Like 2015, Wilmer Flores was the last man standing between elimination and celebration. Once again, an umpire made a horrendous call.
Back in the 12th inning of Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, Home Plate Umpire Alfonso Marquez called Flores out looking despite the Wade Davis pitch being well off the plate. Truth be told that call didn’t impact the series as the Mets trailed 7-2.
That’s not the case in Game 5 of the 2021 NLDS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
There were two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the Dodgers leading 2-1 in the winner-take-all game. Kris Bryant represented the tying run at first, and Flores, the Mets all-time leader in walk-off RBI was at the plate.
Max Scherzer was up 0-2 in the count, and Flores entered the at-bat 0-for-17 against Scherzer. And yet, there was still a chance. That was until first base umpire Gabe Morales made a call which had even Don Dekinger shaking his head:
— Umpire Auditor (@UmpireAuditor) October 15, 2021
It wasn’t the only completely blown check swing call by Morales in this series. Going back to the Bryant fourth inning strikeout with five of six pitches out of the zone, it wasn’t even the only series changing blown call.
Put another way. MLB Umpires blew a call they can’t blow. It wasn’t close. It was an embarrassment to the sport. It needs to be fixed and corrected, but Rob Manfred and the Umpire’s Union has zero interest in that. Simply put, they don’t care AT ALL, and that’s why this garbage will continue to happen.
Look at the postseason landscape. On the American League side, you have the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. So far, you have the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, and they are going to face one of the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers. While the series may be good, it’s not exactly an awe inspiring list of teams to root for to win the World Series.
Plain and simple, we know the Astros have cheated, and they have been unpunished and unapologetic about it. They are facing off against the Red Sox who have their own issues on that front, and they are led by Alex Cora, who was purportedly the ring leader of the entire operation. As we saw, Cora was fired for one year just for show.
When it comes to the National League, the Braves are the epitome of evil. Putting aside the history with Chipper Jones calling Mets fans closet Yankees fans, everything John Rocker, and really, every soul crushing loss, this is a racist fan base eagerly doing the racist Tomahawk Chop chant every game. Rooting for them is like rooting for the hunter in Bambi.
We know all about the Dodgers. There was the 1988 NLCS, and there was Chase Utley. They’re the team who signed Trevor Bauer. We should also mention they’re the favorite team of the Wilpons. No self respecting Mets fan should ever root for the Dodgers.
Understandably, Mets fans probably aren’t too eager to root for the Giants. After all, behind Madison Bumgarner and Conor Gillaspie, they beat the Mets in the 2016 Wild Card Game. There is also all things Barry Bonds. There is also Gabe Kapler, and the heinous things he has been alleged to do.
That should leave a Mets fan wondering what is left in this soulless landscape. Who is the hero who can emerge from all of this dredge? The answer is old friend Wilmer Flores.
Wilmer is the same player who cried at the very idea of leading the Mets only to win a walk-off homer his next chance. In fact, Wilmer has more walk-off hits than any Mets player. That’s a list which includes players like Edgardo Alfonzo, Carlos Beltran, Mike Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, and David Wright. Really, Wilmer has brought us much more joy than we ever could’ve imagined.
Now, he’s the only player really worth Mets fans rooting for this postseason. While we understandably don’t have much reason to root for any of the remaining teams, that goes double for the Braves, there is every reason to root for Wilmer. Hopefully, he and the Giants outlast the Dodgers and the Braves en route to Wilmer winning a World Series ring. After all, if anyone deserves it, it’s him.
One of the unforced errors Brodie Van Wagenen made was moving on from Wilmer Flores. Since Flores was non-tendered, he has been a solid player who never had the debilitating arthritis the New York Mets said he did.
Flores first went to Arizona before playing the last two in San Francisco. Over that time, he has a 3.4 WAR and a 116 OPS+. He did that while playing first, second, and third.
He’s proven to be a better fielder than we remembered. Over the past three years, he has a 2 OAA at first, 0 OAA at second, and a 0 OAA at third. Put another way, he’s a capable fielder who won’t hurt you.
Part of the reason for these numbers is Flores has been moved around not amassing large sample sizes. The other aspect is Flores played for far better analytical organizations than what the Jeff Wilpon led Mets were.
That’s the thing. This isn’t the Wilpon led Mets. This is a much better operated organization who compiles and analyzes data quite well, especially defensively. It’s why we saw the Mets go from a -154 DRS since their last pennant to a 44 DRS this year.
Certainly, this is a Mets organization who can effectively deploy Flores in the field. He could be the right-handed compliment to Jeff McNeil. Better yet, he could just be Wilmer Flores.
Flores was a player undaunted by playing in New York. He has more game winning hits than anyone who has worn the Mets uniform. Mostly, he’s a good Major League player who has a lot to offer a team as a quality depth option.
Honestly, you can do a lot worse than a passable and versatile fielder who is an above average hitter. For that matter, the Mets often do worse than that.
Of course, this comes with a huge caveat. The Giants would have to decline his $3.5 million option, which probably seems unlikely. Should the Giants make that choice, the Mets should immediately give Wilmer a call.
Before the suspended game from April 11 resumed, there was the theatre of the absurd where Javier Báez and Francisco Lindor were forced to apologize for the thumbs down controversy. Their qualifying the apology certainly didn’t help matters.
What really didn’t help was the Mets falling behind 5-1 to the Miami Marlins. It also didn’t help Jesus Aguilar was taunting them during the game.
Worse yet, this was the same old story with the Mets blowing chance after chance after chance. That includes the eighth when Báez was announced as a pinch hitter. He was booed lustily by the sparse crowd. It’ll probably be the last time he’s ever booed.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 31, 2021
Báez hit an infield single scoring Smith pulling the Mets to within 5-4. Michael Conforto followed with an opposite field single easily scoring Alonso to tie the game. When Jorge Alfaro, a catcher somehow thrown to left, bobbled the ball, Báez made a mad dash for home.
— New York Mets (@Mets) August 31, 2021
It was a run arguably only Báez could score. It involved a player with speed who always hustles, and a player with a high baseball IQ willing to take calculated risks. The end result was a win and a great call from Gary Cohen.
Michael Conforto blasted one a long way in Tuesday's nightcap, so here's another Gary call and pen slam for your timeline 🎙️
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 1, 2021
This was a win which flipped the script. Not only did it take a bad loss and make it a great win, but it changed the narrative and reaction towards Báez.
It was also a win with legs. The Mets would get off and running in the fourth with a Conforto two run homer.
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 1, 2021
Later in the inning, Jeff McNeil would double home Báez. It was 3-0, and the Mets would hold on.
Edwin Diaz came in the seventh and retired the side in order for his eighth consecutive save. With that, it was a doubleheader sweep.
This day had all the feel of the Wilmer Flores walk-off. With the Mets 5.5 games out of a postseason spot with a month left in the season, who knows?
Doubleheader Notes: Jeurys Familia picked up the win in the first game. Loup won the second game. Between games, Luis Guillorme was activated off the IL, and Brandon Drury was optioned. Yennsy Diaz was the 27th man.
Maybe the New York Mets were just too accustomed to playing at 10 P.M. after their west coast trip. Certainly, they came unprepared to play.
The San Francisco Giants started swing starter Sammy Long who had been ineffective in his eight appearances. Naturally, he shut out the Mets over 5.1 innings allowing just one hit.
Tylor Megill struggled allowing four homers in an ugly start. Overall, he allowed seven runs on 11 hits and five walks over 3.2 innings.
As shown, there was no fire in this team and no boost from Francisco Lindor coming off the IL. On Lindor, he hit the ball hard but at people.
With Lindor’s return, Javier Báez moved to second. Jeff McNeil shifted to left field. Finally, J.D. Davis stayed at third because you need to shoehorn him into the lineup to go 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a HBP.
Really, the only highlight was the Friends theme being played for old friend Wilmer Flores. Of course, he promptly doubled reminding us of the the Wilpon and Van Wagenen incompetence.
Long story short, the Mets lost 8-0 and dropped back to three games under .500. That just about sums up what happened to this once glorious season.
The New York Mets briefly fooled us. For a brief moment, Mets fans actually thought the Mets were game and could possibly get a win.
The Mets had fallen behind in the fourth when Rich Hill lost it. Honestly, with Hill, you expect it to happen at some point in the fourth or fifth.
The rally continued anyway with the Giants getting three more hits. Wilmer Flores had the third driving home the second run of the inning. Things might’ve gotten worse, but Miguel Castro got the Mets out of the jam.
What’s shocking is the Mets, who seemed dead in the water, rallied. It was all the more surprising against Kevin Gausman.
After the first two reached, Pete Alonso drove a two RBI triple to Triple’s Alley to tie the score. He then scored on the rarest of rare things, a Dominic Smith sacrifice fly. Improbably, the Mets had a 3-2 lead.
That lead was very temporary. In the very next inning. Kris Bryant hit a two run homer off Castro. It was his first of two on the night.
Trevor May took the mound in the seventh. He struggled and didn’t look right. Theres certainly an explanation for it with his wincing on the mound. Whatever the case, Belt and Bryant homered.
Later on in the inning, Brandon Crawford hit an RBI trouble extending the Giants lead to 7-3. At that point, it was game over.
Yes, Jonathan Villar would hit a two run homer in the eighth, but it was really window dressing. The reason is the Mets ability to hit with RISP is non-existent.
Case in point was this inning. Brandon Drury followed with yet another pinch hit. The tying run was on base with one out as the Mets flipped the lineup.
At the end of the day, the Mets lost 7-5. They’ve now lost four in a row again. They’ve done it twice in less than two weeks. Heads typically roll after games and stretches like this.
Game Notes: Alonso’s triple was the first for the Mets in 68 games).
Put another way, they need to look at their prospect pool, and they need to identify MLB projectable prospects. At the same time, they’re going to want to avoid pressing their top, top guys into action too soon thereby damaging their development and/or trade value.
Taking everything into account, the name which stands out at the moment is Carlos Cortes.
Cortes was the Mets 2016 20th Round draft pick. He gained notoriety as an ambidextrous fielder. At second, he played right-handed, but in left, he played left-handed, which is his natural side. In essence, as a fielder, he’s Pat Venditte.
Cortes was drafted as a second baseman where it was believed his promising bat would play better. Cortes has been moved off the position and back to the outfield for a few reasons.
First and foremost, the Mets have an abundance of middle infield talent and not much outfield prospect talent in their system. Another reason is Cortes’ relative struggles in the field.
Through two minor league seasons, he had a .948 fielding percentage and 3.80 RF/9. To put it in perspective, Murphy was putting up better numbers than those. While the struggles were to be expected with the position switch, apparently, the Mets just didn’t see enough there to continue with Cortes at second.
That said, it’s a tool he carries. No, Cortes is not going to be your second baseman. However, for a start or two, he could be that. In some ways, you can liken him to Wilmer Flores on that front.
That’s not to say he’s the next Flores. Rather, the ability to even stand at a position has value at the Major League level. Like Flores and many before and after him, Cortes is going to lie and die by his bat.
— Mets Farm Report (@MetsFarmReport) May 24, 2021
Cortes has done some impressive things with the bat since being drafted like homering to right in Brooklyn. That’s no easy feet. Despite his being 5’7″, there’s real power in that bat.
We really saw that bat play in Australia during the winter. In 14 games, Cortes would hit an astounding .392/.429/.706. That was made all the more impressive when you consider he didn’t play in a game in 2020 like most minor leaguers.
That didn’t exactly carry forward to the Double-A season. He’s hitting just .239/.316/.418. However, Cortes does have a four game hitting streak right now, and he’s been a bit unlucky with a .269 BABIP.
There are positive underlying numbers like a 10.5 BB% and .179 ISO. He’s actually spraying the balls fairly evenly. In sum, he’s using all fields, has pop, and he’s not an easy out.
The question is whether the versatility and the bat where is at now should lead to a call-up. The honest answer is no. No, it should not be considered.
But, that’s a position for when everyone is healthy. At the moment, the backups to the backups to the backups are now injured. That’s not hyperbole. That’s the state of the Mets.
With that in mind, the Mets have to ask themselves whether they want a retread Major Leaguer on his last legs, a minor leaguer like a David Thompson who hasn’t taken that leap, or a Cortes should get the call-up.
Unless the Mets can swing a deal, preferably one better than Cameron Maybin for $1, the answer seems to trend towards Cortes. At the very least, he can play second and left, and he can be a fun novelty with his being ambidextrous in the field. And who knows? Maybe, he’ll really hit well.
If we hearken back to the 2018 season, the New York Mets were languishing, and Todd Frazier landed on the IL for the first time in his career. Jose Reyes was just flat out terrible, Wilmer Flores was at first, and David Wright, well, he wasn’t an option. Down in Double-A Binghamton, Jeff McNeil was flat out raking. He just kept hitting and hitting and hitting.
The answer seemed obvious to everyone. Everyone, that is, except Sandy Alderson and the New York Mets. When pressed on calling up McNeil to play third base, the answer was McNeil was a second baseman only. Of course, the irony there was McNeil was the Binghamton Rumble Ponies Opening Day third baseman.
Back then, it was difficult to ascertain how much of personnel decisions were driven by Jeff Wilpon, whomever Wilpon decided to listen on any given day, or Alderson. Whatever the case, McNeil would eventually get the call-up, prove himself, and he would go on to have an All-Star season in 2019.
Since 2019, things have gone quite uneven for McNeil as it has for the rest of us. In the end, what we do know with McNeil is he is an exceptionally gifted contact hitter, and he is a fiery player who you could trust defensively at four different positions.
According to Baseball Savant, McNeil has a career 3 OAA at second, 3 OAA at third, and -1 OAA in left field. DRS has a much better picture with McNeil having a 5 DRS at second, 6 DRS at third, and a 3 DRS in left field. All told, McNeil is not a Gold Glove, but he is a very solid defender at multiple positions.
As noted, McNeil could hit. Entering this season, McNeil had a 139 wRC+. Since his debut, he has been the 13th best hitter in the majors, and he trailed only Brandon Nimmo among Mets players. All told, McNeil has established himself as a very good, versatile, and valuable Major League player. Despite that, we are seemingly back at square one with McNeil.
With the acquisition of Francisco Lindor, and his preference to hit near the top of the lineup, McNeil was dropped from the top two spots, where he thrived, to sixth and seventh in the lineup. Perhaps it was the drop in the lineup, the new baseball, the delay to the season, the typical influence Chili Davis has on his teams, the pandemic, or just the normal ebbs and flows of the season, but McNeil has struggled.
The thing is, he didn’t quite struggle right away. In fact, to start the season, McNeil was tattooing the ball. Unfortunately, he was not getting any luck. Balls he normally hit for singles and doubles weren’t falling in anymore. The Mets reaction to that was to sit him after the Mets first two games of the season.
That has become an emerging pattern for McNeil. So far, the Mets have played 17 games, and McNeil has only started in 14 of them. The only projected starter who has started in fewer games is J.D. Davis, but that was only because Davis landed on the IL after getting hit by a pitch early in the season.
Davis is somewhat illustrative of the problem here. Davis has again been a nightmare defensively. He’s already a -2 DRS and a -1 OAA at third. He made errors directly impacting his team and leading Taijuan Walker and David Peterson to have shorter starts. The end result was just one game off, where he still appeared as a pinch hitter, and he was put right back in the lineup.
For some reason, Davis is able to work through his problems despite them not being fixable. For McNeil, this is very clearly a blip, but he keeps getting relegated to the bench. Instead of getting to see more pitches and get into a rhythms, the Mets are doing to the opposite. In fact, they’re just setting him up to continue to struggle.
Perhaps, this is just Alderson resting back on previous biases towards players from his first stint with the Mets. Taking a broader look, Dominic Smith has had some similar struggles getting into the lineup. In fact, the Mets have begun using him as a platoon bat. That’s despite him being one of the Mets best hitters against left-handed pitching.
To some extent, McNeil is also being used as a platoon player. For example, he was also not in the lineup against Patrick Corbin. More likely, McNeil is just being punished for struggling. For some reason, he is not going to be permitted to struggle and figure things out at the plate while others can go out there being butchers in the field costing the Mets games.
Make no mistake, how the Mets are handling McNeil is a very big problem. They are taking one of their best players, and they are crossing him up further. They are not putting him in a position to succeed in terms of where he hits in the lineup and in terms of getting to play enough to get into a rhythm and figure things out. Whatever the reason for the McNeil benchings, they have to stop, and they have to stop now.
Look across the diamond. The New York Mets are a significantly better baseball team. It’s not just better in terms of the rotation and starting lineup, but it’s also better in terms of their burgeoning depth. Despite that, somehow, the Mets failed to address their biggest need of the offseason – third base.
J.D. Davis is the incumbent third baseman, and simply put, he has done nothing but prove he has no business playing the position at the Major League level. In his career, he has played 770.0 innings there, and he has amassed a -19 DRS. As previously put in perspective, that was worse than what Wilmer Flores posted as the position, and there was near unanimous consent Flores should never man the position again.
The Mets were well aware of this, and that’s why they seemingly went out of their way this offseason to say they were going to upgrade at third base. He said the position was “up in the air,” and the team went on what seemed to be wild goose chases for Kris Bryant and Eugenio Suarez. For all we know, they are still doing all they can to pry those players loose from their current teams.
When the Mets were unable to acquire a real third baseman before the start of Spring Training, Luis Rojas was reluctant to name anyone as the team’s third baseman. That would appear to be an indictment of Davis, especially with second base becoming vacant with Robinson Cano‘s season long suspension.
At least on the surface, it would seem Davis would keep his slot at third with Jeff McNeil becoming the everyday third baseman. However, that’s not entirely possible with Davis not being able to play the position. In fact, Davis is literally the worst fielder in the Major Leagues.
Over the past two seasons, Davis has amassed a combined -29 DRS. That includes a -17 DRS at third and a -12 DRS in left field. Just to put in perspective how bad that is, he is the only player to appear TWICE among the worst 30 fielders over the past two seasons. As we’ve seen, the Mets just can’t hide him in the field. That goes double for third.
Making Davis at third even worse is the current complexion of the Mets pitching staff. Overall, this is a heavy ground ball pitching staff. To wit, here are their GB/FB ratios since 2017:
- Marcus Stroman 2.66
- Noah Syndergaard 1.68
- Carlos Carrasco 1.35
- Taijuan Walker 1.34
- Jacob deGrom 1.34
- Joey Lucchesi 1.33
- David Peterson 1.22
- Jordan Yamamoto 0.80
Looking at the make-up of the Mets top eight starting pitching options, seven of them induce batters to hit the ball on the ground. That makes having a good defensive infield more of an imperative. Yes, Francisco Lindor goes a long way towards doing that, but by playing Davis next to him, the Mets are effectively neutralizing Lindor’s effect.
Digging deeper, the Mets are going to play Pete Alonso at first where he is not a good fielder. That means the Mets are going to trot out a ground ball staff and have the Major League worst defense at the corners. Really, this does not remotely make any sense whatsoever. Really, it’s ponderous the Mets would even consider going in this direction.
When you look at it from that perspective, Davis cannot play third everyday. It only serves to hurt the team. Ideally, the Mets would pull off that blockbuster we’ve been waiting for them to pull off all offseason to acquire a third baseman, or they need to play Luis Guillorme everyday at second pushing McNeil to third, where he is a better fielder.
No matter what the Mets do, they simply cannot make Davis the everyday third baseman. They’ve done far too much this offseason, and they’ve built their team a certain way. Allowing Davis and his defense, or lack thereof, diminish or neutralize it, makes zero to no sense.
New York Mets fans really love their players. That goes double for those players who implicitly get it on some level. Those players become fan favorites.
It’s not necessarily limited to the David Wrights and Mike Piazzas of the world. We’ve seen it with Wilmer Flores with his crying on the field and walk-off hits. Curtis Granderson was as good and decent a man who ever donned a Mets uniform.
The key with most of these fan favorites is they let the fans know they’re loved and appreciated. On some level, the player just gets in. With respect to that, we’re seeing some of that already with Taijuan Walker.
Already, we have seen Walker give a nod to the late, great Tom Seaver, a pitcher who will forever be in Mets fans hearts, by apparently celebrating his new contract with GTS wine:
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) February 20, 2021
Walker has also already engaged the fans. In his career, Walker has worn both 00 and 99. Apparently, he’s heavily considering both, and on that front, he’s invited Mets fans feedback:
— Taijuan Walker (@tai_walker) February 20, 2021
All told, Walker is already doing all the right things to show fans he gets it. He doesn’t just want to wear a Mets uniform. He wants to be a part of the fabric of the organization. Fans will notice and love him for it.
Don’t be surprised if Mets fans suddenly adore Walker. That will go double if he builds off a strong 2020 season to be a key cog in a rotation which carries the Mets to the World Series.