R.A. Dickey

Mets Blogger Roundtable: KEITH HAS A TWITTER ACCOUNT!

One of the things that has made the GKR era of Mets broadcasts truly enjoyable is what Keith Hernandez has brought to the table.  His sheer honesty, and his ability to make the occasional gauche comment makes even blowout Mets losses worth watching.  Really, Mets fans cannot get enough of Keith Hernandez.

And in many ways, we want to see and hear what he is like when the cameras aren’t on.  We did get a small glimpse of that the day SNY came back on the air earlier than the booth expected, and we all reveled in Keith’s comment that National’s starter Tanner Roark had been “getting his tits lit.” That and other Keith Hernandez moments made him the Mets personality most fans wanted to get a twitter account.

Well, it has finally happened to the great joy of Mets fans everywhere. In this week’s version of the Mets Blogger Roundtable, we react to Keith’s Twitter account:

Michael Baron (MLB)

Obviously, for us its very entertaining and its a great way for us to engage with someone we all admire. But for him, its an excellent opportunity for him to enhance his own personal and professional brand, which is both colorful and eccentric and allows us to see a different angle of Keith many don’€™t know and don’€™t get to see.

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies)

I have yet to feel “excitement.” Keith even tagged me in a response to someone else, yet all I feel is impending doom (more so than usual). My podcast partner perfectly described this situation as all too similar to the once beloved Milkshake Duck’s. Keith has already mistakenly tweeted out his phone number, before somewhat adorably thanking the first person to point this out and asking how to delete the picture. He has also yet to change the lowercase ‘k’ to an uppercase ‘k’ for his first name in his twitter bio. Even with 280 characters, nuanced thoughts can be expressed very poorly and problematically by the savviest of internet folk, so Keith tweeting something considered to be of poor taste is pretty much inevitable. But for now, yes, he’s showing *clears throat* good twitter fundamentals.

Michael Ganci (Daily Stache)

Having Keith officially join Twitter is akin to walking down the steps and seeing the presents on Christmas morning. You can see from his brief experience, his account oozes with his personality, and I for one, have set mobile alerts for when he Tweets. Why is he simply the most entertaining guy on Twitter? Simple. He’s Keith Hernandez.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

I don’t get too excited about celebrity Twitter accounts, but he seems to be actively using it himself, so that’s pretty cool.

Joe Marcic (Loud Egg)

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

It feels as if a Rubicon has been crossed. All those fleeting thoughts of “what would Keith Hernandez be like on Twitter?” have come to “oh, so that’s how it is.” He’s Keith Hernandez.

A part of me was hoping he’d stay Tweetless, as if to maintain the mystique. I felt that way about R.A. Dickey, too, but R.A. was engaging and complex in any medium. Same for Keith.

I wonder if early in a previous century there was this much speculation over how so-and-so would come across over the phone. One more device by which to communicate is what it boils down to.

James Schapiro (Shea Bridge Report)

By far the best part of having Keith on twitter will be getting more of Keith, plain and simple. Keith already doesn’€™t work every game, and it’s noticeable when he’€™s not there.  Gary and Ron are just a bit too grounded and serious when there’€™s no Mex between them. Even when Keith isn’€™t working games now, we’ll be able to get inside his head, and, of course, it’s rightfully easy to read his tweets in your head in a perfect Keith tone. Just because he’€™s not actually saying the words out loud doesn’€™t mean you can’€™t hear Keith’€™s implicit superiority to the guys on the field today, or the strangely emphasized words (Brou-HA-haa). Having Keith on twitter is our chance to hear from Keith far more often. And I don’t think there’€™s any need to be more specific: Keith on twitter means more Keith, and that’€™s something that all Mets fans should cherish.

Mets Daddy

What fascinates me with Keith’s Twitter account, and maybe it shouldn’t, is how right from jump street, he has already mastered how a celebrity should use a Twitter account.  He provides the voyeurism aspect like his tweeting out pictures of him having dinner with his daughter and her friend.

He gives us a sense that he’s just like us in how he tweets out silly picture of himself (his profile picture is him wearing a mustachioed poop emoji), he uses the occasional toon response in a tweet, or how he adores his now famous cat Hadji.

He also replies to Mets fans just enough to keep them hanging on his every word, and he is not afraid to call someone out for being an idiot.

And like with his Zack Wheeler comments, we get to see Keith not just as contemplative and not reactionary (as comes with the job) when something happens during a Mets game.  More to the point, it shows just how closely Keith does pay attention to the team even when he is not actually working the game.

Lastly, Keith has mastered the job of advertising the Keith Hernandez Shop and his upcoming book, which may have been impetus for firing up the Twitter account all along.

On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this.  During the telecasts, Keith has shown himself to be far more than comic relief.  He’s an intelligent and pensive man, who in many ways, is a modern Renaissance man.  Keith was a great baseball player, has had great cameos (everyone overlooks his Mr. Baseball cameo), and he has been great in both the booth and the studio.  Personally, I’m looking to see what a man with varied interests like Keith Hernandez has tweets during the offseason.

While Keith has only recently been on twitter this group of Mets bloggers have long had twitter accounts which we all use to promote our own writings and thoughts about the Mets.  While you are checking in on Keith’s tweets and the things he is selling, I encourage you to check in on the excellent things this group of writers is writing about this amazingly 10-1 Mets team.

Mets Pitchers Report Today, Are Better Than Advertised

It is quite fitting that today is unseasonably warm because we have the first sign of Spring with the Mets pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training.  No matter what your opinion on the Mets offseason, this time of year always brings a bit of hope for the fanbase because seeing the Mets players in uniform, you can begin to dream the players can put it all together and win the World Series.

For the Mets, like it has since 2015, the entire hope surrounds the starting pitching.

Now, there are people who are claiming there isn’t enough.  They still want the Mets to go out and sign Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or any number of a group of free agent starters who didn’t compile 200 innings, were coming off injuries themselves, or really just couldn’t even sniff this Mets rotation when healthy.  In fact, you could argue with their recent injury histories and peripherals, Lynn and Cobb are just more of the same. Actually, what the Mets have is just better.

That’s part of the reason why the narrative the Mets did nothing to address their franchise worst pitching needs to end right now.

The first move the Mets had made this offseason to address the pitching was to go out and hire Mickey Callaway.  If you are going to be a pitching staff built on pitching, Callaway was the inspired choice.  Joining him on his pitching staff is Dave Eiland, who is renown for his ability to work with pitchers.  One of his keys to success is how he helps pitchers with their mechanics, which in turn, helps reduce injury.

Speaking of injuries, gone is favorite punching bag Ray Ramirez.  In his place is Jim Cavallini, who will oversee everything related to player care and conditioning.  This includes nutrition, sleep science, injury prevention, and rehabilitation.  Apparently, after all these years of injuries, the Mets are finally interested in getting players to eat better, sleep better, and take better care of themselves.

And yes, we know even with that Zack Wheeler needed osteoarthritis injections this offseason.  Matt Harvey has not been able to stay healthy since that magical 2013 season.  Steven Matz has continued to suffer one injury after another.  Technically speaking, Seth Lugo is pitching with a torn UCL much like the Yankees have seen with Masahiro Tanaka.

Yes, these injuries and injury histories exist, but as noted, the Mets finally have the people in place to not only help prevent those injuries from happening again, but also to get Harvey, Wheeler, and Matz back to form.  If they are, watch out because this is a pitching staff that can once again lead the Mets to the World Series.

If not?  Well, there’s real pitching depth in the Mets organization.  As noted above, there’s Lugo.  The team also have Robert Gsellman and Chris Flexen.  Yes, they both struggled last season, but they have an opportunity to learn from those struggles.  They also have the support system with Eiland, Callaway, and Mickey Abbott in Las Vegas.

Behind them are some intriguing prospects in Triple-A.  Corey Oswalt was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  P.J. Conlon continues to defy the odds with his under 90 MPH stuff to pitch to a minor league career 2.35 ERA.  Marcos Molina is healthy after Tommy John, and he looks to build off a strong season.  Mickey Jannis is a late blooming knucke ball pitcher much in the same vein as R.A. Dickey.  And if you want to get deeper, Ricky Knapp rejuvenated himself after struggling in Vegas by pitching completely lights out as he helped pitch the Rumble Ponies to the Eastern League playoffs.

And if you are masochistic, this could finally be the year for Rafael Montero.

Point is, unlike last year, the Mets have actual starting pitching depth to start the season.  If one goes down, there’s two or three behind them to pick up the slack.  The team has a manager and pitching coach better suited to getting these pitchers to reaching their full potential.

Sure, it would be nice to see the Mets add a pitcher or two on a minor league deal to serve as a swing man, but even if the Mets don’t make that move, they have the depth they need in the organization.  Today is the day that group gets in peak physical shape and realizes their full potential.

And if you have a hard time believing me, sit down, take a deep breath, and remember the first two games of the season will have Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard starting for the Mets.  If you can’t get excited about that, nothing will.

Mets Should Consider Moving d’Arnaud To The Infield

On August 16, 2017, we got to see Travis d’Arnaud bounce back-and-forth between second and third base. Twenty-three times in total.

The reason for the switching was because Terry Collins wanted to have Asdrubal Cabrera play on the pull side of the Yankee batters. d’Arnaud was in the field in the first place because (surprise, surprise), the Mets were playing short. With Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores unable to play the infield, d’Arnaud had to play there.  On the evening, d’Arnaud would have just one ball hit in his direction.  d’Arnaud would cleanly field that ninth inning pop up off the bat of Todd Frazier forever giving him the highest fielding percentage for a Mets second baseman.

Fast forward a few months, and the Mets are in the same exact situation they were just months ago. The team needs to fill in spots at second and third, and really, Cabrera is the only player they have capable on handling those positions everyday.

But it’s more than that.  The Mets are currently not satisfied with Dominic Smith at first base, and they want competition for him.  At a minimum, they’d like a platoon partner for him there as Smith has historically struggled with left-handed pitching.

Historically, this is where you would point to Flores being a solution for second, third, and/or first.  However, Flores has also shown himself not in position to be that player.  He cannot handle third base defensively.  The Mets won’t let him handle second.  And the overriding problem is he’s still a platoon bat even with him making strides against right-handed pitching.

Looking back at that August night, it may be worth toying with the idea of bringing d’Arnaud out from behind the plate to learn either second or third base – preferably third.

First and foremost, the roster composition would allow such a move.  At the end of last season, Kevin Plawecki showed he may finally be ready to push for a starting catching job in the majors.  Also, the Mets signed Jose Lobaton to a minor league deal.  In his career, Lobaton has showed himself to be a more than capable backup catcher.

That tandem not only allows the Mets to handle the inevitable d’Arnaud injury, but it also allows the team to move d’Arnaud.

Presumably, third base would allow d’Arnaud to stay healthy.  As we have long seen, d’Arnaud has been an injury prone player.  By moving him to another position, you may be able to keep his bat in the lineup.

His bat is where things get a bit dicey.  If d’Arnaud is the player he was in 2016 or 2017, you don’t want that bat in the lineup.  It may be possible at catcher, but it’s not at third.

However, in 2015, he was a 126 OPS+ and 130 wRC+ hitter.  That will play at any position.  Keep in mind, when he was drafted, and when he was twice moved for Cy Young Award winners (Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey) this is what he was expected to be as a hitter.

Getting d’Arnaud’s bat into the lineup everyday and giving Plawecki a shot to be the everyday catcher may go a long way towards helping the 2018 Mets get the most out of the talent on their roster.

Now, this understandably seems ridiculous, and you know what?  It is.  It is absolutely ridiculous we need to even contemplate d’Arnaud switching positions because of the failures of this team.

Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart both chose to become Angels.  Rumors persist the Indians are not looking to move Jason Kipnis, at least not to the Mets.  Josh Harrison was linked to the Yankees, not the Mets, in trade rumors.  The team has a limited budget, so we can probably forget Frazier, Mike Moustakas, or even a Howie Kendrick.

The Mets don’t have the money, and they don’t have the prospects to get things done.  With that in mind, you might as well contemplate moving d’Arnaud to the infield because . . . well . . . the Mets don’t really have any better options.

Omar Minaya Returning Is Great News

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

1.  Omar Left The Mets In Better Shape Than Advertised

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandy Alderson Should Want Focus On Payroll Instead Of His Record

In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history.  While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”

If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.

Injuries

During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).

This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players.  This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).

As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse.  Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers.  Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson.  The list goes on and on..

That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built.  Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months.  Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.

The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.

Evaluating Own Talent

Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players.  Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.

The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner.  However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.

The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere.  Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox.  They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick.  Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.

The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go.  It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright.  None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended.  There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.

The Draft

The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors.  Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams.  The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.

At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered.  This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.

Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.

The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.

The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer.  Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes.  We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.

Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.

This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.

Free Agency

Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful.  Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR.  In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.

For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals.  Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract.  Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.

It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.

Depth

Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues.  This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons.  It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.

Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front.  They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals.  Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell

Synposis

Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey.  Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps.  It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.

Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.

Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent.  If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.

Mets Need To Get In On The Giancarlo Stanton Bidding

Right now, the rumors are the Marlins are going to be willing to trade the reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton for the extremely underwhelming package of Joe Panik, Tyler Beede, and Joe Shaw.  There is one caveat to a deal – the Giants have to pay $250 million of the $295 million remaining on Stanton’s contract.

What we don’t know at this moment is the particulars, including but not limited to the impact of Stanton’s pending opt out on the allocation of the remaining $295 million on his contract.

Considering this is the package the Marlins are currently contemplating, and in reality, are ready to go ahead and accept, it really makes you question where the Mets are in the bidding process.

No, we shouldn’t pretend there aren’t significant obstacles to a Mets-Marlins deal.  First and foremost, we have no idea about Derek Jeter‘s proclivity to striking a deal with a team that is not only a division rival, but also an inter-city rival from his playing days.

An additional obstacle is Stanton’s no trade clause.  For various rumors, he seems to be inclined to want to either play for the Marlins or the Dodgers next year.  Even as the Giants and Marlins seem to be nearing a deal, it seems the Giants have to meet with Stanton to try to sell him on the idea of becoming a Giant.  Considering the team’s recent success and willingness to spend to compete, this could be an indication of how resolute Stanton may be in his preferences.

We also know the Mets have their own limitations on the budget and prospect front. Still, even with those limitations, the Mets should still have enough to sell the Marlins and Stanton on the idea of becoming a New York Met.

Really, the one thing that jumps off the page at you is how well Stanton has performed at Citi Field.  In 52 games at Citi Field, he is hitting .258/.348/.613 with six doubles, 21 homers, and 43 RBI.

Outside of the two parks Stanton has called home, he has hit more homers at Citi Field than anywhere else.  That is all the more impressive because for a large part of his career, he has had to face tough Mets pitchers like R.A. Dickey, Jacob deGromJeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, and Noah Syndergaard.

Stanton would also arguably complete the Mets roster.  By acquiring Stanton, the Mets could shift Michael Conforto to first base.  This is good for a few reasons.

First, the Mets don’t have to be as concerned with Conforto laying full out for a ball and landing on his surgically repaired shoulder in the outfield.  Second, Keith Hernandez has long been enamored with Conforto’s potential at first base.  Third, an outfield left to right of Yoenis CespedesJuan Lagares-Stanton is outstanding defensively.

With the modern emphasis on fly balls, having strong outfield defense is an imperative.  That outfield will be as good as there is in Major League baseball.  With the bats of Cespedes, Conforto, and Stanton in the lineup, you can certainly carry Lagares’ bat in the lineup.

You can also handle Stanton financially.  While he has $295 million remaining on his contract, he has three years $77 million remaining before his opt out.  With him making $25 million next season, the Mets still have enough to add at least one impact reliever and fill around the edges with the rest of the roster.  With Stanton in the fold, that should certainly be enough.

As for prospects, you never know what another organization likes from your team.  However, if the Mets are looking to swing a deal, it wouldn’t hurt to start with a former first round pick in Dominic Smith, who could be all the more enticing for a team possibly looking to move Justin Bour.  The Mets also have a number of other prospects and players at or near the level of the Giants haul.  The combination of those players and the willingness to absorb the salary could be enough to get a deal done.

Maybe, just maybe, that would be enough to sell Stanton on coming to the Mets.  Certainly, he has been at Citi Field on nights it was absolutely electric, and he may want to be a part of that.  Maybe he doesn’t.  We wont’ know until the Mets try, which it does not seem like they are at the moment.

Arizona Fall League Dominance Shows Mickey Jannis Is Still A Prospect

Traditionally, the Arizona Fall League is reserved for the top Double-A and Triple-A prospects in each organization.  We’ve previously seen with players like David Wright and Mike Piazza having played in the Arizona Fall League.  We see it again this season with top prospects like Kyle Tucker (Astros), Ronald Acuna (Braves), and Francisco Mejia (Indians).

The list of players in the Arizona Fall League this year also includes 29 year old Mickey Jannis.

Typically speaking, when a prospect passes a certain age, they are no longer considered a prospect.  Depending on which standard you apply, that age is a moving date, but everyone will agree that 29 years old is too old to be considered a prospect.

Jannis is different than your typical prospect because he is a knuckleball pitcher, and for a number of reasons knuckleball pitchers have a tendency to develop later in their careers than most prospects.

There are few pitching coaches out there who are actually adept at teaching the pitch, and it is a difficult pitch to throw.  However, the main reason is probably due to it being seen as gimmick which pitchers do not seek to learn until their careers are almost at a premature end.  Jim Bouton described this process best in Ball Four:

After a couple of year in the minors, however, I started to get bigger and stronger and started to overpower people with my fastball.  So I phased the knuckleball out.

I never really used it again until 1967.  My arm was very sore and I was getting my head beat in.  [Ralph Houk] put me into a game against Baltimore and I didn’t have a thing except pain.  I got two out and then with my arm still hurting like hell, I threw four knuckeballs to Frank Robinson and struck him out.  The next day I get sent to Syracuse.  Even so, it wasn’t until the last part of the next season that I began throwing it again.  The idea that you’ve lost your regular stuff is very slow in coming.

That experience is typical to most knuckleballers.  In R.A. Dickey‘s own book, Wherever I Wind Up, he stated his process of learning the knuckleball began when the Rangers front office suggested it was his best chance of being able to have a Major League career.  That is an experience shared by Jannis:

It’s just a decision I made after I got released by the Rays after my second year in pro ball.  I went into independent baseball and just made the transition. It’s been a long process. I’m still learning to throw it, learning to throw it for strikes. It’s just every day learning something new with the pitch.

(William Boor, MLB.com)

In many ways, Jannis is still learning how to control the pitch, and as a result, he has had middling results.  He would go from a 3.55 ERA and 1.354 WHIP in 2015 to a 5.69 ERA and 1.564 WHIP in 2016.  This made his age 29 season an important one to improve his status as a prospect.  Based upon recent knuckleball pitchers age 29 season, there wasn’t much reason for hope:

  • Tim Wakefield (1996) 14-13, 5.14 ERA, 1.550 WHIP
  • Dickey (2004) 6-7, 5.61 ERA, 1.620 WHIP

Albeit in Double-A, Jannis had a much better age 29 season going 8-7 with a 3.60 ERA and a 1.251 WHIP.  During the season, he’s come closer to taming the knuckleball leading to better success, a rejuvenation of his status as a prospect, and his assignment to the Arizona Fall League.

Jannis has taken full advantage of the opportunity by pitching great.  In his six starts, he was 1-3 with a 2.33 ERA and a 1.037 WHIP.  Overall, he’s showing he control his knuckeball, and he can get baseball’s top prospects out.  If he continues learning how to harness his knuckleball, he may very well get the chance to prove he can use it to get Major League batters out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first published on MMO

Thanks For The Memories Terry Collins

Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting.  He will not be returning as Mets manager.  While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring.  The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.

In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started.  The Mets were bad and injured.  It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag.  What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.

Part of being human is being emotional.  We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences.  And yes, we’ve seen him cry.  Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality.  In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory.  In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.

He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title.  He left Santana in for that no-hitter.  He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult.  Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.

Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players.  It would be the source of much consternation among fans.  This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto.  What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.

In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed.  You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop.  Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.

But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers.  It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players.  Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner.  It wasn’t just those players.  Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.

With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets.  Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets.  Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.

Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see.  A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young.  A Mets player won a batting title.  There was actually a Mets no-hitter.  Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.

Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that.  Collins got the best out of his players.  It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.

And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans.  More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect.  He returned their affection.  That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:

It was more than the celebrating.  Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants.  At his core, Collins is a good and decent man.  It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.

Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake.  Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers.  This was just one aspect of his poor managing.  There were many times where he left you scratching your head.  It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.

However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins.  To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season.  We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.

He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history.  When he was hired no one expected him to last that long.  Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure.  In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.

I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him.  My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man.  Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled.  Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.

Dickey Great, Taijeron Walks Off

Almost five years ago to the day, R.A. Dickey took the mound for the Mets, and he earned his 20th win of the season all but locking up his highly improbable Cy Young Award. 

While Dickey hasn’t been anywhere near that good since the 2012 season, he looked like that pitcher once again tonight. He controlled his knuckleball extremely well not walking anyone. He kept the Mets honest by throwing his fastball just enough. 

Through six, the Mets accumulated just two hits – a second inning double by Brandon Nimmo and a third inning Travis Taijeron single. They didn’t amount to anything. 

Really, the Mets didn’t seem like they were going to touch Dickey until Kevin Plawecki hit what seemed to be the first mistake Dickey made all night for a two run homer. The homer pulled the Mets to within 3-2 making the game a bit more perilous for Dickey than originally anticipated when the inning began. 

It would be a two out Amed Rosario triple that finally chased Dickey from the game. With Dickey having been a beloved Met during his tenure, he received a well earned ovation as he entered the dugout.

Dan Winkler struck out Taijeron to end the jam preserving the 3-2 lead. 
The Braves were up 3-2 because they got to Rafael Montero early. 

A pair of first inning doubles from Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis gave the Braves a 1-0 lead. 

In the second, Montero got himself out trouble by issuing a lead-off walk to Dansby Swanson. He scored on a Jace Peterson double, and Peterson scored on an Ozzie Albies RBI single. It was be enough to ensure Montero would finish the year with an ERA over 5.00. 

On the season, Montero finished 5-11 with a 5.26 ERA. Keep in mind, this is what was deemed to be a resurgent year for Montero where the Mets think he could realistically be a contributor next year. 

While the three runs were enough to ding Montero, it would not prove enough to give Dickey a win partially because Sam Freeman was snake bit. 

The first issue was his issuing a one out walk to Nori AokiJohan Camargo would then throw the ball away on a Jose Reyes grounder setting up second and third with one out. 
Asdrubal Cabrera then ripped a line drive that should have give the Mets the lead. It would only be a game tying sacrifice fly because Inciarte did it against the Mets again:

After a scoreless ninth from Jeurys Familia, the Mets would have a chance to walk it off. It was going to be difficult against A.J. Minter who has had a terrific rookie season. 

The Mets would give the rookie his first loss of his career. 

The game winning rally started with a Plawecki single, and Juan Lagares pinch ran for him. Terry Collins then uncharacteristically allowed Dominic Smith to face a left-handed pitcher. The decision was all the more surprising when you consider the Mets had a bench full of right-handed batters. 

Smith rewarded Collins’ faith when he drew the first walk Minter has issued in his brief career. Not just a walk to a left-handed batter. First walk. 

After Rosario failed to lay down the sacrifice bunt, Taijeron delivered with a single to left giving him the first walk-off hit of his Major League career. 

Five years later, Dickey was great, and the Mets won the game. If this was really the end of his career, it was a fitting end for a pitcher that really helped turn the Mets around. 

Game Notes:  AJ Ramos has been unavailable with a bicep issue, and he may be done for the season. 

Assessing The Addison Reed Trade

In assessing how the Mets fared in the Addison Reed trade, let’s start with the obvious.  The fact Sandy Alderson was able to turn Miller Diaz and Matt Koch into a great run with Reed plus Red Sox prospects Stephen Nogosek, Jamie Callahan, and Gerson Bautista was absolutely phenomenal.  No, it doesn’t rank up there with Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra for R.A. Dickey, but nevertheless, it was a coup.

Still, the question remains whether Sandy got a good return for the 2017 version of Reed.

Let’s start with this.  Since joining the Mets, Reed has been one of the best and more versatile relievers in baseball.  He has deftly handed the seventh, eighth, and ninth inning.  His 142.0 innings pitched since joining the Mets is fifth in baseball, and his 2.09 ERA over that stretch is great. Intuitively, you may not believe Reed is a top reliever in baseball, but he was.  From 2016 to the present, Reed posted the sixth best fWAR in the majors (3.5).  Aside from Kenley Jansen and Andrew Miller, who we all know are otherworldly right now, Reed is as good, if not better than any reliever in baseball.

Looking over the list of potential free agents, Reed could have arguably been considered one of if not the best reliever on the free agent market.  With that being the case, it was likely worth gambling and giving him the qualifying offer putting his value at a second round pick or the equivalent.

Looking at the Mets haul, they most likely received that.  The trio of arms all throw in the upper 90s.  With respect to Nogosek and Bautista, they both have a good but inconsistent slider, and there are some control issues.  If they figure it out, and realistically speaking, they are in the right organization to do so, the Mets have two potential late inning relievers.  With Callahan, they have a near MLB ready reliever who can generate a high number of strikeouts and could be ready to help the Mets as soon as next year.  To that end, the Mets certainly did receive a second round equivalent.

Where the debate becomes dicey is when you ask the question whether the Mets could have done better.

For starters, there is no real way of knowing that.  We are not privy to the general back-and-forth between general mangers.  We also don’t know if there was a theoretical better offer the Mets rejected because they liked the players the Red Sox offered more.

We should also consider, last year, the Yankees seemingly built an entire farm system (hyperbole) by trading Miller and Aroldis Chapman.  Each trade fetched the Yankees two of their trade partners’ top five prospects.  In terms of Gleyber Torres, it got them one of the best prospects in baseball.

With Reed arguably being the top reliever on the market with at least eight teams interested, it makes you question how the Mets walk out of a deal without an organization’s top five prospect.  The counter-argument is the prices this year are not the same as they were last year.  In the end, we have no idea if this was the proverbial best trade, and the reviews on the trade have been all over the place.

Ultimately, I find the trade underwhelming, and I do question the Mets motives a bit.  If you look at their recent moves, they have all been bullpen driven.  Lucas Duda was moved for Drew Smith.  The team went out and obtained AJ Ramos.  Now, the Mets got an arguably low return for a trio of fireball throwing relievers.  I’m not so sure the Mets approached this trade deadline with the intent on rebuilding the minor league system as much as they were intent on rebuilding their bullpen.

In the end, if the Mets goal was really to build the bullpen in the trade market, they have to back that up by spending real money in the free agent market to back up their decisions.  If they don’t do this, they may not have only lost out on the possibility on maximizing their returns for the pieces they did move, they may also miss out on the 2018 postseason.