Willie Randolph

Carlos Beltran Wants To Be A Met, Not A Yankee

After Carlos Beltran had his epic 2004 ALCS for the Houston Astros, he was a free agent. As a player who grew up idolizing fellow Puerto Rican Bernie Williams, Beltran had longed to wear the pinstripes. Partially due to Williams’ presence, the Yankees never seriously pursued him.

Omar Minaya and the Mets did, and it would lead to Beltran signing a seven year $119 million deal with the team. As a result, Beltran would wear pinstripes in New York. It was just a different color and borough than he dreamed.

This was the first of a series of things a certain portion of Mets fans found to be unforgivable.

Other factors were his first year struggles. The strikeout against Adam Wainwright. The knee surgery. There’s more including the collapses.

Beltran would eventually get his wish sighing with the Yankees after the 2013 season. He’d return to Houston in 2017, and in his final season, the future Hall of Famer retired with a ring.

After his retirement, he’d interview for the managerial position left vacant when the Yankees opted to not renew Joe Girardi‘s contract. When he didn’t get it, he’d join the Yankees as a Special Advisor to Brian Cashman.

Now, Beltran is looking to do what his former manager, Willie Randolph, did. He wants to leave the Yankees to become the Mets manager. For some Mets fans, despite his growing up a Mets fan and his playing a year with the team, there was a contingent who saw Randolph as a Yankee, and they never wanted him or gave him a chance.

But Beltran? Well, he is a Met. If he has his druthers, he’ll be a Met again.

According to reports, Beltran doesn’t just want to be a manager. He wants to be the Mets manager. Suddenly, the guy who wanted to be a Yankee wants to leave that franchise to be a Met.

With that, hopefully those who couldn’t forgive Beltran for wanting to be a Yankee can now forgive him for wanting to be a Met. Also, if Beltran does the same thing with the Mets he did when he returned to Houston, perhaps those who can’t forgive the strikeout can find it in their hearts to forgive him.

No matter what the case, we see Beltran once again wants to be a Met. It nothing else, it will be great to see once of the greatest players in Mets history return home. Hopefully, this will lead to Beltran following in Tom Seaver‘s and Mike Piazza‘s footsteps in wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.

If that happens, well, even if he returns to the Yankees, Beltran will forever be a Met.

20/20 Hindsight: Mets Somehow Still Alive

Somehow, the Mets were able to pull off a minor miracle by not just pulling out a victory but somehow also pulling to withing three games of the Cubs and Brewers for the second Wild Card with 10 games remaining in the season:

1. Mickey Callaway not pinch hitting any one of Luis Guillorme, Joe Panik, J.D. Davis, or Wilson Ramos for Rene Rivera with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth was easily the worst decision of his tenure as the Mets manager. There is zero plausible explanation for it, and if the Mets lost that game, he would have merited the Willie Randolph treatment. It was that bad.

2. As it turned out, Ramos and Davis did get their chance to pinch hit, and they delivered by setting up runners at the corners for Brandon Nimmo to deliver the game tying base-hit. It was easily the biggest hit of Nimmo’s career, and it was another indication just how special a player he is.

3. After Jeff McNeil had a great at-bat to draw a walk, you could see Joe Harvey wanted no part of Pete Alonso walking him on four pitches. With Alonso hitting his 49th homer earlier in the game tying Mark McGwire‘s first base rookie home run record, you could understand why. In any event, it gave the Mets a 5-4 lead in a game the Mets won 7-4.

4. Seth Lugo delivering an RBI single in that ninth inning was the most passive aggressive way to show the Mets he should be in the starting rotation. How could you not help but love the guy?

5. No, Syndergaard was not good yesterday, but to pass judgment on one start in Coors Field is absurd. After all, are we going to say Max Scherzer isn’t any good and the Nationals need to trade him because he has a 5.88 career ERA at Coors.

6. On the topic of Scherzer, his getting roughed up by the Cardinals only strengthens Jacob deGrom‘s Cy Young case.

7. There is far too much evidence in the pitcher heat maps and the framing abilities of the Mets three catchers where we know Rivera and Tomas Nido make a real difference behind the plate. One start in the most difficult place to pitch in all of baseball doesn’t undo that.

8. On the topic of baseless narratives, the Mets didn’t cave to Syndergaard. It was a day game after a night game. The Mets would’ve sat Mike Piazza or Gary Carter.

9. We finally got a glimpse of how good a pitcher Marcus Stroman is. His seven shutout innings showed not just the reason why the Mets added him at the trade deadline, but it also showed just how much of a big game pitcher he is. His next two starts should be something special.

10. Steven Matz finally had that meltdown inning he had avoided all second half. That six run inning cost the Mets a chance of winning that game. Overall, we should not read too much into it as it is Coors Field, and he has been just that good of late.

11. In July and August, when the Mets saved their season going from 10 games under to the thick of the Wild Card race, Michael Conforto was their best player (1.6 fWAR highest among Mets position players). In September, he has completely fallen apart hitting .150/.239/.283. The team desperately needs him to get back on track.

12. When Todd Frazier was hit on the hand, it appeared his Mets career was effectively over. Fortunately, he has been able to play after a few days off, and he has contributed going 2-for-6 with an RBI and two walks in addition to his good defense over the last two games.

13. To the shock of everyone, Jeurys Familia came into the game yesterday, and with runners on second and third, he struck out Ryan McMahon to keep the game at 4-2 allowing the Mets to make that comeback.

14. If the Mets are going to pull this off, they are going to need relievers like Familia to step up because the team cannot only rely on Lugo and Justin Wilson. On that front, the Mets bullpen did acquit itself well in this series allowing just five runs over 11.1 innings (3.97 ERA).

15. The Mets designated Eric Hanhold, a promising young reliever, for assignment, and he was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles. Instead of keeping him, the Mets replaced him on the 40 man roster with Donnie Hart, who has yet to pitch in September, and they kept Chris Mazza, who has a 6.43 ERA and has pitched just once this month. That’s an example of just how incompetent Brodie Van Wagenen is.

16. Jed Lowrie finally got on base drawing a walk making him 0-3 with a walk this year.

17. Perhaps the Mets player who came up biggest in this series was Amed Rosario. He was 2-for-4 in the first two games, and he hit the key homer on Tuesday giving the Mets life. Overall, this was just the latest example on how he is figuring things out, and he is going to be a big part of the Mets going forward.

18. Say what you will about the Rockies, but that team can play defense. In fact, between their being great defensively, and the Mets not being good defensively, the Rockies almost pulled out this series. That would have been a disaster.

19. The Mets owe a debt of gratitude to the Padres and Reds for pulling out those wins last night. It is still an uphill climb, but three back in 10 games is possible.

20. The Mets still being alive this late in the season is a miracle. They may still have to run the table, and they have the schedule to do it. However, that still may not be enough. That makes this all just a fascinating end to this season. We should all continue to enjoy the ride.

Mets Rally To Save Season

This was shaping up to be one of those games that not only gets everyone fired. It was also a game which would lead to fans looking to tar and feather everyone. It was going to be that maddening a loss.

Noah Syndergaard struggled in his first start ever at Coors Field, and he made matters worse not holding on base runners. For reasons beyond explanation, Mickey Callaway allowed Rene Rivera to bat with bases loaded and two outs in the sixth with the Mets down 3-2.

The Mets offense had been shut down by Jeff Hoffman, a pitcher with a career 6.21 ERA and a 7.03 ERA this year. This was part of the them of how the bad Rockies pitching inexplicably shut down the Mets offense in a hitter’s paradise.

As the Mets entered the ninth down 4-3, you wondered if Callaway would get the same treatment Willie Randolph once did. Well, it’s not happening because the Mets had a rally to save their season and perhaps more than that.

After getting the Rockies out of an eighth inning jam, Bud Black opted to stick with Jairo Diaz to close out the game.

Wilson Ramos, who wasn’t used as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning, led off the inning with a pinch hit walk before getting lifted for Juan Lagares. J.D. Davis, another player who wasn’t used in the sixth, had a pinch hit single putting runners at the corners with no outs. That was the situation for Brandon Nimmo, who delivered the biggest hit of the year:

Jeff McNeil then had a great at-bat. He battled from down 0-2 to draw a walk in a nine pitch at-bat. That would be it for Diaz as the Rockies brought Joe Harvey to get them out of this jam.

Problem is Harvey wanted no part of Pete Alonso, who had hit his 49th homer of the year earlier in the game. Harvey walked Alonso on four pitches, none of which we particularly close giving the Mets a 5-4 lead.

The Rockies caught a bit of a break with Robinson Cano hitting into a 6-4-3 double play, but it should be noted a run scored on the play increasing the Mets lead to 6-4.

At that point, it appeared the inning should be over. After all, Seth Lugo was due up, and with the state of the Mets bullpen, there was a less than zero chance he was coming out of the game. Well, as it turned out, there was no need to pinch hit for him:

The Mets were once on the verge of complete collapse with multiple heads about to roll. Instead, they’d win this game 7-4 in the most improbable fashion. Even better, with the Brewers losing, they gained a game on them in the Wild Card standings.

Game Notes: Alonso’s homer tied Mark McGwire for the most homers by a rookie first baseman, and it set the new Mets team season record. Lugo became the first Mets reliever to have a win and an RBI hit in a game since Nelson Figueroa.

Reexamining David Cone’s Hall of Fame Case

Hall of Fame voting can be very inconsistent at times. For example, we have seen Lou Whitaker (75.1 WAR) and Willie Randolph (65.9 WAR) both get five percented from the ballot on their first appearance while we have seen Ryne Sandberg (68.0 WAR) inducted on his third ballot, and Roberto Alomar (67.1 WAR) inducted on his second ballot. Those same inconsistencies apply to other positions as well as we saw with this most recent Hall of Fame induction.

This past weekend, Roy Halladay was inducted on his first year on the ballot. In 16 Major League seasons, Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 1.9 BB/9, and a 6.9 K/9. He would have a stretch of his career where he was as dominant as any pitcher in the game wining two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top five seven times. From an advanced statistics perspective, he had a 64.3 WAR, 131 ERA+, and a 3.39 FIP.

Behind the numbers, there are a number of great starts and stories with him. Perhaps there is no bigger start than his first ever postseason start where he threw a no-hitter for the Phillies in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. You could also argue for his perfect game against the Marlins. Between the moments, the numbers, and the awards, it was determined Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

When you look at David Cone‘s career, he was not far off from Halladay.

Cone would pitch 17 seasons with the 17th season being a five game stint with the 2003 Mets. In his career, he was 194-126 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.256 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and an 8.3 K/9. While never seen as quite the dominating starter Halladay was over his career, Cone would win the 1994 American League Cy Young, and he would have five top five finishes in his career. From an advanced statistics perspective, Cone had a 62.3 WAR, 121 ERA+, and a 3.57 FIP.

Looking at Halladay and Cone, the numbers would indicate Halladay was the better pitcher. However, the separation is not as great as the Hall of Fame voting indicates. Whereas Halladay was a first ballot Hall of Famer, Cone would only receive 3.9 percent of the vote in his first and only year on the ballot. This would certainly suggest a lack of appreciation for what Cone accomplished in his career.

Cone is only one of 21 pitchers to throw a perfect game. He was as big a big game pitcher as there ever was. In the World Series, Cone has a 2-1 record with a 2.12 ERA. When his teams faced elimination, Cone made two starts. The first was a complete game gem against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1988 NLCS. The second was against the Mariners where he departed the game with the teams tied in the eighth. In those elimination games, he was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

In his postseason career, Cone would make five starts with his team behind in the series. In those five starts, Cone was 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA. This includes his aforementioned complete game gem in the 1988 NLCS as well as his out-dueling Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in the 1996 World Series to get the Yankees back into that series and eventually win it. On that front, Cone has five World Series rings in his career. That’s one for each All Star appearance.

Considering the Hall of Fame is about honoring the best of the best, you can make the argument there is room for a pitcher like Cone who as at his best on the biggest stages. Looking at his numbers when the chips were down, there is maybe a handful of pitchers you would want over him. If Cone faced any of them, he would give them all he had.

With the understanding it’s not just postseason moments and World Series rings, going back into the numbers, Cone fares well against Hall of Famers. His 62.3 WAR ranks ahead of Hall of Famers like Juan Marichal, Early Wynn, Jim Bunning, and Whitey Ford. Looking at his peak, his 43.4 WAR7 ranks him ahead of Hall of Famers like Mordecai Brown, Don Sutton, and Jack Morris, and his 52.8 JAWS rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Sandy Koufax, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Lemon.

His 121 ERA+ ties him with Don Drysdale, and it has him ahead of Warren Spahn, Bert Blyleven, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan and Glavine. His 2,773 strike outs is 24th best all-time, and it has him ahead of Hall of Famers like Christy Mathewson, Koufax, Halladay, and Catfish Hunter.

He has more complete games than more recent Hall of Famers like John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez. He has more shutouts than Halladay, Pedro, and Smoltz. In terms of WPA (wins probability added), Cone is 52nd all-time among pitchers. His 25.42 mark rates him ahead of Hall of Famers like Lefty Gomez, Dean, and Phil Niekro.

Looking back, it is very likely Cone’s failure to reach 200 wins hurt him. After all, the average Hall of Fame pitcher has 246 wins, and there are just 11 Hall of Fame starters with fewer than 200 wins. It should also be noted a decade later there is fundamentally different emphasis put on the importance of the win, and with that newer perspective it may be time to reevaluate David Cone’s career.

Upon further review, it may be reasonable to determine Cone still falls short. In all honesty, his career may be the ultimate borderline case. However, it is also a much stronger case than a player who had received just five percent of the vote. Certainly, his all-time rankings in the aforementioned categories, his postseason performances, and his perfect game does deserve a fresher look. Hopefully, sometime in the ensuing years we see the Veteran’s Committee (or whatever it is called now) take another look at Cone, and upon a further examination, we may see him get inducted into the Hall of Fame.

 

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.