The New York Mets sent many players to represent their countries in the World Baseball Classic. That included Jeff McNeil and Pete Alonso who represented USA.
Alonso wouldn’t get into this game, and McNeil wouldn’t start. However, we would see McNeil get two huge plate appearances, and he would deliver.
In the seventh inning, McNeil came to bat for Tim Anderson to face Taisei Ota to lead off the inning. He drew the lead-off walk which should have started a big rally.
However, after a Mookie Betts single, Mike Trout lined out to right. Paul Goldschmidt followed with a horrendous at-bar culminating in an inning ending double play.
In the top of the ninth, with Japan leading 3-2 and the world awaiting the Shohei Ohtani-Mike Trout matchup, it was McNeil who led off the inning. McNeil had one of the best at-bats you will ever see.
While McNeil’s other three walks were the result of pitchers completely losing the zone, he had to earn this one. The seven pitch at-bat culminated in one of the best takes you will ever see in that spot.
This at-bat shows how much McNeil has developed as a hitter. Yes, we did see him swing at the first pitch in the at-bat. However, we would also see him be patient at the plate.
McNeil remains aggressive attacking strikes. However, he’s not impatient. He’s not getting himself out. He has an ability to go deep into at-bats with his ability to foul off pitches and eventually draw a walk.
With Betts and Trout due up next, this lead off walk should have set the stage for a game tying rally at the very least. However, Betts hit into a back breaking double play before Trout struck out to end the game.
Certainly, this game will forever be known for the greatness of Ohtani and that epic match-up against Trout. That was one of the great moments in baseball history.
However, when viewed through the Mets prism, we see how ready McNeil is to play in big games this season. He showed up in the big moments like a player ready to win a World Series.
Sure, he wasn’t great in the Wild Card Series against the San Diego Padres. That said, in this game, McNeil looked better for having that experience.
Arguably, this was the biggest game McNeil has ever played. He came up with two great plate appearances which should’ve helped his team win. That is exactly the player we hope to see come October.
If the Mets get this McNeil, their chances increase exponentially. This McNeil is a real difference maker. Like the WBC final, this McNeil is exactly who the Mets want in the biggest moments.
When McNeil delivers then, we could see this team winning their first World Series since 1986. Months
There is a certain irony in baseball. As we get smarter and smarter, it seems hitters averages go lower and lower. Part of the reason could be hitting .300 just isn’t nearly as valued as it used to be. In all honesty, it probably shouldn’t because we know there is more value in OBP, wRC+, or whatever other stats you choose to analyze.
With that, the chances of becoming the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams have gone by the wayside. Williams did it in 1941, and no one has done it since.
That was 82 years ago. The last time it happened in the National League was 1930 when Bill Terry hit .401 for the New York Giants. That’s over a century ago.
There was a time when we thought George Brett could do it. We were sure Tony Gwynn could, and he might’ve if not for the 1994 strike. Surprisingly, Ichiro Suzuki never really made the run at it we thought he could. However, now, it doesn’t seem like there is an obvious candidate anymore, and really, it is a feat which has been long overlooked.
Enter Jeff McNeil.
McNeil is a throwback hitter. In an era where it seems everyone has shifted to boom or bust, McNeil focuses on putting the ball in play. He’s the hitter who tries to hit it where they ain’t. That led to him hitting .326 in 2022 and winning the National League batting title.
McNeil is the type of hitter who is always going to have a shot to win the batting title. Now, with the new shift limitation rules, his batting average could go even higher than we ever imagined it could be.
Now, this concept runs counter to what Mike Pietrillo of MLB.com postulated. In his article, he did not the success McNeil had hitting against the shift partially due to his ability to go the other way. While his analysis is sound based on the numbers, we also know McNeil is a constantly adapting and evolving hitter in terms of his approach.
One does not simply shift on Jeff McNeil pic.twitter.com/NflmCFJ2nY
— SNY (@SNYtv) May 3, 2022
Take 2019 for example. The league adjusted to his rookie breakout season by shifting him more to go the opposite way. McNeil responded with a career hit 46.3% pull rate. That year, he hit .318 and had a career best 144 wRC+.
In terms of that, we do need to dig a little deeper on McNeil. Looking at his career, he is actually NOT an opposite field slap hitter. In fact, he only goes the other way 25.8% of the time. He has a much more up the middle approach. That type of approach was one of the most harmed by shifting with a middle infielder essentially standing on second base.
Another factor not contemplated is the new dimensions of right field at Citi Field. McNeil does have power to pull one out of the park. The change will only be about 8-10 feet. If you’re Pete Alonso who hits tape measure shots, that doesn’t matter as much. For a player like McNeil, it could make all the difference.
Now, there are other factors at play like how pitchers and McNeil adjust to the pitch clock. However, looking at the stats and how McNeil’s approach at the plate, it does seem like there is an opportunity for him to make a run at .400.
McNeil has the unique ability to adjust his approach to how the defense is positioned. As he adjusts, the defense is restricted in how they can adjust back to him. This is the perfect situation for him to make a run at .400. It is really going to be fun seeming him do something that hasn’t been done in a century.
Listening to Buck Showalter having to again address questions about the possibility of a Pete Alonso extension, he seemed a little perturbed by it. Part of his response to the inquiry was that Alonso won’t be a free agent next week while also noting Alonso won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.
Certainly, part of the reason for the questions is because Jeff McNeil just signed an extension. Another reason is it’s spring training, and unless there is an injury (knock on wood), there isn’t much to talk about at this point of the season.
Mostly, it is because of the decision the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen made before the start of the 2019 season.
If the Mets had kept Alonso down in the minors for two weeks to start the season, Alonso would not have been a free agent until after the 2025 season. However, the Mets opted not to do that because they were telling everyone they were a win-now team, and they were going to do everything to win-now.
People bought into it like they did with many of the Wilpon lies. As we saw at the trade deadline when the team did not address the bullpen, which is what prevented them from making the postseason, and their trading for Marcus Stroman “as a replacement” for Zack Wheeler, they were not pulling out all of the stops to win the 2019 World Series.
Rather, what they were saying was they didn’t care about a future where Alonso hits free agency. In reality, they didn’t care much about the future as evidenced by allowing Van Wagenen to absolutely gut the farm system. It just wasn’t trading Jarred Kelenic or other top prospects.
Looking towards the Mets current roster, they have Omar Narváez behind the plate. The Milwaukee Brewers obtained him from the Seattle Mariners for prospect Adam Hill and a supplemental second round pick. The Brewers obtained Hill from the Mets in the Keon Broxton trade. Broxton was horrible for the Mets for 34 games until he was moved for international slot bonus money.
The reason the Mets made bad trades like this was because they hired an agent turned GM who had no idea what he was doing. He was working along with Jeff Wilpon who had even less of an idea. Mostly, the Wilpons knew they were going to have to sell, so they were taking one last crack at winning the World Series.
In essence, who cares about three years from now when you won’t own the team for more than two?
So, Alonso started the year in the majors. He would be an All-Star and set the rookie home run record. Alonso earned starting the year on the Opening Day roster, and he proved himself.
However, that’s not how smart teams operate. After all, look at the Chicago Cubs with Kris Bryant. They kept longer control, and they won every grievance because that’s the system in place. There are countless other examples in this sport.
The Wilpons just didn’t care because they knew they weren’t going to be around for it. It didn’t matter that extra year of control meant you were guaranteed to keep Alonso an extra year, and it would likely mean less would have to be paid out on an extension. When you are acting disingenuously and being completely self serving, that’s what happens.
So, if you want to know why there’s a ton of questions now, the answer is the Wilpons. Everything annoying and bad about this franchise always goes back to them.
With Wayne Randazzo accepting a position with the Los Angeles Angels, the New York Mets hired Brooklyn Cyclones radio announcer Keith Raad to join Howie Rose on WCBS 880 for the 2023 season. Raad was kind enough to agree to an interview to discuss his journey:
Congratulations on being named one of the New York Mets radio announcers for the 2023 season. Certainly, this must be a dream come true. Tell us about your journey from being a local boy and Chaminade High School graduate to being one of the radio voices of the New York Mets.
It’s a dream come true to make it to the Major Leagues and it’s even more surreal to do it in the city that I grew up in. New York City has always been a larger-than-life place for entertainment and of course that list includes sports. Growing up on Long Island, I learned about what kind of skills I had when attending Chaminade. The Marianist brothers and the teachers taught me how to write and the importance of public speaking — those things rung true within me. That led me to a degree in Communications in college at the University of Dayton where I jumped right in looking to combine my love of language, writing, speaking, and listening with baseball. I’ve spent close to 10 years calling games and eight years in the minor leagues. It’s so satisfying to pay my dues and jump into the Majors.
The Brooklyn Cyclones have the slogan “Amazin’ Starts Here!” As fans, we see that with players like Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Brandon Nimmo. However, as we see both you and Jake Eisenberg, now the Kansas City Royals radio voice, that applies to broadcasters as well. What is so unique about Brooklyn that it has served as a springboard to the majors for broadcasters like yourself.
First off, to be a Brooklyn broadcaster means you have to have a love — and a major respect — for history. In Brooklyn, Red Barber, Vin Scully, Connie Desmond, Ernie Harwell and many others called games for the Dodgers. Those voices came out of the origin of radio as a medium to deliver the game to an audience. By learning from how these guys did their thing in this borough, Jake and I were able to treat the job with great care and respect. The Cyclones enabled me to go from an up-and-coming broadcaster looking for his voice to being one who uses his voice and personality, trying to model it after guys like Howie Rose who I will now join in the booth.
Speaking of your time in Brooklyn, we are now well aware of the struggles for minor leaguers. Lesser known is all the duties and responsibilities of working for a minor league team. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of working with you for group outings for various groups. I know I was shocked to be dealing with one of the broadcasters. For fans unaware, can you please share for us what a typical day is like for a minor league broadcaster?
Ha, so most situations are similar, but every once in a while as a minor league broadcaster, sales duties are part of the deal. That’s what enabled me to be a full-time member of the front office. In a typical day, I would arrive to the park at 10 a.m. and jump on the phones and email trying to sell tickets for group outings, season ticket holders, and sponsorships. I would do that until about 1 or 2 p.m. before jumping into my media relations duties, including writing our daily game notes, printing statpacks for the teams and the press box, distributing rosters and lineups. In the early afternoon, I would help the video staff grab players for social media videos. During batting practice, I tried to be around the turtle on the field just absorbing how the guys are acting and maybe asking a question or two to the players. Following batting practice, I would do about a five-minute pregame interview with a guest. All the while helping local media talk to any players or coaches they were interested in speaking to. Around 5:15 is when I actually can sit down, write in my scorebook and begin prepping for the game that night. Lots of work! I would leave around 10:30-11 a.m. an take the 75-minute subway home, rest, and get ready to do it all over again.
Obviously, that is a grueling experience. What was it that kept you going during those long days and undertaking so many responsibilities beyond just the broadcasting?
The minor leagues tend to ask you a question rather quickly: can you do this? And by that, I mean are you willing to “eat it” for years and years with low pay and long hours to make the majors? For me, I’m much more interested in going for the difficult things in life because we only have one go-around on Earth so why not? But I stuck with it because it is such a high-risk, high-reward pathway. And, looking back at all of those tarp pulls and low pay and feel so incredibly satisfied to now get to enjoy the reward of working in the big leagues.
What was your favorite moment as the broadcaster with the Brooklyn Cyclones?
By far the best moment came in 2019 during the 48 hours of winning the New York Penn League Championship, celebrating that night, and then going to Citi Field the following night as VIPs. My call of “Brooklyn, you have your title” after beating Lowell on September 10th led right into a champagne celebration with the team as well as the front office staff who worked so hard that year. Then at Citi Field, the Mets were kind enough to celebrate everyone (players, coaches and our front office) with a double suite and a video board tribute to our championship.
You’ve seen a number of talented players pass through Brooklyn. Who were some of the best players you’ve seen during your tenure?
Francisco Alvarez has some incredible raw power. His fiery attitude of wanting to be the best and refusing to compromise with any limitations makes me think he’ll have an incredible career. I think Alex Ramirez is extremely talented and already plays with a tremendous about of confidence — which you need in this game. Brett Baty is the most polished hitter I’ve personally seen in a Cyclones uniform. And with Ronny Mauricio, he’s really, really close to figuring it all out.
Who has had the biggest impact on your career?
This is a really tough question because at different stages of my career, there have been several different voices who have been critical. However, my first MiLB boss Tom Nichols in Dayton with the Dragons (Cincinnati Single-A) believed in me before anyone else did. He not only took a chance on me hiring me as an intern in the middle of college, but he also called me one summer during junior year getting my mind towards a summer collegiate job and getting me going. Without him, I certainly would not have had the direction and the structure to this career.
Understanding you were a New York Yankees fan growing up (we won’t hold it against you), who was your favorite player growing up, and if you could indulge us, your favorite Mets player?
Yeah, I get this one a lot obviously. It’s New York. I have to be honest. I grew up a Yankees fan, but the last five years with the Cyclones and the Mets have built bonds within me that grow miles deeper than any childhood fandom. I love the Mets. I pull for the Mets. The Mets are my family. But to throw you an even larger curveball, Albert Pujols was by far my favorite player. I modeled my baseball swing after him because I loved the art of hitting. Growing up, my Mets fandom struck right around 98-99-00 when I would go to Shea. There were so many cool players like Fonzie and John Franco. But I remember Benny Agbayani — I thought it was so awesome that he wore #50 because he was Hawaiian and that was the 50th state.
Years ago, a former Cyclones player Nicco Blank, reached out on Twitter to try to get Taylor Swift to see him pitch in Brooklyn. If you could have anyone tune the dial to WCBS 880 to hear you call a game, who would it be?
Ha, this is a great question. The answer is actually someone who already might be listening whether I know it or not. But my answer is Jerry Seinfeld! I grew up watching reruns of the show and immediately connected with his humor and started to follow his career (even though it already started haha). I view him as a role model. Comedians are very much like broadcasters in a few ways: we feel our journey is alone, we cut our teeth doing games/gigs for little to no money, and we’re constantly trying to listen back and critique our work on a nightly basis.
As you embark on this job, what is the moment you are anticipating most?
This is an easy one: the roar of the crowd. It’ll be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on the air.
What is your message to Mets fans?
Let’s laugh, let’s have a good time, and let’s win a World Series.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and good luck during the 2023 season.
When the World Baseball Classic rolls around, there is a fear it is going to negatively impact the players. Certainly, Buck Showalter has spoken out about that recently. If you are a defeatist New York Mets fan, you can point to J.J. Putz participating in the 2013 WBC before having the worst season of his career.
However, to be fair there, Putz was already injured. As had been reported, Putz wasn’t really given a physical, and that he was pushed to pitch through a painful bone spur which hindered his performance. That was back in the days of Jeff Wilpon making medical decisions which included forcing an injured and shut down Pedro Martinez to pitch and attempting to prevent Carlos Beltran from having career saving knee surgery.
Going back to Beltran, he participated for Puerto Rico in the inaugural 2006 World Baseball Classic. In fact, the Mets had a heavy contingent of players at that event, which included:
- Carlos Beltran (Puerto Rico)
- Endy Chavez (Venezuela)
- Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico)
- Pedro Feliciano (Puerto Rico)
- Jose Reyes (Dominican Republic)
- Duaner Sanchez (Dominican Republic)
- Jose Valentin (Puerto Rico)
Looking at that list, each and everyone one of these players had a great 2006 season, and their great seasons started by playing in the World Baseball Classic.
Beltran went from the biggest free agent bust in baseball history, even worse than Bobby Bonilla. Beltran probably should have won the 2006 NL MVP as he was an All-Star while winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. He probably should have won the MVP award with his finishing second to just Albert Pujols in WAR. Arguably, this remains the single best regular season in Mets history.
Chavez would also have a career year. He was always a great fielder, but he could not hit. He would have a 101 wRC+ while playing great defensively. We still talk about that catch robbing Scott Rolen of a home run to this day.
Delgado had a very good year in his first year with the Mets. However, he would be special in the postseason hitting four home runs.
Feliciano was almost left off the Mets Opening Day roster after returning to the organization after a year in Japan. He stayed on the roster, and he would have a breakout season which led him on a path to becoming the best LOOGY in Mets history.
Sanchez was a reliever Omar Minaya gambled on when he traded Jae Weong Seo to get him. Minaya looked like a genius as Sanchez might’ve been the best set-up man that season, and if he didn’t get in that cab, the Mets probably win the World Series that season.
Entering 2006, Reyes was still this great raw talent who had not been able to harness his ability. That 2006 season was the season which Reyes became that dynamic lead-off hitter and shortstop the Mets knew he could be. He learned plate discipline, hit for power, and of course, stole bases. He was a first time All-Star, and he had what proved to be the best season of his career.
Finally, there was Valentin. In the previous season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the then 35 year old looked done as he hit .170/.326/.265. To be honest, things didn’t look all that great in April for Valentin. However, due to a myriad of injuries at second base, he was given the job, and he was the missing piece that roster needed. He capped off a great season by hitting two homers in the NL East clincher.
That Mets team was a special team, and it still goes down as one of the best regular seasons in team history. For that to happen, they needed almost everything to break right, and it did. That process all started with these Mets players participating in the WBC.
Looking forward to 2023, the Mets are sending a heavy contingent of players including very important ones like Pete Alonso, Edwin Diaz, Jeff McNeil, and Francisco Lindor. If 2006 is any guide, this should be a springboard for these and the other Mets participating meaning we are about to see another great Mets season.
One of the more bewildering aspects of the saga of Brodie Van Wagenen is how he went from agent to GM and back to agent. That journey saw him go from the agent of Robinson Cano to the GM overpaying to acquire him to representing Cano again.
Cano wasn’t the only member of the New York Mets organization for whom this was true. It was also the case for Dominic Smith, a player who was surprisingly added to the 2019 Opening Day roster even with Pete Alonso being named the Opening Day starter at the same position. It was also true for a notable Mets prospect – Mark Vientos.
If we want to get into technicalities, it is Roc Nation who represents these players. That was the case then and now. Notably, Van Wagenen is now the COO of Roc Nation. As a result, he has personal ties to these players, especially the Mets ones. He made that very clear on Vientos:
Big Pete Alonso is a super star and one of the best power hitters of this generation. A comparison of Pete’s age 22 year old season to @MarkVientos_5 at the same age illustrates an exciting trajectory. pic.twitter.com/nbmDRgxFhu
— Brodie Van Wagenen (@RocBVW) February 3, 2023
There is a lot to be said about comparing Alonso and Vientos. Certainly, years ago, it did some as if Vientos could have had a brighter Major League future than Alonso.
Right now, Vientos is 23 years old, and he’s already accumulated 41 Major League plate appearances. We did see a glimpse of what he could be at the plate when he hit his first career home run. It was an opposite field job to boot in the cavernous Oakland Athletics ballpark:
MARK VIENTOS HITS HIS FIRST MAJOR-LEAGUE HOME RUN! pic.twitter.com/Y0ca6JAlHW
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 24, 2022
Vientos hitting his first Major League homer at 22 is very impressive. To put it in perspective, Alonso began his age 22 season with then High-A St. Lucie. He would finish that year with Double-A Binghamton.
It needs to be reiterated. At the age Vientos was called up to DH in a pennant race, Alonso was just making his way to Double-A.
Looking at it that way, Vientos is light years ahead of where Alonso was. In fact, for much of his professional career, Vientos has been far ahead of where Alonso was at that age.
However, that’s really a small part of the picture. We need to account for Vientos being drafted out of high school as opposed to Alonso being drafted out of college.
More than that, we need to realize what Alonso did with his opportunities, and what he’s done as a Major Leaguer. Alonso is a two-time All-Star who set the rookie home run record, and in many ways, is and outright superstar in this league.
Comparing anyone to him is insane. More than that, it’s just wrong. Overall, it’s just unfair to that player.
It is certainly possible Vientos could be better than Alonso and be a better power hitter. The potential is there even if it requires him to do much of the work Alonso did, and really, more than Alonso did.
So no, we can’t discount Vientos much in the same way we can’t discount all the work Alonso put in to make himself not just a Major Leaguer, but a legitimate All-Star. We can believe in the player while acknowledging the long road ahead.
That’s why it’s unfair. Vientos can do everything Alonso did and more, and he may still fall short of that standard. Seeing where Alonso is as a big leaguer, failing to be that or better should not be viewed as a failure.
All we can say is Vientos is a good power hitting prospect with a legitimate chance to have a long Major League career. Anything past that is wrong and unfair to him.
Put another way, Brodie Van Wagenen again needs to knock it off.
Back in 2019, the New York Mets had Pete Alonso begin the season on the Opening Day roster. The idea was he gave the team their best chance to win games, and they thought keeping him in the minors for two weeks could cost them the postseason. Essentially, one year of service time was not worth missing out on the postseason.
Of course, now, we know that was all part of the grift. The Wilpons knew they were going to be forced to sell, so they had Brodie Van Wagenen set out to completely mortgage the future to try to win that one year. That included starting Alonso in the majors and not caring about that extra year of control. The irony would be the Wilpons limited budget and cheapness ultimately did cost them the postseason as they didn’t have the money to address the bullpen.
While the plan was flawed from its inception with the Wilpons, it is a plan that has merit with a real owner like Steve Cohen. To wit, the Mets should look to eschew service time concerns and control, and they should have Brett Baty being the 2023 season on the Opening Day roster.
That is at least the general consensus from the scouting community. Keith Law of The Athletic says Baty has nothing to learn in the minors and is the Mets best third base option. Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline says Baty should be the third baseman in 2023 because he is an improvement defensively over Eduardo Escobar with a better offensive ceiling.
While Mets fans were understandably not impressed with Baty defensively in short sample size, Escobar has proven he can’t really play the position. He had a -6 OAA a year after he had a -3. As he’s 34 and with their being no shift in 2023, he is only going to get worse. The Mets did recognize that last season, and that is part of the reason why they moved him to a platoon with Luis Guillorme.
Guillorme has been previously addressed here. WIth the shift elimination rules and the limitations of Mark Canha, Guillorme should be the everyday second baseman. That would be the newly extended Jeff McNeil can move to left field where he has been historically move effective. It should also be less wear-and-tear on a player the Mets can have through his age 35 season.
Baty can at least be adequate defensively, which is a step up from Escobar. While the ground ball rates are a problem, he has real offensive potential. He needs to improve those ground ball rates. The hope there is Jeremy Barnes can do that. Even though Baty made significant strides on this front in Double-A last season, Barnes is still arguably the best person to get Baty to lift the ball and get the most out of his power.
What needs noting here is it may not happen right away with Baty. That is fine because the Mets still have the option to send him back down to Triple-A and shift to the Escboar/Guillorme platoon which was very effective last season. Better yet, he can begin to fulfill his promise and be that bat the Mets were hoping to find this offseason. The only way the Mets can find that out is by putting him on the Opening Day roster.
Tommy Pham is one of those moves that sounds good. After all, people can remember him being a good player at one time, so certainly, it must be a coup to get him on this New York Mets team as a fourth outfielder. However, you have to ask yourself how were the Mets even able to get him as a fourth outfielder.
The answer is simple – Pham is not a good baseball player anymore. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine how the outfielder who will be 35 on Opening Day will suddenly regain his ability to play baseball.
Last year, between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox, two places great for right-handed hitters, Pham hit .236./.312/.374 with 23 doubles, one triple, 17 homers, and 63 RBI. That season wasn’t an anomaly; it is who Pham is now. Over the past three seasons, Pham is hitting .231/.324/.372.
Looking at the advanced numbers, Pham had an 89 wRC+, and over the past three, Pham has a 94 wRC+. When looking at Baseball Savant., you get a clearer picture of what has happened with Pham.
Simply put, Pham is a dead red hitter. He hits the fastball well. However, he can no longer hit a breaking or off-speed pitch. He still hits the fastball quite hard, and he can truly do damage to those pitchers. That said, he really can’t hit anything else. In reality, that makes him an easy out, which is indicated by his declining numbers over the past three years.
It should come as no surprise Pham does have decent numbers against left-handed pitching. In 2022, he had a 115 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, and over the past three seasons, he has a 111 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Certainly, this could make him part of the platoon equation at DH for Daniel Vogelbach.
Here, it should be noted Darin Ruf had a 116 wRC+ against left-handed pitching last year, and he has a 137 over the past three seasons. While the counter-argument is Pham could better serve as a fourth outfielder, that is not entirely correct as Pham had a -6 OAA in left as opposed to Ruf’s -5. Put another way, they are both bad outfielders who are best suited to DH.
On Ruf, he can at least play first base to spell Pete Alonso. Another note here is Ruf should serve as a warning for Pham. Ruf was a semi-regular player who struggled in a pure reserve role for the Mets. Now, the Mets are looking to do the same with Pham.
Really, at the end of the day, it is difficult to ascertain what purpose Pham fills for this team. He’s not an upgrade in any sense, and if you want to make out that fantasy football fight with Joc Pederson to be part of a larger picture, he could serve as a detriment in the clubhouse, but that may be a bit of a stretch as he has not seemed to have an in-season issue with a teammate. However, we also can’t ignore it.
However, that feud with Pederson should not matter. The Mets didn’t need Pham. In reality, they needed to move Mark Canha to a fourth outfielder role, and that could’ve been accomplished by signing an outfielder, or as they tried with Carlos Correa, by signing an infielder. Whatever the case, the Mets signed Pham for one year meaning he should not stand as an impediment should he struggle or the team is ready to turn to Brett Baty at third or left.
While the New York Mets have addressed many of their offseason needs, the one area which remains unaddressed is DH. To a certain extent, it seems odd a team so willing to go well beyond the point where teams would consider spending has seen their offseason stall on this front. Certainly, the Carlos Correa drama was part of that.
However, the Mets did see viable options sign elsewhere. Andrew McCutchen purportedly turned down more money from the Mets to return to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Trey Mancini is a Chicago Cub. Adam Duvall just signed with the Boston Red Sox.
This leaves the Mets trying to talk themselves into the next tier of players. Jurickson Profar is a popular target, but he’s not much of a hitter. He does increase the Mets versatility, but he is also not someone who has not thrived in a reserve or part-time role.
Robbie Grossman is an interesting choice. He has good numbers against left-handed pitching, and he does have a good walk rate. Typically speaking, he makes good contact, and he can hold his own defensively. Moreover, he has thrived in a reserve/part-time role. However, he has zero power.
That brings us back to Darin Ruf. What this Mets team was sorely lacking was power, and the Mets gave up way too much to get Ruf to try to help address their power issues. Obviously, Ruf did not do that last season posting a 13 OPS+. He did get one postseason start drawing a walk and a HBP in his one start.
It should be noted Ruf did land on the IL after he was acquired by the Mets with a neck strain. Certainly, it’s possible that impacted his performance. If it did, the hope is he could be back to being a right-handed DH platoon option against left-handed pitching. In his career, he does have a 143 wRC+ against left-handed pitching.
He’s slightly more than a platoon DH option. He can spell Pete Alonso at first base on occasion. That’s important with Alonso needing a break every now and then. He can’t play the outfield everyday in his career, but he can at least play there for a game or an inning or two. This does have some value to the team.
Mostly, he’s simply replaceable. If he doesn’t get the job done, Eduardo Escobar or Mark Canha can easily take over his role. That would require the Mets to play Luis Guillorme as their primary second baseman, but that is something they should be doing anyway. There is also the question of when the Mets are going to call-up Francisco Álvarez or Mark Vientos to at least take over part of this role.
In the end, the Mets have Ruf and are paying him. He has a role which can be easily supplanted by the talent on this team. The upgrades on the free agent market are gone. At this point, the Mets might as well role with him and see if he can rebound.
Right now, it is irresponsible to speculate if there was anything that could have been done to prevent Damar Hamlin from suffering cardiac arrest after that collision. Certainly, manufacturers are going to go back to the drawing board, and they are indeed going to look to see if they could do anything to prevent that awful moment from every happening again on the field.
Obviously, everyone is going to look at this as an NFL issue. With football being an inherently violent sport, you just assume this is going to happen in football more than any other sport. However, no other sport is immune to these types of tragedies, and this should be a wake up call for all sports to review their safety equipment and protocols.
Look at the New York Mets this past season. They were hit by pitches more than any other team in baseball. There were multiple scary moments with fastballs going up-and-in at the batters, and remember, these pitches are now traveling around or above 100 MPH at times. Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor having the C-flaps on their helmets prevented each of them from more significant and potentially catastrophic injury.
Lindor just got beamed in the face (saved by helmet flap).
Dugouts & bullpens cleared, near brawl 👀
THIS IS APPLE TV+ BASEBALL #Mets #Nats pic.twitter.com/lkrbQOKXFg
— 4_sumthin_24 (@ace_1985) April 9, 2022
Even with that happening, not everyone on the Mets wears the c-flap. Part of the reason is the c-flap is not currently mandated by Major League Baseball. To a certain extent, the players are to blame because they are always resistant to different changes like that. For example, go back to the 1986 World Series, you’ll see players like Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez not wear the ear flaps on their batting helmets.
At some point, the league and the union has to save the players from themselves. For baseball, this goes beyond just the batting helmets.
There are heart protective shirts available to help protect the heart after a direct impact from a hard hit ball. Baseball doesn’t mandate that despite batted balls screaming towards the pitcher at speeds well in excess of 100 MPH. The same goes for infielders who are actively taught to take the ball off the chest when there is a bad hop. Mandating these shirts could prevent an injury or other catastrophic incident.
Former Met Cliff Floyd has invested in protective liners in caps to protect against line drives taken to a fielder’s head. This would be of real importance to pitchers who are vulnerable with line drives screaming back at the mound. We have all seen at least one incident where a pitcher is hit with a line drive and is left bloodied on the mound.
It is possible Floyd’s product is not ready for MLB use, but we also don’t hear or see MLB investing in it or a similar product. More than that, we never really hear MLB or players speak out about the need for protective equipment like this at the Major League or youth recreational levels.
What we do know is all sports are inherently dangerous. It takes an incident in the sport to mandate changes, and even with those incidents, players are typically dragged along instead of willing participants.
Whatever the case, we saw Damar Hamlin almost die on the field after what was a routine play. While the NFL has been criticized for its immediate response, the one thing they got right was the medical training and protocols for their medical professionals at the games. That saved a life, and it is something each and every sport should be investigating and emulating at the moment.
Make no mistake, what happened to Hamlin could happen in any sport. The goal for each sport right now is to immediately assess their safety equipment and protocols. They need to see what changes they can make to stop whatever trauma they can, and they need to make sure their medical policies and procedures match what the NFL had in place which ultimately saved Hamlin’s life.