Before the last game of the season, Terry Collins told us all what we were expecting. He will not be returning as Mets manager. While unnecessary, he was magnanimous in announcing he was stepping aside and taking himself out of consideration for the managerial position with his contract expiring. The Mets rewarded him with how he’s handled himself in his seven years as manager and over these trying three days with a front office position.
In essence, Collins’ tenure with the Mets ended much in the way it started. The Mets were bad and injured. It was a circus around the team, and he was the face in front of the media left holding the bag. What we saw in all of those moments was Collins was human, which is something we don’t always see in managers.
Part of being human is being emotional. We’ve seen Collins run the gamut of emotions in those postgame press conferences. And yes, we’ve seen him cry. Perhaps none more so than when he had that gut wrenching decision to keep Johan Santana in the game and let him chase immortality. In his most prescient moment as a manger, Collins knew he could’ve effectively ended a great players’ career, and yet, he couldn’t just sit there and rob his player of his glory. In the end, that would be the defining characteristic in Collins’ tenure as manager.
He let Jose Reyes bunt for a single and take himself out of a game to claim the Mets first ever batting title. He left Santana in for that no-hitter. He initially let David Wright try to set his own schedule for when he could play until Wright all but forced Collins to be the adult. Through and through, he would stick by and defer to his players, including but not limited to sending Matt Harvey to pitch the ninth.
Until the very end, Collins had an undying belief in his players, especially his veteran players. It would be the source of much consternation among fans. This was on more highlighted than his usage of Michael Conforto. What was truly bizarre about Collins’ handling of Conforto wasn’t his not playing one of his most talented players, it was Collins had a penchant for developing players when he was interested.
In fact, that 2015 Mets team was full of players Collins developed. You can give credit to Dan Warthen, but Collins deserves credit for helping that staff develop. Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Jeurys Familia all developed into dominating pitchers under Collins guidance.
But it wasn’t just the heralded pitchers. It may have taken some time, but Collins developed some other less heralded prospects into good Major League players. Collins helped make Jon Niese, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores into significant contributors to a pennant winner. It wasn’t just those players. Collins seemingly brought out the best in all of his players.
With the exception of Murphy, you’d be hard-pressed to find a player who performed better after leaving the Mets. Ruben Tejada, Eric Young, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, R.A. Dickey, and Marlon Byrd regressed after leaving the Mets. Really, you can pick you player, and the chances are those players were not the same after playing for a different manager.
Because of his managing, Mets fans saw things they never thought they’d see. A knuckleball pitcher won 20 games and a Cy Young. A Mets player won a batting title. There was actually a Mets no-hitter. Despite the Madoff scandal, the Mets got back to a World Series.
Through all of our collective hand wringing over his managing, we have all tended to lose sight of that. Collins got the best out of his players. It’s why we saw the rise of that team in a dream like 2015 season, and it’s why the Mets fought back so fiercely in 2016 to make consecutive postseasons.
And in those moments, Collins celebrated with his team . . . and the fans. More than anyone who has ever been a part of the Mets, Collins treated the fans with respect. He returned their affection. That was no more apparent than that improbable run in 2015:
— Matt Dunn (@MattDunnSNY) October 22, 2015
It was more than the celebrating. Collins was there to console grieving widows and take time out for sick children who just had heart transplants. At his core, Collins is a good and decent man. It may be that part of his personality which allowed him to get the most out of his players. It helps you overlook some of his shortcomings.
Certainly, Collins has left behind many reliever careers in his wake. Names like Tim Byrdak and Scott Rice are just footnotes in Mets history, and that is because Collins over used his relievers. This was just one aspect of his poor managing. There were many times where he left you scratching your head. It was his managing that helped cost the Mets the 2015 World Series.
However, as noted, the Mets would not have gotten there if not for Collins. To that end, we all owe him a bit of gratitude for that magical season. We owe him gratitude and respect for how he has treated the fans.
He did that more than anyone too because he ends his career as the longest tenured manager in Mets history. When he was hired no one expected him to last that long. Yet, it happened, and despite all of his faults, the Mets were better off for his tenure. In the end, I respected him as a man, and I appreciated what he did for this franchise.
I wish him the best of luck, and I’ll miss him. My hope is that whoever replaces him is able to capture the best of the man. Those are certainly huge shoes that are not easily filled. Mostly, I hope he’s at peace at what was a good run with the Mets, and I wish him the best of luck in his new role.
The one thing we never got to see with Generation K was Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher, and Paul Wilson in the same rotation. In fact, we have never seen them all in the same pitching staff. That never happened because of all the injuries they suffered. Then we saw Isringhausen and Wilson traded in successive years to help the Mets chances of winning a World Series instead of them pitching the Mets to the World Series.
Whatever you want to call the group of Mets young starters (most seemed to like the Five Aces), they never appeared in the same rotation. The closest we got was seeing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in the same rotation in 2015. Coincidentally, that was also the year the Mets went to the World Series on the strength of their pitching.
The reason Zack Wheeler was not a part of that group that went to the postseason was because he suffered an injury in Spring Training. In fact, Wheeler would be gone for two years rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For a moment, it seemed as fait accompli the group would never pitch in the same rotation because Wheeler was almost traded to the Brewers with Wilmer Flores for Carlos Gomez. In fact, if not for Gomez’s hip, the dream would have died there.
Still to this day, we have never seen the five in the same rotation. However, we have seen them all pitch in the same season in the rotation. It may not seem like much, but it’s something. It’s also a step closer to seeing them all in the same rotation. It may finally happen next year.
Matz should be ready for Opening Day after the surgery to repair his ulnar nerve. This was the same surgery deGrom had last season, and he was able to last the entire season injury free. Both Harvey and Syndergaard were able to return and pitch before the season was over. Like in 2015 and 2016, the only question is Wheeler.
In the end, the Mets are a step closer to having all five of their proverbial aces in the rotation. At a minimum, they are a step closer to seeing them all on the same pitching staff. If it does happen, one of the open wounds Mets fans have suffered will close a bit. Howeve,r that wound will not fully heal until we see this group pitch the Mets to a World Series title.
Since he was first called-up to the majors, Dominic Smith has been benched and pinch hit for against left-handed pitching. As a result, when Smith was allowed to face the left-handed Francisco Liriano and swing away 3-0, reporters rightfully ask about it. Collins answer was startling:
Terry Collins ladies and gentlemen pic.twitter.com/tiGXFfdswx
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) September 3, 2017
With rumors already swirling Collins won’t be back next year, it sure seems like he’s checked out.
He’s that guy who gives his two we notice and shows up to work everyday in a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops. He takes two hour plus lunches, and leaves before 4:00.
He disagrees and really doesn’t know how long Amed Rosario has dealt with a finger issue.
Brandon Nimmo won’t hit leadoff anymore.
Odd and inconsistent use of his relievers will continue.
Injured players will continue to play well after they shouldn’t. To that end, just wait for what we know is Wilmer Flores‘ imminent return.
The marginalization of young players for underperforming to not performing vets will continue.
Bad decision making will continue.
Why will all this continue? Why the hell not.
Yesterday, Wilmer Flores actually fouled a ball off his face:
That is the most Mets injury this season.
Adding to the absurdity of the injury, Flores had to be taken to a Houston area hospital.
Could you just imagine that hospital? “Everyone! Dropwhat you’re doing. We will get to all those affected by the hurricane and subsequent flooding later. A New York Mets player fouled a ball off his face. We need to address this STAT before Ray Ramirez can get to him.”
Throw in the fact this was the second time this season a Mets player hurt himself while swinging. With Flores and Michael Conforto, it really makes you question what activities a Mets player can undertake without hurting themself.
Well, we finally have the moment that perfectly encapsulates the Mets 2017 season. We just had to wait for the 135th game of the season and the second game of today’s doubleheader:
Wilmer is lucky he didn't get hit in the eye at least. Gif is before the blood comes don't worry. pic.twitter.com/eRhyMKfJXb
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) September 3, 2017
That’s right, Wilmer Flores fouled a ball off his face and had to leave the game.
That moment right there is the Mets season. In fact, the whole double header was the Mets season.
In the first game, Matt Harvey was rocked in his first game back from the DL. Yes, you did get the sense Houston seemed to relish teeing off on Harvey. More than anything, they just seemed relieved to be playing baseball.
Harvey only lasted two innings throwing 70 pitches. His final line was two innings, eight hits, seven runs, seven earned, no walks, and three strikeouts.
Harvey had some velocity hitting 94 MPH, but he didn’t have much else. Again, like he’s done many times in the past, he said there were mechanical issues. As history repeats itself, we know Dan Warthen lacks answers.
After that, we got the Major League debuts of Jacob Rhame and Jamie Callahan. Rhame had the more successful debut of the two, but still, both threw some serious heat. Like Harvey, Callahan was abandoned by his defense, but he didn’t pitch well enough to make it an issue.
The shame of Callahan’s tough outing was the Mets made a game of it after a poor Harvey start and bad Tommy Milone relief appearance (2.2 IP, 3 ER).
Dominic Smith hit a two run fourth inning homer to cut the deficit to 7-2. In the seventh, Flores hit a grand slam to make it a 10-7 game.
With Callahan’s poor outing, it would end at 12-8.
Of course, with the doubleheader, we got fun with Collins making lineups.
Despite Brandon Nimmo starting both ends of the doubleheader, he didn’t lead off once because the Mets have Jose Reyes and now have Aoki. Also, we were blessed to see Cabrera play in both ends of the doubleheader.
The Mets were much more competitive in the second game of the doubleheader. Note, competitive, not good.
Juan Lagares led off the sixth with a triple to right-center. Lagares busted it out of the box, and he appeared to have a shot at the inside-the-park home run. However, Glenn Sherlock held him up at third.
For a moment, it seemed as if the Mets wouldn’t score. Amed Rosario, who came on for Flores, struck out, and Asdrubal Cabrera walked. The Astros then brought in Francisco Liriano to face Smith.
To the surprise of everyone, Terry Collins didn’t PH for Smith. Perhaps that is because Flores was already out of the game.
Smith lined a ball to Springer, which might have been deep enough to score Lagares. It didn’t matter as Springer misplayed it into a double. Because Cabrera is slower than Sid Bream right now, he didn’t score on the play.
It wound up biting the Mets because the horrors of this season continue to repeat themselves.
Seth Lugo cruised through five innings keeping the Astros scoreless. In the sixth, the Astros began going through the lineup for the third time, and they began teeing off on Lugo.
The first three reached against Lugo with the Astros tying the game on a Josh Reddick RBI single. They then took the lead taking advantage of new Met Nori Aoki‘s bad arm.
Later, Matt Reynolds got gun shy with a shot to nail the runner at home. He took the sure out at first. With the shift being on, his being far off third allowed Marwin Gonzalez to go to third setting up his scoring on a sac fly.
As if the indignity wasn’t enough, Reynolds lost a ball that was literally lost in the roof. The ball would drop right in front of him just out of his reach.
It appears Houston doesn't have all of its gravity back just yet pic.twitter.com/dsisv6DzKQ
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) September 3, 2017
Of course because baseball is cruel, a ball would once again go into the rafters:
I don't blame Matt Reynolds for giving up. Horrible thing to say but sometimes kids you might as well. pic.twitter.com/Fxn3cnVGzD
— Good Fundies (@goodfundies) September 3, 2017
After the rough half inning was over, the Mets were down 4-1 with all four runs being charged to Lugo.
In the end, the Mets were swept in the doubleheader by a MUCH better team. They lost to a team representing a city who needed this distraction. Hopefully, those who are still suffering were able to take some time and enjoy these games.
As Mets fans, we’re hard-pressed to enjoy any of this. The veterans are still playing over the prospects. The players are still getting hurt. The pitchers are still struggling.
Game Notes: Reports indicate once the Rumble Ponies season is over, Tomas Nido will get called up to the majors. Former Met Carlos Beltran did not appear in either end of the doubleheader. He is dealing with a foot injury.
If you recall, there was a time when the Mets considered Rafael Montero to be a better prospect than Jacob deGrom. Sure, it seems silly now with deGrom winning the Rookie of the Year, being an All Star, and how great he pitched in the 2015 postseason. It seems sillier when you consider Montero has mostly been terrible with the Mets shying away from the strike zone and walking too many batters.
Recently, we have seen glimpses from Montero. He is using that change-up, the pitch that made the Mets believe in him, more effectively. He is also throwing strikes. The stretch has been good, but not great. It certainly didn’t give us any indication why the Mets thought so highly of Montero. That was until last night’s game.
Through eight innings, Montero had allowed just one base hit to a stacked Cincinnati Reds lineup. Even allowing for the obvious issues with the OPS statistic, the Reds lineup featured seven batters with an OPS over .800. Two of the players, Zack Cozart and Joey Votto, were All Stars this year. However, when you were pitching like Montero, it simply doesn’t matter.
Given the fact that you have seen Montero pitch in a Mets uniform before, it is understandable that you have to see it before you believe it. Here is a short compliation:
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 31, 2017
Considering how Montero was pitching, you can certainly understand why Terry Collins allowed Montero to go out there for the ninth inning despite Montero having already thrown 107 pitches. This was Montero’s night, and he earned the right to at least try to finish the game.
After retiring the pinch hitter Billy Hamilton, the Reds finally got to Montero. Phil Ervin singled, and Cozart doubled. With him going to the plate as the winning run, the Mets understandably intentionally walked Votto.
At that point, the Mets also put an end to 8.1 brilliant innings from Montero. During his 117 pitch night, he had allowed just three hits and four walks while striking out eight. The only question remaining was whether he was going to get the win.
It was a real question because the Mets had only given him a 2-0 lead with both runs coming in the first inning off of a pair of RBI doubles from Wilmer Flores and Kevin Plawecki. By the way, if you think Montero’s emergence has been a surprise, what about Plawecki? He has gone from a guy the Mets were probably going to seriously consider cutting from the 40 man roster this offseason to a guy who is hitting .364/.440/.591 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI in eight games. By the way, he also threw a scoreless inning in relief the previous night.
Getting back to the bottom of the ninth, the Reds had the bases loaded with one out. Once again Collins eschewed Jeurys Familia in a save situation to go to AJ Ramos. Ramos responded by striking out Adam Duvall and Scotter Gennett to end the game.
With that, the Mets now have a victory where Montero and Plawecki were key figures in the game. In what has truly been a bizarre season, this one probably ranks up there. If that isn’t enough for you consider this – the two have combined to throw 9.1 consecutive scoreless innings.
Game Notes: Amed Rosario got the night off. This led the Mets to play Jose Reyes at shortstop and have him lead-off over Brandon Nimmo because that is exactly what you are supposed to do when you are trying to develop players late in the season.
Long before the two errors Wilmer Flores made last night, he had already established he is not a Major League third baseman. What is most troublesome is there is not just one thing you can pinpoint as the main reason why he struggles there. It is also why he’s probably not redeemable there.
First and foremost, people will point to his throwing. In his career, Flores has played 1,007.2 innings at third base. In those innings, he has made a total of 16 errors; 12 of which were throwing errors. This doesn’t even account for the numerous times he’s thrown offline preventing the team from turning a double play, or his inability to throw out speedy base runners on bunt plays and slow rollers.
However, it’s more than that. Looking at the advanced metrics, Flores’ play at third base is just unacceptable. He has a -17 DRS and a -3.5 UZR at the position. He converts just 93.6% of routine plays at the position.
No matter the statistic you choose, Flores just cannot handle the position. That’s not his fault. Different players are ill-suited to different positions. That was made clear when Jose Reyes, a player who seemingly had the range and arm strength to excel at third base, struggled there this season.
So no, Flores isn’t to blame. The people to blame are the Mets for continuously trotting him out there this year.
On the surface, it is fine to play Flores everyday to let him prove he is capable of being an everyday player at the Major League level. However, if you are really interested in seeing him succeed, you need to give him a fair shot at a position he can actually play.
Flores’ best defensive position is first base, but he is blocked there by Dominic Smith‘s presence. His next best position is second base. As Flores has shown in his career, he can actually handle that position.
In 667.0 innings at second, Flores has a -7 DRS and a 0.3 UZR. In his time there, he has only committed four errors (two fielding, two throwing). He has converted 99% of routine plays at the position.
Despite second being Flores best opportunity to be an everyday player, the Mets refuse to play him there. If the team was giving a shot to Gavin Cecchini, it would be understandable. However, Cecchini’s been stapled to the bench. Rather, the Mets continue to trot Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera out to second base.
Therefore, rather than letting Flores show himself to be what he’s worth, the Mets would rather play two players who played large roles in torpedoing this season at second. The Mets would rather Flores fail to see two players who should not be considered major contributors in 2018 get playing time. It makes no sense.
Yes, we know Flores will never be a Gold Glover. The hope always has been and continues to be he will hit enough to justify playing him everyday. However, that scenario only works if Flores is playing a position he can actually play. We already know he can’t play third. It’s time to stop playing him there and move him to second base.
In a four game series against the Washington Nationals, here was the allocation of games started among the Mets infielders:
- Gavin Cecchini two games
- Asdrubal Cabrera three games
- Wilmer Flores three games
- Jose Reyes two games
- Amed Rosario three games
- Dominic Smith two games
The focus isn’t where it needs to be. Once again, the Mets are failing to develop their young players. Previously, the excuse was you can’t develop young players when you’re trying to win a World Series. This team isn’t winning a World Series, and still, we are not seeing young players in the lineup getting the time they need to develop.
Terry Collins isn’t letting Smith play against left-handed batters. He’s bouncing Flores around the infield instead of giving him a place to focus on and improve. He puts Reyes atop the lineup whenever he gets an opportunity rather than let Brandon Nimmo establish himself as a Major Leauge lead-off hitter. The list goes on and on and on . . . .
Hopefully, the Mets find out what they need to know about this Cabrera and Reyes. Hopefully, they take full advantage of the development time, and they show they are ready to be the big pieces for the Mets over the next decade.
Michael Taylor nailing a slower than molasses Cabrera at home by a healthy margin:
From Downtown! pic.twitter.com/nTifaslvLw
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) August 26, 2017
Robert Gsellman certainly didn’t look like a guy who cared whether his manager thought he needed to improve.
The first inning rally got started on an error from him, and he threw a wild pitch allowing a run to score. Before the inning ended it was 4-0 Nationals.
It was a gorgeous sunny day outside, and my son wanted to go play baseball outside with me.
No, not even with Wilmer Flores going 4-4 with a run, double, home run, and three RBI.
Judging from the 9-4 final score, I made the raise decision.
Game Notes: Travis Taijeron made his Major League debut going 0-4. Jeurys Familia made his first appearance since returning from the disabled list. He pitched one inning allowing three runs on four hits and two walks.
One of the few remaining reasons to watch the Mets is to see how the young players are progressing and whether they can be pieces for the 2018 season. One player getting an unexpected and long audition is Chris Flexen.
Today was Flexen’s best start in the majors. This time, instead of working hard to get through five innings, Flexen pitched six good innings.
The Diamondbacks got to him with a first inning rally capped off by a J.D. Martinez RBI single. From there, Flexen settled in, and he would run off four straight scoreless. He did get some help from Wilmer Flores, who made a nice play and a good throw home to nail David Peralta.
He got more help from Juan Lagares in the fifth. For some reason, A.J. Pollock would test Lagares’ arm on a Martinez line-out. Even with the UCL tear, Lagares has a strong enough arm to nail runners at the plate. It should be noted if Lagares continues playing center this way, and his arm continues being this good, he needs to be in the CF conversation next year.
With the two plays at the plate, Diamondbacks wouldn’t get to Flexen again until the sixth when Chris Iannetta homered off of him.
Flexen got out of the inning with a respectable line: six innings, six hits, two runs, two earned, four walks, and five strikeouts. It was his first major league quality start. It was also his third career win.
After Flexen had allowed the aforementioned first inning homer, the Mets responded in the bottom of the first.
Brandon Nimmo led off the bottom of the first with a double off Diamondbacks starter Zack Godley. He came home on a Michael Conforto RBI single. The two would combine in the fifth to plate another run.
There, Nimmo got the rally started with a one out walk, and he moved into scoring position on an Asdrubal Cabrera fielder’s choice. Conforto then delivered the two out RBI single.
Smith made it 4-2 in the sixth with an absolute bomb to left-center off Jake Barrett.
The Mets couldn’t quite deliver the knock-out punch that inning. Lagares came up with runners on first and second, and he not into a double play. Nimmo then walked against Jorge De La Rosa, but it was all for naught as Cabrera struck out to end the inning.
Fortunately, the Mets bullpen, who was been pitching MUCH better of late, didn’t need to help.
For tonight at least, the Mets gave their young players a shot. Not only did they play hard, they also won the game. As a Mets fan, you can certainly watch this team learn and improve over the final month of the season.
Game Notes: With his three homers, Smith has 19 combined homers between the MiLB and MLB leaving him one short of his first ever 20 home run season.