Tim Teufel

Reasons Why Mets Should Consider A-Rod As Their New Manager

With the rumors the Mets will be looking for a manger to replace Terry Collins this offseason, the teams is likely going to focus on the obvious candidates. This includes Tim Teufel, Bob Geren, and Dick Scott. Each candidate have their own merits, but none of them are really a bold move the Mets may need to make this offseason to help turn their team around. In order to do that, the Mets may have to think outside the box.

To that end, maybe the Mets should consider hiring Alex Rodriguez to be their new manager this offseason. Many will be quick to dismiss the notion, but there are many reasons why A-Rod could be a worthwhile choice to succeed Collins:

#1 A-Rod Understands What Sandy Wants in His Manager

During an August 17, 2017 WFAN radio interview with Mike Francesca, A-Rod described the modern manager’s role as one of “a CEO of a public company.” The basis of this comparison is A-Rod believes the manager’s job is now to take the information provided by the front office and to find the best way to communicate that information to the players.

By reputation, Sandy Alderson does not want the old school manager who flies by the seat of his pants and controls everything in the dugout. He wants someone who goes out there and follows his instructions. Based upon the comments A-Rod has made, it would seem he has a fundamental understanding on what Alderson wants.

#2 A-Rod Has a Relationship with Kevin Long

While the Mets might be looking for a new manager, it seems the team may well want to keep both Dan Warthen and Kevin Long in place. If that is the Mets intention, they are going to need to find a manager who will work well with the retained coaches. That could be Geren based upon his tenure as the Mets bench coach. That could also be A-Rod, who worked well with Kevin Long during their mutual time together with the Yankees. More importantly, there is a mutual respect between the two, which would serve as a solid foundation for a new working relationship.

#3 A-Rod Works Well with Young Players

During his tenure with the Yankees, A-Rod has been given credit for serving as a mentor for young players like Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera. Apparently, that was not just a special relationship he had with those players, but rather a willingness to serve as a mentor to young players. That is something that continued with the current crop of young Yankees. As Gary Sanchez said of A-Rod, “He’s always given us good advice. On and off the field, he’s always been there for us, he always has time for us. One thing he has told me is about creating a routine, a routine that I can use to prepare myself for every game.” (Newsday)

With A-Rod, you have an individual who has a willingness and an ability to effectively communicate with young players. Better yet, he’s able to show them how to best succeed at the Major League level. With so much of next year and the next decade hinging on young players like Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith, you need someone who is best able to get through to them and help them. That could be A-Rod.

#4 A-Rod Is Bilingual

If you pay attention to the post-game, you will see Melissa Rodriguez translating for Spanish speaking players like Yoenis Cespedes. That is all well and good for an interview, but that’s not good for the player-manager relationship. The two need to be able to communicate. A-Rod’s ability to speak English and Spanish permits him to effectively communicate with all of the players in his clubhouse.

#5 A-Rod Has Played for Great Managers

During A-Rod’s playing days, he has had the opportunity to play for Lou Piniella, Johnny Oates, Jerry Narron, Buck Showalter, Joe Torre, and Joe Girardi. That group of managers have won 10 Manager of the Year Awards, 28 division titles, 8 pennants, and 6 World Series.

Each of these mangagers were good to great in their own right, and each one of them had different managing styles. Certainly, each one of them left an impression on A-Rod as to what is the best way to manage a team and how to best communicate with your players. Like all first time managers, A-Rod will have to find his voice. He will be aided in doing so by his having played for some of the best managers of his generation.

#6 A-Rod Understands Decline

Throughout the 2016 season, A-Rod struggled to the point where the Yankees finally had to inform him that if he didn’t retire, the team was going to release him. At that point, A-Rod had to face reality and admit he was no longer the player he once was. That’s an avenue this current Mets team is going to have to navigate.

Both David Wright and Matt Harvey have dealt with a number of physical problems. With each day that passes, each of them is further and further away from being the players they once were. Having someone like A-Rod as the manager would provide both players with a sounding board to help them navigate the season both physically and mentally.

#7 A-Rod Understands the Media

A manager of a New York team is also a media personality. They have to be able to face the media multiple times a day and answer the tough questions. With his postseason struggles and his PED suspension, A-Rod has had to face the tough questions time and again. He’s weathered the storm, and he has come out the other side.

And now that he’s retired, A-Rod is a member of the media. He does studio shows for Fox earning rave reviews, and he has done a few games as a color commentator. With that, he’s become even more polished than he already was leaving him better able to face the media.

#8 A-Rod Creates Buzz

Look, after the 2017 season the Mets need to change the narrative. They’re an injury prone team who doesn’t go out there and spend money. This has led the fans to become either angry or apathetic. That’s not a good situation for a Major League organization, especially one that is raising ticket prices for next season.

At a minimum, hiring A-Rod would create a buzz. Love it or hate it, it would be a bold move for the organization, and bold moves typically generate excitement. That type of excitement can at times become infectious and energize an entire organization.

There’s also the fact the Mets will need to pursue a number of free agents. Possibly, A-Rod, a player who is still respected by many players across the majors, could be used as a recruiting tool. If true, that will create an even bigger buzz because better players mean more wins which will help turn those angry and apathetic fans into excited ones.

#9 A-Rod Loved the Mets

Back in the 2000 offseason, it was assumed A-Rod was going to be a Met because A-Rod grew up a Mets fan. Like the rest of us, A-Rod loved that 1986 Mets team, and he wanted to bring the Mets their next championship. He never did get that chance after Steve Phillips described A-Rod as a 24 and one player.

A-Rod has been able to accomplish much in his career, but the one thing he was never able to do was to wear a Mets uniform and deliver a World Series to his favorite team. It could be an opportunity that he couldn’t overlook, and it may be one that drives him.

#10 A-Rod Is Fireable

For all the calls from Mets fans to make Wright the Mets next manager, is the fact that one day the Mets will have to fire him. Managers are hired to one day be fired. No Mets fan wants to see their beloved Wright be fired by the team. No, you want a manager who could readily be fired. That’s A-Rod.

However, in order to be fired, you need to first be hired. There are certain impediments there from his lack of experience to whether he’d ever be interested in managing in the big leagues. If he is somehow interested, the Mets should definitely inquire because he just might be exactly what the Mets need in their next manager.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MetsMerizedOnline

Mets Uniform Assignments A Small But Interesting Issue

With the Binghamton Rumble Ponies season over, the New York Mets have called up top catching prospect Tomas Nido to serve as the team’s third catcher for the final few weeks of the season. Once he arrived in the clubhouse, he was issued the number 77. 

Now, it’s possible Nido selected the number himself as “his” number 7 was unavailable because it’s already being worn by Jose Reyes. However, the assignment of the number follows an odd pattern where the Mets typically have used number assignments to distinguish between top prospects and others. 

The most recent example was Phillip Evans being assigned 72. His number in the minors was 13, which is currently occupied by Asdrubal Cabrera. There’s a large chasm between those two numbers. 

That’s not the case for Amed Rosario (#1) or Dominic Smith (#22). They had the benefit of their Las Vegas numbers being available, and as such, they were given their numbers.

This is unlike former Mets first round pick Brandon Nimmo. Like Nido, he wore 7 in the minors. When Nimmo was called up last year, Travis d’Arnaud wore the number. Unlike, Nido or Evans, he didn’t get a number in the 70s. Instead, he was assigned 9. 

Later that season, Seth Lugo couldn’t wear 27 because of Jeurys Familia. He was given 67. The fact Lugo was removed from the Las Vegas rotation earlier that year was certainly of consequence. 

Robert Gsellman wore 24, a number mostly out of circulation to honor Willie Mays. The pitcher rushed to the majors was given 65. Chris Flexen had a similar rise this year. His 33 in St. Lucie wasn’t available due to Matt Harvey and his Binghamton 46 was worn by Chasen Bradford. Flexen was given 65. 
By the way Flexen was given that number because his 29 was already worn by Tommy Milone

Bradford’s Las Vegas teammate Paul Sewald is wearing 51 because the Mets have taken Keith Hernandez‘s 17 out of circulation. 

Now, this isn’t to say Sewald should wear 17, or that he didn’t select 51. Same goes for players like Bradford whose preferred number is being worn by a Major Leaguer. 

However, again, there is a real difference between saying no to 13 and assigning the number 72. It isn’t something the team did to Nimmo, but then again, he’s a well regarded prospect. 

The really own exception to this is  Travis Taijeron and his switch from 18 to 28. 

And Taijeron really is an anomaly unless you believe T.J. Rivera (#3) and Ty Kelly (#11) really wanted to wear 54 and 56 because Curtis Granderson and third base coach Tim Teufel already had their uniform numbers.  Really, it’s not likely. 

No, the truth of the matter is the Mets are really only inclined to allow a prospect to pick their own number upon a call up to the majors unless they’ve already been deemed a top prospect. 

Look, we know Rosario is a better prospect than Rivera ever was. Likely, Rosario will be a much better player. Still, that does not mean Rosario gets to pick a number, but Rivera shouldn’t. They’re both New York Mets. They should be treated as such. 

Overall, this is far from the biggest issue with this team, but it is an issue nevertheless. It shows why certain players get chance after chance after chance while those that produce have to continue to reprove themselves. The reason is because the Mets seek confirmation bias rather than results. 

Want to know which players are which?  Just look at the uniform numbers. 

Time To Move On From Terry Collins

If the Mets are really looking to sell, it is time to get rid of everyone that doesn’t have a contract beyond this season.  This means the Mets should part ways with Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Addison Reed, and Rene Rivera.  Once Neil Walker is healthy enough to play, the Mets should trade him as well.  With the Mets having team options on both Jerry Blevins and Asdrubal Cabrera, they should also get moved in the right trade.

But it’s not just the players.  The Mets should also part ways with Terry Collins.

When Collins signed his two year contract in the wake of the 2015 World Series, Collins had indicated it could very well be his last.  Even if Collins relented from that position, with each game, it becomes clearer and clearer that Collins will no longer be in the dugout for the Mets in 2018.  If that is the case, the Mets should part ways with Collins sooner rather than later.

The perfect time would be as the Mets head into the All Star Break.  This could allow the Mets to re-calibrate the coaching staff.  Internally, the Mets have some managerial candidates.

First base coach Tom Goodwin was given the opportunity to manage in the Arizona Fall Leauge this past offseason.  While he was removed from the Mets coaching staff in the offseason, Tim Teufel has remained with the organization.  Both are certainly candidates for the managerial job should it ever open, and both should provide the Mets with as smooth a transition as possible.

There are also minor league managers Luis Rojas and Pedro Lopez.  With the Mets likely turning to young players like Gavin CecchiniBrandon Nimmo, Amed Rosario, and Dominic Smith, it would be helpful to have a manager with whom they are familiar to ease their transition as everyday players in the majors.

It would also serve as an opportunity to see how any of the aforementioned would serve as a manager at the major league level.  If you like what you see with the replacement, you have your answer as to who should be the Mets manager in the future.  If that person doesn’t perform well, you at least know you need to move on from that manager and look in a different direction.

Point is if the Mets aren’t going anywhere, they should best utilize that time.  That means giving young players an opportunity to establish themselves as everyday players at the major league level.  That should also mean finding out who the manager should be in 2018.

It’s time for the Mets to thank Collins for his service as the Mets manager, and possibly find a role for him in the organization.  It’s time to close the chapter on his Mets managerial career, and it is time to usher in a new era of Mets baseball.

Sloppy Mets Pound Poor Braves Pitching

It’s a good thing the Mets won this game because they were sloppy, and they looked like a Little League team. Case in point – look at this “hustle” from Jose Reyes:

Right there, Reyes turned a routine fly ball off the bat of T.J. Rivera into an inning ending double play. 

Reyes had yet another issue in the field. In the third, he helped the Braves get on the board by throwing off line. Instead of an out, Adonis Garcia reached safely. He got some home town scoring with him being awarded a hit on the play. 

Reyes wasn’t the only one with gaffes. 

In the first, while the Mets were jumping all over Bartolo ColonNeil Walker was doubled off second off a pop up in that infield when he forgot how many outs there were. 

It should be noted that as much as his team wasn’t helping him, Jacob deGrom wasn’t helping himself much either. 

The aforementioned run allowed in the third was started with deGrom issuing a lead off walk to Dansby Swanson. Still, he should’ve gotten out of the inning unscathed because Garcia should’ve been the third out. 

In the fourth, he enduced Jace Peterson to hit into a double play leaving the Braves with a runner on third and two outs. deGrom then walked Swanson again. By the way, Swanson entered the game hitting .158/.214/.232. The two runners would come to score on an Emilio Bonifacio triple. 
The Braves got to deGrom again in  the fifth. Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp led off with back-to-back singles. deGrom then issued yet another walk, this time to Tyler Flowers, to load the bases. Two runs scored on an ensuing Peterson RBI double. The Braves wouldn’t score another run in the inning, but that wouldn’t prevent deGrom from issuing yet another walk to Swanson. 
Once the fifth was over, deGrom was done for the night having thrown 109 pitches. His line was ugly allowing eight hits, five runs, five earned, and five walks, and five strikeouts. It broke deGrom’s stretch of ten strikeout games. 

And despite all this, the Mets actually won the game. They won the game because the Braves pitching was that bad. 

Right away, the Mets went to work with Michael Conforto hitting a lead-off double. Asdrubal Cabrera and Walker each hit RBI doubles to make it 2-0. As noted above, Walker then ran the Mets out of the inning. 

The Mets got to work again in the third. Cabrera reached on a hit by pitch, and Walker walked. Curtis Granderson then hit a huge double to make it 3-1. 

It was a huge night for Granderson. After asking for a day off to help him get his swing straight, Granderson was 2-5 with three runs, two doubles, and an RBI. 

Reyes and Rene Rivera hit RBI singles to make it 5-1. Again, as noted above, Reyes ran, actually he walked the Mets out of inning. 

Fortunately, the Mets wouldn’t run out of the inning in the fifth. After knocking Colon out of game tagging him with five runs on seven hits, the Mets beat up on Josh Collmenter

Granderson’s second double of the game set up runners in second and third with one out. It should be noted that Glenn Sherlock held up Walker despite it looking like he could score. So far, from what we’ve seen from Sherlock is he is much more cautious than Tim Teufel. After a number of bad sends last year, this is somewhat of a refreshing change. 

Despite the hold, Reyes and Walker would score. Reyes scored on a Rene single, and Walker scored on a TJ RBI double. Then, deGrom knocked in both Rivera’s to make it 9-3. 

After deGrom struggled through the fifth, he turned it over to the bullpen to preserve the 9-5 lead. Josh Edgin, who has been terrific of late, pitched a scoreless and hitless sixth, which included a strikeout of Freeman. Addison Reed had his first good inning in a while with a scoreless seventh. 

Watching the game, Reed was clearly not happy having pitched the seventh even if he was pitching to the Braves 3-4-5 hitters. Reed being upset is certainly understandable because Terry Collins has shown himself to be a paint by numbers manager when using the bullpen. Using Reed in the seventh was the smart move, but it was an uncharacteristic one. 

The Mets finally blew things open in the eighth when they finally got to Eric O’Flaherty. The rally SHOCKINGLY started with Conforto getting a hit off the left-handed pitcher. Despite reports to the contrary, he can actually do that. 

The Mets then loaded the bases, and it looked like the team wasn’t going to take advantage with a Walker shallow fly out to center, and a Granderson fielder’s choice. That’s when Reyes blew the game open with a bases clearing double. He then scored on a Rene RBI single to make it 13-5. 

After a TJ double, Rene scored on a Juan Lagares RBI pinch hit single. Conforto came back up in the inning, and hit a two RBI double up make it 16-5. 

Things were going so well, Fernando Salas even pitched a scoreless inning. It wasn’t easy, but it was a scoreless inning, which is important to note when he allowed a run in his previous four appearances. 

The Mets bats absolutely came alive and finally destroyed a poor Braves pitching staff.  Every starter reached base at least twice.  Mostly, they took advantage of their scoring opportunities:

Fact is, with all of the Mets starters struggling or injured, the offense will have to carry the team to some wins. This is an important first step until the pitching figures it out. 

Game Notes: Travis d’Arnaud missed the game after his wrist injury blew up again. 

Glenn Sherlock Should Be The Bench Coach

There were two overriding reasons why the Mets brought in Glenn Sherlock in the offseason.  First and foremost, he was brought in because Tim Teufel has never been a great third base coach, and as we saw him send Wilmer Flores to the plate last season, he wasn’t getting any better.  The second reason is the Mets wanted to have a new catching guru to replace Bob Geren to work with Travis d’Arnaud.

Now, if the Mets really want Sherlock to work with d’Arnaud, why is he the third base coach instead of serving as the bench coach like Geren?

Now, a bench coach has real responsibilities in the modern game.  It is no longer the position Don Zimmer once described as, “People say, What is the job of a bench coach? I say, Very simple–I sit next to [Joe Torre] on the bench. When he plays hit-and-run that works, I say, ‘Nice goin’, Skipper,’ and if it doesn’t work, I go down to the other end of the bench, get a drink, and get out of his way. We only got one manager. I don’t want no credit for doin’ anything. I sit next to Joe like a bump on a log–that’s the way I leave it.”  (Scott Raab, Esquire).

Rather, the bench coach has become more than that.  He shares many responsibilities pre-game, post-game, and during the game.  As Indians GM Chris Antonetti said about Bench Coach Brad Mills, “He’s ’s [Terry Francona‘s] right-hand man, and he really helps executed a lot of the planning, the logistics of when we’re going to work out, practices, all the communication within a game to get players ready.”  (Evan Drellich, Boston Herald).

The bench coach has a number of responsibilities that keeps him as engaged in the game as the manager.  He needs to be that because he needs to be a check on the manager to make sure the manager takes everything into account whenever he is making a move or not making a move.  Part of that responsibility is looking at the catcher and seeing what he’s doing.  Is he calling a good game?  Is he setting up properly or staying in his crouch long enough?  Is he paying enough attention to the running game?  The list goes on and on.

That is something that Geren was able to do during his tenure as the bench coach.  If there was an issue with how any one of his catchers were playing, he had the opportunity to speak with them and point out what adjustments needed to be made.  When the Mets brought Sherlock aboard, it is presumably one of the things they wanted him to do with d’Arnaud.

Except, he can’t.

With Sherlock being the third base coach, he really can’t have that discussion with d’Arnaud.  When d’Arnaud is sitting in the dugout while the Mets are on offense, Sherlock is at third base.  When d’Arnaud is running out to his position, Sherlock is coming off the field.  There are really limited times for the two to discuss the in-game adjustments d’Arnaud needs to make.

Now, these issues could be addressed post-game and in-between games.  However, if there is something that really needs to be addressed, you’re not permitting Sherlock to do it.  It may not seem like a huge issue, but something as simple as d’Arnaud not getting set up in the right position, can cost the pitcher the corner.  With the wrong pitch sequencing, d’Arnaud may not be putting his pitchers in the best position to succeed.  If there is something d’Arnaud is doing wrong when trying to get the ball out on a stolen base attempt, you can’t fix the issue leaving the opposition to take advantage of it all game long.

Now, other coaches can address it, but they can’t do it in the way Sherlock can.  Sherlock is the catching coach who was brought it to communicate with his catchers, d’Arnaud specifically.  While it may not seem like the biggest issue there is, not having Sherlock on the bench is the Mets giving an inch.  With baseball being a game of inches, it does not seem like the best allocation of resources.

The obvious retort is Sherlock may not belong on the bench because of his limited managing experience.  That ignores his having been a bench coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Dick Scott being named as the bench coach heading into the 2016 season.  Scott last managed a team in 1997 when he was the manager of the Single-A South Bend Silver Hawks.  Certainly, significant managerial experience isn’t something the Mets are prioritizing their bench coaches.

At this point, it is tough to judge what they are prioritizing because it isn’t experience.  More to the point, they’re not prioritizing getting the most from their roster.  If they were Sherlock would have been named the bench coach.

Mets Final Season Grades – Utility Players

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the fourth set of grades, here are the Mets utility players:

Wilmer Flores B

Early on in the season, Flores mostly struggled with getting limited playing time.  It was difficult cracking into the starting lineup when Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera playing well in April.  As the season progressed, and the Mets became more and more injured, notably Wright and Lucas Duda, Flores was needed, and he really stepped up.

Where Flores really thrived was being used as a platoon option against left-handed pitching.  Against lefties, Flores would hit an astounding .340/.383/.710 with four doubles, 11 homers, and 28 RBI.  If you extrapolated those numbers of the course of a full 162 game season, Flores would’ve hit 36 homers and 93 RBI.  That would have made him the best hitter in the Mets lineup this season.  However, Flores’ numbers were nowhere near that as he struggled against right-handed pitching hitting .232/.289/.353 with 10 doubles, five homers, and 21 RBI.  It should be noted Flores had 107 plate appearances against lefties and 228 plate appearances against righties.

For the season, Flores hit .267/.319/.469 with 14 doubles, 16 homers, and 49 RBI.  Flores’ numbers were an upgrade over his 2015 numbers.  Given how he has progressed each year over his career, and the fact that he is only 25 years old, we should see an improved Flores at the plate in 2017.

Even with some optimism, there is some doubt.  Despite his improvement at the plate, he still didn’t walk enough, and he doesn’t hit right-handed pitching enough to play everyday.  While he made marked improvements at shortstop as the 2015 season progressed, Flores regressed there defensively in 2016.  In fact, Flores did not play all that well defensively at any position; although, he did show some promise at first base.

Part of the reason for Flores foibles could be he’s prone to the occasional gaffe (similar to Daniel Murphy).  It could be him trying to do too much, it could be him having more faith in his abilities than he probably should, it could be his high effort level, or it could be something different altogether.  Whatever it is, it was front and center when Tim Teufel made the baffling decision to send Flores home during that September 10th game against the Braves.  It was absolutely a bad send, but it quite have possibly been a worse slide.  Flores going in head first against a catcher like A.J. Pierzynski lead to his season-ending injury which required surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in the offseason.

The best thing you can say about Flores in the 2016 season was he was missed.  During the Wild Card Game, the Mets were one bat short against Madison Bumgarner.  With Flores’ stats against left-handed pitching, he could have gotten that one key hit the Mets needed to win that game.  Except, he was injured and unable to play.  The hope is he learns from this experience and comes back a better player in 2017.

Eric Campbell F

After Ruben Tejada was released on the eve of the season, Campbell was a surprise member of the 25 man roster.  Unfortunately, Campbell was not up to the task as he regressed yet another season.  In 40 games, Campbell hit .173/.284/.227 with one double, one homer, and nine RBI.  While the Mets organization was high on him to start the year (at least higher on him than most people), he didn’t do enough to justify their faith in him.  It was his play that forced the Mets to go out and get James Loney to play first base after Duda’s injury.

Despite the fans apparent hatred of him, he still has use as minor league depth, and if used in small doses, he could have some benefit to a major league team as a pinch hitter and very part time player.  Simply put, he was asked to do too much in 2016.  That was one of the reasons he was removed from the 40 man roster, and it is why he is a minor league free agent at the moment.

Matt Reynolds C

Reynolds numbers during the 2016 season were lackluster.  In 47 games, he only hit .255/.266/.416 with eight doubles, three homers, and 13 RBI.  Still, it is hard to call Reynolds first 47 games in the major leagues disappointing because he did show some promise.

In his limited duty, Reynolds did show himself to be the Mets best major league ready defensive shortstop in the entire Mets organization.  He also played well at second, third, and left field despite his playing a vast majority of his professional career at shortstop.  In fact, the first ever game Reynolds played in left field was at the major league level.  All Reynolds did in that game was play a representative left field and hit the game winning home run.

In 2016, Reynolds showed he could potentially be a major league bench player.  As a former second round pick, many might have wanted more from Reynolds than what he has shown.  That is not entirely fair at this point because he’s only played 47 games as a major leaguer, and in those 47 games, he showed he deserves another shot to be a major leaguer.  With that in mind, despite his numbers being disappointing, Reynolds did have a succesful 2016 season, and we should look forward to what he can contribute in 2017 and beyond.

Ty Kelly C+

Just making it to the major leagues after his long odyssey in the minor leagues was a major accomplishment.  And even though he made it to the majors as a result of a rash of injuries, he did earn his way to the majors with his hot hitting in Las Vegas.  While he initially struggled, Terry Collins finally figured out what he was, and Kelly began to thrive.

Despite his being a switch hitter, Kelly was really best suited to facing left-handed pitching.  While the sample size is really too small to derive a definitive conclusion, it should be noted Kelly put together much better at-bats from the right-hand side of the plate than he did from the left.  As he faced more left-handed pitching, Kelly’s numbers improved, and he finished the season hitting .241/.352/.345 with a double, a triple, a homer, and seven RBI in 39 games.

In the field, while Kelly was used all over the place, and he performed better than anticipated.  His best positions were probably third and left field.  Unfortunately, Kelly did not demonstrate sufficient power to play at either of those positions.  It should be noted that Kelly isn’t going to be a regular at the major league level.  Rather, he is a bench player, so it is quite possible, his relative lack of power may not be as big an issue for him.

Ultimately, Kelly was rewarded for his hard work and resilence.  He was rewarded not just with getting called-up to the majors, but also by being put on the Wild Card Game roster.  In a season with a number of highlights for him, his seventh inning pinch hit single certainly has to rank well up there.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links. If you want to see the prior entries, here is the link for catchers, and here is the link for middle infielders.

That Was Wild 

Baseball is funny. There was about a four month stretch where watching Mets baseball was a tedious and frustrating exercise. It was about as painful as watching Yoenis Cespedes try to play on an injured quad. 

Speaking of pain, seemingly everyone got hurt. Of all the people in the Opening Day lineup, only Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto didn’t wind up on the disabled list at some point. With Conforto making two trips to AAA, that left Granderson as the only Met starter available all season. 

We saw something similar last year.  However, we saw last year that a team can make it to the postseason with some big trade deadline moves, a weak schedule to finish the season, and tremendous pitching. 

Well, the trade deadline wasn’t the boon it was last year. Jay Bruce would struggle mightily until the last week of the season. 

The starting pitching we all expected wasn’t there. Matt Harvey was never healthy and needed season ending surgery. Zack Wheeler had multiple setbacks during his Tommy John rehab, and he wouldn’t pitch this year. Both Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom pitched with injuries until they couldn’t anymore. Both had season ending surgeries. 

Speaking of season ending surgeries, the Mets also lost David Wright to cervical fusion surgery and Neil Walker to discectomy. Speaking of bad backs, Lucas Duda was nowhere to be found for most of the year with him suffering a stress fracture in his back. 

Still, the Mets made it back to the postseason. They did take advantage of that weak season ending schedule. Since August 20th, the Mets have the best record in baseball. How did we get here?

Well, Noah Syndergaard and his 95 MPH slider had a Cy Young caliber season. Bartolo Colon had his best season as a Met. Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia were the most dominant 8-9 combination in all of baseball. Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman became not only unlikely contributors, but also reliable starters in the stretch run. 

Offensively, Asdrubal Cabrera became the best hitter in all of baseball the final month of the season. Cespedes got healthy, and Granderson regained his stroke. Wilmer Flores and Kelly Johnson combined to reasonably replicate Walker’s production until Flores got hurt and Johnson regressed. At that point, T.J. Rivera took complete advantage of the opportunity with the 27 year old undrafted rookie playing solid defense and spraying line drives all over the field. And yes, Jose Reyes returned to the Mets after his domestic violence issues to play better than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. 

That coupled with the Giants and Cardinals playing sub .500 ball, the Mets had their 1973 window, and the Mets took full advantage. All they needed to do was win one more game. 

Fittingly, Colon got the start (pun intended). He’d get a 2-0 lead off a pair of RBI singles from Rivera and Reyes. As he has seemingly done all year, Reyes scored Travis d’Arnaud from second. As usual, it was a questionable send by Tim Teufel as the ball beat d’Arnaud to the plate. Fortunately, the throw was to the first base side of the plate, and d’Arnaud made a nifty slide to just avoid the tag. 

That’s when ghost of Phillies past Ryan Howard tried to put a damper on the party by hitting a game tying two run home run. Up until the Howard home run, he was cruising and showing no ill effects from his tendon injury. 

In the sixth, James Loney would do his best Dave Magadan impression:

He also had a Cabrera impression with an impressive bat flip. 

Of course, Cabrera would be heard from with an RBI single in the ninth. Cespedes would also be heard from, but in a completely different way altogether:

Reed and Familia locked down the eighth and ninth inning for the 51st time this season, which is by far the most in the majors. 

The last out was recorded by Conforto making a sliding catch in left. The last time a left fielder with the number 30 caught the clinching out was Cliff Floyd in 2006.  Hopefully, these Mets can have a long playoff run like that team. Honestly though, we’re hoping for more than that. 

With that, the 2016 Mets completed their 1973 Mets regular season run. Now comes the hard part. That begins Wednesday with Syndergaard taking the mound against either the Giants or Cardinals in the winner take all Wild Card Game. 

The Las Vegas 51s Made This Fun

Look, even with the Mets remaining schedule, it was unrealistic to expect them to finish the year undefeated. They’re going to lose some games. Tonight was a game you’d expect with Sean Gilmartin, who hasn’t started a game in over a month, having to make the spot start because Noah Syndergaard has strep throat. 

Things went worse than expected. Right off the bat, the Phillies went up 3-0 off a Maikel Franco three run homer. Gilmartin then loaded the bases, including an intentional walk to the right place hitter Jorge Alfaro. Things were going so poorly for Gilmartin tonight, he couldn’t escape the jam. Opposing pitcher Alec Asher would hit a two RBI single chasing Gilmartin from the game. 

Terry Collins brought in Rafael Montero, who eventually  got out of the jam. Of course with him being Montero, he’d make things a lot worse. 

Under his watch, the Phillies lead would expand to 10-0. Given the state of the Mets bullpen, Collins did the smart thing and made Montero just get through it. Montero allowed five earned on 3.1 innings. Collins pulled him after 67 pitches. 

The bright side about going down 10-0 is Collins was able to pull his starters and give them some time off. Collins gave his starters to put a run on the board, but they didn’t. With that, Collins pulled Jose ReyesAsdrubal CabreraYoenis Cespedes, and Curtis Granderson. He replaced them with T.J. RiveraGavin CecchiniTy Kelly, and Brandon Nimmo

Astutely, Collins also left in Travis d’ArnaudLucas Duda, and Michael Conforto. Each of these players need to get some reps if they are going to be the postseason contributors the Mets need them to be. 

This is the group of players that would make the game some fun. While the starters couldn’t hit Asher the backups could. 

Duda got the rally started by busting it out of the box and reaching on a Freddy Galvis error. After a d’Arnaud single, Franco would throw the ball away. Instead of a possible inning ending double play, Cecchini reached, and Duda scored. 

After a Rivera single, Nimmo would hit a double scoring Cecchini. Kelly then hit a sac fly scoring Nimmo. Collins then pinch hit James Loney who ruined everything by making an out. Being fair, he did hit the ball hard down the line, but still, it’s Loney. 

The 51s would then get two more in the sixth. Collins actually kept Conforto in against the left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez. Conforto got the rally started with a one out walk, and Duda followed with a single up the middle. After a d’Arnaud strikeout, Cecchini would get his first career hit with an RBI double to right-center. For some reason (oh right, he’s a bad third base coach), Tim Teufel held Duda who could’ve scored easily. Fortunately, it wouldn’t come back to bite the Mets as Rivera dribbled down the line for an RBI single. It’s a hard hit single in the box score. 

In an attempt to not go to anyone who will pitch in the playoffs, Collins tried to push Jim Henderson to a second inning. Normally, this would a really bad move, but all things considered, it was understandable. When Henderson got in trouble, Collins went to Josh Smoker to try to get the Mets out of the jam. 

With Cesar Hernandez reaching on a bunt single Smoker double clutched on, and A.J. Ellis swiping third when d’Arnaud tried to pick him off, it looked like the come back dream was dead. When Odubel Herrera lifted a fly ball to left, it was a foregone conclusion.  Except it wasn’t. Kelly would unleash a parabolic throw home that would beat Ellis by a mile to keep the score at 10-6. 

Kelly would then lead off the bottom of the seventh with a single. Alejandro De Aza pinch hit for Smoker and flied out to center.  Eric Campbell then hit into an inning ending double play. It seemed as is the Mets best chance of winning the game was over. You would be wrong. 

Phillies reliever Hector Neris would issue back-to-back one out walks to Duda and d’Arnaud. Cecchini would then hit his second career double, barely missing a home run, scoring Duda to make it 10-7. Finally, the Mets could bring the tying run to the plate. Unfortunately, Rivera flied out to shallow center, and Nimmo popped out. 

At this point, you were expecting the Mets to come back in the ninth to win it.

Things got so insane Jay Bruce hit a pinch hit no doubt home run against Phillies reliever Michael Mariot. Campbell then came back from 0-2 and worked out an 11 pitch walk.  That allowed the Mets to bring Conforto to the plate as the tying run with Duda behind him. Once Conforto walked, Duda came up as the go-ahead run. It was the first time all night, the Mets got the go-ahead run to the plate. 

Duda popped out leaving it to d’Arnaud. Sadly, d’Arnaud hit a come backer to end the game. There was some slight disappointment with that. However, the young players made this a fun game to watch. Instead of losing 10-0, we got a sense of what the future may look like. It looks like a group of gritty, never say die, talented players. 

Yes, the loss hurts, especially with the Cardinals having already won and the Giants winning. However, if you are going to lose, you might as well have your big guys get some rest and watch your young players thrive in the process. 

Final Score: Phillies 10 – 51s 8 – Mets 0

Game Notes: With Cecchini, Nimmo, and Conforto playing, the Mets had three of Sandy Alderson’s first round draft picks in the same lineup. With the loss, the Nationals clinched the NL East. 

Mets Should Kick Themselves for This Loss 

While the Mets should go out and beat this Braves team each time they face them, it’s unrealistic to expect them to go 19-0 against them. It’s the nature of baseball that a bad team can beat a good team on any given day. With that said, this is not a game the Mets should’ve lost. 

The Mets jumped on former farmhand John Gant immediately scoring two runs in the first. It was all the more impressive when you consider the Mets didn’t get a hit in the inning. Jose Reyes reached on a leadoff walk, and he would come around to score on consecutive Braves errors. One of those errors allowed Yoenis Cespedes to reach, and he would score the second run of the inning on a Jay Bruce groundout.  Yet another example of how Bruce is an RBI machine. 

Bartolo Colon would give the lead back on a night there was no lead he could hold. In the first, Matt Kemp hit a sacrifice fly scoring Ender Inciarte. If it was Cespedes or a healthy Juan Lagares in center, Inciarte still most likely scores, but it would’ve been more interesting than it was with Curtis Granderson, who really had no choice than to throw it back to second base. 

In the fourth, Nick Markakis would tie the score with a solo home run. 

The Mets would regain the lead on a Cespedes home run to dead center in the fifth. It should’ve been the game winner. Instead, Colon gave up a game tying home run to Kemp, who has been a pain in the neck at the plate (even if he’s been a blessing in the field). 

Right then and there, the Mets blew a game they should’ve won. 

The Mets did have a chance to win the game, but Terry Collins and Tim Teufel would make decisions that would help cost the Mets the game. 

In the eighth, Wilmer Flores hit a two out double. At the time, the Mets still had a pretty full bench, and a Gavin Cecchini who has still yet to appear in a game despite the Mets feeling completed to call him up. Perhaps, for all Collins knew Flores was faster than Cecchini or Brandon Nimmo for that matter. 

Still, the Mets decided to keep the lead footed Flores in the game, even with capable and arguably defenders in James Loney and Eric Campbell available. There was no reason to keep Flores in the game, and yet, there he was. 

T.J. Rivera would hit a pinch hit single to right field. Teufel would send Flores, who inexplicable slid head first into home plate. To add insult that was Markakis nailing Flores at the plate, Flores suffered an injury on the play and had to leave the game. 
With the game tied and heading into extras, Collins went through his bullpen piece by piece bringing in everyone but Jeurys Familia.  That’s what happens overworks his two best relievers AND when the manager manages to the save rule. 

That led to Collins going to Erik Goeddel in the tenth. Keep in mind, the Mets are fighting for a postseason berth, and Collins went to the worst reliever in his pen who has been idle for a whole. 

Of course, Goeddel would get into trouble and take the loss. Before he could blink, there were runners on first and third with one out. He’s strike out Tyler Flowers, and Collins would bring on Josh Smoker. Smoker would get Inciarte to fly out on a ball not deep enough to score the run, especially with it going to Cespedes. 

However, Smoker couldn’t get out of Goeddel’s jam. Adonis Garcia would single home Dansby Swanson to give the Braves the walk off 4-3 win. 

It was a game the Braves never should’ve won. It was a game the Mets decision making allowed them to win. With the Giants and Cardinals winning, it’s a game that pushed the Mets out of a Wild Card position. They should be kicking themselves for that. 

Mets Wouldn’t Be Denied a Third Time

With the way the Mets season has gone, you knew they were going to regret not scoring with bases loaded and no outs. The issue was whether they would be able to rebound. 

At the time, the Mets were up 2-1 after a Wilmer Flores two run homer in the second scoring the clean up hitter Curtis Granderson. The home run was off the right-handed Jake Esch, who was making his major league debut. It was an important homer for Wilmer as he needs to hit righties more with the uncertainty surrounding Neil Walker and his back. 

As in the first two games of this series, the Mets scored the half inning immediately after the Marlins too the lead. 

The Mets had their chance to blow things open but failed. Jay Bruce started the rally with a single. Travis d’Arnaud singled himself leading to the Mets loading the bases. The rally was killed and the Mets scored no runs as Bartolo Colon hit into a double play. Which inning was this? 

It was the second and the fourth. 

In the second, Colon came up with one out, and he hit into the 3-6-3 inning ending double play. In the fourth, there were no outs as Colon hit into the rare 5-2-3 double play. Colon had two at bats leading to four outs. 

The second failure with the bases loaded was especially notable as there are no outs and Bruce’s decided not to test Ichiro Suzuki‘s arm despite Tim Teufel waving him in. Kelly Johnson didn’t get the RBI, and after a Jose Reyes groundout, no one scored. 

The Mets would regret missing out on these chances after Christian Yelich hit a game tying solo homer in the sixth. 

The homer was a blip for Colon who was great on the night. His final line was seven innings, seven hits, two runs, one earned, no walks, and three strikeouts. However, he wouldn’t get the win, in part, due to his offense. Addison Reed  would after pitching a scoreless eighth. 

In the bottom of the eighth, the Mets would not be denied again. The bases were loaded with two outs as Johnson stepped to the plate. He would hit a 3-2 pitch for a bases clearing double giving the Mets a 5-2 lead. 

Jeurys Familia came on and closed it out recording his 44th save of the season. With the save, he broke the tie he shared with Armando Benitez for saves in a single season. He is assured to only add to that. 
With that, the Mets have taken three of the first four from the Marlins. They also finish the month over .500 for the first time since April. 

Game Notes: Old friend Kirk Nieuwenhuis did his part to help the Mets hitting a three run home run against the Cardinals.