With the Giancarlo Stanton trade saga and Shohei Ohtani looking for a team, the hot stove has been rather lukewarm this time of the year. With that said, we have seen some movement on the reliever market both be fore and after Stanton and Ohtani selected their ultimate destinations:
- Luke Gregerson 2 years $11 million
- Brandon Morrow 2 years $21 million
- Miles Mikolas 2 years $15.5 million
- Mike Minor 3 years $28 million
Now, based upon Sandy Alderson’s previous comments and behavior, you would think this would leave the Mets GM emboldened. The only reliever that got a deal more than two years was Minor, who was actually signed to pitch in the Rangers starting rotation.
Instead, Sandy Alderson spoke with reporters and crushed what little hope Mets fans had this offseason.
On the reliever market, which has already seen quality relievers sign to reasonable deals, Alderson said, “And to the extent that the market gets overheated, I wouldn’t think that we’ll jump into the inferno.” (Newsday).
Just wait, it gets better.
Alderson also admitted what Mets fans suspected to be true – the Mets didn’t even try to acquire Stanton. Hopefully, because he thinks we’re all stupid, Alderson didn’t cite that big contract as a reason. No, Alderson actually cited the fact the team had Brandon Nimmo as the reason why.
This is the same Nimmo the team never gave a real shot to start, at least before the fire sale and injuries, and the team won’t give a starting spot in next year’s outfield. Apparently to the amazement of everyone, the Mets don’t need the reigning MVP because Nimmo has gotten dramatically better in the roughly two months since the season ended. He’s now an MVP caliber player.
That’s awesome because as we all know Alderson’s drafts have been spotty at best. His drafts have produced only two All Stars. The first, Michael Conforto, is rehabbing from a significant shoulder injury, and we don’t know if he will ever be the same (NOTE: don’t get a Mets fan started on team injuries). The second, Michael Fulmer, is a Tiger because back in 2014, the Mets thought Michael Cuddyer was the answer to their need for a productive hitter. As we know he wasn’t, and by extension, the Mets lost two first round picks.
But wait, after an offseason that began with the Mets leaking they have soured on Dominic Smith, the team is high on him again saying, “We’re still very high on Dominic — some of my comments earlier in the offseason notwithstanding.”
Apparently, the team is no longer interested in players like Carlos Santana not because of the cost, but rather, because Smith has been on the same postseason regiment as Nimmo where disappointing first round draft picks suddenly transform into MVP caliber players overnight.
Not discussed during the discussion with reporters was the Mets latest bombshell. They are now dangling Matt Harvey this offseason in exchange for a reliever.
As we have learned the past two seasons, the one thing the Mets can well afford to do is to be reckless with pitching depth. No, we can’t count on Harvey to be anything. However, the same can be said for Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz.
Considering the Mets heavily invested in their pitching staff by hiring Mickey Callaway as manager and Dave Eiland as pitching coach, why not see if they can get Harvey back to being the Dark Knight, or at the very least a reliable starting pitcher?
Do you really need to trade him for a sixth inning reliever? And if that is the case, why not let Harvey move to the bullpen? With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, you already have seven starters for five spots. Someone is going to have to go to Triple-A or the bullpen. If Harvey can’t withstand the rotation, why not find out if he can the bullpen?
And there we have it. The Mets not only have no faith in their coaching staff, but they are already backing off players on the eve of the Winter Meetings.
It was almost yesterday the Mets were discussing Santana, Ohtani, Lorenzo Cain, and Jason Kipnis. Now? Well, we are talking trading Harvey to help fix the bullpen, and Nimmo and Smith as being a significant part of the future when just a month earlier they were not a legitimate starting option.
This is what happens when the Mets aren’t trying to generate hype to get fans to purchase individual game tickets. It’s what happens when the Mets are entering a Winter Meetings when their initial hype and hope are about to get exposed.
With the Mets cutting payroll and having holes and question marks across the 25 and 40 man roster, it is finally time for Juan Lagares to sink or swim.
With respect to Lagares, he was never supposed to have been a question mark. Certainly, the Mets didn’t feel this way when they gave him a four year $23 million contract extension on the eve of the 2015 season.
When giving Lagares the extension, the expectation was Lagares would continue being a Gold Glover out there, and he would eventually learn to hit a little. While hindsight may be 20/20, this was about as good a bet as there could have been with Lagares hitting .281/.321/.382 with a 102 OPS+ and a 101 wRC+ in 2014. His ability to be a league average hitter and otherworldly in center made him a 5.4 bWAR and 3.9 fWAR player that year. That made him the best player on the Mets.
Since that season, things have fallen apart for him. In 2015, he regressed at the plate, which would have been palatable if he didn’t regress even more in the field. In the subsequent two seasons, Lagares seems to have been getting back to the player he was in 2014, but he has suffered significant thumb injuries in successive seasons.
This could be a cause for pessimism, but we saw the 2014 Lagares in the field again last year. That Lagares wasn’t just a Gold Glover, he was the guy you expected to catch everything. He was the guy who was head and shoulders above even the best defensive center fielders in the game.
Among center fielders with at least 550 innings last year, Lagares was third overall and tops in the National League with a 15 DRS. He was also the Major League leader with a 24.7 UZR/150. You could chalk these up to small sample sizes all the like, but consider the numbers he put up in 2013 and 2014:
- 2013: 26 DRS, 33.1 UZR/150
- 2014: 26 DRS, 25.3 UZR/150
At his core this is who Lagares is. And with all of Major League Baseball prioritizing hitting the ball in the air, having Lagares patrolling center field is an imperative.
As we saw, the Mets pitching staff all regressed last year. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman weren’t the hot shot rookies they were in 2016. Even when “healthy,” Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler weren’t who we expected them to be. Even Jacob deGrom, who had a resurgent year a year after having ulnar nerve transposition surgery, wasn’t the same pitcher posting career worsts in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and HR/9.
So far, the Mets have done a lot to help address these issues. They’ve hired Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland. They’ve discussed not allowing their pitchers go a third time through the lineup. While both could help, it is indisputable having Lagares in center will be an enormous benefit as well.
Now, if you can get Lagares to hit even a little, then you have the player you thought you had in 2014. You have the player you thought would have a collection of Gold Gloves at this point in his career. You have the player the Mets once thought was worth $23 million. You have an answer to one of the biggest question marks on a Mets roster that has more holes in it that a piece of Swiss cheese attacked with a hole puncher.
Overall, the best bet for the Mets in 2018 is a healthy and productive Lagares. He helps the pitching staff return to form, and he allows the Mets to allocate money to other areas of the team that are in more desperate need of addressing. And if that doesn’t work, you at least have a platoon partner for Brandon Nimmo out there . . . .
On Thanksgiving, it’s time to go around the Mets 2017 roster and name something each player should be thankful for:
Nori Aoki – He looked so much better in September than he did in all of 2017 by being competent while playing on a dysfunctional team.
Jerry Blevins – Throughout all the stress of the season and his extreme workload, the man didn’t even put on one pound.
Chasen Bradford – With his call-up to the majors, he’s now on the short list for best beards in Mets history.
Jay Bruce – He learned from his experience last year, and he played well for a team that acquired him in a trade.
Asdrubal Cabrera – As we found out this season, all he wanted the Mets to do was to pick up his option so he could provide for him family. With the Mets having done that, he can now rest easy.
Jamie Callahan – One day when bards tell the tale of the six right-handed relievers the Mets acquired at the 2017 deadline, they will regale us all with stories of how Callahan was the first of them to finish out a game the Mets won.
Gavin Cecchini – He made the switch from short to second where it will be easier for him to make it to the majors. That goes double if the Mets who are tightening payroll off a poor season don’t bring in a free agent to play the position.
Yoenis Cespedes – With Cespedes missing half the season, that left a lot of time for him to hit the course.
Michael Conforto – Collins is gone meaning no one is standing in his way from being a superstar anymore.
Travis d’Arnaud – He became the greatest defensive second baseman in Mets history by posting a 1.000 fielding percentage at the position.
Jacob deGrom – With him pitching so well this year, he knows he will finally be able to cash in in arbitration thereby allowing him to afford a haircut.
Phillip Evans – After winning a batting title in 2016, having a good Spring Training, and a good second half for Vegas, the Mets finally decided to let him post similarly good numbers for them in September.
Jeurys Familia – Blood clots in his shoulder costing him most of the season made most people forget why he missed the beginning of the season.
Wilmer Flores – He fouled a ball off his face, and he lived to tell about it.
Sean Gilmartin – With his going from the Mets to the Cardinals, he was able to prove he wasn’t bad. It was just the Mets as an organization did not employ anyone capable of knowing he was actually injured.
Erik Goeddel – No matter how much he struggled this season, he will never be the most hated person in pro sports with the last name pronounced GO-dell\n
Curtis Granderson – He had a front row seat to seeing Chase Utley fail in the postseason.
Robert Gsellman – He has so much self confidence he doesn’t care what anyone things of him.
Matt Harvey – Between the Tommy John, TOS, and the Mets rushing him into the rotation with atrophied muscles in his throwing arm knowing he wouldn’t really be ready until a month into the season, he should be thankful for getting out of the season with his right arm still attached.
Ty Kelly – He got out of here after one game thereby preventing Nurse Ratched from getting to him and ending his season.
Juan Lagares – With all the injuries and the Mets looking to cut payroll, he is once again the center fielder of the future.
Steven Matz – With him suffering the same injury deGrom suffered last year, we all know he can come back from this to be the same exact injury prone pitcher he was before the surgery.
Kevin McGowan – He will always have a special place in Mets fans hearts as it was his call-up that forced Ramirez off the roster.
Tommy Milone – He was able to find a team that was okay with him having an ERA over 8.00.
Rafael Montero – For the first time in his life, he wasn’t a complete abomination as a pitcher.
Tomas Nido – Even with his struggles at the plate in Binghamton, he can rest easy knowing the Mets don’t expect an OBP over .300 from their catchers.
Brandon Nimmo – No one, not matter what, has been able to wipe that smile off of his face.
Tyler Pill – In a year of embarrassing pitching performances by Mets pitchers, Pill actually acquitted himself quite well before suffering his season ending injury.
Kevin Plawecki – He’s so well liked by his teammates that someone left him a present in his locker, which apparently has inspired him to hit the ball harder and longer thereby resurrecting his career.
Neil Ramirez – Somehow, someway, he was not the absolute worst pitcher on a team’s pitching staff.
AJ Ramos – To him, getting traded to the Mets meant he was traded to a team that actually spends money in the offseason.
Addison Reed – He was so good this year he was worth not just one but three right-handed relievers.
Jose Reyes – The Mets didn’t cut him or his playing time no matter how horrible he played during the 2017 season.
Matt Reynolds – He got that long look in September Sandy Alderson promised him. Unfortunately, that only amounted to him getting 10 games to show what he could do at the MLB level.
Jacob Rhame – He’s with an organization that has had success getting flame throwing right-handed pitchers who have slimmed down since getting drafted reach their full potential.
Rene Rivera – After failing to whisper loud enough to help the Mets pitchers pitch better, he was able to go to the Cubs to help their pitchers lead them to an NLCS berth.
Hansel Robles – In his mind every ball hit in the air is an inning ending pop up.
Amed Rosario – He didn’t have to have his development hampered by being expected to be the savior when he was called-up to the majors as the Mets were well out of contention on August 1st.
Fernando Salas – Despite his rough stint with the Mets, he was able to land with the Angels to end the season thereby proving it was the Mets handling of pitchers and not him that was terrible.
Paul Sewald – As a reward for all of his hard work in Vegas, he got the privilege of being the arm Collins loved to abuse during the season.
Dominic Smith – He finally got his call-up in August in Philadelphia of all places allowing him to celebrate the accomplishment and the win with a cheesesteak from Pat’s. (NOTE: not a cheapshot at his weight, this actually happened)
Josh Smoker – After the Mets finally gave up on using a pitcher with a history of shoulder issues as the long man in the pen, he showed the team in September that he could be as a lefty out of the pen to get lefties out.
Noah Syndergaard – Mr. Met flipped off someone this year other than him.
Neil Walker – The Mets moved him to the Brewers where he was able to re-establish his free agency value by being productive and by staying healthy, which was coincidentally was when he was away from the Mets medical team.
Adam Wilk – Because Harvey was at home one day in his pajamas, he set off on a path where he would become eligible to earn a share of the postseason money awarded to the Twins for claiming the second Wild Card.
Zack Wheeler – Instead of missing two years due to injury, he missed two months.
David Wright – Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Mets still have not given up on him.
Terry Collins – At the end of the day, he was able to make a friend of Fred Wilpon who had his back no matter what. We should all be so lucky.
Dan Warthen – He found a new group of pitchers in Texas who have elbows waiting to learn how to throw that Warthen Slider.
Sandy Alderson – Collins was so poor at managing, he was able to convince ownership it was all Collins’ fault and not his for poorly constructing a roster.
Mets Fans – Well, even if it wasn’t at this post, we all still have a sense of humor, and we can still laugh at what we put up with from this team on a daily basis.
With free agency beginning last night, the Mets now have the opportunity to fill-in many of the holes the team has in free agency. In no particular order, those holes are second, third, center, bullpen, fifth starter, and maybe even catcher. In addition to that, the Mets have to build a bench, which is something they overlook in the offseason year-in and year-out.
During Sandy Alderson’s tenure with the Mets, he predominantly makes his big moves in free agency, and he stays away from the big trades. That is something he tends to do more during the season to address problems with the roster. To that end, we will likely see the team’s needs addressed through a combination of free agency and the team’s internal options.
One of the issues in building the roster is the payroll seems to be limited. That’s not limited by recent standards. Rather, there are indications the payroll will be going down. According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets payroll could drop by $20 million to the $135 million range.
Previously, MMO estimated the Mets current payroll commitments, factoring in likely arbitration raises, will be between $109 – $119 million. That includes the options for Blevins and Cabrera, which the Mets recently picked up. As of the moment, the Mets roster shakes up like this:
Judging from the aforementioned 24 players, the Mets have a lot of work to do, and with few exceptions, no one should feel their job is safe. Still, the Mets really only have somewhere between $15 – $25 million to spend in the offseason. This means the Mets are going to have to spend it wisely.
For starters, this probably means the jobs of d’Arnaud and Plawecki are safe. It also should mean that even with their comparative struggles, Rosario and Smith will begin the season on the Opening Day roster. From there, the Mets are going to have to make some tough choices among the players who could fulfill the Mets needs. It’s an even bigger issue than anticipated considering the MLB Trade Rumors projections:
- Mike Moustakas 5 years, $85 million ($17 million AAV)
- Lorenzo Cain 4 years, $60 million ($15 million AAV)
- Wade Davis 4 years, $60 million ($15 million AAV)
- Lance Lynn 4 years, $56 million ($14 million AAV)
- Greg Holland 4 years, $50 million ($12.5 million AAV)
- Addison Reed 4 years, $36 million ($9 million AAV)
- Todd Frazier 3 years, $33 million ($11 million AAV)
- CC Sabathia 2 years, $24 million ($12 million AAV)
- Neil Walker 2 years, $20 million ($10 million)
- Eduardo Nunez 2 years, $14 million ($7 million AAV)
There are other options, but this seems to be a fair sampling of the types of players the Mets should be targeting to bring them back into the postseason picture in the National League.
Reviewing those options, it seems as if you get one of the top tier players, the Mets are shut out from adding a second impact player. This means unless the Mets expand the budget, signing a Cain to play center means Cabrera at third and a veteran like Howie Kendrick to compete with Flores at second. Considering that, the Mets may feel comfortable that Lagares’ defense and Nimmo’s OBP are good enough to handle the center field position.
Considering the Mets real needs, the team’s best bet is going to be a player like a Frazier for third because that would free up some money to pursue another difference making player whether that be a Reed or Walker reunion, or the addition of a Sabathia to take over the Bartolo Colon sized hole on the roster.
In the end, the roster and the budget are going to make this one of Alderson’s toughest offseasons. Likely, he’s only going to be able to get two bigger named players, and he’s going to have to fill out important roles with internal options that failed last year or veterans who you pray have a Jose Valentin type of season.
It was a dark night with a faint glow surrounding the crowd. Then, from out of a dark cave emerged an old man. On first glance, this old man seemed like a cheery old fellow, but once you looked deep into his eyes, you would discover he would have the most sinister of intentions.
With one scribble across his spell book and one gesture with his hand, he would take the young hero and cast him into a pit never to return. With next, he would summon a bespectacled robot with the most dastardly of intentions. The robot would open up his right arm and he would spread pestilence across the field spreading despair amongst the masses.
By the time our new hero arrived it was too late. He and his friends would be unable to curb the tide set forth by the sinister old man and his evil robot. It was as if a spell was cast preventing them from doing the simplest of activities. Soon, the heroes would be too outnumbered, and they would fall to defeat. Soon, the dim glow that surrounded everyone would go out as the dejected masses fled hoping one day to return to this place and claim victory . . . victory that would never come.
Of course, this is an attempt at portraying Game 4 of the 2015 World Series in an eerie way. In some ways, this fails because what happened was far more horrifying.
Entering the top of the eighth, the Royals were down just one run, and they had the top of their lineup due up. Considering how frequently Collins used Jeurys Familia for six out saves during the regular season, and considering how up to that point, Familia had allowed just three hits and one run that entire postseason, this was the spot for him. The Mets needed six outs from Familia to ensure they would tie the series up 2-2. With the Mets having Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard lined up after that, and with the Royals having lost Game 7 at home the prior year, it seemed like the Mets were in a good position to claim the World Series.
Instead, Collins would go to Tyler Clippard. Up until that point, Clippard had a 5.06 ERA and a 1.411 WHIP in six postseason appearances. This was the same Clippard who dealt with a back issue late in the season and would have a 6.14 ERA and 1.295 WHIP in the month of September. More than that, batters were hitting him hard to the tune of a .268/.323/.536 batting line.
This was decidedly not the pitcher you wanted in this spot. However, this was the direction Collins went. The reason was two fold. The first was this was the formula since the Mets obtained Clippard prior to the trade deadline. Worse than that was the stated reason. Collins said he didn’t want to use Familia for six outs because he appeared the night before in Game 3.
Instead of Hansel Robles, Sean Gilmartin, or really anyone else, Collins tabbed his closer to close out a six run lead. As we watched in horror in Game 4, the ripple effect of that decision was too much to bear.
With that decision, Collins altered the outcome of the World Series, and quite possibly cost the Mets a chance at winning the 2015 World Series. After that we have seen injury after injury after injury. Quite possibly, this makes Game 4 of the World Series the scariest of all Halloween tales.
If you don’t believe me, try this. Instead of putting on the scariest Halloween movie you can think of tonight, try re-watching Game 4 of the World Series.
There are probably some logistical issues I’m missing here, but it seems to me the Mets and 28 other teams are missing an opportunity by not having their ballparks open for children on Halloween.
As we have seen, there are different levels of opening up the ballpark. For paid entry events like a concert or the NYC Bacon and Beer Classic, you are permitted entry within Citi Field. For other events like the annual Coat Drive, a portion of Citi Field is open like the Team Store. For others, we have seen either the Rotunda being open or just tables set up on the perimeter of the ballpark. Whatever, the case, there is a space where fans could bring their children to Trick or Treat.
For the children, it would be a safer environment to do their Trick or Treating. There’s far less of a concern about the various concerns that surround Halloween from cars driving down the road, tampered candy, and for some, bullies. There are also children who are deprived of the joys of Trick or Treating just by a function of their not living in a safe neighborhood.
For all of these children, it would also present an opportunity to go to Citi Field, which is the home of their favorite baseball team.
How teams want to organize it would be entirely up to them. You could have some current or former players. You could skip the players and just have a mascot like Mr. Met. There could be a best costume or best baseball costume event. Really, the door is wide open.
It would also be a good fundraising opportunity. This could be done as an early food drive for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you bring a can, you have the opportunity to go Trick or Treating at Citi Field. It could also be an extension of baseball’s RBI Program.
As for what gets passed out, it doesn’t really matter so long as it is a fun event. Children want candy on Halloween, but they would also be happy to receive stickers, tattoos, baseball cards, or really anything fun. If teams do this right, there will be a number of sponsors at the ready willing to participate. Likely, these sponors will hand out both candy and swag in the form of a trick or treat bag or other Halloween related items.
If done properly, there is no real downside to this, and it helps grow the game with young fans who will certainly look back and fondly remember their days Trick or Treating at Citi Field. Certainly, Mets fans can use a Citi Field Halloween memory other than Terry Collins leaving in Steven Matz too long, his going to Tyler Clippard instead of Jeurys Familia to start the eighth, and Daniel Murphy booting an Eric Hosmer grounder.
Overall, unless there are some logistics with the city or with Major League Baseball, this is something the Mets and the other teams not hosting a World Series game should definitely look to do for their young fans.
If not Major League teams, at least minor league teams like the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Anytime you enter into a search for a new manager, you are really dealing with the realm of the unknown. For first time managers, you really have no idea if that person is truly ready for the big leagues, he is better suited to the minors, or is a better coach. For every Davey Johnson you hire, there are also the Joe Torres of the world, who were talented managers, but not ready to manage at the time you gave him the job.
Really, in these instances, you have to look at the relevant information available and the recommendations of other baseball people. Mostly, you’re going with your gut.
The Mets gut told them to go out there and hire Mickey Callaway.
The Mets only needed one interview to choose Callaway over former manager and Mets coach Manny Acta. It was sufficient enough for them to bypass current hitting coach Kevin Long.
Callaway had impressed so much during his interview and during his time with the Cleveland Indians, the Mets were not willing to wait. They had Fred Wilpon sit down and sell him on the franchise similar to how the team once did with Billy Wagner and Curtis Granderson.
Give the Mets credit here. They identified their man, and they did all they could do to bring him into the organization. Deservedly so, many complimented the Mets on making a smart hire, including the fans who were skeptical of the direction the Mets would go.
Their man also happened to be a pitching guru, who will now be tasked with the responsibility of fixing Matt Harvey as well as finding a way to keep Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia healthy for a full season.
If Mets fans want a reason to be excited for this season, there is no bigger reason than Callaway choosing to manage this pitching staff. By doing so, he’s announced he’s a believer, and he’s put his and the Mets future on this lines.
The team hiring Callaway so early and so aggressively had a domino effect. It looks like the first domino to fall will be hitting coach Kevin Long.
Long has had a positive impact on the players on this Mets roster. He helped turn Yoenis Cespedes from a slugger to a star. By OPS+ and wRC+, Asdrubal Cabrera had two of his best five offensive seasons. Michael Conforto would prove he could hit left-handed pitching at the Major League level.
With Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith being two cornerstones of the franchise, Long was exactly the man you wanted to help them reach their offensive ceilings. Now, that won’t happen because Long is likely gone.
Another person you would want to help lead young players like Rosario and Smith is Joe Girardi. In his one year with the Marlins, and this past season working with young players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees made a surprising run this season that ended with a Game 7 loss in the ALCS.
What is interesting is the Mets were rumored to want Girardi. As reported by the New York Post, the Mets were looking to possibly “pounce” on Girardi if the Yankees did not bring him back.
That was written during the ALDS when it appeared Girardi’s job was in jeopardy. After the Yankees recovered and upset the Indians and took the Astros to seven games, there weren’t too many people who stuck believed Girardi would be looking for another job.
And yet, he is. This should at least raise some questions whether the Mets should have done their due diligence. Maybe another round of interviews were in order. Conducting that extra round could have left the Mets open to the chance of not making an hire before Girardi became available.
Maybe if there was a second round of interviews, Long feels more appreciated instead of taking his binders to another job. That other job could be as the manager or hitting coach of the Washington Nationals where he would reunite with Daniel Murphy. Maybe with Long at the helm, the Nationals finally get past the NLDS.
If that were to happen, and if Callaway falters, it would be too much for Mets fans to bear. Yet again, the Mets let one of their own go to the Nationals leading them to further success because they were enamored with someone from another organization. Like with Murphy and Justin Turner, Sandy Alderson will have opened himself up to justifiable second guessing.
The team jumped the gun costing themselves a chance to hire a terrific manager in Girardi, and it might have cost them the opportunity to retain a coach they thought highly enough of they almost made him their manager. The Mets were left with a manager who has never managed professionally, and they have to rebuild a coaching staff.
Instead of making the safe choice like they did when they hired Terry Collins, the Mets instead chose to go for the high risk – high reward hire. It worked with Davey, and it failed with Torre.
This is exactly why the Mets need to be right about their decision to hire Callaway.
For the most part, Mets fans were ecstatic about the team hiring Mickey Callaway. That went double after that upbeat press conference where Callaway both promised he would love his players, and they would be the most durable and well-prepared players in the Major Leagues.
There are plenty of reasons to like the move. The Mets hired someone who worked with Terry Francona, who is a future Hall of Famer. The team found someone who has shown the ability not just to comprehend analytics, but also to translate them to pitchers in a way that helps them improve. He’s a new and fresh voice that the team has not had in quite some time. People around baseball seemed to just love the decision of the Mets hiring the second most coveted managerial candidate behind Alex Cora.
These are all well and good reasons to get excited about the hire. There are presumably many more. However, the biggest reason to get excited about the hire is a pitching coach like Callaway chose to manage this Mets team.
That is of no small significance. After the 2015 season, many believed the Mets were going to be a perennial postseason team. Certainly, if things broke the Mets way, they could very well have become a dynastic team, at the very least in the mold of the 1980s Mets teams that were in contention each and every season. However, instead of things breaking the Mets way, the team mostly broke down.
Matt Harvey had to have surgery to alleviate the effects of his TOS, and he followed that up with trying to pitch with an atrophied muscle in his pitching shoulder. Zack Wheeler missed two seasons due to a torn UCL and complications from his Tommy John surgery, and he found himself missing the final two and a half months of the season with a stress reaction. Noah Syndergaard had a torn lat. Jeurys Familia had blod clots removed from his pitching shoulder. Steven Matz had another injury riddled season with him having to have season ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve. That was the surgery Jacob deGrom had last season. Speaking of deGrom, he really was the only healthy Mets pitcher during the entire 2017 season.
The pitching behind the injured starters wasn’t pretty. Rafael Montero continued to be an enigma. Chris Flexen showed he wasn’t ready to pitch at the Major League level. Robert Gsellman had his own injury, and he regressed quite severly after a really promising September in 2016. Seth Lugo had come back from his own injury issues, and upon his return, he struggled to get through the lineup three times.
Add to that Hansel Robles being Hansel Robles, and Josh Smoker failing to emerge as that late inning reliever his stuff promised he could be, and the Mets lack of Major League ready starting pitching talent in the minors, and you wonder why anyone would want to become the Mets pitching coach, let alone a manager whose strength is his work with a pitching staff.
Make no mistake, Callaway had to have liked what he saw with this team. Maybe it’s an arrogance any manager or coach has thinking they will be the one to turn things around. Maybe, it was his work with injury prone pitchers like Carlos Carrasco that made him believe he could definitely make things work. Whatever it is, the pitching guru that Callaway is purported to be liked what he sees with the Mets enough to potentially put his reputations and maybe his managerial future on a staff that some believed had fallen apart beyond repair.
Certainly, Callaway would have had other opportunities to accept a managerial position whether it was this year with an up and coming team like the Phillies, or next year when there would be more openings available. Instead, he chose to resurrect what was once a great Mets pitching staff. In part, he chose to do this because he believes in this talent, and he believes he is the man to do it.
That more than anything else is the biggest reason to be excited about this hire, and it is a reason to get excited about the 2018 season.
Yesterday, it was announced that with the Nationals season on the line, Stephen Strasburg was not going to take the ball in Game 4. There were a number of reasons cited for him missing the start on normal rest from his being off his routine, his being sick, and his not feeling prepared to pitch.
It is astonishing that Strasburg isn’t taking the ball in this spot. It was his opportunity to exercise the demons of 2012 when he was shut down on the eve of the postseason because he hit his innings limit. It was his opportunity to help save his team’s season when arguably he was the best pitcher suited to it.
The optics of the moment certainly aren’t good. That goes double when you consider an injured Max Scherzer is chomping at the bit to get into the game to help his team get to the NLCS. On top of that, Scherzer will only be on just one day of rest.
Again, Strasburg looks bad here.
Now, there is the caveat that Strasburg could really be that sick, or the team could be concealing some type of injury. Time and again, we have all been given lessons why we shouldn’t question an athlete when they say they can’t go. The most tragic of those circumstances was J.R. Richard. People questioned Richard and derided him, and so Richard pitched. That is until Richard suffered a stroke.
Still, even with the lessons we have learned with Richard, we all question Strasburg because there is a history here. Seeing what is happening with Strasburg, Mets fans should appreciate their pitchers all the more.
Back in 2015, with the same agent and predicament as Strasburg, Matt Harvey took the ball. He won a pivotal Game 3 in the NLDS. He set the tone in the NLCS with a dominating Game 1. He came so close to forcing a Game 6 with a brilliant Game 5 performance. Ironically, one of the lasting images of that postseason was Harvey demanding the ball.
It’s something we have seen with this entire Mets staff. Noah Syndergaard refused an MRI and instead insisting on pitching against the Nationals. Jacob deGrom ignored the pain as long as he could until he had to have season ending surgery. Steven Matz has done nothing but pitch through pain and injury in his Mets career.
Each one of these Mets pitchers demand the ball even when they should have taken a step back and done what was best for their careers. Who is to say the Mets pitchers are right and Strasburg is wrong. Players only have a limited time to play professional baseball and by extension to earn money. With each injury, their earning power goes down. Strasburg, who took the time off, received a seven year $175 million contract extension. There were at least discussions whether Harvey would be non-tendered.
So, maybe Strasburg is in the right here for doing what is best for him physically. However, while that may be true, it could go a long way in explaining why he’s never been out of the NLDS. It’s why he may never experience the glory we have seen Harvey experience in the postseason.
Yesterday, Odell Beckham, Jr. broke his leg as the Giants lost to go to 0-5. It doesn’t matter how optimistic a Giants fan you are, the season is over.
The Rangers still have a talented group, but they got off to a 1-2 start. One of the “highlights” of the young season is Alain Vigneault benching promising young player Filip Chytil for no other reason than he’s a young player. There is still reason to believe the Rangers can make a run, but any excitement you would have is tempered by Terry Collins, sorry, AV, leading the way.
The Knicks, well, they are the Knicks.
If things continue this way, it promises to be a long winter until Spring Training begins.
Unless Sandy Alderson gets to work, it’s going to be a full year without hope. He needs to build a bullpen beyond AJ Ramos and Jeurys Familia. There needs to be more on the infield than Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario. There needs to be more starting pitching depth due to the injury histories of Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
There’s a lot to do here. Hopefully Sandy does it. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year in the New York sports scene.