Ruben Tejada

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.

Time To Find Out If Wilmer Flores Is An Everyday Player

Heading into this season, it seems like Wilmer Flores had crafted a role for himself as a platoon player.  Flores has just absolutely killed left-handed pitching.  Since 2015 when Flores was handed the starting shortstop job, Flores has hit .335/.377/.661 against left-handed pitching.  Essentially, he’s Babe Ruth when there is a left-handed pitcher on the mound.

Unfortunately, as good as Flores has been against left-handed pitching, he has been that poor against right-handed pitching.  In the same time frame, Flores has hit .248/.286/.358 off right-handed pitching.  Whereas he’s Ruth with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, he’s Ruben Tejada at the plate when there is a right-handed pitcher on the mound.  Because Flores is a poor defender out there, you can really justify using him in a platoon type of role.  Now, there are many a careers made out of being that type of a player.  As we have already seen with Flores, you can still be a revered player with a fan base being that type of a player.

But, Flores is a 25 year old player.  He should want to be more than that, and at his age, he is capable of doing more than that.  Certainly, he is paired with a hitting coach in Kevin Long who has helped other players, namely Neil Walker, to figure out how to become more of a platoon neutral bat.  Looking at Flores this month, it appears as if he is starting to turn the corner against right-handed pitching.

Over the past month, Flores is hitting .380/.415/.520 with four doubles, a homer, and 11 RBI in 53 at-bats against right-handed pitching.  Now, given the numbers, it is hard to treat this more than a fluky small sample size result.  Flores’ .417 BABIP would seem to indicate that.  There’s also the matter of who Flores is facing.  Over the past month, he’s done his damage against pitchers like Jarred Cosart, Jesse Chavez, Tom Koehler, Matt Cain, and Matt Garza.  This isn’t exactly Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.

And yet, you can only face the pitchers the other team puts on the mound.  The fact that Flores is hitting well against them is a credit to him, especially when you consider he may not have hit them as well in prior seasons.  This also might be part of Flores’ maturation as a hitter.  This year, he is pulling the ball more and striking out less.  He appears to be more selective at the plate, especially against right-handed pitching.  While you can’t expect Flores to hit .380 against right-handed pitching, it’s possible he could hit them well enough to play everyday.

In fact, this isn’t Flores first good stretch against right-handed pitching.  With the injuries last year, Flores was unexpectedly thrust into an everyday role.  Before he went out with his own injury, Flores was improving against right-handed pitching.  During the month of June, he hit .267/.328/.433 off right-handed pitching.  After slumping against right-handed pitching in July, Flores picked it back up again in August hitting .273/.313/.386.  No, these are not outstanding numbers, but they are an improvement of his career .255/.289/.374 line against right-handed pitching.

Certainly, Flores has earned the right to show the Mets how much of the past month is a fluke.  David Wright isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.  Jose Reyes is hitting .202/.274/.326 for the season and .228/.287/.358 in the month of May.  Also, for those wanting to keep Flores on the bench against right-handed pitching, Reyes is hitting .205/.269/.315 against right-handed pitching.  Considering the option right now is between Reyes and Flores, the Mets have to go with Flores now.

If nothing else, Flores presents the Mets with something Reyes can’t – upside.  Flores is a young player who could be coming into his own right now.  However, we won’t know if that’s the case unless we see him play.  Considering the alternatives, it’s time to make Flores the everyday third baseman and finally find out what Flores is as a major league player.

Mets Final Season Grades – Utility Players

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the fourth set of grades, here are the Mets utility players:

Wilmer Flores B

Early on in the season, Flores mostly struggled with getting limited playing time.  It was difficult cracking into the starting lineup when Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera playing well in April.  As the season progressed, and the Mets became more and more injured, notably Wright and Lucas Duda, Flores was needed, and he really stepped up.

Where Flores really thrived was being used as a platoon option against left-handed pitching.  Against lefties, Flores would hit an astounding .340/.383/.710 with four doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI.  If you extrapolated those numbers of the course of a full 162 game season, Flores would’ve hit 36 homers and 93 RBI.  That would have made him the best hitter in the Mets lineup this season.  However, Flores’ numbers were nowhere near that as he struggled against right-handed pitching hitting .232/.289/.353 with 10 doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI.  It should be noted Flores had 107 plate appearances against lefties and 228 plate appearances against righties.

For the season, Flores hit .267/.319/.469 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, and 49 RBI.  Flores’ numbers were an upgrade over his 2015 numbers.  Given how he has progressed each year over his career, and the fact that he is only 25 years old, we should see an improved Flores at the plate in 2017.

Even with some optimism, there is some doubt.  Despite his improvement at the plate, he still didn’t walk enough, and he doesn’t hit right-handed pitching enough to play everyday.  While he made marked improvements at shortstop as the 2015 season progressed, Flores regressed there defensively in 2016.  In fact, Flores did not play all that well defensively at any position; although, he did show some promise at first base.

Part of the reason for Flores foibles could be he’s prone to the occasional gaffe (similar to Daniel Murphy).  It could be him trying to do too much, it could be him having more faith in his abilities than he probably should, it could be his high effort level, or it could be something different altogether.  Whatever it is, it was front and center when Tim Teufel made the baffling decision to send Flores home during that September 10th game against the Braves.  It was absolutely a bad send, but it quite have possibly been a worse slide.  Flores going in head first against a catcher like A.J. Pierzynski lead to his season-ending injury which required surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in the offseason.

The best thing you can say about Flores in the 2016 season was he was missed.  During the Wild Card Game, the Mets were one bat short against Madison Bumgarner.  With Flores’ stats against left-handed pitching, he could have gotten that one key hit the Mets needed to win that game.  Except, he was injured and unable to play.  The hope is he learns from this experience and comes back a better player in 2017.

Eric Campbell F

After Ruben Tejada was released on the eve of the season, Campbell was a surprise member of the 25 man roster.  Unfortunately, Campbell was not up to the task as he regressed yet another season.  In 40 games, Campbell hit .173/.284/.227 with one double, one homer, and nine RBI.  While the Mets organization was high on him to start the year (at least higher on him than most people), he didn’t do enough to justify their faith in him.  It was his play that forced the Mets to go out and get James Loney to play first base after Duda’s injury.

Despite the fans apparent hatred of him, he still has use as minor league depth, and if used in small doses, he could have some benefit to a major league team as a pinch hitter and very part time player.  Simply put, he was asked to do too much in 2016.  That was one of the reasons he was removed from the 40 man roster, and it is why he is a minor league free agent at the moment.

Matt Reynolds C

Reynolds numbers during the 2016 season were lackluster.  In 47 games, he only hit .255/.266/.416 with eight doubles, three homers, and 13 RBI.  Still, it is hard to call Reynolds first 47 games in the major leagues disappointing because he did show some promise.

In his limited duty, Reynolds did show himself to be the Mets best major league ready defensive shortstop in the entire Mets organization.  He also played well at second, third, and left field despite his playing a vast majority of his professional career at shortstop.  In fact, the first ever game Reynolds played in left field was at the major league level.  All Reynolds did in that game was play a representative left field and hit the game winning home run.

In 2016, Reynolds showed he could potentially be a major league bench player.  As a former second round pick, many might have wanted more from Reynolds than what he has shown.  That is not entirely fair at this point because he’s only played 47 games as a major leaguer, and in those 47 games, he showed he deserves another shot to be a major leaguer.  With that in mind, despite his numbers being disappointing, Reynolds did have a succesful 2016 season, and we should look forward to what he can contribute in 2017 and beyond.

Ty Kelly C+

Just making it to the major leagues after his long odyssey in the minor leagues was a major accomplishment.  And even though he made it to the majors as a result of a rash of injuries, he did earn his way to the majors with his hot hitting in Las Vegas.  While he initially struggled, Terry Collins finally figured out what he was, and Kelly began to thrive.

Despite his being a switch hitter, Kelly was really best suited to facing left-handed pitching.  While the sample size is really too small to derive a definitive conclusion, it should be noted Kelly put together much better at-bats from the right-hand side of the plate than he did from the left.  As he faced more left-handed pitching, Kelly’s numbers improved, and he finished the season hitting .241/.352/.345 with a double, a triple, a homer, and seven RBI in 39 games.

In the field, while Kelly was used all over the place, and he performed better than anticipated.  His best positions were probably third and left field.  Unfortunately, Kelly did not demonstrate sufficient power to play at either of those positions.  It should be noted that Kelly isn’t going to be a regular at the major league level.  Rather, he is a bench player, so it is quite possible, his relative lack of power may not be as big an issue for him.

Ultimately, Kelly was rewarded for his hard work and resilence.  He was rewarded not just with getting called-up to the majors, but also by being put on the Wild Card Game roster.  In a season with a number of highlights for him, his seventh inning pinch hit single certainly has to rank well up there.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links. If you want to see the prior entries, here is the link for catchers, and here is the link for middle infielders.

Why I’m Rooting for the Nationals Tonight

Apparently, the Mets and Nationals being rivals for a whole two seasons has lead a bunch of Mets fans to root for Chase Utley in the NLCS. Yes, rooting for the Dodgers, or against the Nationals, is rooting for Utley. As a Mets fan, I don’t get it. To me the Nationals are the lessor of two evils. Without even getting into the early years of the Mets history where the Dodgers, notably Sandy Koufax, routinely embarassed the Mets, here’s why:

Mike Scioscia grand slam off Dwight Gooden:

Jay Howell is a dirty cheat:

Orel Hershiser effectively ends the best run in Mets history:

Dodgers sign Darryl Strawberry in free agency making him an ex-Met:

And, oh yeah, Bobby Ojeda.

Guillermo Mota hitting Mike Piazza on multiple occasions and always running away when confronted.

Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg turning a potential sweep into a series:

Also, Utley’s subsequent cowardice ducking in and out of Citi Field and not taking one at-bat at Citi Field.

Speaking of which, everything Utley ever did to the Mets:

Seriously, did you know that other fans refer to the right field corner in Citi Field as the Utley Corner?  It is one of the biggest humiliations the Mets have suffered at the hands of Utley and his Phillies teams including the 2007 and 2008 collapses.  By the way, also part of those teams was current Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz.

So no, there is no circumstance, unless they are playing the Cardinals, that I could ever root for the Dodgers or an Utley led team.  It’s why, despite this new massive rivalry the Mets have apparently had stretching all the way back to last year, I’m rooting for the Nationals.  Personally, I’d rather have a little bit more perspective on Mets history past and present.  Speaking of which, just remember that while Utley was always a thorn in the Mets side, Daniel Murphy was doing this for the Mets last year:

So overall, I’m siding with the team that has been a Mets rival for exactly two years and hasn’t done much harm to the Mets as a franchise over a team that put an end to the best run in Mets history, had players who consistently threw at Piazza, and have one of the dirtiest players in baseball.

Don’t Blame the Mets Injuries

For the second straight year, it appears that the Mets have been snakebitten.  They have lost Lucas Duda, Matt Harvey, and David Wright to season ending injuries.  It would be easy to blame injuries like these as well as the other injuries the Mets have had for the team underachieving this season.  There’s just one problem with that – the Mets have been amongst the healthiest teams in all of baseball.

According to Spotrac, the Mets rank 15th in the majors and 8th in the National League with the team having placed 13 players on the disabled list.  With those 13 players on the disabled list, the Mets have missed 549 player days, which ranks 23rd in the majors and 12th in the National League.

Now, there are some fair criticisms in pointing just to the disabled list figures.  First, as we have seen with the Mets handling of Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets wait too long before putting a player on the disabled list.  Second, this list does not account for players like Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard who are pitching despite having bone spurs in their elbows which will have to be surgically removed in the offseason.  However, this point-of-view is a bit myopic when considering the injuries the Mets main competition for the two Wild Card spots have endured.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The 63-49 Dodgers currently have the top Wild Card spot by four games.  They have also put a major league leading 25 players on the disabled list while losing a major league leading 1,400 player days.

Brett Anderson was gone for the season before he threw a pitch, Hyun-Jin Ryu only made one start, and Alex Wood lasted just 10 starts.  That’s 3/5 of the Dodgers Opening Day rotation up in smoke.  On top of that, the Dodgers have lost important bullpen pieces in Yimi Garcia and Chin-hui Tsao.

The Dodgers have also been decimated in the outfield.  Valuable fourth outfielder and bench bat Andre Ethier was also gone before the season started.  He was needed more than usual considering the Dodgers finally released Carl Crawford, had to deal with Yasiel Puig not producing, and recently losing the pleasantly surprising Trayce Thompson in the outfield.

All of this pales in comparison to the Dodgers losing Clayton Kershaw to the disabled list.  Kershaw was once again dominating, was the presumptive Cy Young Award winner, and quite possibly an MVP candidate. With his back injury, no one can be quite sure when he will return.  There is no more damaging blow to any team in all of baseball than the Dodgers losing Kershaw.

And yet, the Dodgers keep winning games, and that is why they find themselves the current Wild Card leader.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have put one fewer player on the disabled list than the Mets, but they have also lost 174 more player days to the disabled list.  Like the Dodgers, they are also ahead of the Mets in the Wild Card Standings.

The biggest injury the Cardinals have had to deal with is their starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta.  Offseason surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb has limited him to 36 games this season.  When he has played, he has been largely ineffective. Initially, the Cardinals opted to go with Mets cast-off Ruben Tejada as Peralta’s short term replacment, but he was inffective and wounded up on the disabled list himself.  His replacement, Aledmys Diaz was having a terrific rookie season which led to him being named an All Start.  However, he is now on the disabled list with a hairline fracture in this thumb.

The Cardinals have also had a number of key position player injuries.  During the season, the Cardinals have placed Brandon Moss and Tommy Pham on the disabled list at points during the season.  This has left the team looking to find solutions at first base and center field during the season.

The Cardinals pitching staff has also been hit hard.  Lance Lynn went from a member of the rotation to losing the entire 2016 season to Tommy John surgery.  Closer Trevor Rosenthal has been dealing with injuries and ineffectiveness all year, and he has finally wound up on the disabled list.  One of his key set-up men, Jordan Walden, has yet to throw a pitch all season due to a shoulder strain and a lat injury.  The team also had to deal with losing key relievers from last season, Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist, for a stretch of time.  

Recently, they had Michael Wacha and Matt Holliday go down with what could be season ending injuries. 

Despite these injuries, the Cardinals are 2.5 games up on the Mets this season in the Wild Card standings.

National League East

It is interesting to note that the two teams the Mets are chasing in the National League East, the Miami Marlins and the Washington Nationals, are two of the healthiest teams in all of baseball.

For the Marlins part, it seems to be a combination of good luck and youth.  Seven of the eight Marlins everyday players are 28 and younger.  The two 28 year olds, Justin Bour (ankle sprain) and Dee Gordon (PED suspension) are the only players from the starting lineup to be placed on the disabled list this season.

Other than Wei-Yin Chen, the Marlins pitching staff has been remarkably healthy.  Most importantly, Jose Fernandez has been the dominant starting pitcher he was always supposed to be.

The Nationals being so health is quite remarkable.  Each and every season, players like Daniel Murphy, Anthony RendonStephen Strasburg, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman were usually good for at least one disabled list stint during the course of the season.  So far this year, Starsburg had a short stint on the disabled list, and Zimmerman just landed on the disabled list with a wrist contusion.

The reason why the Nationals are in a much better place injury wise is part luck, but it is mostly them doing things differently.  They created a larger and a multi disciplined medical team of experts to address injuries.  They have addressed each and every aspect of player preparation and health.  The result so far is a much healthier Nationals team both on and off the field.

The Nationals changing how they have approached injuries show how other teams have adapted and dealt with injuries better than the Mets – so have the other teams competing for the two Wild Card spots.  The Mets aren’t trailing in the Wild Card race due to their health.  In fact, they may still be in the race because the Dodgers and Cardinals have had to deal with more injuries than they have.

Asdrubal Cabrera Is a Second Half Player

Coming into the season, the Mets wanted to upgrade at shortstop.  They wanted a player who had more range and power than what Ruben Tejada provided the Mets.  They wanted a player who was a steadier fielder who got on base more frequently than Wilmer Flores.  With that in mind, as free agency opened, the Mets jumped at the chance to add Asdrubal Cabrera.  During the month of April, Cabrera seemed to be exactly the type of player the Mets both wanted and needed to take them to the next level.  Cabrera was playing steady, if not spectacular defense, while hitting .300/.364/.400 with one homer and seven RBI.  He was a big reason why the Mets found themselves eight games over .500 and only a half-game back in the NL East at the close of April.

Then as the calendar turned to May, Cabrera turned into Flores.  Since May 1st, Cabrera has hit .249/.305/.435 with 11 homers.  Yes, his power numbers went up, but he’s also getting on base less frequently.  In addition, he seemingly good defense took a step back.  So far this season, Cabrera has a -6 DRS and a -3.3 UZR.  These numbers do not seem like a mirage either as Cabrera has averaged a -10 DRS and a -8.5 UZR over the past three seasons.  As Cabrera has struggled, so have the Mets.  Since May 1st, the Mets have been one game under .500 and they have fallen to six games behind the Nationals in the division.

Yes, there have been a number of issues that have led to this.  The Mets have been beset with injuries with Lucas Duda‘s back and David Wright‘s neck.  Cabrera was no stranger to injury.  As Terry Collins‘ brings up from time to time in his postgame press conferences, Cabrera has been dealing with a knee injury all season.  With that in mind, the All Star Break should prove beneficial to Cabrera to let him rest that knee and come out better in the second half.  And he will as Cabrera has been a second half player most of his career.  In fact, Cabrera has a better batting average, on base percentage, slugging, and OPS+ in the second half of the season.

This was mostly fueled by the incredible second half he had for the Tampa Bay Rays last year.  In the second half, Cabrera hit .328/.372/.544 with 10 homers and 36 RBI.  This included a three game set against the Mets in August of last year that saw him go 4-11 with a walk, a run, a double, and a stolen base in games started by Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, and Noah Syndergaard.  That was following a stretch that saw Cabrera hit .232/.287/.387 with five homers and 12 RBI for May and June.  July rolled in with the All Star Break, and as mentioned above, Cabrera was a different player.  We’re seeing it again this year.

Since July 1st, Cabrera has hit .290/.333/.667 with four homers and five RBI.  Amazingly, Cabera only has a .217 BABIP for the month suggesting that Cabrera could possibly improve upon these already good July numbers.  If that is truly the case, we should see Cabrera repeat the outstanding second half he put together for the Rays last year.  If Cabrera is capable of doing that, the Mets will have a much improved lineup that should see them compete not just for the Wild Card but also for the division.

We have already seen what Cabrera is capable of doing and how that can help the Mets.  If he gets back to being that player, there is no stopping either him or the Mets.

Editor’s Note: this was also published on metsmerizedonline.com