Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes Backs Up a Damaged Colon

I’ve made it well known that I don’t think Bartolo Colon is a good pitcher anymore. Normally, I’d be apoplectic over his giving up seven earned in 3.2 innings. 

Actually, you know what?  I am apoplectic over it. Look at the photo. They had to ice and rub him just to get him out there. If you were watching it on TV, you saw that bump on his wrist get bigger and bigger. He should’ve been taken out when he was hit on the wrist in the second inning. 

I don’t care if you’re one of the stud muffins or a bad 42 year old pitcher, the team does not have the right to put a player out there and risk significant injury. I’m even more incredulous because the Mets have a short bullpen and want to skip Matt Harvey‘s Sunday start. Also, if the Mets want a six man rotation, I’m certain that included Colon and not Logan Verrett

Also troubling for the Mets, Lucas Duda left the game in the seventh with the game very much in doubt. Hopefully, it has nothing to do with his back

Lucky for the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes unleashed his “Feats of Strength.”  He went 5-6 with a stolen base, double, three homeruns (one grand slam) and seven RBIs. Two homers were to CF and the other went to RF.  it would’ve been 6-6 if not for a terrific running catch by Carlos Gonzalez in the ninth.  Going into the ninth, Cespedes had a chance for the HR Cycle (solo, two run, three run, grand slam). The Murphy SF took care of that. He was also a triple short of the cycle. Car-Go’s catch took care of that. 

The rest you need to know?  the six inning, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto hit solo homeruns off former Met Gonzalez German.  Sean Gilmartin was marginally effective and got the win. Hansel Robles wasn’t good, but he only gave up one run. The Mets added an insurance run in the eighth with a Wilmer Flores [standing ovation] RBI double scoring Cespedes (who else?).  Daniel Murphy would knock in the last run with a ninth inning sacrifice fly. Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia locked down the eighth and ninth to secure the 14-9 win. 

It’s funny with everything going on tonight, the thing that threw me for a loop was seeing Jose Reyes bat second. The only other person not to put Reyes in the leading spot was Jerry Manuel. That’s not good company for Walt Weis. 

Overall, my favorite part of the night was in the top of the sixth. Despite burning a challenge earlier in the game, Walt Weiss came out to challenge a safe call on a Curtis Granderson stolen base attempt. It was a little ironic because the early failed challenge involved Granderson throwing out Nick Hundley at the plate to end the fifth inning. I think the umpires got the call wrong even if it was upheld on replay.

Anyway, Walt Weiss has no challenges left. It doesn’t stop him. The umpires went forward with the replay, which did confirm the call. Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez were livid and rightfully so. There were a few times I thought Keith was going to drop an expletive. In this mess of a game it gave me a chuckle. 

The win gave me a smile. I have a huge grin due to the Nationals loss, and the Mets expanding their lead to five games. 

How Will the Mets Finish

For the first time since 2008, the Mets are in a pennant race. Fans have lost their minds and started magic number counts, debating playoff rosters, and setting playoff rotations. This is a good thing, and certainly I’m not immune to it myself. 

Currently, the Mets are 64-56 with a four game lead in the division. In 2008, they had the same record through 120 games and were tied for first place with the Phillies. In 2007, the Mets were 67-53 with a three game lead in the division. Long story, short, there’s nothing to celebrate yet . . . especially when those earlier Mets teams were better. Thankfully, those Phillies teams were better also. 

Using straight winning percentage, the Mets are on pace for an 86-76 season. For the Nationals to tie, they would have to go 26-16 (.619). I don’t care how bad they’ve been lately; they are certainly capable of that.  As I like to do at times, let’s dig a little deeper. 

The Mets have 18 home games left and 24 road games left. With a home winning percentage of 66.67%, they will go 12-6 at home the rest of the way. With a road winning percentage of 38.60%, they will go 9-15 on the road the rest of the way. Adding it all up, this equates to a final record of 85-75 (not that different). Again, the Mets aren’t running away with anything. 

Since August 1st, Yoenis Cespedes‘ first game with the Mets, the team has gone 11-6 (SSS Alert!), which is a fairly unsustainable winning percentage of 64.71% (over 162 games that equates to a 105-57 record). Of course, if they kept that up, they would go 27-15 the rest of the way, and the Mets will run away with the division with a 91-71 record. I can’t imagine the Nationals, no matter how talented they are, running off a 31-11 clip. 

Now, it’s not really unrealistic the Mets have a terrific run to end the year. The Mets have 33 games against teams with a sub .500 record. They have gone 41-22 (.651) against those teams. There are only nine games against teams with a .500 or better record left on the schedule. This includes six against the Nationals. The Mets are 23-34 (.404) against such teams. Working the math out, the Mets will go 25-17 the rest of the way. That means the Mets will finish 89-73. This forces the Nationals to go from a .500 team to a team playing .643 ball just to tie the division. 

For what it’s worth, 89-73 is how the Mets finished in 2008. They were one game worse in 2007. You know what?  Those aren’t harbingers. They’re the records for completely different teams. Those Mets teams were being chased by different teams. Those seasons are in the rear view mirror. Let’s leave them there. 

If we’re going to be concerned, let’s be concerned with the bullpen. Let’s be concerned with the handling of the rotation. Let’s be concerned with Terry Collins. Let’s not get ourselves concerned with the Ghost of Baseball Past. 

Let’s just have fun and enjoy the ride. 

Glimpse of the Cespedes Trade Debacle

We may soon find out how bad the Yoenis Cespedes trade was. With an injury to Daniel Norris, the Tigers are pondering calling-up Michael Fulmer

This is salt in the wound after watching Terry Collins throw away the last game in Baltimore. In part, that is because of the ineptitude of the Mets front office in handling the innings restrictions. If Fulmer is truly ready, he could have been used for a spot start over Logan Verrett. This way the Mets bullpen, in the middle of a pennant race, wouldn’t be understaffed for a full week. 

There’s also the possibility if Fulmer stayed with the Mets organization, he wouldn’t be called up to make a spot start. Correction, there is no way they would call him up. Considering they won’t consider Steven Matz in the bullpen, they wouldn’t consider Fulmer there either; especially with the intriguing possibility of Vic Black

Also, don’t misconstrue this as me saying I don’t want Cespedes. It was a sign to the Mets fans and players the team was all-in. The Mets took off since that time. However, this is a question of whether the Mets had to give up Fulmer. I still say they didn’t. Sandy Alderson balked and the departing GM didn’t.  This trade could very well haunt them. 

So in the history of John Smoltz and Jeff Bagwell, the Mets may get a glimpse of what could have been part of their future. 

Collins Not in October Form

The beginning of this game recap has to start with the “Throwing Out of Baserunners” in the top of the ninth with the score tied 3-3. That Yoenis Cespedes throw was incredible. Against another player, Sean Rodriguez is standing on third as the winning run. Since there are no words to describe the play, here’s the play:

As for the rest of the game, it was a second straight extra inning game with both teams playing with intensity reminiscent of October baseball. This could prove to be a real good test for this Mets team. Tonight, we would see the person who needs the most improvement is Terry Collins. 

This includes Jon Niese. With his recent run, we forgot he was prone to mistakes after errors or bad calls. Balking Bob Davidson was doing Balking Bob Davidson things:

So yeah, bad call on a 3-2 count. Sure enough, next AB, Gregory Polanco hits a two run homer. Mets start the game down 2-0. Add a third inning dinger and the Mets offense reverting to June form against Charlie Morton, who was really channeling Roy Halladay, and all hope seemed lost. 

Then Juan Uribe leads off the seventh with a homerun to CF. Later in the inning, Michael Conforto pulled a homerun to RF tying the score at three. Seriously, this is why I say send him down or play him everyday. He’s got the potential to be a special player. 

Last night, I noted the difference in the game was the bullpens. The Pirates bullpen was very good again.  Luckily, the Mets other bullpen pieces were up to the task. Carlos Torres pitched a scoreless seventh. Hansel Robles then had three scoreless frames (10th, 11th, and 12th).  Sean Gilmartin would finally crack in the 14th, taking the loss due to questionable managing and defense. 

Specifically, Lucas Duda made a PH appearance in the 12th. He drew a two out walk. Of course, he didn’t appear earlier in the game, and the Mets burned Juan Lagares as a pinch hitter in the sixth . . . because you want him for his bat and not his late inning defense. Keep in mind Duda can’t play in the field right now. When Wilmer Flores [standing ovation] didn’t deliver, the Mets were down to Anthony Recker, some good hitting pitcher, and no double switch options. 

This turned out to be the key decision in the game. If Lagares was available to go in the game in the late innings, Francisco Cervelli‘s double becomes a single because Lagares would’ve been in CF and Cespedes would’ve been in LF. That changed the inning; not Daniel Murphy‘s misplay. Cervelli, the go-ahead run, would’ve been safe at third. I know it helped lead to an insurance run. My argument is tbst throw isn’t made because Cervelli wouldn’t have been on second. 

Sure enough, the last man on the bench, Recker would make the last out. The Mets lost 5-3. Who knows how it turns out if Collins managed it properly?  

Future of Cuban Baseball

As I’ve noted before, this is not a political blog. I have strong political opinions, but they won’t be presented here. However, this blog does touch upon baseball and fatherhood, so I decided it was important for me to address the reopening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba. 

From a baseball perspective, there has already been much written about a potential pipeline of talent to the U.S.  For various reasons, I’m not as intrigued by that possibility. Honestly, if Cuba ever allowed their baseball players to come to the U.S., I imagine it would follow the Japanese NPB system

Here’s what I’m more interested in: 

  1. Will Americans be eligible to play in the Cuban National League; and
  2. Will Cuban MLB players be eligible to play in the WBC?

American Eligibility to Play in Cuba

I’m interested in the first one because we have seen MLB players go to the NPB and be successful. The most notable was Cecil Fielder, who improved in the NPB, and became the first player to hit 50 homeruns in 13 years (back when that meant something). 

Since that time, there have been other players like Ryan Vogelsong, who have salvaged their games, there haven’t been any with the impact of Fielder. Now, the NPB seems to be used for a different purpose for American players. Kevin Youkilis went there to play one last season before retiring, rather than risking being cut for non-performance by an MLB team. Tuffy Rhodes decided to make a career out of being an NPB star than return to the U.S.  

Now, I don’t know if the Cuban Leagues are better than the NPB. In fact, I doubt they are. However, it would be good to have another option for MLB players to resurrect their careers. 

WBC

I know American baseball fans are as interested in the WBC as I am. Admittedly, there are many flaws in the series (innings limits, when it’s played), but I enjoy it anyway. 

Overall, the two teams that have really underachieved have been the U.S. and Cuba. With each defection, the Cuban team continues to worsen. Here are some of the Cuban MLB players not eligible to play for Cuba anymore:

  1. Jose Abreu
  2. Yoenis Cespedes
  3. Aroldis Chapman
  4. Yasmani Grandal
  5. Adeiny Hechavarria 
  6. Jose Iglesias
  7. Leonys Martin
  8. Yasiel Puig
  9. Alexi Ramirez

These are some good to very good MLB players. These players would really strengthen the Cuban national team. I want the U.S.A. to win the WBC, but I want them to beat the best to show they are the best. I want this to be more akin to Olmpic hockey and basketball, not a collection of guys willing to play. 

I think the addition of the Cuban MLB players would spark their team and the WBC.  There is a Cuba-U.S.A. baseball rivalry at the amateur level. Maybe the addition of the Cuban MLB players will cause the best American players to show up . . . not just some of them. 

Summation 

Overall, I have no idea of the political and baseball impact on the U.S. Embassy reopening in Cuba. While I know there are people who support it and those who vehemently oppose it, I think we all agree we want what’s best for the Cuban families. To a lesser extent, I think we would all enjoy better baseball. 

Mets Needed Relief

If it wasn’t so hot hot tonight, I swear it was October. Tonight’s game just had that feel to it. 

Speaking of October, we got a glimpse why the Pirates may be better suited to go deeper in the playoffs – their bullpen. Top to bottom, it’s terrific. The Mets bullpen is top heavy with Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia. I’m not saying I felt like the game was in the balance when Bobby Parnell was announced. I am saying I have no confidence in him. 

He did give up hard hits, and he left the game with no outs, runners on first and second, and the Mets down 2-1 in the tenth. Carlos Torres did his best to get out of it, but at the end of the top of the 10th, the Mets trailed 3-1. 

That insurance run was a doozy. Juan Lagares had a terrific AB against  Pirates closer, Mark Melancon, before hitting a double to right center. He would advance on a wild pitch and score on Curtis Granderson‘s sac fly. Cespedes would meekly strikeout. in fact, he failed to run with strike three in the dirt. That’s inexcusable. Juan Uribe would groundout to end the game. Final score was 3-2. 

It’s too bad the crowd wasn’t paying attention to the game.  You CANNOT do the wave in a tight, well played baseball game between two terrific teams. I’m not for outlawing the wave. There is a time and place for everything. There was no room for the wave tonight. 

If they were actually paying attention to the game, they would’ve noticed Bartolo Colon‘s great performance. [I can admit it when he pitches well]. He only allowed a first inning homerun to Neil Walker. Sure, he was occasionally helped by his defense, but he got the groundballs to induce those double plays to get him out of trouble. Amazingly, J.A. Happ was just as good.

If not for that Yoenis Cespedes‘ sixth inning homerun, I’m positive the Mets would’ve lost 1-0 in an excellently played ballgame by both teams. Needless to say, it turned out all for naught. 

In terms of the lineup, the Mets have shown Michael Conforto should’ve been sent down. They’re making him a platoon player, which could be detrimental to his career. He’s didnt start in 3/4 games against the Rockies, and he won’t start in 2/3 games against the Pirates. Monday is an off day. That means in one week he got one start and two PH appearances. Would it really have been that bad if those six plate appearances were divvied up between Eric Campbell, Kelly Johnson, and Juan Lagares?

Fastballs by Jake

Personally, I love how quietly Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey are in this competition amongst themselves to be the ace of this staff. We shouldn’t be surprised the Mets have had two straight shut outs. Last night, Harvey allowed 4 hits and no walks with four strikeouts in eight innings. 

Tonight, deGrom was brilliant behind that brilliant fastball of his. He ended his last inning brilliantly with his 10th strikeout in the seventh. Overall, he allowed two hits with an uncharacteristic four walks. All the more remarkable, he didn’t allow a run with first and third with no out in the fifth (much of that due to poor Rockie base running). 

Offensively, Travis d’Arnaud is red hot going four for last nine. Michael Cuddyer played his second game in a row. He plated Juan Uribe, who had an RBI double of his own. We saw Yoenis Cespedes show a “Feat of Strength.”  Other than that, there was much not going on offensively.   This included a Michael Conforto pop-out in the seventh, when he pinch hit for deGrom. However, on a night with deGrom, three runs (3-0 final score) was all the Mets needed, especially with Tyler Clippard and Jeurys Familia locking down the win. 

I guess I should also mention Cespedes had quite the armband . . . 

  
. . . that just so happened to match the color of the new Rally Parakeet

  
Whether it’s the black cat in 1969, or the yellow parakeet in 2015, I’ll take all the help we can get. 

Montero & deGrom

Jacob deGrom is taking the mound tonight.  Mets fans are all excited for his start tonight.  Why shouldn’t we be.  The man has been “deGrominant,” whether it was him winning Rookie of the Year, his All Star Game appearance, or his terrific 2015 season.  How quickly we all forget that this was never supposed to happen.

When deGrom was first called-up to the Mets, he was supposed to be in the bullpen while Rafael Montero was supposed to be in the rotation.  As we know, deGrom had a strong rookie season, and in the beginning of 2015, it was Montero who was assigned to the bullpen (at least initially).  It turns out that would have been a colossal mistake.  In fact, this should make Mets fans question every pitching move this front office makes.

To be fair, Montero did enter last year ranked ahead of deGrom.  However, that is an independent rating of those two players.  Each organization should know their prospects better than fine sites like Baseball America.  Additionally, this is the same team that gave up on Collin McHugh, a very dependable major league starter for a team that wants to go to a six man rotation, for Eric Young, Jr., who is a part time player on an under .500 Braves team.

It didn’t stop there. Right before the season began, the Mets traded for Alex Torres, who pitched so well he’s in AAA right now. The cost was Cory Mazzoni, who was a prospect the Mets became frustrated with due to his injury history. It should be noted these were non-arm related injuries. Mazzoni has a decent repertoire that makes the 2011 former second round pick a back end starter or reliever. This is something the Mets need now. Instead, the Padres have the prospect and the Mets have dead weight. I just hope we don’t have another Heath Bell situation here. 

This is why I wasn’t happy with the Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes trades. These are both rentals, who aren’t resigning with the team. If the A’s didn’t trade Clippard to the Mets, then the Nationals overpay or Billy Beane finally accepts the Mets offer. Overall, this is bad negotiation. 

It’s also bad valuation of assets. Remember if not for injuries deGrom would be setting up for Jeurys Familia, or possibly closing while the Mets are figuring out the rotation on a sub .500 team. 

This is why I question this front office. People may disagree with me, but this is partially why I question their treatment of Michael Conforto and Kevin Plawecki. Given their other moves, I think they invite this skepticism. I hope I’m not the only one. 

What if Cuddyer’s Healthy?

With all of the hand-wringing over Michael Conforto, we’ve ignored other puzzling decisions by the Mets, namely:

https://mobile.twitter.com/msimonespn/status/631287918150049794

That’s right. Even though Curtis Granderson has had a real nice year, he’s not hitting lefties. This shouldn’t surprise anyone because he’s effectively been a platoon candidate throughout his career:

vs. RHP .269/.356/.504

vs. LHP .224/.294/.398

Now, since Terry Collins has an infatuation with leading off Juan Lagares, I would say this is a natural platoon. However, I shudder to think of Collins putting him in RF again with Yoenis Cespedes in center. Plus, Lagares is in that platoon with Conforto. 

Last night, Michael Cuddyer played his first game since coming off the DL, and he played well. He was 2-4 with two runs scored. On the first run, he scored from second on Carlos Gonzalez’s strong arm. In the eighth, he stole a base. In sum, he looked healthy. If he’s really healthy, he creates a good problem to have. 

He’s a professional hitter (an “ultimate pro“) with a career triple slash line of .277/.344/.462. Arguably, if healthy, he’s the best hitting OF currently on the team (I think it’s Cespedes).  In his career, he’s been deadly against lefties to the tune of .288/.376/.495. I think it’s a no-brained for him to platoon with Granderson, at a minimum. 

For his career, Cuddyer hits righties to the tune of .273/.330/.447. He’s much better against lefties. Here’s the Mets other OF options against righties (Granderson is above)

Yoenis Cespedes .277/.317/.478

Michael Conforto .206/.317/.382 (SSS)

Juan Lagares .253/.285/.336

What this tells us, is if Cuddyer is healthy, he needs to play everyday. I think it would be wise to ease him back, but I would not limit him to a strict platoon. This means, on offense alone, the OF against righties should be: Cuddyer LF, Cespedes CF, Granderson RF. Again, this indicates Conforto should be demoted. 

If Cuddyer’s not healthy, then the Mets need to figure something out with Granderson in RF. He did come through the past few nights against a lefty, but that was more about the reliever than him. 

I hope Cuddyer’s really healthy because he’ll be a huge boost to the offense as he was last night. If not, he should be Granderson’s caddy against lefties. 

Right now, with all of these interchangeable parts, Collins has to earn his money by putting the best team on the field. He can’t gamble because there is so much to lose right now. If Cuddyer’s healthy, a lot of the risk is removed and it makes Collins’ job a lot easier. It also makes the Mets a better team. 

Are the Mets All-In?

Rarely, if ever, do you see the Mets go all-in on a season. In fact, the only time I remember it happening was 1999 when Steve Phillips traded everyone to try to improve the team after just missing out on the playoffs in 1998. 

Watching that 1999 team was probably the most fun I had watching baseball. With that season came so many highlights including the Al Leiter two-hitter in the Wild Card play-in gamePratt’s All Folks, and the Grand Slam Single. The season ended cruelly with Kenny Rogers . . . . 

If you remember, that year the Mets gave away Jason Isringhausen for Billy Taylor.  As we know Taylor had no regular season impact and was left off the playoff roster.  It also saw Octavio Dotel get called up too soon and stay in the majors too long to the tune of a 5.38 ERA. He was warming in the bullpen when Kenny Rogers . . . .

This year, the Mets are seemingly all-in like they were in 1999. They gave up their two best prospects who have not appeared in the majors this year. In exchange the Mets received two and a half months of Tyler Clippard and Yoenis Cespedes, who is leaving as a free agent. Because of deplorable offense, Michael Conforto was rushed to the majors, and the Mets won’t send him back down

Look, I understand going all-in. It led to a run in 1999, and to a certain extent 2000. However, in order to go all-in, you don’t hedge your bets. 

For starters, that means ending the innings limits nonsense. First of all, the underlying theorem was proven incorrect. Second, the rotation is set up nicely the rest of the year if it’s left unadulterated. Third, Steven Matz must go to the bullpen upon his return from the DL. 

If the Mets make the playoffs, he will be in the bullpen anyway (if he makes the postseason roster). He can be like the 2006 Adam Wainwright or the 2008 David Price out there. This will help him and the Mets. If you put him in the rotation, you mess up the rotation and you endanger the opportunity that Matz can be effective in the postseason as a reliever. 

If the Mets are truly all-in as their trades and treatment of Conforto suggest, Matz will be a reliever. If the Mets put him in the rotation and try spot starts or a six man rotation in September, then they should’ve sent down Conforto. You can’t go half way in being all-in. 

Let’s hope no matter what they do, it works out to their benefit. Let’s also hope we’re talking potential postseason roster moves instead.