Wilmer Flores

Complicated Good-Bye To Jose Reyes

Back in 2011, Jose Reyes would lay down a bunt single to preserve his batting title.  The first in Mets history.  After reaching safely, Reyes would be lifted from the game much to the consternation of Mets fans.  Much of the consternation eminated from the fact it looked like this was going to be the last time fans were going to get to see Reyes in a Mets jersey, and those fans wanted to see Reyes play just one last time and say good-bye.

Sunday, Reyes was in the lineup once again leadoff in what many believed to be his final game as a Met.  Reyes would take one at-bat, ground out, and he would walk off the field for a final time.  While the circumstances may seem to mirror what transpired seven years prior, the two situations could not have been more different.

During Reyes’ first stint with the Mets, he was the most electrifying player in the Majors.  He could turn anything into extra bases, and extra base hits were nanoseconds away from becoming triples.  When he was on the basepaths, he was a constant stolen base threat, and his dancing at third base helped entice a few balks leading to a run.  Reyes was so dynamic we came up with the term “Reyes Run” for him getting on, getting over, and getting in.

Reyes was more than a dynamic offensive force.  He was a shortstop with a bullet arm and a fan favorite.  His apparent joy on the field was infectious to the fan base, and it did seem to get the team going.  (Sometimes, like 2007, it would also motivate the opponents).  Mets fans would shower him with the “Jose!” chant (a chant which began Saturday, March 29, 2003).  We loved him, and he seemingly loved us too.

In 2011, you could argue it was he and not David Wright whom the Mets should keep.  After all, Reyes was the younger player, and Citi Field was built more to Reyes’ than Wright’s strengths.  Whatever the case, the Mets opted not to re-sign him, devastating a fan base, and having the organization a nd fans  looking for a new fan favorite.  Arguably, no one could fill that void like the way Reyes once did.

That was the Reyes who left New York after the 2011 season.  That Reyes was barely recognizable after leaving.

After one year in Miami, he was traded to the Blue Jays as part of that organization’s efforts to return to the postseason.  In 2015, in Reyes’ third year as a Blue Jay, it seemed the organization’s plans were coming to fruition.  They were competing for a postseason spot with hopes for the division.  It was time for a bold move, their GM Alex Anthopoulos made that bold move.  In a six player trade, Reyes was traded to the Blue Jays for LaTroy Hawkins and Troy Tulowitzki.

In a year, Reyes and the Mets were supposed to return to the postseason, Reyes instead found himself playing for the Colorado Rockies.  He didn’t want to be there, and the team didn’t want him.  This also meant instead of playing in the postseason, Reyes would be making vacation plans to go to Hawaii.

On October 31, 2015, Michael Conforto hit two homers.  Instead of going to Jeurys Familia for the six out save, Terry Collins brought in Tyler Clippard, who walked two of the three batters he faced.  When Familia finally did come in, Daniel Murphy booted a grounder.  The Mets 3-2 lead would quickly become a 5-3 deficit.

While this was happening, Jose Reyes would throw his wife into a glass door in Hawaii.  His wife would need to be taken to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries, and Reyes would be arrested. Reyes faced not just prison time but also deportation.  Instead, because his wife did not cooperate with prosecutors, the changes would be dropped.

While Reyes was able to avoid legal troubles, he could not escape MLB punishment.  With a new Domestic Violence policy, Reyes would be suspended 51 games, which stands as the longest Domestic Violence suspension to date.  With the Rockies already wanting to transition to Trevor Story, they were more than happy to release Reyes.

Fortunately for Reyes, the Mets needed a third baseman.  Wright was injured again, and he was going to miss the rest of the season.  Eric Campbell, Matt Reynolds, Wilmer Flores, and Kelly Johnson just weren’t to cut it.  Partially due to desperation and partially due to nostalgia, the Mets threw Reyes the rope none of the other 28 teams were likely willing to give him.

A fan base was divided.  While the “Jose!” chants returned, they did not have the same enthusiasm.  Some of the people most willing to lead the cheer would sit on their hands or boo.  Reyes beat his wife, and the Mets signing him was sending the wrong message.

Still, Reyes stayed, and he played reasonably well.  He would have some highlights including the September 22nd game where both he and Asdrubal Cabrera homered which helped turn a 6-4 loss into a dramatic 9-8 11 inning victory which helped propel the Mets into the top Wild Card.  Much like in his last postseason game with the Mets, Reyes went hitless as his team was eliminated at home.

In the subsequent two years, he was about the worst players in baseball.  Despite all of Collins’ efforts to get him going, Reyes floundered, and there would be reports he was not happy playing third base.  At the end of the 2017 season, he helped reinvent himself as a mentor to Amed Rosario.  Between that and his hitting in September, the Mets brought him back.

He was dreadful this year hitting .189/.260/.320.  He’d post a -0.8 WAR.  Worse yet, he would complain about his playing time.  He believed as a utility player he should have received more playing time, and really, without that playing time, the Mets were not giving him a chance to succeed.  While there were some who were able to compartmentalize the off the field issues, when he was bad on the field, more and more Mets fans were disenchanted with him.

However, despite the ever growing calls to release him and make way for more talented prospects like Jeff McNeil, the Mets stubbornly held onto him.  They treated him like one of the Mets greats, which he was in the first part of his career.  Against all odds, Reyes would last the full season with the Mets.  It allowed him to play alongside Wright in the Captain’s final game.

It also meant Reyes would get to leadoff in what is likely his final career game.  Between innings, the Mets showed a video tribute.  Reyes would emerge from the dugout to tip his cap to a standing ovation.

The crowd was much smaller than the sold out crowd who was there to see Wright’s final game.  The standing ovation Reyes received did not remotely compare to the one Wright received.  If you went back a decade, that would seem implausible as both were beloved players with Reyes being the one who probably generated more enthusiasm from the fans.

Personally, I loved Reyes.  The first player jersey I ever purchased was Mike Piazza, the second Wright, and the third Reyes.  Overall, I had more Reyes shirseys than any other player including a last season at Shea and first season at Citi one.  That Reyes was the most exciting player who ever played for the Mets.  When he went to Colorado, I still believed he had an outside shot at the Hall of Fame.

After he left, I was left livid with the organization.  In no way should Wright and Reyes have ever been split up.  Like great Mets duos of the past, Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry, it seemed like their destiny was to win a World Series together.  Between that, Flores’ struggles at short and Ruben Tejada not being a particularly good baseball player, I desperately wanted the Mets to make a trade with the Rockies to bring back Reyes for that 2015 run.

To this day, part of me wonders what would have happened if Reyes did return to the Mets in 2015.  Do they win that World Series, or do they still fall short?  Would Reyes and his contract stood in the way of Yoenis Cespedes returning?  Mostly, I wonder about that night.

While statistics prove differently, to this day, I hope it was an isolated incident, which could have been avoided by Reyes being in New York instead of Hawaii.  In the converse, maybe this was a pattern of behavior which grew increasingly violent, and perhaps, things could have been hidden for longer if he was never in Hawaii.  There is no way of knowing anything.  What we do know is that instead of being in New York, Reyes was in Hawaii where he forever changed his legacy by committing a vile act.

Because of all of this, I was initially irritated Reyes was sharing Wright’s spotlight, but I made peace with it because it was what Wright wanted.

At the sake of sounding hypocritical, I must admit seeing Reyes doubling and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt was exciting. Wright coming up to the plate in an RBI situation was exciting. Wright being able to drive Reyes home just one last time made the moment all the more special.

In all honesty, I was surprised nostalgia got the better of me in the moment.

Perhaps it is because I truly miss the Reyes of 2003 – 2011.  I just miss how fun it was to watch him play.

That fun completely disappeared when he returned.  He was no longer a young up and coming superstar.  He was a violent wife beater.  Some people may be able to compartmentalize it, but I wasn’t.  Certainly not for a player I once held in the highest of regards.

Now that is career is over, I honestly do wish Reyes well.  I want him and his family to be able to move on from the domestic violence to have a happy and safe home life.  If that happens, then no matter how much I was against it, Reyes returning to the Mets was worth it.  I will be happy if Reyes returning to a place he was loved and cared for led him to not only seek help but to end what might have been a pattern of abuse.  Hopefully, he is a better husband and father for the experience.

In the end, congratulations to Reyes on a great career.  You are the greatest shortstop in Mets history.  The memories of you and Wright playing together were some of the best I’ve had as a fan.  Rooting for you was never the same, and it will never be the same again.  Still, each and every Mets fan, including myself, wish you and your family well.

God bless the Reyes family.

2018 Mets Season Ends On A Sad Note

Perhaps more than any season, there is a sense of sadness which washed upon me when the 2018 season ended.  Perhaps, it was because my father is another year older, and I have yet to truly experience the Mets winning the World Series with him.  Maybe it is because my son follows the game a little bit more and he is starting to become attached to some players, and those players are up in limbo.

There is the sadness with David Wright leaving.  He was the most beloved Mets player in history, and he was arguably the best position player this organization has ever produced.  He was a Met for his entire career, and he ended his career the right way – on the field.  Unfortunately, that career did not end with him winning a World Series.

Past Wright, there are question marks about some other players.  Is this the last time Wilmer Flores ever wore a Mets uniform?  Are we just waiting for him to shed tears when he is wearing another team’s uniform?  Could we have already seen the last of Travis d’Arnaud?  How about Juan Lagares?  With him in the last year of his deal, he is certainly more tradeable, and there should be savvy teams lining up to acquire his defense.  Is he just destined to go somewhere else where the will be able to finally put it all together?  Will a new General Manager come in and opt to start a rebuild that would likely begin with trading Jacob deGrom?

Honestly, will Yoenis Cespedes ever be able to play again?  He has only had one of the two heel surgeries he needed.  Whenever you see a report on him, no one seems to be able to pinpoint a date he can play next year.  At some point, you have to question if he will ever really be able to play.  That seems like such a big departure from the larger than life figure he has been since joining the Mets.

Really, when you look around the 2015 Mets team we loved so dearly has been slowly trickling away.  Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia were traded away this year.  Addison Reed, Lucas Dudaand Curtis Granderson were traded away last season.  Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Daniel Murphy are distant memories.  Bartolo Colon is off making goofy barbecue ads in Texas.  Sandy Alderson, the man who orchestrated it all, “took a leave of absence” because he is battling cancer.

What we have left is good, really good.  We have seen Brandon Nimmo be the player the Mets hoped he would be when he was drafted.  After concerns about his shoulder, Michael Conforto was once again Michael Conforto in the second half.  Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half of the season, and Jeff McNeil seemingly came out of nowhere.

We watched deGrom reach a level we never thought possible making him a sure Cy Young award winner.  Zack Wheeler went from enigma to ace.  Steven Matz actually made 30 starts.  Finally, Noah Syndergaard seemed to return to form as the season drew to a close.  This is reminiscent of the pitching of 2015, pitching which led the Mets to a World Series.

Looking at it, the Mets had the best ERA in the majors in the second half (2.97), and they had the best record in the division in the second half (38-30).  When you combine the finish with the start, you can see there is a World Series contender somewhere in the fabric of that clubhouse.  In order for that to happen, the Wilpons are going to have to go out there and get the pieces necessary to put this team over the top.  If they were to do so, it would be the first time since they signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in 2005, and added Billy Wagner and Carlos Delgado the subsequent offseason.

Making bold moves like that to this core WILL put this team over the top, especially since Mickey Callaway and his staff grew during the season and showed they can be a coaching staff who can win you a World Series.

There’s a hesitation there.  After Madoff, no Mets fan can really be assured this team is going to make the bold moves they need to take this roster over the top.  Whatever hope you had was dashed when Jeff Wilpon told us all it was really Sandy Alderson who refused to spend and limited the size of the analytics department.

Thinking back, you realize this is partially why Wright retired without a ring.  Sure, the Shea Stadium days were different.  The Mets did add the aforementioned players, and they did make the Johan Santana trade.  But after that?  Well, it was Madoff and always finding themselves one or two players short.  After all, the Mets traded for Kelly Johnson in consecutive seasons partially because the team believed Eric Campbell, and his major league minimum salary, was part of the solution.

In the end, this is a really likeable team.  Watching Nimmo, Conforto, Rosario, deGrom, Syndergaard, Seth Lugo, and the rest of this Mets team, you can’t help but like and root for these guys.  They are what makes being a Mets fan great.  We don’t want to see deGrom, who looks to take up Wright’s mantle as the next great Mets player, leave Flushing without a ring.  That can’t happen.

In the end, the ending of the 2018 season was a sad one.  Hopefully, that sadness will quickly subside as the Mets go forth and seize the opportunity that is here.  Hopefully, the 2019 season is going to be the year we finally see the Mets win another World Series.  I hope so because I don’t know how many more opportunities I’ll have to celebrate it with all of my loved ones.

Mets Should Still Keep Wilmer Flores

Mets folk hero and utility player Wilmer Flores has been diagnosed with arthritis in both of his knees, and there are some indications the Mets are will non-tender him this offseason making him a free agent a year earlier than scheduled. In many ways, this seems like an odd decision.

For starters, the Mets have not shied away from giving money to injured and injury prone players.  The Mets gave Yoenis Cespedes $110 million knowing he had calcified heels which would one day require surgical correction.  In a similar circumstance to Flores, the Mets opted to keep Matt Harvey by giving him $5.625 million despite Harvey’s Tommy John, TOS, and stress reaction issues over the past four years.

Perhaps more analogous to the aforementioned situatiosn, the Mets gave Jay Bruce $39 million even though the team had no need for a left-hand hitting corner outfielder and Bruce having a history of knee issues. In fact, back in 2014, Bruce would have surgery to repair partially torn meniscus.  As noted by UW Medicine, a torn meniscus could lead to arthritis.  While we do not know if Bruce has arthritis or not, that is an assumed risk the Mets took despite having Cespedes, Michael Conforto, and Brandon Nimmo on the 40 man roster.

When it comes to Bruce, what the Mets really cared about here was production and Bruce’s ability to stay on the field.  It was a risk that backfired.  What is interesting with Flores is he was able to stay on the field, and he was able to produce.

From June 15th until September 1st, Flores was an everyday player for the Mets.  In that stretch, he hit .281/.325/.446 with 17 doubles, eight homers, and 35 RBI.  Over this stretch, he had a 110 wRC+.  Among players with 250 plate appearances over this stretch, that wRC+ was fourth best among MLB first basemen.  It would have also ranked as fourth best among second baseman and sixth among third baseman.

Overall, Flores’ bat will play at any infield position.  More than that, time and again, we have seen Flores is capable of taking over a position for an extended stretch of time while giving the Mets good production.  That’s an important thing when the Mets actively signs players like Bruce who they will know will miss time.

When further analyzing the roster, you realize the Mets need Flores’ right-handed bat.

Looking at the projected 2019 roster, the Mets are going to heavily rely on left-handed bats.  In addition to Bruce, Conforto, and Nimmo, the Mets also have Jeff McNeil.  Outside of Todd Frazier, the Mets do not have any real right-handed power bats on the roster.  It’s possible Amed Rosario could be that one day, but he’s not there yet.

Point being, when the Mets face a tough left-handed pitcher, they will need a player like Flores who they can put into the lineup.  He could spell McNeil at second, or he could move over to first for Bruce.  With respect to Bruce, it would help keep him fresher and hopefully more productive.

You could argue this spot could be filled by T.J. Rivera, but no one knows if he will be able to play next year.  More than that, the Mets would be a stronger team with a stronger bench if they have both Flores and Rivera.

This is not to suggest Flores isn’t without his flaws.  He is not a good defender at any position even if he is passable on the right side of the infield.  While his knees have not forced him to the disabled list, he has been injury prone, even if they are freak injuries like him fouling a ball off his face.

Still, Flores is a player who is a perfect fit for this roster.  More than that, he is a player who is a fan favorite, and he has shown himself to be clutch as well with him being the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI.  Taking all of this into account, the Mets would be foolish to parts ways with Flores over a one-year commitment, especially when we know the Mets will not reinvest that money and sign a player anywhere near as good as Flores.

Mets Outlast Nationals

Like two nights ago, the Mets had the opportunity to take out one of the leading Cy Young candidates to help Jacob deGrom‘s Cy Young case. Like with the game against Aaron Nola, the Mets dealt a small blow but could not deliver the knockout punch.

The Mets did try. In the third, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce went back-to-back to give the Mets a 3-0 lead.

The one weakness in Max Scherzer‘s game this year was the long ball, and the Mets took full advantage. Conversely, the major strength in Scherzer’s game was the strikeout, and he mowed down the Mets.

After the Bruce homer, the Mets had just one hit and one walk, which did allow Scherzer to go seven. In total, Scherzer increased his lead over deGrom in innings and strikeouts, but his ERA rose .04.

For a while, it seemed as if the Mets were going to hit Scherzer with a loss because somehow someway Jason Vargas was out-pitching Scherzer.

The only damage against Vargas was an Anthony Rendon two run homer in the sixth. Seth Lugo, as part of his 1.1 innings, got the final out of the inning to preserve the 3-2 lead.

After Scherzer was pulled, the Mets immediately went to work against left-handed reliever Matt Grace.

Jeff McNeil hit a leadoff triple, and he’d come home on a Bruce single past the drawn-in infield to give the Mets a 4-2 lead. It wasn’t enough for this Mets bullpen.

Anthony Swarzak allowed the first two to reach in the bottom of the eighth, and Daniel Zamora would come on to face Bryce Harper. In the lengthy at-bat. Zamora would get the best of Harper who just missed out as he flew out to deep right field.

Maybe because it was because he opted to take the bullpen cart, but Robert Gsellman would surrender the lead. He first run came on a Rendon groundout, and the second scored on a Juan Soto RBI double.

With that, Scherzer was off the hook. With us living in a world where deGrom may win the Cy Young with a losing record, the loss was probably inconsequential.

The game would go extras, and the Mets seemed poised to end it early with them loading the bases in the 10th with just one out.

However, even with Greg Holland losing the strike zone having thrown seven straight balls, Jack Reinheimer swung at a 1-0 pitch and hit a soft tapper to Holland, who started the inning ending 1-2-3 double play.

In that 10th inning, McNeil was surprisingly sent up to bunt. In that at-bat, home plate umpire made a few very questionable strike calls, including ruling McNeil bunted at a pitch. This led Mickey Callaway to flip and earn his second career ejection.

In the 11th, Brandon Nimmo hit a leadoff double, and he would be stranded there.

What was surprising was how Jacob Rhame returned serve. After allowing a leadoff double to Ryan Zimmerman, who tagged up and moved to third on a Matt Wieters line out, Rhame would strike out Mark Reynolds and Victor Robles to end the inning.

Finally, in the 12th, the Mets retook the lead.

Amed Rosario led off the inning with a single off Jefry Rodriguez, and this time, McNeil would get the bunt down.

The bases were loaded after Conforto was intentionally walked, and Bruce walked after him. Jose Lobaton pinch hit for Rhame, and he delivered with a go-ahead sacrifice fly to give the Mets a 5-4 lead.

Paul Sewald was given the 12th, and he delivered his second career save with a 1-2-3 inning. Just because it was a 1-2-3 inning, it doesn’t mean it was uneventful.

After Heyward was called out on a pitch outside the strike zone, he argued the call, and he was tossed by Home Plate Umpire D.J. Reyburn. Heyward didn’t even bother going to the clubhouse. Instead, he watched the final out from the bench.

Come next week, Harper will join the Mets in watching games from the bench as the Nationals will soon be eliminated from the postseason.

Game Notes: Wilmer Flores was shut down for the rest of the year after being diagnosed with arthritis in his knees.

deGrom Improved Cy Young Case

Heading into the Month of September, Jacob deGrom was probably the favorite to win the Cy Young, but it was still anyone’s game with Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer having great seasons of their own.  So far this month, deGrom has separated himself ever further from the pack.

In Nola’s three September starts, he is 1-2 with a 5.60 ERA.  Scherzer had a decent start to the month until his loss to the Braves on Friday.  In that start, Scherzer allowed six earned in four innings.  Now, he’s 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in the month.

Like Nola and Scherzer, deGrom has seen his ERA rise this month.  Still, deGrom’s 2.70 ERA this month is half of Scherzer’s.  That is also because deGrom had a “bad start” in Boston.

For deGrom, it was the bottom of the third in Boston which derailed what had looked to be a truly special start.

After striking out six of the first seven Red Sox batters he faced, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez hit back-to-back singles to put runners at the corners with one out.  Mookie Betts brought home Devers with a sacrifice fly.  This is normally where deGrom would get out of the inning, but he would leave one up to Brock Holt, who hit a two run homer to give the Red Sox a 3-0 lead.

Right then and there, deGrom’s streak of 26 starts not allowing more than three earned and his 21 consecutive quality starts streak was on the line.  From there, there were points where you thought deGrom wasn’t going to reatch the sixth.  In fact, Mickey Callaway had Jerry Blevins warming at one point.  There may have also been points where you thought he would allow another run.

He didn’t.

Instead, deGrom would go seven innings allowing the three earned on five hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts.  The 12 strikeouts were really impressive.  Entering the game, the Red Sox were the second hardest team to strike out (19.7%).  In the game, deGrom would strike out 12 of the 27 batters (44.4%) he faced.

Importantly, the Mets would rally to tie the score and get deGrom off the hook.  In the sixth, Amed Rosario would follow an Austin Jackson single to put runners on second and third with no outs.  Jeff McNeil would not hit a liner deep enough to score a run, but Wilmer Flores would  . . . barely:

 

Unfortunately, Betts would get hurt on the play.  It should shift Jackie Bradley, Jr. to right with Tzu-Wei Lin in center.  Michael Conforto would then hit a double to deep center to tie the game.  It’s debatable if Bradley would’ve gotten to it.  Regardless, the Mets were down a run.

They would tie it in the seventh on a two out RBI single by Rosario.  Brandon Nimmo was 90 feet away from scoring the go-ahead run and giving deGrom the lead, but McNeil couldn’t bring him home.

WIth that, deGrom notced another no decision, and he still remains a game under .500, and yet, he he having an all-time great season.  In fact, with this start, deGrom tied Bob Gibson and Chris Carpenter single season mark for consecutive quality starts.  In the seasons Gibson and Carpenter set their marks, they won the Cy Young.

So should deGrom.

Game Notes: Seth Lugo took the loss after allowing a run in the eighth.

Mets Fail deGrom Again

Tonight was one of the few important games remaining on the Mets schedule because Jacob deGrom was starting.

Early on, it looked like deGrom had it all going. After issuing a leadoff walk to Rafael Ortega, deGrom struck out the side. In fact, he’d go the first 3.2 innings without allowing a hit.

Brian Anderson then hit a slow roller up that middle Amed Rosario couldn’t get to and Jeff McNeil could not field cleanly. Derek Dietrich singled cleanly to put two on with two out.

deGrom went 0-2 against Lewis Brinson, and he tried to go up in the zone to get out of the inning. He didn’t get it up enough, and Brinson drove it to deep center. Austin Jackson, who is in there for defense despite a -13 DRS, took a bad route and wasn’t nearly quick enough. Instead of being out of the inning, deGrom was down 2-0.

We knew the Mets weren’t getting him off the hook as they were providing deGrom with his typical run support. Really, Michael Conforto was the only one who showed up with his bats.

After being stranded at fourth with a leadoff double, Conforto would make sure he scored in his next at-bat as he homered off Jose Urena.

Overall, the Mets had four hits in the game. Two were by Conforto. The other two were by Dominic Smith and deGrom.

Even if the bats did get going, the bullpen would’ve made it a moot point.

JT Riddle, he of a career .371 SLG, hit a no doubt homer off Anthony Swarzak in the eighth. Robert Gsellman was tasked with keeping at 3-1 in the ninth. He didn’t.

He wasn’t helped out by Brandon Nimmo making an ill advised dive for an Anderson sinking liner. Instead of two on, it was an RBI triple. A Dietrich RBI double made it 5-1.

Overall, deGrom’s final line in the loss was 7.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. This was his record 25th start in a row allowing three earned or fewer.

As noted by the eminent Jerry Beach, this was the 10th time deGrom allowing two earned or fewer over seven innings and did not get the win. There are only six pitchers to do this in 2018, and it’s only happened 10 times total.

In the end, deGrom is now 8-9 because the Mets two out rally in the ninth, highlighted by a Kevin Plawecki two run homer, sputtered out with a Rosario broken bat ground out.

Mets lost 5-3 in a game they could’ve helped deGrom.

Game Notes: Todd Frazier was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. McNeil moved to third, and Wilmer Flores played second. The Mets had 9/11 patches on their caps. Again, there were no First Responder caps.

Mets Real David Wright Dilemma

If you’ve been to or watched Mets alumni at Citi Field for events like the 30th Anniversary of the 1986 World Series or Mike Piazza‘s number retirement, you will see just how much former Mets respect and revere David Wright.

What makes those moments so special is you see Wright look on with admiration at players he grew up rooting for as a child, and they treat him as an equal. There is a mutual respect between Mets greats.

As we are seeing with the Mets yet again, this mutual respect is shared between Mets players but not ownership. No, the Wilpons just have a way of alienating themselves with players like they have with the fans.

Darryl Strawberry has spoken candidly how he no longer associates with the Mets due to Jeff Wilpon. There are multiple instances of the Mets alienating their former players.

One interesting note is how prominent Mets who have played for both the Mets and Yankees are more closely affiliated with the Yankees organization. David Cone and Al Leiter have worked for YES. We’ve seen them and players like Dwight Gooden participate in Old Timer’s Day.

Part of the reason we see these Mets with the Yankees is because of the World Series titles. We also see the Yankees making the efforts to bring these players back. More importantly, these players have typically received better treatment from the Yankees than they have the Mets.

For example, could you imagine the Yankees removing a popular player’s signature from the walls of their stadium? Would you see them turning Monument Park into an unkept portion of their team store?

More importantly, could you see the Yankees handling the Wright situation in the matter the Mets have? It’s extremely doubtful.

Over what amounts to less than $5 million, the Mets are not going to let Wright play again. For what it’s worth, the Mets have that money socked away from the trades of Asdrubal Cabrera and Jeurys Familia and maybe even the insurance from Yoenis Cespedes.

Sure, the Mets have offered other reasons, rather excuses. They’re going to rely on medical reports (even though he’s been cleared to play baseball games). They’ve said there’s a higher standard of medical clearance to play in MLB as opposed to minor league games.

Now, the Mets are moving the perceived goalposts by saying the team wants him to be a regular player as opposed to a “ceremonial” player or pinch hitter.

Of course, Wright being an everyday player is a bit difficult with the presence of Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Wilmer Flores. It’s also more difficult due to Wright’s own personal physical limitations.

Of course, the Mets don’t know what Wright wants or feels like he’s capable of doing because John Ricco admits to not talking to Wright about all of this.

Seeing how all of this has transpired and how the Mets have opted to operate their business, especially post Madoff, this is about the insurance money.

While Wright has always said the Wright thing and has never been truly critical of the organization, everyone has their breaking point, and this could be his.

Much like we’ve seen with former Mets greats, Wright may be so aggrieved, he just stays away (not that the Mets give players reasons to return with event like Old Timer’s Day). And seeing how Wright has been treated, we may see the same thing with fans and other former players because, at the end of the day, no one should be alright with how this is transpiring.

Sadly, unlike the greats of Mets past, there’s no other home for him. The Mets are it.

So while we’re seeing what could be Wright’s final chance, we may be seeing the end of Wright before he fades away forever. That could be the saddest thing of all, and it was all over a few million.

Wheeler Great Again

Here’s how good Zack Wheeler has been pitching in the second half of the season.  Last night, he allowed three runs on three hits while walking two and striking out nine.  For him, that now qualifies as a poor start.

The Dodgers were able to score the three runs off of him because they hit two homers.  It should come as no surprise one of those homers was by Cody Bellinger, who absolutely owns Wheeler.  In fact, Bellinger is 4-for-8 against Wheeler with four homers and nine RBI.

The other homer was in the fourth inning.  After Justin Turner hit a comebacker which hit Wheeler in the ribs, Max Muncy would hit a two run homer off of Wheeler.  Given how Wheeler was still dealing with the shot to the ribs, you could put a bit of a mental asterisk next to that one, especially when you consider Wheeler would retire eight of the next nine batters he faced.

Even with those homers, the Dodgers could not pull ahead of the Mets.

In the fourth, the Mets finally broke through against Hyun-Jin RyuAmed Rosario singled and Jeff McNeil doubled to put runners at second and third with no outs.  From that point forward, the Mets would BABIP the heck out of Ryu.

Wilmer Flores would hit one back which hit Ryu that allowed him to reach safely and would allow Rosario to score.  McNeil would challenge Joc Pederson‘s arm on a Michael Conforto flyball, and he would score because Yasmani Grandal could not hold onto the ball.  In an odd official scorer position, Conforto was not given the RBI as it was ruled an error on Grandal.

Part of the key to that play was Flores going to third, which would allow him to score from third on the two out RBI single from Austin Jackson.  That was important as Jackson was nailed at second trying to challenge Alex Verdugo‘s arm.  Had Flores been at third, it’s very likely he does not score on the play.

Kevin Plawecki led off the fifth with a double, and he moved to third on a Brandon Nimmo bloop hit.  After Wheeler struck out, Rosario singled home Plawecki.  Later that inning, Flores brought home Nimmo on a ball Enrique Hernandez was not quite tall enough to get.  With that, the Mets had a 5-2 lead, and they were in control of the game.

That became a stranglehold with Conforto delivering a seventh inning RBI single, and Ryan Madson throwing a wild pitch to allow McNeil to come home from third.

After 105 pitches, Wheeler was done after seven, and Mickey Callaway brought on Seth Lugo to close out the final two innings.  He did just that allowing no hits and striking out a batter.  With the win, the Mets have now won consecutive West Coast series, and the team is playing much better baseball of late.  They are two games over .500 in the second half.

Game Notes: In his final at-bat ever against the Mets, Chase Utley lined out to Nimmo.  So in the end, the dirtiest player alive lined out to the nicest and most genuine player in the majors.

deGrom Sets Mets and MLB Records In No Decision

When Justin Turner hit a first inning home run off of Jacob deGrom, it was evident deGrom did not have his best stuff.  After all, deGrom had not allowed a home run in his last 42 innings pitched.  As it turned out, it really was a struggle for deGrom with him needing 109 pitches to get through six innings.  That’s notably because he threw 108 pitches in each of his last three starts, and he went 9.0, 6.0, and 8.0 innings respectively.

Through all of his troubles tonight and him fighting it, deGrom’s final line was 6.0 innings, two hits, one run, one earned, one walk, and six strikeouts.

It’s at the point where deGrom is so good his inability to find himself and be on his A game leads him to having an absolutely terrific and dominant start.  He’s been having a lot of those lately.  In fact, with this quality start, deGrom set a new Mets record with 20 straight quality starts.  It gets better.  With deGrom allowing three earned runs or less in his past 25 starts, he has set a new MLB record.

And to think there are some people who don’t want to give him the Cy Young.  Of course, those people’s justification is wins.  Well, tonight was another exercise of how absurd that is.

While deGrom has been great all season, Alex Wood has been great of late, and the Mets do not hit left-handed batters well.  More to the point, for some reason when the Mets have been playing good teams of late, they find ways to shoot themselves in the foot.  Tonight was no exception.

In the first Wilmer Flores hit into an inning ending double play.  In the second, Todd Frazier, who had made a fine catch in the game diving into the stands,  was thrown out stealing to end the inning.  In the third, Austin Jackson struck out to end the inning with runners at second and third.  After all of that, deGrom needed to take control of things himself in the fifth inning.

After a Jay Bruce leadoff walk and a Devin Mesoraco single (he was lifted from the game and Jose Reyes pinch ran for him due to injury), Jeff McNeil hit into a double play leaving it up to deGrom to get Bruce home from third.  With him using McNeil’s bat, deGrom delivered the RBI single tying the game at 1-1.  Really, deGrom was doing all he could do out there with him combining his excellent pitching with him going 2-for-2 at the plate.

There was a chance deGrom was going to get into the seventh inning in this game to just allow him to hang around long enough to hope beyond hope the Mets put him in a position to win.  However with an Amed Rosario error in the sixth inning, that pretty much ended that hope meaning the 8-8 deGrom was saddled with another no decision, and this was going to become a battle of the bullpens.

The Mets would win that battle as the offense would eventually break through and because the Mets bullpen did not break.

In the seventh, the Mets were close.  They had the bases loaded with two outs, but Jackson couldn’t deliver the key hit.  Well, if the Mets thought they were close, the Dodgers were even closer.

Against Seth Lugo in the seventh, they had runners at the corners and no outs.  Lugo first struck out Yasmani Grandal, and then he induced Yasiel Puig to hit into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

In the eighth, Drew Smith issued a two out walk to Turner which almost blew up in his face.  If not for the low right field wall in Dodgers Stadium, it is likely Manny Machado‘s double gives the Dodgers a 2-1 lead instead of being a ground rule double putting runners at second and third with two outs.  After getting Enrique Hernandez to fly out to center, Smith officially dodged a bullet.

Kenta Maeda was not dodging the same bullet in the ninth.  After a Bruce leadoff double, Kevin Plawecki sacrificed him over to third base.  After McNeil was hit by a pitch, the Mets had runners at the corners with one out setting the stage for Brandon Nimmo, who came on to pinch hit for Smith:

With Nimmo’s pinch hit three run homer, the Mets had an unlikely 4-1 lead, which Robert Gsellman had the task to save.  It was not going to be easy for him and the Mets.  After a replay review, the Dodgers had runners at the corners with no outs.  The game was 4-2 after Grandal brought a run home with a sacrifice fly.  That would be the final score as Gsellman induced Matt Kemp to hit into the game ending 6-4-3 double play.

So overall, the Mets won a game partially because of the six dominant innings he gave them, but for some reason, there is going to be a voter out there who is not going to put him atop the Cy Young ballot because of his 8-8 record.

Game Notes: With the Dodgers starting the left-handed Wood, McNeil batted eighth, and Nimmo was on the bench.  Before the game, the Mets recalled Dominic Smith, Jack Reinheimer, and Drew Gagnon

Matzerterful Performance

Three years after his Major League debut, it’s still difficult to make heads or tails with Steven Matz. There are days he looks absolutely terrible, and then there are days like today.

In seven innings, he completely dominated the Giants with a career high 11 strikeouts. It was the first double digit strikeout game of his career.

Unfortunately for him, what was arguably the best start of his career was just a no decision as the Mets bats are ice cold and Evan Longoria hit a fourth inning solo homer off Matz. It was just one of three hits off Matz all day.

On the other side, Derek Holland was shutting down the Mets. He was not as dominant as Matz, but he was in control all game.

Despite Holland pitching well, Brandon Nimmo would work out a one out walk, and he would score from first on the ensuing Tomas Nido double:

In the sixth, the Mets had a chance to take the lead, but Todd Frazier had some really poor base running.

First, after he drew a two out walk, he stole second. On the play, Nick Hundley three the ball into center. Frazier did not move to third as he was deked by Giants shortstop Alen Hanson.

Worse yet, on a Michael Conforto infield single, Hanson picked Frazier off third base:

Seth Lugo (two innings) and Jerry Blevins (inning) kept the Giants scoreless and hitless as the game went into extra innings.

Finally, in the top of the 11th, one of these two teams would get a hit with Wilmer Flores leading off the inning with a double off Hunter Strickland. He’d move over on a Jay Bruce groundout, and he scored on a go-ahead Frazier sacrifice fly.

Robert Gsellman, who has been struggling of late, pitched a perfect ninth with some help from Nimmo:

That Nimmo catch sealed the Mets win in a game completely dominated by pitching. That domination was headlined by Matz, who we can only hope has turned the corner much in the same way we have seen Zack Wheeler do this year.

Game Notes: With the Giants starting Holland, the Mets sat Jeff McNeil in favor of Flores at second. Bruce played first.