Tim Byrdak

Callaway Didn’t Cause The Loss But . . . .

There were many reasons why the Mets lost this game. For his part, Noah Syndergaard would blame the travel schedule which had them playing a night game last night and a 1:00 P.M. start tonight, which does seem like it was avoidable.

If fact, it was with Major League Baseball giving the Mets the option to start at 4:00 with the Mets passing at the opportunity.

There was the fact the Mets were facing Stephen Strasburg, a very good pitcher having a very good day. It certainly didn’t help the Mets were 0-for-3 with RISP and left seven runners on base.

Syndergaard had some bad luck. We was squeezed in the second leading to two walks and actually a wild pitch and run bunted home. Certainly, it was an odd box score with the Nationals having a run and no hits for the first five innings.

It looked just as odd when the Nationals had two runs on one hit with Victor Robles leading off the sixth with a solo homer.

There were certainly a number of factors at play. Unfortunately, Mickey Callaway was also a factor with his decision making in the seventh inning being a key factor.

In the seventh, the Mets had Strasburg on the ropes after a pair of two out singles from Jeff McNeil and Amed Rosario. With Juan Lagares due up and the left-handed Matt Grace warming in the bullpen, Callaway had a key decision to make.

With Strasburg at 108 pitches, he might’ve been coming out of the game anyway. Perhaps, things would be different if the Mets stuck with Lagares or pinch hit Luis Guillorme.

It should be noted last year batters hit .271/.322/.436 in their third plate appearance against Strasburg.

It should also be noted in a very small sample size, Guillorme has been a good pinch hitter (3-11, 2B, RBI, 4 BB). Of course, that’s if the Nationals didn’t take Strasburg out of the game.

Point is if a left-handed batter came into the game, Dave Martinez was likely going to Grace. While Guillorme might’ve given him pause, he was definitely going to Grace for Dominic Smith.

Callaway opted to go with Smith to force Grace into the game. Apparently, Callaway did this to get the matchup he wanted, which for some reason was J.D. Davis. The only acceptable explanations for this decision were: (1) Callaway has not watched one minute of Mets baseball this season; (2) Jim Riggleman was goading Jim into it so he could take over as manager at some point this year; or (3) Brodie Van Wagenen was holding his family hostage forcing Callaway to use Davis.

Given the options, Davis was probably the last option you wanted to see there. Even if the Mets were inclined to burn their best pinch hitter (which is bizarre in its own right), Davis was the absolute wrong choice as he’s done nothing to show he’s even as good as former whipping boy Eric Campbell (Campbell has a much higher OPS+).

If you take into account Lagares was out of the game, Keon Broxton is a .252/.357/.445 hitter off left-handed pitching, and the Mets needed someone to come play center with Lagares gone. Of course, sticking with Smith was also a viable option.

Instead, Callaway went with Davis who struck out looking.

This would put McNeil in left where he would make a terrible throw home on a Ryan Zimmerman sacrifice fly allowing Anthony Rendon to score the first of two ninth inning runs.

That situation was created because Callaway opted to bring in Seth Lugo to pitch the ninth despite his being ill recently and has had diminished velocity lately. With his UCL issues, we can only hope this a combination of illness and fatigue from over-use.

Callaway’s treatment of Lugo is at Terry Collins levels. Remember, Collins was the pitcher who disregarded pitcher health and used them dangerously. It would have an impact and eventually lead the end of the careers of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, and Jim Henderson.

Right now, the Mets are winning and off to their second hot start with Callaway at the helm. However, it looks like Callaway is regressing, and if he continues to do so, we may see him continue to put the Mets in disadvantageous situations.

Game Notes: Since his big Opening Day, Robinson Cano has struggled and is now hitting .188. Devin Mesoraco was officially put on Syracuse’s suspended list.

Sandy Alderson Should Want Focus On Payroll Instead Of His Record

In what has already been a frustrating offseason for Mets fans, Sandy Alderson has already uttered a statement that may prove to go down in “Panic Citi” history.  While speaking with reporters, Alderson suggested people “spend a little less time focusing on our payroll.”

If Alderson wants everyone to spend less time focusing on payroll, maybe it is time to focus on Alderson’s tenure as the Mets General Manager to see how it was the team has gotten to this position.

Injuries

During Alderson’s entire tenure, there have only been eight players who have played over 140 games in a season – Asdrubal Cabrera (2016), Ike Davis (2012) Lucas Duda (2014), Curtis Granderson (2014 – 2016), Juan Lagares (2015), Daniel Murphy (2012 – 2014), Jose Reyes (2017), and David Wright (2012).

This is because of a long list of injuries that have occurred to their position players.  This ranges from the ordinary (Yoenis Cespedes‘ hamstring issues) to the bizarre (Davis’ Valley Fever) to the tragic (Wright).

As poorly as things have gone for the position players, the pitching situation is even worse.  Johan Santana, Tim Byrdak, and Scott Rice suffered injuries that effectively ended their careers.  Same could be said for Bobby Parnell, Jeremy Hefner, and Jim Henderson.  The list goes on and on..

That list includes a starting pitching staff upon which this franchise was supposedly built.  Each of the treasured purported five aces have undergone surgeries that have cost them multiple months.  Matt Harvey may never be the same, and the same can be said for Zack Wheeler.

The irony is Alderson implemented the famed “Prevention & Recovery” mantra, and arguably things have gotten worse under his control.

Evaluating Own Talent

Now, there are varying reasons why teams choose to extend some players while not extending others, or why they choose not to re-sign other players.  Still, Alderson’s record is not exactly sterling on this front.

The main players discussed on this front are Murphy and Justin Turner.  However, there are some other less discussed players that have slipped through the Mets fingers.

The Mets traded Collin McHugh for Eric Young only to watch McHugh thrive elsewhere.  Chris Young was given a large one year deal, was released, and has been an effective player for the Yankees and Red Sox.  They released Dario Alvarez to see the Braves claim him and trade him to the Rangers for a former first round draft pick.  Finally, there was the Angel Pagan trade for a couple of players who amounted to nothing with the Mets.

The troubles evaluating their own players go beyond who they willingly let go.  It goes to those players the Mets opted to extend – Lagares, Jon Niese, and Wright.  None of these three ever amounted to the promise they had at the time the contracts were extended.  There are differing reasons for this, but in the end, the Mets proved wrong in those decisions.

The Draft

The glass half-full is that every first round draft pick made prior to 2015 has made the Majors.  Additionally, two of those players have made All Star teams.  The glass half-empty is the players the Mets have drafted have not lived up to their potential.

At a time the Mets need a starting center fielder, Brandon Nimmo isn’t even being considered.  This is not surprising as many see him as a fourth outfielder.

Coincidentally, the Mets also need a second baseman, and they are not even considering Gavin Cecchini for so much as a utility role let alone an opportunity to compete for a job in Spring Training.

The team was not at all enamored with Dominic Smith‘s rookie campaign, and they have publicly talked about bringing in insurance for him not being on the Opening Day roster.

The Mets had no 2015 draft pick because the team lost it signing Michael Cuddyer.  Effectively speaking, this decision cost the Mets two first rounders as the team’s lack of offense and health caused them to trade Michael Fulmer for Cespedes.  We have all seen Fulmer win a Rookie of the Year Award and make an All Star team in Detroit while the Mets have been desperate for pitching.

Justin Dunn has done little to quell the concerns he is a reliever and not a starter while Anthony Kay, the compensation for the reigning NLCS MVP, has yet to throw a professional pitch because of his Tommy John surgery.

This leaves Conforto, who should be a burgeoning superstar, but sadly we wait with baited breath looking to see if he is going to be the same player he was before separating his shoulder on a swing.

Free Agency

Alderson’s ventures into free agency have not been all that fruitful.  Of all the players who have signed multi-year deals, only Granderson has posted multiple seasons over a 2.0 WAR.  In fact, Granderson is the only player who has posted a cumulative WAR of over 4.0.

For those that would bring up Colon or Cespedes, their exploits are not attributable to their multi-year deals.  Colon accumulated 4.9 WAR with the Mets with 3.4 of that coming during his one year contract.  Cespedes has accumulated 7.2 WAR with the Mets with just 2.1 WAR coming last year in an injury plagued first year of a large four year deal.

It should be noted Alderson may not have much success on this front because the team has not gone crazy in free agency signing just a few players a year to Major League deals.

Depth

Even in 2015 and 2016, two years the Mets made the postseason, the Mets had depth issues.  This was why the team traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons.  It’s also a reason why in those consecutive years the Mets had to add to the bullpen.

Those seasons have taken a toll on the Mets prospect front.  They have sent away a number of assets and potential Major League contributors for a number of players who were attainable before the season began on reasonable deals.  Instead, the Mets thought they would be set with players like Eric Campbell

Synposis

Much of what is attributed to Alderson being a good General Manager is predicated upon a stroke of genius in obtaining Noah Syndergaard, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra in exchange for R.A. Dickey.  Even with many fans wanting to give him plaudits for Cespedes, it should be noted the trade was made largely because of a series of missteps.  It should also be noted the Mets lost a pretty good pitcher.

Now, if you are going to defend Alderson by saying his hands have been largely tied due to the Mets payroll, remember, Alderson himself doesn’t want thinks we should spend a little less time focusing on that.

Sadly, we have to do that because the Alderson regime has had difficulties in evaluating their own talent and drafting high end talent.  If he had, the discussion would probably be the Mets fine tuning to make another postseason run instead of there being fan anger over how the payroll is restricting the Mets from building a World Series caliber roster.

Thanks For The Memories Terry Collins

Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting.  He will not be returning as Mets manager.  While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring.  The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.

In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started.  The Mets were bad and injured.  It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag.  What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.

Part of being human is being emotional.  We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences.  And yes, we’ve seen him cry.  Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality.  In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory.  In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.

He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title.  He left Santana in for that no-hitter.  He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult.  Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.

Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players.  It would be the source of much consternation among fans.  This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto.  What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.

In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed.  You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop.  Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.

But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers.  It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players.  Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner.  It wasn’t just those players.  Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.

With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets.  Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets.  Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.

Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see.  A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young.  A Mets player won a batting title.  There was actually a Mets no-hitter.  Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.

Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that.  Collins got the best out of his players.  It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.

And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans.  More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect.  He returned their affection.  That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:

It was more than the celebrating.  Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants.  At his core, Collins is a good and decent man.  It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.

Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake.  Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers.  This was just one aspect of his poor managing.  There were many times where he left you scratching your head.  It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.

However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins.  To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season.  We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.

He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history.  When he was hired no one expected him to last that long.  Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure.  In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.

I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him.  My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man.  Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled.  Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.

Terry Collins Is Going To Get A Pitcher Hurt . . . Again

Despite teams pouring a tremendous amount of money into the topic, no one is still definitive on what causes pitcher injuries. Many will suggest it is fatigue, but even that is inconclusive. The Verducci Effect has been debunked time and again. Moreover, there was a 2003 Nate Silver and Matt Carroll Baseball Prospetus article which suggests the link between fatigue and arm injuries might be overstated. Still, there is evidence there is a link between fatigue and arm injuries. That is especially the case with pitchers over 25.

It is that link that made what Terry Collins did last night inexcusable.

Now, if you want to argue the inning snuck up Collins, you could make that argument. There were two outs in the second inning with Jon Lester coming up. Reasonably, a manager should expect his pitcher to get out of the inning. As we all know, Zack Wheeler didn’t. He grooved a pitch right down the middle to Lester, who hit a single to left. From there the doors fell off and the inning fell apart.

Wheeler was still only 18 pitches deep into the inning when he walked Albert Almora on four straight pitches. However, at this point, it was clear Wheeler was losing it, and to make matters worse, the Cubs lineup had turned over. From there Collins allowed Wheeler to throw 28 more pitches before lifting him for Josh Smoker. In total, Wheeler threw an inexcusable 46 pitches in the second inning.

This is the same Wheeler who missed two years after having Tommy John surgery. This is the same pitcher the Mets were rumored to want to limit to 125 innings this year. You need to be careful with Wheeler. Collins wasn’t. He would then compound his error with Wheeler by abusing Smoker.

Last year, Smoker’s high in pitches thrown in a game was 32. This year, he has already topped that six times. However, last night took the cake. Collins pushed Smoker to pitch four innings throwing 81 pitches. That’s a starter’s workload, not a reliever’s. There was a tangible effect.

Smoker is a pitcher that can get his fastball up to 97 MPH, which he did a couple of times last night. By the time Collins finally lifted Smoker in the sixth inning, he was throwing 89 MPH.

Collins went ahead and asked more from Smoker than he could possibly give. He did it despite the Mets bullpen only having thrown only 6.2 innings over the past four games. That was also despite the fact Jacob deGrom gave the bullpen a night off with his complete game. By the way, the only reason the Mets were able to obtain Smoker was because the Nationals former first round pick was released after two shoulder surgeries.

It’s not that Wheeler and Smoker need to be babied by their manager. Rather, they need their manager to not push them past the breaking point. This is no different than the protection Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Jim Henderson, and any number of pitchers Collins has left in his wake as manager.

In the modern game of baseball, the most important job a manager can do is managing his pitching staff. He needs to do all he can do to get them through a season both healthy and effective. Time and again, Collins has failed in that regard. Last night was the latest example. For his part, Collins has never had to face any ramifications for his actions. Unfortunately, his pitchers have. We should all cross our fingers Wheeler and Smoker will not be the next.

Reflecting on The Mets Longest Tenured Manager

Once Saturday’s game is over, Terry Collins will become the Mets all-time leader in games managed.  With this, he will be above Gil Hodges, who may have owned the record himself if not for his sudden and tragic passing.  He will surpass Bobby Valentine, who was the first Mets manager to lead the team to consecutive postseasons.  Finally, he passes Davey Johnson, who led the Mets to the greatest stretch in team history.

All of the aforementioned managers have had better records then Collins, who owns the Mets mark for most losses as a manger.  It leads to the question, why is it Collins lasted longer in New York than either Valentine or Johnson?  The answer is a complicated one for a man who has led the Mets over a complicated time period.

Collins took the helm for the Mets after the disastrous Jerry Manuel Era.  After bad mouthing his boss, Willie Randolph, he talked his way into the managerial job, and he oversaw his own collapse.  Despite that, the Mets decided to retain him as the new team manager as the Mets opened up a new ballpark.  In his two full seasons as Mets manager, his teams were 149-173.  This was despite having talented rosters with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran.

The Manuel Era was done in by a number of issues.  First, the team was not built well for the then cavernous Citi Field.  Second, high priced veterans like Luis Castillo and Jason Bay were playing up the standards of being an average major league player, let alone their contracts.  Third, the team deal with a number of injuries – some of which were exacerbated by Manuel’s decision making.  Mostly, the mix of manager, ballpark, and roster were doomed from the beginning.  It was time for new blood across the organization.

This was the stage upon which Collins entered as the Mets manager in 2011.  The team was mostly a mix of veterans nearing either the end of their contracts or their careers and some interesting players who could be talented major league players.  In the early part of Collin’s tenure, the Mets were teams that overachieved in the first half of the season, and then with trades, injuries, or players coming back to earth, the Mets would fall apart as the season progressed.

During the early part of Collins tenure as Mets manager, no one realistically believed the Mets were going to be contenders.  As a result, judging him by wins and losses seemed counter-intuitive.  Rather, you want to look at managers like this through the prism of their ability to get the most out of the talent on their roster.  Specifically, you want to see them develop some young players.

Things almost came to a head in 2014.  The Mets first real prized free agent acquisition of the Sandy Alderson Era, Curtis Granderson, was struggling.  The other, Bartolo Colon, was the staff ace, which meant Zack Wheeler was not progressing like the organization would have liked.  There were also struggles from Dilson Herrera, Travis d’Arnaud, and others.  It was not how the Mets envisioned this season would go, and if not for the Wilpons intervening, it would have been a different manager that led the Mets to the 2015 pennant.

It’s unsure to pinpoint the exact reason Collins survived.  The biggest skeptics will pinpoint Collins was due money, and the Wilpons, who were dealing with the Madoff scandal, were loathe to pay two different managers.  It’s possible Collins was saved because the Mets were not exactly under-performing.  There were also some positive signs for the team.

Lucas Duda not only won the first base job, but he hit 30 home runs.  Daniel Murphy was a first time All-Star.  Jenrry Mejia showed he was closer material.  Wheeler had a strong finish to the season.  Jeurys Familia looked like a closer in waiting.  Juan Lagares won a Gold Glove.  Jacob deGrom was a surprise Rookie of the Year.  Matt Harvey had just been the All Star Game starter the previous season, and he was set to return in 2015.  R.A. Dickey won a Cy Young Award that allowed the facilitation of the trade to bring over d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard.  Overall, you could see young pieces who could be part of the Mets’ future.  These were players who were cultivated under Collins.  It should also be kept in mind Collins created a certain atmosphere in the clubhouse that partially led to Wright signing a contract extension in 2012.  Overall, the pieces for a future contender were there, and they were all cultivated under Collins.

There’s another factor that is not often discussed with Collins is the fact he’s a good human being.  Time and again with Collins we hear little things he does that mean so much to people.  He has reached out to grieving Mets fans to offer his condolences.  He’s stopped the team during Spring Training to assemble them to spend some time with sick children.  He struck the right chord between honoring Jose Fernandez and trying to keep the Mets team competitive in that three game set.  That’s a harder job to do than we all give him credit.  Having a man like this around your team and leading young men is always a good thing.

And yet, there are plenty of instances where you look at Collins’ tenure and wonder how he’s lasted this long.  His usage of Tim Byrdak, Scott Rice, Johan Santana, Jim Henderson, and others have had a negative impact upon their ability to stay healthy.  Certainly, it can be argued these pitchers’ arms were ruined by Collins.

There has also been his over-reliance on his veteran players.  Despite Collins mantra that you hit you play, it really has only every been applied to young players.  It has twice taken a litany of injuries to get T.J. Rivera in the lineup.  Collins never would put Michael Conforto back in the lineup last year no matter his raking in Triple-A and his wrist being healthy.  Instead, he watched Jay Bruce continue to flail at the plate.  This year, we see him keeping Reyes and Granderson in the lineup despite their both hitting under the Mendoza Line.

More to the point, Collins allows the question to be asked over who exactly is in charge.  There are always reports Alderson dictates to him what should be done instead of Collins being allowed to manage the team as he wishes.  Collins allowed Reyes to pull himself from the last game of the 2011 season to preserve his batting title.  One of the lasting images of the 2015 World Series was Harvey telling him not to pull him from the game.

That World Series is certainly one that will haunt the Mets.  Collins made a number of questionable moves throughout that series which did not put his team in the best possible position to win.  Given how the Mets are struggling now, it does beg the question whether that was this core’s best opportunity to win a World Series.  But it’s more than that.  We have consistently seen Collins ignore reliever’s workloads and splits when making pitching changes.  He will send Wilmer Flores up there to pinch hit against right-handed pitchers even with other players still on the bench.  Overall, it is his in-game managing that leaves a lot to be desired.

Despite all of that, Collins is still here.  He has survived a lot to get to this point.  There was the Madoff scandal.  There was a rebuild that took a year or two longer than initially advertised.  He has consistently tried to hold a team together that has seen a number of injuries, brutal losses, and disheartening losing streaks.  He oversaw the transition from the Mets being a last place team to a team that almost won a World Series.

The Terry Collins’ Era will forever be a complicated one in Mets history.  To a certain extent, it does not matter that he is the manager who has managed the most games in Mets history.  That is mostly the result of circumstance.  Arguably, the circumstances have dictated Collins remain on for as long as he has.  Say what you will about the man, but he has always been accountable, never left you questioning his loyalty to the players or fans, and he has had the pulse of his clubhouse.  If nothing else, Collins is a leader of men, and as a man, you are hard pressed to find a better human being in baseball.

It does not matter if you believe someone else should have this record.  It’s Collins’ now.  He deserves everyone’s congratulations for it, and he deserves the respect of Mets fans for his tenure.

Terry Doesn’t Know Who To Abuse

After what was a shaky second inning where he allowed back-to-back homers to Justin Bour and Marcell OzunaJacob deGrom settled in and found his dominant form yet again.

The Marlins had no chance against deGrom who had all his pitches working. His velocity was back as well with him even hitting 99 on the gun. Through seven innings deGrom had only allowed four hits, which includes the two solo home runs, and one walk while striking out 13 batters.

After seven innings, deGrom had thrown 97 pitches, and with a 4-2 lead, he seemed poised to win the game.

deGrom was on the long side as the Mets bats finally hit Adam Conley whose start was pushed back a day with Don Mattingly using him in the 16 inning game.

You knew Conley wasn’t going to have it when he walked Jose Reyes to lead-off the game. By the way it’s interesting that it only took Reyes to be good in one hand for him to reclaim the lead-off spot on the team. It should be noted after the leadoff walk, he went 0-3. Still, Reyes would score on a Neil Walker double giving the Mets a 1-0 lead.

The Mets tied the game in the seventh on a Curtis Granderson RBI triple. The ball tipped off Christian Yelich‘s glove with Yelich trying to emulate a catch Juan Lagares made earlier in the game. Granderson scored on Michael Conforto‘s sacrifice fly giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.

When Asdrubal Cabrera hit a solo home run in the eighth, it seemed as if the Mets’ 4-2 lead would be enough to win the game. It wasn’t.

To much consternation, deGrom didn’t start the eighth. However, it was a very defensible position considering deGrom was already at 97 pitches and his having season ending elbow surgery last season.  It was also a very defensible position to use Fernando Salas in the eighth inning.  That’s the reason the Mets signed him in the offseason.  He was to be the eighth inning guy until Jeurys Familia returned from his suspension.  At that point, Salas would become the seventh inning guy.

As happens in baseball, Salas didn’t have it.  It’s part of being a reliever.  Sometimes you just don’t have it.  It also happens when you lead the majors in appearances this season.  In fact, dating back to September 1, 2016, his first game with the Mets, Salas is the most heavily used reliever in all of baseball.  He was bound to struggle sooner rather than later.

What was strange with Salas was how quickly it just happened.  He made quick work of Ichiro Suzuki and Dee Gordon to begin the inning.  Then he issued a four pitch walk to Miguel Rojas.  Believe it or not, this was Salas’ first non-intentional walk as a member of the New York Mets.  This set the stage for a matchup against Yelich.  Now, it should be noted Jerry Blevins was warming up just for this situation.  If you are going to have Blevins warming up, this is the exact situation you bring him into the game.  Plain and simple.

Instead, Collins elected to go with Salas.  Note, Salas pitching to Yelich wasn’t a bad move per se.  Salas is your guy for this spot, and he did make quick work of the first two batters.  However, Blevins was already warming in the pen.  If he’s up, bring him in, get out of the jam, and give Addison Reed a two run lead.  Instead, Collins left in Salas, who gave up the game tying home run to Yelich.  He then gave up a go-ahead home run to Giancarlo Stanton.  To add insult to injury, Collins brought in Blevins to get out Bour to get out of the inning.

And with that, the Mets 4-2 lead became a 5-4 loss.  Sure, you can’t completely pin the loss on Collins as he made some defensible moves.  That was at least until he left a warm Blevins in the pen.  You could argue that doesn’t mean Salas should give up a home run.  You’d be right, but you’d also ignore the simple fact that Collins didn’t put his team in the best position to win.  Because of that, this loss is on him.

Perhaps knowing that, he was angry and downright rude to the beat reporters after the game.  In the video, Collins explained every reason for his decisions, omitting some key facts:

Look, we all agree the starters should be protected, but that doesn’t mean you ruin the arms and the careers of the relievers.  There’s a balance, and the fact that Collins doesn’t see that is downright frightening.  It’s probably the reason why we saw him run through damaged relievers like Tim Byrdak and Jim Henderson in his career.  Apparently, Collins only protects the arms of those pitchers he deems more valuable.

That’s not right, and it needs to stop.  Another thing that needs to stop is the faulty logic.  If Collins was that concerned over Blevins, under no means do you have him warming up.  You either want him rested, or you want him pitching.  If you want him pitching, get him in the game against the big left-handed threat in the lineup.  Afraid of Stanton, get Reed up.  He’s the most rested reliever in that bullpen.  Considering how the long games has wrecked havoc on the bullpen, it actually made sense to go with Reed for a four out save.

Right now, Collins is picking and choosing who to abuse and who not to abuse.  It is having a tangible effect on the effectiveness of the relievers.  It may soon have an effect on their health.  We have seen this before with Collins.  Hopefully, we won’t see it again.  On that front, no one should be hopeful.

Game Notes: With the left-handed Conley on the mound, Collins went with a Yoenis Cespedes-Lagares-Granderson outfield to start the game.  Rene Rivera got the start over Travis d’Arnaud giving d’Arnaud two days off after he caught 16 innings.  Mets have now lost four of seven to the Marlins.  Last year, the Mets were 12-7 against the Marlins.

Tom Gorzelanny Was A Perfect Minor League Signing

If you look at the initial reactions to the Tom Gorzelanny signing, it was met with some anger and derision from Mets fans. It has led to a meme where Mets fans have begun to compare him to sloth from the Goonies:

Obviously, this anger comes from Mets fans wanting the team to do more to sign free agent relievers to fill the obvious holes in the Mets bullpen. Namely, Mets fans wanted the team to go out and sign Jerry Blevins, who for some strange reason remains on the free agent market. Because the Mets signed Gorzelanny and not Blevins, Mets fans have understandably overreacted. They shouldn’t.

Because this is a minor league deal, the Mets are not obligated to carry Gorzelanny on the Opening Day roster like they were Antonio Bastardo last season. Essentially, if Gorzelanny does not show the Mets he is not capable of being a part of their bullpen, they can leave him in the minor leagues as depth.

Now, if Gorzelanny does show he can be a solid contributor out of the bullpen, the Mets only owe him $1 million with incentives that could increase his salary to $2.8 million. Essentially, this is a low risk, potentially high reward signing.

And there is reason to believe Gorzelanny can be a solid contributor in 2017. For his career, he has limited left-handed batters to a .229/.302/.356 batting line. For the sake of comparison, Blevins allowed left-handed batters to hit .255/.313/.324 off of him last year. Now, Blevins has historically been better than that against left-handed batters. However, the Mets are looking to replace Blevins’ 2016 production, and judging from Gorzelanny’s career splits, he is more than capable of that.

Another reason to believe in Gorzelanny is his repertoire. He primarily relies upon a low 90s sinker and a low 80s slider. While he also can throw a change-up and a curveball, while he has gotten older he has more and more relied on his sinker and slider. As we have seen with pitchers like Addison Reed and Fernando Salas, Dan Warthen has been successful working with them to get better results with those pitches as they have had in prior stops. It also doesn’t hurt that Travis d’Arnaud and Rene Rivera are excellent pitch framers that will be able to help Gorzelanny get into pitcher’s counts and get him that borderline called third strike.

Also, consider some of the success he has had against some of the left-handed batters he is sure to see during the 2017 season:

At the end of the day, Gorzelanny may very well be considered a solid minor league free agent signing in the same ilk as Darren Oliver or Tim Byrdak.

On the other hand, it might not work out. But if it doesn’t, so what? It’s a classic example of nothing ventured, nothing gained. The million Gorzelanny is potentially earning should not stand in the way of the Mets re-signing Blevins and/or signing another free agent reliever.

And in fact, it didn’t. Not too long after the Mets signed Gorzelanny, the Mets then re-signed both Fernando Salas and Blevins. 

Still, Gorzelanny wasn’t the guy Mets fans wanted, but he could become the guy the Mets fans want on the mound against a left-handed batter this October.