Peter Alonso

Mets Fans Have Reason Other Than Van Wagenen To Cheer

True to his word, Brodie Van Wagenen say with The 7 Line for today’s game against the Yankees. It was a bold move because this is a Mets team nine games under .500 with every move he made this offseason blowing up.

In fact, all the players Van Wagenen acquired this offseason have accumulated a -1.7 WAR. Meanwhile, by and large, the prospects they traded are performing well.

Given all of that, you’d think Van Wagenen could be booed. At a minimum, you’d think they wouldn’t celebrate him. You’d be wrong. Very wrong.

They cheered a man who acquired J.D. Davis. In the second, Davis threw to the wrong base on a Gleyber Torres RBI single allowing Edwin Encarnacion to go from first to third unchallenged.

Later that inning, opposing pitcher James Paxton came up with runners at the corners with one out, and he laid down the safety squeeze. It was an excellent bunt which hugged the third base line.

Wilson Ramos, a catcher Mets pitchers are increasingly demanding not to have behind the plate, and who was signed because Van Wagenen didn’t go the extra mile to get Yasmani Grandal, picked up the ball. He would spin and throw without looking Encarnacion back.

With Zack Wheeler slipping on the play, and Ramos failing to execute fundamentals, Encarnacion scored without a challenge.

It’s a shame for Wheeler because he was very good tonight. Those three singles were three of five hits he allowed all night. In total, he’d last 6.1 innings allowing just those two earned while walking one and striking out eight.

Despite pitching well, he wouldn’t get the win. It was no matter to Van Wagenen who loved every minute of the Mets losing 2-0.

In the second, Torres flat out robbed Michael Conforto of an RBI base hit instead starting an inning ending double play. Conforto wouldn’t be robbed when he ended a rally with another 4-6-3 double play. The latter ended a sixth inning rally.

For his part, Wheeler popped up two bunts hurting the Mets chances. Between that, the defense, and getting squeezed by the home plate umpire, it was not Wheeler’s night.

Still, he wouldn’t take the loss.

In the eighth, Pete Alonso hustled hard out of the box, and he was able to take advantage of a D.J. LeMahieu throwing error. Then, Davis was able to take advantage of Aaron Hicks playing well out of position in right center. Hicks got a great jump, but his dive wouldn’t be enough. Davis doubled scoring Alonso to tie the game.

After Robinson Cano was intentionally walked (your guess is as good as mine), Ramos singled to load the bases. The Yankees pulled Adam Ottavino to bring in Zack Britton to pitch to Conforto. There would be no inning ending double play this time as Conforto hit a two run double over Brett Gardner‘s head to give the Mets a 4-2 lead.

This put Seth Lugo in line for the win with Edwin Diaz coming in for the ninth for the save.

Things didn’t start well when Diaz was slow covering first and couldn’t catch an Alonso throw on what was a Didi Gregorius leadoff single. Fortunately, Diaz settled down to get the next three out to preserve the win.

Gardner foul tipped a ball after a long at-bat. It popped out of Ramos’ glove, and he caught it with his hand. It was the type of ending this bullpen deserves.

The Mets pulled out an unlikely win with their bullpen standing strong. They now have as many saves as blown saves on the season. They snapped the Yankees streak of 31 consecutive games with a homer. For one night at least, everything went according to plan.

Well, partially according to plan anyway. In the end, a win is a win, and you take them, especially with the season the Mets are having.

Game Notes: Steven Matz will be moved to the bullpen until the All Star Break. He will join Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, and Luis Avilan were all activated from the IL.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Ruin Everything

No one expected the Mets to sweep the Braves and perhaps get their fans excited again. Honestly, a series win seemed out of the question. The only thing up for debate was how well the Mets would have the 1969 World Series. As Del Preston would say, “That’s a whole other story all together.”

1. If you are going to hold a ceremony and an in memorium video, you actually need to make sure the players in the video are actually dead. Jim Gosger and Jesse Hudson are very much alive. Also, when you apologize for saying they were dead, you need to spell their names correctly. The fact the Mets screwed both of these things up speaks to their level of organizational incompetence.

2. Other than that inexcusably botched situation, the ceremony was great, and that partially because of Howie Rose. It was great seeing Bud Harrelson, and it was amazing to hear after all these years someone like Jerry Koosman can get recognized for what he did for this franchise. Ed Kranepool‘s speech was perfect.

3. There was a bit of melancholy with the event as this is likely the last time there will be such an event, and we are already at a point where Tom Seaver is unable to attend events. The same happening to his 1986 team is not that far off either.

4. An incredible fact is Koosman was on the mound when the last out of the 1969 World Series was recorded. He was traded for Jesse Orosco, who was on the mound when the last out of the 1986 World Series was recorded.

5. Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom, and Jeff McNeil were all very deserving All-Stars. It is amazing to see the Mets have their most All-Stars in three years, and it is all the more amazing to see this is the first time the Mets have had multiple position players since 2010.

6. Alonso is the fourth Mets rookie to be an All Star, and he is the first Mets position player. There may not be many things to get excited about for the rest of the season but seeing Alonso in the Home Run Derby is going to be one of them.

7. Reports were McNeil was sitting in his locker well after the game distraught after the loss on Saturday. He responded by not just going 3-for-5, but he would also deliver the go-ahead hit in the eighth. That’s a special player and a winning one at that.

8. This is a reminder Brodie Van Wagenen was gift wrapped a core of McNeil, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman. The farm system had Alonso, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay, David Peterson, Jarred Kelenic, and other high end prospects. To be nine games under .500 and closer to the last place Marlins than a postseason spot is gross incompetence.

9. Fans criticizing that core deserve this season. By and large, they have not been and really are not the problem. Sure, we can pinpoint things here and there like Rosario’s defense or Gsellman’s inconsistencies in the bullpen, but overall, you would have to be completely incompetent to screw this up, and that is before you consider Todd Frazier‘s season and Dominic Smith‘s resurgence.

10. This is an ill timed three game blip for Lugo, who has been otherwise excellent as a reliever of the Mets. This team really needs to get him a break and stop pushing him for multiple innings. Not every situation calls for it.

11. Matz also has to be better. He has completely fallen apart of late, and it is costing the team games. You can’t have a bad bullpen with both Matz and Jason Vargas not giving you length. It just doesn’t work.

12. Chris Mazza was a great story. He is a 29 year old rookie who was rewarded for his perseverance. It is a shame another bullpen meltdown cost him his first win. That said, win or no win, this will go down as one of the better moments in the majors this season.

13. With the way the bullpen continues to meltdown, it’s almost as if this was a talent issue and it had nothing at all to do with Dave Eiland or Chuck Hernandez.

14. Frazier continues to show he’s a good player with real value to this team. The Mets were right to stick by him, and he is at a minimum going to fetch something for the Mets at the trade deadline.

15. Speaking of the trade deadline, there is still too much talent here to tear things down. The top two starters are still in tact, and there is talent to build a good bullpen in 2020. The team also now has All-Star caliber players in Alonso, McNeil, Conforto, and depending on how he returns from injury, Nimmo. They’re all young and cheap. Add in Robinson Cano‘s contract, and you have little choice but to try again.

16. On that front, the Mets should be trying to get Marcus Stroman. Not only is he a top level pitcher with another year of control, but by obtaining him, the team could then get a little more in return for Wheeler as there will be more competitors for his services.

17. Seeing the Mets players last night, this isn’t a team who has completely given up. They’re still playing like they have a shot. As fans, we know they don’t, but there is just something about watching how hard this team plays that sucks you in every so often. Of course, then the team is forced to go to the bullpen.

18. Seeing how the Mets botched the 1969 ceremony a bit, you do wonder what the Mets should do about next year with the 2000 team. You could make the argument the Mets shouldn’t be celebrating not winning titles, especially when they lose to the Yankees. Still, those players are still beloved by this fan base.

19. With that in mind, perhaps it is really time for the Mets to do an Old Timer’s Day. Seeing the fans come out of the 1969 team and seeing how many beloved former players there are, you could hold this day, and it should be a near guarantee to sell out.

20. For all those killing Dolan and the Knicks over Durant going to the Nets, go ahead, but remember, it’s the Wilpons who remain the worst owners in sports.

Swarzak Is The Difference

Bottom of the seventh. One out. The Mets pulled to within 3-2 after Tomas Nido singled home Todd Frazier. Dominic Smith was the tying run at third base. The Braves went to the bullpen.

Anthony Swarzak entered. He’d allow a pinch hit infield single to J.D. Davis to load the bases. After nearly missing a grand slam, Jeff McNeil struck out. Pete Alonso, who hit a homer earlier in the game, lined out to end the jam.

And that was it.

A series after Jay Bruce beat up on the Mets, Swarzak shut the Mets down. Again, we’re reminded of just how terrible that trade was and how awful Brodie Van Wagenen has been as the General Manager.

The bright side is the Mets bullpen wouldn’t get another chance to blow a lead. Still, even without a lead, Robert Gsellman would have his own bases loaded jam except he gave up a bases clearing double to Johan Camargo to increase the Braves lead to 6-2.

What else is there to say? Jacob deGrom lost a game despite having a quality start. The Mets left seven on base. Amed Rosario had an error. Mostly, the Mets are nine games under .500.

Game Notes: A year after their horrific 5-21 June, the Mets ate so far 9-16.

Mets Bullpen Blows Yet Another Game

Things were looking great for the Mets. To put it in perspective, Robinson Cano had an RBI single to open the scoring.

It was 2-1 Mets after one, and Walker Lockett was looking pretty good after allowing a leadoff homer to Scott Kingery. He would settle in from there allowing just a Rhys Hoskins homer in the fourth as the two teams entered the sixth.

The lead at that time was 4-2 as Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith homered off Jake Arrieta.

That lead grew to 5-2 in the top of the sixth. The run was set up by Rosario. After hitting a one out single, he stole second, and he went to third on a throwing error by J.T. Realmuto. Rosario would score on a two out RBI single by Jeff McNeil.

Speaking of McNeil, earlier in the game, he flat out robbed Bryce Harper of an extra base hit:

Going back, it was a two out RBI single by McNeil because Mickey Callaway was told by Brodie Van Wagenen to have Lockett bat in the top of the sixth. Sure, he had a walk and a single, but that was the time to pinch hit for him. The Mets would regret not doing it.

Harper led off the sixth with a walk, which is always a bad omen. There would be runners on second and third on a Realmuto one out double. That double led Van Wagenen to have Callaway bring in Wilmer Font.

Font allowed the first inherited runner to score on a Jay Bruce RBI groundout. The other scored on a Cesar Hernandez RBI single. After that, it was back-to-back homers from Maikel Franco and Brad Miller to give the Phillies a 7-5 lead.

To make matters worse, Font responded by going way up and in on Kingery. The HBP led to both benches bring warned, the ejection of an irate Gabe Kapler‘s ejection, and the Mets bringing in Robert Gsellman.

Gsellman and Chris Flexen would combine to pitch 2.1 scoreless to give the Mets a chance to comeback in this game. For a moment, it looked like they did when McNeil hit one deep off Juan Nicasio in the eighth.

Instead of it being a game tying two run homer, it was a ground rule double. Apparently, there’s a small fence above the actual fence. Balls must clear that to be a homer. It didn’t. With the fan interference, Wilson Ramos wouldn’t get a chance to score from first (not that he would’ve anyway).

With Pete Alonso on deck, the Phillies went to Hector Neris for the four out save because, apparently, other teams allow this.

Neris would get Alonso, and he’d work his way around a Cano leadoff ninth inning double to close the door. With the loss, the Mets are a season low six games under .500. You get the sense this isn’t rock bottom.

Game Notes: Mets were 2-for 12 with RISP leaving 11 men on base. Mets June bullpen ERA is 7.44.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Lose Cool And Opportunity

Well, it’s not the Mets unless they do something completely bizarre while also completely blowing an opportunity. Still, this seemed like a new one for the Mets:

1. First things first, we should be talking about Pete Alonso. He already broke Darryl Strawberry‘s rookie home run record, and he now has his sights set on the single season record shared by Carlos Beltran and Todd Hundley. He also has his sights on the single season extra base hit mark (80) shared by Beltran and Howard Johnson.

2. What Alonso is doing this year is truly special, and more than anything he needs to be commended. He also needs to be commended for responding for a subpar May with a big June. More than the homers or anything else, that’s special.

3. Of course, we are not talking about Alonso because Mickey Callaway blew up at a Tim Healey of Newsday, and Jason Vargas challenged him to a fight while needing to be held back by Carlos Gomez and an injured Noah Syndergaard.

4. Callaway completely and utterly overreacted to Healey, and as the manager, he can’t do that. There’s no excuses even if the media is out there gunning for his job. As for Vargas, well, it is good to see this team is willing to fight for him, but needing to be held back is taking it way too far.

5. After the incident, the media members took their rounds discussing the altercation. The most eye opening statements came from Mike Puma of the New York Post who said Callaway is a puppet just following orders, inclusive of the bullpen. He also said he thinks Callaway was trying to get fired.

6. On that front, it’s bizarre how the media believes Callaway is a puppet making no decisions, and yet, they want him fired, and they’re not pursuing the answers to the questions they want answered. As a fan, we don’t know anything because it’s not at all being reported.

7. With respect to the blown game, Seth Lugo was pushed too far. He needed to be pulled after the 20 pitch seventh. He didn’t have it, and you got a clean inning out of him. Going beyond that was too greedy. Normally, this is where you criticize Callaway, but after Puma’s comments, who knows anymore?

8. On the bullpen, Brooks Pounders, Chris Flexen, Wilmer Font, and Stephen Nogosek combined to pitch eight scoreless innings in the series. That is a huge accomplishment, especially with the Cubs having the fourth best offense in the National League.

9. While you may want to attribute some of this to Phil Regan, as well as Edwin Diaz‘s clean inning, it would be surprising if this was all because of his working with the staff over a few days and not just things Dave Eiland had been working on with them.

10. With respect to Eiland and Chuck Hernandez, they join Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton as scapegoats for an ill conceived roster. We will see how much further the scapegoating goes as the season progresses. What makes the scapegoating even worse was Brodie Van Wagenen’s refusal to accept any personal responsibility for the failures of the team. That’s callow especially when you’re firing two people.

11. One of the interesting tidbits which emerged after Eiland’s firing was how the pitching staff was frustrated with Wilson Ramos. The pitch framing stats shows part of the reason. You also see it when he seemingly doesn’t even bother on some passed balls and wild pitches. If he’s going to be this way behind the plate, he needs to hit much more than he is.

12. While respect to Zack Wheeler, this is the time of the year he typically turns things around. July is his second best month of his career, and his second half ERA is more than a full run lower than his first half ERA. With the way things are going, it seems like the has time to really raise his trade value.

13. Going back to Diaz, we already know how he’s used it dictated by the front office. Once again Callaway was left holding the bag while the reporters did not ask the specific question whether he was allowed to use Diaz for more than four outs. If you think Callaway is a puppet, the questions need to be asked accordingly.

14. Too much was made of Sunday’s lineup. Players need days off, and Cole Hamels was going. In addition to that, the Mets had Jacob deGrom. You can fly with the defense first lineup in these situations, especially if the team is just going to blow the lead in his starts anyway.

15. Jeff McNeil continues to show just how valuable he is. He played three positions well, hit a homer, and he deked Anthony Rizzo into a TOOBLAN to get Lugo out of a jam. This guy is a real baseball player who is not getting nearly enough attention.

16. The fact McNeil and Michael Conforto were not in the top 20 in outfield voting was a really bad job by Mets fans. On the topic of Conforto, he is as unappreciated a player as there is in baseball and really among this fanbase.

17. Todd Frazier went from a .164/.179/.291 batting line to a .267/.357/.453 batting line with a 1.3 WAR. That is a remarkable turnaround, and it is one of the few things which has kept this team (barely) afloat.

18. With respect to Frazier his throwing his bat in disgust on a homer shows how much the ball is juiced as well as what happens when the ball is blowing out in Wrigley.

19. It’s funny how completely in disarray the Mets have been before and after Sandy Alderson. Say what you want about Sandy, but he was able to control message, deflect attention, and he was able to make the Mets seem like a well run organization. Now that he’s gone, the team looks like a Mickey Mouse operation all over again.

20. The real problem with this team is Jeff Wilpon. Instead of calls for Callaway’s head, we need to have more and more articles and media attention criticizing him. If the attention is on Callaway for following orders, all you’re doing is throwing jabs at Jeff’s designated punching bag.

Congratulations Pete Alonso

One of the burdens for a first time dad is figuring out just how you can make your child a Mets fan. The Yankees have long owned New York, they win, and they always have the bigger stars. As a parent, you make do with what you have.

Back in 1983, that was Darryl Strawberry.

Strawberry was the biggest thing to happen to the Mets since seemingly Tom Seaver. He was the first overall pick of the 1980 draft, and he was hailed as the black Ted Williams. He’d be called up in 1983, and he’s actually live up to the hype that year.

Strawberry electrifying baseball and the Mets made selling the team easy to young impressionable baseball fans. The ensuing run for the team made it all the easier. While we talk about players like Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter, and justifiably so, Strawberry was the first to burst onto the scene and give everyone a glimpse into what would soon be.

Some of Strawberry’s Mets rookie records still stand today. That includes his 26 homers, which was 26 if his still team record 252 homers as a Met.

The latter still stands, but for who knows how long. In today’s 10-2 route over the Cubs, Pete Alonso hit his 26th homer of the season tying him with Strawberry atop the Mets all-time rookie leaderboard:

With 85 games remaining in the season, Alonso is not just assured to surpass Strawberry, he’s going to obliterate the record. In fact, Todd Hundley‘s and Carlos Beltran‘s Mets single season home run record (41) is in jeopardy.

Other records like Beltran’s and Howard Johnson‘s 80 extra base hits or Mike Piazza‘s .614 SLG may fall as well. Seeing how these power records are in jeopardy, you understand why Alonso’s at-bats have become must see TV. You have to stop to watch him hit because you don’t know what’ll happen next.

Combine that with his being a great teammate, and his doing fun Step Brothers spoofs with Jeff McNeil, you see how he and his epic home run blasts have made him a fan favorite. Much like Strawberry, you not only see how he provides hope for the future, but you also have a seminal figure who makes it cool to be a Mets fan, which is a relief to fathers everywhere.

So, with him hitting his 26th homer congratulations to tying a record which had stood for over 35 years and a record which exists for a franchise which is 57 years old. More than that, congratulations are in order for being a terrific ballplayer whose skills are only surpassed by being the teammate he is. Overall, congratulations to Alonso for being Alonso. As we see, that’s a very special thing to be.

Ill Conceived Mets Outfield Provides Win

This was about as bad a mix as you could get for the Mets. Jason Vargas, a fly ball pitcher, was starting in Wrigley. To make matters worse, the Mets opted to make this the day they broke out the Dominic SmithMichael ConfortoJeff McNeil outfield alignment.

On the outfield alignment, while it was a bad decision to play those three players out of position, they played well out there making all the plays. That includes those hit to the ivy:

It would get better later.

While the outfield got off to a good start the Mets didn’t. For a second day in a row, the Mets scored a run while ending a rally by hitting into a bases loaded double play. Today, that cake courtesy of Smith.

In the bottom of the second, the Mets paid for the transgression by losing the lead right away in the bottom of the second.

The trouble started when Vargas walked the leadoff batter Javier Baez, and it got worse when J.D. Davis completely botched a routine ball at third. After David Bote reached on the error, he stole second putting runners at second and third with one out.

On the stolen base, Tomas Nido made a terrible throw and almost hit a ducking Vargas in the face. It was one of two stolen bases the Phillies had with both throws being poor. It just must be something to do with being a Mets catcher.

The Cubs plated their first run without a hit on an RBI groundout. The second came on a Yu Darvish RBI single giving the Cubs a 2-1 lead. It was the seventh hit of Darvish’s career, and he would be 2-for-2 off Vargas.

While the Mets lost the lead, they remain a resilient team as evidenced by McNeil hitting a two run homer to give the Mets a lead in the top of the third:

That lead lasted until the bottom of the fifth when Addison Russell hit a go-ahead two run homer. Things then get dicey when the lineup flipped over. Kris Bryant doubled, and in a weird course of events Anthony Rizzo struck out.

Initially, Rizzo was seemingly ruled not to swing, but for some reason, he also wasn’t awarded first on a ball that hit him. That’s when Vargas flipped, and he actually got the third base umpire (who upon further review ruled dead ball and not no swing) and home plate umpire to get everything squared away. In the end, Rizzo was ruled to have struck out.

After the delay, Vargas was at 104 pitches, so Mickey Callaway brought in Brooks Pounders to face Baez. Pounders got the Mets out of the jam and put himself in line for the win.

With Vargas departing, he has now had 10 straight starts allowing three earned or less. The problem is he’s only pitched 5+ innings in only half those starts putting pressure on a bad bullpen. Fortunately, the Mets were up to the task shutting out the Cubs for 4.1 innings.

The Mets would even take a late lead in this game and hold onto it. The outfield would again be the driving force.

In the sixth, Conforto hit his 15th homer of the year to tie the score at 4-4. Then in the seventh, McNeil did what he needed to do to get the lead hitting a two out RBI single scoring Adeiny Hechavarria.

On the play, McNeil was thrown out trying to go to second. On the one hand, it seemed like Hechavarria was scoring anyway. On the other, the play killed the chance of the lead growing with Pete Alonso due up.

This put the game in Seth Lugo‘s hands. After an 11 pitch seventh, he came back out for the eighth. Things didn’t go as smooth.

Willson Contreras hit a two out single to left. McNeil, who had replaced Smith in left when Juan Lagares came into the game for defense, appeared to deke Rizzo. Deke or no deke, Rizzo cannot be heading to third in that spot. He got into a rundown thereby ending the rally and the Cubs last chance to tie the game.

The reason is Edwin Diaz looked like Diaz again. Maybe it was his working with Phil Regan, or maybe it was some rest or just some luck. Whatever the case, it was great seeing the Mets bullpen do it’s job again and put the Mets back in the win column.

Game Notes: As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, Lugo has a 0.38 ERA over his last 23.2 innings pitched. The Mets have no finalists in the All Star voting.

Phil Regan’s And Ricky Bones Job Now Tenuous

Before the game last night, the Mets fired pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez because somehow they were not able to make a bullpen full of names like Drew Gagnon, Tim Peterson, Jacob Rhame, Hector Santiago, and whatever else Triple to Four-A relievers Brodie Van Wagenen supplied to create a viable bullpen.

This meant Phil Regan was once again a Major League pitching coach, and we saw the return of Ricky Bones as the bullpen coach. Their first duty was to make Walker Lockett a viable starter in a game against the Chicago Cubs. It worked for exactly two innings.

Entering the bottom of the third, the Mets had a 3-0 lead. The first run came when Carlos Gomez killed a rally by grounding into a double play with the bases loaded and no outs. The other two came against another epic Pete Alonso homer. It would prove to not be nearly enough.

In the bottom of the third, the only out Lockett would get was on a sacrifice bunt by the opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood. It was an ugly six run inning which included five hits, two walks, and just further ugly play behind the plate by Wilson Ramos with a passed ball and wild pitch. At that point, it was 6-3 Cubs with the Mets having no real shot at a comeback.

The final score was 7-4 because Javier Baez homered off Robert Gsellman in the seventh, and Todd Frazier homered in the ninth off Adbert Alzolay. Speaking of Alzolay for a second, he was absolutely electric when he piggybacked this start allowing just that homer to Frazier while walking two and striking out five.

When you looked at these teams, you saw the Cubs as the team with a stable organization who was willing to spend and had a stable plan. When the Cubs needed to win a World Series, they hired Theo Epstein and not a former agent who was way in over his head. This is how you get the Cubs winning 90+ games every year, and you have the Mets falling apart since 2015.

Game Notes: New pitching coach Phil Regan is 82 years old. To put in perspective how old he is, he pitched against Ted Williams, and he was teammates with Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax and Al Kaline. Another interesting note is he was part of the 1969 Cubs team who lost the division to the Miracle Mets.

Brodie Van Wagenen Ruined Mets Payroll Flexibility And Prospect Depth For Nothing

While Sandy Alderson had his faults as the Mets General Manager, he left the Mets in a very good position. The next General Manager would have at this disposal the assets and core necessary to build a real World Series contender sometime within the next three years. If done, properly, this could have been a stretch akin to the 1980s Mets.

First and foremost, there was a young core still under control. Michael Conforto rebounded from shoulder surgery in the second half, and he appeared ready to return to his All Star form. Brandon Nimmo had a breakout season where he was the second best hitter in the National League. Jeff McNeil emerged to hit .329/.381/.471 in 63 games showing a great contact rate while playing well at second base.

The team still had a very good starting rotation. Jacob deGrom is the reigning Cy Young winner. Zack Wheeler‘s second half was as good as deGrom’s. Steven Matz finally made 30 starts in a season. Noah Syndergaard came back from a finger issue and pitched well. Over his final eight starts of the season, he was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA.

The team also did not have an onerous long term deal which would stand in the way of really improving the team. After the 2019 season, the contracts of Todd Frazier, Juan Lagares, Anthony Swarzak, and Jason Vargas were set to come off the books. That was $32.5 million coming off the books. Combine that with Wheeler’s $5.975,  and that was $38.475 coming off the books.

With respect to Vargas and Wheeler being pending free agents, the team did have internal options. Justin Dunn had a breakout season, and he re-emerged as a Top 100 prospect with an ETA of last 2019 or early 2020. With a similar 2019 season, you could see him realistically being part of the 2020 rotation or possibly the bullpen.

Behind Dunn, Anthony Kay and David Peterson had an opportunity to make a push to put themselves in a position to have an ETA of 2020. Between the three pitchers, the Mets realistically only needed one more starter via trade or free agency.

Those three pitchers were not the only near Major League ready talent the organization had. Pete Alonso was Major League ready. If he wasn’t, the team still had Dominic Smith who would spend the offseason addressing his medical issues and continuing to get into better shape.

This was all part of a very promising farm system which could have made a charge to the top of the game. In addition to the pitching and Alonso, the team had Jarred Kelenic, who appeared to be a once in a generation talent. Behind him was an impressive collection of teenage talent which included Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Shervyen Newton, Luis Santana, and Mark Vientos.

If handled properly, the 2021 or 2022 Mets could have had a rotation with deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and at least one of Dunn, Kay, Peterson, or possibly Simeon Woods Richardson. The infield would been Alonso, McNeil, and two from the aforementioned group of teenage prospects. That’s if Amed Rosario didn’t have a breakout season or move to the outfield. Speaking of the outfield, an outfield of Nimmo-Kelenic-Conforto would have been the envy of the game.

Sure, not all of the prospects would have developed, but you also could have had someone like a Ross Adolph or another prospect emerge much like we saw with McNeil in 2018. There was also the impending 2019 draft class to consider. The overriding point here was the Mets had a deep well of prospects, and they had payroll flexibility.

Whoever was going to be the next General Manager of the Mets was going to be, they were taking over a job in an enviable position. There were difficult decisions in front of them like which players do you extend, and how hard exactly do you push to contend in 2019 or 2020 knowing what was on the horizon. Certainly, you had to do some of that because taking over the job was likely going to require you to sell a vision of contending in 2019.

While players like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would have been well worth pursuing, realistically speaking, the Wilpons were not going to green light those signings. On the trade front, the only player available worth the Mets top prospects was probably J.T. Realmuto, but the Marlins have never seemed inclined to be reasonable in a potential deal with the Mets.

With that in mind, whatever the vision for the new General Manager, there needed to be an element of restraint. No matter what the new General Manager did, they needed to maintain that level of payroll flexibility while also not damaging the farm system to pursue short term fixes and/or underselling prospects in order to find ways to circumvent not being able to spend.

Well, in one trade, just one, Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed. In trading Dunn, the Mets lost their lone near Major League ready starter. That was important in case of an injury in 2019, and it was important because with Wheeler and Vargas being free agents, the Mets needed to find at least one cheap option for the rotation.

Worse than that, the team added Robinson Cano‘s onerous contract. Over the next five years, the Mets had $20 million on the books for a player who was going to have a steep decline in one of those five years. That player was coming in at a position already filled by McNeil and at a position which was going to be filled with young talent during the duration of Cano’s contract. You also weren’t moving Cano to first due to Alonso and/or Smith.

Yes, this is where many point out the Mets obtained a cost controlled closer in Edwin Diaz. That’s true. However, he came with a debilitating contract. He also came at the expense of Kelenic. Certainly, a prospect of Kelenic’s level is worth more than a closer both in terms of value in a trade and just in terms of a future impact on a team.

Brodie Van Wagenen would then worsen things. He would trade prospects in Adolph, Adam Hill, Scott Manea, Felix Valerio, and Santana with Bobby Wahl to add J.D. Davis and Keon Broxton (who didn’t last two months with the team). No matter your impression of those players, that’s a big chunk of prospect depth for two players who were really nothing more than bench players.

That’s not a good allocation of your assets, especially when your organization does not have the ability to absorb Cano’s contract in stride and spend their way around losing this prospect depth. Anyone taking over the Mets job knew this, Brodie Van Wagenen included.

However, despite that knowledge he went all-in on 2019. He did not maintain the payroll flexibility needed to address the loss of two rotation spots, a third baseman, and a center fielder in free agency. He traded away not just two top 100 prospects but also quality depth prospects thereby harming their ability to add at this year’s trade deadline (if everything worked out) or to build the 2020 team. Mostly, he lost Kelenic who was a franchise altering prospect, who aside from Darryl Strawberry, the organization has not seen.

Overall, not only did Van Wagenen fail to build the 2019 Mets into a contender, he hamstrung the team’s ability to build that contender in 2020 and beyond. The reason is the team does not have the payroll flexibility or the prospect depth truly needed to overcome the way the Wilpons choose to operate their team.

Consider for a moment if Van Wagenen did nothing, the Mets would have been a fourth place team much like they are now. However, if he did actually do nothing, the Mets would have had a deep farm system and real payroll flexibility to attack this upcoming offseason. That’s all gone now, and seeing what he did to this organization in less than a year on the job, it’s difficult to have any faith he can turn things around and get the franchise back on track.

20/20 Hindsight: Braves End Mets Season

The Mets went to Atlanta with an opportunity to make a statement, and they did. It was just the wrong one:

1. The Mets needed to address their bullpen, defense, and depth. Brodie Van Wagenen completely failed in his efforts.

2. The bullpen has been the biggest culprit this year. What makes it all the more depressing is Anthony Swarzak has been better this year than Edwin Diaz. It gets better when you realize Swarzak is now a Brave pitching well against his former team.

3. The Mets followed a season with the second worst defense in the National League with the worst this year. There’s being a horrible shifting team, and there is also having players like J.D. Davis way out of position in left field.

4. On the topic of Davis, Gary Disarcina‘s send of him was inexplicably bad. It was the latest in bad decisions he’s made there. When you combine that with how horribly the infield has been shifted and his inability to help Amed Rosario improve defensively, you realize he’s been a bad coach for two years now. Really bad.

5. The defense killed Zack Wheeler‘s and Steven Matz‘s starts, but that was not the only reason. Both pitchers needed to be better in their starts. They needed to pick up their defense. They didn’t, and they unraveled and lost. Their failures are as much on them as the defense.

6. For Wheeler, this follows his career splits. His Junes are always terrible. He then rebounds to have a great second half. The problem for the Mets is his following this pattern is taking them out of contention, and it’s also not letting him build up trade value for when they have to sell him a month from now.

7. As bad as they were, Jacob deGrom is back and once again pitching to a Cy Young level. Sadly, he can only pitch once every five days.

8. You get a sense of how bad things are when Mickey Callaway felt compelled to use Robert Gsellman to handle the ninth after deGrom’s start. Essentially, Callaway said he didn’t want one of his other relievers tacking on runs to his starter and ruining the good feeling that start would’ve had on his ace and the club.

9. It’s funny. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to use Stephen Nogosek to break him in easily. That said, as fans we’re never privy to the internal dynamics of a clubhouse and wanting to build up your players.

10. Nogosek and Daniel Zamora showed they are not answers to what has been ailing the bullpen. Instead, this was the team shifting deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s something to keep in mind when they previously passed on Craig Kimbrel and still have yet to sign Cody Allen.

11. That said, Chris Flexen showed us something. When he entered that game, the Braves had a real chance to put it out of reach. He stepped up and pitched two scoreless innings. In what was a lost series, he emerged as a potential bright spot.

12. Michael Conforto has been great lately with a 10 game hitting streak and a hit in 15 of the 17 games this month. In addition to his good defense in right field, he is easily the most underappreciated player on this roster.

13. After a bad May, Pete Alonso has picked it back up in June. He’s been a monster at the plate. It will be very interesting to see how this continues to play out this season.

14. Why isn’t Jeff McNeil playing in center? Juan Lagares hasn’t been good. Neither has Carlos Gomez. Really, McNeil can’t be worse and making him the everyday center fielder would allow the team to get Dominic Smith into the lineup everyday. Sure, Smith in left won’t help the defense, but he’s a better option than Davis out there.

15. For all the talk about Adeiny Hechavarria needing to play over Rosario, if you look, he’s hitting like Hechavarria again with him hitting .176/.222/.176 over the last two weeks and a .241/.276/.434 batting line overall. If you’re going to go down like this as a team, shouldn’t you be looking at Luis Guillorme in this role?

16. Both Brandon Nimmo and Justin Wilson have been shut down after the team’s repeated efforts to try to get them to play through their injuries. You really have to question how the Mets continue making this mistake with their players. It takes an extra level of a complete lack of self awareness and examination to repeatedly make the same mistake.

17. While this is a very down time for the Mets and being a Mets fan, just remember this team still has a young core, and they have been better than anyone could’ve hoped. While the hope for 2019 is fading fast (if not completely gone), there is real hope for 2020.

18. We could talk about the division being unofficially being out of reach and the Mets needing to focus on the Wild Card, but that’s only fooling ourselves. It’s time to sell. That said, if the Mets sweep the Cubs, I’ll probably talk myself into this team being a competitor. With Walker Lockett starting things off for the Mets, the chances of that happening are remote.

19. The worst place in baseball to be is inbetween being a competitor and a bad team. The Mets were in that position in 2002, and they made a horrendous trade with the Rockies trading Jason Bay as part of a package for Steve Reed. A few years later, we’d see it happen with the Scott Kazmir/Victor Zambrano trade. With Brodie Van Wagenen’s hubris, another awful deal like this is a real danger.

20. If Brodie Van Wagenen did nothing this offseason but keep what was here, the Mets would still be a fourth place team, but instead they would’ve been one with payroll flexibility and a farm system on the cusp of being the best in the game.