he just couldn’t get the results. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying.

In the offseason, he worked with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Maybe his work with Pedro crossed him up with his old work with Dan Warthen and his current work with Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland.

Maybe it was too many cooks in the kitchen. Maybe it was him ignoring all four and doing his own thing. Who knows with him?

As always with Robles, no one quite knew the answer.

Robles being designated for assignment makes the second time this season the famed pitching gurus failed to get through to a pitcher. The other time was Matt Harvey.

At the moment, the Mets decision to designate Harvey for assignment does not seem to have come back to haunt them even with Harvey showing flashes. It also helps Devin Mesoraco has been much better than the Mets could have ever imagined.

That doesn’t mean it was the right decision to designate Harvey for assignment. It wasn’t.

For proof of that, look no further than Jason Vargas, who is 2-6 with an 8.60 ERA and a 1.832 WHIP while averaging just over four innings per start. Really, when he takes the mound, the only people he’s fooling is the Mets front office and coaching staff.

This same coaching staff and front office are once again fooling themselves by replacing one of their guys with another AL Central pitcher.

Heading into this season, Chris Beck had a career 6.38 ERA, 1.760 WHIP, and a 5.2 BB/9. To that end, this year is his career year with him posting a 4.18 ERA, 1.479 WHIP, and a 4.2 BB/9.

Despite these being career bests, they’re poor numbers, which is why a very bad White Sox team released him. For some reason, despite trusting their internal talent, the Mets picked him up, and he’s been worse.

And yet, it’s Robles, a guy who has actually performed well in his career and had some glimpses this year, who would be designated for assignment.

It should also be noted Marcos Molina still keeps his spot on the 40 man roster despite his losing his velocity and pitching very poorly this year. In fact, his last start for Binghamton lasted just 3.1 innings. In that start, he allowed 13 runs (10 earned) on 11 hits.

How do you look at either Molina or Beck and decide Robles is the real problem?

Sure, you can be frustrated with Robles and believe he has done more than enough to be designated for assignment. What he hasn’t been is worse than Beck or Molina.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this at all as this front office constantly makes just plain decisions like this all the time. After all, Jose Reyes and Rafael Montero continue to be members of this organization while a score of more talented players have left this organization in their stead.

Gonzalez Rejuvenated in San Diego

One of the most interesting phenomena in sports is how when an aging player returns to his old stomping grounds, sometimes he is just able to turn back the clock.  As Mets fans, we saw this in 2006 when Mike Piazza had a two home run game against Pedro Martinez.  Yesterday, we saw Adrian Gonzalez have one of those days.

It’s been bad for Gonzalez of late, really bad.  He’s been mired in a 1-17 stretch with no extra base hits.  Going back a little further, over his last 10 games, he’s hitting .121/.205/.212.

Things have been so bad Wilmer Flores got the previous two starts at first base.  Yes, the Padres were starting left-handed pitchers both days, but Gonzalez has killed Clayton Richard.  However, when you’re hitting like he’s been hitting, you’re not going to get into the lineup.  You’re also going to hear about the Mets planning to move Jay Bruce to first base.  This meant if Gonzalez was going to do anything to stop it all from happening, he was going to have to do it now.

That seventh inning three run homer was needed because it helped put what was a close game away.  Instead of a tight 4-2 game with Mickey Callaway having to use his best relievers, it was a 7-2 laugher allowing Callaway to get work for guys like Matt Harvey.

It was all part of a great day for Gonzalez.  Overall, he was 3-6 with a run, double, homer, and five RBI.  He would have had an even better day had Franchy Cordero not robbed him of another double earlier in the game.

With Gonzalez front and center, this was really a day when a lot of beleaguered Mets got healthy.  Jose Reyes contributed going 2-5 with three runs, a homer, RBI, walk, and a stolen base.  Tomas Nido was 2-5 with a run, RBI, and a walk.  And Harvey would pitch a scoreless ninth, even if he did allow a hard hit double to Eric Hosmer.  Really, that’s the last time I want to ever put Harvey’s name, double, and a 2015 Royal in the same sentence.

Going with the rejuvenation theme, Zack Wheeler was good, which was needed from a Mets rotation still trying to figure out who can be an effective third starter in this rotation.

He battled most of the afternoon, and he did not get a 1-2-3 inning until the fifth, his last inning of work.  That said, what impressed you most about this start was how Wheeler found that extra something at times when he’s usually lost it.  Wheeler ended a rally in the first by striking out Freddy Galvis.  He helped curb a third inning rally limiting the damage to two runs by striking out Carlos Asuaje.  After Manuel Margot‘s two out single, stolen base, and advancing to third on a throwing error, Wheeler struck out Hosmer.

Overall, Wheeler had nine strikeouts, but what was really remarkable was how he got them at key moments when he needed a strikeout.  That hasn’t always been his M.O., and it’s a real positive step going forward for him.

Even with his start and with Gonzalez turning back the clock was how the Mets offense put five spots on the board in consecutive innings.  It was a full on onslaught by a Mets offense which saw every starting position player register two hits.  Even Brandon Nimmo, who came on for Yoenis Cespedes, would register two hits.  In addition to Gonzalez, Reyes and Todd Frazier would homer.  The sum total of this barrage was a 14-2 Mets win marking the first ever time the Mets have scored double digits at Petco Park.

Of course with this being the Mets, not everything could be a positive.  Cespedes, who has been torrid of late, had to come out of the game after executing a double steal with Bruce.  In what was his second stolen base of the inning, Cespedes jammed his thumb.  The good news is the x-rays were negative.  The bad news is Cespedes believes he can’t play over the next three days, and that’s with the Braves coming to town.

Still, things could have been a lot worse with Cespedes, and with the Mets going to Petco, a place where they had only previously won one series, things could have gone a lot worse there.  All in all, this was a good series where the Mets got back on track.

Game Notes: Paul Sewald recorded his first hold of the season.  He initially came on to relieve Wheeler when it was a two run game.  He now has a 1.98 ERA on the season.

Callaway’s Opening Act a Walk in the Park

While being a Mets fan may come with some trials and tribulations, the one day Mets fans are typically happy is Opening Day.  Heading into today’s game, the Mets were 36-20 all time on Opening Day, which is the best Opening Day winning percentage in Major League history.  As a result, the Mets are usually 1-0, and their manager looks like a genius.

Today, new Mets Manager Mickey Callaway looked like a genius.

When you looked at the Opening Day lineup, you knew immediately this was no longer Terry Collins‘ Mets.  The lineup not only had the Mets best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, it also had Noah Syndergaard batting eighth and Amed Rosario batting ninth.  If you were skeptical of the decision, the Mets quickly put you at ease.

Kevin Plawecki reached on a one out walk, and he remained there after Syndergaard struck out.  With two outs and the lead-off hitter behind him, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez challenged Rosario with fastballs.  Rosario shot a single up the middle putting runners one first and second with two outs.

Brandon Nimmo did what Brandon Nimmo does, and he drew a walk.  Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a two out RBI single, which at the time gave the Mets a 3-2 lead.  And with that, Callaway looked like a genius.

Frankly, it’s easy to look like a genius when everyone plays as well as the Mets did today.

Nimmo set the tone getting hit by the first pitch of the game and eventually scoring on a Jose Martinez throwing error on what could have been an Asdrubal Cabrera double play grounder.  Instead of an inning ending double play, the Mets scored a first inning run without getting a base hit.  That’s what happens when you draw nine walks in the game.

Speaking of Nimmo, he was brilliant today.   He went 2-3 with two runs, a walk, and the aforementioned hit by pitch.  With Michael Conforto reportedly being much closer to being ready to start his season, Nimmo is going to need more games like this to stay in the starting lineup.

So will Adrian Gonzalez.  The veteran was coming off a horrific injury plagued 2017 season where the Dodgers not only didn’t miss him as they won the pennant, it seemed they didn’t even want him around.  Nor did the Braves for that matter, as after a trade, they are paying him almost $22 million to play for an NL East rival.

Between that, his terrible Spring Training, and his soft line out to short in his first at-bat, helooked done.  He wouldn’t make another out on the game going 2-3 with a run, double, two walks, and an RBI.

In situations like this, you want your players to make the decision about who should sit and who should play to be extraordinarily difficult.  Based on Nimmo’s and Gonzalez’s play, Callaway’s decision will just be that.

Overall, the Mets offense and unconventional lineup was humming.  The team scored nine runs on 12 hits highlighted by a five run fifth where they not only chased Martinez, but also former Mets prospect Matthew Bowman.

Every Mets starter, save Syndergaard, reached base at least once safely.  Cespedes and Rosario were the only ones who did not draw a walk.  However, when Rosario is attacking first pitch fastballs to the tune of a 2-4 day with two runs and two RBI, you don’t mind his over-aggressiveness at the plate.

About the only negative on the day was seeing Yadier Molina homer.  That just brought back too many raw emotions from 2006.  Some of that sting was taken away with Molina suffering the indignity of Jay Bruce stealing a base off of him.

With Syndergaard, you had some real reason for excitement.  He became just the second Mets pitcher to strike out 10 on Opening Day.  He needed just 85 pitches to get through six innings.  Yes, he would give up the two homers, but overall, he seemed poised and ready to have a dominating 2018 season.

Speaking of dominating, the Mets bullpen came out and completely shut the door on the Cardinals.  Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings.  Gsellman was the most impressive striking out the side in the seventh.  This bullpen performance will make you forget about the Cardinals getting Greg Holland over the Mets for one day.

And for this one day, Gonzalez is rejuvenated, the bullpen is lights out, Callaway is a genuis, and the Mets are the best team in baseball.  Sure, it seems that way almost every Opening Day as a Mets fan, but at least for tonight, let’s just believe this will carry on well into October.

Game Notes: A number 10 was placed on the back of the mound to honor the recently deceased Rusty Staub.  Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starter to have a double digit strikeout game on Opening Day.  This was the first time a Mets starter made back-to-back Opening Day starts since Johan Santana did it from 2008 – 2010.

Mets Should Be Wary With New Closer Approach

One of the biggest benefits of Mickey Callaway being the new Mets manager is the team and organization has a fresher way of looking at things.  This is a welcome breath of fresh air from the Terry Collins Era when he was almost purposefully against the advanced metrics game, and he was loathe to play young players like Michael Conforto.

With Collins stubbornly played veterans like Jose Reyes, even when it was clear he wasn’t the guy who won a batting title in 2011 anymore, it was clear this change of direction was needed.  However, it should always be questioned just how far a new manager should push the envelope.

Judging from Ken Davidoff’s New York Post piece, Callaway is really looking to push the envelope:

We wouldn’t name Wilmer Flores as our Wednesday infielder and then start him even if we’re playing against Corey Kluber.  So why name a closer and put him in a situation where he doesn’t fit?

On paper, this absolutely makes sense.  Typically speaking, a team’s closer is their best reliever.  They have the best stuff, and more than that, they have the mental toughness required to face these difficult situations and come out on top.

And yes, as fans, we time and time again lament how the best available reliever wasn’t used in a particular situation.  Usually, this is when a game goes into extra innings.  Typically, a backwards thinking manager, like Collins, would go to their third or fourth best reliever, so they can save their closer for the save situation.  The example brought up most often was Buck Showalter not bringing in Zach Britton in the 2016 Wild Card Game.

On the surface, it would seem the Mets are well equipped bullpen-wise for Callaway to implement this plan.

Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos, and Paul Sewald have closing experience.  While not a closer, Anthony Swarzak has been used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen.  We did see Jerry Blevins record three saves over the past two seasons.  Finally, while many Mets fans are skeptical, Hansel Robles has shown he can handle a number of different roles in the bullpen, and with his working with Pedro Martinez this offseason and Dave Eiland this season, we may see fewer meltdowns.

That’s not too dissimilar with what Callaway had in his Indians bullpen with Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw. As we know, this really allowed the Indians to unleash Miller as a weapon.

Now, the main difference between the Indians situation and what Callaway is proposing to do is the Indians stuck with Allen as the closer.  Clearly, that was more in line with Terry Francona‘s thinking than Callaway’s.  What remains to be seen is whether this was the perfect blending of two schools of thought or Francona not going far enough.

Perhaps the reason why Francona not allowing Callaway to fully implement his plan was because we have seen many closers struggle in non-closing roles.  Now, many will point out this is typically in a situation where a closer is just getting work in with their team having a large lead. We have not really seen the situation where a team full of strong relievers with closing experience can come in at any moment and be thrown into a pressure filled situation.

To date, we have seen teams toy with the idea but never truly implement it.  Perhaps, that’s because there’s the theory relievers thrive when they know their role.  Perhaps, that’s because there is value in free agency and arbitration in save totals and relievers are not going to let their manager “steal” money from them.  Perhaps, that’s because managers do not want to put themselves on the line by trying something new.

Whatever the case, the Mets have a manager who is willing to try something different.  It’s a good theory, and he should pursue it.  However, he should not steadfast if it is not working.  And with that, we really have the first true measure of what Callaway can be as a manager.

If nothing else, Callaway will make the 2018 season an interesting one to follow.

Omar Minaya Returning Is Great News

In what was a surprising and completely unexpected move, the New York Mets announced that Omar Minaya is returning as a Special Assistant to Sandy Alderson.  In Omar’s new role, he will have a varying role including but not limited to scouting and player development.  While this offseason has been a complete disappointment thus far, this decision is a great move for the Mets:

1.  Omar Left The Mets In Better Shape Than Advertised

One of the issues for Omar when he departed for the Mets was the purported poor state of the Mets minor league system.  There were many reasons for the caricature as he didn’t have many first round picks as the General Manager, and when he did have one, he struck by drafting players like Eddie Kunz.

However, that does not mean the talent wasn’t there.  As we well know, Omar built the core that helped win the 2015 pennant.  It was Omar’s regime that brought in Jacob deGrom, Lucas Duda, Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Daniel Murphy.

Omar also had originally brought R.A. Dickey to the Mets on a minor league deal.  That led to Dickey winning a Cy Young Award, and Sandy Alderson flipping him in a deal that netted the Mets Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  If Sandy and Omar can work in harmony, the Mets may very well turn things around sooner than we believed.

2.  Omar Has Been Able To Get The Wilpons To Spend

When Omar first took the reigns as the Mets General Manager, he went out, and he spent.  He immediately brought in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez.  He had to wait a year, but he was eventually able to get Carlos Delgado.  He was also shrewd by getting Jose Reyes and David Wright to sign extensions that proved to be team friendly deals.

Yes, this is true this was all prior to the Madoff Scandal.  However, consider that a month after Madoff was arrested and the Mets standing a real chance of facing financial ruin, Omar was somehow able to get the Mets to agree to sign Jason Bay to a four year $66 million deal.  It’s true that this ultimately proved to be a bad deal, but the overriding point was Omar got the Mets to spend like none other.  If you are able to combine Omar’s influence with Sandy’s prudence, you again get a terrific combination.

3.  Mets Need A Fresh Look At Their Minor League System

The drafted and minor league free agent talent acquired by the Mets since Sandy Alderson became the General Manager has been largely disappointing.  So far, their efforts on the International front has really only produced Amed Rosario.  Rosario is a great prospect, but he’s it.

Also, while the Mets have drafted All Stars in Michael Conforto and Michael Fulmer, they have also do not view high draft picks like Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini as starters at the Major League level.  Moreoever, the team has been harsh in their criticism of Dominic Smith.  It also doesn’t help the team drafted Anthony Kay in the first round, and he has yet to throw a professional pitch due to injury.

In reality, the talent level isn’t where the Mets want it, and it is a large reason why the Mets farm system is largely maligned.  When the farm system is where it is right now, it is time to bring in someone to give a fresh look and help build the system back up.  There are few better at it than Omar Minaya.

Overall, the Mets brought in a well respected voice in baseball and a voice well respected by the Wilpons.  He is being brought in to do what he does best – evaluate and scout talent.  Previously, Alderson was able to take the talent Omar acquired, and the Mets won a pennant.  With Omar and Sandy working together, the sky is the limit right now.