(4) Jose Reyes – One of the most exciting and dynamic players in Mets history. Set team records for single season and career stolen bases. Mets all-time leader in triples. By WAR, best Mets SS and fifth best position player. Only Mets player to win a batting title. Four time All-Star. Returned to Mets after domestic violence suspension to take over third base. Hit bit homer against Phillies to help Mets claim Wild Card.
(13) Wilmer Flores – Player who loved being a Mets player so much, he cried on the field when he thought he was being traded. Came back to hit a walk-off homer to beat the Nationals. That was one of many walk-off hits, and he would become the Mets all-time leader in that category. Handled shortstop well defensively after Chase Utley tackled and broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg. Joined Edgardo Alfonzo as the only Mets players to go 6-for-6 in a game. Played all four infield positions in effort to do whatever team asked of him to help them win.
The number four has had a number of folk heroes and fan favorites in Mets history. The first was Ron Swoboda with his diving catch catch robbing Brooks Robinson of a hit in the 1969 World Series. There was Rusty Staub who gallantly fought while injured for the 1973 Mets.
Robin Ventura had the Grand Slam single, and Wilmer Flores has more walk-off hits than anyone in Mets history. Even with all of these Mets greats, when it comes to the number four, Lenny Dykstra was the best player to ever wear the number.
While he was first called-up in 1985, Dykstra would first establish that as the case during the 1986 season. In that season, Dykstra was pressed into action as an everyday player when Mookie Wilson suffered a Spring Training injury. We would soon find out that not only was Dykstra up to the task, but he would emerge as the Mets second best position player that season (by WAR).
It was more than his numbers. He presented a fire and grit for this Mets team (not that they needed it), and we would see exactly why he had the nickname Nails. Of all the special things Dykstra had done that year, he would save his best work for the postseason – something that would become the hallmark of his career.
In Game 3 of the NLCS against the Houston Astros, the Mets were facing going down 2-1 in the series with Mike Scott slated to start Game 4 and Nolan Ryan in Game 5, the 108 win Mets team was in real trouble. They could not lose this game. Ultimately, they wouldn’t as Dykstra would become the first ever Mets player to hit a walk-off homer in Mets postseason history:
Overall, Dykstra would hit .304/.360/.565 with a double, triple, homer, and three RBI. In a series where the Mets offense really struggled against the Astros pitching, especially the top of their rotation, it was Dykstra who helped keep the Mets afloat for their late inning miracle rallies. Really, next to the pitchers, Dykstra was unarguably the best player for either team in the series, and to some extent, he deserved the MVP award.
Just like he did in Game 3 against the Astros, Dykstra again game up huge in Game 3 of the World Series. After that emotional NLCS, they found themselves down 2-0 heading to Fenway. The Mets were in deep trouble. However, Dykstra would revitalize that Mets team leading off the game with a home run off Oil Can Boyd:
To some extent, that moment would be somewhat tainted by allegations Ron Darling made towards Dykstra. Overall, the off-the-field stuff during his career (steroids) and after his career, marred Dykstra. However, when he played, he was a terrific player who always came up big in big moments.
Again, in the 1986 World Series, Dykstra was terrific hitting .296/.345/.519. From there, he would find himself splitting time with Wilson with the Mets obtaining Kevin McReynolds in an offseason trade with the San Diego Padres. When Dykstra got to play, he was a very good player on the field.
He would again be great in the postseason. In a losing effort, Dykstra was phenomenal hitting .429/.600/.857 with three doubles, a homer, and three RBI. Just like two years prior, pitchers aside, Dysktra was very clearly the best position player on the field.
Seeing how he played in that series and in his Mets career, it is a wonder to everyone as to exactly why Dykstra would be traded during the ensuing season to the Philadelphia Phillies along with Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel. There are not enough ways to describe just how epic a blunder this was for the Mets. This was a franchise altering decision for the Mets and Phillies.
Ultimately, the one thing you can always say about Dykstra was the Mets were always better with him. He was always prepared for the biggest moments on the biggest stage in the biggest city in the world. While he was far from a perfect person, he was the perfect player to play in New York, and if not for him, it is likely we are talking about the Mets only having won one World Series in their history.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series highlighting the best players in Mets history by highlighting the best Mets player to wear a particular uniform number. In this case, this is not saying Granderson was the third best player in Mets history, but rather the best Mets player to wear the number 3.
It was officially one year ago today reports surfaced of Jed Lowrie‘s knee injury. When it first occurred, we assumed this was probably nothing more than one of those early aches some players feel during Spring Training. As is usually the case, the Mets really had no idea of the severity of the injury, how to properly manage or diagnose it, or how to get the player back on the field.
Jed Lowrie is sore behind his left knee, Mickey Callaway said.
The Mets are being cautious, focusing on making sure he’s ready for opening day.
They’re not sure how serious it is.
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) February 20, 2019
By and large, this injury kept Lowrie from playing in the field, and it limited him to just eight pinch hitting appearances in 2019. In those appearances, he had no hits, drew one walk, and struck out four times.
Fast forward to this year, and Lowrie is wearing a leg brace to help him participate in Spring Training. At the moment, no one knows if Lowrie will be able to effectively play with the brace, if he can only play with a brace, or for that matter when or if he will be able to ever play.
What makes this signing all the more troubling is Lowrie’s agent was Brodie Van Wagenen. If there was any GM in baseball who was well aware of the health issues of Lowrie, it would be his agent. Looking back, instead of the enthusiasm for the signing, perhaps there should have been more inquiry why a player coming off an All-Star season and had an 8.8 WAR over the previous two seasons could do not better than signing with the Mets to split time with Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Amed Rosario.
The Mets have completely and utterly wasted $20 million on a player who cannot play due to knee injuries. What makes this ironic is the Mets purportedly non-tendered Wilmer Flores partially due to knee injuries which never really existed.
While it was initially reported Flores had arthritis, subsequent reports indicated that was a misdiagnosis. In fact, Flores had tendonitis. Instead of paying him less than $5 million, or working out a team friendly extension he might’ve been inclined to sign, Flores would go to Arizona.
While he had his usual health issues, Flores had a productive season with the Diamondbacks. While continuing to improve against right-handed pitching, he had a 120 wRC+, which was the best of his career. He mostly held his own at second with a -2 DRS and a 1 OAA. That’s right, according to OAA, Flores was a positive defender. Overall, he was worth a 0.8 WAR in 89 games.
Lost in that was Flores’ clutch gene. The same player who is the Mets all-time leader in game winning RBI came up huge down the stretch for the Diamondbacks. From August to the end of the season, he hit .368/.410/.623. His 166 wRC+ over this stretch ranked as the fifth best in the majors.
While this was not enough for Flores’ option to be picked up by the Diamondbacks, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants to a two year $6.25 million deal. In total, that’s $10 million over three years for Flores. Put another way, that’s what Lowrie made in 2019 alone for his eight pinch hitting attempts.
Going forward, the Mets attempts to get another team to take on Lowrie’s contract so they could make another move failed. Meanwhile, Flores is 28 years old and in the prime of his career. Seeing the continued improvements he has made against right-handed pitching and OAA rating his defense much better, Flores could out-play his contract.
In the end, the Mets had a player in Flores who was popular, had a right-handed bat which complimented their heavy left-handed hitting lineup, was comfortable and effective on the bench, and could backup at all four infield positions. Rather than keep him around, Van Wagenen opted to sign his former client who cannot play to a $20 million deal.
In 2017, in a somewhat surprising move, the New York Rangers made Lias Andersson the seventh overall selection in the draft. He was supposed to be the first big move in a Rangers rebuild, and to some he was touted as a future Captain of the Rangers who could led the team to their first Stanley Cup since 1995.
So far, it hasn’t panned out that way, and worse yet, things only seem to get worse and worse.
Andersson struggled in his first year, but he seemed to learn some lessons from it. During training camp, he seemed to prove himself and earned a spot on the roster to open the 2019-2020 season. The optimism quickly soured with him not producing and the ensuing debate/drama over his being on the fourth line.
This entire situation led to Andersson being demoted to the AHL, where he again struggled. Eventually, Andersson demanded a trade and all together up and left the Rangers. Since that time, there was an active debate over handling of him and other prospects as well as Andersson on how he handled the situation.
Recently, Andersson opened up about what has transpired. In an interview translated by Blueshirt Banter, Andersson talked about how he is struggling:
There has been many incidents, but I can’t divulge everything, I will do that at a later stage. There has been many incidents that has hurt me on a personal level, things that has made me struggle mentally. In regards to hockey this might be an idiotic decision but I have to think about my private life too.”, Lias falls silent, “I feel like I have lost the hunger and drive for [hockey] at the moment – and all these incidents has affected me. I feel like I have to get this under control first and foremost.
Since the interview, we have learned more about the situation. Andersson was apparently skating on two injured feet, and there have been unspoken incidents which have troubled him. Another important note here is Andersson’s father has been clear this is not some temper tantrum about his demotion to the AHL.
Andersson is struggling with something, is dealing with injuries, and he is not yet ready to talk about it.
With hockey uncovering some bullying issues, especially from coaches, there has been some speculation as to what happened with Andersson with some of it being irresponsible. Still without quite knowing what happened with Andersson, there is a lesson to be learned here about how teams handle prospects.
Before going further, there is an interesting baseball parallel here with Dominic Smith of the Mets.
Smith was drafted by the Mets with the 11th overall pick of the 2013 draft. Since that time, we saw Smith show the tools to be a good Major League player, but there was a narrative emerging about his being overweight and lazy. In terms of his being overweight, you could see it despite his spending much of his offseasons dedicated to getting into shape.
As for the lazy part, aside from it being a byproduct of how some view overweight people, Smith would oversleep and report late to the first Spring Training game of the 2018 season. That seemed to be the final nail in his coffin as the Mets first baseman of the future.
After that point, the Mets went forward with Adrian Gonzalez to start the 2018 season. After they moved on from Gonzalez, the Mets looked to Wilmer Flores, a player they would non-tender after the season, at first base. All-in-all, they never gave Smith a chance to succeed, and eventually without a real direct competition, Smith was passed on the depth chart by Pete Alonso.
After the 2018 season, we discovered Smith had been battling sleep apnea. With it finally being properly diagnosed and treated, we not only saw Smith stay in shape for the entirety of the 2019 season, but we would also see him become an impactful player with a 133 wRC+.
With Smith, you are really left wondering how things would have been different had the team handled his development differently. It is the same exact situation with Andersson.
In recent years, it is becoming increasingly clear teams are not devoting enough time and resources to the actual development of players. While we see teams increasingly looking towards analytics and conditioning to help develop and improve their players, we are not hearing enough about teams looking to help players develop mentally, and/or learn to better handle themselves as professionals.
Many times, we hear about how this manager, coach, or veteran is going to take a certain player under their wing and help them fulfill their full potential. Looking at the Mets, we actually heard Edwin Diaz speak about his problems handling New York, and he was looking forward to new manager Carlos Beltran helping him better handle the city in 2020.
While a manager is supposed to be there to help, players need more, especially when a manager has to handle a roster of 25 players, a full coaching staff, speak with the media, and deal with the front office. It’s too much for any manager to handle players like a Smith or Andersson who are clearly struggling and need the help the team is ill equipped to provide.
The help can come in the form of a mental skills or life coach for the team. Perhaps every team should have a form of a stipend to help players seek the personal help they need but really cannot afford as prospects. Perhaps leagues need to have an ombudsman of sorts to visit minor leaguers to investigate how teams are being run and why they aren’t meeting their goals.
Point is, the Rangers have effectively lost a very talented hockey player in Andersson to something which might have been avoidable. The Mets almost missed out on Smith having a productive career for trying to turn what was a physical ailment into a mental problem. Clearly, these organizations and others are very ill-equipped to handle the mental and life skills issues of players, and as a result, we are seeing players not even be allowed to be put in a good position to reach their full potential.
That is a very real and significant problem. What makes it worse is it is avoidable, and it is time someone starts focusing on how to help these players instead of trying to tell them and everyone else what is wrong with them because clearly, they have no idea.
As this decade closes out at midnight today, the Mets will actually enter their seventh decade of baseball. Before proceeding forward, let’s take a look at the best moments from each year of this decade:
On the field, it was Angel Pagan hitting an inside-the-park home run and starting a triple play in the same game.
In a moment no one saw coming, Chris Capuano had a two hit shutout where he struck out 13:
This was the year of Harvey, and there was a lot to choose from with his near perfect game, bloody nose game, Harvey’s Better game, and others, but it’s hard to top him and David Wright starting the All Star Game at Citi Field.
Every single defensive play made by Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares:
With this being the fifth pennant in Mets history, there are many moments, but perhaps the biggest is Daniel Murphy‘s postseason heroics:
The Mets would need to make a late charge to make the postseason in consecutive seasons for the second time in team history. The lasting image from that run was Asdrubal Cabrera‘s walk-off homer:
After an injury plagued 2016, Michael Conforto would emerge as an All-Star, and his season was highlighted by an impressive homecoming:
It was melancholy, but we got to see Wright play one final game as a member of the New York Mets:
As we discovered, Rick Porcello turned down more money from the Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox (a recurring theme) to sign with the New York Mets. Apparently, part of the reason was his growing up a Mets fan. Really, Porcello is one of us:
Rick Porcello said he "cried his eyes out" when the Mets lost the Subway Series to the Yankees in 2000.
— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinMedia) March 8, 2015
His being drawn to tears after Mike Piazza flew out to Bernie Williams is going to resonate with this fanbase because those of us who experience it felt the same way even if we did not have a Wilmer Flores moment.
Porcello is one of us which means he gets it. That makes him one of another player on this team who lived and died with this team.
When he signed with the team, Brad Brach talked about how he bought a Mets jersey and went to the 2015 World Series.
Marcus Stroman wore a Darryl Strawberry jersey to the ballpark before his Citi Field debut. He has also spoken about how he wants the team to bring back the black jerseys tweeting out a picture of Pedro Martinez wearing one.
Finally, there is Steven Matz who was a Long Islander who grew up a Mets fan. He’d have his whole family at his debut leading to everyone falling in love with his grandfather.
Mostly, we all love this Mets team, and really, we love these players. It’s a very likable team who just gets it. Porcello seems to be more of the same which is great. Hopefully, Porcello will have us crying “tears of joy” after the season.
No matter what, we know how much this team means to him, and we know he’s going to give it everything he has. If for no other reason, this is going to make it even easier for us all to root for him.
Last week, Zack Wheeler signed a five year $118 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, unlike in 2015, a phone call to the General Manager would not be enough to continue his Mets career. The shame there is in many ways Wheeler always represented hope to Mets fans.
Back in 2011, we were already in the wake of the Madoff Scandal, and it became increasingly clear the Mets were not going to build upon the current core. The first player gone from that core would be Carlos Beltran. With the Beltran trade, the rebuild was officially on, and due to Sandy Alderson’s shrewdness, he was able to acquire Wheeler, who was the sixth overall pick of the 2009 draft.
With Wheeler, the Mets had real hope for the future. With him was a plan to contend once again. We could see the plan was to build a great rotation around him, Matt Harvey, and back then it was Rafael Montero as part of the group. That was the Mets future.
While Harvey burst onto the scene, Wheeler’s was more of a steady rise. His Major League debut was promising with his having a 104 ERA+ in 17 starts. He had a mediocre start to his 2014 season, and then suddenly in his last start of June something seemed to click. From June 30 to September 7, he would go 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.230 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9, and an 8.6 K/9.
With that finishing kick to the season, you could see him pairing with the returning Harvey and reigning Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom to form a dominant top of the rotation which could bring the Mets back to the World Series. As we know, the Mets did win the pennant in 2015, but Wheeler would not be a part of it.
On the eve of the 2015 season, disaster would strike as Wheeler would tear his UCL. He would miss the entirety of the 2015 season. Due to multiple setbacks in his recovery, he would also miss the entirety of the 2016 season. While he was gone, it does not mean it was an uneventful recovery.
On that fateful July night, it was Wheeler who was supposed to be the key piece in a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers reuniting the Mets with CF Carlos Gomez. While Wilmer Flores was crying on the field and Gomez’s medical records were being perused, Wheeler was trying to let the Mets know he wanted to be a part of this team. He wanted to be a New York Met.
Wheeler got through to Alderson, and for his part Alderson made sure to make Wheeler a part of the Mets future. He held onto Wheeler during his struggles after a two year layoff which included his dealing with a stress reaction. Still, the Mets believed in him, and in 2018, the Mets faith in him would be rewarded.
In 2018, Wheeler would emerge as an ace level pitcher. What is odd is it wouldn’t start out that way. He would first begin the year in the minors only to come up to the majors to take Jason Vargas‘ spot in the rotation, and he woudl stay there despite some early season struggles due to Harvey’s being designated for assignment.
Much like 2014, something clicked at the end of June. Over his final 15 starts of the season, he was 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.924 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9, and an 8.9 K/9. What is interesting about that finish is even with deGrom clearly being the best pitcher in baseball, Wheeler would have a better second half ERA than him.
Once again, Wheeler’s second half gave hopes for the Mets return to the postseason. This time, Wheeler would be healthy, and despite the Mets nearly playing themselves out of it in the first half, he would get his opportunity to pitch in a postseason race.
Wheeler stepped up his game. From June 22 until the end of the season, he was 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, 2.0 BB/9, and an 8.2 K/9. While the Mets didn’t get that second Wild Card, he was rewarded for his faith in himself and this team.
The Mets were also rewarded in their faith in him. As alluded to earlier, Wheeler emerged as an ace over the past two seasons.
Wheeler has emerged as a pitcher who gives you 30 starts a year and over 180 innings. That’s equivalent to 6.1 innings per start. His 3.37 FIP over the past two seasons is 10th best in the Majors ahead of pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Clayton Kershaw, and Madison Bumgarner. His hard hit rate put him ahead of everyone except his teammates deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
In total, Wheeler became exactly what was promised when the Mets obtained him from Beltran in 2011. What was promised was not just the hope Wheeler had provided but also the great pitcher they believed he could be. It may have been a turbulent road to get there, but get there he did.
For that, every Mets fan should be grateful to Wheeler. We should be grateful for his giving us hope for nearly a decade, especially at those time when it seemed the most bleak. We should be grateful he became that great pitcher we all hoped he would be. Mostly, we should be grateful he wanted to be a Met, even at the very end when he came back to the Mets and asked them to re-sign him.
To that end, thank you for an eventual Mets career, Zack Wheeler. You were a class act, and you deserve nothing but the best in the future.
With Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson being free agents, you should expect every team who needs an upgrade at third base to be pursuing them heavily. That is everyone expect the New York Mets. The Mets have all but said they’re not pursuing either player, and they are not prepared to exceed the luxury tax threshold.
Getting the obvious out of the way, this is unacceptable. There is really no excuse for the Mets to not at least realistically pursue either player. That said, that is exactly where we are leaving the Mets to find “creative” ways to find someone to replace Todd Frazier at the hot corner.
Based upon Brodie Van Wagenen’s comments, that replacement is going to be an internal option. Looking at things, that is a scary proposition.
J.D. Davis simply cannot handle the position defensively. In 220.0 innings at third last year, he posted a -9 DRS. To put it into perspective, that is actually worse than how Wilmer Flores played the position, and back then, Mets fans were screaming to move him off third.
The other option mentioned was Jed Lowrie. Even mentioning his name is bizarre. Last year, he was limited to eight plate appearances and was not able to play in the field. At the moment, you are hard pressed to find a reason why the Mets can count on him any more than they can count on Yoenis Cespedes as the Mets readily admit they still do not know what is wrong with Lowrie.
The other name mentioned was Jeff McNeil. Due to his versatility, the 2019 All Star who had a 143 wRC+ and a 3 DRS at third is a very viable option for the position. However, for a moment, lets put a pin in that.
When looking at third base, the one name which hasnt’ been mention, but perhaps should be mentioned is Robinson Cano.
Last year, Cano had a bad year by any measure. Due to multiple stints on the disabled list as he battled hamstring issues, he played a career worst 107 games (in a non-PED suspension season). The 93 wRC+ was the second worst of his career, and the -6 DRS was the worst defensive year he has had since 2015. In fact, this was just the second negative DRS he has had since 2008.
With Cano coming off an injury plagued season and with next year being his age 37 season, we should hardly expect those defensive numbers to improve. With second being a fairly rigorous position, you wonder if it would be better for Cano to switch positions to one which would allow his legs more rest, and in turn, would help him offensively.
Looking back to when Cano came off his PED suspension in 2018, that is exactly what the Mariners did. From August 14 until the end of the season, Cano would play 41 games. His breakdown of those games were: 2B (23), 1B (14), 3B (2), DH (1). Yes, Cano’s primary position was second, but he only mainly played second.
Getting the obvious out of the way, there is no way Cano is an answer at first base as Pete Alonso is firmly entrenched there. As for DH, except for isolated interleague games, there is no long term solution at DH. That leaves third.
At the moment, there is little more than conjecture to see if Cano can handle third on a long term basis. We could look at hit -2 DRS in 2018 as evidence he can’t, but that’s as small a sample size as you get. Moreover, that was with him being thrown at the position with little to no preparation.
Through it all, we should remember Cano is a smart player with good hands and a strong arm. His real issue is his range and durability. This is not too dissimilar from what we saw with Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera wasn’t exactly great at third last year with a -4 DRS in 812.0 innings, but it should be noted it was a lot better than the -17 DRS he put up at second base the preceding season.
When it comes to Cano, you can reasonably expect him to be not just a negative defender at third, but also worse than McNeil. However, that is only part of the equation. Taking a more global view, McNeil at second and Cano at third probably presents the best possible defensive alignment while presenting Cano with a position less strenous on his legs thereby keeping him in the lineup more.
If you think about it more, this is a move which is going to have to be made eventually. Cano is signed through the the 2023 season, and he is signed for a lot of money. Looking at the team, they need his bat in the lineup to be successful. To that end, the Mets need to find the best way to both keep his bat in the lineup and help ensure his contract is not more onerous than it already is.
Looking at everything, the solution is to move Cano to third base. That is unless the Mets are actually going to do the right thing by pursuing Rendon or Donaldson.
With the Washington Nationals facing elimination, Stephen Strasburg was sent to the mound to begin the ninth inning. On the second pitch of the inning, Yuli Gurriel hit a hard liner to left, which was caught by Juan Soto for the first out of the inning.
Even with a five run lead, the Nationals went to their closer, Sean Doolittle, who was already warmed up. Doolittle came in, and he shut down the Astros allowing the Nationals to fight another day.
In a World Series filled with reminders of the 2015 Mets, this served as yet another tragic reminder to Mets fans.
Going back to that fateful Game 5, Matt Harvey was as dominant as any pitcher we had ever seen on that stage. Through the first eight innings, he had not allowed a run. The Royals had no chance against him walking just once and getting just four hits while striking out nine times.
After that eighth inning, Harvey was at 101 pitches. At that time, the heart said to keep Harvey in the game to complete his masterpiece. The head said to go with Jeurys Familia. Terry Collins went with his heart, and then he completely lost his head.
Collins sat idly by when Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain. Harvey was still on that mound when Cain stole second, and he would score on an Eric Hosmer RBI double. This set forth a series of dominoes leading to David Wright playing a ball which should’ve been played by Wilmer Flores. With Wright abandoning third, Hosmer took off from third with reckless abandon, and he scored the tying run as Lucas Duda made what was the worst throw in World Series history.
No, the Mets didn’t lose because Harvey started the ninth. The same can be said about Duda completely botching that throw. However, what is not up for debate is Collins didn’t put his closer in the best possible position to succeed. Looking back at that series, that’s one of the many ways Collins blew that World Series for the Mets.
The Nationals didn’t blow the World Series. Not yet at least. They didn’t partially because they knew when to get Strasburg from the game. This is just yet another dreaded Strasburg/Harvey parallel from this World Series. Based on how this series is going, who knows what insult to injury will be added for the Mets fan in Game 7 of this series.
There were plenty of reasons to fire Mickey Callaway if you wanted. In fact, his incident with Tim Healey in and of itself was grounds for firing. To the extent it was Callaway and not the front office making some of those curious moves, you certainly have further justification.
However, what you really can’t do is pin the Mets failures to make the postseason at Callaway’s lap, which is what firing him does. That was all the more the case when Brodie Van Wagenen was trying to spin the 2019 season as a positive, including but not limited to noting Edwin Diaz had 26 saves.
Before proceeding, some background is necessary here.
By and large, the Mets were seen as a third or fourth place team in the division with around 85 wins. For example, ZiPS predicted the Mets would finish the year 87-75 in a three way tie for second place in the division. Looking at the 2019 season, the Mets Pythagorean was 86-76, and it just so happened, that was the Mets final record as they finished in third place in the division.
To that extend, the Mets neither over nor underachieved. Rather, you could argue they performed as expected. Of course, lost in that was all that happened during the season.
Pete Alonso had a season greater than anyone could’ve imagined. Jeff McNeil was an All-Star. Amed Rosario figured things out in the second half. The Mets got more production from J.D. Davis and Dominic Smith than they could’ve reasonably expected.
Looking at that alone, you would say the Mets should’ve finished much better than they did. After all, when you are getting that level of production from your young players, the Mets should have been in the Braves position. They would fall far short of that.
There were many reasons for that. Brandon Nimmo would miss over three months of the season. Jed Lowrie would record no hits in only nine pinch hitting attempts. Robinson Cano had an injury plagued year, and when he did play he was not up to his typical standards. Aside from Seth Lugo, the bullpen was mainly a mess. Noah Syndergaard would struggle with the new ball and the new catcher.
The Syndergaard point brings up another interesting point. All the moves Van Wagenen made this offseason proved to be a downgrade from what was already on the team.
Ramos’ 1.4 fWAR was lower than Travis d’Arnaud‘s 1.6. Another interesting note is d’Arnaud would have a 107 OPS+ with the Rays, which is the same Ramos would have with the Mets the whole year. The Mets would cut d’Arnaud after one horrible game leaving the Mets with Tomas Nido as the backup for the full season. He’d have a -0.5 fWAR, which is lower than both d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki (0.2).
Cano’s 0.3 WAR was lower than McNeil’s 5.0. Worse yet, it was only 0.1 higher than Justin Dunn‘s 0.2 in four games with the Mariners this year. In fact, Dunn’s 0.2 WAR was much higher than Diaz’s -0.6. Things get worse when you consider Anthony Swarzak had a 0.0 WAR.
Long story short, the Mets would have been better off in 2019 if this trade was never made. What makes this all the more scary is this was supposed to be the year the Mets benefited most. Things are going to get much worse as Jarred Kelenic continues his way to the majors.
Now, people will want to say not all of Van Wagenen’s moves were bad with Davis being held up as the ideal. On that note, Davis was terrible in the field. Among players with at least 550 innings in left, his -11 DRS was the worst in the National League. Among third baseman with at least 200 innings, his -9 DRS was the third worst in all of baseball.
All told, Davis had a 1.0 WAR on the season. That’s just 0.2 higher than Wilmer Flores despite his having played 51 more games. All told, the Mets would have been better off keeping Flores over trading for Davis and signing Lowrie. It would have been a much better allocation of resources than what Van Wagenen actually did.
Beyond all of that, the Mets had players like Aaron Altherr, Keon Broxton, and Carlos Gomez serve as outfield depth. They’d cycle through relievers like Tim Peterson, Stephen Nogosek, Hector Santiago, Brooks Pounders, and the like all season rather than adding that one other arm the bullpen needed. That would make Jeurys Familia‘s season long struggles and Justin Wilson‘s needing to be limited all the worse.
In the end, you can see all the good mitigated against all the bad. In fact, you could argue given all that happened, the Mets probably could’ve been worse than their third place finish. This is all to say the Mets probably did about as well as could have been expected.
That brings us back to Callaway.
Given the Mets did not underachieve, you have a difficult basis to fire him. If you want to argue a better manager could have gotten more from this team, you certainly have a point. If that is the case, the Mets have to now go out and get that guy. That means you hire Joe Girardi or maybe Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker.
But make no mistake here. By firing Callaway, the Mets are essentially pinpointing him as the reason why this team missed the postseason. In the end, if the Mets are going to sell everyone Callaway was the problem, the next manager is going to have to take the Mets to the postseason. That is the bar which has now been set.
If the Mets don’t make the postseason, then we’ll know what we have known since Spring Training. The Mets weren’t good enough not because of their manager. No, they weren’t good enough because the Wilpons didn’t invest enough money into this team, and the General Manager they hired failed to assemble the roster good enough to back up the “Come get us!” hype.