When you go through Mets history, there are certain dark moments of Mets history which continue to haunt Mets fans.
The 1992 Mets were dubbed The Worst Team Money Could Buy. The Mets first real foray into free agency would see the team add Eddie Murray, Willie Randolph, Dick Schofield, Bill Pecota, Bret Saberhahen, and the prize of the offseason free agent class Bobby Bonilla. Under the guise of 1990 American League Manager of the Year Jeff Torborg, the Mets would go 70-92.
There would not be hope again until Generation K – Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen, and Bill Pulsipher. With Isringhausen bursting out of the gate in 1995 going 9-2 with a 2.81 ERA in his first 14 starts, Mets fans anticipation was at a fever pitch.
The funny thing is due to a myriad of injuries to all three pitchers, the trio dubbed Generation K would never appear in the same rotation. Over time, they would be surpassed and traded away for spare parts. To put it in perspective, the best player the Mets would get in exchange for the trio would be Rick White.
Fast forward 20 years and Mets fans have dreamed about this generations crop of pitchers winning their first World Series since 1986. While not as clever as Generation K, they had their own nickname – The Five Aces. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
They were going to scoff at the 1971 Orioles pitching staff and their measly 20 wins apiece.
Those 1990s Braves teams were going to laughed at for producing just three Hall of Fame pitchers.
Instead, what we got was Matt and Jake and All Five Pitchers Ache. Essentially, it all came off the Wheeler.
Each and every single one of them would go down with injury. Most of them went down with two or more. As a result, much like Generation K, these five pitchers have never appeared in the same rotation. Worse yet, in some sick cosmic twist of fate, last year would be the first year all five would start a game in the same season, and the end result was the worst ERA in team history.
Finally, this year was supposed to be the year. Everyone was shut down at a some point last year to help them get ready for this year. The team brought in Mickey Callaway, Dave Eiland, and a whole new medical staff. It was all set up for them.
And then, the team signed Jason Vargas.
Yes, given their respective health issues, the Vargas signing made a lot of sense. However, with him getting a two ear deal, it may just kill the dream because so long as Vargas has a rotation spot, we will not see the Five Aces pitch together in the same starting rotation. With Harvey’s impending free agency, this was the last chance, and it is going by the wayside.
Maybe it is for the best because as we saw in 2015, so long as we have three completely healthy, this team can go to the World Series. That more than the Five Aces pitch in the same rotation is the goal. Still, not seeing it happen once leaves you a bit melancholy.
At the end of this run for the Five Aces, we are ultimately going to be left with Vargas and Montero Where Did Our Five Aces Go?
Based upon the people the Mets brought into the organization the past year, it should come as little surprise Vargas was the guy.
First and foremost, there is Omar Minaya. After the Mets lost in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Omar began looking to address one of the Mets weak points – starting pitching depth.
In what proved to be an unpopular trade, the Mets sent Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for the 24 year old Vargas. The whole of Vargas’ Mets career amounted to two starts where he went 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA.
Roughly two years later, Vargas was one of 12 players in the ill-fated J.J. Putz trade. When you consider Joe Smith was part of the deal, a Mets team looking to improve their pitching wound up trading the two best pitchers in that deal.
With respect to Vargas, that may not have been entirely anticipated. But that is what happened over his three team nine year post-Putz trade career.
The most recent stop was Kansas City where he played for current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who as it turned out, gave Vargas a ringing endorsement.
Asked about Eiland’s endorsement of Vargas, Sandy says Eiland kept calling him, “the perfect guy for us.”
Sandy references the fact that he’s left handed, has a different approach to pitching than the others, is a veteran & knows what it takes to pitch 200+ innings.
— Steve Gelbs (@SteveGelbs) February 18, 2018
With that, the Mets have made would could be the most predictable signing of the offseason. It also should prove to be a good one.
Likely, the Mets can count on Vargas to last a full season. That’s important considering you can’t expect the same from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Perhaps more importantly, it’s just another arm to the equation.
As of the moment, the Mets have a somewhat incomplete bullpen. Publicly, the Mets are bandying about getting a second left-handed reliever to compete with P.J. Conlon and Matt Purke. However, the real need, and the one Mickey Callaway has discussed – the long reliever.
With Vargas here, either him or Matz could serve in both roles much like Darren Oliver did in 2006.
Really, the possibilities are endless. Same goes for the Mets season if Vargas permits Callaway and Eiland to effectively mix and match to get the most out of this Mets pitching staff.
Since the Mets traded Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants for Zack Wheeler much has changed for both the Mets and Beltran. With respect to the Mets, they kicked off a rebuilding effort that year which culminated in a 2015 pennant. As for Beltran, he would play with the Cardinals, Yankees, Rangers, and Astros winning a World Series and solidifying his spot as a future Hall of Famer.
The latter part is important because with the Hall of Fame rules, Beltran really has three options as to which cap he will don on his Hall of Fame plaque – Royals, Mets, or blank.
The decision should prove to be a difficult one for Beltran for a few reasons. First and foremost, Beltran grew up in the Royals organization. He was drafted as a 20 year old out of Puerto Rico, found himself making his Major League debut with the team the following season, and he would win the 1999 Rookie of the Year Award. In total, he spent eight years with the Royals organization, which is more time than he spent with any other team.
That includes an Astros team where he became a superstar with an epic 2004 postseason. He would return to the team 13 years later, and he would get that elusive World Series ring with the team before retiring.
That also includes the Yankees who were a team Beltran longed to play for all of his life. It was with the Yankees Beltran made his last All Star team. It’s the same Yankees team Beltran has inquired about returning to now that his playing days are over.
It also includes a Cardinals team who took somewhat of a flyer on Beltran after he had knee issues in the later stages of his tenure with the Mets. With the Cardinals, Beltran really cemented his case as a Hall of Fame player by pushing his WAR to a Hall of Fame caliber 67.7 and by having the third great postseason run of his career in 2012. Also, in 2013, Beltran would finally get to play in the World Series.
When you bring up Beltran and the Mets, that’s the first thing that is brought up by someone. We don’t hear about his four All Star teams, three Gold Gloves, 149 homers, or really anything else. The focus is on his Game 7 strikeout against Adam Wainwright. Even the Mets owner, Fred Wilpon, discussed it in a wide ranging interview with The New Yorker.
Fact is, this is just part of the tension between Mets ownership and Beltran.
The breaking point came on the eve of the 2010 season when Beltran opted to follow the advice of his own doctor instead of the advice of team physicians. As a result of the surgery, Beltran would miss over 100 games, anger the Mets organization, and would ultimately save his career.
It turned out to be a Hall of Fame career. What is interesting about that is Beltran has had the most success with the Mets, and he played more games with the Mets than with any other team. As noted, he’s not entirely beloved by the team with whom he is most closely identified.
This creates an opportunity where the Mets can heal some wounds and put on a full court press to try to resolve whatever issues remain between the teams. Certainly, Omar Minaya’s return to the organization will help on that front.
Another thing that will help is by not issuing Beltran’s #15 again. What is surprising is that since Beltran’s departure, four Mets have worn his number including Val Pascucci, who was assigned the number shortly after Beltran was traded to the Giants.
Now, with Matt Reynolds gone, no one wears the number 15. If the Mets were smart, no one else would ever wear it again, and hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will all see that number high above Citi Field next to Mike Piazza‘s 31 and Tom Seaver‘s 41 after he joins them in wearing a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
It is quite fitting that today is unseasonably warm because we have the first sign of Spring with the Mets pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training. No matter what your opinion on the Mets offseason, this time of year always brings a bit of hope for the fanbase because seeing the Mets players in uniform, you can begin to dream the players can put it all together and win the World Series.
For the Mets, like it has since 2015, the entire hope surrounds the starting pitching.
Now, there are people who are claiming there isn’t enough. They still want the Mets to go out and sign Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or any number of a group of free agent starters who didn’t compile 200 innings, were coming off injuries themselves, or really just couldn’t even sniff this Mets rotation when healthy. In fact, you could argue with their recent injury histories and peripherals, Lynn and Cobb are just more of the same. Actually, what the Mets have is just better.
That’s part of the reason why the narrative the Mets did nothing to address their franchise worst pitching needs to end right now.
The first move the Mets had made this offseason to address the pitching was to go out and hire Mickey Callaway. If you are going to be a pitching staff built on pitching, Callaway was the inspired choice. Joining him on his pitching staff is Dave Eiland, who is renown for his ability to work with pitchers. One of his keys to success is how he helps pitchers with their mechanics, which in turn, helps reduce injury.
Speaking of injuries, gone is favorite punching bag Ray Ramirez. In his place is Jim Cavallini, who will oversee everything related to player care and conditioning. This includes nutrition, sleep science, injury prevention, and rehabilitation. Apparently, after all these years of injuries, the Mets are finally interested in getting players to eat better, sleep better, and take better care of themselves.
And yes, we know even with that Zack Wheeler needed osteoarthritis injections this offseason. Matt Harvey has not been able to stay healthy since that magical 2013 season. Steven Matz has continued to suffer one injury after another. Technically speaking, Seth Lugo is pitching with a torn UCL much like the Yankees have seen with Masahiro Tanaka.
Yes, these injuries and injury histories exist, but as noted, the Mets finally have the people in place to not only help prevent those injuries from happening again, but also to get Harvey, Wheeler, and Matz back to form. If they are, watch out because this is a pitching staff that can once again lead the Mets to the World Series.
If not? Well, there’s real pitching depth in the Mets organization. As noted above, there’s Lugo. The team also have Robert Gsellman and Chris Flexen. Yes, they both struggled last season, but they have an opportunity to learn from those struggles. They also have the support system with Eiland, Callaway, and Mickey Abbott in Las Vegas.
Behind them are some intriguing prospects in Triple-A. Corey Oswalt was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. P.J. Conlon continues to defy the odds with his under 90 MPH stuff to pitch to a minor league career 2.35 ERA. Marcos Molina is healthy after Tommy John, and he looks to build off a strong season. Mickey Jannis is a late blooming knucke ball pitcher much in the same vein as R.A. Dickey. And if you want to get deeper, Ricky Knapp rejuvenated himself after struggling in Vegas by pitching completely lights out as he helped pitch the Rumble Ponies to the Eastern League playoffs.
And if you are masochistic, this could finally be the year for Rafael Montero.
Point is, unlike last year, the Mets have actual starting pitching depth to start the season. If one goes down, there’s two or three behind them to pick up the slack. The team has a manager and pitching coach better suited to getting these pitchers to reaching their full potential.
Sure, it would be nice to see the Mets add a pitcher or two on a minor league deal to serve as a swing man, but even if the Mets don’t make that move, they have the depth they need in the organization. Today is the day that group gets in peak physical shape and realizes their full potential.
And if you have a hard time believing me, sit down, take a deep breath, and remember the first two games of the season will have Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard starting for the Mets. If you can’t get excited about that, nothing will.
It is a slow going offseason, but it seems even slower for the Mets. With so many teams with more money than the Mets still interested in many of the same free agents, it is hard to believe the Mets will make significant additions before the end of the offseason. If they don’t, here is what the 2018 Mets Opening Day roster will look like:
C – Travis d’Arnaud
1B – Dominic Smith
2B – Wilmer Flores
3B – Asdrubal Cabrera
SS – Amed Rosario
LF – Yoenis Cespedes
CF – Juan Lagares
RF – Michael Conforto
Bench – Kevin Plawecki, Brandon Nimmo, T.J. Rivera, Matt Reynolds, Phillip Evans
This should only highlight about how much work the Mets actually have to do this offseason.
Sure, we can buy the pitching staff as a whole as is because they have viable depth. In the rotation, Lugo could get transition back much like how he did in 2016. After that, they have Robert Gsellman, Chris Flexen, Corey Oswalt, and Mickey Jannis. And that is before the Mets go deeper with pitchers like P.J. Conlon. Suffice it to say, the Mets do have sufficient rotation depth.
However, that offense. You can’t sell anyone that is going to be alright. Mostly, that is because the Mets don’t believe themselves that it will be. And that is before you take into account the injury issues Conforto and Rivera are currently rehabbing from this offseason.
For example, the team has all but given up on Gavin Cecchini, who should be in a position to at least compete for a spot on the 25 man roster. He won’t. What’s scary is there is no real Major League ready talent behind him . . . at least no immediately as players like Luis Guillorme and David Thompson need at least some time in Triple-A. By the way, there’s no real outfield depth in this system.
Looking over this roster, you’d be hard pressed to believe the Mets will be better than the 70-92 team they were last season no matter how much they sell us Mickey Callaway as the solution to all that ails the Mets.
So, it really should not come as a surprise to no one the Mets have a lot of work to do, and it goes well beyond just adding one or two players. That applies just to the starting lineup. After that, they really need to build a Major League caliber bench.
Again, the good news is there are still many free agents available. However, it’s still hard to believe the Mets will be able to add the players they need to become a postseason contender.
If you’ve been paying attention, the Mets seem to be interested in everyone this offseason. If you take those players they’re interested in, you’d have an amazing roster:
1B Todd Frazier
2B Neil Walker
SS Amed Rosario
CF Lorenzo Cain
Wait, you don’t believe any of this is going to happen?
For me, I’m a Mets, Giants, Rangers, and Knicks fans. As you can tell, 2017 was not the best of years for me.
The season unofficially ended when Noah Syndergaard refused to get an MRI. Along with Thor, we saw Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler go on extended disabled list stints. It came to a point where Rafael Montero was a feasible rotation option. By the way, that speaks more about the rotation than Montero.
On the offensive side, we saw Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, and Curtis Granderson go for pennies on the dollar. Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker missed a ton of time, which meant Walker joined the aforementioned players and Addison Reed in fetching a group of minor league right-handed relievers that didn’t bowl anyone over.
Worst of all, Michael Conforto suffered a season ending and possibly career altering shoulder injury. He suffered that injury on a swing and a miss. If that isn’t the perfect euphemism for the Mets season, I don’t know what is.
But don’t worry. The Mets are cutting payroll, so we wont have to face the Mets failing to meet expectations again.
The year started with the wide receiving core not showing up after they all made sure to attend a boat party. The end result was the Giants missing a big opportunity to make a deep postseason run.
Expectations were high after that with the Giants being labeled Super Bowl contenders. As it turns out, you can’t be that without an offensive line and an over-matched head coach. The season slowly became a 2-13 embarasment that saw McAdoo sit Eli so he could find out if Geno Smith was his starter for next season, and the Giants to fire McAdoo for mishandling that and everything else.
To make matters worse, Eli Apple has gone from being a guy who was supposed to take the next leap to being benched to being called a cancer to announcing to reporters he had to go to the bathroom. Much like the Apple, the Giants season went from promising and quickly down the drain.
The Rangers were lucky and got to face the Atlantic side of the draw for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Rangers beat the Canadiens, and then they blew a golden opportunity against the Ottawa Senators.
Due to salary cup constraints, the Rangers then traded away Stepan and Raanta for what was perceived to be an underwhelming return. The team overdrafted Anderson, and they got lucky with Chytil. They were also able to nab a promising young defenseman in Antony DeAngelo.
Well, Vingeault has once again done his best Terry Collins impersonation by benching the younger players, not letting them play, and giving the veterans enough rope to hang the entire Rangers season. The Rangers are currently in playoff contention, but they would likely be in better position if their head coach showed a modicum of interest in developing younger players.
Well, last season was a disaster leading to the team trading Melo for much less than they ever thought he could fetch in a trade. Still, the return has been palatable because Enes Kanter is a leader who gives the Knicks toughness. This would all be better except for the fact that KP still has issues staying on the floor, the Hardaway signing ate up a ton of cap space, and a favorable early schedule will likely lead to the Knicks falling apart in January.
So yeah, hopefully, 2018 will go much better because how could it not with Mickey Callaway and a new Giants head coach in place. Hopefully, the Rangers will as well. There’s also the hope Seton Hall rebounds from a March exit last year on an egregious intentional fall call. Hopefully, their making a deep run will be the start of a great 2018.
If the Mets continue to refuse to spend, maybe it will be the sole highlight of the year.
On a cold and blustery Christmas Eve night at Citi Field, new manager Mickey Callaway enters Fred Wilpon’s office.
Mickey: I just wanted to stop on my way out to wish you and your family a happy holiday, and I just wanted to let you know I look forward to working with you and Sandy to help build a Mets team that can go to the World Series again.
Fred: What do you mean build?
Mickey: Well, there are a few areas I was hoping to address. We need a second baseman, some additional depth, and some bullpen –
Fred: Relievers? I just gave you Anthony Swarzak just last week!
Mickey: And I’m thankful for that. But while I was in Cleveland, I learned you need more in your bullpen. You need a couple of guys with interchangeable roles to help you get to where you want to go. We need at least one more guy.
Fred: I don’t get it. After Madoff, I’ve done all I could do to get my money back, and now everyone wants me to just give it away.
Mickey: Well, I’d love to build a winner for the players and the fans.
Mickey: Well, I guess not. Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to next season.
Not long after Callaway leaves, Fred Wilpon leaves Citi Field, and he begins his drive to Greenwich. He pulls up to a stately manor that hasn’t been renovated since 2008. He makes his way into the bedroom, and before he can turn on the lights, he hears a ghostly whisper coming from behind him. It sounds like his name, but he initially can’t quite make it out. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere a figure emerges.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is that really you?
M. Donald Grant: It is.
Fred: But, you’re dead. How? How?
M. Donald Grant: I’ve come here to deliver a message.
M. Donald Grant: Remember when I was alive, I won a World Series, and then I refused pay raises to everyone. Remember when I shipped Tom Seaver and everyone of value out of town?
Fred: All while keeping the team profitable!
M. Donald Grant: Yup, I mean no. No! I was wrong, and now I have to watch the 1962 Mets over and over again. But worse, I have to give the players raises after each and every game despite no one coming to the ballpark!
Fred: The horror.
M. Donald Grant: And if you don’t change, your fate will be worse than mine.
Fred: No . . . NO! . . . You’ve got to save me.
M. Donald Grant: Tonight, you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them! Do what they say! Or you will be cursed for eternity.
And with that the apparition of Grant faded away leaving Fred frightened in his room. A few times he splashed cold water on his face and pinched himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. Still shaken, Fred made his way to bed. After a while, his fatigue got the better of his anxiety, and he faded to sleep. Then there was a loud noise like the roar of the crowd. It jostled Fred from his sleep. Still groggy, he looked out and couldn’t believe the figure before him.
Fred: No, it can’t be. Is it really you Gary?
Standing before Fred was Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. Back in 1985, when Fred had just a small interest in the team, the Mets traded for Carter in the hopes that he would put the Mets over the top. Eventually, Carter did with the Mets winning the 1986 World Series. Notably, Carter started the game winning two out rally in the bottom of the 10th to allow the Mets to force a Game 7.
Gary: It’s really me Fred. I’m now the Ghost of Baseball Past.
Fred: Am I dead?
Gary: No, you’re not. I’m here to show you what things used to be like before you changed the way you did business with the Mets.
With that Gary, took a swing of the bat creating a cloud of dust and smoke all over the room. As the dust settled, the Mets found themselves back in a sold out Shea Stadium.
Fred: What a dump!
Gary: You didn’t always think so. In fact, you used to love coming here. Back in the 80s, Shea Stadium was the place to be. Those Mets teams were stacked with players like me, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry, and tonight’s starter Dwight Gooden.
Fred: Those Gooden starts were something special. No one could beat us then, and we knew it. We never could quite capture the magic from those teams again, but that was something special.
Gary: This is how things used to be. It was always this way. You did it again when you signed Mike Piazza, except you didn’t just sign him. You surrounded him with good players like Robin Ventura and Edgardo Alfonzo. That team came close. You did it again with Carlos Beltran. You spent the extra dollar to get a truly great player. You then added players like Carlos Delgado and Johan Santana to try to get it done. It didn’t work, but the fans came. More importantly, everyone respected you for it.
Fred: But they don’t understand.
Gary: Let’s see what happened next.
With a blink of Fred’s eye, Shea Stadium is just a memory. As he reopens his eyes, he is back in Citi Field as it was before it was fully renovated. The fans were angry with the team. It was one thing that the ballpark didn’t fully honor Mets history; it was another that the Mets let Jose Reyes walk in the offseason without so much as an offer. It was an uninspiring 88 loss win team that was seemingly going nowhere.
Fred: When did we put the Great Wall of Flushing back in? Where are all the fans?
Gary: You didn’t. It’s 2012.
Fred: That was an ugly time. Fans constantly complaining and booing. The team and I were personally cash strapped. I had no idea what our future was or could be. Worse yet, no one seemed to understand. The fans, the players, the press. No one. The whole thought of this time is just too much to bear. I can’t . . .
Before Fred could finish the sentence, he was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Daniel Murphy. Next thing Fred knew, he was awake, with a headache back in his bed in Greenwich.
Fred: Man, I really have to lay off the Shake Shack late at night. It gives me the strangest dreams. And man, just remembering those days just gives me a headache. I never want to get back to that point . . .
As the words left Fred’s lips, there was a strange noise. Fred looked over, and he sees beloved former announcer and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner in what appears to be old set of Kiner’s Korner.
Ralph: Well hi everybody it’s Ralph Kiner, the Ghost of Christmas Present, on Kiner’s Korner. Well the Mets are in the middle of the offseason after the team lost over 90 games, missed the postseason for the first time in three years, and is now talking about cutting payroll. We have Mets owner Fred Wilpon on to talk about it next.
Ralph: Welcome back to Kiner’s Korners. As you know Kiner’s Koners is sponsored by Rheingold – the Dry Beer!
Ralph: Hi Mr. Wilpon, welcome to Kiner’s Korners.
Fred: I’m not sure what exactly is happening here.
Ralph: Well, Mr. Wilpon, we’re here to talk about your team and what the 2018 roster will look like.
Fred: We’ve given Sandy free reign to do whatever he needs to do to put the best team on the field. We trust in his decision making, and we always demure to him on personnel decisions.
Ralph: Well Mr. Wilpon, there are not many that believe you. In fact, the fans will say that the team isn’t going to spend the money on the players like the Mets should. It reminds me back when I had won another home run title for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I went to Branch Rickey to ask for a raise. During the meeting, Rickey denied me a raise saying, “We finished eighth with you, we can finish eighth without you.” From there of course, I was then traded to the Chicago Cubs. This is the same Chicago Cubs franchise that won their first World Series title since 1908. The Cubs were once defeated –
Fred: Okay, okay. No, we’re no expanding payroll. The fans didn’t come last year, and I don’t have the money. That’s just the way things work now. This isn’t the old days where Omar gets free reign.
Ralph: Well, the fans are angry the team isn’t spending money, especially since you have the BAM money, bought an Overlook League team, and are part of the new Islanders Belmont Arena. And I remember as a player how much the team wanted to know the owner supported them. When the team had the support of ownership it had an effect in the clubhouse and the play on the field.
Fred: Let’s be honest. With the team we have now, we’re going to fill the seats because we have Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom. We have free t-shirts, garden gnomes, and bobbleheads. We’re going to turn a profit all while giving the players what they want – money.
Ralph: That’s not true. Here is a videotape of your captain David Wright.
A large screen appears on the set of Kiner’s Korner with an image of Wright at his home talking to Callaway about the upcoming season.
Mickey: I know it may be a little late, but I wanted to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. And I wanted to let you know that we’re all pulling for you to get back out on that field.
David: It’s hard skip. I wake up in pain everyday. It was bad enough when it was just the stenosis, but now it is my neck too. I just spend all of my day rehabbing and working out. I do all these special exercises for my back and my neck. It’s almost 24 hours of pure hell. It’s made all the harder by the fact that every minute I spend working out is time away from my wife and daughter. Baseball has always been a sacrifice, and I love it. But it just gets harder and harder.
Mickey: Look, I love you, and I know the team does too. If there is anything you ever need, you just have to ask. And if you feel as if you can’t go on, you’ll always have a place on my staff.
David: I can’t hang ’em up. Not yet. I’ve come so close to the World Series a few times in my career, and I’ve fallen short. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel right hanging it up without winning one.
Fred: This is costing me $20 million a year.
David: And it’s not just about me. I owe a World Series to Mets fans who have supported me my whole career. They’ve gone out and bought my jerseys. They’ve cheered for me. They’ve always been there for me. And more importantly, I owe it to the Wilpon family. I saw what happened with Reyes and the other players who left. They decided to keep me. They made me the face of the franchise and the team captain. I’ve loved being a Met, and the Wilpons made that possible.
Fred: I just never knew how much he cared and how appreciative he was.
Ralph: Time for another commercial break and word from our sponsor the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Everything turns to black like a television screen being turned off. At first, Fred sits there quietly unsure of what is happening. He then finds himself in a strange room with Darryl Hamilton wearing his black Mets jersey. The same jerseys the Wilpons wanted to help drum up fan interest and help increase revenues. At first, Hamilton says nothing. He just looks at Fred before gesturing for Fred to follow him.
Fred follows Darryl down a hallway. Eventually, an image of a badly beaten down Wright emerges. On the walls are different jerseys he wore in his career. A shelf displays all of his awards and his 2015 National League Pennant ring. Wright moves around the room but with great difficulty. Although still relatively young, he moves like an old man. He’s there with another person.
Woman: Look, this is not going to happen overnight. With the beating your body has taken you’re luck you’re even in position to walk.
David: I don’t care. I need you to get me to the point where I can dance again. There is nothing that is going to stop me from dancing at my daughter’s wedding.
Woman: Ok, but we need to take it slowly. You’ve had a number of injuries in your career, especially those last few. Doing things like dancing is going to come with some difficulty for you. The trick is to build everything up so you can do it again.
Fred: What, what happened to him?
Darryl only nods his head in the direction of the trophy case.
Fred: He never won? But we had Matt Harvey and Syndergaard. We had deGrom and Steven Matz. Even Zack Wheeler returned. We had five aces! Of course we won at least one. There is no way we let that core go without winning a World Series. Surely, we made a move to get that final piece at least one of those years.
David: On cold days like this, it really makes me wonder how wise it was sticking to the end of my contract rather than just medically retiring the way Albert Belle and Prince Fielder did. I really wonder if Prince has the same problems I have. Still, I would do it all over again because trying to win that ring was important not just for my career, the fans, and Fred.
Woman: What happened?
David: We were so close, but we shot ourselves in the foot in 2015. After that, we always just seemed one or two players short. We gave it the best we could, but it just wasn’t meant to be . . . .
As David drifts off, Darryl gestures for Fred to re-enter the dark hallway. The two make their way down before standing outside the Rotunda entrance to Citi Field. Nearby is a group of men putting up a few statues. In the parking lot adjacent to 126th Street, there are a number of moving vans.
Worker 1: Honestly, it is about time there was a Tom Seaver statue erected at Citi Field. I think adding the Piazza one as well was a nice touch.
Worker 2: Things have been a lot better around here with the new guys came in.
Worker 1: And ain’t no one going to miss the old group.
Worker 2: How can you? They let the whole thing fall apart.
Worker 1: Good riddance!
Fred: What is happening here? What old group? Who authorized these statues?
With that Fred began a dead sprint towards the entrance to the executive offices, but he was distracted by a commotion happening at McFadden’s. Despite wanting to get back to his office, Fred found himself drawn to the bar where he found a group of people in celebration.
Man: Shhh! It’s about to be on the television.
Reporter: After years of seeing homegrown players sign elsewhere, and the Mets having been inactive on the free agent market, Citi Field has become eerily reminiscent of Grant’s Tomb in the 1970s. With fan interest at a nadir and record low revenues for the team, it became time for a change.
Fred: Darryl! What are they talking about?
Man: This is a dream come true for me. As a little boy sitting int he Upper Deck at Shea Stadium, I never imagined I would be in the position I am here today. And yet, here I am.
Cheers spread through McFaddens making the sound from the televisions inaudible.
Man: Back in 1980, the late Nelson Doubleday purchased the New York Mets from the Payson family. From that day, a new era of Mets prosperity began with ownership investing not just in good baseball people, but also its players and its fans. My pledge to the Mets fans is to operate this club much in the same fashion as Mr. Doubleday, and with that, a new era of Mets prominence will begin.
As cheers fill the room and the bartenders try to keep up with the customers needing drinks, a bewildered Fred turns back to Darryl.
Fred: Darryl, what is happening with my team? Was it . . .
As Fred trails off, he can see a sullen Jeff Wilpon standing out on the sidewalk waiting for a driver to take him home. Before Jeff could get into the car, he is ambushed by a group of reporters. Instinctively, Jeff runs out to assist his son.
Reporter: How do you feel today?
Jeff: How do you expect me to feel? The thing that mattered most to my father is now gone.
Reporter: What message do you have for Mets fans?
Jeff: We just want them to continue supporting the New York Exelsior. I still believe that sooner or later this investment will pay off.
Fred: Jeff, don’t tell me you did it! Don’t tell me you sold my team!
Reporter: How do you think your father would feel about this moment?
Jeff: Well, the Dodgers just won another World Series with a payroll triple ours, so –
Fred: Jeff! Jeff! I’m over here! Jeff!
With Jeff being worn down by the questioning, and his being unable to hear his father scream, he enters the car. Initially, Fred heads toward Jeff while repeatedly asking him what happened with the Mets. With Jeff being unresponsive, and with Fred knowing he’s not going to be able to get to the door in time, he runs in front of the car in an attempt to stop it. The car pulls from the curb, makes contact with Fred, and everything goes black.
The sun begins to rise, and it begins to light Fred’s room in Greenwich. The sun shines in Fred’s eyes causing him to initially squint. When he realizes that a new day has begun, Fred eagerly jumps from his bed, and he checks his iPhone.
Fred: It’s December 25, 2017! I still own the team! The spirits have given me another chance!
Fred grabs his phone, and he calls his secretary to immediately set up a conference call with Callaway, Alderson, and Wright.
Fred: I’m sorry to bother you on Christmas morning, but I felt like this couldn’t wait any longer. We have a window here, and we have to take advantage of it. Sandy, the shackles are off. You have everything you need at your disposal. We owe Mickey the best team possible for him to lead the Mets back to the World Series. And we owe it to you David because you stuck by us when times were at their lowest. We can’t let you finish your career without winning a World Series. It wouldn’t be fair, and it wouldn’t be right.
Mickey: Thank you, and God bless you Mr. Wilpon!
David: God bless us everyone!
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the clubhouse
Not a player was stirring, not even a mouse;
The pennants were hung in left field with care,
In hopes that another World Series soon would be there;
The players were nestled all snug in their homes,
While visions of being the next player to have their very own garden gnome;
And Fred in his ‘kerchief, and Jeff in his cap,
Counted their pennises after a postseason streak was snapped,
When out on the field there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the concourse to see if there was a batter.
Away to the my seat I flew like a flash,
Opened up my scorebook and awaited a great clash.
The moon on the breast of the re-sodded field
Gave the lustre of outfield lights to bases below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should coming this way,
But a bullpen cart carrying Mickey Callaway,
With a an effervescent young man, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be the new skip.
More rapid than fastballs his pitchers do flame,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
As dry leaves that before the curve balls fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, dropping from the sky,
So up the dugout steps the hurlers they knew,
With powerful arms, the count would soon be 0-2.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the stands
The rhythmic clapping of each set of hands
As I drew up my hands, waiting for something profound,
Up the dugout steps Callaway came to the mound.
He was dressed all in blue and orange, from his cap to his cleat,
And his beard was well groomed and really quite neat;
A bundle of arms he had awaiting on in the pen;
And he looked like a old pro just handling his men.
His eyes — how they twinkled! his smile quite charming!
His cheeks were like roses, his expression disarming!
His droll little mouth was drawn up as if to say something profound,
A man so handsome SNY just felt the need to expound;
A decision to be made, he bit his lip with his teeth,
As the fans encircled him and his players like a wreath;
He had a blue windbreaker drapped over his belly,
That shook, when a plane flew over, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was slender and earnest, a whole injured team on the shelf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave the fans to know there was nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And motioned to the bullpen; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, out of the bullpen the closer arose;
He sprang to his dugout, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew around the field like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, with Mets victory in sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!
With the sixth pick of the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets were not supposed to be able to select Burch Smith. However, by some fortune, the player rated by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Rule 5 Draft, fell to the Mets. Even better, the Mets made the wise decision to pick him.
But they weren’t smart enough to keep him.
In what was likely a prearranged deal with the Kansas City Royals, the Mets traded Smith for cash considerations or a player to be named later.
Look, we don’t know if Smith can be an effective Major League player. There is certainly a reason the Tampa Bay Rays left him unprotected. His joining Zack Wheeler in missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons to Tommy John probably played no small part. Still, this was a talented player Baseball America projects as Major League ready:
Smith sat 94-96 mph with his fastball, flashed a knee-buckling 74-76 mph curveball and showed a swing-and-miss 79-81 mph changeup. Though he’s 27 and has had serious arm health issues, Smith is major league ready and has the stuff to help a team as a back-end starter or move to the bullpen.
Looking at the Mets as constituted now, it is bizarre to think the team could part with Smith without so much as getting real player back or giving him a chance. With stuff like Smith has, and with the arrival of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland, you would anticipate the Mets organization could get the most out of Smith. Whether that is as a short inning reliever, a long man (like Sean Gilmartin in 2015), or a fifth starter, Smith at least appears to be a MLB pitcher.
Obviously, the Royals believed that to be true with them dangling cash in front of a Mets team that is cutting payroll.
Sarcasm aside, the role Smith would fulfill on this Mets team would be the one given to Robert Gsellman or Rafael Montero. With Gsellman’s not caring what the GM thinks combined with his poor season and with Montero having the career he has had, it begs the question why you would turn your back on a player who could conceivably fulfill the same role and possibly do it better.
Right now, no one is quite sure what Smith is as a Major Leaguer. The same could be said about Pedro Beato in 2010 or Johan Santana in 1999. Point is, we don’t know what or who Smith will be. However, we do know what the Mets have, which makes their decision to just give Smith away all the more troubling.