With the injuries to Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Seth Lugo, and Steven Matz, the Mets have not jumped out of the gate quite like we all expected. Entering this three game set with the Nationals, the Mets are 5.5 games out in the division. If they suffer another sweep at the hands of Daniel Murphy and the Nationals, they will fall to 8.5 games out.
And yet, this is not the worst the Mets have ever had it. In each of the six times they have won the division, they have trailed at some point in the season. There are multiple occasions where the Mets trailed in the division by double digit games. Can you name each deficit overcome by the Mets when they have won the division? Good luck!
Given the fact that it was his second start since missing two plus years due to Tommy John surgery and the fact that the Mets were down to five starters with the Steven Matz and Seth Lugo injuries, Zack Wheeler‘s start had more importance attached to it than usual.
After a 13 pitch scoreless first inning, things were looking good. He was hitting his spots, and he was hitting 97 on the gun. Then again that’s what happened in his first start. The real test was from the second inning on.
Wheeler passed the test with flying colors. He maintained both his velocity and control. While he was getting the benefit of some excellent pitch framing from Travis d’Arnaud, Wheeler put the ball where d’Arnaud put his mitt.
Wheeler put together a stretch of eleven straight retired. That ended in the sixth when he finally started to struggle with his location and velocity.
There were runners on first and second with one out. Wheeler reached back and got a huge strikeout of Howie Kendrick, but Wheeler lost it all and walked Odubel Herrera. After 5.2 innings, Collins went to Hansel Robles.
Third straight day of pitching or not, Robles made a horrendous pitch to what amounts to the Phillies only real power threat. The first pitch hung down the middle of the plate, and Maikel Franco launched it for a grand slam.
The grand slam put somewhat of a damper on what was a terrific start for Wheeler. His final line was 5.2 innings, four hits, three runs, three earned, one walk, and four strikeouts.
Arguably, it was the best Wheeler has ever looked in a Mets uniform. Certainly, it was his most important start. The effort earned him a well deserved and long awaited win.
The Mets offense was humming once again even if Vince Velasquez was pitching pretty well.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 13, 2017
Like a true lead-off hitter and table setter, Conforto was in the middle of the next rally.
The fifth inning started with d’Arnaud getting hit by a pitch, and like the smart player he is waiving off Ray Ramirez:
— MetsKevin11 (@MetsKevin11) April 13, 2017
Wheeler tried to bunt him over, but the Phillies walked him instead. Velasquez then walked Conforto to load the bases. Asdrubal Cabrera, the same player who had an 0-32 streak with RISP last year, came to the plate.
Cabrera delivered with a two RBI single making him 5-5 with RISP to begin the season. Conforto then scored on a Cespedes sacrifice fly to make it 5-0. As noted above, the Mets needed all of those runs.
Fortunately, the rest of the Mets bullpen locked the game down. Jerry Blevins, Fernando Salas, and Addison Reed combined to pitch 2.2 scoreless innings to preserve the 2.2 innings, the 5-4 win, and the series sweep.
The Mets certainly got healthy in Philadelphia, and they have momentum as they take their rejuvenated talents to South Beach.
With Opening Day already behind us, it is now time to look forward to see how the rest of the 2017 season will progress. Yes, this is the typically ill-fated projections post. As with anything else, this will likely be wrong by season’s end, and with any luck, I will be reminded of it come October.
AL East – Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox won the division last year with an MVP caliber season from Mookie Betts, Rick Porcello with a more ways than one surprising Cy Young season, and lots of young talent. The team will be hurt by the loss of David Ortiz, but they will be helped by the addition of Chris Sale, who should help boost a rotation that has David Price as a question mark. Considering the rest of the AL East downgraded as well, it it fair to surmise the downgraded Red Sox roster will stay on top.
AL Central – Cleveland Indians
So, the American League Pennant winners add Edwin Encarnacion, get Michael Brantley back, and return Carlos Correa from injury? That’s the rich getting richer. This team is poised to not only win the division again, but they should be poised to return to the World Series.
AL West – Texas Rangers
This team is truly going to benefit from a full season of Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate, and they are also going to benefit from a full season from Yu Darvish. Combine that with a good bullpen, an excellent manager in Jeff Banister, and veteran leaders in Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, you have a team that will get the most of its roster and be able to win those close and tight games like they did last year.
AL Wild Card 1 – Houston Astros
The Astros will probably lose the division due to the lack of depth in their starting pitching. However, with a deep lineup that has George Springer–Alex Bregman–Jose Altuve–Carlos Correa–Carlos Beltran as their top five hitters. Combine that with Beltran’s leadership and mentoring of young players, and this is a team that will give the Rangers all they can give them.
AL Wild Card 2 – Seattle Mariners
The Mariners fell heartbreakingly short last season, and they have improved the roster with Jerry DiPoto suddenly becoming Trader Jack McKeon. To name a few, the Mariners added Jean Segura, Yovani Gallardo, and Drew Smyly to what was already a pretty good team with Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager.
NL East – New York Mets
The Nationals are certainly more formidable than they were last year with them having a full year of Trea Turner and with the Adam Eaton acquisition. However, on the pitching side, they do not have the depth they typically have, and that is an issue with Stephen Strasburg‘s medical history and Max Scherzer having questionable health entering the season. Ultimately, it is the Mets depth that should carry the team over the Nationals in what promises to be a tight race.
NL Central – Chicago Cubs
They won the World Series last year, and they get Kyle Schwarber back into the lineup everyday and add Wade Davis to the bullpen. The real question is not whether they win the division, but whether they get to 100 wins again.
NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers
Like with the National League East, the top two teams are very close, and it’s picking hairs to separate them. If you look at it Clayton Kershaw is better than Madison Bumgarner. Kenley Jansen is better than Mark Melancon. Johnny Cueto is better than another other pitcher the Dodgers have, but the Dodgers have a deeper rotation than the Giants. The Dodgers also arguably have the deeper lineup. If it goes in the reverse, no one should be surprised, but ultimately, the Dodgers appear better on paper.
NL Wild Card 1 – San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card 2 – Washington Nationals
While the team is not deep and has some issues, there are real strengths. Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are as good and as clutch a 3-4 combination as there is. The bullpen with Koda Glover, Joe Blanton, Shawn Kelley, and Blake Treinen could be dominant. Again, their only real question is health.
AL Wild Card Game – Postseason Beltran and the Astros offense overcomes King Felix in his first ever postseason start.
ALDS – In what proves to be a slugfest, the better Astros lineup carries them past the Red Sox. In the other ALDS matchup, the Indians pitching, including the unleashing of Andrew Miller proves to be too much for the Rangers.
ALCS – The Indians pitching proves to be too much for a hot hitting Astros team leading them to consecutive World Series appearances.
NL Wild Card Game – Pick your reason: (1) Bumgarner; or (2) it’s technically a postseason series.
NLDS – This year, the Giants with an improved bullpen won’t be denied as Cueto and Bumgarner led the Giants past the Cubs. The Mets and the Dodgers 2015 NLDS matchup is not as intense as the Dodgers only have Kershaw to match the Mets aces leaving the Mets to be able to get past them a little easier this go-round.
NLCS – Bumgarner and Cueto are offset by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. After that, the Mets can pick from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler, or maybe even Seth Lugo. You’d probably take any of them over the Giants next best starter Jeff Samardzija. As such, the Mets pitching outlasts the Giants pitching.
Wheeler got his lead in the bottom of the first when Curtis Granderson got a two out RBI single off Marlis starter Wei-Yin Chen to score Asdrubal Cabrera. It was already Granderson’s second two out hit with RISP this season. He had four all of last year.
At this point, the Mets were looking good. It was too soon to say the Mets were in control, but based on the first inning, confidence was building.
The third inning saw Yelich hit a two run homer off the right field could pole increasing the Marlins lead to 5-1. Dating back to last season, Yelich has homered in his last four games at Citi Field.
By the end of the fourth, Wheeler threw 80 pitches, and he was done for the night. His final line was four innings, six hits, five runs, five earned, one walk, and four strikeouts.
There were plenty of reasons for the struggles; the least of which was Wheeler hasn’t pitched in over two years. It was a cold and very windy night. The outfielders were fighting every fly ball. Wheeler couldn’t get an off speed pitch over the plate. He seemed to lose his velocity after the first inning. Another factor was he was supposed to be in Extended Spring Training to work on these things.
Still, there were some positive signs for Wheeler, and it is something he can build upon.
Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said for Josh Smoker who really struggled when he took over for Wheeler in the fifth. By the way, this was the spot for Montero because you’re looking for your long man, but that’s Terry for you.
Smoker was first done in as Yoenis Cespedes misread a ball hit by Yelich. Smoker followed that by issuing back-to-back walks to Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Bour. Marcell Ozuna and Dietrich followed with RBI singles. After throwing 27 pitches, Smoker was done leaving the bases loaded with one out.
Surprisingly, Rafael Montero bailed out Smoker by getting Hechavarria to ground into the 1-2-3 double play.
If you’re looking for a bright spot on the night, it was definitely Montero. Montero came in and attacked the Marlins hitters. Overall, he pitched 2.2 innings yielding just one hit and two walks while striking out two. This was an important outing for both him and the Mets. He needed this outing considering his previous outing, Wheeler’s struggles, and the injuries to Seth Lugo and Steven Matz.
It was just one of those nights. Simply put when Montero and Josh Edgin are your best pitchers, it’s not going to be a good night. To be fair, Montero and Edgin were quite good. Offensively, the only highlight was Granderson who was 2-4 with an RBI.
Well, that and Cespedes homered in the eighth. It was his first of the year.
.@ynscspds crushes his first homer of the year!
7-2 Miami | Bot-8 pic.twitter.com/gJQmOM9UTp
— New York Mets (@Mets) April 8, 2017
This game was the epitome of “you can’t win ’em all.” The game was so bad, GKR was flipping through baseball cards and discussing pizza toppings. Mets just need to forget about this 7-2 loss and get ready for tomorrow night’s game.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes went 0-5 tonight putting him at 1-18 on the year. Still, it was Lucas Duda who sat in favor of Wilmer Flores. Rene Rivera started in place of Travis d’Arnaud because Terry perceived Rivera and Wheeler worked well together and to combat the Marlins running game. Wheeler allowed five runs over four innings, and Dee Gordon stole a base.
With the injuries to both Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, the safety net was gone. Not only did Matt Harvey have to begin the year in the rotation, but he was going to have to be the Harvey of old to give the Mets a chance to fulfill their hopes of reclaiming the National League East.
During Spring Training, that was far from a certainty. His velocity and confidence were all over the place. It was not until the end of Spring Training that Harvey began to look more like his old self. Still, when he took the mound on a cold wet night, there was doubt as to what we would be.
Harvey was great.
Now, it wasn’t quite the Harvey of old. He featured his two seamer more almost scrapping his four seamer. Instead of being in the upper 90s, he was sitting mostly at 94. He pitched more to contact than rack up the strikeouts. Still, his secondary pitches were there, especially his vaunted slider. With that, he might not have been the 2013 or 2015 Harvey, but he was still great.
His only mistake was a thigh high fastball to Matt Kemp who deposited the pitch into the left field seats giving the Braves a 1-0 lead.
In a rare sight for a pitcher who has historically gotten low run support, the Mets responded right away in the bottom of the fifth.
It was a huge hit for d’Arnaud bot just because it gave the Mets the lead, but also because it was his first RBI off a left-handed pitcher since September 14, 2015. That’s not a typo – d’Arnaud had no RBIs off a left-handed pitcher last year. In what is a huge year for d’Arnaud, he got his first big hit.
Those four runs were enough for Harvey. Harvey lasted 6.2 innings allowing three hits, two runs, two earned, no walks, and four strikeouts. Two of his four strikeouts came in the seventh as he was pushing towards the finish line. He was then chased by Kemp’s second homer of the night.
You honestly could not have expected more from Harvey. He was economical throwing just 77 pitches. He pitched to contact and enduced weak contact. He dominated. With that, the Mets rotation looks great again.
Jerry Blevins got the last out of the inning before turning it over to Fernando Salas and Addison Reed. Salas faced a bases loaded two out jam, but he was able to get out of it by striking out Swanson.
There would be no save opportunity as the Mets added two in the seventh to make it a 6-2 game. Asdrubal Cabrera singled home Michael Conforto, who was hit by a pitch when pinch hitting for Blevins. Later in the inning, Reyes scored when Dansby Swanson threw the ball offline trying to complete a double play on the Yoenis Cespedes grounder.
Game Notes: Jose Reyes got his first base hit after having started the year going 0-12. Flores got the start over Lucas Duda with the left-handed pitcher on the mound. Tim Tebow hit an opposite field home run in his first at-bat for Columbia
Breaking: Tim Tebow homers in his first at-bat. Are you kidding me? pic.twitter.com/tzal9jtvyH
— Mike Uva (@Mike_Uva) April 6, 2017
Steven Matz was dealing with elbow pain towards the end of Spring Training, and it landed him in the disabled list. He has subsequently been diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon leaving Matz to say, “I try to do all I can to stay healthy and stay on the field. Thankfully, it’s not anything more serious. So, I hope that I can come back and help the team when I’m ready but there’s nothing I can do I feel like.” (Marc Carig, Newsday).
Seth Lugo struggled in the World Baseball Classic Championship Game and when he returned to the Mets in Spring Training. The struggles were blamed on a dead arm that, like Matz, landed him in the disabled list. He was sent for an MRI yesterday. After the Mets Opening Day win Mets manager Terry Collins would say, “We lost Seth Lugo today for a period of time, so we know how important it is to keep our pitchers healthy.” (Laura Albanese, Newsday).
And just like that the vaunted Mets pitching depth of seven starters is now down to five . . . a fragile five.
The injuries have forced Zack Wheeler into the rotation ahead of schedule. With his missing two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets wanted to limit him to around 125 innings. That’s going to be extremely difficult when he’s in the Opening Day rotation, and the Mets currently go only five starters deep.
In front of Wheeler in the rotation is Matt Harvey. In 2015, he was terrific after returning from his own Tommy John surgery. He wasn’t able to take the next step as expected in 2016 as he was dealing with the effects of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).
Harvey had the season ending surgery to alleviate the effects of his TOS, but so far he hasn’t rebounded as well as he did from Tommy John. Harvey has been inconsistent with his velocity and location during Spring Training. For his part, Harvey believes he turned a corner saying, “It definitely took a little while, but moving in the right direction.” (James Wagner, New York Times).
While Jacob deGrom appears back to his 2015 Cy Young caliber form, he is coming off an injury plagued season. First, it was the oblique. Then it was a nerve issue in his pitching elbow which required season ending surgery.
The issue with Gsellman is he’s a rookie with only 44.2 major league innings under his belt. For that matter, he only has 93.1 innings above Double A. It’s possible he hits a rookie wall, or he needs to have his innings limited this year.
So, to that end, the only pitcher left you feel 100% confident about this year is Syndergaard . . . and he was forced to leave his Opening Day start due to a blister. His next start has already been pushed back a day. Considering the Mets health history, it’s hard to be confident that’s all it will be.
With that, the Mets vaunted pitching rotation depth has already been tested. With one more injury or one prolonged slump, the Mets may be forced to turn to Rafael Montero which hasn’t turned too well in the past.
In the event Montero or someone else takes the mound, we all may soon realize the Mets deep seven man pitching staff just might’ve been one or two starters short.
With the USA beating a Puerto Rico team with deep Mets ties, a thrilling World Baseball Classic has come to an end. Now, we look forward to Opening Day with the hope that the Mets could make a great run just like the USA and win the World Series this year. IF that were to happen, the Mets will need contributions from the Mets players who played in the World Baseball Classic.
Looking over the players, it is clear some of these players are ready for Opening Day while others may need some more time to get ready for the season.
RHP Nabil Crismatt G, 3.0 IP,
Despite never having pitched above A ball, or having one full season as a starter, Colombia turned to Crismatt to beat a Dominican Republic team with a lineup featuring Manny Machado, Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista, Carlos Santana, Nelson Cruz, and Gregory Polanco. The 22 year old hurler more than held his own relying on locating his fastball and using his terrific change to keep Colombia in the game. He kept the Colombian hopes alive while giving the Mets real hope he could be a major leaguer one day.
RHP Jeurys Familia 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 G, 2 SV, 3.1 IP, 5 K, 0.60 WHIP
Familia was primed and ready for the WBC throwing fastballs up to 100 MPH. After the Wild Card Game, he reminded everyone why he is a dominant MLB closer. The only issue for him in the WBC was the Mets complaining about how he was used, which was a surprise to everyone including Dominican Republic manager Tony Pena.
RHP Hansel Robles 0-0, 2.45 ERA, 4 G, 3.2 IP, 4 K, 0.82 WHIP
Like Familia, Robles showed he’s ready to go for Opening Day with the lone run scored against him coming in the opener against Canada. Robles had all of his pitches working, and he showed better command of the strike zone than he has typically shown in his Mets career.
SS Jose Reyes 4 G, 18 AB, 2 R, 5 H, 2 2B, SB, .278/.316/.389
Reyes split time at shortstop with Machado and Jean Segura, but ultimately Reyes was the country’s top choice for both shortstop and a lead off hitter. Reyes was that spark plug at the time of the lineup that helped power the Dominican Republic team to an undefeated record in Pool C play and had the Dominicans ever so close to advancing to the semis. The only issues with Reyes were the same ones he has shown over the past few years. He is no longer suited to being an everyday shortstop, and he doesn’t get on base as much as he did in his prime. With that said, Reyes seems ready for Opening Day.
UTIL Ty Kelly 6 G, 24 AB, 6 R, 5 H, 2B, .208/.321/.250
Kelly served as the number two hitter and third baseman for an Israeli team that was the biggest surprise of the WBC. Kelly said of the team’s upset of the Netherlands, “Definitely the most stressful game I’ve been a part of. But it was worth it.” That was surprising considering Kelly had a pinch hitting appearance in what was then a scoreless Wild Card Game against Madison Bumgarner. Kelly’s statements only go to show how important the WBC was to the players. As for Kelly, he did not have as strong as he would have liked, but he certainly did his heritage proud.
SS Gavin Cecchini 4 G, 15 AB, 2 H, 2B, RBI, .133/.333/.200
The highlight for Cecchini in the World Baseball Classic was a game tying single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth sending the game against Venezuela into extra innings. Aside from that single, the WBC was a mixed bag for Cecchini. He showed discipline at the plate, and he showed his extra base power. He also struggled defensively at short, which will only further justify the Mets decision to transition him to second base.
CF Brandon Nimmo 3 G, 11 AB, 3 R, 2 H, HR, 2 RBI, .182/.308/.455
Nimmo had a good WBC as the leadoff hitter for Italy. He had an RBI single off left-handed reliever Oliver Perez to help Italy’s furious five run ninth inning to shock Mexico. In the surprising effort against Venezuela, Nimmo hit a home run off Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon. Unfortunately, Nimmo also injured his hamstring which could have effected Italy’s chances of advancing in the WBC, and it also might have impacted his chances of making the Opening Day roster.
C Xorge Carrillo 2 G, 8 AB, R, 2 H, .250/.333/.250
While he did not start the opener, which was a shocking loss to Italy, Carrillo got the start in Mexico’s final two games. The minor league defensive specialist was fine behind the plate. In an upset over Venezuela, he had a base hit and a run scored. Unfortunately for him and his countrymen, the win was for naught as they were eliminated from the WBC due to tiebreakers. He should be better from this experience as he looks to continue to improve in the minor league next year.
RHP Fernando Salas 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 2 G, 1.0 IP, K, 3.00 WHIP
Due to visa issues, Salas was not able to report to Mets camp prior to the WBC. In Salas’ two games in the WBC, he showed that rust. As Salas continued to have visa issues after the WBC, it was good he was even able to participate in the tournament because it provided him some opportunity to face living pitching.
SP Seth Lugo 2-1, 4.20 ERA, 3 G, 3 GS, 15.0 IP, 12 K, 1.07 WHIP
Lugo was the ace of the Puerto Rican staff, and he pitched like it. His three games were against the vaunted Venezuelan and United States lineups. Lugo not only held his own, but in his first two starts he was dominant pitching to a 2.45 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP. In the championship game, he was getting his fastball up to 95 MPH, and he recorded five strikeouts. Unfortunately, the walks caught up to him, and he left the game down 3-0. Overall, Lugo made a good case for him making the Opening Day roster whether as the fifth starter or as a member of the bullpen.
IF T.J. Rivera, 7 G, 24 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .167/.192/.458
In six of the seven games in the WBC, Rivera played first base, and he played a good defensive first base. For a player that is trying to market himself as a versatile infielder for the Mets, Rivera certainly proved he can handle a position he rarely played in the minor leauges. At the plate, he didn’t hit much, but when he did get a hit it counted. His home run in the semi-final gave Puerto Rico a brief 3-2 lead in a tightly fought game that went into extra innings.
C Rene Rivera 2 G, 8 AB, R, 3 H, 2 2B, RBI, .375/.375/.625
Surprisingly, Rivera got into two games in the WBC, and he did not catch in either of them. In Pool D, he entered the game as a DH against Italy. In a meaningless game against Venezuela, Rivera got the start at first base. At the plate, he was as good as can be expected. However, with respect to the 2017 season, it would have been better if he got in some play behind the plate to get ready for the season.
And because everyone is obviously interested, Yoenis Cespedes‘ younger brother Yoelqui had a strong WBC. In five games, the 19 year old Cespedes hit .250/.250/.313 with two runs, a double, and an RBI. He also showed good range and a strong throwing arm in right field. Perhaps, there may come a time in the future when the younger Cespedes gets the opportunity to play in the major leagues like his older brother.
Well, the Americans finally did the impossible. They won the WBC cementing the USA as the best country in the sport it invented. It was really no small feat considering the team had to go through Seth Lugo, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, T.J. Rivera, Rene Rivera, Carlos Correa et al. Yet, somehow, someway, the USA did it.
Time will tell what the lasting impact of this victory will be, but with that said each player should be held is some esteem by all American baseball fans. Can you name the players who were on the USA WBC roster? Good luck!
Chris Archer Tyler Clippard Danny Duffy Sam Dyson Mychal Givens Luke Gregerson Nate Jones Jake McGee Mark Melancon Andrew Miller Pat Neshek Tanner Roark David Robertson Drew Smyly Marcus Stroman Jonathan Lucroy Buster Posey Nolan Arenado Alex Bregman Brandon Crawford Paul Goldschmidt Josh Harrison Eric Hosmer Ian Kinsler Daniel Murphy Adam Jones Andrew McCutchen Giancarlo Stanton Christian Yelich Brett Cecil J.A. Happ Jake Odorizzi Jeff Samardzija Alex Wilson David Wright
After the 2013 season, Curtis Granderson was really a free agent for the first time in his career. While Granderson was always durable, he was coming off an injury plagued season that was the result of getting hit by two pitches. In the prior to season for the Yankees, Granderson was coming off consecutive 40 home run seasons. In fact over that two year stretch, Granderson led the majors with 84 homers. With that in mind, Granderson was one of the most coveted free agents on the free agent market.
To that end, it is surprising that a player like Granderson who had mostly played for good teams in his career would opt to go a Mets team coming who never had a winning record since moving to Citi Field. Moreover, it was surprising that a power hitter like Granderson was so willing to move to the cavernous dimensions of Citi Field.
And yet, Granderson signed a four year deal to become the Mets right fielder. Why?
Well as Granderson told MLB Network during their 30 Clubs 30 Days feature on the Mets, “I was optimistic it was going to happen. Sandy Alderson and the Mets organization told me about the young guys – the Matz’s, the Syndergaard’s, I had see Harvey, the deGrom’s – and all of a sudden here they are. Not only are they here but they’re here to stay. They all piggyback off of each other and do an amazing job.”
Either Sandy did a great job selling, or Granderson just has an eye for talent because heading into the 2014 season things were not that optimistic.
Matt Harvey‘s incredible 2013 season was cut short with him needing Tommy John surgery. Noah Syndergaard was not yet dominating in the minor leagues despite having terrific stuff. Steven Matz was just coming back from pitching after what had been an arduous Tommy John rehabilitation.
Now, Zack Wheeler was coming off a promising season, and Rafael Montero promised to be the next big thing. While Granderson mentioned Jacob deGrom, if we are being honest, no one knew what he was yet. Certainly, not the Mets as they had deGrom lower on the depth chart than Montero.
Despite all of that, Granderson was right, it has all worked out. Even better, the Mets have pitchers like Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo who have developed into good pitchers while Granderson has been a Met. Behind them are pitchers like Thomas Szapucki and Justin Dunn.
Back in 2013, this was the image of the Mets Alderson presented to Granderson. To his credit, Granderson bought in and signed with the Mets. To Alderson’s credit, he not only delivered, but he keeps delivering.
As Granderson enters the last year of his four year contract, it is important to remember he was the first free agent that believed the Mets could one day be World Series contenders. Not only did he sign with the Mets based upon that belief, but he has also been an important contributor to this Mets team both on the field and in the clubhouse. In many ways, the Granderson signing was a pivotal moment. It was the time that the Mets starting the process of going from a rebuilding team to a World Series contender. It was also the time when someone started believing in this team.
In international competition, I am an American, and as such, I will always root for the USA to prevail. In the Olympics, I root for the USA regardless of what Rangers are playing for the other country. I love Henrik Lundqvist to death, but I would root for an American team full of Islanders, Devils, and Flyers if it was ever a USA-Sweden gold medal match.
The same goes for the WBC.
Surprisingly, the closest ties USA has to the Mets is Daniel Murphy and Tyler Clippard, both of whom were on the 2015 pennant winner. Mostly, the USA roster is full of players you would rather not root for as a Mets fan.
There’s Eric Hosmer whose name cannot be mentioned in my house anymore. I loved watching Michael Conforto take Danny Duffy deep in the World Series, but to be honest, Duffy got the last laugh. Tanner Roark is a National, who also did all he could do to help blow the 5-0 lead against the Dominican Republic. While I generally like both Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, when seeing them play, you cannot help but be reminded of the heartbreaking loss in the Wild Card Game last year. Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton have been a thorn in the Mets side on a Marlins team that seemingly exists just to be a Mets spoiler.
Overall, while I have found USA to be a likeable team, there are enough players there that harbor bad memories.
The Puerto Rican roster, on the other hand, is full of players I absolutely love.
Carlos Beltran may be the next Mets player inducted into the Hall of Fame. T.J. Rivera grabbed a hold of the second base job last year after a number of injuries left the Mets searching for a capable player at the position as the team was fighting for a Wild Card. Rene Rivera helped Noah Syndergaard improve as a pitcher last year.
Worse yet, Seth Lugo is going to start against the USA in what should prove to be an incredibly important game. Lugo was an vitally important pitcher who helped get the Mets back to the postseason last year. He may prove to once again be an extremely important pitcher for the Mets next year whether he is in the rotation, the bullpen, or both. As a Mets fan, you do not want to see Lugo get bashed around by the USA in the WBC. Rather, you want to see him continue to improve and be in the best possible position to help the Mets next year.
Not to be wishy-washy, but you hope that Lugo pitches well and the Americans still win.
And yes, despite all the Mets ties to Puerto Rico, including Angel Pagan, who was once a pretty good Met, I am still rooting for the USA tomorrow night. Mostly, I am rooting for the USA because I am an American.