Ruben Tejada

Utley To Retire, Reyes Still Playing

Yesterday, Chase Utley had a press conference to announce he was going to retire from baseball at the end of the season.  As a Mets fan, this probably should make you elated.

After all, back from his days in Philadelphia, he has been nothing but a dirty player, and he has been a villain.  For proof of that look no further than that tackle which not only broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg, but it really ruined his career.  Just remember that as people write and talk about Utley being a hard-nosed player who “played the game the right way.”

Utley is also the guy who completely embarrassed Noah Syndergaard and the Mets.  Really, Shawn Estes‘ message to Roger Clemens was more heartful, and really much closer, than the message Syndergaard tried to send that night.  As a bonus, we did get that great Terry Collins‘ ejection video.

If you’ve been a Mets fan long enough, there are many, many, many more Utley moments which will instantly spring to mind.

So yeah, in a sense it’s good for the Mets that Utley is gone much in the same way it was good to see players like Chipper Jones retire.

However, the Mets and their fans are nowhere near a position to celebrate the retirement like Utley, even if he was a coward ducking the Mets and and their fans during the NLDS.

Ulitmately, it’s really hard to care when the Mets not only chose to employ the 35 year old Jose Reyes, but they also play him over Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, and really any player who could hit better than .164/.246/.227.

So, people can go ahead and celebrate Utley’s retirement and pretend like the bad guy is gone.  It’s not true.

The real bad guy, the one who is a Met right now because he threw his wife through a glass door, is still with the Mets, and he’s become a major impediment to the Mets organization moving forward and improving for the future.

So congrats on a great career to Utley.  He may have been dirty and ruined careers, but at least he didn’t beat his wife and complain to the press to help take playing time away from players he was supposed to mentor.

Matt Harvey, Thank You And Good Luck

In September 2015, Scott Boras tried to intervene and limit Matt Harvey‘s innings in what could be perceived as an attempt to save the pitcher not just from the Mets, but also from himself.  There would be a modified schedule and some skipped starts, but Harvey eventually took the shackles off because he wanted the ball.

Harvey always wanted the ball.

He wanted the ball in the NL East clincher against the Reds.  Instead of the five innings he was supposed to pitch, he pitched into the seventh because, well, he wanted to get ready for the postseason, and the Mets were lucky he did.

Harvey won a pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS.  With that series going five games, it was Harvey who got the ball in Game 1 of the NLCS.  In front of a raucous Citi Field crowd, Harvey set the tone for that series.  As he stepped off the mound with two outs in the eighth, he wasn’t tipping his cap.  No, he was pumped up like all of Citi Field was because he knew what we all knew . . . this team was going to the World Series.

When telling the story of Matt Harvey, we will forever go back to Game 5.  With the Mets team trying to rally back from a 3-1 series deficit, Harvey wanted the ball for the ninth.  Terry Collins initially wanted Jeurys Familia, but he relented, and he gave Harvey the ball.

You’d be hard pressed to find a time in Citi Field history louder than when Harvey took the mound in that ninth.  A blown lead and Game 5 loss later, you’d never find Citi Field more despondent.

Now, looking back, that Game 5 was the microcosm of Harvey’s Mets career.

He came in, and he gave us all hope the impossible could happen.  He brought us all along for the ride.  There was no one we wanted out there more than Harvey.  And yet at the very end, despite all the hope and brilliance he brought, we were all left in disbelief, and yes, some in tears, over the how and why Harvey was still out there.

Mainly, Harvey was there because despite no matter what anyone said, Harvey wanted to be there, and he was not going to let anyone stop him.

And you know what?  Back in 2013, no one could stop him.

In 26 starts, Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9.  His 2.01 FIP that year would not only lead the Majors, but it would be one of the 10 best over the past 100 years.  His WHIP still remains a single season Mets record.  It may have seemed premature to put him in the conversation with Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but really, it made sense.  Harvey was just that good.

He was the reason to watch a terrible Mets team, and on May 7th, he may have pitched the game of his life.  If not for an Alex Rios infield single Ruben Tejada could not turn into an out, Harvey likely pitches a perfect game.  Instead, he had to settle for a no decision despite allowing just one hit and 12 strikeouts in nine innings.  Just file that away next time someone points out his win-loss record.

That game was the signature Harvey moment.  He took the mound with a bloody nose.  He was reaching near triple digits with this fastball.  He was becoming a superstar.  He was making Citi Field his playground.

When we look through the history of Citi Field one day, it will be Harvey who emerged as it’s first superstar.  He was the one who brought the crowds.  He started the first All Star Game at Citi Field.  Arguably, he pitched the two best games ever pitched by a Met at that ballpark.

It would be that 2013 season Harvey broke.  He tore his UCL, and he needed Tommy John surgery.  Mets fans everywhere who were once so hopeful were crushed.  There were many low moments in Mets history since the team moved to Citi Field, but that one is among the lowest.

But when he came back in 2015, hope returned.  He may not have been 2013 great, but he was great.  For all the criticism over his innings limits, he would throw more innings than any pitcher in baseball history in their first season back from Tommy John.

Looking back at that 2015 season, Harvey gave the Mets and their fans everything he had.  He pitched great in the regular season, and he was even better in the postseason.  Just like in 2013, he was trying to will the Mets back to prominence.  He was taking an organization on his back and trying to win a World Series.

It broke him in 2013, and apparently, it broke him again in 2015.

Really, when he stepped off that mound in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey was done as we knew him.  In 2016, he’d be diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome requiring season ending surgery.  Last year, Harvey was rushed back to the rotation before he was physically ready, and he suffered a stress reaction.  This year, he was healthy, but lost.

Looking back, no one will ever know if Harvey listened to Boras if he’d still be The Dark Knight instead of a guy now looking for a job.

The real shame is how Harvey went out.  The same guy who heard the loudest ovations from the fans, the same one who heard Mets fans serenade Stephen Strasburg with “Harvey’s Better!” chants, was booed off the mound the last time he ever pitched on what had once been his mound.

There are some who will find behavioral excuses why Harvey faulted, and maybe they do exist.  However, you’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher who was at the top of his game in November only to completely lose it by the next April.  Most pitchers get a transition period to figure things out.  Harvey’s cruel fate was he had more injuries followed by his getting about a month and a half before being given an ultimatum.

In what once seemed impossible, Harvey was designated for assignment.  Sure, Mets fans always expected him to leave one day, but we all thought it would be Harvey who spurned the cheap Wilpon family, not the Wilpons kicking him out the door despite the team still owing him around $4 million.

Much has been made of the Mets crop of starting pitchers, the group who brought them to the 2015 World Series.  Make no mistake, Harvey was the best out of the group.  Better than Jacob deGrom.  Better than Noah Syndergaard.

Really, he was better than anyone not named Seaver or Gooden, and if things had broken right, Harvey could have been a Hall of Famer.  He was that good when he was healthy, but he wasn’t healthy making him this generation’s version of Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, or Jon Matlack

Harvey being designated for assignment wasn’t a shock.  With every struggle on the mound, and yes, some personal issues that emerged, he was getting closer and closer to this point.  It doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt the Mets fan, the ones who got to experience in the joy of seeing the real Harvey pitch, any less.

There will come a day down the line where all will be forgiven, and we can all just look back and appreciate all Harvey did for the Mets.  We can take a step back and marvel how he potentially sacrificed his entire career to win that one World Series.  Really, he has never been thanked or appreciated enough for that.

Now, he is looking for a new team and a new fan base.  Hopefully, Harvey rediscovers some of that magic he once had, and hopefully, he gets those cheers again.  He’s certainly earned them.

And when he does return to Citi Field, whether it be this year or the next, let’s hope he gets that true standing ovation he deserved, the one he might’ve received on Thursday had we all known it was going to be his last game in a Mets uniform.

No matter what happens, Mets fans everywhere should wish him the best of luck.  There was a time we showered him with all the love we had, and he returned the favor by giving us everything he had.  Everything.  Here’s hoping he gets everything he is looking for in his next stop.

I know no matter what he does, I’m rooting of him.  More than that I appreciate Harvey for all he did as a Met.  Really, best of luck to you, Matt Harvey.

Who’s Better: 2015 or 2018 Mets?

Entering the season, Yoenis Cespedes made the bold declaration the 2018 Mets were better than the 2015 Mets.  Now, if you recall that 2015 team, it did feature players like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry.  However, those players were not on the team at the same time as Cespedes.  When Cespedes joined the Mets, he was on a much better roster, a roster which went all the way to the World Series.

With that consideration, it is certainly bold for Cespedes to make that declaration, but is he right?  Let’s take a look:

CATCHER

2015: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki
2018: Travis d’Arnaud, Kevin Plawecki

Just looking at those names, you may be quick to think not much has changed in the catching situation.  In reality, everything is different, and the main difference is these catchers stand on much different footing.

The 2015 season was d’Arnaud’s best as a player with him posting a 126 OPS+ and emerging as an elite pitch framer.  Plawecki was overmatched at the plate, but he did handle the pitching staff exceptionally well.  Since that time, both had gone on to disappoint in 2016 and much of 2017.

Things changed at the tail end of 2017.  Plawecki finally looked like the player the Mets once thought he would become.  d’Arnaud would finish the season with a strong September.  As a result, they will look to begin the 2018 season in a unique time sharing agreement designed to keep both healthy and effective all year long.

VERDICT: 2018if both replicate their Septembers, this won’t even be close

FIRST BASE

2015: Lucas Duda
2018: Adrian Gonzalez

In 2015, Duda hit .244/.352/.486 with 27 homers and 73 RBI.  He was as streaky as he ever was unable to carry the team when they needed his bat most, and he almost single-handedly beat the Nationals in a key late July series.

Gonzalez is coming off the worst year of his career, and he is still dealing with back issues which requires him to warm up two hours before the game starts.

VERDICT: 2015 Gonzalez may not be around long enough to make a bad throw

SECOND BASE

2015: Daniel Murphy
2018: Asdrubal Cabrera

We got a glimpse of what Murphy would became with him slugging .533 over the final two months of the season. Even with the increased power, no one could predict the home run barrage he’d unleash in the postseason.

For his part, Cabrera finds himself at second a year after protesting moving there or anywhere. He’s been a good hitter with the Mets, and he’s been terrific in the clutch. We’ll see if the injuries will permit him to be that again.

VERDICT: 2015 – Murphy’s postseason was an all-time great one

THIRD BASE

2015: David Wright
2018: Todd Frazier

This was really the last hurrah for Wright in a Mets uniform. He was very good in the 30 games he played after coming off the DL hitting .277/.381/.437. He’d hit two emotional homers: (1) his first at-bat since coming off the DL; and (2) his first World Series at-bat at Citi Field.

Frazier has been a solid to somewhat underrated player. Over the last three years, he’s averaged 34 homers, 88 RBI, and a 110 OPS+. He’s been a good fielder averaging a 5 DRS over that stretch.

VERDICT: 2018 – Frazier is no Wright, but he’s healthy

SHORTSTOP

2015: Ruben Tejada
2018: Amed Rosario

Tejada was not supposed to be the starting shortstop in 2015.  After wasting a few chances which led to Omar Quintanilla getting the bulk of the playing time over him, the Mets moved on to Flores.  Eventually, Collins and the Mets went back to Tejada because: (1) he had steadier hands; and (2) he had a .362 OBP in the second half.  Who knows how everything would have turned out had Chase Utley not broken his leg with a dirty slide/tackle.

Rosario is the future of the Mets.  Yes, there are flaws in his game like his very low walk rate.  However, this is a uniquely gifted player who is dedicated to being better.  He’s electric, and he’s got the skill set to be a superstar for a very long time.  For now, we will settle for him being a good defensive shortstop who brings real speed and upside to the table.

VERDICT: 2018 Rosario’s ceiling is just way too high

OUTFIELD

2015: Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson
2018: Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce

Cespedes was just an otherworldly player when he joined the Mets.  Despite his only being a Met for a few months, he finished in the Top 15 in MVP voting.  Really, the MVP for the Mets that year was Granderson who was a leader in the clubhouse on the lineup.  He had the most homers from a lead-off hitter, and he was a Gold Glove finalist.  Conforto jumped from Double-A to post a 133 wRC+ and a much better than expected 9 DRS in left.

With respect to the 2018 outfield, we see Conforto is a much better play (when healthy), and Cespedes is nowhere near as good as he was when he joined the Mets.  To be fair, there’s no way he could, but he’s still an All Star caliber player.  This means the main difference between the squads is Bruce and Granderson.

VERDICT: 2015 – That Cespedes was just that much better.

BENCH

2015: Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Juan Lagares
2018: Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes

From the moment Uribe and Johnson joined the Mets, they were game changers.  They both brought a winning attitude and game winning hits.  In addition to the two of them, Lagares was the defensive specialist, a role to which he is best suited, and Cuddyer was a platoon partner with either Conforto or Duda depending on whether Lagares started the game as well.  Overall, it was a veteran bench who provided needed leadership.

The Mets current bench is similar to the 2015 bench with Reyes trying to emulate the Uribe role even if he’s not as productive a player.  Flores is Flores, but a better hitter, and believe it or not, a worse fielder.  Lagares rediscovered his range he lost in 2015.  Nimmo should be in the everyday lineup and leading off, but early indications are he won’t.

VERDICT: 2015 – Uribe and Johnson were just that important

ROTATION

2015: Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Bartolo Colon
2018: Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Jason Vargas

When you consider Vargas was basically brought in to replicate what Colon did in 2015, the question is whether you believe the Mets top four starters are better as a group now or then.  Looking at it objectively, Syndergaard is the only one who has improved with no one knowing what Harvey and Matz can still provide.

VERDICT: 2015 – they were just healthier then

BULLPEN

2015: Jeurys Familia, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Hansel Robles, Jon Niese, Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel
2018: Jeurys Familia, Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, Jerry Blevins, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Paul Sewald

Familia was that good in 2015 that he was able to cover many of the warts in the 2015 bullpen.  This resulted in Collins using him for multiple innings more than any other closer that year.  Reed would begin his emergence as a great reliever, but a back injury would cost Clippard of his effectiveness.  One surprise was Niese performing well as a lefty in the bullpen.

When you include Sewald’s Triple-A experience, this is a bullpen with three closers, six pitchers with closer’s stuff, and a very good LOOGY in Blevins.  Even if Familia is not as good as he was in 2015, it won’t matter because there is enough depth here for the Mets to not need to rely upon him as much.

VERDICT: 2018 – they’re just deeper and with more upside

MANAGER

2015: Terry Collins
2018: Mickey Callaway

For all the warts and problems Mets fans discovered with Collins, he had his finest year as a manager in 2015.  When the ship could have sunk multiple times, he pulled the team together and kept things afloat until the team got healthy and reinforcements arrived.  Of course, he followed this up by helping cost the Mets the World Series with a series of baffling decisions which all blew up in the Mets faces.

Right now, Callaway looks like a genius.  He’s innovative batting Cespedes second and Rosario ninth.  He came down hard on Dominic Smith for being late.  His players seem to love him, and the baseball world roundly believes the Mets made an excellent hire.  However, the season isn’t even a week old.  Even if everyone is a fan at the moment, let’s check back in a couple of months to see if he’s an innovative genius or if he’s a know-it-all who can’t leave good enough alone.

Verdict: 2018 – Collins did cost the Mets a World Series

VERDICT

If you break it down, the 2015 Mets were better at first, second, outfield, bench, and rotation.  The 2018 version is better at catcher, third, short, bullpen, and manager.  Looking at the breakdown, you can say it’s a 5-5 draw.  However, in reality, it’s not.  That 2015 team pitching rotation was just so dominant, and hypothetically, if these teams were going to step on the same field, the 2015 rotation would dominate the 2018 version.

That said, there is a lot of talent on this 2018 team, and from what we have seen so far, this is a roster tailor made to what we presume is Callaway’s talents as a manager.  If Callaway is indeed as good as we hope it will be, we can see him and Dave Eiland taking this pitching staff as a whole to the next level.  If that can happen, and with a little help, this Mets team could accomplish what the 2015 version didnt – win the World Series.

Thank You Matt Reynolds

With the Mets needing room on the 40 man roster, they first designated Matt Reynolds for assignment, and then they traded him to the Washington Nationals for cash.  With that, we have seen the end of a short and extremely interesting tenure for the former Mets 2012 second round pick.

After a breakout 2014 season in the minors, Reynolds had put himself in position to capitalize on an unsure shortstop situation.  With the team having moved on from Ruben Tejada as the everyday shortstop, and with them giving the defensively challenged Wilmer Flores a shot, it seemed like Reynolds would be a part of a team who had a shot at the postseason.

As luck would have it, Reynolds would be a part of the Mets 2015 pennant winning team, just not in the way he imagined.  Reynolds “chance” came because Chase Utley tackled (not slid) Tejada breaking his leg.  With Reynolds being the only real shortstop left on the 40 man roster, and arguably the best defensive one, he would get the call up.  In effect, Reynolds got the best seat in the house.  His postseason experience was taking infield, batting practice, appearing for player introductions, and sitting in the dugout.

Like all of us, he sat on the edge of his seat helpless as the Mets squandered away their chances of winning a World Series.  Unlike the rest of us, he would get a chance to prove himself against the Royals.

In arguably his career highlight as a Met, Reynolds was a surprise starter in left field in a day game against the Royals.  In the bottom of the sixth, Reynolds would hit his first career homer breaking a 3-3 tie.  The run would hold, and the Mets would get the win.

From there, Reynolds would have moments of glory and stretches where he struggled.  In reality, this is the life of a player who his shuttled (or in the Mets case flow) between Triple-A and the majors.  In September, he was promised more playing time to permit the Mets a chance to get a better read as to how he fit into the Mets future plans.  The chance never truly materialized.  In that sense, the writing was on the wall.

Now, Reynolds is a member of the Washington Nationals, and it appears he is going to get a better chance to be a Major League contributor than he ever did with the Mets.  As fans, we can only hope he doesn’t replicate his performance against the Royals.  Aside from that Reynolds was a Met, and he was one during one of the more fun rides in Mets history, and for that we should all wish him well.

Carig’s Wilpon Article Left Me Even More Frustrated

In case you missed it over the weekend, Marc Carig of Newsday wrote a column wherein many Mets fans have applauded because someone not only asked the question about payroll, but also for rightfully taking the team to task for how it’s been operated.

That’s great and all, but that’s not really what this article was about.  The article was really about the lack of accountability from this franchise.  Here are some key excerpts:

But rather than reach for transparency, the Wilpons seem content to hide. They never talk about money. Whether it’s arrogance or simply negligence, they have no problem asking fans to pony up the cash and never show the willingness to reciprocate.

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To the Wilpons, it’s as if nobody is worthy of a straight answer. That’s the biggest failure of all.

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But it costs zero dollars to be transparent, to be willing to explain the payroll, to be proactive about presenting a plan to succeed.

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The Wilpons can start by publicly owning up to how this franchise is run. They can begin speaking for themselves rather than leaving the dirty work to middle men. But until they show the courage to take that first step, the Mets and their fans are doomed to repeat the cycle, pulling for a franchise that will never actually do enough to win.

Having read and re-read this article, time and again, I really begin to wonder if the term fan is being substituted for reporter.

This is not a slight on Carig or any beat reporter.  There job is much more difficult than fans could possibly imagine.  There are things we demand they discover, but at the end of the day, there may be no answer to those questions because, well, the team won’t answer them.

Whatever your line of work, it must be nauseatingly frustrating when someone just stonewalls you time and time again, and that prevents you from doing an aspect of your job.  In the case of a beat reporter, that would include covering issues that are seemingly simple like the budget and a framework for the offseason.

As an aside, that must be even worse for Sandy Alderson.

Meanwhile, one of the most important currencies for a reporter is access.  Write a scathing comment like Carig did, and you may very well find that access limited.  That would make an already difficult job all the more difficult.

Still, there is a major question that needs to be asked – why is the payroll question being asked now?

Why wasn’t this asked heading into the 2015 season?  The team certainly pushed forth the belief they were going to contend with the rise of Jacob deGrom and the return of Matt Harvey from Tommy John surgery.

That team’s Major League acquisitions prior to Spring Training were Michael Cuddyer and John Mayberry.  They did nothing to address the bullpen or the bench, and Wilmer Flores was the shortstop.

After the 2015 season, if not for Yoenis Cespedes lingering longer than anyone believed he would, the Mets were going to enter the 2016 season with lower payroll and a center field platoon of Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares to replace Cespedes.  On top of that, Eric Campbell made the Opening Day roster because the Mets didn’t want to pay Ruben Tejada $3 million.

With an injured Mets team making an incredible push to claim the top Wild Card, the Mets did not sign one free agent from outside the organization.  They re-signed Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins because both surprisingly lingered on the free agent market, and the team gave Cespedes a big contract.

However, it should be noted the Mets did nothing to improve the roster from a team that was simply not good enough in 2016.  Instead, of stories about the payroll being below market and window of competition, it was mostly lauding the Cespedes re-signing as the team going for it coupled with the intrigue about how the Mets were returning the same roster.

And look, we all know the Mets are likely cutting payroll because that’s what the Mets do.  Still, the team did add a good late inning reliever in Anthony Swarzak, and they were rebuffed by Ian Kinsler.  Other than Carlos Santana, the big name free agents are still on the board.

While we don’t expect them to come to the Mets, in prior offseasons, we have seen the market correct with Sandy sitting there ready to swoop in and get them for less money than anticipated.  That’s why Cespedes and Blevins will be Mets next season.  Such behavior (luck?) has been routinely lauded.

Now?  Well, now, it is being criticized because the Mets lack of accountability and refusal to answer the simplest questions has become too much to bear.  Except this time, it’s not the fans, it’s for reporters.  They’re now writing articles about it – articles we all wish were written in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 (apologies to a few like Megdal who has done excellent reporting on the topic and Vacarro who kept the heat on the team throughout 2015 and beyond).

So yes, I appreciate the article, but really, none of this is news to Mets fans.  It’s just confirmation of the status quo.  And sadly, in the end, we have learned nothing new from the team.  Really, this all just leaves me further frustrated with the franchise, and it leaves me further frustrated that this is really the first we have seen of these articles after all of these years.  Hopefully, there will be more.  More than that, I just hope something will finally come of this.

But we all know it won’t.

REMINDER: Mets Didn’t Want Justin Turner

After the 2013 season, the Mets made the decision to non-tender Justin Turner.  That is something important to remember with all the issues with David Wright, the failure that was the 2017 season, and with Turner joining Kirk Gibson as the only Dodger to hit a walk0ff postseason homer:

It’s incredible to think it’s 29 years to the day of Gibson’s dramatic Game 1 home run off Dennis Eckersley.  It’s also incredible to think the Mets had no use for Turner.

This is the point where everyone enters into some needless arguing.  The defenders of Sandy Alderson will say Turner hit .280/.319/.385 with a 0.8 WAR in 2013 right before the Mets decided to non-tender him.  The people upset with the move will point out how Turner worked with Marlon Byrd to help increase his launch angle.  It should be noted that in September 2013, Turner hit .357/.357/.571.

It also should be noted Turner was first time arbitration eligible and due approximately $1 million.  The Mets passed, and the Dodgers eventually gave it to him.  Turner emerged as the everyday third baseman, and the Dodgers have won four straight division titles.

Overall, the argument boils down to this:

  • Defenders point to past performance as justification
  • Critics point to Turner’s production

Put that all aside and really ask what is the job of the General Manager.  Is it for a General Manager to analyze past production to determine the future outlook of a player?  Or is it to analyze a player and pay him based upon what is a reasonable expectation of future production?

Before answering the question, here’s just one more to ponder – Was it worth $1 million to find out if Turner’s September production was indicative of future success?

Keep in mind the Mets decided to pay Omar Quintanilla $800k, Jose Valverde $1 million, and Ruben Tejada $1.1 million in 2014.

Chase Utley Really Hates Shortstops

After the 2015 when Chase Utley ruined Ruben Tejada‘s career, you got the sense Utley not only Hayes the Mets, but also shortstops. 

The latter was readily apparent with the news the Dodgers were leaving Corey Seager, arguably their best player not named Clayton Kershaw, off the NLCS roster: 

The official reports were Seager tweaked it on a slide during Game 3 of the NLDS, but us Mets fans know the truth. It was probably punishment dished out by Utley for Seager going 0-3. 

You can tell this is what happened because a good man like Curtis Granderson held himself out of the lineup in a quiet protest to Utley’s actions. Some people will tell you Dave Roberts held him out  of the lineup because the Cubs started the left-hand hitting Jose Quintana

Don’t be that naive. Kike Hernandez has never gotten a hit off Quintana in his career.  For his part, Granderson has hit a homer off Quintana. If it really were up to Roberts, who are you playing?  

For the Dodgers sake, you can only hope Utley doesn’t take out Charlie Culberson before the series is over because it’s doubtful Hernandez or Justin Turner can really handle the position. 

Better yet, Roberts should just put Utley there and see what happens. 

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.

Good Luck Addison Reed

By the end of August 2015, it was clear the Mets were going to the postseason.  With that in mind, the Mets needed to do something to address their bullpen – something that has been a theme of the Sandy Alderson Era.  The Mets did just that in August picking up both Eric O’Flaherty and Addison Reed.  Given the Mets lack of a LOOGY, it was believed O’Flaherty was the bigger pickup.  Boy was that wrong.

At the time Reed joined the Mets, he was having his worst season as a professional pitching to a 4.20 ERA with the Diamondbacks and having made a trip down to Triple-A.  Due to his relatively high salary, he was likely ticketed to be non-tendered in the offseason.  When the Mets obtained him, it was little more than a gamble for a pitcher with prior closing experience.  Certainly, Miller Diaz and Matt Koch were worth paying for the gamble.  As we know, that gamble paid off.

From the minute Reed put on a Mets uniform, it was like he was a completely different pitcher.  Seemingly, he found one of the remaining telephone booths in Queens, stripped out of his Diamondbacks uniform, and emerged as an elite MLB reliever.

To close out the year, he’d make 17 appearances going 1-1 with a 1.17 ERA, 1.043 WHIP, and a 10.0 K/9.  At a minimum, Reed locked down the seventh inning for a team hoping to make it to the World Series.  As we know, the Mets did, and Reed played his part.

Reed would appear in nine of the Mets 14 postseason games, and he would appear in all five World Series games.  Reed was reliable in those games allowing no runs in seven of those appearances and just one run in another.  That one run came in Game Two of the NLDS right after Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg.

In the World Series, where three of the five games had been a battle of the bullpens, Reed had mostly done his job.  Through the first four games, he had allowed no runs and just one hit.  Unfortunately, with him being on fumes, he fell apart in Game Five of the World Series becoming the losing pitcher after allowing three runs in the 12th inning.

Reed would emerge from this heartache as possibly the best pitcher in the National League in 2016.  During the 2016 season, Reed made 80 appearances going 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA, a 0.940 WHIP, a 10.5 K/9, 209 ERA+, and a 1.98 FIP.  His 2.9 WAR that season was the highest among relievers.  In short, he was great out of the bullpen.  All year long he helped a team with little bullpen depth stay afloat, and when he last stepped off the mound in the Wild Card Game, the Mets still had a chance to advance to the NLDS.

This year, all he had to do was step in for Jeurys Familia and become the team’s closer.  Like he had done in his entire Mets career, Reed took on the role the Mets needed him to do, and he was great at it.  In what was his final stint with the Mets, Reed made 31 appearances going 1-2 with 19 saves, a 2.57 ERA, 1.122 WHIP, and an 8.8 K/9.

Since joining the Mets, Reed was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball.  He has pitched the fifth most innings (142.0) while maintaining a sterling 2.09 ERA.  He has fulfilled whatever role the Mets needed him to fulfill by going from 7th to 8th and finally to the 9th inning.  In that sense, Reed has become the rare pitcher in baseball.  He took on whatever role was asked of him, and he performed well in that role.

In essence, Reed was exactly what you want in a bullpen arm.  He was a guy who went out there and did whatever the team needed.  He was used frequently, and he was one of the few arms who was not burned out by Terry Collins during his Mets tenure.  He was a great reliever, and some would go so far as to say he was Raddison.

Reed is now a member of the Boston Red Sox.  He goes to a team in need of a reliever capable of setting up for Craig Kimbrel.  As we have seen during his Mets tenure, Reed can certainly do that.  He can also give Kimbrel the occasional day off.

In the end, Reed is where he belongs.  He is with a contender.  Hopefully, he gets that ring he feel agonizingly short of winning in 2015.  Hopefully, he will have the same success with the Red Sox he found with Mets.  Hopefully, with his being an impending free agent, Reed finds his way back to New York.

Even if he doesn’t, Reed was a good Met who twice helped pitch the Mets into the postseason.  Now, it is time to wish him well as he once again pursues October glory.  Here’s hoping he finds it this time.

What Do We Make Of Wilmer Flores?

Heading into the 2015 season, the Mets made the somewhat controversial move to make Wilmer Flores the everyday shortstop for a team that believed they could compete for a spot in the postseason.  As the season progressed, Flores would lose his job to Ruben Tejada.  From that point forward, Flores has had opportunities to prove he is a starting player in the majors.

Starting with Lucas Duda‘s back injury on May 20th last year, the entire Mets starting infield would go on the Disabled List for an extended period of time.  With David Wright going out for the year on May 27th, there was a permanent spot open in the starting lineup for Flores.

For the most part, Flores earned that spot.  From May 29th until his ill-fated slide into home plate on September 10th, Flores had good overall numbers that masked his extreme platoon splits. Flores hit .373/.409/.807 with three doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI in 88 plate appearances against left-handed pitching.  Comparatively, Flores hit a meager .241/.297/.362 with nine doubles, four homers, and 19 RBI in 192 plate appearances.  Put simply, with splits like that, Flores proved he was nothing more than a platoon bat.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t even been that in 2017.

So far this season, Flores is hitting .281/.311/.448 with 12 doubles, a triple, seven homers, and 25 RBI.  Against, left-handed pitching, he is only hitting .292/.304/.462 with five doubles, two homers, and six RBI in 69 plate appearances.  Against right-handed pitching, he is hitting better than his career numbers, but he’s still only at .276/.314/.441 with seven doubles, one triple, five homers, and 19 RBI.

The end result is a player with just a 97 wRC+.  That’s not a bat the Mets can keep in the lineup, especially when Flores has a glove that shouldn’t be in the field:

Innings DRS UZR
1B 244.2 2 1.9
2B 633.0 -6 -0.2
3B 893.0 -15 -4.4
SS 1313.2 -15 -0.2

At this point, Flores has been in the majors for five years, and he has yet to truly make a case for the Mets to keep him around.  All we get out of him is glimpses.  We do not see any sustained success.  That’s problematic considering the Mets are in a strange place as an organization.

The team needs to start making some decisions on some players.  They need to decipher who can be a part of the next World Series Championship team.  With the emergence of T.J. Rivera coupled with Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith awaiting their own opportunity to prove they belong in the majors, it becomes harder and harder to keep Flores on this roster.

Still, Flores is still just 25 years old.  It is quite possible he may still figure things out and become a good major league ball player.  The unfortunate reality is he’s running out of time to prove it.  He is already in his arbitration years, and he is due to be a free agent after the 2019 season.

Sooner or later, the Mets will have to make a decision on Flores.  Is he a piece of the Mets next World Series title?  Is he a guy who can become the next Justin Turner or Daniel Murphy?  At this point, we don’t know, and we are running out of time to find out.