Willie Randolph

Brandon Nimmo And His Neck Given The Mets “Treatment”

In his eponymous autobiography Pedro, Pedro Martinez detailed how Jeff Wilpon pressured him to pitch despite knowing Pedro was injured. It did not matter team doctors advised Pedro not to pitch or Willie Randolph told Pedro he was done for the year. Jeff Wilpon demanded he pitch, and pitch Pedro did.

As we would discover, this was not an isolated incident. Not by a long shot. The details to which Jeff Wilpon micromanaged injury and medical decisions was highlighted by Jerry Crasnick of ESPN:

Multiple sources said the lack of a single medical point person allows for greater involvement by COO Jeff Wilpon in areas where he’s lacking in professional expertise. They describe Wilpon as a micromanager who creates an environment in which the Mets simply whipsaw from one crisis to the next and are too often governed by how their decisions will be publicly perceived.

“Jeff gets in the middle of everything that’s going on, and he ends up doing more damage,” said a person who has been involved in the Mets’ internal operation. “He meddles. I can’t come up with a more appropriate term.”

Crasnick was far from the only reporter to indicated Jeff Wilpon was this meddlesome in medical decisions. In an interview with Michael Mayer of MMO, former Mets executive Nick Francona agreed with the assessment the Wilpons are meddlesome to the point they “have to have their finger in every pie.”

Certainly, there is an issue with how the Mets handle injuries and injured players. On Bleacher Report, Bob Klapish detailed the issues with how the Mets handle injured players, and as seen with Crasnick’s article, it is traced back to Jeff Wilpon’s involvement:

Paraphrasing one industry executive, it’s almost as if ownership—read: Jeff Wilpon—punishes players who get hurt, banishing them 1,000 miles away from New York. Some players can be trusted on their own. Others see the relatively sparse facilities in Florida, which are designed for low-level minor leaguers during the summer, and defiantly turn the empty time into a de facto vacation.

* * * * * *

What to do with players on the injured list—where to send them, how to treat them—has been a point of contention within the Mets front office for several years. Ultimately, Wilpon has used his veto power to prevent an overhaul.

Maybe it is due to Jeff Wilpon, and maybe it isn’t, but we see a continued pattern with how the Mets both report and handle injuries.

The team pressured Carlos Beltran to forego knee surgery. Both Ryan Church and Jason Bay went on long flights after concussions. It was initially reported David Wright had a hamstring injury before we discovered the real issue was spinal stenosis. Matt Harvey was pressured to pitch well beyond the innings limits purported set and agreed upon prior to the 2015 season. Yoenis Cespedes was activated for just two games, and the team at first publicly denied he needed season ending double heel surgery. There are countless other examples.

We see this pattern re-emerging with Brandon Nimmo.

During Spring Training, Nimmo was described as having a right shoulder issue. It was apparently not sufficient enough of an issue for him to miss Opening Day. A few weeks into the season (April 16), Nimmo would be removed from the game against the Phillies. What was first described as a right shoulder issue would quickly be re-characterized as a “stiff neck.”

Nimmo would miss just two games before returning to the lineup. For a month, there would be no real mention of issues related to Nimmo’s neck. In fact, the only thing we would hear about is an oblique related issue. Still, despite his having a shoulder/neck issue, getting hit on the hand, and dealing with an oblique issue, Nimmo would not land on the disabled list until May 22.

At that time, Nimmo was hitting .200/.344/.323. It is important to remember this was a year after Nimmo was the second best hitter in the National League trailing just National League MVP Christian Yelich in wRC+. At 26, he was supposed to take off and build off of last year. Instead, he was dealing with some nagging injuries and a “stiff neck.”

It is important to note here Nimmo said the neck injury which landed him on the injured list was the same injury he had been dealing with since April.

Finally, after dealing with injuries in the area of the body since February and more specifically since April 16, Nimmo was sent for an MRI. The results of the MRI showed Nimmo had a bulging disc in his neck.

On June 6, Nimmo began a rehab assignment. In his first game, he was 2-for-4 with a triple. In the ensuing four games, he was 0-for-10. He was given the June 13 game off, and then he was scratched from the lineup the following day.

As detailed by the NY Post‘s Zach Braziller, the Mets had claimed Nimmo was dealing with neck inflammation until Nimmo revealed it was a bulging disc. Moreover, Mickey Callaway admitted Nimmo was playing rehab games despite the fact his neck issue had never gone away.

Now, Nimmo is going to see Dr. Robert Watkins in California. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Dr. Watkins is the same specialist who treated Wright for his spinal stenosis. The Los Angeles Daily News has called him one of the top 50 powerful sports figures in Los Angeles. This is partially due to his treatment of Peyton Manning. On a baseball front, he also treated Don Mattingly in addition to Wright.

What is interesting to note in the article lauding him is the statement, “The microdiscectomy surgery he performs on most of his sports clients provides relief for herniated discs.” At this point, we have no real way of knowing how this applies to Nimmo.

Part of the reason why is the Mets went from soreness to inflammation to bulging disc. They had Nimmo play until he could no longer play, and he was sent on a rehab assignment despite the injury not having fully healed.

To be fair, there are factors here which could absolve the Mets. Doctors could have said Nimmo could play so long as he felf comfortable playing. Certainly, Nimmo could have not told the team the full extent of his injuries, or maybe, Nimmo did feel as if he could play through it all. It would not be the first or last time any of these types of things have happened.

While we shouldn’t discount that, we cannot discount the reports regarding Jeff Wilpon’s meddling into medical decisions. We should not discount how Wright goes from a leg injury to career ending spinal stenosis or how the team was initially set against Beltran or Cespedes receiving the surgeries they required.

More than that, there was Pedro. Certainly, if an eight time All Star, three time Cy Young Award winner, and a future Hall of Famer felt pressured to go against medical and managerial advice because Jeff Wilpon demanded he play, you wonder how a 26 year old like Nimmo would hypothetically feel if he was ever put in the same situation.

Overall, we do not know exactly what transpired with Nimmo. We do not know what he said to the team or his doctors, what his doctors communicated to him and the team, or what the team instructed him to do. All we do know is Nimmo’s injury and handling thereof have fit a pattern which has existed with the Mets for over a decade now. We have seen this ruin some careers and alter others. Hopefully, we will not see the same fate befall Nimmo as has befallen other Mets.

2019 Mets Postseason Doppelgangers

There have been a few times in the Mets history where they have surprised or even shocked the World in making their run to the postseason. The biggest example is 1969, which occurred 50 years ago. The Mets would make their Miracle run in 1973, and they would emerge in 1999, 2006, and 2015.

When you look at those rosters, there are players who are comparable to the players on this year’s Mets roster. Here’s a look at how it breaks down:

Catcher

Travis d’Arnaud (Todd Pratt) – d’Arnaud may very well be pressed into action more than anticipated, and as we saw in the 2015 postseason, he can deliver some big hits when needed.

Tomas Nido (Jerry Grote) – A defensive oriented catcher who helps takes his pitchers over the top and more than makes up for whatever offensive issues he may have.

Wilson Ramos (Paul Lo Duca) – Ramos may not have been the catcher the Mets may have originally expected to bring in during the offseason, but like Lo Duca, he could be the perfect fit for this team and surprisingly be a very important piece to this club.

Infield

Pete Alonso (Michael Conforto) – Alonso is the young prospect who is getting thrown into the fire and expected to be a key bat in a lineup who are trying to overcome the Nationals.

Robinson Cano (Rickey Henderson) – Cano was brought in to be the Hall of Fame caliber player who could take this team over the top.

J.D. Davis (Matt Franco) – Players who will predominantly be pinch hitters who are going to be counted upon to provide those key unexpected game winning hits.

Todd Frazier (Ed Charles) – Both were better before joining the Mets, but they proved to be glue guys in the clubhouse making the team better for their presence alone.

Luis Guillorme (Anderson Hernandez) – Tremendously gifted middle infielders whose gloves helped earn them a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Jed Lowrie (Jose Valentin) – Switch hitters who were brought to serve as a bench piece for the Mets who could be pressed into duty more than anticipated, which could be of great value to the team.

Jeff McNeil (Cleon Jones) – Homegrown Mets ready who show their previous year breakouts were not flukes, but rather an indication they are key members of a winning team.

Amed Rosario (Jose Reyes) – Reyes figured it out in 2006, and he became a dynamic and exciting player. This can be that year for Rosario.

Dominic Smith (Ed Kranepool) – Both probably rushed and mishandled as prospects, but they both still had a lot of hits in their bats making them valuable pieces for their club.

Outfield

Keon Broxton (Xavier Nady) – The imported outfielder who has not yet lived up to expectations has an opportunity to prove himself on a talented roster.

Yoenis Cespedes (Donn Clendenon) – The Mets are relying on a big bat to come after the All-Star Break and get this team a World Series, who better than the guy who delivered that in 1969?

Michael Conforto (David Wright) – The time is now for the homegrown player to put it all together and have an MVP caliber season to put this team over the top.

Juan Lagares (Endy Chavez) – Chavez was the defensive oriented player who was pressed into more action than anticipated, and his play on the field was a big reason the 2006 Mets came withing a game of the World Series.

Brandon Nimmo (Edgardo Alfonzo) – Homegrown Met oft overlooked who may actually prove to put up the best season of all the players on the roster.

Starters

Jacob deGrom (Tom Seaver) – deGrom is the staff ace coming off a historically great season, who needs to stay at a high level for the team to make the postseason.

Noah Syndergaard (Noah Syndergaard) – The Mets need Thor to be Thor.

Zack Wheeler (Jacob deGrom) – It was deGrom’s building off of a surprising 2014 season which helped take the Mets over the top in 2015. It’s exactly what everyone is expecting from Wheeler in 2019.

Steven Matz (Al Leiter) – Hometown left-handed pitchers who have a chance to help be a big part of the reason why the Mets make a run to the postseason.

Jason Vargas (Bartolo Colon) – Vargas is the veteran below-league average starter who needs to stick in the rotation while just eating up innings.

Corey Oswalt (Logan Verrett) – The Mets need a low round drafted prospect to put together a string of great starts to help put this team over the top. With his increased velocity, this could be Oswalt.

Chris Flexen (Octavio Dotel) – Spot starters who have the repertoire to potentially do much more damage in the bullpen.

Hector Santiago (Darren Oliver) – Pitchers who once had success starting who could be valuable long men in the bullpen.

Bullpen

Edwin Diaz (Billy Wagner) – Wagner was the sure-fire reliever at the end of the bullpen who helped make games an eight inning affair.

Jeurys Familia (John Franco) – One time great Mets closer is now serving as the set-up man for a young brash fireballer brought in during the offseason.

Seth Lugo (Nolan Ryan) – Just pure dominating stuff out of the bullpen from a guy who would probably be a starting pitcher for any other Major League team.

Robert Gsellman (Pat Mahomes) – The key piece of the 1999 bullpen who permitted the Mets bullpen to be as great as it could possibly be.

Justin Wilson (Dennis Cook) – Pitchers who are more than LOOGYs who raise their game in the biggest stages.

Luis Avilan (Pedro Feliciano) – Feliciano was the LOOGY out of the bullpen who was a weapon the Mets could utilize to neutralize the opponent’s top left-handed batters.

Tim Peterson (Greg McMichael) – Strike throwers who don’t have dominating stuff.

Jacob Rhame (Heath Bell) – The guys whose stuff have not quite yet translated to performance leading them to bounce between Triple-A and the Majors.

Paul Sewald (Carlos Torres) – Jack of all trades reliever who does yeoman’s work eating up innings.

Daniel Zamora (Royce Ring) – Promising young LOOGYS who should dominate in their limited opportunities.

And finally, there is Mickey Callaway, who we are hoping will be able to accomplish what Willie Randolph accomplished by proving himself a good manager in his second year and by leading the Mets to being the best team in the National League.

 

Patriots Winning The Super Bowl Is A Bad Omen For The Mets

Last night, the New England Patriots won the sixth Super Bowl in team history. If you look at how the Mets have performed in the other five years the Patriots won the Super Bowl, you may not believe this to be a good thing:

2002
Super Bowl XXXVI
Mets: 79-86

After a disappointing season on the heels of a National League pennant, Steve Phillips decided it was time to make some drastic changes with the Mets. The team would clear out Robin Ventura and Todd Zeile to make way for Mo Vaughn and Roberto Alomar. The team would also reunite with Roger Cedeno and Jeromy Burnitz. A disappointing rotation was “buttressed” with pitchers like Pedro Astacio, Jeff D’Amico, and Shawn Estes.

What would result was an unmitigated disaster as none of the imported players would perform close to their historical levels of production. In fact, only Estes would be playing baseball the next time the Mets made the postseason. Perhaps the biggest indignity to their also-ran season was Estes inability to exact revenge against Roger Clemens.

2004
Super Bowl XXXVIII
Mets:
71-91

This year was probably rock bottom for that era in Mets history. The team proved ill advised at trying to make Mike Piazza a part-time first baseman. Kazuo Matsui looked like a bust leading you to wonder why the Mets not only contemplated signing him, but also shifting Jose Reyes to second base to accommodate him. You also wondered if Reyes was going to prove out to be an injury prone player.  Braden Looper should never have been contemplated as the closer.

As bad as that was, the team made a series of trade blunders. First and foremost, for some reason with the Mets being five games under .500 and seven out in the division, they talked themselves into contender status leading to the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade.

As bad as that was, we would also see the Mets first obtain Jose Bautista only to trade him away for Kris Benson. Again, this was done in the vein of the Mets are contenders despite being so many games out of contention.

Jim Duquette would shoulder the blame for the moves, which probably were not all his idea, and he would be reassigned in September. Without Duquette at the helm, the Mets would completely bungle firing Art Howe leaving him to manage the end of the season knowing he was doing it with the axe swiftly coming down on his head.

2005
Super Bowl XXXIX
Mets:
83-79

With Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph at the helm, this was a new look Mets team. Still, things weren’t quite there. Doug Mientkiewicz proved to be a bit of a disaster. The team leaned on Miguel Cairo too much. At the time, Carlos Beltran seemed to be channeling Bobby Bonilla with a year where he regressed in nearly every aspect of his game. As bad as that was, he had the horrific  collision with Mike Cameron in right-center field in San Diego:

The biggest bright spot of that season was Pedro Martinez, who was vintage Pedro all year long. He flirted with no-hitters, and he led the league in WHIP. He was a throwback to a time when the Mets dominated with their pitching. He would also battle some injuries leading to Randolph smartly shutting him down for the rest of the year.

Except he wasn’t. As Pedro would detail in his eponymous book “Pedro,” Jeff Wilpon forced him to pitch while he was hurt. This would exacerbate his existing injuries and would lead to other injuries. Instead of having Pedro in the 2006 postseason, he was watching with the rest of us.

2015
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: Lost World Series 4-1

Even when things are going right, they fell completely apart. Alex Gordon jumped on a Jeurys Familia quick pitch. Daniel Murphy booted a grounder. Lucas Duda couldn’t make a throw home. Terry Collins did about as poor a job managing a World Series as you possibly could do. What was once fun ended in bitter fashion.

2017
Super Bowl XLIX
Mets: 70-92

The 2016 Mets made a late furious push to claim a Wild Card spot despite being without Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler in the rotation. The thought was if these pitchers could be healthy in 2017, then the Mets could return to the postseason for a third consecutive year, and maybe, just maybe, the Mets could win the World Series.

Instead, Harvey would have off-the-field issues leading to a suspension. Back then, we thought those issues were affecting his performance. In actuality, it was Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Joining Harvey on the shelf was Noah Syndergaard, who went down with at a torn lat. Matz had ulnar nerve issues costing him most of the season. With Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman unable to reclaim their 2016 magic, the season was history.

Still, during that season there was a glimmer of hope in the form of Michael Conforto. The then 24 year old was playing at a superstar level. He was named a first time All Star, and he was proving himself to be a leader for a Mets team which still had the talent to be contenders in 2018. Instead on August 24, he would swing and miss on a pitch and collapse to the ground with a severe shoulder injury.

As if that all wasn’t enough, this would be the first time since 2003, David Wright would not appear in at least one game for the New York Mets.

2019
Super Bowl LIII
Mets: ?

This past offseason, Brodie Van Wagenen has set out to put his stamp on the Mets. He has rebuilt the bullpen with Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, and Justin Wilson. He has reshaped the lineup with Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, and Wilson Ramos. There are still some holes on the roster, but generally speaking, this is a stronger club than the Mets have had over the past two seasons.

The additions have come at a cost. The Mets traded away arguably their two best prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. The team has also parted with well regarded prospects Ross Adolph, Luis Santana, and Scott Manea for J.D. Davis. There was also a further burying of former first round picks Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini on the depth charts.

Sure, there is no real correlation between the Patriots winning a Super Bowl and the Mets performance during the ensuing season. To suggest that is foolish. And yet, there is an unsettling pattern where a Patriots Super Bowl begets a disappointing Mets season.

Really, when you break it down, the real analysis to be made here is the disparity between the Patriots and the Mets. Whereas the Patriots are regarded as one of the best run organizations in all of professional sports with a terrific owner, the Mets are regarded as one of the worst run organizations with meddlesome owners. If the Mets are to break this “streak,” it is going to be because the Mets are a much better run organization who has the full resources and backing it needs from ownership.

 

Bad Postseason Results Does Not Mean Managers Made The Wrong Decisions

Prior to Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, there was much debate over who Willie Randolph should give the ball.

It was Steve Trachsel‘s turn in the rotation, but he was terrible in Game 3 and bad in the NLDS. Possibly, it was the result of the microdiscectomy he had in 2005, but he didn’t have in anymore.

Due to the rainouts in the series, Tom Glavine in one day of rest was a non-starter leaving the Mets unable to throw their best (healthy) pitcher in a winner-take-all-game.

As a result, when you broke it all down, the Mets best option was Darren Oliver Perez.  That’s right, it was some combination of Darren Oliver, the former starter who was brilliant in the Mets bullpen in 2016, and Oliver Perez, the pitcher who did just enough to win Game 4.  With Perez not being nearly as good as he was as his 2002 breakout season, and him starting on three days of rest, this truly was an all hands on deck type of game.

Looking at the game, it made sense to put the Mets bullpen front and center.  The Mets had the best and deepest bullpen in the National League.  That bullpen led the National League in wins, ERA, and fWAR.  It was dominant, and even with the hiccups in Games 2 and 5 in the series, you certainly trusted it much more than you trusted anyone in the rotation.

As we are aware, things turned out much differently than anticipated.  With the help of Endy Chavez making the greatest catch you will ever see, Perez would allow just one earned on four hits in six innings of work.  He went far beyond what anyone could have anticipated, and really, he put the Mets in position to win that game.

Ultimately, the Mets would lose the game and as a result the series for two reasons.  The first was the Mets offense didn’t deliver.  After Endy’s catch, Javier Valentin struck out with the bases loaded, and Endy did not have more magic left for the inning instead flying out.  In the ninth, Cliff Floyd struck out, Jim Edmonds robbed Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran struck out looking.

The second reason was the bullpen, specifically Aaron Heilman.  He pitched a scoreless eighth, and he started off the ninth well striking out Edmonds.  After the Scott Rolen single, he really was through the dangerous part of the lineup.  He should have gotten through that inning unscathed to give the Mets a chance to walk off.  Realistically speaking, no one could have anticipated what came next.

In 2006, Heilman did not get hit hard.  He yielded just a 4.4% FB/HR ratio, and he had a 0.5 HR/9.  He had not given up a home run since July 16th, and that was hit by Phil Nevin.  Again, no one could see Yadier Molina‘s homer coming.

That didn’t stop it from coming, but just because it came, it did not mean Randolph and the Mets made the wrong decision trusting Heilman.

Sometimes, you make the right decision, and the wrong thing happens.  It is what we saw happen last night with the Athletics.

Like the 2006 Mets, the real strength of that team was the bullpen.  In a winner take all game, Bob Melvin put his faith in them.  Ultimately, it was two of his best relievers, Fernando Rodney and Blake Treinen, who failed most.  They took a close game and put it well out of reach.

That doesn’t mean he was wrong to trust those arms for one game.  It just means the team’s best players didn’t perform, which is the reason the Athletics lost.  Really, it was the use of an opener or the bullpenning.  It was Rodney and Treinen, two pitchers who were definitively going to pitch in the game even if the Athletics used a traditional starter, who lost the game.

In the end, there is still a debate at the merits of using an opener or bullpenning, but the Athletics losing this game did not settle this debate.  Not in the least.

Mets Blogger Roundtable: Is Callaway In Over His Head?

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:

Roger Cormier (Good Fundies)

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.

Mark Healey (Gotham Baseball)

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…

Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing)

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.

Mets Daddy

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.

Cabrera, Lagares, d’Arnaud Reward Callaway’s Faith

After how great Opening Day was for the Mets, you’d think the only change that would be made was starting Jacob deGrom. It would’ve been justified with the Cardinals starting another right-handed pitcher in Michael Wacha. That’s not what happened.

In Game 2 of the Mickey Callaway Era, we’re learning this is not a manager who is one for maintaining the status quo. Rather, this is not someone afraid to upset the Mets Home Run Apple card. He’s going to make an informed decision, and he is going to run with it even if it is unpopular.

And because of that, before first pitch today, he was quite unpopular.

Brandon Nimmo was benched in favor of Juan Lagares even with Nimmo reaching in four of his five plate appearances.

Asdrubal Cabrera, the only Mets Opening Day starter to not get a hit was moved from cleanup to leadoff.

Kevin Plawecki, who also reached base four times and hit a double, was benched for Travis d’Arnaud.

Callaway had a sound basis for his decisions. Wacha has reverse splits, and these players hit left-handed pitchers better. deGrom has a high fly ball rate, and Lagares is the best center fielder in baseball. And yet, despite all that, Callaway opened himself up for criticism.

Those critics were silenced immediately as Cabrera led off the bottom of the first with a double. He would eventually score on a Todd Frazier two RBI double.

On the day, Cabrera was 3-5 with a run, the aforementioned double, and an RBI. With that performance, he more than justified his manager’s decision.

Lagares and d’Arnaud would as well.

In the fourth, d’Arnaud would hit the first homer by a Mets player this year. Overall, he was 1-3 with a run, walk, homer, and an RBI.

Yoenis Cespedes would hit the second of the season with a fifth inning blast.

Lagares would also shut everyone up going 2-4 with a run.

Even with deGrom struggling to find it, he still allowed one run on four hits while allowing just one walk and striking out seven over 5.2 innings

The end result was the Mets dominating the Cardinals again. For the second time in as many days; the Mets chased the opposing starter, and they tacked on runs against the opposing bullpen.

For a second straight game, the Mets bullpen looked good.

Robert Gsellman came on with two outs in the sixth and struck out Jose Martinez. After he got into some trouble in the seventh, Anthony Swarzak bailed him out.

Swarzak was the only issue on the day and not just because Matt Carpenter homered off of him to pull the Cardinals within 5-2. The real issue was Swarzak left the game with a strained oblique.

This led to Callaway, a former American League pitching coach, having to make a double switch. Yes, it may be overblown, but Willie Randolph did have an issue with it early in his career.

When Callaway made the switch, it was Jeurys Familia coming in for the four out save. It was a throwback to how he was used in 2015. Fortunately, Familia looks as great as he did then.

With that power sinker back in the high 90s, Familia is unhittable. He was unhittable striking out two and recording the save.

So again, Callaway pushed all the right buttons, and the Mets won another game. In the future, these decisions may not work out as well as it has in the first two games, overall, with Callaway making informed decisions like this, they will work out more times than not.

If that happens, Mets fans will give him the benefit of the doubt because the Mets will be winning games and heading to the postseason.

Game Notes: Callaway joins former Mets manager Joe Frazier to begin his managerial career by winning the first two games of a season. No Mets manager has won three straight games to begin their career.

Frazier’s first inning RBI double was the first of his career.

Mets Second Game Record Not as Good as Opening Day Record

Much is made of the Mets having the best Opening Day record among all 30 Major League teams.  That record expanded to 37-20 in what was Mickey Callaway‘s first game as the manager of the Mets.  Considering the Mets have had more losing than winning seasons in their history, we know those good times do not keep rolling on throughout the season.

Looking throughout Mets history, as the excitement of Opening Day fades, so does the Mets record.  In the 56 year history of the Mets, the team’s record in the second game of the season is 28-28 (.500).

The record does get a little dicier from there.  In those previously famed 36 wins, the Mets have followed them with defeats in 20 of those games (.444).

When it comes to the Cardinals, the Mets are now 6-2 against them on Opening Day.  The Mets are also 2-6 against them in the second game of the season.

When looking through the Mets managerial history, there have been 12 managers who made their debut with the Mets on Opening Day.  Of those 12 managers only Joe Frazier debuted with the 1976 Mets by winning his first two games.  That year, the Mets would finish 86-76.  That would also be the last year the Mets would have a winning record until 1984.

Frazier and the Mets would start the 1977 season going 15-30, and Frazier’s managerial record would drop to 101-106.  Of course, a large part of that was his losing both Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman, both of who were traded the previous season in the “Midnight Massacre.”

As an aside, Frazier, Willie Randolph, and Yogi Berra are the managers to begin their Mets managerial careers on Opening Day to have a winning record in their first season as manager.  Willie’s and Yogi’s Mets both lost the second game of the season.  Unlike Frazier, both Willie and Yogi would take Mets team to the postseason in their second season as the Mets manager.

Of course, past is only prelude.  It is not determinative of what will happen in the future.  Just because the Mets won their opener, it does not mean the Mets have just a 44% or 50% chance of winning that game.  Really, with the Mets sending Jacob deGrom to the mound, you’d have to believe the Mets odds of winning are much better than that.

Having watched the Mets win on Opening Day, it seemed like this was a different Mets team.  It felt like this was a team that is going to surprise us this season and really set themselves apart from Mets teams from years past.  That’s part of the fun of Opening Day.  Who knows how long this feeling will last?  Perhaps, we will find the answer later today.

Five Aces Are No More and Never Were

When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.

The 1977 Midnight Massacre which saw a vengeful and frankly inept front office trade Tom Seaverand Dave Kingman. This would beget Grant’s Tomb.

The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby BonillaUnder the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.

There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher.  With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.

The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation.  Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts.  To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.

Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986.  While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces.  Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.

They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.

Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.

This wasn’t “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain.”  It was Matz and Thor and We Got Three More!

Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache.  Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.

Each and every single one of them would go down with injury.  Most of them went down with two or more.  As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation.  Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.

Finally, this year was supposed to be the year.  Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year.  The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff.  It was all set up for them.

And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.

Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense.  However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.

Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series.  That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal.  Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.

At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?

Managerial Profile: Manny Acta

Manny Acta

Current Position: Mariners Third Base Coach
Age: 1/11/1969 (48)

MLB Managerial Experience: 2007 – 2009 Washington Nationals 158 – 252 (.385); 2010 – 2012 Cleveland Indians 214-266 (.480)

One of the most respected coaches on Willie Randolph‘s staff was noticeably missing during the 2007 and 2008 collapses that doomed not just the Mets, but also Randolph.  The person missing was third base coach Manny Acta.

Much like we saw with Alex Cora this season, Acta was a hot commodity back then because he was widely considered the next big manager.  Acta was respected for his intelligence, baseball acumen, and his ability to communicate with players.  That went double for young and Hispanic players.  In fact, the Washington Nationals said of Acta, “Manny is so intelligent, and so articulate. And he’s very good with players. He’s very active. He was out there hitting fungos (while managing the Nationals). He has a lot going for him.”  (Sports Illustrated).  That’s a remarkable thing to say about a manager.  It’s all the more incredible when you consider that was said when they fired him.

Because Acta is well respected and because people believe he’s an intelligent man who continues to educate himself, he keeps getting jobs.  After failing with the Nationals, he was hired by the Indians.  After failing with the Indians, he was hired by Baseball Tonight.  After a well received Baseball Tonight stint, he was hired by the Mariners to serve as their third base coach, a position which he holds today.

Considering how well respected he is, it makes you question why he never worked out as a manager.  For starters, he’s never really had good teams.  When we thing of the current Nationals who are one of the best teams in baseball, you think of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman.  In his Nationals tenure, Acta only got to manage a young Zimmerman.

In Cleveland, he had a difficult situation with the old players getting old fast, and the young players not being quite ready.  Players like Johnny Damon and Derek Lowe were hanging on while Jason Kipnis and Corey Kluber weren’t what they are now.  As many will note, even the best of managers cannot win without talent.

But with Acta, it might have been more than just a lack of talent.  In a MASN article, Acta was described as being unable to relate to players.  As bad as that might be, an AP article was even more damning of Acta as a manager with Indians players feeling as if Acta did not have their back.  There were other reports suggesting Acta was rigid in his ways, and that he was unable to motivate his players.  Put another way, Acta’s greatest weakness as manager might be his ability to handle a clubhouse.

What the Players Say:

Joe Smith: “Our team, for whatever reason, didn’t seem motivated to play. It’s sad when you say that about a bunch of guys that get paid to play a game. You shouldn’t need somebody else to motivate you to play this game. At the end of the day, it’s on us, but when it came that time to motivate us, there wasn’t a whole lot of it there.”  (MLB.com)

Josh Tomlin: “He said that’s how he managed, that’s how he won in the Minor Leagues and that’s how he was going to win in the big leagues — by being himself. You have to respect a man for that, that he wasn’t going to change who he was.”

Recommendation:

It is interesting to see Mike Puma’s recent New York Post article on the subject of Acta’s candidacy.  Ultimately, it highlighted the best points of Acta that leads to teams continuously trying to bring him into their organization.  However, that same piece highlighted his weaknesses, notably his inability to “handle controversy.”

What we don’t know from with Acta is if he’s grown from the issues that held back his career in Washington and Cleveland.  If he hasn’t then hiring him should prove to be a disaster much in the same way hiring Art Howe or Jeff Torborg was.  The Puma article does little to quell those concerns.

However, if Acta has grown and has learned from his mistakes in the clubhouse like we have see from Terry Collins during his Mets managerial career, you will have a smart baseball person who is hard working.  In life, you can never go wrong with smart and hard working.

Ultimately, any decision on Acta should begin with long and honest conversations with David Wright and Asdrubal Cabrera.  Both are veterans who Acta has coached/managed.  If both endorse Acta, it’s possible he’s the right man for the job.  That goes double when you consider most of the praise directed at Acta comes from front offices and not players.  If Acta doesn’t receive glowing endorsements from Wright or Cabrera, it should be an easy decision to look in a different direction.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on MMO

Mets Managerial Position Is A Dead End Job

Recent reports indicate Robin Ventura and Brad Ausmus are not interested in the Mets managerial job.  For Ventura’s part, it seems he’s just not interested in managing again.   With respect to Ausmus, he’s interested in managing again, but he doesn’t want the Mets job.  Ausmus is interested in the Red Sox job.

There are also reports other managers with managerial experience were out of the running as well.  Specifically, Bob Geren and Chip Hale will not be reuniting with the Mets.  Both were assumed to be well respected by the organization, but for unspecified reasons, neither is a candidate for the Mets managerial opening.  With respect to these two, it should be noted, it was not known if they took themselves out of the running, or the Mets decided to go in another direction.

Really, the only manager with prior experience who is a candidate for the job is Manny Acta, who due to poor stints in Washington and Cleveland, probably won’t be a candidate for many managerial positions.  Unless Acta gets the job, the Mets are going to hire a first time manager, and the top managerial candidate on the market, Alex Cora, appears destined to go to the Red Sox.

It really makes you question why there isn’t greater interest in the Mets managerial position?  There may be a number of viable reasons why, but let’s not overlook the fact the Mets managerial position is somewhat of a dead-end job.

Since the Wilpons assumed team control in 2003, the team has gone through four managers.  That’s five if you include Bobby Valentine who was fired after the 2002 season.  Of those five managers, Valentine was the only one who would ever get another managerial job, and that was only after he first went to Japan, worked as an analyst on Baseball Tonight, and got the opportunity from a Red Sox ownership group eager to hire him.  Otherwise, Valentine likely never gets another job.

There are several reasons why these managers never got another job.  With respect to Terry Collins, he will turn 69 early in the 2018 season, and there were rumors before the announcement the Mets were reassigning him in the organization, Collins was going to retire anyway.  Still, that didn’t prevent the Mets from trashing him on the way out.

It’s quite possible the scathing analysis of Collins as detailed in Marc Carig’s Newsday article was the Mets masterpiece.  It may well be the result of all the practice they’ve had.

In a New York Daily News feature after it was announced Art Howe would finish out the season before being fired, Howe was characterized as soft, uninspiring, weak, and lacking credibility with players.

His replacement, Willie Randolph, was treated just as poorly on the way out.  In addition to being fired after winning the first game of a West Coast trip, the Mets would again go to assassinate their manager’s character.  As detailed by Bill Maddon of the New York Daily News, the Mets let it be known they had their reservations about even hiring Randolph and insisted the team won in spite of him.  As if that wasn’t enough, the report stated the team believed Randolph, “lacked fire; the players, especially the Latino players, had tuned him out; he was too sensitive to criticism; he was overly defensive; he didn’t communicate with his coaches.”

Is there any wonder why a manager with a 302-253 (.544) record never got another job?  The same manager who deftly handled the development of David Wright and Jose Reyes never got another opportunity.

Yes, there were other reasons why Randolph never got another job, but in the end, the character assassination levied upon him was a great disservice, and it played an important role in his never getting another job.  Same went for Valentine and Howe.

Knowing how the Mets handle the firings of their managers, and knowing how their managers never get another job, why would a top candidate ever consider taking this job?