Phil Regan

Mets Significantly Improved With Brad Brach And Joe Panik

This past week the New York Mets could not bring themselves to trust Donnie Hart or Chris Mazza to close out a five run ninth inning lead against the worst team in the National League. There were two opportunities to use them, and the Mets passed each time. More than anything, this was a sign the Mets were 1-2 arms short in the bullpen and something needed to be done.

With Cody Allen, Brad Brach, and Greg Holland available, the Mets opted to sign Brach, who was arguably the best choice of the three.

Yes, Brach has walked an inordinate amount of batters this year. Part of that is the fact Willson Contreras has been one of the wort pitch framers in all of baseball with a -8.5 FRAA. This follows a year in which he was a -15.4 FRAA. Yes, Wilson Ramos has been bad behind the dish, but his -7.1 FRAA is still an improvement. With Ramos being better and Tomas Nido being a good framer, Brach will be getting some help on that front.

More than the walks, Brach still has the ability to get batters out. He has struck out 10.6 per nine which is is best mark since his 2016 All Star season. As noted by Baseball Savant, there are issues like barrels and exit velocity, but there are other factors like his fastball velocity and spin rate which provide hope.

On the hope front, it should be noted Brach had a very similar season last year with his struggling with the Orioles. He was moved to the Braves as the trade deadline, and he turned things back on after the trade. In his 27 games for the Braves, he was 1-2 with a 1.52 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and an 8.4 K/9.

Overall, by career ERA, August has historically Brach’s second best month of the season. If that proves true, and his career worst .375 BABIP stabilize (.291 career BABIP), things are really looking up for Brach, and that is before he gets to make adjustments working with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones.

At a minimum, Brach is another arm to the equation, and he is likely one who will be used unlike Mazza, who is still on the roster, or Hart, who was optioned to Syracuse. Unlike those other two relievers, Brach has Major League success, and with that comes some hope for upside.

The other player the Mets added is Joe Panik, who fills a need a second base with Robinson Cano likely done for the season with a torn hamstring.

Now, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Panik has not been good this year. In fact, this is the worst season of his career by any measure. He has a career worst batting average, SLG, OPS, OPS+, wRC+, and WAR. With his having a -0.4 WAR and a 69 wRC+, you can understand the Giants trading for Scooter Gennett and releasing Panik.

Even with Panik not being good enough for a Giants team who held onto Madison Bumgarner with the hopes of getting a Wild Card spot in Bruce Bochy‘s last season, it does not mean Panik is not an upgrade over what the Mets currently have.

The Mets current second base options are worse than Panik at the plate. Adeiny Hechavarria (62 wRC+) and Luis Guillorme (2 wRC+) have been worse at the plate. You could argue putting Jeff McNeil at second base is a better move, but Juan Lagares (40 wRC+) and Aaron Altherr (-33 wRC+) are probably even worse options than Hechavarria, Guillorme, or Panik.

Arguably, you get more defense at second with Hechavarria (1 DRS) and Guillorme (1 DRS), but Panik is no slouch. He is a former Gold Glove winner, and he has a 0 DRS. Ultimately, when you take the combination of the defense and the bat, Panik is a steadier presence at second.

It should also be noted like with Brach, Panik is historically very good in August with his career triple slash line being better in August than any other month. While it has been just five games, that has proven true so far this year. Overall, Panik finishes seasons well, and the Mets need someone who can finish this season well at second to help propel them into the postseason.

Ultimately, bringing Brach and Panik back home on the roster makes the Mets a significantly improved team. That’s the case even with Brach and Panik not being very good players this year. In some ways, you can treat this as an indictment of the Mets. However, it’s not about that. Right now, the only thing we should care about is the Mets improving. With Brach and Panik, the Mets are improved. With them being improved, they’re in a better position to make the postseason.

Chris Flexen and Eric Hanhold Among Five Relievers Mets Should Consider Calling Up

For most the season, the Mets have been cycling through relievers trying to find the right fit for the last spot in the bullpen. Their inability to find the right fit has cost them a few games in what has been a very critical stretch of the season.

Chris Mazza couldn’t hold down a lead in San Francisco. Tyler Bashlor put a winnable game out of reach in Pittsburgh. That’s just two recent games, and there are countless others. As a result of different relievers failing, the Mets continue to cycle through them trying to find the right fit. Part of this process is the Mets having traded away Wilmer Font and releasing Hector Santiago. The team has also designated five different relievers for assignment. Still, there are some interesting options available.

Chris Flexen has made the transition to the bullpen this year after having struggled as a starter. In his brief five game stint as a pure reliever in the Mets bullpen, Flexen allowed two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings pitched. After one poor outing against the Braves, he was sent back down to Triple-A.

Since being sent down to Syracuse, Flexen has had a 6.94 ERA in 11 appearances, but six of those appearances were scoreless. Perhaps more important that the results is Flexen’s control. The pitcher who has always had issues with control threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes resulting in his striking out struck out 12 (9.2 K/9) with just one walk in 11.2 inning pitched. If Flexen is able to sustain this level of control, he could be a real improvement in the bullpen.

Looking deeper at the 40 man roster, Eric Hanhold has had a 1.47 ERA since June 20. Over that stretch, he is 2-0 with two saves, and he is holding opposing batters to a .203/.282/.313 batting line. This recent run led to his being promoted again to Triple-A Syracuse. His second stint in Syracuse is going better than his first with him allowing just one earned over 4.0 innings.

In terms of his stuff, Matt Eddy of Baseball America said Hanhold “has a potent power fastball-slider mix that could play in a high-leverage role.” For Hanhold, he doesn’t need to be that yet. Rather, the Mets just need another reliable arm, and he certainly has the stuff to fulfill that role.

Like Flexen and Hanhold, Brooks Pounders has had success for the Mets at the Major League level. In his seven appearances for the Mets in June, he was 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 6.1 K/9. Looking deeper into those appearances, Pounders had six scoreless appearances.

His lone blow-up was his June 24 appearance against the Phillies. Notably, four of the five runs he allowed was in his second inning of work. Part of the focus on that appearance should include his rebounding three days later against the same Phillies team with a scoreless appearance. Looking at that, you could make the argument he should be recalled now. The argument against that is his struggles in Syracuse once he was sent down. In 10 appearances since his demotion, he has a 7.82 ERA allowing batters to hit .310/.410/.528 off of him.

Looking beyond the 40 man roster, there are some choices, but each of those options has their own limitations. The Mets are also further hampered by the fact Ryley Gilliam is on the injured list since July 12.

Perhaps the top option from players not on the 40 man roster is Paul Sewald. Sewald was on the 40 man roster earlier this year, and he pitched well in his four appearances in the Majors this year. In his 38 appearances for Syracuse, Sewald is 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. Overall, in terms of Sewald, he is not the most exciting of choices. However, it should be noted he has shown a knack at the Major League level to be a good long man who can both eat up innings and keep the Mets in games. Given the other Mets relievers failures on that front, Sewald’s ability should not be discounted.

The other reliever not on the 40 man roster who stands out is Steve Villines. This year, Villines has dominated Double-A with a 1.11 ERA in 22 appearances. However, he has struggled in Triple-A Syracuse with a 6.75 ERA, 1.938 WHIP, and a 1.50 K/BB in 13 appearances.

Two things to keep in mind with Villines. First, the sidewinder has fared well against right-handed batters limiting them to a .245/.286/.309 batting line. However, he has struggled against left-handed batters with them hitting .253/.371/.437 batting line. With those splits, you could see the Mets benefiting from pairing him with Luis Avilan much like the 2006 Mets did with Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano.

The one caution the Mets should have with Villines is his walk rate has increased and strikeout rate has decreased as he has progressed to each level of the minors. With the aforementioned 1.50 K/BB in Syracuse, it should give the Mets pause before promoting him to the Majors in the middle of a chase for the Wild Card.

Overall, it would appear the Mets best options at the moment are Flexen or Hanhold. That is at least the case while Jacob Rhame is on the Injured List. In the end, it may just be the case the Mets need to actually pick a reliever and let them work closely with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones to figure things out at the Major League level to permit them an opportunity improve and contribute at the Major League level.

Mets Should Be Considering Brach And Allen

While the Mets did not make a trade to improve their bullpen at the trade deadline, they did improve the bullpen by adding Marcus Stroman. Much like in 2015, the Mets are relying upon their starters going deep into games thereby requiring less from their bullpen. When that happens, a bullpen which only needs to use pitchers like Seth Lugo, Edwin Diaz, Justin Wilson, and Robert Gsellman suddenly looks very good.

Then, there is Friday night in Pittsburgh. With Steven Matz only lasting 3.2 innings, the Mets had to go to the part of the bullpen they have not had to in a while. It eventually caught up with the Mets with Tyler Bashlor allowing three earned over 1.1 innings putting a winnable game out of reach.

With the Mets cycling through relievers like Bashlor, Jacob Rhame (10 day IL), Chris Mazza, Stephen Nogosek, and others, it is clear the team is at least a bullpen arm short, and they are attempting to cycle through these pitchers until one sticks. So far, that hasn’t happened, and it is time for the Mets to make a real move. There are some free agent options available.

Brad Brach was recently designated for assignment by the Chicago Cubs in a season where he has gone 4-3, 6.13 ERA, 1.765 WHIP, 6.4 BB/9, and a 10.2 K/9. After seeing his ERA jump in each of the two seasons since his 2016 All-Star season, Brach has put up a career worst 6.13 ERA and a 6.4 BB/9. Beyond the walk rate, opponents have been hitting the ball harder against him, and as a result, he has a high .375 BABIP.

Conversely, he also has the best K/9 since 2016 and the best K% since 2017. Baseball Savant indicates he is above league average in fastball velocity, K%, and xSLB. All told, he still has Major League talent. With Phil Regan and Mickey Callaway, it would be well worth signing a pitcher the Mets have actively pursued over the past few seasons.

Another veteran pitcher who is available as a free agent is Cody Allen. Allen is available because the Los Angeles Angles released him on June 18, and he was released by the Minnesota Twins on July 31 after pitching to a 3.38 ERA with a 1.500 WHIP and 1.40 K/BB for Triple-A Rochester.

The season had gotten off to a good start with Allen converting four save chances to begin the season. Since that time, he has an 8.10 ERA in the Majors. One of the possible reasons for his struggles is his losing fastball velocity. Another reason may be his over reliance on the curveball. While it has been a good pitch for him, he has thrown it with much more frequency with worse results. To be fair, the same can be said for his fastball. Ultimately, with Allen, this is now two straight down years for him, and really, this could just be a sign he is no longer the same pitcher he was for Cleveland.

The hope with Allen is reuniting with Callaway would pay off dividends. Similarly, there may be hope an Addison Reed return to New York would work out well for both sides.

Reed was released by the Twins before throwing a pitch for the team this year. In total, he only made five appearances for Triple-A Rochester during a rehab assignment for a left (non-pitching) thumb sprain. He was shelled over those five appearances allowing eight runs over 5.0 innings. Since being released on May 21, he has not signed with another team.

With Reed, he had not been the same pitcher with the Twins than he was with the Mets. There are a number of reasons including his losing about two MPH off of his fastball making him more hittable. Given the state of the Mets bullpen and depth, it may be well worth bringing him back to the organization on a minor league deal and seeing how he performs in Syracuse.

In the end, the Mets external options are extremely limited. Given how the internal options have performed, it may be well worth claiming Brach and having him work with Callaway and Regan. With his strikeout rate, he could well be worth a flyer. The same can be said with Reed on a minor league deal. Overall, with the performances from the pitchers the Mets are willing to pitch, these players present not just a current upgrade, but also more upside than what we’ve seen.

 

Bring Matt Harvey Home

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who used to be of California first designated Matt Harvey for assignment and then later released him. This marked the second time Harvey was designated for assignment in as many years.

Looking at the numbers, you can’t blame the Angels. In 12 starts, he was 3-5 with a 7.09 ERA, 1.542 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9, and a 5.9 K/9. This isn’t the Harvey we all knew from 2012-2015, and it’s not even the Harvey of last year. TOS will do that to you.

The question now is what if anything Harvey has left?

If you want to be positive, he performed reasonably well with the Reds last year. In 24 starts, he was 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA, 1.250 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and a 7.8 K/9.

Looking deeper at last year, he was a different pitcher. According to Brooks Baseball, he threw his fastball 58.35%, his change 11.82%, his slider 23.44%, and his curve 6.00%. This year, we have seen him throw his fastball less and his curve much more.

In fact, his fastball usage is down 13.73% and his curve is up 8.81%. His change and slider usage is relatively the same. On the surface you understand the change with Baseball Savant noting Harvey having a slightly better than average spin on his curve and Fangraphs noting his fastball velocity is down.

Whatever the case, the mix isn’t quite right. For that matter, neither has Harvey. Maybe, he will never be right.

That said, when you’re a team nine games under .500 and continue to dwindle from the limelight, it would make sense to give Harvey another look.

First off, the Mets are currently sending out pitchers like Chris Mazza, Jacob Rhame, Stephen Nogosek, Tyler Bashlor, and a number of other similarly talented pitchers to come out of the bullpen. Looking at it from the Mets perspective, aren’t you better off getting a look at Harvey out of the bullpen to see if you can rekindle something in Harvey? Maybe with Harvey focusing on an inning or two, he can feel more comfortable letting it loose instead of trying to hold something back for later in the game.

With the Mets possibly moving Zack Wheeler and/or Jason Vargas at the trade deadline, the team will need another starter. You could go with Walker Lockett and/or Corey Oswalt (presuming Anthony Kay isn’t ready). You could also see if Harvey could perform better after arguably being “humbled” after leaving.

It’s also possible he will feel more at home with Phil Regan as the pitching coach. Maybe being around friends and teammates like Jacob deGrom can help him rediscover something or find a way to be good again.

As the season progresses, the Mets look all the more like a team playing out the string. In those situations, teams have to make judgment calls, and if teams are properly run, they’re not just going to lose as many games as possible to improve a draft position. Ideally, they’ll try to lose with a purpose.

If the Mets pitch Harvey, either in the bullpen or rotation, they’re losing with a purpose. They’re going to see if they can get him to be an effective pitcher again. Really, if you can get him to pitch out of the bullpen, all the better because with his issues, that may be the best place for him.

Better for the Mets to see if they can get him to be a quality reliever and help a bullpen in need of a few arms than to cycle back through the relievers they’ve seen fail time and again.

Overall, if the Mets are going to lose, they should learn something. It also wouldn’t hurt them to be a little more interesting. If anything, the Wilpons and Brodie Van Wagenen will have a lightning rod to take the attention away from them. Taking all into account, the Mets should just take the flyer on Harvey. After all, there is no possible way things can get worse with him here.

20/20 Chances: Mets Leave Postseason Hopes in San Francisco

The Mets went to San Francisco with a chance to take a series against the Giants, pull to at least five games under .500, and surpass the Giants in the Wild Card standings. Instead, they managed to blow three games and probably leave their chances of making the postseason in San Francisco.

1. The Mets outscored the Giants by a healthy margin in this series, but that was only because of Saturday’s blowout. Putting that game aside, both teams were as feckless as can be at the plate. In some ways, both teams being alive in the Wild Card chase is a black mark for baseball.

2. The play which blew the Friday night game perfectly encapsulates the season. Dominic Smith doesn’t make a play partially because he is playing out of position. Unlike Robinson Cano, Alex Dickerson hustled around the base paths. Then, after Todd Frazier astutely cut it off, Wilson Ramos was nowhere near the play, nor did he even attempt to get into position.

3. In short, on one play we saw the effects of the Mets playing guys out of position, playing poor defense, and having their high priced veterans not perform up to the level they need to perform. Throw in the Mets blowing a completely winnable game, and you have the 2019 Mets in a nutshell.

4. The more you look at it, the more you realize Ramos is the biggest issue with this team. His catching has forced the pitching staff to bring pitches up in the hitting zone because of his framing and inability to effectively block pitches. As we saw on Friday night’s play, there are times you question how fully engaged he is. Finally, he’s a shell of himself offensively. Moving him at the trade deadline needs to be a priority.

5. By they way, for the cost of Ramos ($7.25) and Jed Lowrie ($10), the Mets could have had Yasmani Grandal this year and been a vastly superior team.

6. As pointed out by @MeekPhil_ on Twitter, last year’s gaffe between Smith and Amed Rosario happened last year against the Giants. With this being the Mets, no one should be surprised by this.

7. The way Smith responded to the play was incredible. On the first pitch he saw, he would hit a homer. In that game, he was 3-f0r-5 with that homer and four RBI. The way Smith put everything behind him speaks well to his future.

8. Of course, we should not be surprised about Smith’s response. After all, this is the same guy who responded to struggling in parts of his first two Major League seasons, getting surpassed on the depth chart, and his battles with sleep apnea. Smith is a fighter and a hard worker. Dealing with him this offseason is going to be a conundrum.

9. As we saw with his snapping the bat over his leg, Pete Alonso is both fatigued and frustrated. That sums up how every Mets fan feels after staying up or trying to stay up for the Thursday and Friday night debacles.

10. Alonso sitting on Saturday is a testament to the veteran presence of Frazier, who told Alonso and Mickey Callaway about the fatigue which sets in after the Home Run Derby. Considering how the Mets clubhouse fell apart when the Mets moved Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce in 2017, the Mets should consider keeping someone like him around to help this team continue to develop and prepare to be contenders in 2020.

11. It should also be noted with all the deals Van Wagenen has made in his Mets tenure, no one should trust his ability to trade anything for any value at the trade deadline. In all likelihood, when he is done, we will long for the days of the return of “prospects” like Nogosek, Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan, Ryder Ryan, Will Toffey, Drew Smith, etc.

12. Maybe it is time Jeff McNeil gets a day off. So far in the second half, he is hitting .268/.318/.488. Mets need much more from him than this.

13. It gets frustrating seeing how Mets fans choose to overlook some guys while constantly making others a perennial target. For example, Michael Conforto was chastised for not coming through in one pinch hitting attempt on Friday night, but McNeil, who three times failed to knock in the go-ahead run, had nary a bad word said about him.

14. Really, Mets fans don’t deserve Conforto much in the same way they don’t deserve Noah Syndergaard. With both players, all we hear is nitpicking over them instead of just enjoying them for the really good players they are.

15. The Mets offensive cold snaps were beyond frustrating in this series. After scoring a run in the first inning of the first game, they did not score another run until the 16th inning. After that, they didn’t score another run until Saturday’s game. After hitting two homers in the second inning Sunday, they didn’t score another run. If you’re not scoring runs, you can’t win.

16. The pitching staff was as good as you could ask during this series. The only blips were Chris Mazza and Stephen Nogosek. For Mazza, he was pressed into action in a spot where it was going to be difficult to succeed, and Nogosek struggled in mop up work.

17. Going back to Mazza, it shows how seemingly meaningless decisions come to matter. When the Mets needed someone to wrap things up in what became a laugher in Minnesota, the Mets turned to Mazza for the final two innings. The team did this despite knowing Jacob Rhame had a suspension looming. The end result was being an arm short in a 16 inning game the subsequent day pressing Mazza, a pitcher who just threw two innings, to work multiple innings again.

18. In what is becoming a lost season (if it wasn’t one already), the Mets need to stop pushing Seth Lugo. He’s too valuable a bullpen arm going forward. Don’t mess that up to chase games in July and August when you did nothing to really build the bullpen when you had the opportunity.

19. The hopes for a Cano turnaround are quickly fading with him now three for his last 21. If Brodie Van Wagenen had a clue, he’d spend the offseason finding a way for a team to take on Cano’s contract because Cano is one of the reasons why the Mets are going to struggle to compete in the ensuring seasons.

20. It was sad to see Matt Harvey get designated for assignment. For years, he was the source of hope for Mets fans, and he really did all he could do to get the Mets a World Series in 2015. Hopefully, he finds a way back to the Mets to work with Phil Regan and build himself back to being a good pitcher. More than that, here’s hoping he finds a fit like he did in Cincinnati last year where he can get the most out of the stuff he still has.

Jeff Wilpon Needs To Speak About What’s Going On With His Mets

The New York Mets are five games under .500, which is the lowest point they’ve been at any point this season. As with most teams under .500, everything seems in disarray. This is a pattern for the Mets franchise which exists even in good times. Still, things have been at a higher level of dysfunction lately.

Mickey Callaway didn’t take kindly to what appeared to be an innocuous comment from Newsday’s Tim Healey. The frustration coming from a tough loss, having to answer difficult questions, or whatever else is related to being the Mets manager came flying out. Callaway finally snapped and directed it at Healey, which he shouldn’t have done.

Things were heightened when Jason Vargas purportedly to knock out Healey, and he needed to be restrained by Carlos Gomez and an injured Noah Syndergaard.

This was an embarrassing course of events which were made all the more difficult when Callaway had to speak with reporters three times before getting the words which people wanted to hear from him out. As bad as you may want to characterize what Callaway did or did not say, it’s nowhere near are terse and sarcastic as what Vargas had to offer:

It should be noted here Callaway was at least man enough to speak with Healey personally and offer an apology. Nowhere was it reported Vargas did the same. Despite that, both were not suspended and were fined $10,000.

Of course, with this being the Mets, that’s not enough. During the game, we were reminded just how bad a job Brodie Van Wagenen has done as the General Manager. Jay Bruce would hit a pinch hit home run against Brooks Pounders, a scrap heap guy Van Wagenen had to obtain to try to piece together what was an incomplete bullpen to begin the year. That homer essentially put the game away for good.

In that game, there would be 20 runs scored and 34 hits. The only position player in either starting lineup not to register a hit? Robinson Cano. Cano was 0-for-5 dropping his stat line to .223/.270/.361. So far, he has a -0.8 WAR in year one of a five year $100 million obligation to the 36 year old second baseman.

At the same time, we have seen Edwin Diaz have the worst year of his career while Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn are progressing well in the Mariners system. According to MLB Pipeline, Kelenic is the 24th best prospect in all of baseball, and Dunn is the 67th best.

That means if Van Wagenen did not make the trade, right now, the Mets would have five top 100 prospects (Andres Gimenez, Ronny Mauricio, Anthony Kay) with more on the horizon. That means the Mets farm system would have been the envy of everyone, and the team could have sold REAL hope for an under .500 fourth place team.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote an article alleging Van Wagenen called the Mets to instruct Callaway to remove Jacob deGrom from a game. The reporting has been confirmed many times over with the allegations going much further than this being an isolated event. On the topic, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post had this to say:

I asked the question to Brodie Van Wagenen this way, a few hours before the Mets would prove to be a splendid tonic for the reeling Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in serving as 13-7 patsies, a few minutes after he feigned ignorance at a subtler version of the inquiry:

“Do you tell Mickey what to do?”

*  *  *  *  *

So I asked. And this is what Van Wagenen said: “This organization is about teamwork and collaboration and the ability to trust the manager on an everyday basis.”

This is what he didn’t say: “No.”

It wouldn’t be until after the game Van Wagenen would seek to deny the reports. When he did, he would come across as less than convincing.

This is all coming off the heels of the team scapegoating both Dave Eiland and Chuck Hernandez while replacing them with an 82 year old Phil Regan and their bringing back Ricky Bones less than a year after he was removed from the position. We’ve also seen Travis d’Arnaud and Keon Broxton scapegoated this year.

On top of all of this, Brandon Nimmo went from neck pain we shouldn’t worry too much about to a bulging disc he tried to play through (both in the majors and in a rehab stint) to being shut down. Jed Lowrie has yet to play this season. Overall, the handling of the medical situations has continued to be inept, and the offseason acquisitions have mostly been a disaster.

At this point, no one has any credibility, and people have long since stopped wanting to hear what Callaway and Van Wagenen have to say.

The Mets have been embarrassed by the actions of his manager and fifth starter. There’s a potential scandal brewing with the General Manager allegedly violating MLB rules. There’s the continued problems with handling injuries, and the payroll remains an issue. Fans are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the team, and they’re staying away from the ballpark. Overall, the team is five games under .500, and they are closer to last place than the division or a Wild Card.

This is the exact time Jeff Wilpon needs to speak with the media. He needs to show everyone the team is not dysfunctional. He needs to support his embattled General Manager and manager. He needs to provide a vision for the future; one which can get the fans reengaged. In the end, this team is run by Jeff Wilpon, and he is the one who has to be accountable for the decisions made.

Speaking now is what a true leader would do. When put that way, we shouldn’t be holding our breath waiting for him to be accountable for the decisions made by him and the people he put in charge.

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.

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.