Roger McDowell

Mets Should Never Hold Onto Prospects, Make Trades, Or Sign Free Agents

Looking at this past offseason, the Mets have traded away much of their future to improve the 2019 team. Top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn were part of a package for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Ross Adolph, Scott Manea, and Luis Santana were traded for J.D. Davis. Finally, Adam Hill, Felix Valerio, and Bobby Wahl were traded for Keon Broxton.

There has been some debate on each of these moves. Whereas many saw the Mets undervaluing assets, there have been a contingent who have justified the deal under the auspices of how not all prospects work out.

To a certain extent, there is validity to the prospects not panning out. With respect to Generation K, only Jason Isringhausen had a successful career, and that was as a reliever not the front line starter we expected him to be. Outfielders Fernando Martinez, Lastings Milledge, and Alex Ochoa weren’t even so much as a part-time player. Relievers like Eddie Kunz did nothing. The list goes on and on . . . .

Of course, this overlooks the prospects which have had successful careers. Tom Seaver was a Hall of Famer. David Wright, Jose Reyes, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Edgardo Alfonzo were all-time Mets greats. As we know, that list is much longer than that. It also includes Nolan Ryan, which was a trade which lives on in Mets infamy.

That was a trade of a young player who hasn’t figured it out for a past All-Star Jim Fregosi. While prevailing wisdom is that trade was a Mets disaster, the school of thought were you trade young players for proven Major League talent would be fully onboard with that deal. That does beg the question why people are against keeping prospects and are not against the Mets making trades.

Looking over Mets history, this team has made many horrible trades. In addition to the aforementioned Ryan for Fregosi trade, we have also seen several other poor trades in Mets history:

There are several others which have blown up in the Mets faces. In addition to that, there have been trades for players which have greatly under-performed for the Mets. In addition to the aforementioned players, you can include Roberto Alomar, Willie Mays, Joe Torre, and a litany of others did not perform when wearing a Mets uniform.

With the Mets losing valuable young players and with the team getting veterans who have not performed, you have to wonder why the Mets don’t just operate on the free agent market. Of course, the reason there is the extensive failures the Mets have made on that front. The list is well known, and Mets fans can cite them in their sleep – Jason Bay, Bobby Bonilla, Luis Castillo, Vince Coleman, George Foster, Oliver Perez, and many, many others.

Point is, no matter which way you look, you see a history of failures when it comes to the Mets organization. Their prospects always fail. They only trade for veterans in decline. Every free agent signing is a bust.

Of course, that’s not remotely the truth. When looking at each area, the Mets have had plenty of successes and failures. The goal for every General Manager is to have more success than failures and for those failures to not come back and bite you. That’s what defines periods like the 1980s Mets and also the period immediately thereafter.

So in the end, when judging moves, do it on their own merit and not because you believe the Mets prospects fail, trade acquisitions production declines, and every free agent is a bust.

IBWAA NL Manager of the Year Ballot – Dave Roberts

This was a strange year in the National League Manager of the Year race.  All the teams that were supposed to be contenders were actually contenders despite most of those teams suffering brutal injuries.

That Nationals lost Stephen Strasburg for a good part of the year and will likely not have him in the postseason.  The Mets lost Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, David Wright, and Lucas Duda for a good portion of the season.  At one point, the Dodgers entire starting projected rotation was on the disabled list with the most crushing blow being a Clayton Kershaw trip to the disabled list.  The Cardinals have had their shortstops, Jhonny Peralta and Aledmys Diaz, on the disabled list with injuries, and they lost their closer Trevor Rosenthal.  Even the Cubs suffered a huge injury with Kyle Schwarber going down with a torn ACL.  With these teams overcoming those injuries, it could be quite difficult to determine who was actually the best manager in the National League this season.  Taking all that into consideration, here is my ballot:

1st Place – Dave Roberts

A large part of his award goes to Roberts because of what he did despite his team being the most injured team in all of baseball.  By the first week of the season, he lost two members of his starting rotation with Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  He would also lose important bullpen arms in Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, and Chris Hatcher for the year.  He’d also deal with the most dramatic injury of all when Kershaw went down with a back injury.

When Kershaw made his last start before heading to the disabled list, the Dodgers were 41-36, eight games behind the Giants in the West and a game behind the Marlins for the second Wild Card.  From that point forward, the Dodgers have the second best record in baseball.  They have won the NL West for the second year in a row, and they seem poised to make a deep run in the postseason.

That’s not the only reason why Roberts is the Manager of the Year.  He’s also capably handled a number of tricky situations that would have the potential to flummox other managers and potentially poison some clubhouses.  He had to get Howie Kendrick to accept being a utility player and eventually an outfielder.  He had to get one last great season out of Chase Utley.  He would pull rookie Ross Stripling while he had a no-hitter going because it was the best thing for the young player’s career and the Dodgers’ future.

Clearly, Roberts has been unafraid to make the tough decisions.  He had control of the clubhouse.  He avoided near disaster, and he led his team from eight games back to win the NL West.  That’s Manager of the Year material.

2nd – Joe Maddon

In reality, any other year this award would go to Maddon.  Maddon has established himself as the best manager in the game.

Maddon was handed a roster that was easily a World Series favorite, and he delivered during the regular season.  Not only did he get another great season from Jake Arrieta, but he also got better years from Jon Lester and John Lackey.  By the way, somehow he got a Cy Young caliber season out of Kyle Hendricks.

We also saw Maddon play mad scientist like he loves to do.  When Schwarber went down, Maddon took his budding superstar Kris Bryant and turned him into a Ben Zobrist type of player.  It probably helped Bryant that he had the actual Zobrist on the team to give him some pointers.  Additionally, never one to stay at the status quo, Maddon experimented using multiple relievers on the field.

On June 28th, Maddon would actually play Spencer Patton and Travis Wood in the outfield in a 15 inning game against the Reds.  It actually worked out well for the Cubs.  Patton started the 14th inning on the mound and Wood in left field.  When Jay Bruce came up to bat, Maddon would switch them around to get Bruce out.  After the Bruce at bat, Maddon switched them back so Patton could get Adam Duvall out.  This was reminiscent of the 1986 game where Davey Johnson was forced to shift Jesse Orosco and Roger McDowell between left field and the pitcher’s mound due to a Ray Knight ejection leaving the Mets without another position player.  However, Maddon wasn’t forced into the decision.  There wasn’t an injury or an ejection.  Rather, Maddon did it because he simply believed it gave the Cubs the best chance to win the game.

That is the type of progressive thinking that has made Maddon the best manager in the game, and it has helped the Cubs to a 100 win season with the best record in baseball.  If not for the terrific season Roberts had, Maddon would have won this quite easily.

3rd – Dusty Baker

Last year, the Nationals were done in by a toxic clubhouse and a terrible manager in Matt Williams.  In the offseason, the Nationals did what they had to do in firing Williams, and then they had to settle on Baker as their manager.

Baker has always been a curious case.  He has never been a favorite of the Sabermetrically inclined.  He makes curious in-game decisions (hello Russ Ortiz), and he has a tendency to over rely on veterans over young players that are probably better and can do more to help the team win.  Despite all of that, Baker has won wherever he has gone.  He has brought the Giants, Cubs, Reds, and now the Nationals to the postseason.  The reason is Baker is a manager that gets the most out of his players.

It wasn’t easy for him this year.  Bryce Harper had a down year, Jonathan Papelbon wouldn’t last the season as either the closer or as a National, and Ben Revere would show he was not capable of being the center fielder for a good team.  Worse yet, Strasburg went down with injury despite Baker actually being someone careful with his young pitcher.  So how’d he do it.  Well, he got career years from Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos.  In a sign of growth, Baker trusted a young player in Trea Turner to not only play everyday, but also to play out of position.  Mostly, Baker was Baker.

Overall, it is clear that Baker has some innate ability to get his teams to play well.  He did that again this year in turning around a Nationals team that fell apart last year to a team that comfortably won the NL East.

Honorable Mention – Terry Collins

By no means did Collins have a strong year this year.  You can point to the injuries, but he did do a lot to exacerbate them by playing players who he knew was injured.  He had a year where he messed around with Michael Conforto‘s development and threatened the career of Jim Henderson by abusing his surgically repaired shoulder for a “must-win” game in April.  Furthermore, he flat out abused the arms of Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, and Jeurys Familia.  So no, Collins is not deserving of the award.

However, he is deserving of an honorable mention with the class and dignity he comported himself in the aftermath of Jose Fernandez‘s death.  He made sure his team was there to console the Marlins, and he prepared his team to win games when some of his own players were devastated by Fernandez’s death.  This was one of the many acts of kindness Collins has shown as the Mets manager, and it should be highlighted.

Implications of the Giants-Cardinals Series

Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals head out west to begin a pivotal four game series against the San Francisco Giants that will have far reaching implications on the National League Wild Card race.  With each game played, the Mets will both gain ground on one team and lose ground to another.  As the series begins, here is where the Wild Card race stands:

Record GB
Giants 77-68 + 0.5
Mets 77-69
Cardinals 76-69 0.5

With the Mets being idle, one of two things are going to happen today: (1) they are going to be tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card; or (2) they are going to be tied with the Cardinals for the second Wild Card.  As we can see from that, this four game set between the Giants and Cardinals can be both a blessing and a curse that makes you question what result you want from this four game set.

Case for the San Francisco Giants

Each generation of Mets fan has a tale of woe that has come at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals.  There was the Terry Pendleton home run off Roger McDowell in 1987, and Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball in 2006.  There have been many other instances, and if history is any evidence, there will be more.  It is quite understandable if Mets fans do not want to see a Cardinals uniform in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game.

There are other baseball reasons to want to face the Giants over the Cardinals.  Since the All Star Break, the Giants have had the worst record in all of baseball.  The Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner, has struggled in the second half going 4-5 with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP.  The last time Bumgarner pitched against the Giants he only lasted five innings allowing six hits, four runs, four earned, and three walks while striking out six.  Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants star that has struggled in the second half.

Buster Posey is amidst the worst year in his career which hast mostly been the result of him hitting .274/.352/.366 with only one home run in the second half.  Posey is a major reason why the Giants have scored the third least runs in the National League after the All Star Break.  You would have to like the Mets chances against this lineup when they are hopefully sending Noah Syndergaard to the mound.

Even if the Giants were to get a lead on the Mets in the Wild Card Game, it will not be a safe lead for the Giants whose bullpen has completely fallen apart.  Santiago Casilla has lost his closer’s job.  Joe Nathan was given a chance, but only proved why he was a 41 year old pitcher in the minors this year.  Hunter Strickland crashed and burned in his first chance to take over the closer’s position.  Fact is, the Giants don’t have a bullpen that can protect a lead which is really dangerous against a Mets team that has Yoenis Cespedes ready, willing, and able to hit a clutch home run late in the game.

In addition to the Giants falling apart, the Mets could very well have more trouble with the Cardinals.  Yadier Molina is a Mets killer.  Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk give the Mets fits.  While the Cardinals rotation has been a big disappointment this season, Carlos Martinez has pitched like an ace this year.  In his career, he is 3-1 with a 1.75 ERA against the Mets.  If the Cardinals get a lead, Seung-hwan Oh has shown himself to be a dominant closer.  Given the past history, and how poorly the Mets matchup against the Cardinals, they would be better off facing the Giants.

Case for the St. Louis Cardinals

We can saw all we want about Madison Bumgarner having a tough second half, and it is true.  However, under no circumstances do you want to face him in a winner-take-all game.  You just have to go to the 2014 Postseason video for proof of that.  In the Wild Card Game, he pitched a complete game shutout.  In Game 7 of the World Series, he came out of the bullpen to pitch five shutout innings to earn the save.  In his postseason career, he is 7-3 with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.883 WHIP.  You don’t want to be anywhere near him.  In addition to this, many people will tell you that you don’t want to face the Giants because it is an even-numbered year.

No matter how much better the Mets may matchup against the Cardinals, you always want to avoid an ace like Bumgarner in the postseason.  Pitching wins, and the Cardinals have no one on the level of Bumgarner.

Case for a Split

A sweep at the hands of the other could bury one of the Wild Card contenders.  The corollary to that is it will rejuvenate one of the two Wild Card contenders.  As it stands, the Giants and Cardinals have seemingly had trouble getting out of their own way.  If either team was able to sweep or take three out of four in the series, it will be a significant mental boost that could lead to them playing better baseball from here on out.  Ideally, the Mets do not want to face a hot team in that Wild Card game.

Ideally, the Mets would also have homefield in the Wild Card Game.  Unless, the Mets sweep the Twins, which may proven to be more difficult than it should be with Gabriel Ynoa potentially slated to go Sunday, the Mets will trail one of these two teams for home field in the Wild Card race.  As of right now, the Mets do not have any teams over .500 remaining on their schedule.  If the Mets take care of business, they should be able to earn a Wild Card spot not matter what happens in the Giants-Cardinals series.

As it stands, the Mets would probably want to face the Giants, and they would want to face them at home.  However, baseball is an unpredictable game, and as we have learned far too often, you should be careful for what you wish for.

 

 

You Can Trust Jeurys Familia Is Getting the Save

Normally, I’m much more in tune with a Mets game than I was last night. Generally speaking, no matter where I am, I’m getting play-by-play someway, somehow. I didn’t last night because I was at the Brooklyn Cyclones game with my family, and courtesy of Nicco Blank, we had great seats:

  
Being that close, especially with an active toddler, we had to be on high alert foul balls  in the stands:

  
Courtesy of Blake Tiberi

In any event, by the time we got to the car, I knew little about the game. I knew Bartolo Colon started the game. I knew Neil Walker hit a two run homer. I knew the Mets were up 4-3. I was just fuzzy on the rest of the who, what, where, when, or why about the other five runs that scored. 

There was another thing I knew. Jeurys Familia was going to close it out. 

So far this year, Familia is a perfect 28 for 28 in save chances. He has a career 2.49 ERA, 1.182 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9. He has a career 149 ERA+. He’s consistent. He’s durable. He’s the best closer in the National League, and he’s amongst the best in baseball. As a fan, he’s a closer that gives you confidence. That’s a rare feeling for Mets fans. 

Sure, John Franco usually got the job done as evidenced by his 424 career saves. That’s the most for a lefty closer. That’s also 424 times he gave some poor Mets fan a heart attack for his Houdini acts. 

He was supplanted by Armando Benitez. Benitez was as dominant as they come unless he was facing Pat BurrellPaul O’Neill, the Braves, or any team in the Month of September or October. 

Billy Wagner was tremendous until he faced the immortal So TaguchiJesse Orosco and Roger McDowell were a bit before my time. 

About the only closer I can come up with during my time I had any confidence in was Randy Myers. Back in 1988 and 1989, he was great as the Mets closer. You had confidence when he took the mound. It was the opposite feeling when the Mets brought in Franco to start the 1990 season as the closer. It began a 14 year high wire act that was followed with the Benitez’s and the Braden Looper‘s of the world. 

It’s been 18 years since the Mets had a closer they can trust not to give everyone a minor stroke when they take the mound. Familia is different than his predecessors. When Familia enters the game in a save situation, he’s getting the save.  He typically does it without giving you a heart attack. When he enters the game, you know he’s converting the save. 

It’s about the one thing I knew for certain about the Mets game yesterday. 

Retire 17?

You know sometimes we forget about the impact Keith Hernandez had upon his teammates. 

After Hernandez left the Mets, David Cone switched his number from 44 to 17 to honor his former teammate. He would wear it again with the Royals. His fellow color commentator, Ron Darling, wore 17 while a member of the Athletics. Bob Ojeda and Roger McDowell did the same with their future teams. In fact, they occupied the number during Mike Piazza‘s early tenure with the Dodgers. This is interesting because Piazza wanted number 17:

When Piazza joined the Mets, John Franco gave him his number 31. It was a terrific gesture that was part of a full court press to make Piazza comfortable and to get him to resign with the Mets. Piazza’s chosen number,17, was taken by Luis Lopez. He’s one of the many who have had the number that drives Hernandez nuts. I’m assuming Piazza never asked for the number. 

With Piazza on the verge of being elected to the Hall of Fame, I presume the Mets would retire his number during the following season. We know that number will be 31. While Franco was a fine Met and a good closer, I’m sure there will be no groundswell to retire the number in his honor as well. 

Now if Piazza wore 17, I’m assuming the Mets would’ve told Luis Lopez to find another number. If Piazza’s number 17 was retired, there would’ve been a major groundswell to retire the number in Hernandez’s honor as well. We know there is one already amongst the fan base. Retiring Piazza’s number might’ve created an avenue to retire the number of a popular player and broadcaster. However, Piazza never got to wear 17, and it’s Hernandez’s fault. 

He left a tremendous impact with the fans and his teammates. The fans and his teammates wanted to honor him. It’s ironic this impact is what is preventing him from having his number retired.