Yesterday, Chase Utley had a press conference to announce he was going to retire from baseball at the end of the season. As a Mets fan, this probably should make you elated.
After all, back from his days in Philadelphia, he has been nothing but a dirty player, and he has been a villain. For proof of that look no further than that tackle which not only broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg, but it really ruined his career. Just remember that as people write and talk about Utley being a hard-nosed player who “played the game the right way.”
Utley is also the guy who completely embarrassed Noah Syndergaard and the Mets. Really, Shawn Estes‘ message to Roger Clemens was more heartful, and really much closer, than the message Syndergaard tried to send that night. As a bonus, we did get that great Terry Collins‘ ejection video.
If you’ve been a Mets fan long enough, there are many, many, many more Utley moments which will instantly spring to mind.
So yeah, in a sense it’s good for the Mets that Utley is gone much in the same way it was good to see players like Chipper Jones retire.
However, the Mets and their fans are nowhere near a position to celebrate the retirement like Utley, even if he was a coward ducking the Mets and and their fans during the NLDS.
Ulitmately, it’s really hard to care when the Mets not only chose to employ the 35 year old Jose Reyes, but they also play him over Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil, and really any player who could hit better than .164/.246/.227.
So, people can go ahead and celebrate Utley’s retirement and pretend like the bad guy is gone. It’s not true.
The real bad guy, the one who is a Met right now because he threw his wife through a glass door, is still with the Mets, and he’s become a major impediment to the Mets organization moving forward and improving for the future.
So congrats on a great career to Utley. He may have been dirty and ruined careers, but at least he didn’t beat his wife and complain to the press to help take playing time away from players he was supposed to mentor.
Initially, we planned to run a roundtable on our thoughts about the job Mickey Callaway is doing, but with Sandy Alderson announcing his cancer has returned and due to personal issues, it turns out that roundtable needed to be delayed.
Being a glass half full kind of person, the Mets performance did little to change the opinions set forth on the job Callaway has been doing with the Mets:
Well, Gary Apple called him ‘Mickey Collins’ the other day. That should say enough. Someone on Twitter correctly noted that if Aaron Boone was the manager of the Mets and Mickey helmed the Yankees, those teams’ current records would be exactly the same. *That *should say enough, except the sentences that “say enough” kind of talk over one another, don’t they? So I’ll say that I don’t think we should say “enough” to Mick, while acknowledging he is over-matched, since this fact is obvious yet forgivable. It’s his first time doing this, and none of his coaching staff can say they’ve managed a major league club before without lying. He’s also dealing with a much more crowded kitchen, full of men who think they are cooks because they bought chef costumes, than he could have possibly imagined.
He might be overmatched for the city, not the job. When he said “New York is tough on players,” I think he may have been admitting he wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of media and fan pressure. Willie Randolph played here, and he couldn’t handle it either. I think he’s been forced to follow a script, which is why I think so many of his moves have backfired — much like Terry Collins — but I also thinkhe’s made a few of his own dopey decisions. He reminds me of former New York Giants defensive coordinator Rod Rust; whose read and react defense stifled his own team.
End of the day, if you’re going to struggle and you’re going to lose, lose young and lose playing aggressive. I can take losing, I watched the 1978 Mets. But this guy is boring me to death…
Callaway increasingly comes across as the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s terrific before a season or a game, when nothing has yet gone wrong. In game and afterward, it’s a debacle.
There must be an immense disconnect between how he presented himself while getting the job and everything we’ve seen since the middle of April, as if he just never fully accounted for what managing in real time would be like.
I often listen and get the gist of what he’s saying as he attempts to explain away the latest loss (or losing streak) but am amazed at how he only makes it worse. It’s not the biggest part of his job, but it is an element. Eloquence isn’t everything, of course. We’d also take a tight-lipped winner.
Editor’s Note: Greg wrote a more extensive piece on his thoughts about Callaway on FAFIF. It’s well worth a read.
Initially, I did not believe Callaway was over-matched for the job in the sense he was unable to do the job well from a personal standpoint. However, I did believe him being over-matched in terms of the roster and talent at his disposal on a nightly basis. When your end game options is watching Jose Reyes pop or ground out in a pinch hitting attempt and picking who from Chris Beck, Jerry Blevins, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, etal you want to blow the lead, you’re going to look over-matched.
That said, Callaway made a decision yesterday which has given me pause. After Reyes completely dogged it on a grounder Saturday night, Callaway double switched Reyes into the game.
If Reyes was hurt, give him the extra day. If he wasn’t, he needs to be benched. In either event, Reyes can not play a day after completely dogging it.
However, he did play, which now makes all questions about Callaway’s ability to control the game and the clubhouse fair game.
Once again, I want to thank everyone for the well wishes and these excellent writers for contributing to the roundtable. Please make sure you take time to read their great sites, and there’s no excuse this week with a link being provided to FAFIF.
Over the past week, the Mets have had a number of bullpen meltdowns, and it just seems like no matter what Mickey Callaway does he is making the wrong decision. After the 12-2 start, the Mets have dipped down a few times to .500, but they have not fallen below that .500 mark quite yet. Criticism is starting to come from all directions including from Mike Francesca, who from his shiny new Twitter account, jabbed, “Imagine the problems the Mets would be having if the team wasn’t in the hands of a pitching guru?”
Considering it’s after Memorial Day, which has long been an unofficial litmus test for teams, now is as good a time as any for the Mets Bloggers to proffer what their level of confidence is in Callaway:
Michael Baron (MLB)
It’s hard to conclude anything – positively or negatively – in 2 months. It’s just not fair. We can definitely argue he has made mistakes, hope he has learned lessons, and dealing with the balance between stats, plans and gut feelings. But it’s 50 games – I’m hoping the next 50 games show growth in these areas. But it would help if his players could execute and he had more tools in his bag.
He’s still in my circle of trust. I don’t understand why he told every reliever to suddenly perform as awfully as possible, but maybe he read about an Argentinian tech company who used a similar unorthodox team building exercise to eventually acquire record fourth quarter sales numbers? You just don’t know with that guy. But seriously folks, it doesn’t matter what order he puts in the veteran, high-priced relievers and Jason Vargas if they are all bad, so I don’t see how you can yell at Mickey for AJ Ramos turning into the world’s most charismatic pumpkin. And because he doesn’t want a phone call from Frederick and/or Jeffrey, Jose Reyes gets a start or two a week.
It takes more than two months to undo eight years of foolishness. The Mets FIP last year was 4.49; this year it’s at 3.92 despite brutal starts by key pitchers. Sure, his lineup choices are odd, his in-game decisions even odder, but they resemble some of Terry Collins‘ head-scratchers. What’s the common denominator? A meddlesome COO (Reyes) and a front office that seems to be scripting the daily lineup and BP usage. That’s my take, anyway. I have confidence in Mickey. Let’s see if he can start wresting more of the in-game stuff away from the suits.
My feeling is the manager can win or cost a team around 5 games per season. I think he’s doing fine but baseball managers have always been later on my list of team priorities, right below training and medical staff.
Sometimes, it’s incumbent on the players to make plays. Not everything can be traced back to a bad managerial move. Now should be the time to look at Sandy and what kind of depth he has set the team up with to endure something like this.
I don’t not trust him. How’s that? Unfair to withdraw one’s faith one-third into a manager’s first season, though the impression I get is 1) he’s groping for answers, patterns and/or a change of luck; 2) actually managing is more difficult than doing it in theory. I’m sure we’d all discover the same had we really impressed in our interview for the job.
While we have been rightly focusing on the bullpen meltdowns and Callaway’s missteps in causing some of those meltdowns, we are missing some of the real good he is doing. Amed Rosario is blossoming, and Brandon Nimmo has made himself into a real good Major League leadoff hitter under his watch. We’ve also seen Callaway coax a second (or third) act out of the careers of Adrian Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, and Devin Mesoraco.
While we expected Callaway to pull a Rumplestiltskin and weave a gold out of a collection of broken arms, his job is much more than that. He’s in charge of a full 25 man roster, and there is enough there with his work with the full roster to believe he was the right man, and that he will continue learning and growing on the job.
While there may be some question about the job Callaway is doing and his future as a manager, one thing is for certain – this is a terrific group of writers, and I encourage everyone to take the time out to read their excellent writing on Callaway and all things Mets.
Back in 2013, the Cincinnati Reds had their second consecutive 90 win season. Unfortunately for them, they were not able to make the postseason like they were the previous year when they were bounced from the NLDS by the San Francisco Giants. Due to a number of factors, there was an open question after that season how long the Reds could keep this core group together.
At the same time, the New York Mets finished the season in third place in the National League East with a 74-88 record. In that season, the team saw a rejuvenated David Wright, and Matt Harveywas the talk of the town, at least until he needed Tommy John surgery.
Using that all as a backdrop, imagine explaining to a person from 2013 how the Harvey deal went down . . .
2018: Well, no . . .
2013: So wait, tell me which Reds are members of the Mets now.
2018: Well, no, not exactly.
2013: I’m guessing Davis never got over the Valley Fever.
2018: While I’m not sure if it was Valley Fever, Davis is no longer in the majors. In fact, he’s trying to pitch now.
2013: And I’m guessing despite the team shoving him down our throats, I’m assuming Duda never panned out.
2018: Actually, he became a 30 home run hitter.
2013: Really, so if that’s the case, why are the Mets looking to move him off first? Do they really think he can play the outfield? He was dreadful out there.
2018: No, no, no, no. Duda signed as a free agent with the Royals.
2013: Ok, so the Mets got Frazier to play first.
2018: No, they signed him to play third.
2013: So, Wright is playing first.
2018: About that . . .
2013: Francesca always yammered on and on about how he belongs at third because of his arm. Honestly, I can’t believe the Mets listened to that blowhard. Speaking of which, I’m sure he gloated about that for at least a week.
2018: Believe it or not, Francesca was retired when the Mets got Frazier.
2013: With Francesca retired, who is now on during the drive home?
2018: It’s a long story, but it’s Francesa. He unretired.
2013: Of course he did. And he’s probably telling us all the time how Wright shouldn’t be compared to Derek Jeter because Wright hasn’t won, and Jeter does everything perfect.
2018: Believe it or not, Jeter owns the Marlins.
2013: Like, he’s still playing, and he won the World Series MVP?
2018: No, he’s actually a part owner of the Marlins.
2013: The media must love him and the Marlins now.
2018: People think Jeter is a prick now. He fired a cancer patient while he was in the hospital.
2018: Oh yeah, he’s alienated everyone, including their biggest fan, Marlins Man.
2013: What’s a Marlins Man?
2018: It’s this guy who goes across the country sitting behind home plate of every nationally televised game while wearing an orange Marlins jersey.
2013: That’s a thing?
2018: For a while now.
2013: So let me get this straight. In the future, Jeter owns the Marlins. Francesca pretends to be Brett Favre. There is some guy who is a celebrity because he’s rich and wears an orange Marlins jersey, and the Mets displaced Wright in favor of Frazier.
2018: I hate to tell you this, but Wright’s career is done.
2013: With the Mets? I knew the Wilpons wouldn’t pay him. Where did he go? Please don’t tell me he’s a Yankee.
2018: No, Wright’s baseball career. It’s over.
2013: Shut up. He would be just, what, 34?
2018: He’s 35.
2013: So, what? He’s the Mets Don Mattingly?
2018: He is. Back in 2015, when the Mets went to the World Series
2013: THE METS WENT TO THE WORLD SERIES?!?!?!?!?
2018: They did.
2013: Wow, Terry Collins must’ve really turned things around with better players.
2018: Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.
2013: Sorry, you were saying about Wright.
2018: Anyway, Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He was actually able to play in the World Series, but after that point his career was essentially over.
2013: That’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard.
2018: Well, it gets worse.
2013: How could it get worse?
2018: Well aside from the Mets losing the 2015 World Series –
2013: Oh, they lost? To who?
2018: The Royals.
2013: HOW! THEY ALWAYS SUCK!
2018: Well, for two years they didn’t, and they were helped along by some really bad decisions by Collins in that World Series, including leaving Harvey out too long.
2013: Let me guess. Hurt again.
2018: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, but not because of that. At least, I don’t think.
2013: Thor – what?
2018: No, not Noah Syndergaard. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
2013: Wait, Syndergaard calls himself Thor.
2018: Yeah, and he picks fights with Mr. Met on Twitter.
2013: I thought Mr. Met doesn’t talk.
2018: Yeah, it’s this whole thing. You know what. Nevermind, it’s even dumber when you explain it.
2013: Fine, what’s the deal with Harvey again?
2018: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. At best it’s a shoulder condition that changes your career. For some, it ends it. Remember Josh Beckett?
2013: Yeah, he was bad last year.
2018: That’s why.
2013: So wait, the Mets went to a World Series with an injured Harvey and Wright?
2018: Well, Harvey wasn’t injured yet.
2013: But now he is. Well, I got to give it to Sandy. He was able to turn Harvey and Herrera into Bruce, Frazier, and Mesoraco, who was a promising catcher.
2018: Well, the Mets did use Herrera to get Bruce. Frazier was a free agent, and the Mets used Harvey to get Mesoraco.
2013: Wow, that was one first round draft pick which really must’ve worked out for the Reds. You’d hope for more for Harvey, but still, you have to give Sandy credit for getting a young impressive catcher for Harvey before Harvey broke down.
2018: Oh, Mesoraco is broken down himself. He’s had shoulder and hip issues. He can’t play everyday, and he’s been hovering around the Mendoza line for years.
2013: So, let me get this straight.
2018: Go ahead.
2013: Wright is broken. Harvey is broken. They also got Mesoraco, who is also broken. Ike is both broken and a pitcher.
2018: Pretty much.
2018: You know what? I think that’s enough for right now.
In September 2015, Scott Boras tried to intervene and limit Matt Harvey‘s innings in what could be perceived as an attempt to save the pitcher not just from the Mets, but also from himself. There would be a modified schedule and some skipped starts, but Harvey eventually took the shackles off because he wanted the ball.
Harvey always wanted the ball.
He wanted the ball in the NL East clincher against the Reds. Instead of the five innings he was supposed to pitch, he pitched into the seventh because, well, he wanted to get ready for the postseason, and the Mets were lucky he did.
Harvey won a pivotal Game 3 of the NLDS. With that series going five games, it was Harvey who got the ball in Game 1 of the NLCS. In front of a raucous Citi Field crowd, Harvey set the tone for that series. As he stepped off the mound with two outs in the eighth, he wasn’t tipping his cap. No, he was pumped up like all of Citi Field was because he knew what we all knew . . . this team was going to the World Series.
When telling the story of Matt Harvey, we will forever go back to Game 5. With the Mets team trying to rally back from a 3-1 series deficit, Harvey wanted the ball for the ninth. Terry Collins initially wanted Jeurys Familia, but he relented, and he gave Harvey the ball.
You’d be hard pressed to find a time in Citi Field history louder than when Harvey took the mound in that ninth. A blown lead and Game 5 loss later, you’d never find Citi Field more despondent.
Now, looking back, that Game 5 was the microcosm of Harvey’s Mets career.
He came in, and he gave us all hope the impossible could happen. He brought us all along for the ride. There was no one we wanted out there more than Harvey. And yet at the very end, despite all the hope and brilliance he brought, we were all left in disbelief, and yes, some in tears, over the how and why Harvey was still out there.
Mainly, Harvey was there because despite no matter what anyone said, Harvey wanted to be there, and he was not going to let anyone stop him.
And you know what? Back in 2013, no one could stop him.
In 26 starts, Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9. His 2.01 FIP that year would not only lead the Majors, but it would be one of the 10 best over the past 100 years. His WHIP still remains a single season Mets record. It may have seemed premature to put him in the conversation with Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, but really, it made sense. Harvey was just that good.
He was the reason to watch a terrible Mets team, and on May 7th, he may have pitched the game of his life. If not for an Alex Rios infield single Ruben Tejada could not turn into an out, Harvey likely pitches a perfect game. Instead, he had to settle for a no decision despite allowing just one hit and 12 strikeouts in nine innings. Just file that away next time someone points out his win-loss record.
That game was the signature Harvey moment. He took the mound with a bloody nose. He was reaching near triple digits with this fastball. He was becoming a superstar. He was making Citi Field his playground.
When we look through the history of Citi Field one day, it will be Harvey who emerged as it’s first superstar. He was the one who brought the crowds. He started the first All Star Game at Citi Field. Arguably, he pitched the two best games ever pitched by a Met at that ballpark.
It would be that 2013 season Harvey broke. He tore his UCL, and he needed Tommy John surgery. Mets fans everywhere who were once so hopeful were crushed. There were many low moments in Mets history since the team moved to Citi Field, but that one is among the lowest.
But when he came back in 2015, hope returned. He may not have been 2013 great, but he was great. For all the criticism over his innings limits, he would throw more innings than any pitcher in baseball history in their first season back from Tommy John.
Looking back at that 2015 season, Harvey gave the Mets and their fans everything he had. He pitched great in the regular season, and he was even better in the postseason. Just like in 2013, he was trying to will the Mets back to prominence. He was taking an organization on his back and trying to win a World Series.
It broke him in 2013, and apparently, it broke him again in 2015.
Really, when he stepped off that mound in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey was done as we knew him. In 2016, he’d be diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome requiring season ending surgery. Last year, Harvey was rushed back to the rotation before he was physically ready, and he suffered a stress reaction. This year, he was healthy, but lost.
Looking back, no one will ever know if Harvey listened to Boras if he’d still be The Dark Knight instead of a guy now looking for a job.
The real shame is how Harvey went out. The same guy who heard the loudest ovations from the fans, the same one who heard Mets fans serenade Stephen Strasburg with “Harvey’s Better!” chants, was booed off the mound the last time he ever pitched on what had once been his mound.
There are some who will find behavioral excuses why Harvey faulted, and maybe they do exist. However, you’d be hard pressed to find a pitcher who was at the top of his game in November only to completely lose it by the next April. Most pitchers get a transition period to figure things out. Harvey’s cruel fate was he had more injuries followed by his getting about a month and a half before being given an ultimatum.
In what once seemed impossible, Harvey was designated for assignment. Sure, Mets fans always expected him to leave one day, but we all thought it would be Harvey who spurned the cheap Wilpon family, not the Wilpons kicking him out the door despite the team still owing him around $4 million.
Much has been made of the Mets crop of starting pitchers, the group who brought them to the 2015 World Series. Make no mistake, Harvey was the best out of the group. Better than Jacob deGrom. Better than Noah Syndergaard.
Really, he was better than anyone not named Seaver or Gooden, and if things had broken right, Harvey could have been a Hall of Famer. He was that good when he was healthy, but he wasn’t healthy making him this generation’s version of Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, or Jon Matlack.
Harvey being designated for assignment wasn’t a shock. With every struggle on the mound, and yes, some personal issues that emerged, he was getting closer and closer to this point. It doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt the Mets fan, the ones who got to experience in the joy of seeing the real Harvey pitch, any less.
There will come a day down the line where all will be forgiven, and we can all just look back and appreciate all Harvey did for the Mets. We can take a step back and marvel how he potentially sacrificed his entire career to win that one World Series. Really, he has never been thanked or appreciated enough for that.
Now, he is looking for a new team and a new fan base. Hopefully, Harvey rediscovers some of that magic he once had, and hopefully, he gets those cheers again. He’s certainly earned them.
And when he does return to Citi Field, whether it be this year or the next, let’s hope he gets that true standing ovation he deserved, the one he might’ve received on Thursday had we all known it was going to be his last game in a Mets uniform.
No matter what happens, Mets fans everywhere should wish him the best of luck. There was a time we showered him with all the love we had, and he returned the favor by giving us everything he had. Everything. Here’s hoping he gets everything he is looking for in his next stop.
I know no matter what he does, I’m rooting of him. More than that I appreciate Harvey for all he did as a Met. Really, best of luck to you, Matt Harvey.
Last night, Matt Harvey had another low moment in his Mets career. Really after Terry Collins went to the mound in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, it has been nothing but low moments for Harvey. He’s was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, forever complained about his mechanics, and he had stress reactions from being rushed back to the rotation.
Now, this was supposed to be the year Harvey turned it around. He had Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland there to help get him back on track. He is also a pending free agent, and the assumption always is Scott Boras free agents always have their best years in their contract walk years.
In his first start of the season, there was a real glimmer of hope. In five innings, Harvey limited what is a pretty decent Phillies lineup to one hit over five scoreless innings while striking out five and walking one. He focused more on locating than blowing it by batters. Really, this is what everyone agrees Harvey needs to be now, and he looked great doing it.
Since then, he hasn’t been quite as good. Against the Nationals, he fooled no one allowing four runs on nine hits and one walk in five innings, and he only struck out two. That said, Harvey did keep the Mets in the game. That’s something he has failed to do in his two subsequent starts.
The worst of which being last night with the Braves tattooing Harvey in two separate innings to score six runs.
Even with that, if you wanted to find a silver lining, it was there for you as Harvey retired 11 of the last 12 Braves he faced. After the adversity of the first and third innings, he didn’t meldown. He refocused, and he at least got the Mets through the sixth inning. If you wanted to justify giving him another start, you had it right there.
As it stands anyway, it does not seem like Jason Vargas is going to be ready in five days. Corey Oswalt was held out of his last start with an illness meaning he’s no longer lined up for Harvey’s next start, and it’s not likely Chris Flexen is going to be lined up for Harvey’s next start either.
With the Mets in the midst of 10 straight games without an off day, and the team playing 15 games over the next 16 days, including stops at Atlanta, St. Louis, and San Diego, they should avoid using Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo for a spot start. The bullpen has issues of its own with the team twice needing to go into the minors to get a fresh arm, and after Gerson Bautista‘s performance last night, they may need to do it again. The bullpen issues need not be exacerbated for the sake of one start.
Really, all signs indicate Harvey should probably get just one more start. However, if that does happen Jose Lobaton cannot be the one who catches him.
In the two starts they have been paired, Harvey has an 8.18 ERA and batters are hitting .348/.367/.630 off of him. Contrast that to the 3.60 ERA and .250/.302/.375 batting line opposing batters have off of him when d’Arnaud caught him.
Maybe it’s just the reflection of small sample sizes. Maybe its’ the difference in opponents. Maybe Harvey doesn’t jive well with Lobaton, or maybe Harvey needs a good pitch framer to get those borderline strikes to ensure he doesn’t have to pitch closer to the strike and hitting zone.
Whatever the case, we’ve seen a glimmer of hope with Harvey. The team needs one more start out of him before Vargas returns. You’ve invested so much into him the past few seasons. Give him one last chance with the best chance to succeed with Tomas Nido behind the plate.
If that doesn’t work, you can honestly say you’ve tried all you can do, and it’s time to discuss bullpen, minors, or releasing him. But before you do that, just give him one last start with every chance for him to succeed.
Look, it was bound to happen. The revamped and praised bullpen was finally going to have a meltdown. Mickey Callaway was going to have a game leaving fans scratching their heads a bit leading up to him getting criticized. The fact it came against the Nationals was tough. The fact it was a blown 6-1 lead was tougher. The combination of the two left a really sour taste in your mouth despite the Mets 12-3 start.
In that eighth inning, the Mets would use five pitchers who allowed six runs on five hits, three walks, and a hit batter. Two of those walks were bases loaded walks. With the exception of Jacob deGrom, each and every pitcher who appeared that inning has some explaining to do.
Naturally, when you have a complete bullpen meltdown like that, much like we saw cause the 2008 Mets collapse, there are going to be some questions about how Callaway handled the inning. Let’s take a look.
Questionable Decision No. 1 – Lifting deGrom
At the time Callaway lifted deGrom, the Mets had a 6-1 lead in the top of the eighth. A Michael Taylor strikeout was book-ended by a pair of singles by Moises Sierra and Trea Turner. At that point, deGrom had thrown 103 pitches, and he was about to go to the Nationals lineup a fourth time.
Before moving on, some key stats should be considered. In his career, batters hit .277/.300/.447 when facing deGrom for a fourth time. However, that stat should be mitigated by the batter Howie Kendrick.
For his career, Kendrick is hitting .087 with no walks or extra base hits against deGrom. Last night, Kendrick was 0-3 with three strikeouts against deGrom.
By removing deGrom, Callaway opened himself up to second guessing. That second guessing grew louder when Seth Lugo, who had been excellent this year, walked Kendrick on four straight pitches.
Question Decision No. 2 – Using Lugo for One Batter
As noted above, with Harper on deck and Blevins warming, whoever you brought into the game to face Kendrick was only going to be in for one batter, so why Lugo?
There is a time to experiment with your bullpen guys to give them a different taste of different moments, but a game against the Nationals just isn’t that moment. Not when there was something brewing that caused you to go out there and bring in a reliever to nip a potential rally in the bud.
Since you are bringing Blevins into the game to face Harper anyway, you could have used him to pitch to Kendrick. After all, Kendrick is just 1-8 off Blevins. Even if Kendrick hits an unlikely homer, you are still up 6-4 at that point, and you have Blevins to face Harper.
Instead, Lugo was put in an unfamiliar situation, and he struggled. That doesn’t excuse Lugo’s performance in the least. He should have gone out there and recorded the out, or at least forced Kendrick to put the ball in play. Really, this at-bat was a seminal moment as this is where the rally really began to build momentum and begin to spiral out of control.
Questionable Decision No. 3 – Using Ramos
Iseemed odd Callaway would go to AJ Ramos over getting Jeurys Familia into the game at that spot. Heading into this season, Callaway spoke about getting his best relievers into the biggest spots of the game regardless of whether there was a save situation or not. That’s not what happened.
Instead of using Familia to nip the rally in the bud and let Ramos start a clean ninth, Callaway took a page out of Terry Collins book and saved his closer. He also used Ramos, who has allowed 24.5% of inherited runners to score in his career. Now, to be fair, Callaway may have wanted to shy away from Familia who has had a fairly high workload this season. Still, you have to wonder why Ramos there.
Out of anyone in the Mets bullpen, Ramos has the highest walk rate with a scary 4.9 BB/9 for his career. That included his walking six batters in the 6.1 innings he had pitched entering last night’s game. Bringing Ramos into this game into a powder keg of a situation could potentially light a fuse and blow the game.
It started out well with Ramos over powering Ryan Zimmerman to get the second out, and the Nationals sent up Matt Reynolds to the plate. Right here was why the Mets should have never lost this game. It’s also why using a walk prone Ramos is dangerous.
Reynolds, who is a career .224/.294/.393 hitter with an 8.1% walk rate, walked on four straight pitches to make it 6-4.
Questionable Decision No. 4 – Double Switching Flores into the Game
When Callaway brought Familia into the game, he obviously had the intention of using him for the four out save. With the pitcher’s spot due up second in the bottom of the inning, Callaway understandably double switched him into the game.
What is interesting is Juan Lagares had made the last out of the bottom of the seventh. By the book, you swap him out. Being smarter than that, Callaway didn’t do that instead opting to keep his best fielder in the game in a crucial spot. Instead, he went back and pulled Adrian Gonzalez.
Now, Gonzalez isn’t the four Gold Glove Gonzalez anymore. In 92.1 innings this season, he has a -1 DRS and 0.1 UZR. It’s a small sample size, but it is in line with what he’s been the past few seasons. His dimished skill and range were prevalent when Harper had hit an RBI single earlier that inning between him and Asdrubal Cabrera. That was more on Cabrera’s range, but it did speak to the limited range on the right side of the Mets infield.
Now, Flores arguably has more range than Gonzalez with a 0.2 UZR at first this year and a 2.3 UZR over the past three seasons. However, he’s not yet good enough to consider using him for defense late in games at any position. In fact, he also has a -1 DRS at first this year but in just 45.2 innings. Flores’ poor defense and relative inexperience MIGHT have been at play when Wilmer Difo hit a single by him. Whether Gonzalez gets to that or not, we’ll never know.
Another important point here is with Flores being double switched into the game, you do not get to deploy him against a left-handed pitcher. Instead, you have to use him against a right-handed one. Flores has improved against right-handed pitching, but not to the point where he’s your first option over Yoenis Cespedes or Jay Bruce.
As an aside, what would have been so wrong if Familia batted? If he immediately gets out of the inning, you have a two run lead. Let him go up there and take his strikeout, and you have your optimal defense for the eighth and ninth innings. Instead, you weakened your infield defense with a power sinker pitcher, and you didn’t try to get a platoon advantage with Flores coming off the bench.
Questionable Decision No. 5 – No Gsellman At All
Arguably, Robert Gsellman has either been the Mets best or second best reliever this season. In a pressure filled spot, you would think you would’ve found a spot for him, especially at a time when you were looking to get a ground ball double play to get out of the inning. Instead, Callaway decided to go with Ramos and an obviously fatigued Familia.
When you have a complete meltdown like the Mets had, there is little a manager can do but pray. Really, Callaway is getting second guessed because the Mets lost a game where they had a five run lead with one out in the eighth inning. You should never lose those games.
Lugo can’t walk Kendrick on four pitches. Blevins has to get Harper out in that situation. Ramos can’t walk and hit batters. Familia needs to dig just a little deeper and not hit a batter or walk in the go-ahead run.
Also, someone needed to make a play. Two balls where hit between the first and second baseman. Cabrera couldn’t make a play on either. Certainly, you could argue an infielder with even average range gets to the Harper single. Cabrera would then exacerbate his inability to make a play in the field by getting bizarrely aggressive on the base paths getting thrown out at third with one out in the ninth inning. That was inexcusable.
Really, this game was your typical Callaway game. When it comes to his bullpen, he’s going to be a little more aggressive than most in what is typically his attempt to put his players in the best position to succeed. In his first 15 games, it seems he’d rather put players in a position to succeed than leave them out there and let them make a play.
Until last night, that made Callaway look like a genius. Last night? Well, it made him look like a meddling over-manager. Ultimately, that’s the way it goes with not just managing, but managing in New York.
Whatever the case, after that brutal loss, we are really going to find out something about both Callaway and this Mets team. Do they get off the mat and show the Nationals they’re the better team? Do they come out shell-shocked and lose this game?
Right now, we don’t know, but we are soon going to find out just how special both this team and this manager is and can be.
While being a Mets fan may come with some trials and tribulations, the one day Mets fans are typically happy is Opening Day. Heading into today’s game, the Mets were 36-20 all time on Opening Day, which is the best Opening Day winning percentage in Major League history. As a result, the Mets are usually 1-0, and their manager looks like a genius.
Today, new Mets Manager Mickey Callaway looked like a genius.
When you looked at the Opening Day lineup, you knew immediately this was no longer Terry Collins‘ Mets. The lineup not only had the Mets best hitter, Yoenis Cespedes, batting second, it also had Noah Syndergaard batting eighth and Amed Rosario batting ninth. If you were skeptical of the decision, the Mets quickly put you at ease.
Kevin Plawecki reached on a one out walk, and he remained there after Syndergaard struck out. With two outs and the lead-off hitter behind him, Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez challenged Rosario with fastballs. Rosario shot a single up the middle putting runners one first and second with two outs.
Brandon Nimmo did what Brandon Nimmo does, and he drew a walk. Cespedes came up with the bases loaded, and he delivered with a two out RBI single, which at the time gave the Mets a 3-2 lead. And with that, Callaway looked like a genius.
Frankly, it’s easy to look like a genius when everyone plays as well as the Mets did today.
Nimmo set the tone getting hit by the first pitch of the game and eventually scoring on a Jose Martinez throwing error on what could have been an Asdrubal Cabrera double play grounder. Instead of an inning ending double play, the Mets scored a first inning run without getting a base hit. That’s what happens when you draw nine walks in the game.
Speaking of Nimmo, he was brilliant today. He went 2-3 with two runs, a walk, and the aforementioned hit by pitch. With Michael Conforto reportedly being much closer to being ready to start his season, Nimmo is going to need more games like this to stay in the starting lineup.
So will Adrian Gonzalez. The veteran was coming off a horrific injury plagued 2017 season where the Dodgers not only didn’t miss him as they won the pennant, it seemed they didn’t even want him around. Nor did the Braves for that matter, as after a trade, they are paying him almost $22 million to play for an NL East rival.
Between that, his terrible Spring Training, and his soft line out to short in his first at-bat, helooked done. He wouldn’t make another out on the game going 2-3 with a run, double, two walks, and an RBI.
In situations like this, you want your players to make the decision about who should sit and who should play to be extraordinarily difficult. Based on Nimmo’s and Gonzalez’s play, Callaway’s decision will just be that.
Overall, the Mets offense and unconventional lineup was humming. The team scored nine runs on 12 hits highlighted by a five run fifth where they not only chased Martinez, but also former Mets prospect Matthew Bowman.
Every Mets starter, save Syndergaard, reached base at least once safely. Cespedes and Rosario were the only ones who did not draw a walk. However, when Rosario is attacking first pitch fastballs to the tune of a 2-4 day with two runs and two RBI, you don’t mind his over-aggressiveness at the plate.
About the only negative on the day was seeing Yadier Molina homer. That just brought back too many raw emotions from 2006. Some of that sting was taken away with Molina suffering the indignity of Jay Bruce stealing a base off of him.
With Syndergaard, you had some real reason for excitement. He became just the second Mets pitcher to strike out 10 on Opening Day. He needed just 85 pitches to get through six innings. Yes, he would give up the two homers, but overall, he seemed poised and ready to have a dominating 2018 season.
Speaking of dominating, the Mets bullpen came out and completely shut the door on the Cardinals. Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia combined to pitch three scoreless and hitless innings. Gsellman was the most impressive striking out the side in the seventh. This bullpen performance will make you forget about the Cardinals getting Greg Holland over the Mets for one day.
And for this one day, Gonzalez is rejuvenated, the bullpen is lights out, Callaway is a genuis, and the Mets are the best team in baseball. Sure, it seems that way almost every Opening Day as a Mets fan, but at least for tonight, let’s just believe this will carry on well into October.
Game Notes: A number 10 was placed on the back of the mound to honor the recently deceased Rusty Staub. Syndergaard joined Pedro Martinez as the only Mets starter to have a double digit strikeout game on Opening Day. This was the first time a Mets starter made back-to-back Opening Day starts since Johan Santana did it from 2008 – 2010.
As I do from time to time, we need a “completely serious” analysis and projection of each and every Mets player who is expected to contribute during the 2018 season. While there are many prjoection systems which claim to be fool-proof, there are none that will be this accurate about the Mets:
Sandy Alderson – The other 29 GMs in baseball will be left in complete hysterics when Alderson is calling around for a right-handed reliever to help boost the team’s chances to making the postseason.
Mickey Callaway – The writers will overwhelmingly vote him as the National League Manager of the Year. The most cited reason for giving him the award will be the fact he didn’t insist on playing his worst players or forcing his players to play through crippling injuries.
Dave Eiland– Multiple Mets pitchers will hug him for actually fixing their mechanics and for listening to them when they say they’re hurting.
Tyler Bashlor – When someone notices how similar his name is to the ABC reality show hit The Bachelor, they’ll say how “The Bashlor” is handing out strikeouts like they’re roses. We should all hate that person.
Jerry Blevins– Until he eats a sandwich, the socks given away in his honor will hang around his ankles
Bryce Brentz– He’s going to be the guy who has one or two at-bats this season, and someone is going to invoke his name as a former Met to try to sound like he knows more about the Mets than you know anything.
Jay Bruce– After a four home run game, all Mets fans will want to talk about is when he is going to move to first base.
Asdrubal Cabrera – After a slump, Callaway will move Cabrera down in the lineup causing Cabrera to bring his kids to the clubhouse and have them ask why Callaway doesn’t want them to eat.
Jamie Callahan– His wearing #43 will serve as a constant reminder that not only was he part of the return for Addison Reed, but also how the Mets turned quality MLB players into six right-handed relief prospects. That will be the worst possible sequel to I Know What You Did Last Summer.
Yoenis Cespedes – After an MVP caliber first half, he will feel like he has earned just one game of golf as a reward during the All Star Break. He will immediately be vilified.
Michael Conforto – After a huge cut and a swing and miss, Conforto will wince for a moment thereby causing a passionate Mets fans behind home plate to have a heart attack. This will led to a call for the netting to be filled in and for fans to have to watch the game on a tape delay.
Travis d’Arnaud– During a remarkably healthy season, he will finally be forced to catch Syndergaard, who had spent most of the seaosn with Plawecki as his personal catcher. On the first pitch of the game, Syndergaard throws a 101 MPH fastball which immediately shatters d’Arnaud’s hand.
Jacob deGrom– After a slump, he’s going to look to grow his hair out. Once he realizes his hair cannot possibly reach it’s old length during the 2018, he’s going to grow a really long beard and change his entrance music to “Legs” by ZZ Top.
Phillip Evans– When he cashes in his check for his postseason share, Evans will fondly remember that April pinch hitting appearance.
Wilmer Flores – He will be in such hysterics during his struggles in his first game in the outfield his crying on the field in 2015 will look like a case of the sniffles.
Todd Frazier– It will take many Mets fans a long time to come to grips that Jersey Boy Todd Frazier does not use a Bruce Springsteen song as his walk-up music. That point will finally come when they realize Frank Sinatra is from Hoboken and not NYC.
Robert Gsellman – As he continues to wait in Las Vegas for his opportunity to get back to the Majors, he will eventually care what Sandy Alderson thinks of him.
Matt Harvey – He’s going to pull a reverse Ben Affleck by going from The Dark Knight moniker to Daredevil. He will earn that name by following Eiland’s instructions to throw inside with such reckless abandon to the point where people start to question if he’s gone blind.
Juan Lagares – After once again injuring his thumb on a diving attempt, the Mets will finally realize Lagares’ injures were the result of him literally using a gold glove to try to play center. While they found the answer and solution for the thumb injuries, they will still be perplexed on how to fix his hitting.
Seth Lugo– We won’t know if people keep referring to the hook with him because of his incredible curveball or because of how Callaway won’t let him face a lineup for a third time.
Brandon Nimmo– Despite putting up great numbers, the Mets will inform Nimmo they unfortunately have to send him down to Triple-A due to a temporary roster squeeze. When he’s still smiling through the ordeal, they will force him to seek psychological counseling.
Kevin Plawecki– On a day when the Mets are getting blown out, the frustrated Plawecki will use the last of his six mound visits to derisively tell his pitcher he can pitch better than this. The pitcher will remind him he has a better batting average than Plawecki.
Jose Reyes– One day, he will hit a triple and score on a mad dash to home plate. He will have that old Reyes smile, and it will electrify the crowd. It will also cause everyone to forget that he is one of the worst position players in all of baseball.
T.J. Rivera – After he comes off the disabled list, he’ll deliver in the clutch for the Mets and his teammates will honor him as the player of the game. The Mets will make sure he’s not standing in front of Plawecki’s locker when they take a photo to tweet out.
Hansel Robles– Many will credit him with the discovery of extra terrestrials by his discovery of a UFO in the Vegas night. Years later, Robles will sheepishly admit all he was doing was pointing up at another homer he allowed.
Amed Rosario– To the surprise of us all, Rosario will strike out looking when the pitcher throws him a pitch which he was surprised at and was not ready to swing at. Entire belief systems will be shattered.
Paul Sewald– After having spent a year with Terry Collins, he’s going to be the player most comfortable with having no defined role in the bullpen. However, it will be an adjustment for him not having to warm up multiple times per game.
Anthony Swarzak – The jokes about not knowing how to spell his name will get old by mid-April. The jokes will be rediscovered in August when more fans tune it to a Mets team that is a surprising contender. The jokes will continue to not be funny.
Noah Syndergaard– He will continue his “Twitter Feud” with Mr. Met. It will be discussed ad nausesum during nationally televised games. America will think it’s amusing only fueling the spat even further and giving no hope to Mets fans who have long since found this to be unfunny.
Jason Vargas – When Reyes introduces himself, Vargas will remind him they were teammates in 2007. Both recall that season and will agree it never happened.
Zack Wheeler– He will be converted to a reliever, and in a surprise to us all, he will lead the league in saves. In a surprise to him that league will be the Pacific Coast League.
David Wright– He will apologize and sheepishly admit the Mets crown was an embarrassingly bad idea. He will try to come up with a way to rectify it, but no one will listen to his ideas on the topic anymore.
After the positive feedback we received after our first Mets Blogger Roundtable, the Mets Bloggers have decided to come back for at least a second week. This week, we tackle the question “Which Mets player are we most excited about watching this Spring Training?”
Dominic Smith is the first player that comes to my mind, although there are several interesting stories to watch this spring. Here’s a guy who has spent a number of years now battling weight issues, and therefore reputation issues, and it’s no secret the organization has concerns with him. And, obviously, signing Adrian González clearly indicates that as well. I am looking for him to step up and look like the player and prospect everyone expects him to be, similar to howMichael Conforto performed last spring. If Dom does that, he’ll make for a tough decision a month from now, which is always a good internal conversation for Mets brass to have.
Do we all remember when Bret Booneabruptly retired a few days into Mets spring training camp in 2006? He admitted Jose Reyes “just kind of stared” at him “with that smile on his face” and realized the joy of playing baseball in himself was long gone. Well, I’m hoping Adrian Gonzalez looks at Dominic Smith, smiling and loving life with his old and new svelte physique, and realizes his future as a full-time top sub sandwich enterprise ambassador should be his present. Smith did not earn the full-time first baseman gig last season, but he’s already earned it before the first ST game. He wasn’t even in this good of shape last spring, so I’m looking forward to seeing the Dom Smith everybody warned with a smile was about to enter our lives last summer.
The player I am most excited to watch at Spring Training might surprise a few people. It’s Brandon Nimmo. I am by no means trying to say he’s an all-star, but I think he is often overlook for the value he brings to a team. First of all, his defense in center field (while not as good as Juan Lagares) is good. For me, I am more impressed with his approach at the plate. He’s one of the more disciplined hitters on the team, especially when it comes to his knowledge of the strike zone. Sure, his .260 batting average last year is not too impressive, but his on-base percentage was more than 100 points higher at .379. Despite not looking like he’s going to have a starting spot out of the gate, Nimmo is going to be an important piece on this team coming off of the bench. And knowing how hard he works, if there’s an injury, he’ll be ready to go in a pinch. It’s hard not to root for the kid.
Player I am most excited about? Great question. I know if the Mets had been smart enough to sign Joe Smith, he’d have been my answer. I guess I have to let that one go, though. Steven Matz is the other. There are certain guys I love to watch pitch, and Matz is the latest version of that.
The Mets player I’m most interested in seeing this spring is Yoenis Cespedes. The slugger is coming off a season that saw injuries limit him to only 81 games. He’s trained differently this offseason including doing yoga to make sure he is more agile and not simply bulked up like in 2017. It will be interesting to see if his offseason training can help him regain his decencies prowess that helped him win a gold glove in 2015. Also have to see if he can make it through all spring without a muscle injury which seemed to be a weekly occurrence for him last season.
When healthy, Cespedes has been everything the Mets hoped for when they traded for him and signed him to a four-year deal. The Mets are not going to be contenders in 2018 if Cespedes plays only 81 games and spring will be a good time to see if anything has changed for Yo.