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.
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:
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) October 22, 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.
The one thing we never got to see with Generation K was Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson in the same rotation. In fact, we have never seen them all in the same pitching staff. That never happened because of all the injuries they suffered. Then we saw Isringhausen and Wilson traded in successive years to help the Mets chances of winning a World Series instead of them pitching the Mets to the World Series.
Whatever you want to call the group of Mets young starters (most seemed to like the Five Aces), they never appeared in the same rotation. The closest we got was seeing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in the same rotation in 2015. Coincidentally, that was also the year the Mets went to the World Series on the strength of their pitching.
The reason Zack Wheeler was not a part of that group that went to the postseason was because he suffered an injury in Spring Training. In fact, Wheeler would be gone for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For a moment, it seemed as fait accompli the group would never pitch in the same rotation because Wheeler was almost traded to the Brewers with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez. In fact, if not for Gomez’s hip, the dream would have died there.
Still to this day, we have never seen the five in the same rotation. However, we have seen them all pitch in the same season in the rotation. It may not seem like much, but it’s something. It’s also a step closer to seeing them all in the same rotation. It may finally happen next year.
Matz should be ready for Opening Day after the surgery to repair his ulnar nerve. This was the same surgery deGrom had last season, and he was able to last the entire season injury free. Both Harvey and Syndergaard were able to return and pitch before the season was over. Like in 2015 and 2016, the only question is Wheeler.
In the end, the Mets are a step closer to having all five of their proverbial aces in the rotation. At a minimum, they are a step closer to seeing them all on the same pitching staff. If it does happen, one of the open wounds Mets fans have suffered will close a bit. Howeve,r that wound will not fully heal until we see this group pitch the Mets to a World Series title.
Is anyone surprised the Mets decided to smear Terry Collins before parting ways with him this offseason? Well, you shouldn’t be because it follows a pattern from this organization since the Wilpons have taken control of the team. While full ownership did not fully transfer until 2002, the Wilpons had gradually gained control throughout the years and were really front in center with an already hands-off Doubleday suffering health issues.
Coming off the heels of the 2000 World Series, Alex Rodriguez made it well known he wanted to play for the Mets, the team he’s always loved. Instead of the team letting themselves get outbid, they declared him to be a 24 and one player.
Instead of thanking managers like Bobby Valentine and Art Howe for their service, they talked about how their teams quit on them, which is as damning a statement you can make against a manager. Things went further for Howe calling him soft, weak, boring, and out of touch.
As poorly as Howe was treated on the way out, it pales in comparison to how Willie Randolph was treated. This went beyond the accusations he was out of touch and couldn’t get through to his players. No, they had to fly him out to California and fire him at 3:00 A.M. after a win! They then replaced him with Jerry Manuel, who was the person bad mouthing Randolph behind his back with, you guessed it, Jeff Wilpon.
It wasn’t just managers that received this treatment. Remember what happened with Yoenis Cespedes in the 2015 offseason? When the team made it clear they had wanted to pass on re-signing him? First, he was a round peg in a square hole that couldn’t handle center. It wasn’t just that, we heard whispers about whether a team could trust Cespedes on a long-term deal.
Now, the Mets have turned their attention to Collins. Reading Marc Carig’s Newsday article on the subject, the team couldn’t help but tear him down before parting ways with him this offseason. Reading the column, you can see the Mets have gotten much better at this detailing all of his faults:
- Constant tactical blunders;
- Resisted input;
- Poor relationship with players;
- Shielded by Fred Wilpon from firing;
- Front office had no confidence in him;
- Abused relief pitchers;
- No interest in playing young guys;
- Played players like Jeurys Familia into injuries;
- Inmates ran the asylum; and
- Team was miserable.
Any Mets fans who has paid attention to the team could tell you any of the above was true. We saw Collins staple Michael Conforto to the bench for under-performing veterans. He pressured Steven Matz to pitch through the pain. There was the drama surrounding Asdrubal Cabrera‘s position switch. There have been a wake of injured relievers during his career. All of the above has proven to be true.
Through all of it, the Mets kept Collins. They dismissed these concerns and even put forth the illusion he was great handling the clubhouse. However, now that Collins is on his way out, those positive narratives are gone; replaced by the truth or something close to it.
The sad part is this is completely unnecessary. Collins dutifully serves this organization since 2010 and managed them since 2011. He led the team to consecutive postseasons and delivered a pennant. Despite all of this, we all knew this was the end, and really, there was no one asking for him to return to the Mets. Most agreed it was time for the Mets to select a new manager, a new direction.
For some reason, the Mets couldn’t leave well enough alone. They had to tear the guy down on his way out. Sadly, this is not a new low for the organization because you can’t get any lower than how they treated Randolph. Rather, the team has become better and more efficient at doing it.
With the way Collins has been treated it makes you question what type of manager would be willing to accept a job from the Mets considering how they are treated and smeared on their way out the door.
With Reyes hitting two home runs, his 100th and 101st with the Mets, accounting for three of the Mets five runs. With the way Collins manages, Reyes will continue to be the lead-off hitter for the rest of the year. If Reyes and Collins come back next year, you know Reyes will remain as the lead-off hitter.
That’s why this September has been such a waste. We’re not finding out what we need to know about these players.
Players like Travis Taijeron, who was added to the 40 man only due to the myriad of injuries to the Mets outfielders. He was a player who flashed power in the minors who hit his first career homer against Amir Garrett in the second.
There’s Gavin Cecchini, who was hitless but made a great play in the field.
Seth Lugo got through six scoreless today by finally making it through the lineup without getting scored upon.
To a lesser extent, the Mets need to find out about Travis d’Arnaud who’s finally hitting again with Kevin Plawecki breathing down his neck. He got a six inning rally started with another opposite field extra base hit.
In the end, there are players the Mets need to learn about and develop. Instead, we’re getting Jose Reyes: Lead-off Hitter and Shortstop. The 5-1 win was nice. Focusing on player development would be better because that’s what the Mets need.
Game Notes: Phillip Evans was called-up to the majors, and he made his MLB debut lining into a double play with the bases loaded in the sixth. To make room for him in the roster, Steven Matz has been put on the 60 day DL.
Even with him being limited due to injuries, Steven Matz was still one of the better starting pitching options left for this team. However, with impending season ending surgery, he’s shut down, and the Mets went with recently activated off the disabled list Tommy Milone.
Milone entered this game with a 7.91 ERA, 10.50 with the Mets, and he picked up where he left off with J.D. Martinez hitting a first inning three run homer.
At that point, it was 7-0 Diamondbacks. If you were still watching at that point, the question is why?
Michael Conforto missed the game with a thumb injury. Dominic Smith wasn’t in the lineup because the Diamondbacks started the left-handed Patrick Corbin, and Terry Collins apparently breaks out in hives and hyperventilates when he has to play a young left-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher. Using the same logic, Collins played Matt Reynolds over Brandon Nimmo in right.
Really, there were not many reasons to watch this game. Sure, things are bad right now with the Mets, but with the team they put on the field, this was downright unwatchable. Most 7-1 games are.
The one run was a Rosario home run, his first at Citi Field.
Other notable events was Gavin Cecchini going 1-2 at the plate and making a decent play in the field:
I GOT IT I GOT IT IT'S ALL YOURS pic.twitter.com/nqQBLoLh6n
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) August 23, 2017
Of note, Cecchini has a base hit in every game he’s started this year.
1B – Wilmer Flores
2B – Gavin Cecchini
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
If you don’t think of Flores as a shortstop, then the all shortstop infield was accomplished with Reynolds moving from right to first in a double switch.
If you do consider Flores a shortstop, then six of the Mets position players in the starting lineup were shortstops or former shortstops as Juan Lagares was originally signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic.
Admittedly, this is a rather long tangent, but these are the things you dwell on when your team is as listless and over-matched as the Mets were today. Trust me, this tangent was more interesting than anything that happened in the field tonight.
Andrew Chafin came on and allowed a Reynolds RBI groundout followed by a Rosario RBI triple to make it 7-4.
This lead to the Diamondbacks bringing on Fernando Rodney to get the final out of the game. After he retired Cecchini, the tomfoolery was over.
Back in 2005, Pedro Martinez was having a Cy Young caliber season that was about to be cut short due to a toe injury. From Rick Peterson to Willie Randolph to the training staff, they all agreed with the Mets out of the race, Pedro should shut it down for the rest of the year. However, there was one person that didn’t agree – Jeff Wilpon.
As Pedro would later tell in his the eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon approached him telling him to pitch to help the Mets sell-out a September 22nd game against Dontrelle Willis and the Marlins. Pedro protested leading to an argument where Pedro even offered to give back the rest of his contract. Ultimately, he pitched because, as Wilpon told him, “While I’m the boss here, you’re going to have to do what I say.” (Tyler Kepner, New York Times).
While we can never be sure of the root cause of the injury, this moment resonates as Pedro would suffer a torn rotator cuff making him unavailable for the 2006 postseason. That was one of many what-ifs that happened that year.
Fast forward a decade.
Last year, Steven Matz had what was described as a massive bone spur the team knew needed to be removed surgically. Rather than have the surgery right away, Matz was pumped full of cortisone shots, told to scrap the slider, and pitched until he could no longer pitch. The odd thing is Matz initially didn’t want to go this route.
As Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported, “[Matz] was seriously considering surgery, and maybe even leaning that way, before a meeting with the Mets brass.” Sound familiar?
During Spring Training this year, Matz had arm issues, which he self-described as a strained flexor tendon. The team disagreed with an unnamed Mets official with knowledge of Matz’s medical care telling Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record, “Our [doctors] found nothing wrong.”
The answer was once again to pitch through the pain and to abandon the slider. Matz continued to pitch despite his elbow reportedly swelling to the size of a grapefruit.
One thing that is quite notable is a passage from Marc Carig’s Newsday column on the topic, “Matz insisted on powering through, perhaps in defiance of a reputation he’s gained for often being injured. And the Mets proceeded as if he were dealing with inflammation.” More damning was this statement, “One source described a belief by some in the organization that Matz was simply learning to get over the ‘mental hurdle’ of pitching through pain.”
Certainly, this wasn’t the first time we’ve heard people discuss Matz needing to learn the difference between pitching through pain and pitching hurt. Ron Darling has made the point a number of times during games. His manager Terry Collins previously said Matz needed to learn how to pitch through his issues. (Anthony Rieber, Newsday).
Seeing these comments, we should not be surprised the Mets were completely blind-sided by Matz’s recent ulnar nerve injury and need for surgery. It is even less surprising considering the team and team doctors dealt with the same issue with Jacob deGrom.
Seeing this happen time and again, we all look to point the finger at someone. Over the past decade, we have see a change at General Manager, manager, and pitching coach. The Mets have been affiliated with the Hospital for Special Surgery, which is one of the top hospitals in the country. Many will point to Ray Ramirez, but he is actually well-regarded in his field. No, the issue is the Mets organizational culture.
In 2005, they forced Pedro to pitch. In 2010, they were livid Carlos Beltran had knee surgery, which turned out to be a necessary and possibly career saving procedure. Now, they have both pressured Matz to pitch and are surprised by his suffering as a result. Really, the only thing that isn’t surprising is the Mets culture not changing over the past decade. How can it with Jeff Wilpon still calling the shots?
Like he has most of his career, Cespedes has failed to hustle this year. While deemed acceptable when things are going well, this becomes an issue for everyone.
When he comes to Gsellman, he basically said as much. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. When he was told Sandy Alderson said he needed to pitch better, Gsellman replied he didn’t care.
On the field tonight against a very good Diamondbacks team, they were both very good.
Gsellman was reminiscent of the pitcher we saw last year. He mostly kept the ball out of the air preventing him from being victimized by the long ball. With a much better defense behind him, which somehow included Wilmer Flores making some nice plays at third, Gsellman went deep into the game.
In the odd chance the ball was in the air, the outfield got to those balls. This included Cespedes making not one but two hustle plays in the outfield.
With the defense playing well behind him, and his sinker working, Gsellman arguably had his best start of the year. His final line was 6.1 innings, five hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and three strikeouts.
Even with that terrific outing, he still didn’t get the win because the Mets offense continued to squander their scoring opportunities against Taijuan Walker.
The Mets could bring home Brandon Nimmo after he lead-off the top of the first with a double.
Wilmer Flores and Dominic Smith lead off the second with consecutive singles. Amed Rosario struck out. After Kevin Plawecki intentionally walked to load the bases, Gsellman struck out, and Nimmo lined out.
Flores came up in the third with runners at first and second with one out, and he grounded into the 6-4-3 inning ending double play.
Plawecki’s two out double in the fourth didn’t amount to anything with Gsellman hitting it back to the pitcher.
Plawecki came up in the sixth with runners on the corners and two outs. It would be runners on second and third after Rosario stole second. David Hernandez came on for Rubby De La Rosa, and he got Plawecki to tap it back to him to end the inning.
Finally, the Mets broke through in the sixth.
Travis d’Arnaud, who came on for Plawecki in a double switch in the top half of the inning, hit a lead-off double. Nimmo then sacrificed him to third.
Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Conforto then earned walks to load the bases putting the game in Cespedes’ hands. As noted above, he played this game with a different energy than he has been playing with for most of the season.
Cespedes battled back from 0-2 against Archie Bradley to rip an RBI single past a diving Jake Lamb to tie the game.
It only tied the game because David Peralta nailed Cabrera at the plate. It’s a tough play to pin blame on anyone. With it being so close, it was a good send by Glenn Sherlock. Likely, Cabrera would’ve been safe if his leg was on the ground instead of in the air. You can’t blame Cabrera because that was just tough luck.
In any event, after a Flores foul out, this was now a battle of the bullpens.
The Mets went to Erik Goeddel in a rare second straight day of work to pitch the 10th. In a rare appearance on consecutive days. We saw the reason why he rarely does this.
The homer snapped a Meys bullpen 17.2 streak of not allowing an earned run.
Mets still has a chance in the bottom of the 10th with the heart of the lineup due up against Diamondbacks closer Fernando Rodney.
Conforto got the inning off on the right foot hitting an opposite field lead-off home run to pull the Meys within 3-2. That’s as close as the Mets got as Rodney set down Cespedes, Flores, and Smith to end the game.
The main thing that really stood out today was the Mets played with a different energy. At this point in the season, it’s all we can reasonably expect. Well that and better situational hitting.
When that happen, we will see a much better brand of baseball much like we saw tonight.
Right around this time, the moon will pass between the Earth and the sun bringing darkness across the country . . . or as Mets fans like to call it, the perfect euphemism for the 2017 season.
We’ve seen Noah Syndergaard go down for the season, and we are not sure when Jeurys Familia can come back. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler were mishandled coming back from their injuries. Steven Matz had another injury plagued year. We never did get to see David Wright play this season, and we do not know if we will ever get to see him play again.
With the poor season the Mets are having, Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Rene Rivera, and Neil Walker have been moved and are now playing for teams with an actual shot at the postseason. The moves didn’t bring back much, and there were rumors the Mets were more interested in salary relief than anything causing fans to go back to a dark place they resided at the inception of the Madoff scandal.
The thing is, the eclipse today will last just a brief time. Sandy Alderson has an entire offseason to get to work. If ownership lets him spend the money, and with a little help on the health front, the Mets dark period will last just for the 2017 season. If it is business as usual, this isn’t an eclipse – we’re back to the Dark Ages.